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New Mexico

2019-06-06 thru 2019-06-11 – Traveling West – Liberal, KS and then Home…

This morning we pulled out of the RV park in Liberal, KS, and pointed the Villa southwest.  In about three minutes we were in the far western part of the Oklahoma panhandle; about 90 minutes later we were in the far western part of the Texas panhandle; by noon we were in New Mexico…

These parts of Oklahoma and Texas look remarkably like Kansas…

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At one rest stop there were these nice little picnic shelters… Mid Century Modern!… Nice, but a little beat up…

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All day yesterday and all day today, until we entered New Mexico, we followed the railroad tracks.  About every ten miles we came to a small town dominated by these giant grain elevators or silos…

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The further we drove west the smaller and more distressed the towns were… Not being farming folk, we could not tell exactly what these facilities do, but we assume it is related to grain storage, food processing, feed production, or something like that…

By mid day we were at our campground in Tucumcari, NM.

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And, for the record, New Mexico does not look anything like Texas, Oklahoma, or Kansas:

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Happy Hours and a light supper ensued in the Villa; tomorrow we head towards Gallup, NM.

Friday morning dawned nice and cool, but the heat will be arriving soon.  We pointed the Villa west, towards Albuquerque and beyond…

The drive was uneventful, as expected…

New Mexico looks like this…

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At one rest stop we found this Scenic Historic Marker:

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We weren’t sure what it meant… east and west looked pretty much the same to us.  Yes, western New Mexico does has more hills.  We rose to almost 7,000′ elevation before dropping down to 5280′ elevation in Albuquerque…

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Then we went uphill again to 7,275′ elevation at the Continental Divide…

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We eventually arrived in Gallup, NM, at about 6,500′ elevation…

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The sky was beautiful, the sun was hot, but the winds made the 89 degree temperature bearable.  By early evening we were able to turn off the AC, and by sunrise tomorrow it is supposed to be 48 degrees…

Happy Hours and a light supper ensued in the Villa; tomorrow we head towards Kingman, AZ.

Saturday morning dawned nice and cool, but the heat will be arriving soon.  We pointed the Villa west, towards Winslow, Flagstaff, Williams, and Kingman…

The drive was uneventful, as expected…

Arizona looks like this…

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We drove for about six hours, taking time for rest stops, fuel, and lunch… We finally pulled into Kingman, AZ by mid-afternoon…

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Interesting note is that we stayed here almost exactly two years ago as our first stop after leaving Irvine on our 4 1/2 month trip, the day after Lynda retired…

Happy Hours and a light supper ensued in the Villa; tomorrow we head towards Palm Desert, CA.

Sunday morning dawned nice and cool, but the heat will be arriving soon.  We pointed the Villa west, towards the California border…

The drive was uneventful, as expected…

We crossed over the Colorado River…

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And we entered California!

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We were met by some attentive uniformed people who asked us where we’d been, and if we were bringing in any firewood…

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The California Desert looks like this…

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For those of you who insist on calling places like eastern Oregon a “desert”, please stop!  Rivers, grass with cattle grazing, and green leafy trees do not make a desert!  See photo above for what a desert looks like!

We moved on to Palm Desert, where they have succeeded in making the desert green:

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We spent the afternoon and evening with like-minded friends, sharing happy hours and dinner.  Early Monday morning we drove the final hour…

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We arrived home in Redlands; an enjoyable time was had by all…

Tally:

Miles driven: 8,379

Days traveling and camping on our own:  40 days

Days on the Cajun Country Caravan:  16 days

Days on the Springtime in Kentucky Caravan:  22 days

Total days living in the Villa: 78 days

Total number of Airstreams seen along the road:  211

Number of nights in the Villa over the past 24 months:  375 days  (51%)

And one last photo of our girls…

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2019-06-05 – Traveling West – Wichita and Liberal, KS

This morning we pulled out of the RV park and pulled the Villa into central Wichita.  We are heading to another Frank Lloyd Wright house – the Allen house…

You remember the neighborhood of nice houses I posted yesterday as we walked near the French bistro where we had dinner.  The Allen house is in the same neighborhood, a few blocks over…

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We pulled up in front of the house and parked along the curb…

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The Allen House is a Prairie Style home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1915-1916 for former Kansas Governor Henry Justin Allen and his wife, Elsie.  Construction was complete in 1918.

