Sunday, March 30, 2008


We have had a miracle happen while here in Albuquerque - we have had two days of no wind! The weather here has been very nice mid-70s during the day and mid-40s at night. We are heading to Holbrook, Arizona to see Petrified Forest National Park tomorrow, so no doubt the high winds will be back.

The Rio Grande River runs through the middle of Albuquerque, going north to south and the town is built going up the sides of the valley, on both the east and west sides. Since the sides of the valley are fairly steep you get great views overlooking the city, in every direction you look. To the northeast are Sandia Peak and the Rockies. Albuquerque is very spread out and seems to be the land of never ending Malls and strip malls. I am amazed at all of the stores there are here.

We have been doing the tourist things like going to Old Town and domestic things like laundry and groceries. I even found a place to wash the truck. This is the first time it has been washed since we were in El Centro the first week of January. The trailer either needs to be washed or we need to have a serious rain storm. We haven’t been in a RV Park that allows washing of the trailer for a very long time.

I was only a Texan for two days and I had this overwhelming urge to buy a western hat (I don't think it qualifies as a cowboy hat). I am really worried that cowboy boots and country western music might be next. Those boots look like the most uncomfortable shoes ever made! I must admit I am starting to like the "It's 5 o'clock somewhere" song.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Geography - Wind - Mileage

Since we entered New Mexico via I – 10 we found that EVERYTHING in southern and eastern New Mexico is FLAT, this extends into Texas as well. The only mountains or hills we have seen were the Guadalupe Mountains where Carlsbad Caverns is located. This area seems to rise out of nowhere and from the top all you can see is FLAT! Apparently due to the flatness of the area the wind blows all of the time; the only difference is how fast the wind is blowing. Is it 5 to 6 mph or is it 50 to 60 mph. As we are now moving westward there is always a head wind. Once we got to I – 40 the terrain changed from flat to non-stop rolling hills. You drive up one hill then go down the other side and then drive up the next hill. This apparently continues all the way across New Mexico! As you can imagine this non-stop head wind and rolling hills combination is HORRIBLE for the mileage. Our mileage from Clovis to Albuquerque was ONLY 7. 5 MPG. That is the worst mileage we have every gotten!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tires – Texans – Prairie Dogs

New Tires

We have read so many things about the cheaply made in China Mission tires that come on so many travel trailers and the damage they cause when they fail. We decided that it would be best to replace our tires before we head to Alaska. We don't want to be looking for a new tire in Nowhere Yukon and end up paying an arm and a leg for a no name brand tire just to get back on the road. One of the people on the Montana owns a tire store in Farwell, Texas. We were only 100 miles or so from Farwell . We knew that Lonnie had a Montana and would know what we needed, so we decided to come up here. We put light truck commercial tires on the trailer; these are much tougher and stronger than the old tires.

We are Texans

My driver’s license expires on my birthday in June and I am not sure if my mail forwarding from the post office will still be in place. Nor am I sure that California would forward a driver's license renewal out of state. All that added to the fact that we will be somewhere in Canada on my birthday. So, I wanted to become a Texan now rather than wait until the fall as I had originally planned. Texas makes it unnecessarily hard to become a Texan. You can't get a Texas driver's license until you have Texas registration on your vehicles. You can't get registration until you have the vehicles inspected. The inspection, the registration and drivers license all are at different locations. While they were installing the tires on the trailer; we took Raider for a walk. We happened to walk by the county courthouse, so I went in to see if we could register in this county. The person behind the desk said that no we had to go to our home county. I left but once I got outside I had another question. When I went back in a second lady was sitting at her desk and she said that she would register the truck and the trailer for us if we could get the truck inspected. Lonnie could do the inspection for us so, we gathered all of the documentation we needed got the inspection certificate and went back to the courthouse. Finally we had registered the truck and trailer, and they even handed us the new license plates for each of them! However, we had to drive 30 miles to the next county to get our drivers licenses. For my California friends: the registration in Texas is MUCH CHEAPER than California. The truck alone is $464 cheaper than California. Unfortunately they had a bunch of one time only new person fees we had to pay so you can't win. :-)

Real Prairie Dogs

Yes, these are real Prairie Dogs! There is a colony of them living in the field next to the RV Park we stayed at in Clovis. New Mexico!

