Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wind To Wind Up 2010

Normally we would be talking about beginning the month of March like a Lion or a Lamb, but it seems that that will be the appropriate terminology for writing up the end of the year here in New Mexico. Frigid temperatures are being ushered in by 50 mph winds accompanied by all of the dust and sand that they can possibly pick up and carry with them. It is a sandstorm! On yes it is! The tumbleweeds are blowing by the front window of the coach faster than we can count them. The Christmas tree, still atop the wheel conversion table that fits over the steering wheel when we are set up is rocking back and forth like it were outside in the wind itself. It’s not that the wind is blowing on through the coach- it’s just that the wind is hitting us on the drivers side and making the whole coach rock back and forth. We’ve already been outside to batten down the hatches, now we wait to see when…or IF, it will let up. The storm is scheduled to last through the end of the year. Yuk! I’m supposed to smoke the turkey thighs tomorrow; we’ll have to see about that. If I did that right now, the legs would not only be smoked, they would be sand blasted, which, I’m pretty sure is not a satisfactory system of meat tenderizing.

January started with cold temperatures making it “rain iguanas” in the Florida Keys. Now that I think about it, that pretty much set the tone for the year. And oddly enough, it was Stonewall Gene who wanted to taste iguanas back then and now here we are together in the desert tasting the sand. Back in January and the rest of the winter months, the cold killed fish and manatees and turtles and made a real mess of both the beaches in the Keys AND our winter stay there. Not special, but memorable I suppose.

We had the same crappola in the Everglades where we thought perhaps we could escape the wind and the cold. But nothing doing, and the normally lush green of the Glades was a drab olive and brown instead from the low temps. By April 1, the temps had moderated and we headed off to Orlando where we were “attacked” by the abundance of sand hill cranes who were nesting in the area and cranking out “little peckers.” That’s not a slur, they simply grow up to be tall skinny birds that peck the daylights out of anything that reflects their image- like the side of a motor coach or the bumpers of your car. And for some reason they feel the need to do this at 4 in the morning. We departed Florida and headed off to Georgia, once again to meet up with Stonewall and Jules and look for some gold in Cleveland at the LDMA Loud Mine Camp.

But that excursion was short lived and my dad took ill after we were there only a few days and passed away only a week after we made it home. You can expect such events in the course of a natural lifetime but no matter how well prepared for them you think you are- you are not! It was a tough time for all and the blog took a breather while we all tried to catch our collective breath.

It took us until the beginning of July to be ready to feel things were OK on the home front and get ready to get back on the road. That was about the time when the tornado ripped through Thousand Trails, Hershey and did a number on the camp, the rigs parked there, and the surrounding infrastructure of the area. Evacuation was ordered and we left the camp as soon as we had made other arrangements.

We set our sights on Maine to visit Dick and Sarah. We started a nice visit there, but then the wind was taken out of those sails when we realized that Abby The Wonder Dog still had heart but no legs on which to carry it and so she too slipped away from us. A double dose of downbeat makes for a depression that’s hard to climb out of.

Back to Pennsylvania to finish some financial arrangements that were in the works to adjust to our new reality- but it wasn’t long before Cosmic Uncle Vinny passed away on the Cape and we headed off once again in October in support of those who have always given us the same.

Once on the road again, we stopped by Vein Mountain in NC in November and were rewarded with a “smiley face" in our gold pan for the effort. By month’s end we had completed the east Coast cycle and were back in Florida for doctors, dentists, and friends for Thanksgiving On The Beach II. It was a special and comforting way to bring it all back home. But Florida got a bit old by the time we spent two weeks trying to get parts for the coach so as to allow us to strike out once again, and as soon as we could, we made the decision to head west…and so here we are in New Mexico at year’s end. Stonewall and Jules are here. Sand Hill Cranes are here (by the millions)- didn’t see that one coming! Cold is here. Winds are here. Even some rain at the moment as this is written. A storm made of sand- but better than a tornado. It was almost like this year had a theme that just had to play out. So be it!

It was a tough year by some standards. But it was a good year as well. Filled with good friends and family and new experiences. With ideas that can be developed for the future. With reflections on the past. With a new strength that comes from times of weakness that are overcome. With love that strengthened through adversity and tribulations. With renewed faith. Not the best of times; not the worst of times. But times none-the-less that make us who we are and show us the paths from which to choose our future….

We head into the new year, remembering those who will not see it arrive with us:

Samuel Charles Gundy
March 28, 1918 - April 23, 2010
Child Of God; Man Of Science

Abby, The Wonder Dog
"Be Gentle, But Fear Nothing; Live Large"

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ride To Chloride

We weren't especially in the mood for a day of rock-hounding, the activity most of the rest of group decided to embark upon, and since we've been here less time than the others we decided to take the day to accomplish a few necessities and do some driving around and sight seeing. A ride to the semi-ghost town of Chloride seemed like just the thing and an itinerary was created to accomplish all the goals of the day.

First stop: Elephant Butte State Park. Everyone saw the elephant! Everyone but us, that is. "We didn't see no stinkin' elephant." A pretty mountain range, yes. A big lake created by a dam, sure. An old beat up and plum wore out volcano, ditto. But an elephant? Moving on!

Second stop: The rock shop at Hillsboro. If you were paying attention a minute ago (reading and retaining are two different things- as any former reading teacher will tell you), you heard me say we hadn't intended to go rock hounding. And that was not our intention by visiting the rock shop. The owner of the shop also manufactures some dry washing and mining equipment and we needed to pick up a few spare parts and supplies- what with all the gold we're finding! Uh-huh. Sure. The shop was closed in preparation for the boss man to go on vacation, but he saw us roll in and opened up to see we got what we needed- a nice thing to do seeing as how we initially bought the equipment from him a couple years back.

Backtracking from the rock shop, we took the New Mexico Scenic Highway to Chloride. Scenic it was. The slide show will provide evidence of just that- I am sure you will agree. The museum(s) at Chloride document the gold rush days and early settlement of the area. I somehow don't think the town has changed a whole heck of a lot since then, so there were some fascinating places and artifacts to see there. My two favorites: the dentist's chair and his "instruments" which I am sure account for the brown coloration of the seat on the otherwise white chair, if you know what I mean. And the still-operational, first ever food processor- something the likes of which I have never seen anywhere before and which pretty much made the trip worth-while all by itself.