It was one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s last Prairie Houses.  The design influence of the prairie and Japanese architecture (FLlW was working on the Imperial Palace Hotel in Japan at the time) is apparent on both the exterior and interior.

Also included in the forward-thinking house were such modern conveniences as a central vacuuming unit, an alarm system and gas fireplace logs.  Another innovation was the first firewall in a residential home.  The bricks are considered “Chicago Common Bricks”; the bricks actually are comprised of five different colors.

(An interesting side note here is that in 1916 Wright started designing the Hollyhock House in Hollywood, where I am a docent.   It was mostly completed in 1921.  Hollyhock House is definitely NOT a Prairie style house; Hollyhock House is definitely FLlW’s first non-Prairie style house…)

Anyway, the house is about 4,000 sq. ft., and it cost $30,000 to build, including Wright-designed furniture and full landscaping.  This seems like a very low price for such a fine house.

(Unfortunately, interior photos were not allowed…)

The porte cochere.  Where is the front door?  It’s around the corner to the right…

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That man is at the front door…

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The door itself is VERY crooked.  There is about a three inch settlement of the foundation near here…

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These repetitive windows are in the Living Room…

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These spherical planters are made from concrete using crushed oyster shells in lieu of gravel and sand… They are over 100 years old and there are no cracks…

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This is the rear of the house.  This parking lot was originally a kitchen garden and a cutting garden of red roses…

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This projection is oddly not symmetrical – it really bothers me…

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The classic feature of all Prairie houses is their horizontality.  This is reinforced by mortar joints, a plynth row of limestone, and a water-table of limestone…

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The square motif is repeated in light fixtures throughout the house…

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The kitchen windows feature “pie-cooling” iron grates…

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The ice goes here for the large kitchen ice box…

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Beautiful planters…

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Many of the house’s eaves contain these hidden rain gutters…

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The built-in downspouts for the hidden gutters;  also note the security alarm…

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The terrace and courtyard was used for entertaining as often as two-three times per week…

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The tea house beyond…

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We had a great tour.  I only caught the docent in one error – she was talking about how Wright had invented the casement window for the Hollyhock House, and then used it again here.  Really?  The casement window was “invented” thousands of years ago… Wright used them almost exclusively in his houses; in fact, what he did say was, “If they had not already been invented I would have invented them…”.  Also, the Hollyhock House was designed and built AFTER the Allen house…

So we drove off, pulling the Villa; Allen house was our last “tourist” stop.  From now on we are streaking straight home…

We left Wichita on Hwy 54, heading southwest, towards New Mexico…

Kansas looks like this:

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And this:

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Hwy 54 parallels the railroad tracks, build in the late 19th century as the prairie lands were homesteaded…

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They grow dandelions big around here…

img_9229 We stopped in Liberal, KS, at about 5:00 pm, at a very basic campground.  We were tired.  Happy Hours and a light supper ensued, an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-03-22 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 10 – Traveling to Fredericksburg, TX

We left Carlsbad KOA in the dark, at about 5:30 am.  The road south into Carlsbad was very busy, with a continuous line of pickup trucks, people going to work in the oil fields.  We stopped in Carlsbad at the local Starbucks for our morning coffee (Vente Flat White, Decaf, Extra Shot, Breve…) and we continued south on Hwy 285 out of town.  This is where the drive got interesting.

Hwy 285 goes through thousands of acres of oil and gas fields.  It is barely paved – maybe semi-paved.  It is under construction all the way to Texas.  It was raining and the road is dirty, with loose sand, gravel, and asphalt being thrown up everywhere.  And there was a solid line of trucks in both directions: large trucks carrying gravel, sand, water, and fracking chemicals; medium size trucks, outfitted with welders, generators, pumps, cranes, and the like; and pickup trucks, carrying the happy merry workers to their jobs.

