Meeting Jacqui

I was 16 or 17 returning to California on a Greyhound bus after visiting relatives in the Midwest.  As happens on long bus trips, my seat-mate and I got to talking.  This time it was Ivan Day from New Zealand.  The important part of that chat was that he suggested I write to a family friend of his.  Jacqui Knight was a few years younger than me, but we shared a love of animals, especially horses.  Thanks to Ivan, Jacqui and I became pen-pals.  And pen-pals were all the rage then.

Jacqui with my Mom 1973, Lakeside, California

We wrote frequently for a couple of years, exchanging letters, cards, and small gifts.  Some years the letters tapered off, then began again.  She visited the States in the 1970s. I was living in Swaziland then, so she met my parents, but not me.  We had never met until this week.

Social media has made it so much easier to keep in touch and to make quick arrangements.  Snail mail was quite slow.  She visited the west coast earlier this year – I almost flew to LA for a lunch with her.  She suggested waiting until May when she would be back for various conferences and events.  She is the butterfly advocate in New Zealand and founded Moths and Butterflies of NZ Trust.

She planned to be in Lawrence, Kansas for Monarch Watch’s Spring Open House.  I decided to take a road trip to meet her.

We stayed at a delightful bed and breakfast – Cedar Acres Farm near Oskaloosa, Kansas, for three nights.  We had time to talk, visit Lawrence and Monarch Watch, talk more and more.  We had some catching-up to do do.  There were a few gaps and for me a few memory lapses.  It was amazing.  We hadn’t met before, but we have known each other for over 50 years.  Definitely not strangers.  But I did learn some things about Jacqui.

She can keep up a frantic pace – very energetic, gets a lot accomplished, and keeps up with a huge network of friends and colleagues.  I need a day off every once in a while – even on a road trip.  She doesn’t – she thrives on this life.

She’s very tech savvy.  On this trip as I drop off social media, she seeks it.  The American car, the GPS on her smart phone, and her computer – along with everyone’s version of wi-fi:  none of it fazes her.

She’s very knowledgeable about butterflies, not just Monarchs.  She knows the habitats and ecology as well.

I’ve always known she was adventurous.  About 20 years ago she rode her horse from one end of New Zealand to the other.  You can read about it here.  I learned she’s still adventurous and interested in what’s around her – water tanks or children’s games.  She tackled her own road trip here – a couple of thousand miles.  No fear.  Which leads to the next discovery.  She’s an excellent driver.  And brave.  My proof:  she drove in Mexico City.  Enough said.

Jacqui giving her talk at Monarch Watch.

She still watches horses.  Maybe that never changes for us horse-crazy girls.

She’s very easy to be around.  This definitely felt like an old comfortable friendship.

I didn’t want our time together to end.  It was hard to watch her drive away from our one meeting in fifty some years.

Short Trip

Well, this RV trip was different, and not what I expected.  A friend just bought a small travel trailer and needed some practice maneuvering it.  We decided a nearby camping trip with a third friend would be in order.  They could go for a few days, but I could fit in only a 24-hour period.

It was a busy, exhausting week for me.  I had little time to pack or prepared the RV.  But it’s only a day and I was camping with friends, so that wouldn’t matter.  It just didn’t seem to offer much relaxation – pack the RV, drive 20 miles, set up – and be there.  Next morning  pack up and go home.  Few expectations, no disappointments.

View of the Rio Grande from my campsite.

The surprise for me – how one evening setting by the Rio Grande watching the river and the birds, even a deer, and good conversation with friends, could refresh my attitude.  The early morning the next day just added to the healing.
Maybe it means that I’m comfortable enough with the RV now that even a one-day camping trip is worthwhile.  Something for me to remember.

 

Riverside, Caballo Lake State Park, New Mexico, USA.

Jemez Springs Trip

In March Cassie and I took off for Jemez Springs, northwest of Albuquerque.  This time I took the car and stayed in a delightful retro motel – The Laughing Lizard.  It’s right in ‘downtown’ Jemez Springs and has a fine porch where I sat and watched the light on the bluffs to the west.  Nice, clean rooms and friendly owners – it that weren’t enough, it’s next door to the Highway 4 Cafe.  One of the finest little restaurants I’ve experienced in New Mexico.

Downtown Jemez Springs.

Jemez Springs is in a canyon on the side of the Valles Caldera – there are so many things to see and do here.

