Thursday morning after a day spent loading up the Motor Home and fastening the Jeep behind it, we eased our way down into the valley 15 miles away where our younger Grandaughter awaited our arrival. After loading her gear, and saying goodby to her Mom, we drove away from their home. As I thought over the plan, I recalled the load of yard tools in the back of the Jeep that were to be off loaded at her home.
A leisurely trip around the neighborhood and pulling up in front of their home for a second time, we were greeted by her Mom watering her flowers with a puzzled look on her face. I explained about the yard tools as I unloaded them onto the grass. Her Mom carried them in as we left again. This time all was well. These little setbacks are common place whenever we take our home along for the ride as we move to various locations around the country.
Climbing the bluff to the west and up through the City of Rio Rancho we encountered many stoplights. This was at one time, a shortcut to the highway heading North to our Durango Colorado AlpenRose RV park about 240 miles (386km) away. No more of that luxury driving without stoplights. Now there are so many stops and starts, that it is no longer a shortcut. Much developement has happened across this barren mesa over the past 50 years. A complete city now exists, where only vast sand and sage mesas once were. The modern well planned homes interspersed with businesses large and small, stretch across the horizon in every direction. At one time this was one of my favorite motorcycle riding areas. The jack rabbits and coyotes were our only companions as we jumped over sand hills and sped up the dry arroyos with our powerful dirt racing motorcycles.
In the springtime when the Rio Grande River runs full with the mountains snow melt, we would load up our huge rubber raft on top of our big family van filled to the maximum with family, accompanied by other cars, drive up through the fledgeling City and 'put in' at the large empty Rivers Edge North of Rio Rancho. A leisurely float of a few hours would bring us, including a few hundred other rafters, down to the Alameda bridge where a rendevous with our designated driver was welcomed.
Fun times for the families involved, spraying each other with water and cheering as we floated along, dining on our snacks. Some floated on home designed rafts and many inner tubes and air mattresses to freeze on. It was chaos but fun. The creative genius behind the designs were evident everywhere, with an 'Adobe Submarine' built of styrofoam, carved and painted to look like a Southwest style Adobe home complete with Vigas. It was very big but extremely light for it's size.
A number of rowers sat astride as it glided effortlessly down the river. One woman said as it floated by, I didn't know Adobe floated? another was carved to look like a small Fiat Spyder sports car with its open top and inside seating for two. Many barge types were foam carved in shapes to suit the fancies of the designers. This year it was again held, but to a much smaller crowd than in years past. Also the 'put in' and 'take out' areas have often changed due to new developments along the river. We gave away the huge raft last year as our family has dispersed amid the other events that involve their lives.
We approached the highway intersection West of Bernalillo and finally banked left, heading North on Highway 44 toward Colorado. The homes now stretch over each horizon in this direction as well. A large Casino and entertainment facility is just another 'anchor' to this piece of land as well as many other areas of New Mexico. Homes now stretch Westward up the long hill and down through the dry canyons and arroyos for many miles past the once remote military reserve training site, it now is surrounded by new homes.
The drive Northwesterly across this quadrant of New Mexico is always a lesson in Geography with it's multi colored, hundreds of layers of sediment erroded away by millions of years of exposure to the elements. The land mass has raised and lowered many times, even submerged for millenia to give the appearance of a science fiction world. I don't believe any other world can even begin to compare to our own Earth created for our own plesures.
The volcanos that once ruled over this highway are still deep underground and active in producing hot mineral springs along the road. I stopped in, many times years ago when a small business was located near the hot springs. They sold pie and coffee along with an array of sandwiches and a series of hot pools to rest in. No longer is there a sign of it unless the steam from the hot water rises in the cool morning air.
The climb in altitude is fairly gradual but definetly noticeable, most times above 7,000 feet. The little town of Cuba New Mexico is an oasis of sorts, half way along this 170 mile stretch of sparcely populated, well maintained open highway of four lanes. For many long years it was only a dirt trail, then a two lane narrow paved road that claimed many lives as it wound endlessly through the Indian Reservaton lands. In this remote area, an accident was oftentimes fatal due to the lack of fast responding medical care. It still is a long wait if anything goes wrong. Always be well prepared when crossing this path toward the 'Four Corners' of the Southwest. That advice carries immense weight whenever any trip across the Western USA is planned. The shear beauty of it is well worth the adventure risks.