Bye for now Y’all

Monday, March 24, 2008

Carlsbad Caverns Revisited

Carlsbad Caverns has 2 self-guided tours where you walk at your own pace and listen to a hand held wand and 6 Ranger led tours that go to other parts of the cavern that are either more fragile or more extreme than the self-guided tours. The 2 self-guides tours do not require reservations and are pretty much like any other nature hike except you are underground.

The 6 ranger led hikes vary from the Kings Palace tour which takes 75 people and depending on the season is done 2 to 4 times per day, to the Spider Cave Tour which only takes 10 people and is held once a week. The Spider Cave Tour has the following statements on the web page “Participants will hike a half mile down beautiful Garden Grove Canyon to get to the cave, where excessive crawling and climbing will ensue. Highlights of this tour include the Mace Room, Medusa Room, and Cactus Spring, as well as a stunning variety of cave formations and dirty cave crawls. This trip is not recommended for anyone with a fear of enclosed spaces, heights, or getting a little cave dirt in your ears.” and “Hiking boots or other sturdy shoes, 4 AA batteries, soft knee pads, cotton or leather gloves, long pants and water for the hike are also required. (The park provides hardhats and headlamps.)”

Here is a group we past beginning the Lower Cave Tour. The web site for the Lower Cave Tour includes this statement “Ladders at the entrance to Lower Cave sometimes cause participants to back out. If you have a fear of heights or difficulties with ladders, you may wish to consider visiting Left Hand Tunnel instead.” Note the rope the Ranger is holding; this is the rope used to get down to the ladders. They use this rope to lower themselves down to a passage at the beginning of the tour and then use the same rope to pull themselves back up the slope when they get back.

All of the Ranger lead tours require reservations and some of them are booked up months in advance. Since we came here on a spur of the moment decision and didn’t know what tours we might take and we didn’t get advanced reservations. However due to the Easter holiday we were able to get 2 spots on the Sunday afternoon Kings Palace tour with only three days notice. The drive from the KOA to the caverns is an 80 mile round trip but, it was a chance to see more of the cave. The web site for the Kings Palace tour states “You will descend to the deepest portion of the cavern open to the public, 830 feet beneath the desert surface.” and “Look forward to viewing a variety of cave formations including helictites, draperies, columns, and soda straws. Rangers frequently conduct black-outs during this tour, briefly turning off all artificial lights to reveal the natural darkness of the cave.” The Kings Palace tour was too crowded and the ranger talk was just a repetition of what we had heard on the wands a few days earlier but, the rooms and formations were even more spectacular than we had seen previously.

Since there are no more tours that have openings until next month we are planning to move on, but we will be back and will plan ahead next time.

These are some of the pictures that Kathy took on the Kings Palace tour. The pictures will enlarge if you click on them.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Roswell New Mexico

Today we visited the International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell. Roswell is or isn’t the crash site of a UFO in 1947. The museum goes into great detail explaining what was said and written about the event at the time it occurred. If nothing else it certainly is an amazing cultural event for all of us. I doubt that you could find anyone in America that wouldn’t recognize the pictures of little gray men that crashed in Roswell. As we were walking Raider around the block one of the employees of the museum said that dogs were welcomed in the museum and they even had a gift for the visiting dog. We found the museum to be campy fun.

Raider free gift an Alien chew toy.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

New Mexico and Carlsbad Caverns

Yes, after almost 3 months we have left Arizona!

A couple of weeks back I had written about our visit to Kartchner Caverns. They have two different tours; we were able to go on the Rotunda/Throne Room Tour but could not get a reservation for any date in March for the Big Room Tour. As we talked about how much we had enjoyed the Throne Room Tour and were disappointed that we could get on the Big Room Tour, we discussed how we need to go to Carlsbad Caverns someday. Then it hit us; oh yeah that’s why we are full timers so that we can just up and go even if it is 400 miles away. We also needed to get our monthly mail drop so we decided to stop at the Escapees RV Park in Deming for a couple of days to get mail and groceries.

