Find us on Google+ Rick and JoAnne's RV Travels: April 2013

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Time of Joy - Congratulations David!


We left Albuquerque on a flight to St. Louis so we could share in the joy of our grandson David’s First Communion. What a pleasure to see everyone and celebrate the happiness of this very special day.
In May of 2011 we had done the very same trip, except that time we traveled to St. Louis in our RV to share in the celebration of our granddaughter Addison’s First Communion. We were elated we didn’t take the RV this time and drive from New Mexico to Missouri, as that was the time of great storms in the southwest and Midwest.

Our oldest son Jeff, daughter-in-law Maggie and kids are members of St. Justin Martyr Church. Many of you will remember how supportive and kind the parishioners and friends of that church were when Jeff and Maggie’s home burned a little over a year ago. As a note, the home is now all new, and just beautiful!!!!

The event itself was wonderful! What an honor to participate! We are so proud of David as well as his sister Addison. They learned, memorized, and practiced so when the actual service began they all did amazingly well.

I’m not sure what it is about these events that make me cry. As Rick and I were sitting in the pew waiting for the Communioncants to arrive, I could feel my bottom jaw starting to quiver. When I finally caught the eye of our grandson entering the church, I had all I could do not to start a full blown tear fest. Was it pride in what a fine young man David is developing in to? Was it a feeling of sadness that he has grown so quickly and now here he was with his suit and tie on? Or…just plain happiness for him! I’m thinking they were tears of joy in being so proud of him and being able to share in a life accomplishment of his. This happens to me a lot, especially when there is a joyous event with our grown children and now our grandchildren.

As a side benefit to being with our St. Louis family, we were able to go out to dinner, participate in baseball practices, watch great soccer games, and be treated to a karaoke concert by Addie and David.

What a great, great time! I’m hopeful the photos will convey the fun events and pride!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Trinity Site


Just because we have not blogged in two weeks doesn’t mean we have not been busy doing fun and interesting stuff.

We have been in Albuquerque for the past 10 days. While here we have visited the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, Petroglyph National Monument, and Albuquerque Old Town. However, the main reason came to Albuquerque was to have access to the airport for a flight to St. Louis for our Grandson’s First Communion (a separate post on this is forthcoming).

Flat Stanley at Petroglyph NM
San Filipe de Neri Church
Albuquerque Old Town

Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
I need to back up here. Yes, we have enjoyed ABQ but the highlight of the last couple of weeks (besides the trip to St. Louis) was our visit to the Trinity Site.

While at the Valley of Fires Recreation Area we learned that the Trinity Site (spot where the first atomic bomb was detonated) is open to the public only two days a year – the first Saturdays in April and October. So, we decided to stay in the area for a couple of more days and visit Trinity on Saturday April 6.
(Staying also gave us a chance to re-visit Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.)

Early Saturday morning we headed to the Stallion Range Center Entry point on the north end of White Sands Missile Range. We got to the entrance check-point at 7:45 about 15 minutes before it opened. We didn’t really know what to expect. This place is out in the middle of nowhere and not close to anything – would there be a crowd? Indeed, there was. We joined the line of cars about ½ mile from the gate. 

At the checkpoint you are given a pamphlet, which covers the history of Trinity. You also get a list of the rules. Stuff like no pictures until you reach ground zero, no stopping, no weapons, and no taking Trinitite from the site. What is Trinitite? It is a green glass like substance that was formed at the time of the blast by turning sand into Trinitite and it is considered an artifact from a National Historic Landmark.

 Once you go through the check-point and enter the Stallion Range you travel about 17 miles into White Sands Missile Range before you get to Ground Zero. At the site military and range employees help with everything from parking cars, staffing information, souvenir and food booths to serving as docents and site guides for what I would estimate the 2,500 visitors that were there during the two hours we stayed at the site.

After parking we walked about 100 yards to a fenced off area and Ground Zero where we walked around the atomic blast created creator. Well, not really a creator any longer. Since the blast, what was the creator has been filled with sand. If not for the markers, plaques, fence, signs, and postings the site would be indistinguishable from the surrounding landscape.  It is hard to wrap your head around the fact that this is not only where an explosion occurred that lead to the end of the war in the Pacific but also ushered in the Atomic age.