 

Gilman Tunnels

Fenton Lake State Park. Nice to see lots of families there for Spring Break.

Valles Caldera National Preserve

Las Conchas Trail – one of dozens of options.

At the Caldera bookshop I bought a wonderful (= understandable) book, “The Geology of Northern New Mexico Parks, Monuments, and Public Lands.”  I can’t imagine anyone visiting here and not having geology questions.
We stayed three days.  Hardly enough time to scratch the surface of the area, but long enough to let me know I want to go back.

I Miss My Xterra

Xterra at Salt River Canyon, Arizona.

I can’t believe how emotional I was about my car.  It was a 2001 Nissan Xterra – the first new car I ever bought.  I’d always had to buy used cars before that.  My brother’s advice:  if you keep a car for 15 years, buy new.  Good idea.

I put over 237,000 miles on it – freeways to off-road trips in the desert.  It never let me down.  After 16 years though, more and more things had to be replaced and we finally hit the tipping point.  Time to get a new car.  Shock: they no longer make Xterras.

The Xterra in Monticello Box – the creek is the road.

 

 

After some research I chose a Honda CR-V last November.  It’s nice, but it’s not the Xterra.

I was surprised how difficult it was to let the Xterra go.  Friends have assured me this is not unusual.  Still.  Taking it to my mechanic to sell for me, I could barely speak.  It felt as if I was taking an old, loved dog to the pound after getting a new puppy.

I’m enjoying the CR-V – it’s more fuel efficient and more comfortable, but I still look longingly at Xterras on the road.

The new kid.

 

 

RV Remodel

rv-rem-2*&%%#$@ roller shades!  There are three around the dinette in the RV.  They are not attractive and only one works.  You know, how to just pull it a little and it retracts.  These don’t.  They just get longer and longer.  And they have water stains.  The valences around them are upholstered and ugly.  Time for a change.  My first real remodel on the RV.

Here are ‘before’ photos.
rv-rem-1I’m gong with curtains with tie-backs.  Simple (I hope).  I have a fabric stash, so I start there.  What better material for dinette curtains than old linen table cloths?  They’re heavy (for privacy) and bright (for light).

Taking down the shades and valences took some time.  And then all the accessories attached to the underside of the cabinets.  The bottom of the overhead cabinets are thin board covered with fake wood print on cellophane-like material.  It’s cracked, torn, and hanging down in places.  So that’s why I’m painting under the cabinets.  The previous owner had a paper plate holder, a napkin holder, two TV cables, a fan, and two unidentified electronic boxes attached.  They all had to come down.  And holes had to be patched.

There’s not much square footage to paint, but sure a lot of borders and trim to mask.  I chose a turquoise paint.  Hoping for a retro look.  The outside of the RV is white with turquoise.

Here are the results.
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Valley of Fires RV Trip

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The interpretive trail with one of the sources of lava in the distance.

I spent 3 nights in January at Valley of Fires National Recreation Area near Carrizozo, New Mexico.   The campgrounds are surrounded by fields of lava.  I now make a distinction between places to hang out for a while and places to just visit, see the sights, and move on.   This is the latter – not a place I want to stay for a long time.  But definitely worth visiting.

The RV sites are on a hill above the lava – water, electricity, and nearby – the finest restrooms ever!  Don’t miss those.  And views of sunrise, sunset, and lots of lava.
vof-3The campground for tents and cars is lower, against a wall of lava.  Very cozy, not so windy, but without the distant view.

Sunrise over Carrizozo.

Sunrise over Carrizozo.

The accessible interpretive trail is about one mile long.  Visitors are welcome to go off trail, but that is some rough hiking.  Cassie and I walked it several times.  The light is so different in the morning from the afternoon.
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Cassie had to be on the leash.  The lava could be very sharp on dog feet.
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It amazes me that someone put a fence through this land.
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They conveniently provide a pipe-scope to identify the insignificant hill that produced a lot of the lava.
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This juniper is over 400 years old.
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I liked the camp site I had.  I sat out occasionally to read and just watch the world go by.  There was little wildlife to see – I realized how much I enjoy seeing animals.  Here we saw a ground squirrel (in the lava field) and a cottontail in the camp.  Lots of birds – mostly quick, small, and unidentified.
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Beautiful sunsets every night.
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So this isn’t a hang-out place, or a retreat spot, but I will stop here every time I go by – in the RV or in the car.  And I’ll walk that trail every time.