Monday as we were packing up we had snow showers at the RV Park in Sierra Vista after a morning low of 24. As we drove east we had intermittent snow showers. Okay the snow didn’t stick to the ground, but when you are from California any snow counts. So now I can say I have pulled our trailer in the snow. :-)

Our trip to Deming was beautiful, the sky was blue and we could see for miles. We also went past by a herd of Pronghorns. When we arrived in Deming several people told us how lucky we were that we had not come the day before, because I-10 had been closed due to dust storms, zero visibility and several accidents.

Kathy thought she would help write the travel blog today.

We were in Carlsbad Cavern 800 feet below the surface having lunch today, in a cool 56 degree cavern! By way of El Paso, Texas, we made it to Carlsbad, New Mexico yesterday afternoon. It was one of our longest drives with the trailer in tow at 290 miles in 6 hours.

It all started when we thought we could get our Texas Driver’s Licenses in El Paso, Texas. It’s just a few miles south of Las Cruces, NM, why not?! However, the first Dept. of Public Safety office told us we had to have the vehicles registered first. And to do that we needed to contact the Dept. of Transportation, plus have the truck inspected by the County Assessor’s office. All of which were at various locations and required appointments! Those instructions seemed a little over-whelming, especially since we still have 6 months left on the truck’s CA license and 9 months on the trailer. Hmmm, maybe we’ll register when we come back from Alaska.

So when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Our destination for this part of the trip was Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. Since we were so far south, the only way to go is through Texas and then up through the Guadalupe Mountains. There’s no direct way from Las Cruces to Carlsbad, it is really out of the way!

Since this is Spring Break week, we had a little difficulty finding an RV Park that could take us. 42 miles past the caverns and past the town of Carlsbad, we found a KOA with plenty of room, not to mention very large pull through spaces. A little pricey after only $12 a night at the Escapee Park in Deming, but it was the only show in town that could accommodate us! Lots of families camping here, quite a change after all of the “over 55” RV parks we’ve been to. Very quiet though: no highway noise, no trains and no planes, and the kids were tuckered out by 10:00.

Our body clocks have made the change to Mountain Time pretty easily, so we left the trailer by 8:15 this morning for the Caverns. We did 2 self-guided tours, using the audio wands which explained various points of interest along the way.

The first tour you enter the cavern via the Natural Entrance. A huge, deep, hole in the ground. They warned us it would be 800 feet downhill, in a mile! There were Cave Swallows flying all around, in and out of the cave entrance, quite a unique experience! I think some people on the tour thought they were bats, because they squeak and are brown! The Mexican Free Tail bats don’t use the caves until April then leave in October. But we got to see the “Bat Cave” where they raise their young.

Then from there you can start the second tour which was The Big Room, another 1.5 mile loop. Fortunately, there’s an elevator after this tour that takes you back up to the surface. Thank goodness, that would take quite a while to climb back up! The trails are paved but very steep.

We decided after we completed the first tour to have lunch down there. The National Park has a concession down at the bottom of the cave that sells pre-made sandwiches, with chips & cookies, plus soft drinks. Picnic tables made for very good relief on tender knees and feet. A very curious picnic underground, no sunburn worries here! Another “first” for us!

Revived, we continued the second self-guided tour. This is where the real stalagmites and stalactites decorations begin, all so wonderfully hanging over the ions of years! The ceilings were incredibly high in the cavern and the Big Room is so large. It could hold 14 football fields! So many rock formations and textures, my shutter finger was going crazy. They try to keep the lighting to a minimum so that the wrong kind of bacteria doesn’t start growing. This would deteriorate the integrity of the formations if algae or fungi started to grow. I had my flash but not my attachable strobe, which would have been brighter. Oh well, I hoped for the best!!

The ride up the elevator only took 56 seconds to ascend 800 feet.
At the surface the temps had climbed to 81 degrees, time to remove the sweatshirts!

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Yesterday we drove 50 miles to Patagonia Lake State Park to go birding with our friends Fred and Jo Wishnie, . They had started out on a Ranger lead bird walk last Monday, but 35 people showed up for the walk, way too many for a bird walk. The large crowd however did manage to see a resident Elegant Trogon. We decide to do the same walk on our own and hopefully find the Trogon. This is about the only place in the United States where you can find a Trogon, but they are usually are here during summer. Although we had a very nice walk and saw many birds, we did not see the Trogon. We did find many other birders also out looking for the Trogon. The picture here is one I got off of the Internet of a Trogon to give you an idea of what it looks like.

