Monday, January 31, 2011

Big Girls Ride Too

Enough already with the Big Boy Rides. Big girls like to ride too, so before leaving our Yuma venue, we all planned a COED ATV ride and camping trip into the desert. Now this ride was shorter and less technical than the other rides have been. Discrimination? Not hardly! A matter of time and preference. Still, the planning for this ride had to be carefully coordinated. Why? Because the ride was planned to be made on the Barry Goldwater Live Fire Bombing Range just outside the Yuma Foothills, from where the ride began. All riders required personal permits. We traveled to the Marine base to apply for those permits. We filed travel itinerary for the duration of the trip. What could possibly go wrong? And I will say at the onset- nothing did go wrong. Still, there is considerable "illegal alien" activity across the range, and in fact our campsite was set roughly 2 1/2 miles from Yodaville, a "town' made up of welded cargo containers and painted to resemble a small town for the intended use of practicing urban bombing accuracy. Apparently their accuracy is pretty darn good- as no errant missiles hit our desert wash campsite- which was one thing that could have really ruined our day. In truth, there was no firing activity while we were out there- which I suppose makes it a bit less challenging, but hey, I'm good with that!

So once again, the story will pretty much be told by the photos and the captions. We had a good size "pack" of riders. Those who often ride together wore STP sweatshirts in maroon. STP? A vehicle special lubricant? Not here. STP: "Scooter Trash Pack" I didn't recall hearing the story behind how the group chose it's name, but as with most of their stories, I'm guessing it is a good one. The trip covered two days and one night camping. While there was some real good fireside cooking going on out there, no lie, we also had three giant bags of cold, fried chicken. Think of it as a campfire appetizer to prepare the palette for hot dogs.

Watch the photos for the "ooga" horn on the back of our bike. It was our take home present from the White Elephant Christmas party held a few days before our ride. We exchanged blind presents, then endured the slings and arrows of the trade to see what we would wind up with. There were some good items! A solar powered and lighted wind chime. An old Igloo cooler. A gigantic 12 volt spotlight. A red wine bottle humming bird feeder. A broken vase water feature, just to name a few. There was a present for everyone, and a good laugh for all as well.

When we were not out riding, camping, singing karaoke, having a beverage or two, shopping, doing dinner, or just otherwise engaged, we used the beautiful equipment (that scooper-digger as my nephew used to call them as a kid) that Gary and Judy placed on our campsite (a new investment lot they recently purchased) for our use while camped there....... we are leaving with about 7 oz of nice clean gold, AND we left a hole suitable for the installation of the electric to the new lot now that we are out of the way. Who knew Yuma Foothills Lots would be so rich in gold ore? (Just kidding) But actually, one of the largest ever of Arizona Gold resources was discovered just a short distance away- the Fortuna de Oro gold mine which we visited while on our ride onto the Goldwater Range. Do I look good in a hard hat or what?

As always, the time we spend with our friends and their friends makes life so much more of an adventure!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Big Boys Ride Again

Two years ago we were here in Yuma, Arizona. I had a new Quad (ATV), a spiffy new helmet that made me look like Speed Racer if not feel like him, and a group of friends who wanted to take me on a multi-day desert ride/camping trip. It was the ride of a lifetime. It was really that good. In fact it was so good, I considered leaving things at that, and not going out on such a ride again. I mean, while spoil a record of exhilaration and survival to tempt the fates yet again? But nothing doing- the gang headed back out into the desert night again. Another great ride. A manly ride. A 240 mile ride in two days time. A somewhat more experienced Greg mounted up and rode. But some things had not changed. The "guys" still move across the desert passes at something approaching twice the speed of......not sound, but me. So keeping up is always a challenge. Still, we accomplished "faster" and "further" than I had certainly ever done, so put another notch in the old gun belt and call it good.