Next stop: Truth Or Consequences. New Mexico Choan had recommended La Cocina (The Kitchen) for a good Mexican meal and so we set the GPS and drove right to the empty building where IT USED TO BE! Bummer. Didn't see it anywhere else so we settled on "fast chicken" which turned out to be "slow agony" but that's another story. Only after eating the sub-standard, quickly plucked and fast fried "pollo" did we realize, as we drove out of town that La Cocina had in fact moved out to the edge of town and yes, across from the area's one and only Walmart. It wasn't possible to follow the foul, I mean fowl, with anything additional, so that will go on the list of things to do another time... a list that seemingly grows larger for every thing that we ARE able to do.

Fueled up the Quig in T-Or-C ( locals look at you funny if you actually say "Truth Or Consequences). Fuel is wicked pricey there, but not as high as the general store down the road from camp in Arrey. I won't claim to know where the middle of the desert is...but I have reason to believe we may be somewhat near it based on local prices. Trust is also a major issue this close to the border with Mexico. Even a small fuel purchase required leaving not only the credit card with a picture on it, but also the driver's license with the clerk while I pumped. I didn't see any bogus Walmart charges on line when I got home and checked so I reckon they actually did just "hold it."

Then we wrapped up a nifty day with a stop at Bullocks (that's the grocery store, not Sandra's place). What a hoot that place is. Being the tallest guy in the store, I was the go to guy for short people who needed the tall guy to reach the guacamole and chicharones on the top shelf now and again. Happy to do it. De nada! Buena noche.

Be doubly sure to watch the slide show for the New Mexico Speed Trap! Stonewall had told me to be certain to obey the limit while passing through town! (Not sure he knows who's in the squad car :-))

Monday, December 27, 2010

"Divine" Help For Prospecting

Yesterday, out on El Grito, the claim we are working, claim owner Jimmy stopped by to see what was "shakin'" (dry washing joke). We had a nice visit, and Jimmy introduced us to "divining." Ever the skeptic for such things, I watched as he demonstrated. Sure, but are you making those things move when they are over the buckets with the gold in them? Nope. He wasn't. They do it all by themselves. Every time. Stonewall tried it (and he appears in all the photos)...and it worked. Marilyn tried it...and it worked. I tried it...and it worked. It worked over every bucket that had gold flakes in it. It refused to work over buckets that did not. It did nothing over ground that was merely overburden and gravel, but the minute you walked over a portion of the wash that did hold gold, it moved to show where the gold was. Every time. No, seriously- every time.

While (now that I have looked them up on line) they come in a variety of materials and styles, they work for a variety of searches: minerals, water, even, some say, ghosts. I make no claim about the ghost business, but for gold it definitely worked. Every time. Did I mention that ?

These particular rods, according to Jimmy, are stainless steel with threaded brass balls on both the handle and the pointing end of the rod. To make them work for gold, he places a small flake of gold under the brass ball on the pointing end. The pair of rods is housed in a case made of PVC pipe, into which is slipped a popsicle stick that has a small gold nugget glued to the end. This nugget "powers" the rods to be in gold search mode when used. Before each use, you rub the rods with your hands to "give them your energy." Then you rub them under your arms to pick up some static charge. With arms outstretched, the handle portion of the rod loosely in your hand, and the pointing portion of the rods aimed straight ahead, parallel, and at a slight down ward angle so as not to create unintended motion, you walk...or turn, to see what is in the ground around you. It works. Every time.

Here's a slide show to show you what I am talking about. Watch as each slide advances to see the change in the position of the rods. Stonewall is our demonstrator. In the background of the shots you will see Jimmy observing and commenting. A cameo will be made by Marilyn as she walks into and then out of the frames over the time I was shooting.

It's really neat. It works. Every time!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

In Search Of Geronimo And Christmas

Dateline: Christmas Eve Day 2010. We’d heard the story of the hideout of the legendary Geronimo. It was said to be down the wash and through the canyon just below the claim we have been working on here in Arrey, New Mexico.

For those of you not from here- it is pronounced “a RAY”, not “Air ee”, even though the town of Derry shares the same highway sign. One would think that “Derry Arrey” would sound like derriere and so…oh… never mind!

Anyway, supposedly you can ride an ATV down through the canyon until you come to the convergence of any number of gullies, washes, canyons, ravines, and gorges that were once the super hideaway for Geronimo. At one time in the not too distant past, so much water filled the hideaway “hole” that some enterprising prospectors dragged a dredge into the location and promptly were rewarded with 200 ounces of gold for their effort. That is the kind of story, however believable or unbelievable as the case may be, that has driven folks to prospect in the past and keeps them prospecting and exploring to this very day.

So we, along with Stonewall and Jules, Nancy and John set out in search of Geronimo‘s special place in the desert. The first part of the ride down the wash was easy and scenic. All too soon the sides of the wash gave rise to the sides of a canyon and the path that could be traveled narrowed considerably. Before long the floor of the canyon was too narrow to continue, but even if it had been wide enough, the steps and dry waterfalls that the floor turned into would not have been traversable by vehicle. Perhaps in a distant time when the canyon floor had not eroded so deep…......., Perhaps it was in fact the terrain that made the hideout so great.

At first we just gazed down through what we could see. Then the canyon called to us and we set out on foot so as to “see around the bend.” There were black sands sitting atop the rough hard-pack beneath our feet. The kind of sign a prospector might be looking for. We walked a bit further and the signs that gold may be just beneath our feet was too great to ignore. Back to the bikes for a bucket and a shovel and a whisk broom. The “half bucket” of sample I collected was so heavy it was difficult dragging it back to our base. Surely there would be gold in this river of black sand….

Following our sampling, Gene, Jules and I headed out again on foot to see where the trail might lead. Winding deeper and deeper, the sides of the canyon got steeper and steeper to a point we might not have been able to climb out in places. Narrower and narrower. More and more caves in the walls. Havalina (a small pig-like desert dweller) tracks were everywhere. Signs of a mountain lion had us looking up and over our shoulders as we proceeded. Well- Gene and I looked up; but Jules, ever the rock hound, mostly looked down. We had it all covered! At one point, Gene expressed that he felt there could be an Indian attack at any moment. It’s true- that feeling from another time does wash over you in a place like this. It is spiritual to say the least.

