Arizona to Wyoming

On a cloudy, rain-soaked morning we packed up and left Arizona heading to our summer destination in Buffalo, Wyoming. Jim plotted our journey with the punctiliousness of an expedition to the North Pole.

Because of Lucy we decided to take a week to travel with days of driving no longer than six hours. Jim planned for nursing stops and had mapped out all the gas stations that we could easily navigate. He also found interesting roadside attractions along the way.

Our first attraction was in Hatch, New Mexico known for its hot peppers.

Hatch, New Mexico

Hatch, New Mexico

Hatch, New Mexico

On day two we stayed in a KOA in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This was the best campground of the entire trip. The children played on the playground and in the games room.

KOA Santa FeThe next morning I convinced Jim we should go into Santa Fe and do some site-seeing before resuming our trip. We were told there was a parking lot downtown where we could park our camper, we just had to find it. After several wrong turns we ended up on a dead end street and that is where, after maneuvering a 35ft camper attached to a 12 passenger van backwards down a narrow street between parked cars, Jim earned the well-deserved title of Master Driver with Expert Skills of Driving in Reverse. It was a sight to behold, but one I hope I won’t have to behold again.

After making our way through New Mexico we headed into Colorado and stopped at Grampa Jerry’s Clown Museum. Not so much a museum as a small one room house packed with clown themed paraphernalia.

grampa jerry's clown museum

Grampa Jerry's Clown Museum

Grampa Jerry's Clown Museum

Grampa Jerry's Clown Museum

I’m still having nightmare about this one. 😉

Finally in Wyoming we stop at our final roadside attraction, the Chugwater Soda Fountain. Wyoming’s oldest operating soda fountain and the only reason to stop in Chugwater.

chugwater

Chugwater Soda Fountain

I have never been to Wyoming and had you asked me where Yellowstone Park is located I would have hung my head and admitted that I had no idea. And if you would have told me that it is in Wyoming I might have questioned your geography because when driving through eastern Wyoming on I25 you could have more easily convinced me that I was on the surface of the moon.

Wyoming is the least populated state in America and parts of it are extremely flat and bare, but as you get closer to Buffalo the ground begins to rise up in rolling green hills and in the distance the snow covered peaks of the Big Horn mountains appear on the horizon.

Big HornsThis breathtaking land is where we will be spending our summer.

365 Days on the Road

April 27, 2014 we headed out on our grand adventure to see the country. We sold the majority of our belongings: minus the books, photo albums, and home videos, those went to storage, and moved our family of six into our 35 ft Zinger.

 

Getting Rid of our Belongings

 

Since that time we have lived in four different states and added to our Band of Travelers a new member, Lucy Valentina, born February 14 in New Mexico.

Lucy Valentina

 

In Texas we saw our first rodeo and climbed Enchanted Rock.Llano, TX Rodeo

Enchanted Rock TX

From there we moved on to Cloudcroft, New Mexico where we lived at an elevation of over 9000 ft with a glorious daytime temperature of 70 degrees. I saw my first herd of elk and the wild horses of the Mescalero Apache Reservation.

Cloudcroft, New Mexico

And the children had the time of their lives sledding in summer at the White Sands National Monument.

White Sands National Monument

Not finished with the Land of Enchantment we moved north to the Four Corners area where we visited 700 + year old cliff dwellings and took a six hour train ride from Durango, CO to the old mining town of Silverton.

spruce tree dwelling

Durango Silverton Train

We stayed in New Mexico longer than intended as we waited for the birth of our precious sixth child Lucy.

As winter drug on we decided it was time to move to a warmer climate and ended up in Huachuca City, AZ. Here we learned about people like Doc Holiday and Wyatt Earp. We visited Tombstone.

Oliver and Doc Holiday

Oliver and Doc Holiday

Bisbee.

Bisbee, AZ

Old Tucson.

Medicine man show

The Chiricahua National Monument.

Chiricahua National Monument

And the Saguaro National Park.