In part because I had more riding time under that belt, it was not as terrifying as the previous experience- just a good, solid, hard, fast ride! I had a good time. But looking back, two of the posts I made on that first experience are, to this day, perhaps the two most widely read, re-read, reviewed, and appreciated articles I have ever produced. And I still like looking back at them myself which I suppose means they have stood the test of time- even with me. So since "ain't no way" I could ever top those tales, here are links for one more look if you have the time and inclination. But first a photo or two from this year's ride....

THE BIG BOY RIDE: Click here to see this 2009 post.

RIDING INTO THE DESERT NIGHT: Click here to see this 2009 post

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Old Tucson Studios. Over 300 Western movies were filmed here. Rio Bravo. Tombstone. Hombre. Outlaw Josey Wales. And television: Little House On The Prairie filmed here for many years. And High Chaparral. Basically if it was a good old Western movie or a good old Western on "the tube"- it was probably filmed here. Titans like John Wayne kicked the same dirt in the streets of the set that we kicked today. The "lot" is filled with props that are classics- from Laura Ingall's wedding dress and the sign over Olsen's Mercantile, to Wanted Posters of Wyatt Earp, guns and horse troughs, and the facades of many a recognizable store fronts.

For us it was a stroll down the path of history, told in the form of film. I think it's gonna have me watching a whole lot more Westerns than I've watched in while.

The slide show is filmed in Sepia. It just seemed appropriate....

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Comparison Shopping

On the way back from the Desert Museum we stopped by our favorite local "Mexican-centric" grocery store. Stores like this carry specialty and ethnic products you are not likely to get, or even see, in most regular grocery chains. In addition to unusual goodies, the prices at such stores are much more reasonable. Fruits, vegetables, staples like beans and rice are not pre-packaged- just select your own, weigh it....and go. We only needed to pick up a few things.

Let's make an interactive game out of this. Here is our shopping list and a picture of our "haul." Price out our shopping list at YOUR local grocery store and report in (blog or Facebook) as to what the same items sell for where you live. Should be fun and interesting....

5 lbs Naval Oranges (not 5 oranges)
3 lbs lemons (not 3 lemons)
1.5 lbs package corn tortillas (not a package of 8)
large bag red licorice (Twizzlers)
3- 1 lb packages of ground beef/pork HOT Chorizo
1 qt chicken broth (store brand)
1 can diced tomatoes (store brand)
2 large bottles of hot sauce (premium brands)
1 lb bag Napalitos (small pieces of prickly pear cactus)

All this, and we got change from a twenty! Wanna play? Copy the list and price it out at you store....

Friday, January 14, 2011

More Sonora Desert Museum

If you think that a "museum" is an "inside job"- you need to come here. The Sonoran Desert Museum. You get your ticket and pass through the gate. You were outside in the desert when you got that ticket and you are outside again as soon as you are through the gate. Before you is a vast and spectacular piece of desert that has been "upgraded" into what is most assuredly a rare collection of desert goodies- 300 animal species and 1200 different plant varieties on 21 acres with two miles of paths to stroll- a desert museum! Last time we were here, we enjoyed it enough to want to come back. This time we did a few of the same things, but also took in a few sites we'd missed before. The raptor show was a do-again for sure...and this time, during the flight of the family of Harris Hawks, a small bird made the big mistake of thinking he could travel through the designated spot for the demonstration of free flying hunters without notice. I am sure he would rethink his decision given the chance. But this was a fatal mistake for the little guy. It seems he was delicious and for those of us who had never seen a family of hawks that hunts together, this was a most amazing bonus.

In the cat canyon, we found a beautiful ocelot and a pair of bob cats basking in the heat of the midday- we hadn't been able to locate them on our previous visit. The coyote territory remains to be checked off our list for another time. We walked the perimeter but those coy little critters must have been napping in a den down below somewhere.