As time and energy slipped away, we turned and headed back. Had we found the hideaway? Would we know it if we had? Time and desert winds and flash floods can change the landscape here at will. There were no arrows, only animal bones and rocks. No deep hole full of gold, only that shallow river of black sand beneath our feet. Let’s head back to camp and see what we have found.

As the temperature began to drop and the sun set, we finished up panning out the sampling we had taken from the canyon. It was rich with particles of gold, even some wire gold- gold pieces that have been shaped by nature into what resembles small pieces of wire. There was no real evidence that we had found Geronimo’s old haunt…but we surely had the feeling we did.

The campfire Christmas Eve was toasty warm and comforting against the cold night air. The fellowship around the fire was as special as the crackling of the Mesquite flames. A “nip” from a clay jug helped to ward off the chill. Otherwise, a silent night. And so this is Christmas!

Christmas morning. The smells from around camp gave hint of what would be out at the pot luck hosted by camp owner Rick later in the day. Gone was the smoke from the campfire; replaced by the wafting scents of chili and enchiladas and tamales. This is gonna be GOOD!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

First Gold In New Mexico

Our first day (for this trip) in New Mexico saw us venturing into the desert- 15 miles from camp, then off road, four-wheeling in the Quig for about a mile to a claim that Stonewall Gene had been given permission for us to work on. We classified material from a small wash that fed into a larger wash, worked it down to the hard pack layer, then used our "vacs" to sweep the cracks and crevices. We lugged the buckets down the hill and into the larger wash- then ran all the material through the back-pack sized dry washer that we tote with us everywhere we go. Presto Change-o, Magicadoola, gold in the clean up! So New Mexico becomes our tenth state where we have found gold. Have to give a lot of the credit to Stonewall for the groundwork that got us on the claim and into a location that was very good. The campground also has its own claim for use by campers and we aim to rustle some dirt over there as well- with hopefully even more successful results.

So Stonewall, Harry, Marilyn and I dug in the wash today. Jules, Wayne and Carol headed out rock hounding. Nancy and John dry washed with Nancy's homemade dry-washer at the camp claim; then Nancy came home and made an awesome homemade stew that fed all of us around a campfire as darkness fell and the desert night turned cold. It was a magnificent day!

States Where We Found Gold

Bus Sniffing

Oh "BUS Sniffing"! - all these years I thought they were saying "BUTT sniffing" when it came to the way dogs greeted, checked out, and inspected each other. But yesterday, it came to my immediate attention that, in fact, the phrase may have been "BUS sniffing" all along. Twenty five miles over the border into New Mexico and about as many miles north on Rt 25 be abruptly came upon a mandatory border security inspection station. Guards were everywhere. All traffic funneled into a single line. Slowed. Stopped.

"Is everyone in the vehicle a United States citizen?"

"Yes, sir"

"OK, then, have a nice day."

The human contact was inconsequential. What was of more interest? The dogs! As each car proceeded to the actual inspection stop point, a dog approached the side of the vehicle, stuck his nose in the air and sniffed the vehicle as it slowly rolled forward. Once the length of the vehicle passed the dog, it was stopped again, and the dog ran back and forth across the back of it for one last sniff. Without objection from the dog, the vehicle was allowed to continue on. If the dog was unhappy about anything, the vehicle was pulled forward into what looked to us like an x-ray unit, but may have been some other kind of mechanical detector or "sniffer."

So when our turn came, the dog did his thing and apparently agreed with us that everything was OK. As we pulled forward and back into the travel lane of the highway, we looked at each other and said":

"Oh! Bus Sniffing!"

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Southern Comfort

86 degrees in the shade when we pulled into camp in Junction, Texas, to end the fifth straight travel day (out of what should be seven) en route to Arrey, New Mexico. Man- that heat felt good. Sat out late in the shade of the western style shade house after our walk-a-bout when we saw roughly 25 deer of various kinds on the rural roads we walked down. Camp is a KOA and on the river where it flows right through town. They let us do some panning to see if we could chalk up Texas on the Gold Found map but it wasn't to be. But playing in the water on such a warm day was very cooling and comforting. The lady in the office told me she had lost her diamond in the river and asked me to let her know if I found it (wink wink nudge nudge). I was going to get out the metal detector and try out for local hero but it turns out the diamond had popped off the band so there was no metal to search for. Instead, I found some sort of magnetic bead, a weird looking thing that I for sure could not identify; so I turned it into the office and told her it MIGHT be a very valuable meteorite that she could have to replace the diamond. Doubtful. Maybe even impossible. But it made everybody happy for such a find....and all's well that ends well.

Texas crossing gets downright pretty after San Antonio. The Hill Region is spectacular and the buttes and prairies that follow over the next couple hundred miles transition seamlessly and mysteriously. Altitude took us from the flatlands to 2500 feet through the hills and then up to 4500 in the next regions- the rise in elevation happens without any visual evidence but you can feel it in your ears if you're paying attention. My dad's old altimeter is our constant companion of such sections of our trips and it too is "comforting" to have and hold and use to check out the sort of thing that a pilot would be "want to do."

I should report, perhaps confess, that with all my friends with great camera skills, I took the liberty of crapping out early on this special night- looooong before the highly anticipated eclipse of the moon. Special thanks to Harry and Big Bill, neither of whom disappointed, for posting their terrific shots on FB or in e mails...thereby making it possible for me to get a good night's sleep in total southern comfort! It was cold where we came from, it looks to be cold where we are headed, but this night? Oh it was good one!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

That's A Atchafalaya

Back in March of 2007 (see previous post) we first traveled the southern cross country route 10. "The Bridge" so called, a section of rt 10 that passes through the Atchafalaya Bayou in Louisiana immediately caught our attention. The long section of the highway passes some 25 feet ABOVE the swamp for a long section of divided highway, the views from which are quite stunning. It has been stuck in our minds as one of the niftiest stretches of highway the country has to offer...and we vowed to come back. And yesterday we did just that. We had an overnight IN the swamp about a mile away from the visitor's center seen in the previous post linked above. There is much to be explored here and this was not the time for that...but we still need to come back and have an extended stay here at some point.

