Travels With Oso con Migo

Odyssey In America

OAE On The Road Again -- Wind Horse Hill Summer Camp

Nude Sunbathers Ahead

Greetings Virtual Travellers:

Early June - Petroglyphs & Pie

Not hardly enough people to fill a pew much less make up a congregation. You'd have to go a long ways to find sufficient for a fair. Something like only one half a people per square mile in this Catron county of nearly 7,000 square miles. It is a hundred mile round trip to the north--half of it on washboard dirt/gravel road--to the nearest sizeable grocer in Grants. (By contrast: Conway NH is 71 square miles and had a population of over 10,000 in 2010.)

The Dance of the ShowersHow are you? I hope this finds you well and somewhere. On the road to your Summer holiday yet? I'm not going to get as far as NH this Summer. It will take me a while to save up for it. Perhaps next year. I still long to spend a Winter there again just to see the snow and be reminded why I no longer like it as I used to. But for now... Here at Pie Town some friends have 200 acres of newly chopped up cattle ranch. Last year we put in a solar powered well. This year we have added a wood fired boiler--the ground is littered with juniper slash from previous logging--and a hot tub.

This morning I am baking a bread pudding to have some good excuse for running the oven. At this elevation, 7,500'MSL, it was only 45f at dawn.

Summer Solstice

The Cat Drag'd Inn is situated on a nice flat spot between several small trees. Juniper and some sort of short-needle pine comprise the woods here. There is a tough grass that grows in clumps and a few cacti as well as a variety of prickly shrubs. Not a barefoot environment.  I've built a nice patio of sandstone flags for my shower and with the three hundred feet of black plastic hose back to the well and the solar shower bag there is plenty of hot water. Sara(h) seems to be straying further and further afield; her territory is boundless with no feline neighbors. Off to a cloudy start this morning. Won't be too much solar charging at this rate. Yesterday I did some serious cleaning. Dusted the carpets with one poison, sprayed many other nooks and crannies with another and then showered my self with a third. I hope the fleas are gone now. But the biting flies remain and a heavy dose of DEET is the only defense.
Denali hamming at NU7DE Field Day.

Amateur Radio Field Day

Total contacts: 163 stations worked were on four bands with three transmitters and three operators at the NU7DE/3ANM Field Day site. Stations were contacted in a total of 29 states during the 24-hour period of this annual affair. Including all the bonuses for solar power, youth element, information table, &c we are claiming a total of 996 points. Last week, in town at an antique store cum junk shop I found a "D-104" microphone setting atop a pile of dusty old CB radios. A "D-104" is one of those accessories every Ham Shack wants dearly but often will not afford. This one was encrusted with spittle and a patina of smoke and the owner was asking five dollars. I couldn't resist such a deal. A good scrubbing with "409" and the chrome shone like new. And it worked too! Denali made good use of the "D-104" to send her voice piping into the ether. Introducing kids to this hobby of ham radio is part of the purpose of Field Day and worth an extra 20 points as well. We also set up a Public Information Table--another 100 points--just in case some stray members of the general public might wander by.
Public Information Table at NU7DE

Summer Camp Rolling

Sliding The Cat Drag'd Inn's "B&B On Wheels" moniker aside in favour of "Summer Camp on The Road" is my latest twist in the ongoing quest to get someone else to pay the fuel and food costs to get On The Road Again. This Summer Camp only has one camper but it is a good beginning.

We are finally covering some ground tho in fits and starts--and lots of stops. After an arduous beginning on the horrid washboard road north of Windy Horse Summer Camp we got out to the lava fields, La Ventana, and the visitor center a ways north. There we learned about the "ice cave" where it was promised a cool experience awaited. A must see. Well, it is not a cave at all. A hole in the ground, a collapsed lava bubble dome deep enough, not over a hundred feet, that combined with the elevation of 8,000 feet and the insulating quality of the lava, the temperature does not get above melting in the Summer. 31f is the posted temperature for the day we were there and it was delightful at first, even tho one could still see the sky and we were not really underground at all. After a while the damp cold gets to be chilly and they don't allow you to get down on the ice and so we climbed back up the long wooden hill; the temperature went up a degree every few steps and the sun was still out at the top.

