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: