Tuesday, March 31, 2009

East Coast Weather, Hail Yes!

Here we are back on the East Coast of the US near our PA base of Reading. Actually, for now we are parked in the Amish farm country just outside of Lancaster. It's a pleasant campground surrounded on three sides by farm land and on the front on Rt 30, which makes it perfect for quiet surroundings and being close enough to businesses to take care of business.

Ah but the weather. Clear skies of the west - gone. Dry air of the west- gone. Cool nights and warm days of the west- gone. Drizzle, yes. Rain, yes. Wind, yes. Dark clouds, yes. Storms, yes. In fact, "hail" yes. Heavy rain hitting the coach is loud in its own right. But hail? The closest thing I can think of to describe the sound would be if I had especially sensitive hearing and was forced to curl up on the bottom of a pop corn machine and just huddle there while someone whipped up a double batch. Popping, banging, objects ricocheting and bouncing all over the place. Add to that the constant worry that that ginormous front windshield or one of three sky lights would split down the middle at any given second. Well, on this occasion, none of that happened, but the odds were in favor of just that as this predominantly 1/2 inch size hail was mixed in with plenty of one inch size ice balls of terror.

OK Thank you. Enough with the reminders that it is ONLY March and not REALLY Spring yet and that the weather is pretty much always like this here at this time of year. Had I forgotten? Not really. Did I need reminding? Not really. But have I been reminded? Hail Yes!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tilting At Windmills

All due respects to Don Quixote, I did a little tilting at windmills of my own on I-70 headed to the East Coast. After playing leapfrog for a while with these "blades" for giant wind turbines that were headed in the same direction as we were, we all of a sudden all decided to get off on the same road side rest stop. The "big guys" had a little trouble making the turns so I turned my flashers on and ran back up interference for them until they got set up in the parking lot. We got out and chatted for a while. Many times we had seen twin blades (smaller than these but still darn huge) on the highways. The drivers were glad for the "assistance" off the highway- after all these blades are 140 feet long each. The tractor trailers that haul them go for a mere 150K and the blades themselves hit the scales at 350,000.00 each-give or take a couple bucks. We've been chomping at the bit to get this up close and personal with them and find out a little about values and make-up and so on. They are made of fiberglass. They flex like a graphite trout fishing rod, which is a little weird when you are driving right behind them. I can't think of words to describe what it is like when a truck carrying one passes you on the highway. Scary the first time. Awesome the next. And after that you feel more like tagging along that avoiding the parade.

So now we know that the super large size windmills we see all across the country weight in at upwards of a cool mil. Wow. There are literally thousands of them at some locations so there is some big money working here. The driver was telling me that despite the cost, they generate their cost in energy in pretty short order. Judging by how many of them we see now, I have no reason to doubt that. I wish they were under a thousand as far as cost goes so I could put one up at my next house. Dream on! Despite the inevitable label as "green" energy, environmentalists, especially on the LEFT coast, are fighting their very use saying that they are endangering birds, especially birds of prey. While I have no inside track to this information, I admit it is hard to see how that can be the case- at least the case other than incidental or anecdotal. It was a gray day and the pictures lack definition, but come on- these blades are eight feet wide or more excepting at the tips. They are fairly visible, yes? These birds we are worrying about can see the eye of a mouse a mile away. Who will look me in the face and tell me they cannot see this blade which is moving relatively slowly in a regular and predictable arch until they have committed suicide by flying directly into it. Hard to imagine. Any way, what some see as a blight on the landscape, we see as beautiful, graceful, and elegant statuary that just happens to produce electricity in abundance with little down side. No one ever thought to tell Dorothy's family to take down the windmill in the cornfield before she, Toto - and it- all flew off to OZ. Which, come to think of it, is pretty much where we met the windmills. Give or take a cross country mile!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Indian Proverb:

There is no better reason to travel than "To Learn." Here is an Indian Proverb from our travel to the South West -

"Treat The Earth Well.
It Was Not Given To You By Your Parents;
It Was Loaned To You By Your Children."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Color Me Colorado

It's official. Tonight we are parked in Seibert, Colorado. We entered the state from New Mexico and for about a half hour we had dynamic vistas of the snow capped Rockies and plenty of steep declines as we descended from the nearly 8000 feet we hit as we crossed into the next to last state we need for our colored visited states map. Cool! Then, rather than head for the mountains and Denver, we hooked a right and headed East across the grasslands on Comanche National Grasslands Park (which took us across Apache Creek). The sand colored dried winter grass was a sharp contrast to the bright blue of the cool windy sky. Excepting for a few buttes and bluffs off in a distance, this was a High Plains kinda day. Easy viewing. Easy driving. The campground has no water yet unless you drag a hose from the house. A few buds but nothing else on the few trees around. The lawns are the same tan as the Plains. It's a simple beauty that belies the outrageous beauty of other portions of this state. We have friends here who are elsewhere as we travel by. That is understandable. Still cold. Dormant. Miss you! But next time.

