Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ursula Leaves the State, Day 10: Sunday, November 25, 2012

I woke up in not-so-scenic Ft. Stockton when the sun rose, about 7, then waited for Lee to get up and take me HOME. Every vacation must come to an end! Unfortunately, he had been having bad dreams and waking up a lot, so he slept another hour and a half. I spent time cleaning mud off the carpet from last night and taking pictures. I had to take one of Ursula while she was still relatively clean!
Clean Ursula! Gleaming in the morning sun of Ft. Stockton.
We were trying to take an alternate route home, but it though it had wind farms, it had no truck stops, so we had to go find a truck stop in Ozona.
Yep, those are windmills.
Now, that was a nasty one, though Ozona itself was a cute town. As I type we are back on the back roads, two hours until home. The highlight of the trip was getting to see some new vistas right after Junction, where we got off the interstate. There were some fun views of the wind farms out there, and a surprising visit to Iran! Well, really it was Iraan, and I think the extra “a” means “America.” It was a typical small, Western town.
Where's the nuclear plant? Oh yeah...none here EITHER.

The low-light was definitely the amount of deer carnage on the side of the road. Wow, a lot of wasted meat. But, not to worry, plenty of venison was harvested this weekend, judging from the number of vehicles we passed with huge coolers attached. I think a lot of good deer hunting went on this weekend. Most of the little towns had signs saying “welcome hunters” on them.
I was ready to go home. Nice earrings, though. Thanks, Lee.

This was truly lovely vacation. We rested, had fun, and visited folks in just right proportions. But we are ready to be home and see the kids, dogs, and new patio!

As for Ursula, it’s back to the shop, or maybe even shops, to figure out the mystery of the malfunctioning turn signals and slide-out. It’s always something with Ursula! But we had fun, anyway! And other than a bug-filled windshield, she’s a lot cleaner.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ursula Leaves the State, Day 9: Saturday, November 24, 2012

Our last morning in Alamogordo. As we secured things and cleaned Ursula for the trip back, Jan and Tara came by to say goodbye. Tara went with me to the pistachio ranch for stocking up on nuts, weird wine and coffee. She was so good that the owner gave her a free bag of pistachios!

Tara says goodbye to the pistachio. Well, she lives there, so she can see it again.

It was no trouble getting back to Las Cruces in time to return the Malibu.  

We found a hat rack in Ursula's bedroom! The hats stayed up there the whole way!
And from there we headed back east, saying goodbye to El Paso and Border Patrol checkpoints. We took Ursula to a truck wash in Socorro, Texas. However much it cost, it was worth it, because all those dudes with sprayers cleaned the heck out of her. She really was filthy, too. It was worth the delay. She even got her tires cleaned.
Ursula's in the truck wash. The truck in front of us sure got clean.

After that it was just driving and driving, wishing the turn signals worked but glad the headlights did work.
I loved Lee's creative use of the bungee cord to keep things under control.
Ursula's command post has been brought into the modern age.

We kept a-going until we got to Ft. Stockton. Lee said let’s stop, so we found a sort of run-down RV park, aptly named “I-10 RV Park.” It did the trick, though.
Classy trees that buffered us from the intrastate, sort of--this was sunrise the next day.

We discovered good news and bad news. The good news was that Lee finally found where the switch to turn the LP gas on was. That meant I could actually cook dinner, finally. At least I got to make one real meal! The bad news is that the lounge slide made a bad noise, like it fell off the track. Great. Something else to fix. At least we were able to slide the bedroom out, and most important, the slide went in, so we could get home!

Lessons learned: If something has to break, at least it should break in a way that does not inhibit movement of the vehicle. And, well, they sure can hide controls in these darn things.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Ursula Leaves the State, Day 8: Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday dawned and we knew it was our last day to see sights, so off we went, with minimal dawdling. We headed back up north again, this time heading west when we got to Corrizoso. There we found the Valley of Fires Natural Area. Now, this one fascinating geological formation. It’s an immense lava field that covered a huge valley with up to 65 feet of black lava. All kinds of beautiful plants grow in it, and some of the local wildlife has developed darker coloration to blend in with the lava.
Valley of Fires. These are the Malpais, or badlands.

A man amid the lava flow

Lots of these caves are collapsed lava tubes

These are the cool cactus that make holey sticks.

A 400-year-old juniper, not the kind that took over the land around our house.

A dead tree!

