Sunday, November 30, 2008

Surprise And A Circle Event

Our expert meteorological scientists have missed another one. If you remember, one of the reasons I came back from my trip last week was that the weather was supposed to turn a bit ugly on Thursday. Well, that never happened and the revised forecast was chilly and a slight chance of drizzle over the weekend.

Friday night I did some reading in my bedroom and when I turned out the lights at about 9:30 pm it looked like someone had left a light on, on the deck which is right below the bedroom. I got up and looked out of the blinds to see a pretty good snow storm going on.

By Saturday morning we had about 5" of the white stuff. I'm happy about that. We are already behind in snow totals for the year and the moisture will be good for us. It also helped the mood for putting up the Christmas tree.

We normally do not put up the tree until about the middle of December. This year is different, however, because in two weeks The Bride will have her official graduation ceremony. To help celebrate, my mother in law, Ladder Lady, and my oldest daughter, CaJenn and my new son (in law) CaJon are all coming to town. The Bride wanted to have all the Christmas decorations up by then. The fresh snow fall made it seem not quite so "commercial" to do it this early.

The Christmas tree decorating is The Bride's job. I bring the tree up from the basement and all the boxes of decorations but for some reason I have never liked or participated in the actual decoration of the tree. I think it stems to my childhood when my parents used lead tinsel on the tree. After the holidays it was the kid's job to take every single piece of tinsel off the tree, flatten it out straight and save it for the next year. I hated that job so much that I don't think decorating the tree ever became something that was fun for me. The good news is that The Bride loves to do it so this is not a family issue.

On the social front, The Circle had not gotten together for a few weeks so we all got together last night at Guitar's and Pic-E's house to celebrate Guitar's birthday. After presenting Guitar with gifts appropriate to his stage and place in life, (a wiener roller was probably the most apropos gift) we all headed out to a concert at the Swallow Hill Music Association hall. This was a great folk/western concert featuring Jon Chandler, Harry Tuft and Rock n Roll Hall of Famer, Richie Furay .

It was a delightful evening with very entertaining music and very talented musicians at a very affordable price ($20 a ticket). The concert started at 8 pm and was over by 10 pm, relaxing but not strenuous.

This morning when I woke up, I was greeted with another couple of inches of snow that was not forecast yesterday. My chore for the morning will be to hand shovel the driveway and walk. I have not as yet moved the snow blower out to where I can get it easily but that chore just went to the top of the list for tomorrow morning.

Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

A very meaningful Happy Thanksgiving to all readers. I have an awful lot to be thankful for and I realize it this day...

Some more pics from my recent trip............

Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Adrift In The SouthWest

This was a trip to remember. Six nights and seven days of the great American SouthWest! North central New Mexico to be exact. I had a blast. This has to be the absolute best RV trip that I've ever taken by myself. I think the Passport in Time trip might have been better but I was not by myself on that one.

Incomparable scenery, history just dripping off of everything, perfect weather, no fact almost no people, gas at $1.89/gal. I could stop with just that description but I know some might be disappointed so I'll fill you in on some of the details.

I left the Denver area at about 9 am on Tuesday morning with the thought of staying the night in The Great Sand Dunes National Park. I made good time and when I got that far I reasoned that since I started a day late, maybe I ought to push on some. I ended up in Aztec, NM a little after dark. It was a long driving day but it put me in position to make the most of the rest of the trip.

My first stop Wednesday morning was Aztec Ruins National Monument. I was at the front door promptly at 8 am when they opened. Aztec Ruins was not built by the Aztecs but rather by a pueblo people that were intertwined with the pueblo peoples in Mesa Verde to the
north and Chaco Canyon to the south. They built and occupied this area from about 500-1300 AD and then kind of disappeared. Most historians say they moved south and intermingled with the pueblo people of the lower Rio Grande area.

Whatever the history, these people were unbelievable builders. The masonry was sophisticated enough to support four stories at some points. Walls were "arrow" straight and in later times had a very artistic veneer. They were also accomplished potters and the museum was full of pottery that was recovered during excavation.

This monument is actually quite small in size and only a portion of it has been excavated. In spite of the small size I still spend about three hours looking around. I walked out in amazement of what these ancient people accomplished. Little did I know that this was nothing compared to what lay ahead of me.

After that bit of history, next on my list was the Bisti/De-Na Zin Wilderness for a look at some incredible bad lands formations. This area, as the name implies is in the wilderness. About 34 miles south of Aztec and in the middle of one of the Navajo Indian Reservations. In simple terms, this place was so far in the sticks that they had to pipe sun light to it. 45,000 acres of only what God created. No roads, no established trails. The rules are simple. Walk anywhere you want, just don't cause any damage to the wonders you encounter.