Cuba NM is basically only holding it's ground. In times past the trucks would park along the side of the highway as the drivers went into the little restaurants for meals. NO PARKING signs are all through town now. Not many trucks stop here as in the past. We were no exception, after turning around one time and finding no empty parking area close to the restaurants.
We see new business being built and homes still under construction everywhere we go...in any community that has any business sense. A favorable tax structure has to be in place to encourage that though. One of which is 'Rio Rancho' for just one example.
The truely dead towns, on the other hand, are those that subsist on wellfare and government subsidies for everything. Their land is prohibitive to buy, because the owners have no incentive to sell. Their old decrepit hovels are sufficient to encourage government sysmpathy and monthly checks, why kill the goose that lays the golden eggs? Just more examples of Communism in action right here in the USA.
Without stopping in Cuba (name fits) we turned back North and continued up through the beautiful mountain area North of town, known as the Continental Divide.
The Ponderosa Pines line the highway and stretch into the surrounding mountains and valleys as far as you can see. The La Jara Land Grant is still a ranching operation with the moisture laden clouds giving the nutrients in the soil a chance to green up the entire landscape.
Further on, the higher elevation flatens out while crossing a high desert. An Indian Casino under a massive white tent is now active even along this relatively lonely stretch of highway. At one time the drivers called this spot 'The Teepee's due to the highway department installing shelters for the roadside tables. It was a welcome rest stop for many years.
The old trading posts are now just small quick stop type stores for soft drinks and snacks. At one time the large trading posts were the anchors for the surrounding Indian inhabitants of the Navajo Tribal Lands. Fifty years ago the countless green wagons with rubber car tires were seen pulled by two horses or mules along a pathway near the highway. The native occupants wore traditional colorful clothing as they rode along on their way to and from their destinations far away from home. I liken them to the first RV'ers.
As a young man driving and working the Southwest, I thought it would always be this way and never took pictures of this colorful lifestyle as I sped along in my truck toward the towns along my route.
The advent of the relatively cheap pickup truck being easily aquired by the families, changed all of that within a few short years. No more are the green horse drawn wagons to be seen anywhere across the Reservation of today.
The Navajo Indian Irrigation Project on this high desert built by the Corps of Engineers about fifty years ago is still producing crops. Due to it's Agrarian Refom concept, it always produces the crops at a huge net loss financially. Fortunately the taxpayers of our nation still have excess wealth to support this folly now known as the NAPI (Navajo Agricultural Products Industry)
Bloomfield New Mexico lies at the lower elevetion not far from the river that originally gave this four Corners area it's lifeblood. Of course today that is the industry that formed around the oil and gas reserves prevelant in New Mexico. A great percentage of our State as well as National wealth is from those reserves and their developement.
Lunch was at the local fast food stop Lota Burger Easy to park near, so no problem leaving the vehicle for a time. After a quick lunch we proceeded to climb over the hill to Aztec New Mexico along the rivers pathway. The change to highway 550 now climbs up through the elevation across the high mesa toward the Colorado state line and Durango our destination. Many Deer are seen along this route at various times of the year. Mostly the Deer are jumping in front of cars and trucks in the fall and mostly at night. Not a friendly encounter for motorists. A very tall Deer Fence lines a portion of this highway. Only the very tall Deer can jump it.
The decent into Durango involves a little first gear engine braking then we weave through town to the North valley where our 'Alpen Rose' RV park is located just past the air strip lined with many gliders. The air currents in this group of mountains are perfect for the gliders being pulled aloft by the retired, powerful crop duster aircraft.
The 'sign in' went better than expected and we were rewarded for our early arrival by a spot in the trees rather than the open meadow where our reservation was confirmed. As soon as we arrived and parked with the assistance of the golf cart driver, we disconnected the Jeep and drove out to the Bar D Wranglers Chuckwagon Dinner site for the evening of Bar B Que and entertainment reserved for us by our park host. The food was served in a well organised lineup of several hundred people with aluminum plates and cups. A choice of chicken, beef or steak depending on your choice at registration. When we finally disposed of our plates the music started.
