Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Garden of the Gods


This morning we pulled out of Taos, New Mexico and drove 200 miles north, traveling on a high mountain plain ranging from 7,000 feet in Taos to over 10,000 feet elevation just before we dropped down to the east side of the Rocky Mountains. Low temperature at the top of the pass: 32!


We stopped shy of Colorado Springs where we deposited the Arctic Fox in a campsite, then drove the truck half an hour further north to see the Garden of the Gods.


In 1879 Charles Elliott Perkins, then head of Burlington Northern Railroad, purchased 420 acres intending to make it his home. It encompassed the land which is now Garden of the Gods. He never built, preferring to keep it in its’ natural state, and after he died in 1907 his children donated the land to the City of Colorado Springs, in keeping with his stated wishes.


Today the park charges no admission and is open 24 hours a day according to a volunteer Park Ranger we talked with, though the park signage indicates otherwise.


There are paved walking paths among the rocks, bike lanes, mountain biking trails, and people who arrive with the appropriate equipment and seek a permit are allowed to climb some rocks designated for such purpose. Look closely at the top left side of the right-most rock in the photo above.


The rock is red or white sandstone and has been shaped by water and wind for millions of years. This constitutes the most spectacular City Park we’ve ever seen, and we very much enjoyed wandering the pathways and driving the loop roadway.


Check-in Garden of The Gods Colorado Springs

GPS location Date/Time:03/30/2011 14:38:04 PDT
Click the link below to see where wa are located.\-104.88135
If the above link does not work, try this link:,-104.88135&ll=38.87615,-104.88135&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Taos, New Mexico


We left Albuquerque this morning,  drove right through Santa Fe (we’ve both been there several times already) and continued on 65 miles north to Taos. At over 7,000 feet elevation, last time we were here in February 2008 it was snowing and 27 degrees.


Taos is small, artsy and very pretty. Today with sunshine and 53 degrees, it was warm enough to wander the town Plaza for a couple of hours, then sit on the second floor balcony of a restaurant right on the square for calamari and a beer. Out of the wind and in the sun, it was actually warm enough to sit in our t-shirts!  But, we have to admit we have left summer behind. Las Cruces in southern New Mexico was the last time Bob wore short pants. The temperature is predicted to get down to 27 tonight. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011



Cathryn’s friend Paula had to go to work today, so we went  on a “field trip”. We drove to Madrid (the locals pronounce it “MAD-rid”, an anglicized version of the capitol of Spain, we presume). Click on the photo above to see how the fence was constructed.


It’s a small former ghost town on the “back” side of the Sandia Mountains, at about 6,000 feet elevation and populated mostly by artists.


It reminded us a bit of a two-steps-more-prosperous version of the town of Nederland north of Boulder, Colorado. The main road through town is lined with small shops filled with paintings, metal and rock art, sculptures, pottery, jewelry, unique clothing including Western attire, and a handful of small restaurants.

We wandered in and out of galleries and shops for a couple of hours, and Cathryn bought a pair of earrings. It’s a funky, fun place.


Next we drove the 14-mile winding road that goes to the top of Sandia Mountain at elevation 10,600 feet. It was 41 degrees and the wind was blowing hard at the summit, 70 degrees when we got back to Albuquerque. The view at the top is vast and pretty, and the “back side” of the mountain is heavily treed and green, while the side facing the city is mostly brown and rocky. 


Paula made delicious lasagna for dinner, and we sat outside to talk and eat until time for us to head back to the Arctic Fox for bed. It was great to catch up with her again!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Check-in Sandia Mountain, Albuquerque NM

GPS location Date/Time:03/28/2011 12:49:05 PDT
Click the link below to see where we are located.\-106.44948
If the above link does not work, try this link:,-106.44948&ll=35.21056,-106.44948&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Since We’re in the Neighborhood

We’re now on our way north to see our daughter Adrienne in Boulder, Colorado.  She graduates  from University of Colorado in May, so this is our graduation visit. She also has a new “interest” in her life who we’ve been hearing a lot about and want to investigate first hand.


Today we drove  to Albuquerque where Cathryn wanted to visit her friend Paula who she’s known since seventh grade.  We showed up at 3:00, talked for a couple hours, then went to a good restaurant for dinner part way up Sandia Mountain with a great view of the sunset and the city below.


After dinner Cathryn dropped Bob off at the fifth wheel and returned to Paula’s house so they could have some “girl talk” into the night without the constraints of a male presence or  snoring curmudgeon.