Flat Stanley at Ground Zero

While at Ground Zero you can also visit McDonald Ranch. 

This is where the plutonium core was assembled in a “clean room” – you know it was a clean room because there was as sign telling you to wipe your feet! Really…this little farmhouse was where a bomb that changed the world was assembled? Again, hard to imagine. 

JoAnne and I were both glad we changed our plans and got a chance to visit Trinity. During the last several weeks we have been visiting ancient pueblo sites, missions, frontier forts, and ghost towns. Making the leap from the early history of the area to the start of the atomic age is… well “one giant step”.

There is so much information, history, and interesting stories associated with the Manhattan Project and this site – more than I can or should try to cover in this post. I will let you check them out if you are interested in learning more.

Oh.. And no, JoAnne and I do not glow in the dark.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Salinas Pueblo Missions


What a long day…yet a wonderful day exploring the Salinas Pueblo Mission National Monument which are made up of three separate pueblo and mission ruins! The ruins are not easy to get to but oh my goodness; it is well worth the 200 mile adventure from our home base at Valley of Fires. Each mission had its own unique flavor, beauty, history and story, leading each one to being "our favorite" for a different reason.

The route we traveled took us first to  Gran Quivira (also known as Las Humanas). This is the largest of the three Salinas Pueblos. They were an important trade center before the arrival of the Spanish. With the existing church structures and previously excavated and  explored mounds (some now covered) it was an impressive site. 

I would like to mention here, that each ranger we met at each of the ruins were all were very receptive to our multitude of questions and most helpful in providing history  stories and background information. They explained the religious strife between the Pueblo peoples and the missionaries and filled us in on the daily life at the pueblo and mission. 

The conflict between the traditional tribal religious leaders and the Spanish Catholic missionaries lead to the burning of the kivas. Add to that the Apache raids and a severe drought caused famine and it is easy to understand why the 500 inhabitants abandoned the pueblo in the 1670s. This site was our favorite in terms of size and history.

The next stop was the Quarai ruin. WOW! The red stone walls of this old Spanish mission are spectacular. I’m not sure if the photos depict how your breath is taken away by their beauty…but it was!

This mission was established around 1629 on an existing Tiwa pueblo. This mission was also vacated in the 1670s due to the constant Indian raids and drought. An interesting historical tidbit: the practice of the Spanish Inquisition took place here. This was our favorite in terms of beauty. 

The last stop was Abo, probably the most interesting in that the Sisneros family who lived in the area before this was part of the US still live on the site. The grave of Park Ranger Don Federico (Fred) Sisneros (1894-1988)  is located a few steps away from the ruins. 

A condensed history of “Fred” the Park Ranger: Fred had close ties to the Abo ruins. His father helped to resettle the Abo area in 1869. Since his father owned the land, he charged his young son to care for the old mission. Fred was still the caretaker of the ruins when it became a State Monument.
In 1981 when the site became part of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, Fred became known as the “oldest Park Ranger” – and his wish was to be buried near the mission under the old Juniper tree, and by special permission the Park Service allowed the burial. Abo was our favorite in terms of personal history.

The Salinas people of this community also met the same fate as the other missions …they vacated the mission sometime between 1672 – 1678 taking refuge along the Rio Grande.

As we drove from one site to another, I could only imagine the diversity of cultures and the religious, cultural and political clashes that dominated the history of this area. It makes me wonder about our own intolerance and why we are so eager to change others to our way of thinking.

We loved the missions; the history, the beauty and the stories…yes, each was indeed a favorite.

PS A sign on the path at Gran Quivira. 

No argument here!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Roy’s Gift Gallery and Ice Cream Parlor


A quick update… this afternoon we finely made it to Roy’s - “famous (State and National Historic Landmark) for its old fashioned soda fountain. What fun. Yes, there is 1930’s ice cream parlor which is pretty cool and the Malts are well…really good.