Also included in the attraction was the walk to the rim of the volcano that made all this lava ten thousand years ago. The bus is an hundred pounds heavier with all the rocks Denali collected. I hope she remembers where they are all stashed, and to take them home with her.

From Ice Cave to Grants for some shopping, then, by way of the Flying-J fuel & Internet stop near ABQ, to Los Lunas to visit Liz, an OAE friend. Two or three nights have passed... I've already lost count. Last night was a movie and popcorn for supper. We are at the moment camped at WallyWorld. Headed back to ABQ for a museum today. I think it is Wenzday.
San Antonio GeoCache

Now it is Thursday

Great Wenzday at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History. Well, a great few hours anyhow. Fascinating place to wander through. It is laid out in a rather structured way that purports to journey the visitor along a timeline of natural history from the Big Bang through a more or less recent geologic past. We wandered through in reverse. Along the way there are decent docents--some of whom are students of 13-15 who relate really well to kids like Denali--and several Touch Me displays, as well as a kids' room of special interest, including some live animals.

Although our itinerary called for a side trip to Jemez and Spence Hot Springs, after the morning at the museum we bypassed them and instead went off on the second of many spur of the moment diversions. All-in-all I had a better time, and so did Denali, going north by way of Santa Fe to meet Fred. The Inn Drag'd into a playground/park and k9gaj came to visit. We stood around outside the whole time and discussed and storey'd whilst Denali ran around the playground with hordes of peers. I had previously discovered a disconnected air hose in the exhaust brake system that needed repair and initially thought I would do it in the morning however by the time I got to that point in the storey with Fred the motor had cooled sufficiently to fix the problem right then.
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic RR
So now, at this writing, we are in a rest area somewhere short of Ojo Caliente. Lots of rain and thunder/lightning after we left the park. Some of the streets were awash. Lots of hill climbing for the bus but the day was cool enough mostly. We did a geocache near Tres Piedras and another in some rest area that I remembered from a previous trip. By the time we got settled at this rest area it was mostly nice enough to have supper outside at a picnic table while distant lightning continued to stalk the setting sun.

On the way to visit Char & Fred in Alamosa, we had spent some time exploring the Cumbres & Toltec RR yards in Antonito. Of all the rail rides I've been on this was one I'd driven next to, and explored both ends of over the years, but never ridden. Denali said she had never ridden a train, period. The time was now. We laid out an hundred dollars for ride and lunch reservations for Friday and went on to Alamosa for Thursday night. Also took some time off driving to practice bicycle riding and playground playing. All told only about a hundred miles of driving today. Char & Fred, OAE friends in Alamosa, took us to dinner and then Denali worked with Char to make a bean salad for some party on Saturday whilst Fred and I and Gran Mariner rehashed old times in Antarctica.

To Ride an Iron Horse

Today is Friday and we are about to set out, already late in the morning timeline, for a ride on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic RR. The morning is already a long storey of projects getting in the way of one another, lingering over breky, construction delays in the traffic downtown, the kind of slow-pokes driving in front that I'm sure I often am, and a high speed chase that would have done credit to the Great Train Robbery. But suffice it to say we made it to the rail yard with ten minutes to spare--the last persons to board. Whoooooo---Whooooooo---
Jim Bishop Castle inside
The only fly in the ointment was that all-consuming "Game Boy" that Denali cannot live without and, as in Travels with Ian, I seem powerless to compete with. In spite of it we both had a good time; I suppose that is all that matters however the spectre of that mindless game machine hangs in the air between us like the sword of Damocles.

Cumbres & Toltec runs narrow gauge trains between Atonito ColoradO and Chamas New Mexico. You can ride end to end in one day and return by bus or you can ride half way, to the lunch buffet at Osier, and return. The ride lasts all day. Departure from Antonito at 10h00, return at 17h000. At the mid-point the engines swop trains so they go on to the other end but the cars return to their starting point. That's what we did. Antonita to Osier and return. Started out behind #484, had a nice lunch, and returned behind #487. Both engines were of 282 arrangement. For next year's Summer Camp we will have to do the other half: Chama to Osier. Then a more leisurely drive back to Alamosa for supper, showers, and good byes. We are a day or two late in the itinerary of this Summer Camp on The Road and will try to make up at least one of them.