Today we’re exploring Albuquerque, then returning to Paula’s house for dinner with her, one of her sons and his fiancee.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Not a Beach, Not Baja


So this picture looks like we’re at a beach today, right? Sand dunes and all. Or maybe we’re back in Morocco on a camel trek in the Sahara Desert like last October.  Oh, that’s right . . . the sand here is white, and there’s no water, so it can’t really be a beach or Baja or Morocco, can it?


This morning we left our beautiful spot at City of Rocks, New Mexico and drove about 100 miles east to Las Cruces, New Mexico where we set up camp, then drove another 30 miles just north of Alamogordo (think nuclear missile testing facility) to White Sands National Monument.


This place rises from the heart of the Tularosa Basin in the form of glistening white dunes of gypsum sand engulfing 275 square miles of desert making up the world's largest gypsum dune field.


Unfortunately, we visited this place on a Saturday rather than a weekday. There were hordes of pick-up trucks bringing young men with their dune boarding equipment, and lots of families with young children sledding down the sand. It’s not that we object to other people enjoying the same places we enjoy; it’s just that the crowds alter the pristine-looking nature of the views. Many of the groups even set up shade devices along with barbecues to cook a picnic lunch.


We hiked up a few dunes, took some photos, and drove the loop into the furthest reaches of the place. It’s pretty awesome.


Check-in message from White Sands National Monument NM

GPS location Date/Time:03/26/2011 13:18:35 PDT.
  Click on the link if you want to see where we are today.
If the above link does not work, try this link:,-106.27133&ll=32.82276,-106.27133&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1
Bob and Cathryn

Friday, March 25, 2011

City of Rocks, New Mexico

After our Queen Mine tour, we left Bisbee and drove 200 miles east to City of Rocks, New Mexico, where we’re now camped at the City of Rocks State Park.
Formed of volcanic ash welded together 35 million years ago, then sculpted by wind and water into rows of monolithic blocks, these incredible rock formations give City of Rocks its name. Hiking trails, a botanical garden and a public night sky observatory make up the components of this unusual place.  (Ryan and Adrienne: remember “Rock City” in Idaho where Dad took each of you? It’s reminiscent of this place in terms of the cool rocks and scrambling opportunities). This place pops up, seemingly out of nowhere, in the middle of a mile-high desert plain in southwest New Mexico, covering maybe a 1 or 2 square mile area.
We took a walk through the tiny botanical garden and clambered among the rocks and along the hiking trails for a while after getting our camp spot set up. It’s very windy here, though the low temp today was 36 and the high was 73, so not bad in the afternoon with a light jacket on.

Queen Mine


This morning we took a one-hour tour of the Queen Mine in Bisbee, Arizona. This facility, established in 1877, mined primarily copper, but also silver, gold, zinc and lead until it was closed down in 1975. 


It has been operated as a Tour facility since 1976 and employs 12 people full-time, many of whom are former mine workers, now employed as Tour Guides. Our guide worked in 3 different mines in Arizona over 32 years before retiring in 1994 due to back problems.


The tour goes about 1/3 mile into the mine, 600 feet below the summit of the mountain, in corridors approximately 10 feet wide and 12 feet high. We rode a tiny “train” on tracks and wore helmets, head lamps and slickers. The temperature in the mine is a constant 47 degrees. We learned that mines  operating above sea level are cool, while those deep in the earth are hot, some in the 115 – 125 degree range, and our Guide worked in one such hot mine. And we thought our jobs had challenges associated with them!


This is the “out house” car used in the mine!

Check-in message from Rock City State Park New Mexico

GPS location Date/Time:03/25/2011 15:10:42 PDT

Click the link below to see where we are located.
If the above link does not work, try this link:,-107.97655&ll=32.58858,-107.97655&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1
Bob and Cathryn

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bisbee, Less Lively


In early 2008 we t00k our first post-retirement road trip, driving our Toyota RAV4 and staying in motels for more than a month.


One place we visited was Bisbee, Arizona in the southeastern part of the state, about 10 miles north of the Mexico border. We found it charming. Bisbee is an old mining town set in a bowl about 4,500 feet above sea level in the mountains. It’s colorful in its’ geography, people, art and architecture.


Today we’re back in Bisbee, and while it retains the charm we enjoyed 3 years ago, there are also far fewer people in the streets, an astonishing percent of homes, empty buildings and businesses are for sale, and it has sort of a sad feeling about it. 


We walked the streets this afternoon, stopped for a very good beer at the local brewery and signed up for a tour of the Mine tomorrow. But we’re sorry it doesn’t have the same lively, cheerful, active feel to it we were struck by three years ago.