Saguaro Cacti

These are but a few of the places we have been and the sights we have seen. As a family we have learned more about our country’s Western history than either Jim or I ever learned in school and we have walked streets where some of that history was made.

As we start our second year we look forward to continuing our education as we trek across the country.

 

Hello Lucy, Goodbye New Mexico

Two weeks ago, on Valentine’s Day, I was lying in a hospital bed surrounded by my husband, a nurse, and a midwife being encouraged to breath through the pain and push. After about fifteen minutes of this Lucy Valentina left my womb and entered the world! She then proceeded to turn that world upside down.
If you happen to be keeping count that now puts us at seven people living in a 35′ trailer. Chaotic? Yes. But joyful!

Lucy

And here she is. The only one of us to be born outside of Indiana.

We spent six months in New Mexico waiting for Lucy to come and once she did we were all itching to move on. Our plan was to leave at the end of March, but when snow was predicted and I just happened to mention that maybe we should spend the rest of the winter in southern Arizona, Jim ran with the idea and in one day we were packed and ready to go. A good thing to because the day after we left the park looked like this.

Desert Rose in the snow

It looks like a lovely postcard doesn’t it? But when you’re trapped in a camper with five children it looks more like a prison yard. So we are now in Huachuca, AZ enjoying daytime temperatures of 60+ degrees and the children are free to leave the jail cell and run off some of that pent-up energy. And I am regaining a bit of my sanity.

 

 

 

The Splendor of Autumn in the Four Corners

I’m a Hoosier. I grew up with four seasons, all very distinct and Autumn was always my favorite. When I was young my friends and I would rake up enormous piles of leaves for the sole purpose of diving into them like a swimming pool. We would burrow through them not once considering the insects and parasites that might be dwelling there. And then my parents would burn them and the smell was intoxicating; to this day it’s still my favorite scent.

In 2010 we moved to Texas and although there are a great many things I love about the Lone Star State it’s lack of proper seasons is not one of them. For four years I mourned the absence of colorful leaves falling from the trees and crunching under my feet only to later be burned, filling the air with that Heavenly scent. So when we took off on our traveling life one of the things I hoped for was to again meet my old friend, Fall. But I didn’t expect it in New Mexico. If you had asked the Indiana me what I thought New Mexico was like I would have said a vast desert. And it’s true that there’s a lot of that kind of landscape, but the Four Corners area isn’t one of them. As the weather started to cool the trees began to change and although they are lacking the reds and oranges that I’m used to the yellows are brilliant! When the light hits them just right they look as though they have been set ablaze. They are perfectly beautiful.

Here are some photos. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Fall in the Four Corners

Fall in the Four Corners

Fall in the Four Corners

Fall in the Four Corners

 

I love the orange of pumpkins!

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

balloon fiesta

daylight balloons

The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is the most photographed event on Earth and after visiting it last October I can certainly believe that statement.

We stayed in Albuquerque the night before and rose before the sun with the purpose of missing the hoards of traffic heading to the Fiesta. After shivering in the cold and wandering around in the dark our diligence was rewarded by getting to watch the previously deflated balloons come to life. Suddenly we were surrounded by the dragon-breath sound of roaring flames filling the balloons with the hot air that would send them floating into the sky.

Hot air balloons by daylight are absolutely beautiful, but hot air balloons in the dark are mesmerizing.

Balloon Fiesta

Balloon Fiesta

2night balloons

another balloonnight balloon 3

 

The next day we had the privilege of meeting the Winters’ family. We had lunch with them and discussed their plans to one day join the traveling life. They were so much fun; I hope to meet them on the road some day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ancient Dwellings part 1

Growing up in Indiana I had very little contact with anything that could be called ancient. I could have, had I only known about the Indian mounds built there; some possibly built as long ago as 160 BC. But unfortunately I was living elsewhere before I learned (or remembered) about their existence. So being in New Mexico for the last 3 1/2 months has been like a living history lesson.

Since coming to Bloomfield we have visited three ancient Indian dwellings: The Salmon Ruins, The Aztec Ruins, and Mesa Verde. The Salmon and Aztec Ruins both claim to be about 900 years old. To put that into a historical perspective (for me at least), the Crusades were going on at that time.