El Morro RV Trip – Part 2

[The first part of this trip to El Malpais is here.]

morro-2My goal for the second part of this trip was El Morro RV Park – perhaps better known for its Ancient Way Cafe, an excellent restaurant.  The park has cabins, camping, and full hook-ups for RVs, showers, washers and dryers, and great hiking.  No cell service for me, but they do have wifi.
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I found a cosy site under the trees.  Plugged in the camera battery charger and retired to my chair with my book.  It was nice sitting outside reading.  And watching for wildlife – many birds, a squirrel and a chipmunk.  And chickens.  Some of the permanent residents here keep hens.
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This tiny community is rich in artists – there’s a shop packed with fascinating creations; there is lots of outdoor art.  Being creative is just a normal part of life – and they show it here.

We hiked to the top of the mesa where there are acres to explore and incredible views.

View of the mesa where we hiked - taken from the next camp site.

View of the mesa where we hiked – taken from the next day’s camp site. The RV park is at the bottom of the slope at the far left.

A delightful couple from Colorado were in the space next to me.  They have a Tiger RV – only 16’ long.  Very sweet.  We had breakfast together at the restaurant and then we walked around the property, by the cabins, through the outdoor art gallery.
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My idea of art - dents on an old truck.

My idea of art – dents on an old truck.

I stayed just two nights.  At $30/night, it’s more than I like to spend.  And I wanted to get to the campground just down the road at El Morro National Monument.  First we went to the visitors’ center and then hiked for a couple of hours – the long hike over the top.

It was nice to be able to take all the time I wanted.  It was a warm day and there’s not much shade on the top.  Cassie had to stay on the leash all the time, but she still got a good workout.  And she loves finding pools of water.
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Trail to the top.

Trail to the top.

On top of El Morro.

On top of El Morro.

Atsinna ruins at El Morro.

Atsinna ruins at El Morro.

Not far from the visitors’ center is the El Morro Campground – no services except vault toilets.  But the sites are beautiful.  And it’s free.  I picked an east-facing site.
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It would be perfect to watch the full moon rise.  morro-3

There are only nine spaces here and they filled quickly for the weekend.  Folks came on Saturday to pick piñons.  When they left, elk ventured in.
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We hiked the shorter trail that goes along the the wall with the inscriptions.  We had all the time in the world to read them – from native Americans to travelers to soldiers.
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I met my neighbor – a women traveling in a van with a severely disabled man and a big husky-like dog.  All interesting beings, but quite a job camping under those circumstances.  And they do it fairly often.  I was impressed.  Made my outings look so simple.
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And I met a nomadic woman who was from Santa Cruz, my old stomping grounds.  Current Santa Cruz sure sounds different from my time there in the 80s and 90s.  I think the town got fat and greedy.  This camper lives a fascinating life and I hope to have her as a friend.  I invited her to visit Truth or Consequences.  One of the benefits of camping for me is meeting folks who like a similar lifestyle.
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El Malpais RV Trip Part 1

October 2016

Even before I bought the RV I knew this was a trip I wanted to take:  El Malpais and El Morro – National Monuments in New Mexico.  And October is a beautiful month here.  Cottonwoods are turning yellow and gold; skies are full of cloud and color.  Cool enough to hike, warm enough to sit outside.
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The drive there took longer than I expected – I really drive slowly.  Going north on I-25 I saw many RVs and trucks with travel trailers headed south.  Snowbird migration has started.
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I-25 was easy driving.  And then I turned west on Highway 6 at Las Lunas to cut across to I-40.  At that point I have to get on the interstate for a few miles and I thought that might help me make better time.  Awful.  Lots of traffic – trucks, big RVs, everything going fast.  I got off at the first exit – it allowed me to get on Route 66.  Sigh.  It’s a beautiful drive through Laguna, Paraje, Budville, Cubero, San Fidel, and McCarty’s to the turn-off south on Highway 117 to El Malpais.  I was sorry to see that the Ranger Station and Visitor Center are closed permanently.  I stopped at the Joe Skeen campground.  There are about 8 or 10 campsites – picnic tables, shelters, and vault toilets – no other facilities.  There were only a couple of other campers, but some very noisy coyotes!  And dark, starry skies.

Cassie on the trail to the top of the bluff.

Cassie on the trail to the top of the bluff.