I pulled up in the "parking lot" at about 2pm. This "parking lot" was just an area marked off with stones about three miles down a medioc
re dirt road from the nearest paved road. For the next 3 hours I wandered around like a little kid. I was surprised by something new every time I turned around. Hoodos, volcanic moonscapes, petrified trees....everywhere.

The only reason I stopped was because it was starting to get dark and I sure wanted to be back at the RV by the time it was dark. In the picture below you can see why I needed to get back. The little blue speck under the arrow is my RV. (Don't forget, click on any picture
to see a larger version.)

After a very quiet night, I was ready for my next major destination, Chaco Canyon. It was only about 30 miles away from where I the crow flies. To get there on a road my RV could manage however, I had to drive about 100 miles. The last 16 miles into the park took me about an hour and a half.....that's 90 minutes to drive 16 miles! The road was so washboardy that most of the time I was driving about 6 or 7 mph.

Even if it took 5 hours to go that last 16 miles it was so, so, very worth it. This was the highlight of the trip. This place is amazing, fantastic, incredible, wonderful, overwhelming, beautiful.....take your pick of adjectives, all of them work. The picture at the top of the post is Fajada Butte w
hich greets you as you enter the park.

First let me give you the correct name of this place. Chaco Culture National Historical Park is it's official name. This place is right on 40,000 acres in the middle of nowhere. The nearest town is 60 miles away and that 16 mile killer road keeps many people from venturing into this enchanting place. I spent two days there and saw maybe 10 other visitors. On the second day I took a 6 mile hike and didn't see another soul all day....but I'm getting ahead of myself. It will suffice to say that the Park Service staff that lives on site easily outnumbered all the guests in the park while I was there

I arrived at the visitor's center at about 1:20 pm and learned that this is not just one puebelo ruin. There are at least 12 different ruins in the area. Even better I learned that there was a ranger guided tour of the largest complex, Pueblo Bonito, at 2pm. Perfect timing on my part and what better way to get an introduction to what the park had to offer.

The Park Ranger explained that Pueblo Bonito, pictured above, is the largest pueblo that has ever been excavated. It was the center of pueblo life in what is now Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. It thrived for over 500 years until it was mysteriously abandoned like the other major pueblos to the north and west.

This was a complex civilization with unique building skills. In addition to the masonry that was sophisticated enough to build four story buildings and doorways in load bearing corners, they also built 30 foot wide roads that stretched for hundreds of miles. They carved stairs into steep cliffs and built ramps up to the cliffs to allow easy access to their cities. They had no written language but left plenty of petroglyphs in the area and they were students of the stars. Many buildings are aligned within one degree of true north and many ceremonial sites are aligned so that the sun would illuminate certain things on the walls of their kivas.

On Friday mornin
g I decided to take a 6 mile hike that went to two other unexcavated sites and looped around a canyon rim. When I got to the start of the trail I started to have doubts of my choice of hikes....and my physical ability. The pictures above shows the VERY steep beginning. The trail then went behind a huge rock and climbed up a crack between the boulder and the canyon wall.

I was determined, however, and once I got to the rim of the canyon the trail became much easier. The day had started out pretty the 20s but as soon as the sun got up in the sky a bit, it warmed up fast and I started shedding layers. I'm going to wear this word out but it was an incredible hike. The ruins were mysterious and wonderful. The scenery was awesome. I even saw many pot shards along the way. They were literally every where once you knew what to look for. I'll just let some pictures do the talking....

Saturday morning I reluct
antly pulled out and headed back on the dreaded hour and a half/16 mile drive. There are at least 4 other trails that I really wanted to explore but time and the weather was not on my side. I needed to be back home before Thanksgiving and coincidentally the weather was supposed to start getting bad by Wednesday.

Next stop was Bandelier National Monument. Another ancient Indian site and a beautiful canyon to boot. I was leery that after Chaco everything would pale in comparison. I arrive
d with just enough light that I could check out the visitors center and then make my camp in the park campground. It seems I timed this right too as I was told that the campground would close for the year at the end of the next week.

Sunday morning was once again pretty chilly so I had to bundle up for the start of this short hike. Total round trip of this trail was only 2.5 miles so I figured I'd be done well before noon.

Bandelier is not nearly as spectacular in a grand scale as Chaco but it was in it's own way very worthwhile. Frijoles Canyon is the name of the actual canyon. Bandelier was an early self taught archaeologist for whom the park is named.

