Monday, October 19, 2020

Oh Yeah, It's Different Out There Now

 September 26 - October 1, 2020
Deming - San Antonio, New Mexico

Just typing a different location for this post is something I've looked forward to for.....well, for what seems like forever!

The motorhome has been moved to the driveway a few days ahead of departure and everything is loaded for take-off on Saturday morning. Jeff tries not to physically push us out the door, looking forward to no old people around for a couple weeks. Tessa finds her spot during prep and I start the engine.

Making sure we're all where we're supposed to be before moving to her bed for the drive.
Two check engine lights and one notification greet me when I turn the key. And just like that we're back to RV living :-))))) 

Although Bill has checked all the levels and aired up a couple tires, the motorhome would like to have a little more coolant. He complies, and while he's hooking up the Jeep the second light and notification disappear. We know from experience that the first light is for computer updates so we agree to continue our launch.

The bathroom door has been refusing to stay latched for months and on the first day's drive we figure out a temporary fix for that. I feel like we're winning the "things will go wrong while traveling" competition that is part of this otherwise wonderful life. A few days later it will be a dead heat.

We're leaving at the end of the most recent heat wave so about two hours in we turn on the generator and run the front house AC into Deming, New Mexico. It's one of the many reasons I'm glad we got a motorhome and not a 5er - arriving on a hot day with the house already cooled off. 

Roadrunner RV Park is a repeat for us and looks like every other park in Deming. The office is closed and I register at the small table and drop box. No contact is a good start! It's not a pretty park, Deming isn't a pretty destination. But it's a good 200 mile stopping spot and there are many things to see in the area.

When we moved into the RV in 2015, our first few nights were in our friends' storage lot. This park is sort of like that.
Our first full day back on the road and it's Sunday. In late September. And in spite of the virus and all it has stopped in our lives, the NFL is making it work. So of course we spend the day watching games, doing a bit of deep cleaning - and, wait for it! -  ordering dinner delivered to our door!

It's a good start for us as our plans for this two weeks is to avoid others wherever possible.

Sparky's in Hatch is closed on Mondays (normally a good reason to make a stop in Deming), so no favorite-green-chili-cheeseburgers this time. We realize later that it's also the pineapple coleslaw that makes it special.

Bill's mom was born in Silver City, New Mexico (95 years ago, she's still with us), and we've not yet been there in our travels. With Hatch off the agenda, we head west instead to check out Bill's roots.

Like many western towns, Silver City built up around mining. A large copper mine is still active and an awful eyesore on the surrounding mountainside. A delightful downtown is surviving the epidemic, but on a Monday many places are closed. Okay with us, we aren't entering businesses. Although we do feel safe because inside and out, everyone is wearing a mask!

How refreshing!
Because it's the law in New Mexico. The Land of Enchantment is apparently also the Land of Enlightenment! For venturing out into the world for a couple weeks, this was a good choice for us.





Hazy skies, but a pretty drive.
We've seen a lot of New Mexico, and most of our stops this time are repeats. The one new spot is a place that grabbed my attention from Jim and Diana's post (Explorvistas) I'd never heard of San Antonio, NM, although we did have a one night stop in nearby Socorro a couple years back. The town is a single intersection and five small businesses. 

We're staying at Bosque Birdwatchers RV Park, but I will always remember it as "Billy's Place". The signs and interior "road" have seen better days, but when Billy greets you in front of his house you're immediately happy to be there! He asks us to wait for him "up top" while he puts his kitty in the house so the hawks don't get her (see, a lovely man!).

Social distancing not a problem.

Wide open space, wish I'd booked a couple more days.
Very clean and level, the park is a large gravel lot with several FHU spaces and wide open views all around. The train runs nearby (we love trains), but otherwise it is completely quiet. I pay by check at the site and Billy brings us a small bag of still-warm, freshly roasted green chilis <heart>.

