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2018-10-11 – Camp Verde and Clarkdale – Day 54 – Verde Canyon Railroad and an Extraordinary Dinner at Moscato

We enjoyed a lovely day here in the Verde Valley…

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It was cool and rainy, but the forecast was for improved conditions…

We drove to the small town of Clarkdale, where we were to board the Verde Canyon Railroad for a 4 hour round trip into the Verde Canyon.  We easily found the Depot.  (Fake vigas noted…)

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We checked in and received our boarding passes… We were disappointed that the depot was not actually in the town of Clarkdale – it is in the valley below.

It was a short, 1/2 mile walk into the center of Clarkdale.  We quickly found the highly recommended Violette’s, a very good French pastry place housed in an old Caboose…

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We enjoyed a Croque Monsieur and Avocado Toast along with great coffee.  The rain had stopped and we checked out the town.

Several towns around here were dependent on mining and smelting copper, gold, and silver.  All the towns died in the early 1950s when the smelter closed and all the workers left.  In the town of Jerome the population went from 15,000 to 50 in a period of about 6 months.  A similar story, in various degrees, could be told for Cottonwood and Clarkdale.  Over time, Jerome reinvented itself as a arts and crafts center, and Cottonwood became a center for nightlife, with restaurants, wine tasting rooms, bars, and shops.

But Clarkdale?  Still waiting for something to happen.  There was Violette’s, of course, and The 10/12 Lounge, a retro cocktail lounge.  But the prime business block stands empty and for sale.  Very sad.  What this town needs is a reason for people to come and hang out here…

It was time to return to the Depot to catch the train… There were about 400 people sitting at tables, drinking coffee, shopping in the gift shops… WAIT!

Why is the Depot down in this valley, and not in the town of Clarkdale?  This is exactly what the town needs!  They could put the Depot in the town, then provide a way to get the people down to the train – a shuttle, an escalator, maybe a zip-line?  It seems the town is missing a great opportunity…

Anyway, we found our car and found our seats.  Appetizers and light snacks are provided, and a cash bar is available for beverages.  The cars and chairs were very comfortable.  If you wanted a better view of the scenery, an outdoor viewing car is adjacent to the parlor car…

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Soon we were underway.  We rode 2 hours up the Verde Canyon, along the Verde River, with great views of… Red Rocks!

There was a guide who told us what we were seeing, pointing out interesting sights and telling us a little history of the area…

The first thing we see is the Slag Heap.  This covers 40 acres.  Slag is the waste from the smelting operations, and it was just dumped into a pile… Slag is hot molten rock… it glowed red when it was placed.  As it cooled it became this giant mountain of solid rock… It rises over 100 feet above the train, and it fills the valley below…

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Above you can see the metal form work used to prevent the molten slag from covering the train tracks…

Our guide reported that someone has recently paid 6 million dollars for the slag heap, and they have set up a plant nearby to extract the small amounts of copper, silver, and gold from the slag that were too difficult to get out 60 years ago… They are about to begin operations…

So we continued into the canyon… Beautiful sights all around…

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It was a lovely ride – very comfortable, very informative…

We returned to the Villa, and enjoyed a beautiful rainbow and sunset…

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As I told you, last night we went to a fine Italian restaurant in the town of Camp Verde.  We were so impressed with the food and the ambiance that we decided to return tonight.  However, instead of ordering off the menu, we simply asked the chef to make us something special.  We also specified that the portions be very small, and while I think he was a little embarrassed by how little food they gave us, it was still more than we could eat…

Paul was our server, again, and he seemed to enjoy this meal as much as we did… We began with an appetizer of Crimini mushrooms stuffed with Italian sausage , cured meats, and aged provolone cheese, with a red wine sauce… Next came a seafood pasta, which consisted of a giant Langostino atop red-wine infused house made pasta.  Finally we had a beef roulade, stuffed with shrimp and aged cheese, and topped with a red wine sauce and a splash of 40 year old balsamic, all served over a base of potato.  Pictures don’t do this food justice, so you will have to imagine…

For dessert we had something that was a combination of a cream puff and an Italian donut – creamed filled crispy pastry, caramel sauce, and a beautiful plate decorated with chocolate and something red…

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As we stumbled back to the Villa we were happily satiated.

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-10-10 – Day 53 – Camp Verde and Sedona

We left Gallup at 8:00 am.  It was 36 degrees outside… We stopped briefly for a mid-morning snack.  We are driving west along the 40 through northern Arizona…

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At Winslow we turned south on tiny highway 89; the sign said, “No services next 51 miles”… They weren’t kidding:

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We turned west again and soon arrived at Camp Verde, site of Historic Fort Verde (1865).  Camp Verde is a working class town, a few miles south of Sedona.