The geology of the area is volcanic and that is part of the reasons the Indians settled here. The soil was rich and made agriculture fairly easy. The
surrounding cliffs are composed of soft volcanic tuff. This material is relatively soft and has many natural holes in it, kind of like swiss cheese. These holes became ready made shelters for the people.

There was a small free standing pueblo on the valley floor but the more interesting structures were the buildings built at the base of the cliffs and the expanded cave dwellings behind these buildings.

The highlight of this hike was a cliff dewlling site that was 140 feet above the canyon floor. To get there you had to climb 4 different ladders. This is not a climb for "ladder adverse" people. I'm thinking that my mother in law whom I christened "Ladder Lady" a few mo
nths ago, would loose her moniker on this site. The picture above is just one of the four ladders used in the climb. None of the buildings remained in this niche but there was a reconstructed kiva which I explored.

I was back at the RV by late morning and headed to Los Alomos to explore. One bit of poor planning on my part. I forgot it was Sunday morning and just about everything was closed. Not wanting to spend another night in the area I headed for Taos where I could stay in a for real RV park with all the amenities.....I REALLY wanted a leisurely shower!

I pulled into Taos in the early afternoon and then spent a couple of hours looking at shops and galleries. I was really tempted to buy a big gaudy bolo tie but looking at the prices jolted me back to reality.

I did buy one small item that I intend to have fun with. I'm not a musical person but I thought I might give an Indian flute a try. After some searching and talking with shop owners I found one that was affordable and a good beginner's flute. These instruments like most other things can get expensive if you want to go full bore. I saw several that were in the $1000 range, decorated with turquoise etc. What I ended up with was no where near that expensive and it seems to play just fine. We'll see how long The Bride will tolerate my practicing it at home?

That evening I had my shower.......more superlative words here.....watched the Bronco's loose another football game and generally chilled and got ready for the trip home on Monday.

Monday was a long trip over roads I've travelled many times before but the miles went quickly because I kept reliving the events of the past week. The entire trip ended up being 1190 miles.

Today I'm busy with cleaning out the RV, re-winterizing the plumbing and all the mundane stuff that's required at the end of the trip.

This may be the last trip I can squeeze in this winter unless I want to go a lot further south. I'll have to pull out the maps and see what I might be able to do in a month or so. At any rate, it will take a lot to top this trip. This is definitely one for my memories.

Since I started with a sunset picture, I'll finish with one as well. This shot was taken from my campsite in Taos on Sunday evening....

Thanks for visiting.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Of Chiropractors and Motor Scooters

This morning at about 9 am I went to a Chiropractor's office not far from my home to see if they could do anything for my back. I had never been to a Chiropractor before but had several friends recommend that I try it.

To make a long story short, I was able to walk in and see someone within 20 minutes. After some time on a "roller table" and then some time electrically stimulating my back muscles, the Chiropractor aligned my spine and I felt much better. To give some relativity to it, if I went in feeling 50% ok, I came out feeling 90% ok. For me that was terrific.

So, the road trip is on, starting tomorrow. I have just about finished loading up the RV. The motor scooter loaded with ease and I got it tied down without any problem. The "cheapo" cover went on next.....I really don't think the cover will last very long before it gets torn up but I hope it will at least last this trip.

Since I'm starting a day late, I may try to make it to Aztec, NM tomorrow instead of stopping at The Great Sand Dunes National Park outside of Alamosa, CO. We'll see.

I don't know where/when I'll be able to get an internet connection along the way so this may be my last post for a few days. When I return, I'm sure I'll have some stories to tell.

Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Houston - We Have A Problem

Wouldn't you know it! Just about the time I could taste this road trip, I pulled something in my back. The good news is it is not as bad as most of the times I do this. The bad news is that it's still enough to make me delay my trip for at least a day.

It happened sometime yesterday afternoon. I have no idea of what I did because I didn't do anything out of the ordinary. I was riding in the car and I felt my back "seizing" up. By the time I got home I knew I had a problem. Today I'm better but it would be suicide for me to try and lift anything of any weight at all....which includes supplies for the RV or the portable generator I normally bring along.

Guitar has been after me for a while to see a chiropractor and I think tomorrow morning I will do just that. If I feel better by tomorrow afternoon I will leave on Tuesday morning.

Yesterday I also received a package in the mail from my brother #4. The package contained several diaries that my maternal grandfather kept in the early 1960s. I spent most of the rest of the day reading through these diaries.