We did put our time here to the best use. Took a four mile walk along the river, down to the swamp boat launch, past the visitors center, under "The Bridge" where-ever we could find firm land to hike on. Marilyn has her first "all mine" camera and we used this stroll as a training session. So to commemorate the occasion, all of the photos in this post will be her shots- taken by her, cropped by her, highlighted, sharpened, adjusted by her. Start to finish. So accolades are welcome. Hold the criticism....or else!

The day before, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, had all fallen into the rear view mirror on the push to New Mexico. The mighty Mississippi River had been crossed yet again. We blew by New Orleans, Lake Pontchartrain, Baton Rouge. Today we cruised into Texas and through Houston- a portion of the trip marred by the closing of Rt 10 where it passes directly through the city, creating detours, accidents and long delays. Tonight we are honkered down in Columbus, Texas which is God knows where, and I'd just as soon not. But true to my motto: Where-ever I go, there I am!

If the schedule can be maintained, two more nights in Texas, followed by arrival at camp in Arrey, NM on the 22nd. So let me sign off for now. Enjoy Marilyn's first photos. Not half bad, huh?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Truth Or Consequences

All men are created equal! Well- yes and no. True: all men step into their pants one leg at a time. Granted. But after wrapping things up at the RV dealer before launching our vessel on a new journey, then working in the dark and the near freezing cold until midnight to "right the ship", that is to say fix the things that although they said had been fixed- had in fact not been fixed- and then crawling begrudgingly out of bed before first light to finish the job.........I discovered that in point of fact all men are NOT created equal. The bit about all men stepping into their pants one leg at a time implies, I think, that you put your pants on with the zipper facing front. But in the dark and grog of the early morning I found myself trying to pull up jeans that were in fact- on backwards. Whether the theory is shot or this is just a fold in the universe of truth I don't know. But I guess anything that can make you laugh at 5 in the morning is a good thing....and so it goes.

Statement: the in line water system and back flow preventer is fixed. Truth: the pressure fitting was installed backwards and the leak was bigger than when we took the coach in. It was a gusher!

Statement: the switches on the slide outs were replaced. Truth: they were replaced but they still weren't working.

Statement: the radio tuner is replaced. Truth: it was replaced but the number on the bottom of the tuner to reactivate the sat tv was lost and so now the radio didn't work at all.

Consequences: with a bit of pain and agony we all kept working and eventually got everything worked out.............or so we hope. Only time will tell.

So by now I imagine you are thinking this is the development of the truth or consequences
title of the post. Not so. Truth or Consequences, will all due respect to Bob Barker (as opposed to Bob Bateman who I actually like a whole lot more than the aforementioned)is a name of a town in New Mexico. And that, my friends, is more or less where we are headed. We will join prospecting friends in New Mexico for Christmas and New Years.

If I've ever been more happy about making a decision and getting off the fence and deciding on a direction in which to travel, I don't know when. 600 miles down the road from the repairs and the miles are slipping away and feeling great! Could have gone south a tad. Could have gone east a bit. Could have gone north a smidge. But west- that's wide open.

Go west again young man..........but first...turn those pants around, will ya???

Friday, December 10, 2010

That's A Wrap! (NOT)

So we've been drifting in The Doldrums of Ft. Myers ever since we arrived at North Trail RV exactly one week ago for what was expected to be a one day in/out service call to attend to a few trivial matters before getting back on the road toward Georgia and Loud Mine Camp. The problem? An extended warranty program that is worse and even more dysfunctional than a federal government health care program...a couple of tires that should be in stock but can't be located....and securing parts that shouldn't (but sadly do) have to come from California on the Left Coast. I swear it's a conspiracy.

So here we sit heading into yet another weekend, chomping at the bit to get going, but fighting to resign ourselves to circumstances we are powerless to control. Disgusting. No wonder the wrist monitor for my blood pressure keeps registering inappropriate levels! I used to be mildly happy about being on extended stay in Florida this time of year, but last year's freezing temperatures and this year's needless delays have taken their toll. Other than our daily walks, which were on the beach for a while and totally enjoyable but are now a giant loop around the park models and big rigs of the RV park- not much happening of any consequence.

Marilyn has some cool plans shaping up for summer at least and we can do some prep towards that- but those plans- to be released later- can't by their very nature include me in anything other than the prep. That's good but it's bad; it's hot but it's cold; it's not here but it's there.

I NEED A PLAN! at a time when planning refuses to be accommodated. Marching in the band was and is a good thing...but "marking time" (marching in place) has never been anything other than boring. The engine is running but no forward gear is selected. If timing is everything---I think I need a new time zone.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Beach Turkey II

Just about time to say good-bye to another round of Thanksgiving On The Beach. We first joined our friends and former neighbors last year to join in celebrating Thanksgiving On The Beach here at Ft. Myers Beach. Click here to see last year's report. And here's a little more from last year: Try This.

The weather this year was sensational; maybe even perfect. 80's every day. No rain. Few clouds. If it gets any better, I couldn't tell you how. We took minimum 1 hour walks on the beach- thus beginning our new "non-mining fitness program." That felt good and no one on the beach seemed to object to me in beach-ware. Ha!

So here are some slides of things we saw and did this year- look for the captions where necessary:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Paddling Alligator Creek

From paddling. We are back in Florida- Punta Gorda above Ft. Myers on the Gulf Coast side. This is one of our favorite stopping points when we are back "home." The creek has excellent paddling, fishing and site seeing. As you would expect from the name- it's not too good for swimming. We routinely see alligators from 2 feet to closer to 10. I don't mind some daytime wading to throw the cast net, but ain't nobody gonna get me in any deeper than that- and even then I keep an eye on my surroundings.