We parked and set up at a very nice RV Park, then we drove to Sedona.  Sedona seems like they took Santa Fe and dropped it into the middle of Bryce Canyon…

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Sedona, like Santa Fe, consists of hotels and shopping areas aimed directly at tourists:  gift shops, art galleries, spas, restaurants, and bars.  Compared to Santa Fe, it has a little less Indian culture and a lot more spiritual culture…

Being tourists, we found a nice restaurant.  Lynda ordered a small margarita…

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I was still pondering the menu and the Yelp ratings…

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We had a nice, but small and simple lunch, then walked through the shops amongst the other tourists.  I was surprised by the number of families in town; I would have expected more well dressed ladies of a certain age (with tiny yippie dogs) and their equally well dressed male companions…

We returned to the Villa.  Internet service was bad, so I had to hang out at the office to get anything done.  We walked around the RV park.  It is very nice, mostly seasonal and long term visitors.  There were six other Airstreams in the park… Oh! Wait! We just noticed a brand new Airstream Atlas!  Make that seven other Airstreams in the park…

At dinner time we sought out all the fine dining options in the area.  There was one.

We went to Moscato, a fine Italian place in Camp Verde, about four miles from the RV park…

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We arrived early and we walked a bit in the town, such as it is…

We found a liquor store that carried all the essentials…

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We’re not in California any more…

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The restaurant was VERY nice – it soon became our favorite restaurant in Camp Verde…

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The food and service were great.  The room is beautiful.  They also have a lovely outdoor patio, but it was a bit cool for that.  There were several large parties and families celebrating something or other…

We made a reservation again for tomorrow night…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-10-09 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 52 – Caravan is over; we head for home…

We watched the balloons fly one last time… We walked on the field amidst the chaos…

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It’s always fun to see the special shaped balloons – later in the week they will have a special competition just for them…

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This is Bill Lee, the pilot who organized our balloon rides last week in Gallup.  His balloon is the official balloon for the State of New Mexico… We tried to talk to him, but I think he was preoccupied…

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So we walked on…

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After a few minutes we looked back and Bill Lee was aloft…

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Once all the balloons had ascended we walked back to the Villa, hitched up, and left our happy campground full of Airstreams…

Our destination today is Gallup, NM, back to USA RV Park, which we left less than one week ago… We are spending one night, to dump the tanks, take showers, and get re-oriented again for our trip home…

We stopped briefly to stretch our legs, and then traveled on…

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We crossed the Continental Divide (7275′ elevation) at about 11:00 am.  It was 44 degrees outside… And then the rain began.  It was not heavy, and it did not hinder our trip…

There is not a lot going on out here in western New Mexico…

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But soon we were settled in to our site at USA RV Park, just west of Gallup, NM.

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This evening we had planned to walk the 1/2 mile and eat at Virgies, a Gallup institution.  Literally seconds before we left the Airstream it started to rain in a giant downpour.  It didn’t last long, but we didn’t want to get caught in another such downpour… Also, the highway was too wet, in our opinion, to walk…

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We called Uber and 9 minutes later we were at Virgies:

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By the time dinner was over we were able to walk back to the Villa…

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

Oh!  Here’s Evelyn:

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2018-10-08 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 51 – Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

It rained all night and it was cold… But this morning the winds were gentle and the balloons flew.  But it was an unusual flight…

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The balloons lifted off and drifted away from the Airstreams, towards the northwest.  Then the balloons dropped down, close to the ground, where a southern wind blew them south, then southeast; then the balloons ascended and caught the north winds again and the balloons came back over the launch field again.  This isn’t exactly the “Albuquerque Box” that they talk about, but it was close…

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And then they were gone…

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After the balloons were done, we headed to Costco to pick up a few supplies for our trip home…

This afternoon was our “final banquet” for the caravan.  These are normally held in the evening, but since there are 900,000 people visiting Albuquerque this week going out to a restaurant for dinner is not an option… So 2:00 pm it is.

The banquet was at El Pinto, a great New Mexican restaurant.  We were in a nice, spacious room, and we had a nice buffet lunch of all things Mexican, with a New Mexican twist… There were the usual speeches, toasts, blame for the innocent and accolades for the uninvolved…

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A slide show was presented that recapped our trip, and a few hokey songs were sung.  Well-deserved praises were said for our leaders, and we all vowed to keep in touch…

We returned to the Villa and had a simple (no food) Happy Hour.  But then it got too cold for these Californians, so we were turned in early…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-10-07 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 50 – Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

It was windy this morning, so the balloons could not fly.