Here's a look at some of the shots from today's visit to the desert museum:

On A Mission

Today, you might say, we were on a mission to see what was on a Mission. Only a few miles down the road (on Mission Street) from our Western Way campground is the Mission San Xavier del Bac. The Spanish Catholic Mission was founded in 1699 by the Jesuit missionary Eusebio Francisco Kino. The original Mission was built where the natural springs (now gone) came up from the desert. It was also built on the very edge of the centuries old Apache Indian Center and was at one point destroyed by the Apaches.

The architecture of the Mission is Moorish inspired, but structurally (and seen from the air) is built in the shape of the Cross. The Mission fell on hard times for a long enough period that there was a great deal of deterioration of the structure and the furnishings and the artifacts inside. Because the original building methods and materials were not understood when repairs were first undertaken, some of the materials used (like modern cement) actually created further damage. Thanks in part to the separation of church and state, no federal funds can be used for the restoration, but private funds, and the earnings of the historical site itself, are now being used for an ongoing restoration project using some of Europe's finest craftsman and artists along with local native artisans who understand the original methods, such as using the juice of boiled pad cactus mixed with sand and lime to make the breathable original material from which the Mission was constructed.

If you are wondering the same thing we did upon arrival at the Mission- No, there is not a missing portion of the tower on the right- that is the original design feature....

In its day, it was a magnificent building intended to attract people from local communities and also from far away. It is still doing that to this day. Mass is held daily. Here are a few images from "today's Mission!"

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tucson In Reverse

The normal progression would be to tell the saga of the day from start to finish. Today, though, that just feels like the wrong order of business to me. So here's how our day ended:

We watched President Obama on the TV as night fell over Tucson. He was here to pay his respects to the dead and wounded from the recent shooting episode that shocked the nation and shattered this community. I don't consider myself to be a fan of the president's politics or rhetoric, but his oratory is noteworthy and this evening's performance, if you will, was the right word at the right place at the right time with the right tone. It sounded at first more like a pep rally than a memorial service in that those in attendance were in large part students who were cheering on their President. He seemed almost uncomfortable with the behavior of his audience, and to be sure he began from the uncomfortable position of having many of his strong supporters espousing blame to those who had nothing whatsoever to do with the events as they unfolded. He could have joined them. He could have continued down that path. I thought he may well have. But he did not. Instead he held up the lives lost and the actions of the living to strike a note of promise that this community seems to be crying out for. He challenged the nation not to "disappoint" the hopes and goals of those that were lost- among them perhaps most on the nation's mind- a nine year old girl who was at the event to learn about her government, having just been herself elected to her student council. There were no dry eyes in the house, in the streets, or in front of the tv. I even noted the President nearly "losing it" when he spoke of the child, which surely must have hit pretty close to home with him. To be here now is to feel the pain and the tragedy even more sharply than if we were elsewhere.... We feel immersed in it, even though we are essentially just passers by. On this occasion, I heard no one, not one who thought the President could possibly have done a better job pulling people together and trying to get the nation back on track. Credit where credit is due.

Perhaps tomorrow, in the bright sunlight of the desert, thanks in part to the oratory of the evening before, we can all be a bit more at peace with the true lessons from a sad day. One person is to blame. Many lessons are to be learned.

Which takes me back in time to the drive back to the coach from our activities of the day. We had been on the far side of Tucson- about as far away from the south side where we are camped as you can get without being "somewhere else." A full 40 minutes from the rig, maybe longer if we hit traffic. Did I mention the President was in town? We did know he was coming. But Tucson is a very large city geographically and we had no idea when we started out exploring where things were- like the college campus, the hospital, the Safeway, and especially the auditorium where the President was to speak. First we noted that nearly all traffic was slowing and becoming congested. Helicopters were filling the sky like hummingbirds at the sugar-water right before sunset. Sirens started in a distance and became louder and closer. Traffic slowed to a crawl- but did not, could not stop. Instead large, painfully slow circles were created on either side of what was the President's motorcade route. For security I suppose, no routes were marked, so you had to keep moving and following the vehicles in front of you in an endless detour. No police directed traffic- they must all have been deployed elsewhere. Well it so happened that on one of our loops up near the barricaded routes, the motorcade passed right in front of us. Now mind you we had not come here to see the President, the motorcycle cops, the black limos with flags waving, the secret service detail. I've seen motorcades before, have even been in parades in Washington DC where they were all around us. But something other than all that was going on here- almost as though there were decoy motorcades.... One passed in front of us, then a second from our left, and yet another came straight at us from under the route 10 bridge. I feared that maybe something else tragic had taken place with all the squad cars and flashing red and blue lights coming and going every which way. Especially when we started to see helicopters landing on the roof of the hospital...and hundreds, literally hundreds, of news coverage vehicles, crews, reporters as far as the eye could see as we drove by the hospital where the President was going to visit Gabrielle Giffords and the other surviving victims. Thankfully that was not the case. My best guess is that security on the ground is much like security for the President in the air- where there is always more than one Air Force one flying.