The Western songs and the cowboy entertainers were great as always. Cy Scarborrough was the originator about 50 years ago and still performs nightly with his renditions of 'Possum in the Pan' and many other fun songs and stories. The Bass player does his tongue twisting rendition of 'Old Mcdonald had a farm'. This version has many strange animals and their sounds. As we left well after dark to return to our Motor Home in the Park, it was about 10 pm.
The next morning we all three slept in, due to the long day before. I did pool watch later in the day while our one younger grandaughter swam with many other kids. Afterwards a little fishing came up but the older reel failed to work correctly for her, and the fish were not fond of salmon eggs. She can cast a lure like a pro when the reel works. Later while exploring the surrounding pastures, she discovered a yellow single strand of rope fence, leaning against it, she also discovered electricity.
Later that fence proved a fun item for the younger Grandaughter to show other kids... without touching it herself. Horses were in the pasture and were brought in at evening to protect them from the always lurking Coyotes and such. The fenced area brought them in close proximity to the park so the kids all wanted to feed them handfuls of grass and catail fronds. One even liked to chew up the young catails themselves. Tasty?
Dawn the next morning, meant a trip to Pagosa Springs about an hour and a half East of Durango on highway 160. We were to pick up the other two girls from their week long stay at Sonlight Christion Youth Camp. The Jeep's interior seating was quickly reconfigured for transporting 5 passengers and luggage. A great scenic drive through the San Juan Mountains of Southern Colorado on highway 160 and over the famous Wolf Creek Pass brought us to Pagosa Springs. When we arrived at 'Sonlight', the excited kids were everywhere. A pile of homeade cinnamon rolls and coffee were my attraction.
These delicious bread style rolls made by Mary at 4 am this morning, were my reason to make this entire trip. Well, the rolls and to pick up the grand kids. My Grandmother made rolls this exact same way. These rolls are a trip back in time for me. Mary was busy so I could not thank her. Jan gave me a bag of them to freeze for later when I wanted to do a little 'Time Travel' sitting in my Grandmother's kitchen, drinking a cup of hot coffee and eating fresh homemade cinnamon rolls. She actually always fixed me a cup of coffee every morning from the first times of my memory. I still like a cup every morning. Her rolls were the by-product of her regular 'bread baking'. We never had 'store bought' bread, or much of anything else for that matter.
The camps recap of the week, 'slide show' is on DVD, so Their Grandmother bought each one of the Grandaughters one for memories. They had fun at this Sonlight Christian Youth Camp as usual. One of the girls had never attended camp before and her younger sister will most likely attend next year. After the closing festivities ended, we drove back down out of the hills and around Pagosa Springs having a great Chinese lunch at 'Hunan' near the East side of town. A few local shops to browse and we drove back over the famous Wolf Creek Pass, the 75 miles (120km)to our RV Park and our vacation home on wheels.
The three girls spent the rest of their day in the pool splashing around and meeting new friends. Meeting Ashley and Megan attracted most of their time. The girls are from the area around Albuquerque so they possibly will meet again some time. Morning brought the preparation for departure along with one last fun filled wetting session at the pool.
We flushed the holding tanks at the dump station in the Park and left at 11 am for the Southward bound highway through Durango. A stop again in business friendly Bloomfield NM for lunch at Kentucky Fried Chicken and we rolled along down the road for home. Dropping off the girls to finaly be reunited with their parents, afterward re-filling the fuel tanks at Sam's Club for $3.57 US per gallon (3.8L) and return to home terminal. We cleaned out and stored the rig for the next trip somewhere in this Greatest Nation the world has ever seen. Any suggestions?
God Bless this One Nation Under GOD and protect it from those that seek to destroy it, including our possible 'future' leaders. Shameful we recently started to elect our leaders in an 'Idol' style popularity contest rather than their educational assets. The most progressive countries use Engineering, Scientific and Economic degrees as criteria for leadership. We use 'dime a dozen' law degrees. GOD most surely is our protector in such a system.