It was still dark.  Looking off to the horizon on all sides were fires, burning off the excess natural gas from the oil wells; it is not economically feasible to capture the gas because we have such a glut of natural gas in the country, and until recently the export of natural gas was prohibited.

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After about 100 miles of this most unusual landscape and traffic and dirt and rain we arrived at Pecos, TX.  The town is totally dead.  Apparently all these busy, well-paid workers don’t live here – they stay in trailers and motels during the week and go home (wherever that may be) on weekends.  It is always sad to see these dead towns (they are everywhere…) but it is the natural cycle…

There were a few interesting things to see in the dead town…

Public art:

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Historic buildings:

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Gunfighter’s grave:

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Abandoned train station:

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Main Street; we never found out why these cars were here – perhaps this is a carpool parking area…

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I went into the only active store on Main Street, a hardware store, and asked if there was a local diner we could go to for breakfast.  They recommended a delightful little place, located in an abandoned Sonic building.  It has only been open for about two months, and was a purely local place.  I mentioned that they were not on Yelp.  I don’t think they knew what Yelp was… The food was real and quite good.  However the parking lot was so empty that people just parked free-style…

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After our late breakfast we continued into Texas – due to the road construction there was no sign welcoming us…  This is Texas:

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The first thing to happen to us in Texas is that we took a rock to the Airstream, which blew a hole in the rock guard.  Maybe we need to put a protective cover over the rock guard.

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About 10 minutes later we took a rock to the truck windshield – another big ding.

We traveled east on the 10, and after a few hours we turned off the 10 and headed into Texas Hill Country…

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We arrived in Fredericksburg in mid afternoon and set up at Fredericksburg RV park – a very nice place… As you can see, the Airstream is filthy!

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We walked into town (about 3/4 mile) for an early dinner.  Along the way we passed this hotel, with these flags; we always enjoy the Texas State flag, bragging of Texas’ one star Yelp rating…

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The History of Fredericksburg, Texas, dates back to its founding in 1846.  It was named after Prince Frederick of Prussia.  Fredericksburg is also notable as the home of “Texas German”, a dialect spoken by the first generations of German settlers who initially refused to learn English.  The emigration was in part the liberal, educated Germans fleeing the social, political and economic conditions that later resulted in the Revolution of 1848, and in part lots of working-class Germans.  

The town was laid out by surveyor Herman Wilke.  On April 23, 1846, the first wagon train of settlers left New Braunfels, encountering friendly Delaware Indians en route, and arrived at the Fredericksburg site on May 8, 1846.  The first colonists immediately set about to plant a garden and build a storehouse out of logs, and a stockade and a blockhouse.  The town continued to thrive for over 100 years as a center of this German farming community.

Fredericksburg in the 21st Century is in a state of flux. As each generation of descendants of the original settlers dies away, or moves to new horizons, the authenticity of the rural German farm culture of the Texas Hill Country communities also dies away.  It is gradually blending with the customs of newcomers and being replaced by tourist-oriented concepts of both German heritage and the Texas cowboy culture. 

Downtown Fredericksburg today is one giant restaurant, wine-tasting and tourist trinket store district.  It was great!  We had a lovely dinner and bottle of wine at Cultures…

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We returned to the Villa and turned in early – it had been a long day…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-03-21 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 9 – Carlsbad Caverns

Today we visited Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and, in particular, the Carlsbad Caverns…

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Carlsbad Caverns National Park is in the Guadalupe Mountains of southeastern New Mexico.   Approximately two thirds of the park has been set aside as a wilderness area, helping to ensure no future changes will be made to the habitat.  The primary attraction of the park are the Carlsbad Caverns.

We arrived at about 10:00 am and checked out the visitor center.  Then we headed to the “natural entrance” of the caverns… Along the way we saw these buildings; the stone buildings were built by park employees in the 1920s, and the stucco buildings were built by the CCC in 1940…

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Carlsbad Cavern includes a large limestone chamber, named simply the Big Room, which is almost 4,000 feet long, 625 feet wide, and 255 feet high at its highest point.  The Big Room is the fifth largest chamber in North America and the twenty-eighth largest in the world.  There are other rooms and chambers which require special ranger-guided tours.  We chose the self-guided tour, since we didn’t want to crawl through small tunnels…  Visitors to the Big  Room can hike down on their own via the “natural entrance” or take an elevator from the visitor center.  We, of course, walked in – about 1 1/2 miles long of winding, steep paths descending about 750′ underground.

The entrance today is quite impressive, but easy to use…

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But in the olden days things were different.  The original explorers who discovered the cave had to climb down rude home-made rope ladders.  The first visitors to the new National Park in 1923 were lowered in a mine bucket down 700 feet into the ground.  Finally, by the late 1920s, park employees had built wooden stairways.  You walked down to get in, you walked up to get out… Finally, in the 1930s, the stairs were replaced by paved ramps, and the first elevators were added…

At this “natural entrance” there is a small amphitheater.  Starting in April and continuing through the summer people come at sundown to sit and watch the thousands or millions of bats ascend up out of the bat cave via the natural entrance in search of airborne bugs and insects.  Apparently it is quite a sight, although, it being March and all, we didn’t see the bats.  We could smell the bat quano, though…

So we walked through the natural entrance, walked the 1 1/2 miles down to The Big Room, and around the Big Room, seeing the sights.  Photos don’t show the scale or the depth of these spaces, but they are very impressive.  We mostly saw “decorations”, what the parks people call the stalactites, the stalagmites, columns, draperies, straw tubes, and on and on…

Pictures don’t capture the size of the space, but this diagram shows one area – the Liberty Dome above and the “Bottomless Pit” below…

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The caverns are dramatically lit, and the “decorations” are stunning…

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After 3 1/2 hours underground we were quite done in.  So we opted to take the elevator back to the surface…

We drove back through the town of Carlsbad, fueled up the truck, and returned to the Villa.  We snacked and had Happy Hours and a light supper.  Tomorrow we leave early for our travel into Texas to Fredericksburg…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-03-19 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 7 – Mesilla and Las Cruces, NM

Another easy day.  We did some chores around the Villa, then at 10:15 we walked the 1/3 mile to the Las Cruces Railroad Museum.

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It was a simple, low key, and fun place.  Lots of history, from when the first train came to town in 1881 until the last train stopped here in 1988.  Also we learned the interesting story about how Las Cruces won the Railroaid stop over the much bigger (then) town of Mesilla… It seems the railroad wrote to both towns asking about the possibility of locating the train station in their town.  Las Cruces boosters got on board, secretly bought up all the land they could, then offered the railroad the land for everything they needed.  Mesilla never responded, and seemed surprised when the railroad went to Las Cruces.  Today Mesilla is a tiny suburb, absorbed into the city limits of Las Cruces, which became a major crossroads in Southern New Mexico.  So, now: Have you ever heard of Mesilla?

Adjacent to the railroad station/museum is a caboose:

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The caboose was put in service in the 1890s, and retired in 1960.  In 1969 a local Las Cruces family purchased it for $50 as one of 300 cabooses offered for sale.  They cleaned it up, added a kitchen and a shower, and lived in it while they were building their ranch house just outside of town.  It stayed in the family until 2010 when it was donated to the Railroad Museum… And here it sits…

We walked back to the Villa, then we drove to Mesilla.  Remember Mesilla?  They have a very nice original town plaza surrounded by shoppes and restaurants.  The town church is relatively new, replacing the original church built in 1852.