Truthfully it was all a bit frightening. My sense of history told me whatever was happening was BIG and I should be pulling over and taking photos. But as cars to the sides of the route were forced to keep moving, that was a challenge that was only met in small measure. In the congested conditions of the city, one wrong move could have created an accident or worse that simply could not have been dealt with- so we just kept on going around and around until everyone else was where they were supposed to be....

Earlier in the day we had taken a tram at Coronado National Forest, through and to the top of Sabino Canyon. Sheer cliffs, at places 400 foot high walls of solid rock, stately Saguaro cactus dotting the hills and canyon walls, while the Creosote brush and Mesquite and Palo Verde (green stick) filled in the space between the Arizona Sycamores and Cottonwoods in the Riparian area surrounding the stream that flows out of the mountains and through the canyon floor. We jumped off the tram just down from the top where it made its turn-around, determined to hike out of the canyon. We started out at a temp of 46 degrees. We finished however many miles later at a temp of 64 degrees. The coats and "layers" we were thankful for at the outset were now burdens that needed to be stripped off and lugged with the water and the cameras and the binoculars and the yada yada yada. Time for a new backpack! The walking sticks, being back at the coach, were NOT helpful, but as no mountain lions decided to take issue with our trespassing in their space- that worked out OK. Even at 64 degrees, "comfortable" by any measure of desert temperatures, the desert air sucks the moisture right out of your body and hastens fatigue. I'm pretty sure that's true, but whether it is or not, that's what I'm blaming my being so tired on by the time we walked out of the canyon and back to the visitors center.

A Day In Tucson: In Reverse. One for the record....

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Brief Historical Notes:

Remember Edith Ann from Saturday night live? Little girl who sat in a gigantic chair and talked honestly and directly to the audience.... We found her in our campground in Tombstone. Turns out there is a camping, folding chair model of the Edith Ann chair too. And who knew she eventually went to Ohio State?

Then, on a much more serious note: Arizona Representative to Congress, Gabrielle Giffords, was shot in the head while holding an open session for constituents in Tucson earlier in the day. We were horrified to see it on the news upon return from our ride in the desert. Yet another horrific episode that we will "remember where we were when it happened." It hits especially close to home as we are only one day out from being in that very venue. Marilyn had already told me that "shopping for groceries" was first on our agenda upon arrival there, and this happened outside a grocery store. People have asked if we are OK. Absolutely, timing is everything. As of this writing, the Congresswoman is surviving the ordeal and doctors seem to think that she has a miraculous chance of recovering. Our thoughts and prayers are in support of that miracle. Others did not make it out the other side of the ordeal. All we can do is ask "why?"

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Rattlesnake Crossing

On our last day in the greater Tombstone area, we finally managed to get a small group together to ride out into the desert to see whatever there was to be seen there. It had just been too cool to ride earlier in the week. It never ceases to amaze me the things we see in the desert through this mode of travel that we just would not see by any other means. Oh, I suppose we could hike out there, but just for discussion sake, today we covered a 50 mile round trip- give or take a mile. Long hike on the hoof. (Or five days by Conestoga wagon is how I like to think of it.)