Back at Hobie’s house


For the fourth time in 3 years, we’re back at Hobie’s house west of Tucson. He’s our friend and neighbor who lives near us in Olalla half the year, and in a lovely casita at the Saguaro National Forest, on two acres lush in cactus the other half of the year.


We arrived just in time for dinner Tuesday night, and spent today doing laundry, eating good food, visiting, and making plans for future fun activities. The weather is mild (70s) and sunny, and we sat on Hobie’s deck for cocktail hour both evenings.  Tomorrow we head east again.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Taliesin West


Because of today’s lousy weather, we skipped the planned hike up Ford Canyon and drove into Scottsdale to tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Taliesin West”.


This served as Wright’s personal winter home, studio and architectural campus from the late 1930s until his death in 1959. Today the facility houses the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and an accredited architectural school, housing approximately 35 “apprentices” at a time for a 3-5 year program.


We took the 90-minute tour which we very much enjoyed. Beyond that, we’ll let the photos speak for themselves. 





Where in the World are Bob and Cathryn?

We’ll give a few hints:  last night the wind blew so hard we woke in the middle of the night suspecting an earthquake.  Today it rained essentially all day, was gusty and windy, and the high was 53 degrees. Not a speck of blue sky, only gray.  Tonight’s forecast calls for a low of 40 degrees and more rain!


Those of you who know us probably guess we’re back home in Olalla, right??? Try again. We’re at White Tank Mountain Regional Park, a bit west of Phoenix, Arizona! We can’t believe it either, but those of you who feel we’ve smugly rubbed your poor frostbitten noses in our good fortune the last two months with constant reports of sunny days and temps in the 70s or 80s are probably not all that sympathetic over our current weather. The only silver linings come from the fact  that this year we do NOT have tickets to any Spring Training baseball games going on nearby, and while we sit inside our cozy trailer with the heater running, we peer out our window and see folks hunkered down in their tents.  So things could be tougher! IMG_0896

And we got an email from our now northbound Canadian Travel buddies Doug and Jill from whom we parted company yesterday morning, and they’ve just arrived in Ely, Nevada after driving through two snowstorms today.  Yuck!

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Jill and Doug, our Canadian travel buddies, were our local guides today, taking us two places they’d been before which were new to us.


First we went to the Saturday morning “flea market” at the La Paz County campground where we ended up with about a dozen purchases.  Our items included: a ballpeen hammer, a sunglasses cord for Bob, cords with balls on the ends to attach to a tarp, 4 utility pencils, an electrical tester, a sweatshirt each for Cathryn and Bob, a plastic pitcher (to replace one that broke when it fell out of the refrigerator while we were driving), 3 mini carabiners to fasten various items, and a large bag to hold our outdoor patio mat.



Most were astonishingly well-priced, in the $1 to $4 range. Take a close look at the picture of Bob in his new sweatshirt and see if you can discern its’ special feature.

Next we drove 4 miles up a narrow dirt road into the hills(Doug and Jill wouldn’t tell us where we were going) . . .



. . . then suddenly found ourselves looking at a large parking lot with about 300 cars, what looked like a church front, and a huge open-air, cowboy-style restaurant called the Desert Bar jam-packed with more than 500 people.


Take a look at our “Spot” message, below, to see the location.


A band was playing rock and roll, people were  dancing, and two full-service bars were offering drinks and taking food orders. The choice of beers included Bud, Bud Light, Coors, Coors Light and well drinks.


(The picture above is for you, Ryan).  The only food items offered were hamburgers (no cheese), bowls of chili (no cheese), hot dogs (no cheese), and chili dogs.


Yet again, we were on the young end of the spectrum, and except for one family that appeared to be of Latino origin, the entire crowd was white: no black or Asian people, nor any Native Americans.  We waited quite a while for our plain hamburgers (ketchup, mustard, pickles and onions available as add-ons at the condiment counter, no cheese), and drank beer.


The crowd was lively, including the couple seated at a 6-person table by themselves who we joined because we’d been waiting 25 minutes already and couldn’t find a table. Jim and Rosalie (pictured above), looking to be in their 80s, had arrived by motorcycle and kept us cracking up over their lively jokes.  They left us after finishing their burgers so they could join the crowd on the dance floor.


On returning to our campsites, we convened for our last Happy Hour together, just the 4 of us.  Tomorrow Doug and Jill head north, and we head east.  We’ve enjoyed traveling with them and expect to see each other again this summer, as well as possibly traveling together again next winter.