At this point we're again reminded of the challenges of RV living......

Not how slide toppers are supposed to look.

Maybe it's because we're so happy to be traveling again, or the beautiful weather, but neither of us gets upset. Not happy, but I guess we know we'll figure out a fix. At the top of the ladder Bill is able to pull the bracket back in place, but the bolt is gone. Nothing is broken or torn. Amazingly I find a long bolt in the "fell-off-of-something-found-on-floor" box of hardware that fits perfect! He tightens it up and in less than ten minutes all is good again.

Like it never happened.

The famous Owl Bar is here, but only open for pick-up by appointment. We'll give it a try next time. Instead, we find a large and open patio at Buckhorn Tavern, and for the first time in six months we enjoy a meal at a restaurant. Masks are required when not at the table, all staff are masked, tables are 12 feet apart, sanitizer at each door. It is a very different experience for sure, but we feel safe. And the green chili cheeseburgers are fabulous. Easily the best we've ever had (very hot), sorry Sparky's!

After our late lunch we make the short drive to the real draw of the area - Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Read Jim's post to learn about the refuge's link to a late RV blogger that some of you may know. 

In this different world we're not surprised that the lovely visitor center is closed. It's larger than I'm expecting and from Jim's post I know we're missing a wonderful experience. Portable toilets and sinks in the parking lot are appreciated, and brochures with maps and information give us what we need to enter the refuge.

No surprise there are no birds this time of year. We laugh that the birds found here in late summer/early fall are the same as those we see daily in our yard - so we don't look too hard :-)

Birds are not the only reason to visit this beautiful place. The diverse and peaceful marshland shuts out the rest of the world, and makes you slow down and just breathe. After only a few miles we could be anywhere; it doesn't feel like desert or New Mexico or 2020. Refuge indeed.


A lone snag waits for an eagle to pose over the marsh.



Wildlife!


Ahhhhhhh


We've missed it twice while nearby, and I'm determined that this time we're going to visit the Very Large Array (VLA). One of those iconic places that everyone recognizes but few know exactly where it is. I confirm online that the visitor center is closed (the new and different reality of state and national parks/monuments/refuges), but Jim assures me (our long distance guide for this stop) we can see everything from the highway. Let's go!

At the end of a pretty 62 mile drive on Hwy 60 there's no doubt we've arrived. Visible from several miles, the radio observatory made up of 28 communication dishes are spread out over the Plains of San Augstin. 

There is a lot of interesting history in this area and I can't help but imagine how the tribes and pioneers of the past would react to these strange structures lined up across plains that otherwise look much the same as during their times.


A few things surprise me. First is that the dishes are much smaller than I pictured (in the movie Contact they look twice as wide). Second is how spread out they are. Some near the buildings are closer, but most are in two long arms across the valley. Finally, I'm most surprised that Hwy 60 goes right through it! Yep, we drive right up to one of them with just a small chain link fence between the road and the big million dollar ET phone.


The tour we missed walks out to a dish from the visitor center, but this is a lot closer than I thought I'd get!

When we arrived the dishes were at multiple angles. Without making any sound, suddenly they were all pointed straight up. It was creepy, neither of us saw them move!


At the pull-over on the highway people have left notes and stickers on the guard rail. Bill finds this fun one "Mom thought aliens moved the satellites." No?


Even getting to see the VLA itself, I'm disappointed that we can't see the videos and exhibits or ask questions or hear anecdotes from those who work here - or get postcards for the grands!!
In the year we've been stationary, the world has changed. Of course it has. We've been in Tombstone, Arizona, not on Mars. Some differences are subtle while others are in your face. Many impact how and where we travel, what we're able to see and do. Most of the differences are COVID-related, some are the pending election, others are environmental like smoke and heat. 

As we continue this short sojourn into the "out there" we're still very happy to be exploring again. But it's definitely different.

Thursday morning we continue north to Santa Fe.



Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Ghost Towns, Museums and Family - Life Goes On

September 15- 25, 2020
Tombstone, Arizona

Not sure what distracted me while writing the last post, but I failed to post the pics from our Pearce visit. There isn't much there, but I did remember to take a few photos!

Lots of old mining equipment can be found in our area. Wish they all had descriptions!





Need a project? This grand ol' lady is for sale.

On one of our day trips this summer we passed the Amerind Museum in nearby Dragoon. Set in beautiful Texas Canyon, it's a place I'd heard of from other bloggers before we moved here. But I had forgotten all about it until we saw the sign. Sounded like a place I needed to visit, so on a warm weekday I headed off for a solo adventure. 

The site was chosen to embrace the building and it definitely feels like it was always here.

No photos inside the museum or the art gallery so I spend my time (hours!) absorbing the history and beauty collected here. Many permanent exhibits and a few seasonal contributions provide a lovely background to the story of this area. Early native tribes, Mexican villages, pioneer towns, mining and agriculture, conservation and protection - it is a rich and diverse history. 

The art gallery showcases historic collections and new artists. From paintings to sculptures to photography and jewelry, everything is presented in a simple and open setting. With only two other people visiting and always in other areas from me, it felt like a private showing with no pressure to "keep moving". Seating is provided in each gallery, allowing for quiet contemplation of any piece that might move you. There were several for me!

One favorite are the 15 large scale aerial photos of ancient sites from around North and South America. Legendary photographer Adriel Heisy has captured both the remoteness and the archeological wonder of these places from the unique perspective of the Eagle soaring above.

Paquime, Mexico - a site with its own large exhibit in the museum.  Photos of gallery and museum interior from  Amerind website.

The gallery that most moved me was the mixed media art of Gabrial Ayala, a Yaqui activist whose pieces depict the travesties forced upon his ancestors. These are simple yet powerful glimpses into a history too long denied.

Most are painted on old ledgers and sheet music. The people are all faceless, no explanation necessary.

At the back of the museum is the beautifully curated walk-through exhibit on the town of Paquime in Chihuahua, Mexico. Archeologists have been studying the dig for over sixty years and their discoveries are shared in this large compilation of artifacts and replicas. I have to come back to really absorb all that is offered here.

Thick adobe walls inspired by the site at Paquime.

Amerind is only recently reopened to the public with strict mask and distancing rules in place. Volunteers are scheduled to return in October. But they have not been "closed down" during the pandemic. They have maintained a series of remote lectures and presentations, staying in touch with the community.

Knowing I'll want to return often, I purchase a year's membership, and look forward to learning and experiencing more of the history of, and hope for, this beautiful area.

Outside is the magical world of Texas Canyon. Large boulders define this unique place with trails through open plains and around old growth trees. I can't wait to come back post-snake-season to explore.







All the kids and grands are doing well, making the best of what 2020 continues to dish out. We appreciate regular photos and videos and occasional live chats, keeping us connected to their growing-up-too-fast lives. 

Henry is getting very mobile - such a cutie pie!

Reese is already 10 months and more precious than ever.

Mason and big brother Maximus love spending the day at the beach!

Part of what his parents have included in his remote kindergarten, Ezra has a weekly check-in from "Mission Control". They make it even more interactive by having family members call in to give him the update. Uncle Jeff, PopPop and I have all taken our turn at reading the week's script which provides instructions for how to solve a pending "problem" on his journey. Great fun, and Ezra has the perfect set up at home!

Captain Ezra ready for his update.

Listening to Mission Control Nawma's instructions.

Even captains find time for kitty cuddles.

We moved the motorhome into the driveway to load up (such a weird experience after being fulltime for years) for our New Mexico adventure. Can't wait to get those big wheels rolling down the road!!


Monday, September 14, 2020

Holding Our Breath

September 14, 2020
Tombstone, Arizona

Certainly all the fires in the west contribute to many wanting to hold their breath. Here in southeast Arizona we're surrounded with haze, often blocking all of our mountains to the west and south. 