Today is Junly

The WellWe are at "The Well", a.k.a. Dakota Hot Spring, near Penrose ColoradO. Been here? Cool place unlike most commercial hot springs. There is one large pool, a long irregular oval, must be nearly 60-80 feet on the long axis, with a huge showering fountain of hot water in the middle coming from a calcium encrusted rock, like a coral reef. The whole place is clothing optional except on Tuesdays when costumes are required for the clothes-minded. Perhaps forty people were in and around the water--all nude--but Denali was the only person under twenty. Nude dry camping is permitted in the backyard. Great place to spend a few days. Except Tuesday of course.

Along the way here we stopped at Jim Bishop's Castle in Beulah ColoradO. I'll not write much about that as it is well covered elsewhere. Fantastic piece of art. All wrought iron and river stones. Brilliant! Cool! Fascinating!

Tomorrow is the 4th of July

Visited with Dee in Colorado Springs. She was busy changing the sparking plugs on her van when we arrived--in convoy with Bill who met us back along the road in Antonito at the conclusion of our train ride--but happily took time away from that to have lunch with Denali whilst I went off to lunch with Joe and Cindy.
Jim Bishop Castle outside
In about 1963, when I was a fledgling traveller, my job sent me to Midway Island for a couple of months of playing on the beach and exploring the innards of the telephone office. Midway at that point in time was an active Naval Air Station and the southern terminus of the radar picket planes that flew to and from AlasKa. There was a sizeable civilian population of officers' families with enough kids to make a Scout Troop. The work I was doing was classified "Secret" then, maybe still is, but the beachcombing is ok to talk about. The first thing I did after dumping my gear in the BOQ was to look up the Scout Troop and one of the first persons I met was this boy named Joe Pinner; he was perhaps 16 to my 22. Today Joe lives in Greeley and we have recently been corresponding and reminiscing.

Now, this Summer Camp on Wheels is over the hill. We are somewhere west of Vail but not as far as Glenwood Springs. At a rest area with Wilmar Lake to one side and a nice rotting-rock climbing wall on the other. Gone through a few gallons of glycol to get over the 11,000 foot pass and through the Eisenhower Tunnel. The bus does not have a low enough gear to do that sort of hill-climbing without overheating one thing or another. It might be worth a few experiments just to learn how best to climb long steep hills but then Diesel is too expensive to fuel around with.
Sara(h) leading at the end of her rope.

Today is The 4th of July

Also realised this morning how much water we've gone through getting over the pass. The 80 gallon tank was filled when we visited with Dee a couple of days ago. Normally I can live on that much water for a month. Using the mister on the main radiator for additional-essential cooling these past few hill-climbs has seriously depleted the supply. There was sufficient for face wash and coffee this morning and it is downhill for a while now so... We'll make it out to somewhere before the fireworks start.

This morning The Cat Drag'd Inn is perched on the edge of Dead Horse Canyon. We have Sawpit and Lizard Head Pass on the road today before we get to the hot spring at Rico and then Four Corners beyond that. But I should not be predicting the path; here it is recounting that counts. Yesterday's ride was mostly down hill until just near the end and then it was up and up and up again. We had been more or less following the drainage of the Colorado River down from the snowfields above the Eisenhower Tunnel. Stops along the way to play in the water and watch the rafters and discuss how this very water finds its way to the taps and toilets of Denali's home in Phoenix.

The Placerville Volunteer Fire Department was washing all their equipment when we stopped to fill up the water tank. Their motto, emblazoned on truck and T-shirt: Same Day Service. I left them one of my Haiku Dish Towels in trade for their water and then used a lot of it getting over 10,500 foot Lizard Head Pass.
Same Day Service
One bright spot was the hot spring at Rico--except for the biting flies anyhow. Rico is a real hot spring where the water bubbles out of the ground steaming hot right next to a cold river. Magical! We soaked for a bit but it seemed the longer we sat there the more the flies came, as if the ones who survived our swatting went off to tell their friends what tasty dinners awaited them at the feeding tub.

Another bright spot was that of finally finding the leak in the cooling system of The...Inn. Perhaps now we will not go through so much glycol. But then we are out of the worst of the hill-climbs so it mayn't matter.