About half way between the town of Patagonia Arizona and Patagonia Lake State Park is the famous Patagonia Rest Area. This is a very famous place in the birding world.
Pete Dunne wrote: “And, of course, no birder could speak of Arizona and fail to mention the "Famous Patagonia Rest Stop"--home of the Rose-throated Becard, the Thick-billed Kingbird, and the Violet-crowned Hummingbird, birth- place of the "Patagonia Picnic Table Effect": If a spot holds a good bird, it will attract good birders who in turn will find other good birds, which will in turn attract other good birders, who will in turn find”. We were there in the wrong season at the wrong time of the day and didn’t see any birds. I was surprised that the rest area is very small; there was an old, ancient picnic table there for the "Patagonia Picnic Table Effect". There isn’t even a Port-a-potty. What kind of rest area is that? The “best” birding area is across the road on private property and you have to stay between the fence and the road to hopefully see anything. The picture here taken by Jo Wishnie shows pretty much all of the "Famous Patagonia Rest Stop".

You no doubt have noticed that our new opening photo was taken at this world famous birding spot. It was taken by Fred Wishnie. Thanks Fred!

Out final bird stop of the day was another famous birding spot” the backyard of the Paton’s, who have opened there yard to birders. They have a bank of hummingbird feeders on the back of their house to attract a variety of hummingbirds. Again we were there at the wrong time in the wrong season, but we did see a few Board-billed hummingbirds. We ended our day with 41 species. Our birding this week has brought our year list up to 137.

We have been staying at Tombstone Territories RV Park. Here are a few pictures of the park with our view of the desert:

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Another week and no blog entry!!

The days just fly by, if we didn’t go to Mass on Sundays I would never know what day of the week it is.

So what have we been up to? We have been doing more home improvement projects. This time Kathy wanted the dish cabinet to open differently, so I moved the hinges, latch and handle. The other project involved switching the location of our satellite receiver and our home theater box. This involved undoing a lot of wires, fishing them through tiny holes and then reattaching them so everything still works. And they do!!

On Saturday we did find time to go birding. We went to a monastery in the town of St. David. There is a bird sanctuary there and it is the northern most birding spot on this stretch of the San Pedro River. Unfortunately two of their three ponds were completely dry so we did not see very many birds. We did add Green Heron to the year list. One thing that really stood out for us was the number of Cardinals. Since we never had Cardinals in California, every time we see these BRIGHT RED birds it is a thrill. After birding we continued up the road to check out the town of Benson. Benson is just off of I-10 and is a much smaller town than Sierra Vista. It does have the only Super Wal-mart for 60 miles. :-)

On Sunday the weather started to improve. Still in the low 30s at night but in the 70s during the day, we gave ourselves a rest day and just sat on our patio and read.

Our very good friends the Wishnies have returned to Arizona after their adventure in Mexico and are staying about 50 miles away near Patagonia, Arizona. They came over on Tuesday and we went birding on the Ft. Huachuca Army base. They have all sorts of interesting rules about access, one of them is you must be a US citizen to entry the base. All they do is ask if you are a US citizen they didn’t ask to see our passports for proof. Also they didn’t ask to see under the bed cover that I have on the back of the truck. This “security” is even sillier than airport security. The base is huge and goes from about 4,000 feet in elevation to over 7,000 feet. It also has running streams. The weather was great, it was the best birding day since we have been here, Kathy and I added two life birds (Mexican Jay and Bridled Titmouse). That brings us to 129 species for our year list so far. As always we had a great day with Fred and Jo.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Tombstone – Sierra Vista – Bisbee

WOW, a week since the last blog entry! Where does the time go?

Last Thursday we moved from Tucson to the Tombstone Territories RV Park. Like the Diamond J RV Park this is out in the middle of nowhere. We are 10 miles west of Tombstone; which isn’t much of a town and 17 miles northeast of Sierra Vista which is a typical American town with all of the usual strip malls, big box stores and chain stores you would find in any American city.