The campsite was at the base of a bluff with an easy trail to the top where we could wander for miles.  Cassie and I both liked it.  We walked there every day, sometimes twice.
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Looking back at the RV.

Looking back at the RV.

Crack near the top of the bluff - will be at the bottom within 100 years!

Crack near the top of the bluff – will be at the bottom within 100 years!

Cassie loves finding water.

Cassie loves finding water.

One day we walked toward the Sandstone Bluffs and accidentally wandered on and then off Acoma Pueblo land.  Walked only about two miles, but both of us were tired when we returned.
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Scaled quail.

Scaled quail.

My camera batteries were low – major crisis!  I have no way to recharge them except running the generator.  No one was around so I ran it about an hour.  Annoying.  A better plan is to move to the El Morro RV park to get electric hook-ups.

Lava flow.

Lava flow.

Leaving Joe Skeen I went sightseeing by way of the top of the Sandstone Bluffs which overlook the lava fields.  And a little way down Highway 117 to see Ventana Arch and the part of the Continental Divide Trails that crossed the malpais.  Then it’s just a short drive to the RV park.
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malpais-12And some interesting rock detail.
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The second part of this trip to El Morro National Monument is here.

Hillsboro – City of Rocks RV Trip Part 2

(Part 1 is here)

cr-1There are two roads from Hillsboro to City of Rocks State Park.  One goes over the Black Range through Emory Pass – shorter, but a climb on mountain roads.  Not my winter choice.  I took the flatter way – south to Nutt and west to Highway 180.  Turning off on Highway 61 (not Dylan’s) I went past Faywood Hot Springs to the park entrance.  It was an easy 90 miles.  There seemed to be a lot of traffic, then I remembered it was the Christmas weekend.

City of Rocks from one of the perimeter trails. My RV is just to the right of center.

City of Rocks from one of the perimeter trails. My RV is just to the right of center.

I found a fine campsite at #34 – Lacerta.  The sites are named for constellations and Lacerta is the lizard.   I liked that.  I needed to level the RV and did, but I don’t like the method I have – the yellow interlocking blocks.  They sank into the soft ground giving me only half the change I wanted.  Research time.

My campsite with Cooke's Peak in the background.

My campsite with Cooke’s Peak in the background.

The RV section of the park with electrical hook-ups.

The RV section of the park with electrical hook-ups.

cr-3Walked through the rocks, watched young folks playing.  The boulders remind me of being a kid in east San Diego county.  Lots of granite boulders there – a few as big as these.  Caves and forts and hideouts.  A great place to play.
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I met Davey, a nomad who travels with three dogs in his car.  He invited me back for a drink later.  Nice, but not my thing:  drinking or being out after dark!  His parting shot, “I have TV” pretty much sealed it.  I understand if you are a full-time RVer, that a TV is nice, but that’s not what I want camping.

There were no camps within several hundred yards of mine.  Something in me relaxes with that.  There was a raven in the oak tree, and just after sunset, an owl on top of a tall rock. And later coyotes yipping.

Nice campsite.

Nice campsite.

We walked several times a day – around and through the rocks and on the perimeter trails.   There were miles of trails we didn’t get to.  Cassie had to be on a leash all the time.  It’s hard to tire her out that way.  On one walk we met Cheryl – our nearest neighbor.  She is making plans to photograph all the state parks – quite an ambitious and worthy goal.

Another nice picnic spot.

Another nice picnic spot.

It was a windy night – buffeted the RV.  I didn’t envy the folks in tents.  Woke up on Christmas morning to an inch or two of snow.  And still snowing – horizontally.  Beautiful.  This is Christmas 61 AB – After Buck – the glorious day I got my first horse.
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The wind quieted down for a while, so we walked.  No one else in the rocks.  The peaks to the far west (Bullard and Burro Peaks?) were covered in snow.  The wind picked up and it started snowing again.  We headed back for shelter.  I finished my book by noon.  Oh dear, never get caught without a book to read!  The wind continued; the snow stopped and was soon blown away.

My Sunday morning view of Cheryl's tent.

My Sunday morning view of Cheryl’s tent.

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cr-14Monday morning was windy and cold – in the teens.  The kettle was on and I could hear the owls again.  Walked through the rocks after sunrise and saw a fine red tail hawk facing the sun trying to get warm.  I understood. By noon I decided to head home.  On this whole trip, there was no sitting-outside-in-a-chair time.

116 miles home.  251 miles for the trip.
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