And yet another bright spot was the hours at a playground in Dolores. The park between Highway 145 and the Dolores River beckoned to both of us. Grand flat spot, three baseball fields, and lots of picnicking families. For me it was time for a cup of tea after the arduous road down out of the mountains. Denali asked: Is there any playground for children? Just follow the horde, and be sure to keep your shirt on. I sat for a while and wrote letters and had tea, walked over to the play yard and back to check on my camper, had a mug of merlot and a nap, back to the play yard and then wrote another letter. Next time I do this camp thing I want to have three times the kids and at least twice the time and half the miles.
Rico Hot Spring

The Day After The 4th

We are nearing the end of this fortnight Summer Camp on The Road. The 4th was a good mix of weather and geography. From the mountains of Lizard Head Pass & Meadow's lush green grasses, tall trees and surface water, down and down through layers and layers to the sparse dry brown of the shiprocks and mesas of Four Corners.

As we pulled off the road last night at the intersection of United States Highways 160 and 64 in Teec Nos Pos, Denali asked: Why don't these people celebrate Our Country's Birthday. It was just at sunset in a flat windswept brown desert within the stretch of a dust devil from Four Corners. A tree here and there, a few buildings scattered about, the skeletal remains of roadside kiosks lined the turnout, scraps of paper and tumbleweeds rolled along in a wind that rocked the bus side to side. Over supper we discussed what These People have to celebrate. It is not their country whose birthday is today. The Indian Nation is far older than that of the White European Invaders who stole their land and literally imprisoned them in these dusty, windy desert reservations. What have these people got to celebrate? Denali wanted to know if she was a bad person for what her ancestors did.

Last Leg... the GPS navigator says when it runs out of waypoints. The last day was the longest drive, 268 miles, in a fortnight set whose shortest was 40 miles. We averaged 136 miles/day; the total mileage was 1497. And I still have to go on to the Wind Horse Base Camp where we started. A long part of the road today paralleled an electric railway--"Black Mesa & Lake Powell" according to my chart--which must run between a coal mine somewhere along U.S.160 over to the generating station at Lake Powell. The steel rails and electric catenary struck me as somehow out of place at first until I made the connexion; it just looks so incongruous there in the high desert--no communities, no stations, and electric at that. The road was well surfaced and after all the days of slow but interesting driving on the curves and hills in the mountains the driving now was fast and somewhat tiring.
Walking in Ancient Moccasins
Our last visit was at Wupatki National Monument. Denali was fascinated with the ruins and attracted a bit of an audience at the visitor center to her performance of the Junior Ranger's Promise. She went on to take her new authority seriously on our walk about the ruins, reminding me not to stray from the path and her Self carefully replacing each rock she picked up to examine. Imbuing children with such aura of responsibility must work in the short term but I wonder how long it lasts when challenged by peers and parents who trash and deface elsewhere. We tried to imagine what it must have been like to have lived there a thousand years ago when there was water enough to grow crops and how it is that the weather and the times have changed.

Williams Ham Fest

Denali is home and once again Sara(h) can nap in peace. I have a few days to catch up on mail and projects and to sort through all the leftovers and forgotton stuff. Around me the buying and selling of old radio equipment and parts is going on. Saturday was a good day for a flea market; some folks sold lots of stuff, I bought much of it--well, some of it anyhow. Lots of odds and ends. Correspondent Betty is this Summer "jammin'" an old red bus over the Going To The Sun highway in Glacier National Park--working for a salary and tips, driving tourists [crazy?] and telling them storeys. Visiting her was one of the places we didn't get to on this Summer Camp tour. Another thing of note about The Cat Drag'd Inn: the oil leak I fixed on the 3208 motor back about the time of the last oil change has resulted in being able to drive the last few thousand miles with no added oil. However I've had to change the air filters twice due to dusty roads.
Betty Jammin' a Red Bus

Back to Wind Horse & Plans for Next Year's Summer Camp on the Road

Next Summer I'd like to do another of this kind of tour; perhaps a month of easy driving from AridZona to Idaho and Washington and back. If you are looking for adventure, if you want to mosey along the "blue highways", write me and we'll see what we can arrange.

Be Well, Do Good, and Please Write.

Love, ajo

front page trailerI do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me. --Sir Isaac Newton

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Copyright © 2007, A.J.Oxton, The Cat Drag'd Inn , Tonopah AridZona 85354-0313.