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One of the shoppes is in the old courthouse where Billy the Kid was tried and convicted of murder and sentenced to death by hanging…

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Of course, while en route to his hanging Billy the Kid escaped, killing his two guards.  After running for two months, he was finally shot to death in Fort Sumner, NM, by Pat Garrett.  (Fun fact:  In my early days as an architect, I worked in an office with another architect who claimed he was a descendant of Pat Garrett…)

The plaza and surrounding shoppes are nice…

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The above building claims to be the oldest brick building in New Mexico, built in 1860 from bricks manufactured on site…  The building didn’t have an auspicious start – one by one the first three owners were murdered right here…

We decided on Josephine’s Cafe for lunch… lighter fare than generally available around here… And EXCELLENT Sangria!

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After lunch we fueled up the truck and returned to the Villa.  More chores were done and a leisurely evening ensured…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-03-18 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 6 – Hatch and Las Cruces, NM

Another leisurely day… We drove about 35 miles north of here to visit the town of Hatch, NM… of chili fame.

The town takes its famous Hatch chili seriously, as evidenced by the names of the local businesses…

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We strolled the town, looked into all the shoppes, and finally settled on the Valley Cafe for lunch.  Very spicy and flavorful, but not up to our standards for Mexican food… Maybe we’re spoiled…

We returned to the Villa and had a leisurely evening…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-03-17 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 5 – Las Cruces and Alamogordo, NM

This Sunday morning we started walking at 7:30 am in 35 degree temperatures.  There is a nice United Methodist church about 1/2 mile from here.  However we wonder at the wisdom of holding a church service at 8:00 am… It was a beautiful church, but only 50 people were in attendance. I was reassured that their later two services were better attended… ( a total of about 300+ people each Sunday…)

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While walking back to the Villa we passed the Railroad Museum.  We may need to return here in a day or two…

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We packed a lunch and pointed the truck towards Alamogordo… The road to Alamogordo is named the “Bataan March Memorial Highway”.  White Sands Missile range was closed today while they do an re-enactment of the Bataan Death March – without the disease, torture, bugs, humidity, starvation, and death… This is an annual event since 2002.  Hundreds of people (maybe thousands) were walking along the highway and on the roads in the missile range…

We continued on to Alamogordo, to the New Mexico Space History Museum, which includes the International Hall of Fame, along with a Planetarium…

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We walked around the outdoor exhibits…

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This is a memorial for the astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 fire and the two Space Shuttle crashes…

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They also have here the grave site of HAM, the first space chimp, who flew into space in 1961, and died in 1983…

Inside were four floors of exhibits of space exploration:  early astronomers, rockets, the cold war space race, all the manned space missions, and on and on… Some of it was esoteric technology and other exhibits were current events for us… Lots of hands-on exhibits for kids, too.

Also outside was an acceleration/deceleration track, where various devices were tested for both going fast and stopping from going fast.  I’m no mathematician (they said there would be no math in retirement…), but one rocket used on the track accelerated from 0 to mach 1.3 in 4.2 seconds.  I think that is even faster than a Tesla…

From the hill at the museum we could see the White Sands National Monument… It isn’t really clear in the photo, but these white sand dunes extend for 275 miles…

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White Sands National Monument was our next destination for the day… There are 150,000 acres of, well, white sand…

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I dressed as the invisible pedestrian.  You can almost see me in this photo…

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We returned to the Villa, had lovely happy hours and dinner…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

 

2019-03-16 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 4 – Las Cruces, NM

We rolled out of the Queen Mine RV Park at about 9:30.  Today we are heading to Las Cruces, NM.  We are traveling in southeast Arizona in some of the most remote areas we have ever seen…

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Some of the mountains are still covered in snow… There is also “snow” or the slushy remnants of hail, alongside the road…

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We stopped at a monument commemorating the surrender of Geronimo, the Apache chief, to the US Army in 1886.  He was the last Apache chief to surrender…

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New Mexico welcomed us!

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There was even more snow on the ground in New Mexico!

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We pulled into Sunny Acres RV Park in Las Cruces at about 3:30.  In, connected, and paid for…

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Happy Hours ensured… And an enjoyable time was had by all…

And, as is our custom on travel days, here are pictures of our great grandchildren…

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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…

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