It's so pretty in an austere way

The park was really well designed, with all the campsites having great views. The staff was very friendly and helpful, too. The part I was most impressed with was the trail, which was completely wheelchair accessible and had a very informative brochure that went with it. We had a great time photographing the plants and rocks, and even some birds. I hope it you are ever near here that you stop here. I am so glad one of my Facebook friends recommended it to us!
Cool lava

What an intrepid sotol! It found a place to take root!

You can see exactly how the lava flowed.
On our way to Carizzoso, we stopped at the Three Rivers trading post near the petroglyphs. I just wanted a drink, but we ended up staying a long time. This place was packed with really GOOD Native American art and crafts. The owner knew everyone who did the art, too—she did beadwork and framed the paintings (some of which were spectacular). I ended up getting an inlaid bear ring and a turquoise ring, plus two nice baskets that were hand woven. I put our souvenir rocks in one, and will use the other for apples and such in Ursula—they won’t break! Lee got us some wind chimes made of horseshoes and a really cool knife with an obsidian blade.
Three Rivers Trading Post, which is apparently in a historic building.

So, after the Valley of Fires, we looked for a place to eat in Carizzoso. We found a cafĂ© with friendly staff and free wireless, a thing I had missed so much (I still haven’t managed to download the Audubon app I bought in Las Cruces). This place had my favorite green chile sauce of the trip, and some delicious fried green chile strips I ordered on a whim. Glad I did! I am so glad we avoided chain restaurants and tried all these mom and pop places this week. It was a lot of fun.

We then fired up the Malibu for one last scenic visit, this time we left the black lava for our second visit to White Sands National Monument. It was much more crowded this time, but still eerily beautiful. The late afternoon sun cast lovely light on the sand formations. We were able to find a place where we could hike without people all over us, which made it better. It was fun to see kids sliding in the sand and doggies frolicking, though.
Sand waves plus shadows of plants.

It's just so ethereal!

Lee made a mark on the sand with his new sotol cane. Yep, two canes this trip, but he was a sturdy fellow!

This could hypnotize you!

These are the crystals that form when there is moisture. They break down to form the sand.

As it got later, things took on a golden tone.

I liked how the ripples made shadows. it was a good time of day to photograph them.

So cool how the colors change from cool to warm.

White girl in the white sand. Good thing I wore the brown hat!

We had thought we were having dinner with Jan and girls, but they had gone to Las Cruces for that Friday shopping thing people do. So instead we listened to music in the evening, thanks to Lee having figured a way to hook his iPad up to the new sound bar.  And oh yeah, we plugged in the Christmas lights, in that American "it's after Thanksgiving so it must be Christmas now" tradition.

Christmas RV.
Lessons Learned: There's touristy souvenirs and then there's art souvenirs. I am glad we found some good stuff.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ursula Leaves the State, Day 7: Thanksgiving Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ah, the conflicted American holiday. I am not big on celebrating bringing disease and ruin to a bunch of cultures, but I do like the idea of pausing to be grateful for your abundance. And I do love (and dearly miss) my family’s traditional meal, which I hope to be able to celebrate again some day. But the past few years have definitely brought some new and interesting experiences. This year, at least, it was more relaxed! (Remember last year, the year of turkey cold cuts? And how much heavier I was a year ago--happy anniversary to my diet!)

This year I got up, showered and quickly cut up vegetables to make dressing, and got cranberry sauce ready to cook. I now regret taking my own saucepan, because I left the lid at Jan’s house. No way to retrieve it, so I will need to get a new small saucepan for Ursula. Not a huge deal--but I need to think better.

Once we were all dressed and ready, we headed to Jan’s, where daughter Jayme had been cooking up a storm, and the turkey was baking.
Our lovely hostesses (from earlier in the week)
My dressing and cranberry sauce, plus Cindy's potatoes.

 I got the food going, and soon Lee’s other niece, Cindy, got off work (she cleans at a hotel) and joined us. She made mashed potatoes from scratch. 
Cooking away!!
The kids made quite a spread of appetizers, too. We watched football a bit, and chatted with Jan’s elderly Veteran friend she’d invited.
Appetizer World! The girls did all this! Jayme especially worked hard.
The food came out really good, and it sure was a pleasant time--lots of banter, chatting and humor. Plus there was the mystery of the fallen egg. No one would admit to dropping it first on the poor plant and then on the floor!
The egg just sat there, because no one would fess up to dropping it. Perhaps whoever did it just didn't notice.