Once again, the pictures pretty much tell the story. I put a few captions to watch for in the slide show so you can see what we're trying to point out along the way:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

North Carolina Smiley Face Gold Report

It's hot on the Gulf Coast of Florida here at Punta Gorda where we have arrived to begin our Florida visit. But the "cool" report from the North Carolina Vein Mountain outing can now be given- at least in preliminary form. Pretty much we're gonna let the pictures tell the story. Two small (and very thin) nuggets, not included in the weight,......and a "smiley face" of "fines and dust" that weighed in at 1.8 pennyweight- not bad at all for NC and 10 days of work!

Oh, and Mr. and Mrs. Haught- I don't want to hear a word from you right now about Idaho gold! :-)

This dad gummed gold is so fine! How fine is it, Greg? It's so fine that even after I was very, very careful cleaning up, I started to notice gold particles all over my computer key pad as I typed this report with the sunlight streaming through the window next to my desk! Sticky Fingers 101.

There will be additional gold to add to this year's take, but that will have to wait for further work at the "amalgamation" process!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Panning Of The Boots

We ventured back to Vein Mountain LDMA Camp in North Carolina for the Fall 2010 outing. It's the smaller of their two annual outings and we like it extremely well. The caretakers of the property, John and Abi, are first class individuals and they go over and above to make the attendees feel welcome and help them be as successful as possible. After all, camaraderie is one thing; gold is another!

This year's weather was outstanding. Comfortable and dry day times and crisply cool nights- they call it "good sleeping weather." A bit of frost makes the early morning rather spectacular around the warmer waters of the settling ponds.
There is one drawback from getting started too early- the wet gloves from the day before are are still frozen stiff. In this photo, Marilyn does her "thawing" procedure.

For outings, the organization compiles "dirt" from a location on the property. This year the dirt came from the diggings next to what we used to call "Long Pond." Actually, it was just a hole from a previous dig that had filled with water. But it turned out that this years dirt was another in the series of "good looking materials", and in fact was some of the hottest material anyone around camp could remember processing. Translation- even though NC gold is almost always extremely fine, this time there was more of it than ever before.

We don't have the final tabulations, weights and measure of the gold ready at this point. We reduced our concentrates down as far as possible to take with us without the extreme weight of the five gallon buckets full of "heavies.", but still have the final separation of the gold from the black sand yet to do. Drying. Weighing. Soon! As I write this we are enroute back to Florida for our annual check ups and the usual. Looking forward to another Thanksgiving on the Beach.

Here's a look at us taking turns on the amalgamation equipment at the camp to work down our "cons." I should qualify the term "amalgamation." It refers to the practice of separating gold and silver from other minerals by combining it with mercury. It was common practice at one time and is generally frowned upon today for environmental concerns- although there ARE safe practices for handling it and using it even today. This piece of equipment has been converted to a rubber rib reclamation process- so no mercury, no copper is used in the process as it was when this equipment was in commercial use at the mine here a long time ago. It's an antique- but it works superbly and was lots of fun for us to test drive.

We spent a most wonderful two weeks here this Fall, made a bonfire when packing to celebrate our stay....
and then....and then....we held our gold camp parting ritual- "the panning of the boots!" To accomplish this we knock off all the mud and dirt remaining on our boots after our last run through the high banker...and then pan it out. Why? Because a long time back a guy told us that after walking around in gold containing dirt all day, he always "panned out his boots" at the end of the day to see if there was any gold in the material, and much to his surprise there often was. Not lots, just a speck or two - but it's the principle of the thing. Sounded like a good thing to do just for fun and so we tried it and.....yes, we found gold too. So now I always try to remember to test the boots at the end of our tour at a prospecting site. This time nothing doing, but, hey, I tried. I'll bet ya a candy bar though that when we clean out the van in Florida and I pan that dirt I will find a speck or two....just saying!

I'll post a picture of our "clean up" as soon as we have it ready. Hoping for the Smiley Face!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Lifting The Roof Off The House

Far too many times Marilyn and I have had to honker down in a windstorm named Hurricane. It's not fun at all, although I can't say there isn't some extreme exhilaration associated with it. And of primary concern is whether or not the roof of your precious home will in fact stay attached to the rest of the house. And subsequently whether you will be able to remain inside the place should the roof get ripped off. So it was with great interest that we waded feet first into the Log and Timber Home Expo- where taking the roof off (the models on display) is one of the best ways to get a look inside the offerings of the many different home types and company products being shown.

This Expo is held just outside Washington, DC. Chantilly, Virginia to be specific, and this is one of the largest such shows in the country. We've seen a lot of log cabins on our travels about the country and admittedly are drawn to them. They're casual. They're comfortable. They're rugged. And by tweaking the design a bit they can be made to "fit in" just about anywhere with reasonable parameters, of course. I've done a wee bit of building and tinkering on other types of homes we have lived in, but the only most minute experience I've had with log cabin construction has been as Mr. Mike's helper at Chicken Gold Camp in Alaska when he was putting up a 12 X 12 (or there abouts) primitive cabin to serve as a museum addition to the gold camp property. It was a fascinating experience for me. The building went up very fast with minimal hassle. The rapid progess was its own reward and it didn't seem all that difficult a structure to build. We were ready for the ridge pole installation when the season came to a close and I was sad to leave without seeing the whole process through, but it starting me thinking more directly along the lines of building the real deal at some point....and so here we are. Planning and what-iffing only for now. Manufacturers and contractors would all like to know where we intend to build. Good question! For now there is no answer---but it is always important to define the questions before they need an answer anyhow. And when might you build? Another good one! We are in the 5th year of a 5 year plan. The other 5 year plans all began and ended pretty close to their appointed deadline , but this traveling thing has worked out really well and is a lot of fun. Why ruin a good thing?..... he asked rhetorically. There are still places to go and things to see (and, yes, gold in them thar hills). But it would seem that sooner or later the need for roots and a life a bit more predictable will reassert itself. And then, as they say, we shall see what we shall see. For now, the investigation of the next somewhere-down-the-road-five-year-plan is quite fun as a stand alone project. We are learning things we might otherwise not ever have known we needed to know. (Huh?) Knowledge is good. Experience is good. Put the two together and ya might actually have something!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Farewell...and Hello Again

It's been too long. Too long since I posted anything for you. And too long since I posted anything for us. It's not that we haven't been busy. In fact we have been nearly too busy. But busy with family matters and family business - the type of things that are very important and must be accomplished, but not really the kind of thing you share, at least on the surface. Not matters of adventure. Not matters of the heart and soul. Rather - matters of fact. And while I thought about writing nearly every day, there never seemed to be enough time or enough will to get it done. And so it didn't---get done, that is.