My grandfather was a farm boy from Vermont and worked all his life in outdoor jobs. During the late 50s and 60s he worked as a water well driller in New Jersey. He didn't "retire" until after my grandmother died in1967. That's a picture of him to the left. It was taken just a year or two after he retired.

Reading through the diaries reminded me of what a physically tough job he had and I am amazed that he did this work into his 70s.

As a young boy, during the s
ummer I would often go with him to work. If I was real good he would let my put my hand on the cable as it was pounding up and down. This was old time well drilling, not the rotary drilling they do today but what is called cable tool drilling. In this type of drilling a heavy metal "bit" is lifted and dropped on the ground. Each time it is dropped the bit turns about 1/4 turn and basically pounds it way into the ground. This is not too different from the principals of pile driving. Pretty low tech.

It was an incredibly hard job. The hole had to be cleaned out every so often and the drill bits could easily get stuck in the hole requiring special tools to try and break it free. Wells were drilled year around so even in winter my grandfather would be working on a wet and sloppy site.

Probably the hardest part of the job was in keeping the bits sharpened. The bit was a large chunk of metal, 4 or 6 or 8 inches in diameter with a point like a soldering iron on the end and they weighed at least 100 pounds. Depending on the conditions, the bits had to be changed several times a day because they got dull. Sharpening the dull bits was part of the job. To sharpen the bit you first had to build a furnace on site with fire bricks and stoke a fire with coke. The end of the dull bit was put in the furnace until it got red hot and then sharpened with manpower and a sledge hammer. The picture above shows someone doing this very physical task. At 73 years of age, my grandfather would do this several times a day on occasion.

His diaries didn't have a lot of personal comments in them although there was enough to bring back plenty of memories. Most of the time the diary had entries that described his daily job and the successes and failures of drilling someone's water well. It was a me
lancholy trip back in time but it gave me an even greater appreciation for the man my middle name celebrates.

Below is an excerpt from his diary on his 73rd birthday. Note that he went to his job in -2 degree weather. His days labor amounted to 8 feet drilled. His generation gave birth to "The Greatest Generation" but I think they were pretty special too.
Thanks for visiting.

Friday, November 14, 2008

What's Wrong With This Picture?

These two little tykes were on their way to the school bus this morning. This picture was taken from one of my bedroom windows. Nasty weather eh?

Hey, I'm supposed to leave for a "road trip" on Monday!

Have no fear, after all, this is Colorado....

The 6 day forecast for the north central part of New Mexico looks like this.

That doesn't look bad to me either. I'm thinking this will be a good trip. I started packing and finished up researching the stops I'll make along the way. I am planning on staying at a commercial RV park on Tuesday night in Aztec, NM so hopefully I'll be able to file a report from there. For the rest of the trip I will be well beyond any WiFi or cell coverage so the stories will have to wait till I return.

On another totally unrelated but still "What's Wrong With This Picture" subject, what is the benefit to our financial system to allow "short" selling?

I rarely make political or social comments on this blog but our current financial melt down has me scratching my head. Now I'm no financial genius but I managed my way through a business career, raised a family on a budget, bought several houses over the years and numerous cars, boats and trailers. I even accumulated some stocks. Though the years I think I've also learned a little about human nature.

So I'm wondering, how is betting on a bad thing happening....a good thing? If someone makes money on a bad thing happening and they are serious about making this money, isn't it in their best interest if bad things happen? Do you suppose they might try to do what they can to have a bad thing happen? It appears to me that it's way easier to influence the stock market with bad news than it is to influence it with good news.

I just don't get the "logic" in allowing short selling in the financial industry. It seems like it's giving someone a big hammer, sticking a bulls eye on your forehead and then spitting in their face?

What have I missed here?

Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Getting Ready

My RV is back from the mechanic....oil change for the motor and the on board generator and a few other minor items. The most important item was to make a small modification to the scooter rack that I intend to carry on the front of the RV.

I brought the rack home, put it on the back of my Ford Expedition just as a trial to see how it worked. The scooter fit fine and I found that I could load and unload it by myself without a problem. The only remaining scooter issue is to find some type of cover for it that can withstand the wind it will see on the front of the RV. I have a "cheapy" that came with the scooter and will probably try it on the first trip realizing that it will probably get torn up before long. I'm hoping it will last until I find a heavy duty replacement.

So, with all that done, I'm planning to get out of town sometime early next week. The weather here and in New Mexico where I'm headed, looks to be clear with temps in the mid to upp
er 50's. That's a sight cooler that it was just two weeks ago but it's probably the warmest I'll see for a while.