I also really enjoyed their parrot, which had been Lee's sister's before. What an entertaining fellow Crackers is. And he's just middle aged--in his 30s.
Crackers is at right, hanging out with the family!
I enjoyed talking to the girls a lot—ages 10-13. They were very well behaved and nice. Lee and Jan got caught up on family lore, and I know they enjoyed that. Much fun was had.
Lee picks on his poor little great-niece.

Around sunset, Tara and I took their two Jack Russells on a walk. I got to see a covey of Gambrel’s quail, which was cool. They live across the street from undeveloped land, so there is lots of wildlife. While we were out, one dog’s collar broke, so Tara had to carry her home. A few minutes after she got home, she was covered in welts. Apparently she is not just allergic to cats! They had no Benadryl, so after a chat with Lee’s dad, we went back to Ursula so they could get some. Poor kid sure was itchy!

Lessons Learned: Eggs are tricky. And everyone should keep Benadryl around, in case a sudden allergy arises.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ursula Leaves the State, Day 6: Wednesday, November 21, 2012

As usual we enjoyed coffee before heading out of town, I had a request for an interior shot of Ursula, so here's one I took of how she looks when being lived in, complete with shoes and such.
Life in Ursula. Note my handy portable tavle, and the fan plus heater in the back. The fan got put away later.
Today was another day of scenery viewing for me and driving for Lee. I sure appreciate all the driving he did. I had wanted to see some of the small towns north of Alamogordo, so we went up to Tullarosa, which looked quaint, but not worth a stop, and continued on to Ruidoso (like in Austin, a Spanish word not pronounced in Spanish). The road went past the Mescalero Apache reservation and it was in lovely woods, with signs saying to watch for deer, elk and wild horses! Most everyone there seemed to have horses, too.

Ruidoso was a very nice resort town, and there were lots of very well dressed people on the street. Nearly all women under 30 had on Uggs. Lots of furry boots. The place was a shopping paradise, with lots of stuff you can’t find in Austin. I hereby admit to shopping. I got some cute tops in a very nice boutique, plus in another place I got a beautiful Pendleton wool/alpaca cardigan and the fake fur vest I had been wanting to get all season.
The vest and a really soft shirt I got. Plus another photo of the donkey cup.
Lee almost got a really nice hat from the people who made it, but it turned out to be the first hat ever that was too BIG for him. After all that shopping we were hungry so we had even more Mexican food. It was pretty good, too.

I got a really yummy fancy pomegranate margarita. Poor Lee had to drive on mountain roads, so no margarita for him.
We slowly left Ruidoso, looking at all the nice cabins, lodges and vacation homes, then proceeded on to the Three Rivers petroglyphs. On the way we passed acres and acres of burned forest—the fires that were going on up in NM while the ones were burning near us last year. It must have been beautiful before, and I hope it is again.
Sad burned forest.
We got to the petroglyphs around 5 pm, which means we got to watch the sunset. There were lots of interesting clouds in the sky, and the mountains kept changing colors. We got nice photos of the rock drawings and the scenery! This was the second time we visited this site, but it is so beautiful it is worth repeating! The little shop at the exit was closed, so we planned to see it on Friday.

I am showing considerable restraint in uploading only a few photos. The light on the mountains was just breathtaking. So, fewer words, more images.
Petroglyphs in front, and camping area below. Three Rivers Petroglyphs.

Birdie from folks hundreds of years ago.

Late afternoon sun hits the rocks.

The mountains before the sun set. 

As the sun went down, it illuminated just parts of the mountain.

One of my favorite petroglyphs. Pretty sure there's a picture of this same one in my old blog.

Another fave, the person wearing earrings. Thinking this might be a good Facebook avatar.

Wow. The light. I can hardly believe how many colors are in these sunsets.

This is probably the one I would have made if I were one of those petroglyph painting people.

Here is one where you can really see the snow on the mountain as well as the clouds hugging it.
I believe that's Sierra Blanca.

One last glorious view of clouds, Sierra blanca, and amazing shades of sunset.

Facing west, where you can't see the scenery, but you sure can see some clouds!
We headed back, stopped to get groceries for Thanksgiving at (I am so sorry) Wal-Mart,* snacked for dinner, and watched another movie.

*I have some lovely friends who work for Wal-Mart and Sam’s, and am glad they have jobs. However, wow, I can’t think of any other way to register my dislike of their business practices than to not give them my money. That’s how capitalism works, right? Vote with your pocketbook! So, the only two times I have been in one of those stores in the past decade were when we got batteries for Ursula in Cuero last year, and this time, because we could not get the GPS to tell us where the grocery store was (it finally came up with it the next day!).