Tonight I'm writing just really to say we are back in travel mode. The big tire version of the road trip has resumed and we find ourselves in Chantilly, Virginia to take in the three day Log and Timber Home Expo. And yes we know that neither of those terra firma type homes have wheels, and, no, we're not hanging it up at this point- not to worry, those of you who travel with us in spirit and via the blog. The weather is pleasant here- 60's and 70's daytime and 40's night time. The summer of this year's cycle left us in its dust, true, but the cool of the Fall has us revving up in search of shelter from the coming winter storms.

We had more than our share of death to contend with for one year to be sure. Please, God, no more! But we've also had more than our share of love and support for getting through it, and so we have. So when Marilyn's Uncle Vinnie passed away up on Cape Cod before we left the Reading, Pennsylvania area, we put the departure plans on hold a moment and took the van up to the Cape for several days to pay our respects. Those of you who have "traveled" with us for a long time will no doubt recall the many references to our Cosmic Cousin Companions, with whom we have shared many a wonderful adventure on the road. They are family. They are important to us. Two of the "cosmics," as we call them, are the children of Uncle Vin and we feel very blessed to have been within driving range of being able to make the services in order to support them in whatever small way we could. And beautiful services they were. A graveside military honor with live fire and taps is a very moving experience. A seaside procession and memorial mass at East Falmouth on a faultless day weather-wise seemed most serene considering why we all needed to be there. For me, it was a bit surreal to see another family going through what mine has just been through. But like all our experiences in life, we bundle what we see and think and feel and reflect upon into the fabric of our being, and Yes, Virgina, we are made stronger, in due time, by all the things that don't "kill us" as the old adage goes.....

Before returning from the Cape, and after all the services had concluded, Marilyn and I took our final evening there to drive back out to the coast for sunset. The sunset marks the end of only one day, but at times it certainly seems to be a metaphor for an episode of our lives. Hopefully, this can be just such an episode fading into the sunset. Farewell to my dad. Farewell to Abby. Farewell to Uncle Vin. Hello- open road!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Prospecting Crawford Notch

Getting ready to head out once again for the jaunt back to Pennsylvania. With the weather pattern starting to deteriorate just in time for the two day trip, we did the majority of reorganizing a couple days early, then headed out to make a final exploration of the region by visiting the Crawford Notch State Park. We packed a picnic lunch so by golly we ate a picnic lunch but we had to do it at a picnic table lakeside in what seemed like the windstorm of the decade. In truth, the wind is often heavy blowing down through the notch, which is, incidentally, very near Mt. Washington; known for its brutal weather patterns and impromptu rapid changes, I suppose we should have been ready for the wind in proximity to the mountain, but it had been quite nice back at camp on the Saco, so we really had not thought that much about heavier clothing and so on. Next time.

It was first and foremost just a day in the sunshine and the fresh air and breathing in the mountains before leaving them behind for the time being. But we checked the GPAA Miner's Guide and realized there was a possibility of locating some fine placer gold in the Swift River that flows through the White Mountain National Park not too far from the notch. Not ones to pass up a crack at the gold, we made sure we had our pans (the only equipment allowed in the park) along with us. We tried off and on for an hour or two to find some "hot" gravel.....BUT, good thing we had our "first and foremost" priorities straight- because fresh air and dynamite scenery was all we were able to locate for this outing. Too bad! Because some of the crevices in the bedrock looked mighty promising. New Hampshire remains in the "loss" column for those states where we have tried and failed to locate gold. Our long term goal of finding gold in all 49 of the continental states will not get a "notch" on the old gold pan from Crawford Notch for now.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rafting: Yes. White Water: No

We're back in New Hampshire. Call it R&R if you will. It won't be "enough" but it sure feels nice. The Saco River Camping Area campground that we are staying at is a family run business situated right on the banks of the Saco River. It is well run which we thoroughly appreciate, not to mention the size of the sites which are monumentally huge in comparison to many, especially in New England. Back in the days when we ran businesses in Maine, and when we could get away, we routinely drove over here for long weekends canoeing and camping on the sandbars of the Saco. It's a marvelous river for that sort of thing: there's a sand or gravel bar at nearly every bend in the river, perfect for camping, fishing, picnicking, swimming, or just stretching one's legs after paddling with the current for a while. There is the occasional "rip" but nothing that you would call a "rapid". Class one (or maybe zero) water- not Class Four, or worse, the un-navigable Class Five. In short, white water it ain't.

You will see canoes on the river. You will see kayaks. You will see rafts. You will see inner tubes, and air mattresses, and other home-made floating devices, some of which have an inflatable beer cooler in tow. Fun for one, fun for two, fun for the whole family. Party central, waterside.

A word to the wise if you come here to have a go at it. DO, by all means, do the life jacket thing with kids and non swimmers. Meandering rivers, no matter how tame and shallow and harmless looking, especially those ones that bend and wind their way along and have downed trees and branches here and there, harbor much more power and potential danger than you would assume, and for sure more than you can see by looking at the surface. We have paddled this river many times before, and in fact we paddled against the current upstream 2 1/2 miles just the other day. True, everyone told us we were paddling in the wrong direction- but it gave us a chance to "warm up" and it gave us a chance to scout some of the trickier spots without the force of the down stream current creating a problem. Good thing we did that, because when we did make a 6 hour paddle/float downstream yesterday, there were a number of inexperienced families in rented kayaks who got into way more trouble than they had bargained for, with one of the daughters tipping and getting sucked under a downed tree trunk in swift current. Between her dad, who had also capsized, and the two of us, we managed to get her out- but none too soon, as her paddle had been wedged up against her throat under water (only her head was above water-line) and she was not able to breath. She was rattled, but fine and was able to continue on no harm done, but lesson well learned. Life jackets are not for when you think you need them- they are for when you think you don't!

Plenty to see along the river and in the always crystal clear water. We saw literally hundreds of trout- many of them a really nice size. Ducks. Geese. The occasional otter. Train trestles. Mountains. Even a quick glimpse of one hole of a golf course that barely touches the bank at one quick bend in the river.