In the 80 miles or so from Tucson we have moved from the Sonoran Desert to the northwest corner of the Chihuahuan Desert. The setting is so different; the area around Tucson had not only Saguaros but many other kinds of cactus and had a lot of each type. Here there are very few cacti at all and not many of those. The dominate plants are Coyote Bush and Desert Acacia. The RV Park has an incredible view; we can see east or west for about 30 miles to the surrounding mountains some of which still have snow. We can see north or south for at least 50 miles and can see the mountains in Mexico. There are many more birds here than in Tucson. When we put out our bird feeders in Tucson it took 4 days until any birds showed up. Here it took less than an hour and we have had many more birds visit the feeders. We have added two new life birds while sitting here in camp; Canyon Towhee and Lark Bunting. Other campsite birds include: White-winged Dove, Lesser Goldfinch, Lawrence’s Goldfinch, House Finch, Curve-billed Thrasher, Black-throated Sparrow, Gila Woodpecker, Gilded Flicker, Road Runner, Chihuahuan Raven and Cactus Wren. What is very odd is that this part of Arizona is world famous for humming birds both in numbers and species. However, in our week here we haven’t seen a single humming bird anywhere we have traveled in the area.

I am beginning to think that the RV lifestyle does not lead itself to good birding. Friday I got up at 7 AM; after having breakfast and taking Raider for his daily run in the desert we didn't leave here until 9:30. We are within a mile or two of the lower unit of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. . We got there and saw sign that said river loop 1.6 miles; we found out after walking the 1.6 miles that it meant that it was 1.6 miles to the river loop trail not that the river loop trail was 1.6 miles in total. We ended up doing 4 miles as the day got hotter and very little shade. Naturally there were very few birds out as the day was getting warm. We ended up with 22 species of birds for the walk. The temperature high for the day was 82 but there was a nice breeze on the patio.

Saturday we went to the town of Tombstone and I was underwhelmed; even as a tourist trap it wasn't very interesting. The old part of town is only about two blocks long and just one trinket shop after another. The actual OK Corral were the famous Wyatt Earp gunfight occurred is behind a 10 foot high stucco wall and can only be seen for a fee. The high for the day of about 78 but, it i\was windy.

Tombstone Courthouse built in 1882

Sunday the wind was stronger than it had been on Saturday and much colder. We went to Mass in Tombstone and shopping in Sierra Vista, and then just stayed out of the wind the rest of the day.

On Monday we awoke to 24 degrees and a frozen water hose. The wind had pretty much stopped but, it was very cold. We took Raider and a picnic to the town of Bisbee. Bisbee was a center for copper mining. This was a much more interesting town that Tombstone and much bigger. The Post Office that they still use was built in 1902 and it has many other brick buildings from around 1900. Although, you can find T-shirt shops in Bisbee it also has art galleries, restaurants, and even a brew pub.

Tuesday we tackled a home improvement project that Kathy has wanted me to do since we bought the trailer. Everyone who knows me knows I am NOT a handyman. Naturally, as these things go it took two trips to Sierra Vista (36 miles round trip each time) but, once it was done it came out very nice. Kathy now has a cabinet where there use to be a VERY TALL drawer.

Wednesday turned out to be our busiest day since we have been here. The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area is run by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) They have different rules than the National Parks and State Parks; the best different rule they have is dogs are allowed on the trails! So, Wednesday morning we took Raider with us as we birded the Upper Unit of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. This area has much more water than the lower unit and even has a couple of small ponds. We added some birds to our local list like Common Bushtits, Bewicks Wren, White-breasted Nuthatch and our first ducks of the area, Mallards & Shovelers, but the neatest thing was an abundance of Vermilion Flycatchers.

Wednesday afternoon we got our chance to see Kartchner Caverns . This cave system was only opened to the public about 9 years ago and is still a “living cave”, which means it is still growing. This is a very popular attraction in the area and reservations must be made well in advance. They have many restrictions about what can be brought into the caverns and they do not allow cameras. It certainly was an awesome experience.

Today (Thursday) was one of those groceries and laundry days that come up from time to time. Today was also cold and windy; it was 29 this morning at 7:15 AM and today’s high was only in the 50s. Tonight we are expecting a low of 25.