The air was a bit chilly, but sunshine was the order of the day...and a pretty one it was. We headed out into the desert in the general direction of Tombstone. Made a stop at the monument to Edward Schieffelin. Schieffelin was a lifelong prospector who had learned everything there was to know about prospecting from his father- with one exception: how to strike it rich. He'd tried a few other vocations on occasion but found them to be less than satisfying by comparison. Upon showing up in "these here parts" he was told that there was nothing worth finding...and that all he was likely to find in this lawless area was his "tombstone." But oh contraire! Instead he found silver. Lots of silver. Enough silver so that a town was born...a town that became known as Ed Schieffelin's Tombstone. Now that story- being one of historical significance to Tombstone today- you would think that might have that monument being built in a park right smack dab in the middle of the town- maybe down there near the OK Corral. But no. This monument is on a dirt road out in the desert where the only way someone is gonna see it is if they set off to go there in the first place...and probably by ATV. Schieffelin is buried there, on this site, which, it turns out was the site of the boundary marker of his very first claim upon arrival here. He is buried in his mining duds, with a pick ax by his side. Comfortable. Satisfied. Successful. Having found silver and gold AND his Tombstone!

Now as classic a Tombstone epitaph as that may be, we mixed things up a bit by then driving down through the town (you can do that on an ATV in Arizona, one of the things that makes it such a neat place) and out into the desert beyond town. Destination: Rattlesnake Crossing. I'll give it my best effort at a verbal description, but in reality only "seeing is believing" for this place. OK. Picture this: a dilapidated old blue trailer- scrapped and left for dead in the desert. Inside the trailer is a store. In the store is darn near everything you could possibly think of that is made from rattlesnake skin. Rattlesnake belts. Rattlesnake rattle ear rings. Ties. Wallets. Cell phone holders. Sculpture. Everything- but shoes. Why no shoes you ask? Because to sell shoes you would need a shoe sale clerk. And this store has no clerks. No, not even one. With hundreds, more like thousands of dollars in inventory- this store operates on the honor system. You like something that is not priced you may not buy it- it ain't for sale. You like something priced, you add it up when you are finished shopping and you put your money in the wooden box by the door on your way out. You buy more that 100 dollars worth (which is easy to do), you figure your own discount...and can take an additional twenty dollars worth of goodies free. Don't have cash? No problem, the name to write on your check is on the sign by the door- all checks welcome. Out of state check without ID- no problem here either. And the merchandise? Crummy stuff? Nope. First rate, great quality- every single bit of it. Is the cash box locked? Nope. No need apparently. The system works.

Now outside the decor is less of a store and more of an open air museum. This has to be the best collection of stuff, crap, junk, and priceless antiques that I have ever seen under one roof! Oooops. My bad; no roof! Bubble gum machines, mineral specimens that are enormous and gorgeous, petrified wood by the tree load, tools, motorcycles, depression glass, red wagons, guns and roses, metal and wooden sculpture, skulls of real stuff and extra-terrestrial, glass insulators, mining equipment, kitchen equipment, kid's toys, animal hides, and on and on and on. Even a well carved bust of Jesus (which may account for everyone's honesty). Lots of stuff you know what it is but didn't expect to see here. Stuff you have no idea what it is, but it's really cool. Is there a charge to see all this stuff? Nope, but that doesn't stop visitors from putting money in the till. There is a rusty metal sculpture of a cowboy wearing a vest in the middle of the display and he is holding a big plate. What's in the plate? Money. Lots of it. Quarters, Dollar bills. Two dollar bills. Five dollar bills...and bigger bills. Does anyone take it? Nope. They put more in. We did too. What a business model! We wandered around there for more than an hour- each encouraging the other to "come here and see this..." We came. We saw. We are still amazed.

Like the best monument in Tombstone, the best store in Tombstone.....ISN'T in Tombstone. It's out in the desert in the wind and the sands of time. And lucky we are to have seen it if only for a moment as we passed through.