All I can say for now: ....And then there was one!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Succulents Of The South West

Since we arrived in the general "direction" of the South West part of the country, I've been keeping a file of my best and/or favorite shots of cactus and other succulents. My idea was that I would deliver it to the blog as a special slide show backed by some nice "flutey" Indian music. And I made it as far as having some terrific music on my Picasa slide show on my computer, but I'll be gosh darn if I can upload the music along with the slide show for now. I could put it up on YouTube, then link to that - but the quality of the images is not so hot, and I guess for now I would just rather share some good (at least I think so) pics from our trip. I will continue to work at getting the skills I need to get the job done, but for now...and as we head away from the SW and back toward the East, I think I should just "get the show on the road," so to speak. So, enjoy.....

Indian Ruins Navajo Rug

"Indian Ruins Navajo Rug": When I saw these words on a giant billboard as we were driving from Holbrook, AZ to Albuquerque, NM, I had to laugh out loud. I had a flashback to a flood (not that there is anything funny about a flood, at the house I grew up in back in Pennsylvania, that did in fact ruin my dad's prize Navajo rug. If you take it literally, you have to feel sorry for the poor Indian who ruined his tribe's rug, huh? But that was not the case at all. In fact, the sign actually looked more like this:

Indian Ruins
Navajo Rug

Indian stores (roadside stands) selling crafts and turquoise jewelry, Kachina dolls, quivers, animal hides and the like are common in this part of the country, much the same way that there are orange stands in Florida. There are lots of "ruins" of old villages where tribal headquarters had once been established. The Indians also now operate some of the casinos that populate this part of the country. Occasionally, something gets lost in the translation and I suppose that was the case with this sign. Anyway, like many a sign- it "caught my fancy!"

I celebrated my birthday, 61 - OUCH!- in Albuquerque. Ken and Linda happened to be in the area as well so we had someone to party with for one dinner and a campground breakfast buffet. Twas fun! We also started provisioning for something we have, at least in some ways, never done before. And what I thought would represent only the beginning of some research in preparation, actually wound up getting totally resolved, with the resources available locally and a helpful suggestion from Cos Cous Ken. I'm not quite ready to make the announcement on the blog, but suffice it to say we have some very exciting news brewing. Watch for our news to follow soon....

And speaking of news, I am writing this from Raton, New Mexico. Tomorrow, God willing, we will head into our 48th state in our less-than-three-years on the road full time. Colorado, here we come! It's probably a risky venture this time of year, but a coach has to do what a coach has to do....and it will be an in-and-out short stay just to say we've been there for now. There is a great deal to see in this state so we will be back- for sure. But there are bigger fish to fry right now, so let's fire up the touring grill, to mix a metaphor....or two. Then that, as I have mentioned a couple times, will leave only North Dakota to color in- and I'll be talking more about that soon as well. Or so I think! And so I say!

From Colorado, we expect to head due east, back toward that coast, to catch up on things that need doing in that part of the country. And then..........................

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Painted And Petrified

The Meteor Crater came to this part of the country some 50,000 years ago. But the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert go back some 200 MILLION years ago. The latter two share a National Park just outside of Holbrook, Arizona. This day, a mixed bag of clouds and storms chased us back and forth from one end of the park to the other and then back again. The mission: avoid the dark and the rain and the snow...and stay in the sunlight as much as possible. Beautiful in any light, the forest and the desert are at their level best in a bright basking of sunlight. The sights of the forest and the desert are of the age of the dinosaur and they are a large part of the interpretive centers we visited. While removal of fossils and minerals is strictly forbidden from the park, there are several gift shops and rock shops in the area that sell specimens of just about everything found here ranging in price from a couple bucks to half a million bucks. Jim Gray's Petrified Wood Company was by far and away the most impressive. If weight (and money) were no object, we could have filled the coach with beautiful specimens. We did get to pick a free half pound piece of petrified wood just for visiting, and the owner let us photograph the shop to our heart's content. The links to the desert and the forest in the preceding paragraph will tell you the details of each, but this is a visual place, a spiritual place, and only pictures can really tell the story. So here is just a sample of what there is to see here....