But the best part of our visit was meeting Roy himself. Roy is a native of Carrizozo. In fact, grandfather became sheriff of Lincoln, NM during the “Lincoln Wars” after Billy the Kid and one faction of the warring groups shot the previous sheriff. This is clearly the real “outlaw” west.

We mentioned to Roy that we had extended our stay in the area to visit the Trinity Site (site where the first Atomic bomb was detonated) this coming Saturday. The site is open to the public two days of the year – the first Saturday in April and October. Roy was 13 and living here in Carrizozo on July 16, 1945  - 35 miles from Trinity. Here is the story of his recollection of “The Day the Bomb Exploded”. Wow!

What fun it was to sit in this tiny time machine and eat ice cream, drink a malt and hang out with the locals.

Only You Can Prevent Wildfires!


Yep! You are correct... we did visit the Smokey Bear Historical Park.

What an interesting and informative place to learn more about the little guy who became the mascot for the United States Forest Service Prevent Wildfires Campaign.

Now why do we care about this? Hmmmm…could it be the countless times as camp hosts we have put out roaring fires left by uninformed campers, or the innumerable times we have arrived at a camp site to find a smoldering fire when the fire danger is at “severe” or possibly because we are from Colorado and have experienced more than our fair share of raging wildfires started from a careless smoker, or have seen so many of our beautiful lands destroyed by irresponsible humans? Sorry for the rant!

Smokey, born in 1950 in the Lincoln National Forest near Capitan, New Mexico was found clinging to a tree, badly burned when he was about two months old. He was brought back to health in the Santa Fe area, and then transferred to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. where he became a huge hit with kids of all ages. Smokey was admired, the public loved and responded to his message and for 26 years he lived a healthy, and some would say, a productive life sharing his message. In 1976 he died, and by the urging of his many friends he was returned to the beautiful Capitan Mountains where he was born. 

He now rests in the Historical Park bearing his name.

Yep, we care and are grateful for what Smokey stands for and the positive impact his message has had and continues to have on behalf of our beautiful lands.

The sunset  was a nice finish to the day.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Valley of Fires, White Oaks and Donkeys


We pulled out of Oliver Lee Memorial State Park headed for Valley of Fires Recreation Area only 70 miles away.

The reason this BLM recreation area exists is the Malpais Lava Flow. According to the brochures, this flow was formed 5,000 years ago making it one of the youngest lava flows in the continental US. It is about 44 miles long, six miles wide and 160 feet thick in the cater.

We didn’t really know what to expect but we were presently surprised to find a great little campground with spectacular views of the lava flow and the Tularosa Basin. We set up camp and headed out to explore the area.

Since it was high noon with mid 80’s temperatures, we elected to hike the nature trail through the lava flow later in the day. Instead, we jumped in the car and headed to Carrizozo. This is a funky little town filled with small galleries and antique shops. As we drove through town everywhere we looked…Donkeys! They are even on rooftops. We were told that a stop at Roy’s Old Fashion Soda Fountain is a must but alas, he is closed on Sunday and Monday. Roy’s is on the list for Tuesday.

Our next stop was White Oaks – another one of those “almost” ghost towns. Gold was discovered here in 1879 and overnight the town grew to 2,500 residents complete with a hotel, churches, a bank, newspaper and an impressive brick schoolhouse that still stands today. This was the biggest town in the area back then but that all changed when the mines played out and the railroad changed it route to go through Carrizozo. About 50 people call White Oaks home today.

We drove around town, visited the very small but nicely done “Miner’s Home Museum” and walked around the Cedarville Cemetery which is still in use.

It was now late afternoon. The temperature had cooled - just perfect for our walk around the one mile nature trail. This trail is really well done with 14 “information” stops that do a nice job explaining the unique geology of this area. We have walked the active Kilauea lava field on the Big Island in Hawaii – I wonder how that might look 5000 years from now?

Perhaps not traditional but we both agreed it was a perfect Easter Sunday – in God’s country.