If you are only ever going to watch one of our slide shows all the way through- make it this one.

Queen Of Copper

More mining on today's agenda. Off to The Queen of the Copper Camps in Bisbee, Arizona. There's an open pit mine that you can see on your own, then take the miner's train underground for the tour which goes into the mine about a thousand feet by train, with side tours that are walking and climbing shafts. As always, there were new pieces of equipment to discover that were specific to this operation. We donned real hard hats, yellow slickers and full weight battery packs and head lamps. As there are very few electric lights in the mine, having everyone in the group have their own light was excellent. This mine is cold at 47 degrees, especially compared to the 70 - 80 degree temperatures and 99 % humidity of Kartchner Caverns which we took in last week. The mine shafts we traveled were TIGHT. You could touch either wall or the ceiling at any point will riding in or out. Still, there didn't seem to be that claustrophobic feeling one might have expected given the small, cold, and dark of the experience.

Chicken Mike had suggested that if we got to Bisbee, we should look up a chocolatier in the town built into the side of the mountain. Great suggestion. As our time there was all too short, certainly too short to explore the surprisingly beautiful mountainside town to any extent, it was grand to have a reason to at least drive through the town in search of ChocolaTE- spelled this way so you can sound out the name of the business. We found it almost at the end of the main drag, on the hillside- a tiny building but large with personality and the luring aroma from the specially imported cocoa beans and the specialty chocolates being made, sampled and sold in the tiny store. Amazingly delicious! I also had a small sample mug of the "best hot chocolate in the world" - a claim that's hard to argue with! Another time, Bisbee will be right up there on the list of places to further explore.

This slide show will include both the town, the mine tour, and the chocolate shop:

Friday, January 7, 2011

Tombstone Two

Another day "hanging" with the gun-slingers and common folk of Tombstone, Arizona. First up- a tour of the Good Enough Silver Mine- the reason that Tombstone became Tombstone in the first place. There are still some fine examples of high grade silver ore in the mine. It was fun to see and we couldn't help but feel like grabbing the drills and going to work blasting some of that "good enough" ore from the shaft and carrying it out to daylight. Each mine we visit offers us something new that we have not seen before. This was our first silver mine. It was the first time we have ever seen a train track based porta-potty made of iron (the forerunner of RV-ing???). Once again we are teamed up with Jules and Stonewall, Carol and Wayne for this tour and Gene climbed "all aboard" and did a demo of the piece of equipment (well- sorta).

Then off to the Tombstone Courthouse which has been converted into a museum. A jail cell and the gallows for the town are located in the courtyard of the museum. The nooses, with their 13 coils each, were intriguing to see against the the bright sky of the desert. The trap door used to activate the gallows during a hanging went all the way across the platform. There were five eye bolts to accommodate up to five hangings at a time. Group rates!

Then down to Fremont Street by actual horse drawn stage coach, where the Gunfight at the OK Corral took place. The Earp brothers did a number on the Clantons and McLaurys. A dramatic reenactment provided a look at how the gunfight played out, without a slant to say who was right and who was wrong. But as history goes, Wyatt Earp and his brothers are all famous, or infamous, depending on you point of view; Clantons and McLaurys who? With the ladies in the audience, Doc Holliday was numero uno.

A visit at Boot Hill, the famous cemetery on the fringe of town, coincided with the last rays of sunlight and the sunset. It was perhaps the perfect time to be there. The stories of each person buried there is told on a small cross (and the small brochure that you get with the price of a two dollar donation to help maintain the cemetery). It was the perfect punctuation to our Tombstone visit. Like other cemeteries before it, and maybe even more so...this was a moving experience.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tombstone- The Town Too Tough To Die

