Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Adrift In The SouthWest Again Part III

Tuesday morning Guitar and I were both awake by about 6 am and started preparing for the days discoveries. First on our list was White Sands National Monument. I have been wanting to visit this place for many years and today was the day to fulfill my want.

I have been to the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado and they were truly impressive. W
hite Sands is no less impressive but in a completely different way. White Sands is white! At times when the clouds provided a little shade you could easily mistake the sand for snow. The roads are plowed on a regular basis because of the drifting sand and it looked very much like snow piled up on the side of the road.

Guitar and I spent a couple of hours looking around and trying to get the "perfect" picture that would convey the beauty of this place. I think I won with these two pictures. As good as any picture is, it really doesn't do justice to this place. I heartily recommend visiting here if you ever get the chance.

Next stop was Las Cruces, NM for a shot of weird to balance off the natural beauty of White Sands. The object of our attention was a Muffler Man. I haven't bagged a Muffler Man in quite a while so both Guitar and I were excited! While we w
ere trying to figure out exactly where it was and how to get to it, we drove right by it. We quickly took the next exit and circled back.

This Muffler Man is special because he is an Hispanic Muffler Man. Oh yes, there are differences among Muffler Men. If there weren't differences the hunt might become boring....This one was in pretty rough shape and had lost his arms somewhere along the way. We took the requisite pictures while doing the Muffler Man salute and headed down the road.

The second prize attraction in Las Cruces is another giant roadrunner made from recycled materials

We stopped at Lordsburg for the evening because, well because there wasn't any other place close by to stop. I am sure that this is the only reason Lordsburg survives....traffic and stopovers from the adjacent Interstate.

Wednesday morning we headed out for the last leg of the first half of the trip and arrived at the Cactus Country RV Park about noon. After a quick lunch we did a quick trip to the Amerind Foundation for a quick hike of their grounds with our hosts for the next couple of days, Jamie and Betsy. We then rushed back to the Tucson airport to pick up The Bride and Pic-E. Dinner and a drink or two followed and we sacked out early because for the next several days we would be on the go almost constantly.

I'm posting this from the USA RV Park in Gallup, NM on historic Route 66. This is the first internet connection we've had in a couple of days and will be the last for a few more. Tomorrow morning we're headed for Chaco Canyon and hope to stay for 2-3 nights. An awful lot of cool things have transpired since last Wednesday but my report will have to wait for a while so stay tuned.

Thanks for visiting.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Adrift In The SouthWest Again - Part II

Let's see, where was I. Oh yeah, Three Rivers Petroglyph Site. So after a very interesting and educational stop there, it was time to satisfy the weird side. We were headed for Oliver Lee State Park for the night's layover but there were a couple of things we wanted to see in Alamagordo, NM.

The first was the world's largest pistachio. I was totally unaware that this area is a very big producer of pistachios and pecans. As you approach Alamagordo from the north you can see lots of orchards and road side businesses selling both. We stopped at a store that claimed to have the world's largest pistachio...pictured above. After all the serious culture we had absorbed in the previous couple of days we needed something weird to balance it all out and this was the start.

Just down the road a bit we spotted the metal road runner statue in front of a scrap yard. A perfect counterpoint to keep us on a proper cultural keel.

It was getting late and there is just so much you can absorb in a day so we stopped in a Super WalMart in Alamagordo and picked up some hot wings for dinner and then headed to Oliver Lee State Park about 10 miles south of Alamagordo. This is a very nice facility with a great view of Alamagordo and the surrounding desert. We could also tell that after travelling 500 miles almost due south of the Denver area, it was finally starting to get warmer.

It's time to start today's (Saturday) activities so I'll stop the report here. Stay tuned for more.

Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Adrift In The SouthWest Again

We have arrived in Tucson and are comfortably situated at the Cactus Country RV park just a few sites away from our friends Jamie and Betsy. The Bride and Pic-E flew in yesterday and today we start to explore the Tucson area.

Guitar and I left the Denver area bright and early Sunday morning. Our goal for Sunday was to get as far as Villanueva State Park just south
of Las Vegas, NM...and we reached the goal. Both Guitar and I had been over most of this road before except the stretch from Las Vegas to the state park.

Guitar had never been into Las Vegas before so we spent about an hour and a half looking around the old historic downtown area. Las Vegas was a part of Mexico until General Kearny occupied it in 1846. It still has a lot of reminders of that era with many adobe buildings still standing and functioning. As we were looking around, Guitar spotted a motel and remarked that he had seen that motel in a movie somewhere. Sure enough, we found out that parts of No Country for Old Men was filmed there. We arrived at the State Park a little before dusk and spent a comfortable night there planning our next days travel.

We were on the road again by 8 am Monday morning headed south on State Highway 3. Highway 3 is a narrow secondary road that has very little traffic. When I say very little...I mean very little. We only saw one other car on the road in an hour and a half of driving! There are not too many places left in the lower 48 where you can experience that. The picture at the top of the post was taken along this road. This is the kind of road that Guitar and I love to travel and this one met our expectations. We saw villages perched on top of hills that looked like not a whole lot had changed in 200 years other than the ever present electric power poles. We saw little towns that were just barely alive but with signs that they had once been very prosperous.

Right about noon we reached Valley of Fires, just outside the little town of Carrizozo, NM. This is a relatively recent lava flow (1000 yrs. old) that originated not from a volcano but from a vent in the valley floor. The flow is 2-5 miles wide, 44 miles long and about 160 feet deep. What an unusual sight in the middle of the New Mexico high desert!

After exploring this we had a bite to eat and headed out to our next destination Three Rivers Petroglyph Site. The weath
er was perfect for this type of exploring. A bright sun and cool temperatures. The only drawback was a stiff wind that I fought all day long. Driving an RV in high wind on a narrow road can be a challenge. The challenge was worth it however as this place is a bonanza for those interested in Native American petroglyphs.

This is a relatively small site managed by the Bureau of Land Management. In this small area there are between 600-800 petroglyphs that were pecked into the rock up to 1000 years ago. In the surrounding valley as many as 21,000 petroglyphs have been recorded.

What an amazing place. Why was this area picked for all of this art work? Was it religious? Was is an attempt to leave the history of a people....or was it an ancient way to get girls...come see my etchings? Whatever it is, it's amazing.

We did have one incident here that will cause me
to contact the BLM. This is a fee area and it's about 30 miles to the nearest town. The entry fee is $2 per individual. A volunteer host mans the office. When we arrived and went to pay the fee, we were told that the host had absolutely no change. There were several other cars in the parking lot so we knew that either the host did have some change of some type or the other people paid in multiples of $5. After some discussion a lady came up and said that they had paid not knowing that they could have used their National Parks Pass and we could just use what they paid. Now this is really strange because the lady that made this generous offer and the host were standing together, talking so it was impossible for the host not to have some type of change. I'm guessing that this is the way the "host" supplemented her income, claiming she had no change and pocketing the difference. Some time in the next few days I intend to make a complaint to the Bureau of Land Management about this.

I'm going to stop my story here because we are leaving in a minute to add adventures to tell you about later. There's lot's more to tell so stay tuned.

Thanks for visiting.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sunday Can't Come Soon Enough!

Need I say anything at all? The picture pretty well explains it. It's going to be about like this here in the Denver area for the next couple of days. Meanwhile the forecast for the Tucson area is sunny and in the mid 70's.

I picked up the RV from the lot yesterday and luckily the weather was pretty decent. I was able to get all the outside work done by mid afternoon. I installed the two batteries that run lights/heat when there is no electricity available. The batteries go in the little compartment that you can see in the picture at the bottom of the coach behind the driver's door. It's a small compartment and it takes some time to get everything in and hooked up. I also did some maintenance work on the refrigerator which is accessed from the outside also. As you can see from the picture I also loaded the scooter on the carrier on the front of the coach. I would not have liked to do all of that stuff today!