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Major Impact

A desert rainbow wished us a pleasant farewell as we pulled out of Sedona headed off to see the Meteor Crater. A tire issue that has been plaguing us for over a week now has seemingly been remedied by a new valve stem extension that apparently had a very small and very slow leak. And the float valve in the water heating system that quit about the same time (I put a temporary bypass on the board to keep it functional temporarily), got a permanent (I hope) fix at an RV dealer on the way out of town. Life is good when everything on board is working up to par.

Must have made a major impact! It's still just the way I remembered it from when I was here 51 years ago. Meteor Crater near Holbrook, AZ, that is. The crater was formed some 50,000 years ago, give or take a century, when a meteor 150 feet across crashed into the earth with the force of 1000 nuclear bombs and carved a hole a mile across and 500 feet deep. It's impressive. You may have trained a telescope on the moon to look at the craters on the moon. Well, here is the real deal right here on earth. Astronauts train here. The lunar landing module was given trials here. Studies of craters all across the galaxy are based on first hand findings here. It's a very space age kinda place. Of all the places we have been and the marvelous things we have seen over the course of a lifetime- this is one of my favorites. I don't really know why- just is...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Couple Of Canyons....

If I was a couple of canyons short of a full house, I just drew the last cards I needed. For our farewell to the Sedona area we headed out of Cottonwood through Sedona and drove out through Oak Creek Canyon. Another very nice canyon with a beautiful little creek running down the center of it. It may not be the frozen north but it's still winter here so I have no idea why so many people were wading and something resembling swimming in those waters. "How's the water?" "Ice cold!" The bystanders are wearing fleece jackets and the polar bears are doing their thing in a relative state of undress. Ah, yes, the wild west!

So while Oak Creek Canyon was lovely, we were actually just driving on through on our merry way past Flagstaff, AZ and on into Walnut Canyon. Now, I'm sorry. I was misinformed. I thought I was going to be driving through Walnut Canyon. But as there is no road through the canyon, that was some pretty poor planning. Walnut Canyon (Walnut Canyon National Monument to be precise) is a gigantic hole in the ground with sheer cliffs that house ruin after ruin of the cliff dwelling type. You can stand at the top and peer down if you like, but you won't get the full effect. Oh, no! To fully get a sense of what you are dealing with here, you must hike and hold on as best you can while you descend some 400 vertical feet down to the dwellings. Now I understand why they use mules to go down into the Grand Canyon. They have four feet, and by the way, they can see where all four of them are going because their eyes are set so far back in their head. I, on the other hand, was trying so desperately to see where my two feet were going and trying to grab a few photos at the same time that I tripped and flipped and nearly went off the narrow path which is only partially defined by a hand rail. I was trying to figure out if the park service ran out of money and couldn't place the rails all the way down...or whether terrorizing National Park pass-holders was part of the design. After all, the former residents of this canyon ran up and down these cliffs like mountain goats- farming at the top and gathering water at the bottom. How they did that without stairs, let alone a handrail, is frankly beyond me. I thought about it. A lot! It's still beyond me. I have yet to figure out why anyone would even want to live there in the first place. For sure, though, living there was part of the survival of the fittest law of nature. Either you were fit...or the sheer going up and down would kill you. At 7000 feet of elevation, coming back up out of the canyon took my breath away. Literally. I am not talking about the view. I might still be down there but the trails closed at 4:30 and I was already pushing the deadline and my luck when I made it up and out. Was it worth doing? Sure. Half of discovery is about finding the things you want to do more of. The other half is discovering the things that fall into the "once is enough" category. Until they put the canyon elevator in??? I'm good, thanks!

Here's a look at some of the day's sightings....

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Just A Blurb...

Hurray! The Gold Prospector Magazine for Mar/Apr 09, the official publication of the Gold Prospectors Association of America, has arrived here in Arizona from our mail forwarder in Florida. We made another issue!!! They have used the photo of the two of us metal detecting in Athens, Michigan on page 73, which is the page that displays the 2009 Outing Schedule for common digs. It's nice because this is at least the third time they have used a picture of us in their publication. Oh, I guess it's no big deal, but I must confess it feels kind of special to us since we enjoy our memberships in GPAA and LDMA so very much. We've made incredible friends all across the country by participating in the educational events, gold shows, common digs and outings. We've come a long way in both miles and knowledge since we hitched our mule to those organizations. Glad to feel like part of the family! The cover of this issue shows a young lady who found herself a two oz. nugget in Arizona. You go girl!

Monday, March 9, 2009

It's All Down Hill From Here...