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We walked around a bit and relaxed all morning, then at 1:00 we re-visited the Turquoise Museum…

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We had been here when we first started the caravan, and we learned what to look for when shopping for turquoise.  Since then we have been lied to by every jewelry store and trading post and gift shop in the Four Corners States… We had a nice chat with the owners…

On our way back to the Villa we stopped at a local New Mexico winery…

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We enjoyed a nice, casual tasting, chatting with a couple visiting from Virginia…  We bought a few bottles to augment our supply for our trip home…

This evening was Happy Hours again, but it was really too cold to sit outside, so we had three other couples join us inside the Villa…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-10-06 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 49 – Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

We were up at 0 dark thirty to see the commotion on the field…

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There are about a dozen or so balloons outfitted to fly at night; these are the “Dawn Patrol”.  They go up and report back on wind currents and other issues the balloonists might encounter…

At about 6:00 am they fired their burners and lifted off:

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At 7:00 am the “Mass Ascension” begins… But first we have a flyover of some vintage airplanes…

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One by one the balloons ascend until the sky is filled…

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You can even walk on the field and get up close and personal with the balloons as they are about to launch…

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Some balloons don’t make it very far…

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And then, just like that, they are gone… By 9:00 or so the ballooning for the day is over…

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We walked amongst the hundreds of vendors selling atrocious looking foods (Pork Chop on-a-Stick?) and cheap but expensive “souvenirs”…

This evening we had another gathering right in front of The Villa, but this time there were only about 100 people and it was just “Happy Hours”

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-10-05 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 48 – Convoy to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

We were up early, disconnecting, and getting ready to roll.  At 8:00 the lead driver of our convoy of 15 Airstreams rolled out of his site and we all rolled in behind him.  At 8:15 we headed out towards the freeway…

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After about an hour we exited the freeway and drove the frontage road to Camping World, the staging area for Airstreams entering the Balloon Fiesta Grounds.

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Right on schedule, the pilot car pulled in front of our convoy and we convoyed in for the last 10 miles or so.  When we arrived at Balloon Fiesta grounds we were directed in, and we parked in order of our arrival – no picking of spots allowed.  However, by some happy coincidence, we were parked directly facing the “plaza”, the open space reserved for our evening activities…

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Including our caravan of 30 Airstreams, there are 150 Airstreams parked in this “VIP” parking area…

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With no hook-ups there is little to do to set up, so we walked to see the Balloon Museum…

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The museum was mobbed with thousands of school children, but it did offer great overviews of the Airstreams…

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We could also see out over the main field where the 600 or so hot air balloons will be setting up…

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After that, we headed to downtown Albuquerque for a wonderful lunch at El Troquet, a tiny French bistro just dripping with charm…

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After lunch we walked a bit on Central Ave., the route of Historic Route 66.  Lots of new shops, bars, and restaurants are here and it is quite a lively spot…

We returned to the Villa, where Happy Hours and Dinner were soon in full swing…

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Just dinner with our closest 300 friends… Above is our caravan leader, Jay.  His job is just about done…

After dinner more socializing continued.  At 8:00 there were fireworks out on the balloon field…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-09-30 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 43 – Gallup, New Mexico – Hot Air Balloons and the Zuni Pueblo…

Today is the day!  Hot Air Balloons!

We drove in the dark to meet at Red Rock State Park, just east of Gallup.  We met up with the balloon pilots and their crews.  There will be 6 balloons going up today.  Weather conditions are perfect!

We drove around to the launch site, in the first of several canyons we would be seeing today.  Then the work of setting up the balloons begins.

The basket is assembled, and the burners are installed and tested…

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The balloon is inflated with a large, loud fan…

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The the burners are fired and the air in the balloon is heated…

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As the air in the balloon gets warmer the balloon rises…

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We all climb in the basket and away we go!

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As we ascended we could look down on the ground crew and the chase vehicles.  These people will follow us along our route and pick us up when we land – wherever that might be…

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Riding in a hot air balloon is an ethereal experience.  Everything is VERY slow.  It is silent, except when the pilot hits the valve to fire the burner to add more heat.  There is no steering wheel and there are no brakes – the balloon simply follows the wind… There are some vents in the balloon to let the pilot release air, and this allows him to rotate and adjust the balloon’s trajectory.

So we flew over five canyons, soaring over the plateaus and dropping deep into the canyon, then back up again…

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Part of the fun is flying along with other balloons…

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This is the official balloon of the State of New Mexico…

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Looking up into the hot air…

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After about five miles and one hour or so the first balloon lands…

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Our chase crew has arrived…

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As the others are starting to deflate and pack up we are still searching for a place to land…

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And we are on the ground!  This is our pilot, Jeff.  He has over 30 years experience flying balloons, and he set us down flawlessly!