As for our two person flotilla, we had a blast. Veterans of the Saco that we are, we had our shore lunch ready to roast over an open fire on a sand bar at the halfway point. The smell of a small campfire with hot dogs slowly turning on the home styled rotisserie forks made all the passers by on the river call out if there was enough to go around. Yes. But please- no. And by the way, mind if I take your picture as you drift on by...............

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Still Chilling in Maine

Still laying a bit low and trying to recoup from things. Meanwhile we took a trip out Bar Harbor way and visited Acadia national park for about the "umpteenth" time in our lives. It's a beautiful spot at all times of the year and in all types of weather. This visit found us with plenty of sunshine and visibility although as it almost always does, a fog bank or two came rolling by.....

On another day we visited again with Dickie and Sarah who fired up the pizza oven that Dick built in his back yard just off the deck. We roasted the ingredients for the pizza first, then applied them to the top of the special dough for baking. Meanwhile we roasted some blue mussels in wine and garlic and "tasted on them." Talk about fast cooking time! With temps in the stove at over 750 degrees, everything cooks in mere minutes- literally. The time to prepare the meal is in the firing of the oven, not in the cooking of the ingredients themselves. Soooo good!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Strolling Castine

A friend once questioned why I would express melancholy or a bit of anguish or similar on a blog post. I wish I never had to do that. But I started out writing this more for me, and us, than I did for anyone not expressing such things when I am feeling them to any degree seems like a personal injustice. Perhaps not a lie, but not-the-whole-truth. And I like to look back at my thoughts every bit as much as my pictures. In the pictures- memories. But in the thoughts and feelings- the history of the growth through the journey. There are mountains. There are valleys. Even when you live on the mountain there are times when you must pass through the valley. And if you find yourself dwelling in the valley, there are times when you must cross the mountain as well. Living on the plains between the two may be possible, but has never seemed totally appealing to me, so I suppose I must conclude that all of life's ups and downs are necessary...and not to be ignored.

We continue to be seemingly unable to escape the sadness of recent personal losses, but we are trying to get back our healthy and happy perspective as best we can. A stroll around the coastal Maine town of Castine seemed just the thing. If there is anything flat about Castine, I wouldn't be able to tell you what it is or where. The little league baseball field had to be nestled into the interior of the Fort that overlooks the scenic harbor- as I suppose it was the only parcel of level land, however small, that they could find. Main Street is hilly in all directions. "Being in shape" greatly benefits anyone walking around town- which, for the shopper in you- is more about real estate offices and less about souvenirs and basic merchandise. But the scenery is calming and spectacular and inspirational even for those in the distraction of the doldrums. Doldrums. A nautical term referencing "calm" and "directionless" befitting the situation as the winds of fate have seemingly stopped pushing us on a predictable course for the time being. There is only one thing to be done in the doldrums- wait. And try to find a way to enjoy the calm that comes before the exhilaration of the next wind.

It was a slow and deliberate stroll. There was not so much to see... as there were images to reflect upon:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Farewell To Abby The Wonderdog

The thing about dogs (and Abby was the best of the best of the dogs) - they love you unequivocally. The more love you give them, the more they have to return....and so it was in this household where Abby, and her sister before her, Carly, shared our space and our lives and our trials and our tribulations. The hole in our universe now that her time, their time has passed is huge. The day we knew had to...and would come...did. Abby's heart was still strong. Her eyes were still vital and alert, but the rest of her had pretty much shut down. The legs that needed to carry her up and down the stairs to the coach were failing fast. The ramp was no longer enough to carry her in and out. She had trouble standing up...and trouble getting back down. Pain, despite the doctor's remedies, was her constant companion. And this day it just became too much for everyone.

So Abby The Wonderdog is no longer on the road with us. Our journey will be longer and lonelier. But memories will be our new companion. Abby was born in Honduras and flew to America. Believe us, she was a LEGAL ALIEN. She accompanied us to 49 of the 50 states- (we all missed Hawaii) and three countries. She visited Alaska twice. She was cool, calm and collected in the presence of buffalo, elk, caribou, all manner of bears, even wolves and coyotes. German Shepherds? Not so much!

She never met a snack or a treat she didn't fully appreciate. Next to the first walk of the new morning, dinner time was her favorite time of day. She never protested being dressed up in ridiculous fashion for a blog post- wearing a pirate's three cornered hat, comes to mind...and I swear to you she loved putting those gigantic sun glasses on for our annual Christmas Card shot each year.

Somewhere tonight I hope and pray she is fine without us. Resting comfortably. Sniffing good smells. Sharing munchies with a friend. Barking only when necessary. Getting lots of pats from adoring fans. Wearing her signature scarves. Loving...and being loved. That was her specialty!

We hope to be OK again soon too. But not right now. And for sure- never the same....

And wrapping it up with images from Roatan, Honduras, where we lived for 5 years and which is the birth place of Abby and her twin sister Carly. If there is consolation in this day, it is that they are inseparable again in the afterlife as they were in life- chasing each other round and round and round a coconut palm there on our beach, or chasing the iguanas that usually managed to say out in front....or the yard chickens that usually didn't manage to stay out in front...or maybe just resting under the avocado tree munching their choice of select fruits of the day. They came into this world filled with love and they left it the same way they found it. If only we could all do as well.............

Thursday, July 15, 2010

North To Maine

We wrapped up our stay in Pennsylvania with a get-together with a bunch of the guys that were in the award winning Wilson High School band together back in 1966 (Oooo, that sounds lousy). It was a great event. From there we headed north to Connecticut to spend a wee bit of time with my BFF Steve and his wife. Then a stop-over in Boothbay Harbor to visit Marilyn's BFF Nancy. We confess to eating every last bit of the "Five For $30" lobster special while camped out there at Shore Hills. Yesterday we landed in our main (Maine) destination at Patten Pond near both Ellsworth and Sedgewick, Maine. We'll be visiting with Dick and Sarah and seeing what trouble we can get into around the house that they built. Hopefully we get some "dirt" time in the greenhouse- that's opretty much what we miss most about being on the road full time- the gardens. True, we have two traveling herb pots that are pleasant enough, but that's just not the same.