Oh, one other little addition to the scooter. I bought a handlebar mount for my Garmin 60CSx GPS. With this mount it's easy to snap the unit on and off the handlebar so I can use it either riding or hiking. It's battery operated but several people have told me that the batteries last up to 20 hours. I guess if I get lost now, I have no excuses.

On the home front, I've completed my basement workroom project. Over the past several weeks I've bought a number of used kitchen and bathroom cabinets that I've found on Craigslist and installed them along two walls of my workroom. The most expensive cabinet was $40 and the least was $15 for a set of 3 cabinets. The counter tops I put on, which is just a standard Melamite covered chip board, cost more than the cabinets. It turned out pretty well if I do say so myself.

The next couple of days I'll be pouring over maps and guide books to nail down the details of this upcoming trip so check back in a couple of days to see how I'm doing.

Thanks for visiting.

Friday, November 7, 2008

New Mexico Will Have To Wait

Well, my mechanic couldn't get my scooter rack finished today or the routine maintenance I had him scheduled to do too. I had figured that my trip would have to be at least five nights on the road to see all the things that were on my list and The Bride and I have something to do next Sunday night so I'm going to have to postpone my trip.

On one hand I'm bummed but on the other, the weather is not great, so by waiting I have a chance of getting some better conditions for my trip, and, being the organized guy that I am, I have some backup activities to keep me busy.

Tomorrow, I'm going with Guitar and Too Tall - Two Timing to help a mutual friend lay PEX tubing for a heated driveway he is building. I gotta tell you, a heated driveway is the ultimate luxury in Colorado so I'm excited to see what this is all about. Maybe I can sell this idea to The Bride?

I also have a little project going on in my basement. Most of the basement was finished off a number of years ago. I preserved one area that's about 10' x 25' as a work room for me. It had drywall on the walls but that's it. I installed some wall cabinets and have a small work bench in that area.

For the past few weeks, I've been searching Craig's List for used base cabinets and have bought a number of them. I'm installing them on two of the four walls of the work area. On Sunday I'll go to pick up the last of the cabinets that will fit along those two walls. The cabinets are nothing special. Some are kitchen cabinets and some are the shorter bathroom cabinets. There are four different styles/finishes but I have been able to arrange them so they don't look bad at all....for a basement work area. Hopefully I'll have them all installed and put a counter top on them all by the end of next week.

On Sunday the 16th The Bride and I are going with Guitar and Pic-E to a Tesoro Foundation event. It consists of dinner at The Fort Restaurant and a lecture about the Leonid Meteor Shower of 1833. The event is called The Night The Stars Fell. This should prove to be a very entertaining night and a good meal to boot.

So, no trip for this week but I've got plenty of stuff to do. I'll even have some time to practice on the Wii Fit machine. I'm hooked on the soccer heading balance game. In the game you stand on a flat board and "head" soccer balls that are kicked to you. The computer senses the change in your balance as you lean back and forth on the board and the image on the screen mimics your movements. It is NOT as easy as the linked video make it look, but it's fun and an amazing piece of computer engineering.

Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I received the hitch mounted scooter rack yesterday and spent most of the day today assembling it and practicing getting the scooter on and off the rack. I discovered that the scooter wheelbase is just a tad too short to fit the rack perfectly. Both the front and real wheel should fit in the open slots on either end of the carrier but because the scooter is so short, the front wheel does not drop down into the slot. This makes it too unstable for my taste. I think if I re-locate one of the cross braces shown in the picture above, that will solve the problem. Tomorrow I'll take the rack and the RV to my mechanic to fix this issue and to have some minor work done on the RV.

I'm hoping that if I get all of this fixed in a day or so, I'll be able to take a trip to New Mexico to see some things that have been on my list for a long while. The weather is a bit "iffy" but once I get into New Mexico it shouldn't be too bad. There is a possibility that another front may move into the area late in the week. If it does I'll have to postpone the trip until better weather.

The trip will cover almost 1000 miles. About 400 miles of that is just getting from the Denver area down to the New Mexico border and back. With gas prices hovering around $2.00 a gallon however, it won't be as bad as my last trip into New Mexico. The three major destinations on the trip will be Aztec Ruins National Monument, Chaco Canyon National Historic Park, and Bandelier National Monument. In between those stops are a bunch of other interesting things like the Jemez Pueblo, the town of Los Alamos and El Huerfano Mesa and Trading Post.

I'm really looking forward to this adventure but the trip depends on the weather and my mechanic..........

Wish me luck.

Thanks for visiting.


LinkWithin Related Stories Widget for Blogs