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As the balloon deflates we all pitch in to pack it up…

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The basket is disassembled…

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The burners are stowed…

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And we returned to the original meeting spot.  We had a traditional ceremony and we shared a little champagne to celebrate our flight…

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And, with that, our ballooning was over.  On to other adventures…

After such an exhilarating morning, we celebrated by having breakfast at the Railroad Cafe – in a remodeled mid-70s era Der Weinerschnitel.

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And then we headed south about 45 miles to the Pueblo of Zuni

When Lynda retired from Valley Christian High School in June, 2017, another colleague, Tim Becksvoort also left.  But Tim didn’t retire – he moved, with his wife and three children to Zuni, NM, to become Principal of the Zuni Christian Mission School.  We set out today to visit the Becksvoorts and the Pueblo of Zuni…

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In 1897, Andrew and Effa Vander Wagen established a permanent mission in Zuni on behalf of the Christian Reformed Church.  Their passion and love for their Indian brothers and sisters made a lasting impression on all they touched.  They became fluent in the Zuni language and persevered in spite of physical threats to their lives.

The breakthrough for the fledgling Mission came when the Vander Wagens (with their infant children) refused to leave Zuni during a serious smallpox epidemic.  Instead of fleeing, as did the officials at Bureau of Indian Affairs, who were responsible for medical care in Zuni, the young couple went door to door caring for and administering medicine to their Zuni neighbors.  In that and later acts of mercy, the Vander Wagens pioneered the then-revolutionary mission concept that in order to minister to people’s spiritual needs one must also be willing to demonstrate Christ’s compassion and care for their physical needs.  With that groundwork laid, the first ordained missionaries were assigned to the Zuni Christian Reformed Mission in 1906.

In 1908, so that the missionary children might have Christian schooling, Miss Nellie DeJong came to Zuni as their teacher.  Along with the missionary children, four Zuni children were also enrolled.  From that humble beginning, the school expanded rapidly and soon claimed an important role in building relationships in the community, in educating the children and in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the children and their families.

Although the church and school have been housed in the same location within the Pueblo since its inception, there have been many changes in the facilities.  A major setback occurred in 1971 when a devastating fire raged through the Mission, completely destroying the church and school.  Portable classrooms were brought in and “temporary” facilities were constructed.  Forty years later, an amazing venture to rebuild the entire mission campus was begun.  Today there is a beautiful new school, a worship center for the church, residences for up to six families of staff members, a playground, and a gymnasium.

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The school is located across the river from central Zuni, the oldest part of the pueblo, “Middle Earth”, as they call it.  However, the village has, over the past 100 years, grown and now surrounds the school and church.

The Becksvoorts live in this very nice two-story apartment…

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We had lunch with the Becksvoort family, chatted with their three children, and walked around the “Middle Earth”…

The A:shiwi have lived here “forever”.   When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in about 1620 they gave the natives the name of Zuni… The Spanish built a church:  Our Lady of Guadalupe.  It was destroyed in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, and the Spanish left and fled to Santa Fe when the American frontiersmen started coming through in about 1800 as part of America’s western migration.   The church was rebuilt in 1960, but, due to benign neglect, it has significantly deteriorated, making it uninhabitable today…

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The church even has vigas, which are, of course, rotting…

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We walked about the newer (1960s) buildings (with vigas…), and saw one of the Zunis’ ceremonial courtyards, and their traditional adobe ovens, used mostly to bake bread…

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(We will come back to Zuni in a few days with the caravan; we will have a native meal with the Zuni people and an official tour… Stay tuned…)

We returned to the RV park in the late afternoon, and enjoyed happy hours with our fellow Airstreamers…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-09-28 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 41 – Driving to Gallup, New Mexico…

We left Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam and headed roughly Southeast across some of the most remote and desolate terrain I’ve ever seen.  This is mostly the land of the Navajo Nation…img_5963img_59611img_90631

We drove for miles and miles… and saw nothing but miles and miles…

At Kayenta, AZ, we stopped at a Burger King, home of a great exhibit telling the stories of members of the Navajo Nation who served in WWII, and, particularly, the story of the Code Talkers.

By the time we had finished looking at the exhibits other Airstreamers had also arrived…

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And then we left and drove to Gallup, NM.  Nothing too exciting.  In the evening we enjoyed a BBQ dinner provided by the RV park in their dining pavilion…

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We were visited by the representative of the ballooning folks to brief us on the coming days’ activities – we are going to be riding in hot air balloons!  We are scheduled for Sunday…

So, as is our tradition, on slow news days, we present some of our great grandchildren…  Maybe you’ve seen these before…

Roisin, age 5:

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Ian, age 4, and George, almost 3:

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Ian, Roisin, and Evelyn, age 6 months:

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Ian:

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Evelyn

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And, finally, Evelyn:

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

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