The Salmon Ruins, home to a group of ancient Pueblo peoples, owes its name to the homesteading family that lived there and kept it safe from looters until archeological excavations started in 1970.

salmon ruins

Walking through the site in the heat of the day with thirsty and not-so-interested children, it’s easy to forget that these were homes of people who lived over 900 years before. They labored in the same heat without any modern tools or machines to aid in their building.

Kiva Salmon Ruins

 

I like these round rooms called Kivas. They seem to have been used for everything from storage to ceremonies.

top of pit houseThis is the above ground entrance to the underground pithouse of the Basketmakers.

inside of pit houseThis is the underground portion of the pithouse. Oliver asked Jim if he would like to live in it, Jim of course answered yes. I’ll visit them whenever I get a chance. ; )

There is a small museum on the premises as well. It contains a few of the artifacts that were found in the ruins.

salmon pottery 1 salmon pottery 2 salmon pottery 3

 

When I consider how arduous the lives of these ancient peoples must have been and yet they still desired to create something of beauty; it’s quite amazing.

Billy the Kid, Lava Fields and Deadly Snakes

Saturday was Jim’s day. We woke early, which for us means about 8:00, and headed off to the village of Lincoln, where Billy the Kid met his Maker. This was our third trip and Jim was determined that this time we would make it through the tour of the original Wild West buildings; which included the store owned by John Tunstall. And if you are a Billy the Kid aficionado or maybe you just watched Young Guns, you will know who that was. The courthouse that Billy made his final escape from is also there. So really a fascinating town if you are interested in Wild West history.

Courthouse in Lincoln, NM

Courthouse in Lincoln, NM

The Torren Lincoln, NM

The Torren Lincoln, NM

Now this is cool. The Torren, a rock fort tower that the people of Lincoln would hide in when the Apaches decided it was time to terrorize the residents.

After everyone but Jim had had their fill of Lincoln we headed off to the Smokey Bear cafe in Capitan to have dinner. I wouldn’t suggest that you spend your hard earned money (or even your birthday money) there. After traveling through a hail storm, that made the road look like the middle of winter and sounded as though the angels were pummeling us with marbles, we arrived at the cafe, only to find that it was entirely run by teenagers. Now I have nothing against teenagers, but I don’t want them cooking for me; at least not if I’m paying for it.

So we’ve eaten our semi burnt food and are waiting to see who will come down with food poisoning first when it’s time to head off to the lava fields of the Valley of Fires. Okay, I’ve been living in an RV for four months now and always in a tiny town where nothing but the local bar stays open past 5:00 pm, and I just can’t get excited about lava. All I want is a mall, a Barnes and Noble and an Indian women to thread my eyebrows for me. But this is Jim’s day and the closest mall is probably in El Paso anyway, so off to the lava we go.

It was more interesting than I expected. My only contact with volcanoes or lava is the pumice stone I use to remove callouses from my feet. And this 2 mile x 20 mile field of lava didn’t need a volcano to create it, it came up out of the ground. Can you imagine walking out to the yard with your magazine and glass of tea only to find that hot molten rock was oozing up through your flower bed?  Although I had the mental image of black nothingness when we arrived what I found were hundreds of varieties of plants and flowers and many forms of wildlife.

Valley of Fires New Mexico

And that is where the rattlesnake comes in. Four years I spent in Texas and never did I see a rattlesnake, not even a living scorpion (thank God). But here I am sticking to the path, not straying into danger and there only a few feet in front of me lies a venomous snake. If I didn’t have a habit of looking at the ground when I walk my sandaled foot would have met that snakes bare fangs. And I wouldn’t be here to write this blog and tell you all about it.

Rattlesnake Valley of FiresSo what was our response to this deadly serpent? Throwing rocks at it so that Jim could get a good video of it slithering away and rattling its tail. That snake was determined to get some sun because it took three handfuls of rocks (pebbles really) to get it to move and then it showed its displeasure with us by coiling up on the side of the path ready to strike if we dared to step foot on its territory.