I'm gonna put up a few shots from our day trip to Camden, Maine- a town just north of where we ran our business. It's cute. It's quaint. maybe even picturesque- but didn't seem to be so to the degree it always used to be. Of all the coastal towns that we drove through on the trip north I have to say that my old Rockland looked the best. Cudos to them. They seem to be "up" while much of the coast looks "down" to me. Places where a reservation was not only a must in the past but also darn hard to get- you can now just drive in and pick your spot. Staycations seem to be the norm pretty much where-ever we go right now. It's a shame, especially in places where the tourist season is short but oh so important....

I'm finding it hard to get back into the routine of posting and photographing, photographing and posting. Dealing with the loss of someone who has been such a big part of life takes some of the wind from your sails to be sure. So please be patient if the pace of the blog comes back however gradually. Much of what we can do right now is more internal that what we have been doing in the past.......

Below: Camden, Maine- where the mountains meet the sea and the harbor is punctuated with a waterfall that cascades out from under the main street businesses like The Smiling Cow

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Terror In Trailerville

When last I posted I posed the question: "What next?" In the weeks, even months, since then most of what happened was making sure that the family business was all in order after dad's death. It was a somber task and a consuming challenge- especially in light of trying to get things done quickly rather than over the years that such things often require. While trying to accomplish all this, we pretty much stayed at the house. The coach was in the shop for a while undergoing the body work that needed doing from the previous trip to Pennsylvania when a tow truck cracked the frond end of the rig while hauling it in to repair a broken antifreeze line. But most of the time, it sat unattended in a campground just waiting for our very occasional visits to check that everything was going OK. Problem was it wasn't always going OK. A back flow preventer in the water line got a tad fussy and allowed salt water from the softener system to circulate through the coach. I suppose a saltwater shower is an all right kinda thing but as drinking water it's the pits. This happened not once, but twice during our prolonged stay at the house. On yet another visit to the coach, we arrived to find that the super fancy side by side refrigerator freezer that can run on electricity or propane decided that it was no longer prepared to work so hard if no one was going to be around to appreciate it- so it stopped- taking with it several hundred dollars worth of meat and produce that was stored in the unit. Turns out those reports of 3500 dollar repair jobs on RV fridge cooling units are very true indeed.We could have lived with that. It was the mold and the melty, slimy, nasty juice and warmed up funk that we could have lived without. Having to deal with that at a time like this, or anytime for that just plain WRONG. But you play with the hand you are dealt, unless of course you are willing to fold and walk away. I wasn't made like that, which I suppose is the best reason I don't play poker. Bluff was never my strong suit.

But all these things are tolerable, if barely so. Trouble takes your breath for a time but hardly ever stops you from breathing. But on our last visit to check the coach we got more than would let you keep breathing for a time and made the heart race way faster than it was ever intended to beat.

There had been severe thundershowers in the area. The Pennsylvania days had been heated to the 90's and the humidity was typically high and heavy. But as we turned into the fields of corn that are the approach to the Thousand Trails Preserve in Hershey (it's actually Lebanon, but called Hershey camp), we got our first glimpse of the trouble that lay ahead. The corn stalks were stripped like tassels on a graduation cap. First there were fields that were not like this...and then all of a sudden the fields were all like this. Across the corn field by the tree line there were branches on the ground first. Than small trees. Then larger trees and branches. Road signs warned of danger and closed areas. What was going on here? We had a bad bad feeling as we turned into camp. Trees were down everywhere- some broken but many out of the ground root ball and all. Signs were where they didn't belong. Roofs were missing from structures that had them just days prior. Debris was scattered in every direction and with no rhyme nor reason. Bad storm? For sure. TORNADO!

Once the authorities arrived at camp to assess the situation, it was declared that the storm had been an EF-0 tornado. As tornadoes go that is a small one - 80 mile an hour winds in rotation. Lesson learned: Never want to be in a big one! Or at least never want to be AWAKE when a big one hits. There was plenty of damage to camp. Power out and lines down. Water off line. Sewer plant damaged beyond immediate use. The effort was on cutting downed trees so the rigs that could still move could be evacuated. It was reported that at least 40 of the rigs in camp could not be moved. They had not been picked up and slammed back down as they surely would have been in a bigger tornado. But a giant oak or maple laying across or alongside your rig makes it realty hard to drive down the road. Trust me; I've been there, done that.

If there was good news in the mix, it was certainly the fact that absolutely no one in camp was harmed, including the young family staying in the cabin directly in front of us, which was unfortunately the final resting place of the tree in front of us as well. As the winds were swirling it could just as easily have landed on us. Grateful we are! But there was bad news as well. An adjacent horse farm that raises thoroughbreds had twenty six of their horses cut badly when the barn collapsed and another three that were mauled so badly they had to be put down immediately. The owner of the farm was himself trapped in the barn but was evacuated with only modest wounds.

Family's and neighbors who experienced the late afternoon storm first hand reported it was the scariest thing they had ever experienced. They spoke about the noise. They spoke about the fear that they would have their rig rolled over or be crushed under all the trees coming down. They spoke of the rain that didn't fall at all because it was going sideways. They spoke and then they feel strangely silent as the thoughts of the storm were maybe too much to cope with at the moment. Ten minutes of terror had created a lifetime of concern. We have experienced as much with the nine, yes 9, hurricanes that we have gone through- everything from a Cat 1 to a Cat 5.

Somewhere hence around a late night campfire there will be tales to tell of the tornado that attacked the campground near Hershey. Of the fear that huddled campers in the corners of their all too flimsy rigs. Of feelings that were felt for the first time ever. Of the will to survive and carry on.....

There was one, and only one, as best we could tell, among the campers at the meeting the next day, who was unhappy with the response. I have no idea where he was coming from. That group of campers and rangers whipped out their chain saws, their shovels, their ladders and tackled that debris with the same ferocity that the storm had come in to camp. And a person who saw the camp on day two or even day three after the storm would have had no idea exactly what damage had been done. Campers are a determined lot; gypsies with an attitude. For tomorrow - we will move way or another. And that is as it must be in life.