Jerome is to Arizona what Denver is to Colorado: the mile high city. But Jerome, a city that started as a tent city in support of a copper mining industry grew into what was, at one time, the fourth largest city in the Arizona territory. It also had the reputation as being the "wickedest town in the west." Additionally it has been called the "largest ghost town in America." Some of those tags have come and gone with the times, but one thing will likely always be true of Jerome: it is the "most vertical city in the country." And having spent the day first driving there, and then walking around town, we can confirm that is the case. In most cities the blocks are positioned side by side. Not in Jerome- they are more "stacked" than anything. It can be as much as three flights of stairs you need to climb in order to get from a gift shop to the burger joint. The city was four times destroyed in part by monster fires, but to this day many of the buildings existing were present during the hay day of the copper mine. Some are in ruins but still add to the history and charm of the place. Many have been turned into artist studios and galleries. Many have become gift shops and eateries. The view from absolutely everywhere in town is a jaw dropper. Here are some images from Jerome.

Could this be the smallest visitor center in America?

Haunted Burger serves mile high burgers with a great view...

One of the neatest shops in town had all kinds of kaleidoscopes, including this one at the entrance that focused in on a planter. Both the planter and the kaleidoscope turned for a really neat effect.

A sample view from almost anywhere in Jerome:

Red Rock Country

Marilyn found some literature at the Sedona Chamber of Commerce that said (this is a paraphrase only) that while God had certainly created the Grand Canyon, He had obviously chosen Sedona as the place where He wished to reside. Two things: That sounds a bit presumptuous and self serving to me. And I think who ever came up with that line had never been to Alaska - my personal choice as to the earthly domain of God, assuming He has chosen one.

But having said that, I am quite willing to admit that the Sedona area just might run a close second to the Big A in that regard. Our friend Miss Joan and other SW lovers will certainly want to continue the discussion. They do have their points! Maybe. I say MAYBE Arizona is the second most beautiful state we have visited. In addition to its natural beauty and majesty, there is always something new and exciting to do and see. Our time here has been well spent.

For some of the day to day doings in the Sedona area, I will refer you to the LinKen Travels. Marilyn's cousin Ken and wife Linda have spent the week here with us and already done a superb job of retelling the story of the week. All you need do to read that blog is click on the in line link provided in this paragraph. See the March 4 post entitled "Sedona Area." Lots of still shots and one, two, three slide shows! See? I told you there was a lot to do here!

For this post, I'd like to focus on the sights we found in Red Rock Country- Sedona, and the Village of Oak Creek area- the countryside and a few of the stops along the way.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cosmic Quad Riders....OR...Sunny and Sher

As the stars and the heavens and the powers that be would have it - we wound up in Cottonwood, Arizona, right outside of Sedona and the Red Rock State Park area, parked right next to one of the Cosmic Cousin Couples, Ken (Marilyn's cousin) and Linda. We don't really plan it this way, but our paths cross with regularity it seems and we sometimes wind up at exactly the same place at the same time. It's a wonderful coincidence when it happens and we always welcome the fun times we have when it does. Here's a shout out to the other Cosmics, Bob and Susan!

While we have fallen in love with quad riding in the desert southwest, Ken and Linda have been paddling their way around in their kayaks and playing golf out here (and everywhere they go). They were curious about the quad riding so we looked for an ATV Tour service where they could rent machines, try them out, and get a nice desert ride tour at the same time. We hooked up with ARIZONA ATV ADVENTURES (who just coincidentally is one of our Google advertisers, thank you very much) and made arrangements for a tour of the Red Rock Area outside of Sedona. For those of you who may never have made it out to Arizona, it is a beautiful state and this area is for sure one of THE most beautiful! It seemed like a perfect opportunity. The company let us ride along with our bike, so we were able to share Ken and Linda's first ride with them. It made for a special day! Especially since there was a larger group for the tour this day and the group was to be split in half in order to keep the initial instruction and then the tour of a more personal nature.

Now it was a beautiful day (sunny, that is to say) and our guide was the full-of-personality-and-cool, chap-wearing Sher, in case you were wondering what in the heck I was trying to do with the title of this post. Our tour was our guide, our bike, and Ken and Linda's bike. We had the ride all to ourselves the way it worked out. Sher was an "easy rider" on some challenging trails, a good instructor and guide, and made certain we got access to the best spots for photos and "awe shucks" vistas. She guided us to increasingly sporty trails which gave Ken the chance to gain his confidence, get the feel of the bike, and tackle more challenging riding tasks as the day went on. As Sher was the guide, she rode up front in the "dust free" zone. Then came Ken. We brought up the tail gunner position. As Ken got more and more confident, we ate more and more of his dust! Atta boy Cosmic Ken! Give it right to 'em.