Wyatt Earp. Doc Holliday. Just a few of the names associated with a town perhaps more known for the deaths that happened here than for the lives that were lived out. "The town too tough to die" is how they promote themselves these days. And while we found some excellent shops, a great cafe (O.K. Cafe- home of the buffalo burger) and some enterprising businesses, we also found many an empty building, store hours that had been cut back to weekend only during season, and some shops that were more dead than alive. Clearly the economy has hurt the town. We would still like to get back into town to see the gun fight at the O.K Corral. And we will certainly go into the silver mine that starts just off main street and actually develops UNDER the town of Tombstone. It was a slow day in town: a fifty fifty mix of tourists and characters in the costume of the time. We had a leisurely self guided tour. The history of the place seemed to come to life in the gentle desert breeze that blew through town. Certainly the history of the place will never die.

The silver mine in town still has veins of silver, and other important minerals as well, including some used to make gun powder....but like other "mines" and mining operations we have visited- there is sometimes more opportunity in mining the tourists than in mining the minerals.

The slide show that follows will provide a glimpse of the images around town. We were delighted to see a modern Bank of America offering full service in the old bank building. Thanks to them for allowing "us customer-type gunslingers" to photograph the inside of the bank. Very neat.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Single Finger Salutation

You're driving down the road in New Mexico. Any road. Or you're taking your daily walk along the side of the road in New Mexico. Any road. And you notice that every driver that sports New Mexico plates is passing you, almost without exception, and raising a single finger, an index finger (important to the story), as though in some sort of "point" skyward. Two hands on the wheel; one finger waves "howdy." It's a New Mexico thing...and it's much more universal than you might think. No one takes the hand off the wheel and waves. No one tips a hat. No flash of the headlights. Just that single finger salutation.

If that makes New Mexico sound like a pretty gosh darn friendly place, well then so be it. But, then, that's a surface thing. I mean, I never did meet any of those individuals expressing their greeting with that single finger gesture. They might be very nice. They might not. I just assume they are because, after all, they took the time to raise their finger as they drove by. It's a nice thing to do, regardless of whatever may be behind the idea. In Honduras, when we lived there, if someone gestured to you while passing each other on a winding road, they called it "hailing" you. Same thing, different gesture, different place and time.

We had an excellent Christmas and New Year's eve with our friends in New Mexico while staying at Arrey RV Park and taking in the sights and sounds of the area. Best end-of-year holiday I've had in some time. Good friends. Good food. Good prospecting. Good campfires. Lots of laughter. Camaraderie. Everything you think will make for a good time anywhere, any time.

So when we got up early the morning of the 2nd of the new year, fought off the near zero temps to get ready to roll we felt pretty darn good. About our time in New Mexico. About the prospects for the new year. About life in general. We headed down the highway slowly so as to let the ice cold tire air warm slowly and safely. The early morning light on the mountains was beautiful. I took a sip of my coffee. Ahhhhhhh.

Back when we had first pulled into camp and Marilyn went in to get us registered and make any necessary arrangements, the older woman who owns the camp was working the desk, sucking cigarette smoke from the butt hanging out of her mouth and sucking oxygen from the plastic tubes shoved up her nostrils. Seemed like a poor combination, but to each his own. For whatever reason, and you can draw your own conclusions as you deem appropriate, the owner was literally unable to figure out the cost of a 10 day stay at her own camp. Repeatedly she asked Marilyn for what Marilyn knew was too little. Repeatedly Marilyn tried to help her reach an appropriate amount. Finally in frustration, the owner ventured that "just give me a hundred bucks and we won't have to charge you for the electricity- otherwise someone has to go out and read the meter...." In light of what others were paying (125 a month plus electricity) that seemed fair for a big rig so we wrote the check and that was that. We set up camp. The 30 amp service worked; the 110 did not. Oh, well. All right........

Or was it? Now nearly 10 miles down the road, cruising along with sunshine and smiles on our faces, two guys in a pickup truck are making like they are robbing a stagecoach and trying to push us, force us over to the side of the road. They were making a few gestures of their own. Haven't seen those gestures from the good folks of New Mexico!