Guitar will bring his stuff over on Saturday and we will do the final packing. We will leave bright and early on Sunday morning and hope to get as far as Las Vegas, NM and spend the first night at Villa Nueva State Park. They have year round camping and also have electricity and water. The weather there will be chilly...down in the 20's at night, so electricity is a welcome thing.

Right now that's about as far as the formal planning goes. We have to be in Tucson on Wednesday to pick up The Bride and Pic-E at the airport but between Monday and then we have no formal plans. We will probably head south of secondary roads and spend Monday night somewhere north of Las Cruces, NM. I'd like to go by the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site and a couple of other places on Monday. One possibility for Monday night is Valley of Fires State Park but we'll just have to wait and see.

We probably won't be anywhere with internet access until we reach Tucson so this will most likely be the last post till then. I will as usual take plenty of pictures to post when I get a chance so check back often.

In other news, I found out that I was not selected to participate in the Passport in Time project in March that I applied for. This was the project where artifacts collected over the past year or so by the Forest Service are to be "curated". The correspondence I received from the Forest Service said that there were many more applications than positions and "better luck next time". Rats! I thought an indoor project in March wouldn't have a lot of volunteers. Go figure. I have an application in for another project in June so I've still got something on the fire.

Finally, I want to wish #4 and his bride a Happy Anniversary. If I'm counting right this is #25 for #4?

Thanks for visiting.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Chef His-Self

So this was the weekend I did product demonstrations at the local big box store. The deal was that I was to do two different demonstrations, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. Demonstrate is a misnomer. Prepare and hand out samples is the more accurate description.

The product on Saturday was Sutton & Dodge (Hormel) Pot Roast in a bag....lightly seasoned, pre-cooked. All you have to do is heat and eat. The bag contained a 5 pound piece of beef and it was selling on sale for $11.99/lb. That means the 5 lb. bag retailed for right on $60. $12/lb. for a piece of meat is a a lot more than I normally would consider spending so I was interested to see how other people perceived the product.

Before distributing the samples I had to heat a piece of meat in a microwave and then cut it into sample size servings. Heating the meat caused a very nice aroma to surround my little work area and it really attracted people. I had tasted the product before I started handing samples out and I will admit it was very tasty. That's what most of the customers said too.

Once most of the people learned the price they walked on but many didn't bat an eye and picked up a bag. I sold all of the product the store had on hand except for one bag and I had a great t
ime doing it.

When I first started my real work career 36 years ago I was a sales representative and sold commercial and industrial products to building contractors. I did ok at it but was never really comfortable in a sales job because the pressure never quit. You could have a record month/year but then the next month/year you started from zero and the pressure was on again. In this little hobby/job there is no pressure. The task is to give out samples and if someone buys the product that's an added bonus. That made it a fun thing for me.

Sunday the product was BOOST Juices. I have to tell you that I don't really "get" that product. I is a natural juice made of some exotic fruits that is supposed to work magic for your body. The "Inner" formula said it was supposed to make all of your organs function better....It tasted like watered down prune juice to me.

I didn't have the aroma going for me on Sunday and traffic was very light. The goal was to hand out 400 samples and I handed out maybe 70. You win some you lose some! While it was boring not being actively engaged with customers I still had a good time people watching and studying what people were buying.

All in all I had a good time and will probably do some more of this. This will have to wait a few weeks though because the great Tucson Road Trip starts this coming Sunday. This week will be busy getting ready. In addition to getting everything packed I have to reinstall the two coach batteries I use as back up power in the RV. When I know I'm not going to use the RV for several weeks I take them out of the coach and keep them in my basement hooked up to a trickle charger. I also need to clean the gas burner and flue for the RV refrigerator. It's been acting up on the last several trips and normally requires cleaning every couple of months. This is the kind of work I really enjoy....getting ready for a road trip.

Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Just One Step Away From A WalMart Greeter

Before I retired my colleagues at work asked me what I would do when I retired. Would I get a consulting job in my old industry? My stock reply was that 35 years of working in the same industry was all I cared to do. If I wanted to do anything like work again, a WalMart greeter was about as stressful as I wanted to get.

I have been retired for a little over one year now. During that time I have seen a lot of new places and done a lot of new things. I have not had the time nor felt the need to consider working. I do however scan the part time job listings on Craigslist just for fun.

A month or so ago I saw an ad that peaked my curiosity. It was for a "demonstrator" at local big box stores. You know what that is... You've seen lots of them in Target, Walmart and your grocery store. Those are the folks behind the card table giving away samples of food.

It turns out that this interested me in several ways. First of all, the weather is not good enough to allow me to go on frequent RV trips locally so my weekends are free. Secondly, the job description indicates that you are a "contractor" for the demonstration company. You get to pick the demonstrations you want to do. There is no pressure to have a regular schedule. The demonstrations are 5 hours long and the pay is $10/hr.

So, for $50 a day I would get to give away someone else's stuff and I only have to do it when I want. That sounded like something I would like to give a whirl so I submitted an "application". Now I wasn't about to do work to get a job so my application said that I was retired and intelligent enough to have had a career in industry for 35 years and I was looking for "pin money" and that was it. No fancy resume.

I'm not sure if I'm exactly the kind of person they were looking for or they were really hard up but they signed me up and I will do my first two demos this weekend. I had been offered several more demos in coming weeks but I told them I wanted to do just the two to begin with to see if it was a "fit" for me. The $100 I get for working this weekend will buy several tanks of gas for the RV on my trip in two weeks so I'm into this thing for now.

This is the type of work that can be fun....I don't need to do it and if I don't like doing it, I'm gone. Too bad my career wasn't that easy!

Thanks for visiting.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Airplanes, Taxes and Super Sunday

Nothing of great importance happening here right now. The Circle got together at Guitar and Pic-E's place yesterday to watch the Super Bowl. Guitar bought a brand new flat screen TV and I do believe we saw the game better than most that attended in person. I was rooting for Arizona so I was a little disappointed with the outcome. It was such a good game though, it was hard to be really disappointed regardless of the outcome.

If you remember the saga of trying to get to The Bride's, great aunt's funeral, I said I was not real hopeful about getting a refund for the airline tickets. After my first call to Northwest Airlines they did refund half the cost of the ticket but said since we did fly to Minneapolis and back they wouldn't refund the full fare. I appealed the case and submitted a request for a full refund through the Northwest web site as I was instructed to do by their call center. The next day I got an email saying that Northwest was experiencing a high volume of emails and I would have a response in 5-7 days.

Today marked two weeks since I received that email so I called the refund desk again. As much as I wanted to be ugly about the whole thing, I refrained. It is true that honey will catch more flies that you know what. I simply stated my case and told them this wasn't like a business trip that I could work around. Since it was a funeral it or die...pun intended. It would not have done us any good to get to North Carolina the day after the funeral. I also mentioned how "distraught" my wife was to kept from a family members last earthly ceremony. I guess I lucked out because they decided that they would make a "policy" adjustment and give me a full refund.

I could use a little more of that luck on my taxes for 2008. I started doing those with TaxCut software a couple of days ago and things are not looking too good. Maybe I should apply for one of those presidential Cabinet jobs...then I wouldn't have to pay taxes!

My great road trip to Tucson and back starts in two weeks! I've got road trip fever so bad right now I can hardly stand it. On Saturday I went down to the RV lot just to putter around and see if I could reduce the fever a bit. It didn't work. As a matter of fact I think it made things worse. I know I'll survive but I won't be cured until Sunday the15th gets here.

Thanks for visiting.


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