Huachuca Mountains hidden under smoke from far away fires.

Yet that's not the breath-holding I'm thinking of. 

Almost half way through our seventh month of this unreal reality, it seems perhaps it could go on forever. Even making plans for next summer with great optimism and enthusiasm, I'm reminded that it's possible they will all be cancelled. I never even considered that the northern border might still be closed until a few comments on the last post raised the possibility. 

Another ten months??? Good lord.......

We've already held our breath hoping and praying and wondering and crossing our fingers for such a long time. In April I certainly thought that by August we'd be looking at the end of the threat, that we could breathe normally again. Instead September is sending mixed messages of flattening curves, increased hospitalizations, and possible mutations at the same time vaccine readiness dates are bandied around. 

Sanity requires finding humor where we can.

Political and social justice battles fuel human fires around the country while entire communities are destroyed by killing flames. I hold my breath every morning nervously wondering "what's next?".

Local postal workers remind us they are under attack.

Our new grand baby is coming in early November no matter what the world is doing. Life does go on. 

We continue to get a few projects done in between a whole lot of laziness. Monsoon season has moved on without giving us much water. The San Pedro River is dry in most places, reduced to a flat trickle under the bridge on the drive to Sierra Vista. Our desert is green and beautiful, and most days we have 20% humidity. But it still feels much dryer than last year at this time.

Last year!?! Yep, we've now been here a year. It was October when we moved into the house, but we opened escrow and were mooch-docking at our friends' in early September. Hard to wrap my head around how different our lives have been being off the road. Not bad at all, but certainly different!!

I did finally get the bedroom done and am very pleased with how it turned out. Updating the hardware in the kitchen makes that room feel more complete as well. Bought paint for Jeff's room, and will probably start on that after our trip to Santa Fe.

In between permanent window coverings I used lap blankets. Jeff said it "looks like an opium den". I don't ask how he knows this......

Having lived in earthquake country all my life, I like soft things above the bed :-)

Fun to decorate with my photographs.

The original plan was just the plain blinds, but they turned out "too" plain so I added the curtains to soften the feel. 

With a large yard we have lots of large and small projects to keep us busy during cooler weather. On hot days we still get out to "find" rocks for landscaping and focal points. It's the desert, we have a large selection to choose from :-)

In search of large rocks, we find a new-to-us trail to follow.

Colorful cliffs on both sides.

Erosion shapes interesting canyon walls.

In addition to living in a national historic town, we're surrounded by several smaller vintage townships. Not surprising, Ghost Town Road takes us through several ruins to what remains of Pearce, Arizona. It's a pretty drive on one of our hotter days.

Old mining tailings along Ghost Town Road.

Visiting hours are over at the jail in Pearce, Arizona

Jeff and I take a rare drive to Tucson to pick up a few items we can't get locally. Limiting our exposure to others we're back home in just a few hours. So many places I thought we'd be exploring in our closest city, so many things I thought we'd be doing......

One thing that is less than perfect at our little Arizona home is the lack of decent Internet. We added ViaSat to our AT&T MiFi and we still can't stream movies or TV shows with any regularity. Frustrating with all this time and access to Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu that we can't enjoy. We have satellite with 900 channels, and maybe 12 that aren't complete crap. First world problem admittedly, and maybe one that will get resolved while we're holding our breath :-)

At least football season has started, and while it's a slightly different experience, it's still wonderful to watch games again!!

Yay!!

Back in SoCal Ezra starts Kindergarten at home. Shalise has done a lot of preparation to make sure he's getting the full curriculum. Like all kids, he's missing making new friends and having humans his own age to interact with. Soon Ezra, hopefully soon!

I love that he wants to be a "demolition expert"!

Miss Clover is Ezra's new house companion.

I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe. Remember to breathe :-)