Having few good options we pulled to the side when we were able. We steadfastly refused to open the door (had no idea who they were), instead telling the two hombres to come to the driver's window and talk to me...which they then did:

"You didn't pay your bill!" said a young man who we subsequently learned was the grandson of the huffing and puffing owner and had himself, if the story was true, just been released from jail for Christmas. What a nice gesture.

"What the heck are you talking about? We paid the bill when we arrived, before we even set up camp."

"Not the electric. You owe us for electric, and you're just trying to skip out early without paying."

Now since you already heard the beginning of this conversation in prose form, I'll skip ahead here. But we knew we had paid; the owner should have known we paid. So what was all this about anyway?

"Well, for discussion sake, even though we know we already paid what was asked in full, how much do you think we owe you?"

"Eighteen dollars," said Billy The Kid.

"And how do you figure that? May I ask...."

"It's the difference between the initial meter reading" (the one they said they didn't want to have to go take) "and the end reading."

Now all this seemed like a bunch of hooey to us, but for 18 dollars who wanted to drive all the way back there and get into this matter again and again. Certainly not us. We had already learned that dealing with these challenged folks was, well, challenging. So we reached for a twenty and as I was ready to hand it to The Kid, he came back to the window, this time on a cell phone. Now it seemed the manager, the owner's son and The Kid's dad (I know- it confuses me too) is on the phone and is demanding we return immediately to camp to pay him what has now become 68 dollars for the electric. Failure to return right here right now, he says "will result in my calling the sheriff and having you arrested."

How nice! Happy New Year to you too, Ratchet Rick. Needless to say we go back. Can't chance not resolving this and there-by making it worse. All we should have to do, really, is review the original conversation with Puff the Magic Dragon. We are no longer happy, smiling, feeling the sunshine of the fresh year on our faces.

But another twist. Puff either is lying that she didn't have that first conversation with us about paying up front including electricity in the first place... or she just plain can't remember, doesn't remember, and never told anyone else. Either way, this is not good. A matter of competence or a matter of design....can't really say for sure. But it felt a lot like the latter by this point.

"So how did we get up to 68 dollars here? Billy The Kid here told us you wanted 18 dollars..."

But before I could continue, The Kid says, "That was only a suggestion, Sir!"

"A suggestion? Really? You suggest I pay an additional 18 dollars and your papa here suggests I pay an extra 68 dollars or you will have us arrested? Really? A suggestion? Sounds more like an extortion to me, but whatever....."

Did I mention we did have a receipt? No matter; receipts mean nothing at this campground.

Since I have no idea about the relationship between Puff, The Kid, The Ratchet and the Sheriff, (although I had half a notion to find out), we paid our bill....again...and headed down the road. There are battles that must be fought. There are those that should be fought, but can't be won anyhow even if they are fought. Guess this was one of those.

We won't be going back to Arrey RV. Ever. I might suggest you don't go there either, unless of course you find pure joy in paying for your stay over and over. Your call! We learned subsequent to this experience that we are certainly not the only guests to be told one thing by the gang leader only to be way-laid by her posse. So enter these here parts with caution.

The rest of the trip to the border with Arizona was uneventful. Folks along the way continued their pleasant single finger salute, and as we have now become accustomed, we returned it more often than not. No one else tried to force us off the road. No sheriff cars appeared in the rear view mirror.

And as the dotted line on the GPS map that signals the border between states met the icon of the coach traveling that route, I offered up a symbolic single finger salute of my own to the "family feud" that owns Arrey RV Park..... only this time,................. I used a different finger.

PS: Yes. There is a PS to this accounting. The strip of highway 187 where Arrey RV Park is to be found is just dotted with very small RV Parks- all of which look pretty much alike. Some of the other parks have small stores, even a fuel station. And it seems, after speaking with several of the other owners that we MAY have actually wound up in the wrong park- not the one that was recommended by someone back East who had stayed here before. No matter. Aside from this episode- good times were had by all. And a good story is just that!