It was pretty exciting.

And here is the video that we risked our lives for. (not really, I think we could have outrun him)

White Sands National Monument

If you were blindfolded, and stayed in your car with the air conditioning running full on, you might easily be convinced that you had just entered a Winter Wonderland; complete with rolling hills covered with fresh, smooth snow, ripe for sledding.

White Sands National Monument

 

Though it isn’t snow it is perfect for sledding.

White Sands National Monument

 

Forget the ancient petroglyphs, forget Billy the Kid, this is my children’s favorite thing about New Mexico.

White Sands National Monument

 

This lonely guy (or gal) was even a form of amusement as the children would bury him and then place bets as to where he would dig his way out.

It is a well known fact that I have an almost phobic fear of crunchy bugs, but he even fascinated me with his tiny foot prints trailing behind him in the sand.

White Sands National Monument

 

It was a great day. The children entertained themselves for hours exploring the dunes, Jim entertained himself with his camera, and I had several guilt-free hours of reading and writing.

The White Sands National Monument is a perfect destination for families.

The Trials of Traveling

sickness

 

To those of you who read my blog I would like to apologize for the lack of activity here over the last month. Let me explain why I have been so unproductive lately. You see I come from a the flatlands of Indiana where the highest point in all the state is 1257 feet and I lived no where near that ‘high’ bit of earth. For the last five weeks I have been living at the unnatural elevation of nearly 9000 feet. This can have some rather unpleasant effects on the body, such as headaches, nausea and vomiting, tiredness, and shortness of breath; all of which I have been suffering from in one form or another everyday. It also seems to have another strange effect in which all the victim wants to do is veg out on season after season of The Duggars (strangely this symptom isn’t listed on WebMD).

You would think that this would be enough suffering for one poor Hoosier who’s just trying to explore this vast country of ours, but you would be wrong. Cloudcroft is a tiny tourist town and when the cool-weather-seekers go home the population dwindles to about seven hundred people; not enough to support a proper grocery store. So to retrieve the weeks rations you must descend the mountain and visit one of the more populated towns. This is when my old friend Mr. Motion Sickness kicks in. So even if my oxygen-deprived body was giving me a bit of a reprieve all I have to do is take a short drive to bring back the nauseousness that I have grown so accustomed to. So between napping and vomiting I haven’t been able to do much writing.

Needless to say I have had to scratch climbing Everest off my Life Goals List. ; )

Thanks for sticking with me,

M.A.

Ancient Art- Three Rivers Petroglyph Site

IMG_5148

A week ago my family and I visited the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site just north of Tularosa, NM. There are over 21,000 well-preserved carvings all over the rocks that cover the hills of Three Rivers. It’s a little treacherous climbing the loose, shifting rocks which provide excellent hiding places for the venomous snakes  that live there, but it’s well worth the peril, unless of course you get bit by one of those sly, slithering serpents.

There seems to be varying ideas as to how old the carvings are and what the meaning of each symbol is. Some are fairly obvious for those who have studied the petroglyphs of other cultures and see similarities. Such as this one. The hat this character is wearing is supposedly a replica of a temple which is in turn a replica of a mountain.

Three Rivers Petroglyph

 

 

But then there are drawings like this one, seemingly just a face. Maybe it is because I am an artist, but I imagine that some of the petroglyphs are just the work of an ancient native person simply expressing his creativity. Face PetroglyphImagine two bored natives waiting around for their next kill. “Hey Joe, hold still and I’ll carve your portrait.”

Jaguar PetroglyphMaybe this one was done by a very talented child. “Mom! Come and see the cat I carved.”

I could certainly be wrong, and I am sure many a learned archaeologist (or want-to-be archeologist) would say that I am, but I believe that it is in the heart of all people to want to create even without a religious or practical reason. And that is what I got from our time at the petroglyphs, a connection through the ages of artist to artist.

Three Rivers Petroglyph

Except of course for this one which is obviously an alien from the mothership that taught the natives to build their temples.  ; )