Sunday, September 28, 2008


Check out this motorhome! Odel and I pass it each day when we take our walk up Tombstone Canyon, through the heart of Old Bisbee. My guess is that it is owned by the local coffeehouse, the Bisbee Coffee Company, but we haven't seen anyone around it to ask. The artwork depicts scenes from Bisbee's past and present, and travel related themes, with logos from several Bisbee businesses along the bottom. Double click on the photo for a closer look - it is really impressive in person.

Bisbee is a good place to be sitting through the overwhelming news of the "imminent collapse of the financial system as we know it". There aren't a lot of expensive new cars lining the streets of Bisbee, and "well-used, casual" and even "inventive" clothing seems to be norm here. Some homes have For Sale signs, but the neighborhoods don't seem particularly troubled by the bursting of the real estate bubble. You don't get the feeling that Bisbee's citizens support an unsustainable consumer lifestyle by maxing out credit cards.

For several years I have wondered how an economy that relies on ever-growing consumer spending could be sustainable. I wondered what would happen to our economy when the real estate bubble burst and home equity could no longer fund annual increases in purchases of "stuff".

Though I have many thoughts on "patriotism", conservation of resources, financial management (and mis-management), greed, globalism, national security, personal freedom, corruption of government officials, and our dangerous current administration, I am unable to articulate them clearly. Imagine my surprise the other night when I heard someone articulate them for me!

After Friday night's presidential candidates' debate, I was flipping discontently through the channels when I found that Bill Moyers' Journal was about to begin. Bill Moyers' is a personal hero, and time spent watching his show is always time well spent. On Friday night, I found the show riveting.

If you would like to hear a remarkable, non-partisan, discussion of the challenges we face now, and how we arrived here, scroll down to the link below to view the video or read the transcript of Bill Moyer's interview with Andrew Bacevich, discussing his recent book, The Limits of Power.

Here is Bill Moyer's introduction to the conversation:

"...we are going to hear some truth-telling from a man who says our country's in deep trouble and needs a renewed commitment to critical thinking, honest words, and hard choices.

"In this slim volume on THE LIMITS OF POWER, Andrew J. Bacevich goes to the root causes of our discontent and to our broken and foundering politics. That many people agree with this unsentimental diagnosis was apparent when we first aired this interview a few weeks ago, your emails poured in to In a matter of hours his book had become a best-seller.

"Now, with chaos in Washington and the markets, it seems a good time to give this soldier, scholar, and patriot another hearing. He has found an audience across the political spectrum, whether writing for THE NATION or THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE magazines, lecturing to college classes or testifying before Congress. "

Click here to read or listen to Bill Moyer's interview with Andrew Bacevich.

Friday, September 26, 2008


My sister Sydney has told us for several years that Arizona's monsoon season is her favorite time in Bisbee. Big clouds, dramatic storms, rivers running full instead of dry... and the landscape turns green and lush as dormant grass drinks and grows tall. "You should come for the monsoon", she says.

Well, living in an RV in rain is not that fun. Three hundred or so square feet of enclosed space feels TOO enclosed when you are inside day after day, so we have not visited to enjoy the seasonal rains.

This year, though, we are just a few weeks past the end of the monsoon season, and the change is startling! Check out these pictures of the clay oven. The one on the left is from March, 2008, when we had just completed building the oven; I took the other picture yesterday when we went to visit Rosanna's ranch and see how the oven fared during the heavy rains. Look at the difference in the flora!

The oven itself, covered by the protective layer of cob, was in great shape. Rosanna has a sophisticated weather station, and told us that, during one monsoon drenching, the rain fell at a rate of 15 inches per HOUR.

At Rosanna's, horses large and small are turned loose from their corrals to graze on the grass and weeds. Besides saving hundreds of dollars on hay, they do a great job of reducing the mowing needed - and their stomping hooves warn rattlesnakes to STAY AWAY!

As we chatted near the corrals, both of the big horses demonstrated their pleasure in their freedom to graze with a long roll in the dust. Our friend Joann took this photo, and Doug and Joann let me snag it from their blog. Doesn't that look like pure JOY?

As we drove home from Rosanna's yesterday, it looked like the monsoon wasn't yet over. Dark, heavy clouds enveloped the mountains to the west, and rain obviously was falling hard in a few places. Later in the evening, we heard that there was a "small stream advisory" in the area.

This morning, we picked up my brother-in-law Frank and went off for a hike at the San Pedro river. Frank volunteers there, leading hikes. so knows his way around. Over and over again, he was surprised when taking a turn towards the river, only to find the river had overtaken the trail. In this photo, a "Trail" sign is half submerged at the far end of this temporary "stream".

We never made it to the riverbank, but had a good time hiking through waist high grass - a new experience for us in this corner of Arizona.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


We escaped!

After an early morning walk yesterday morning (out on the trail at 7 am), we packed up and headed south to Bisbee and blessedly cooler weather. As I write this, at midday on Wednesday, our thermometer shows 84 degrees - 13 degrees cooler than the current temperature in Tucson. Let me tell you, the difference between 84 degrees and 97 degrees is substantial to an RV'er - the difference between enjoying the outdoors and huddling inside with both A/C's blowing.

You can see from this photo that it was beautiful in the Sonoran desert around Tucson, and we LOVE that area in winter. During our quick visit, we fit in quite a bit: huge shopping trip to Costco; lunch at a favorite restaurant, Chopped, with our friends JoAnn and Doug; a sit-down with two ex-Boomers, Al and DeAnna, whom we had previously met through email only; and a tour of a mobile home park in Tucson where we might consider staying for a month later this year.

Once the required medical appointment was over, though, we were glad to head to Bisbee and Queen Mine RV Park (read our review and see photos here), perched high up on the edge of the big pit copper mine that dominates the Bisbee landscape. Bisbee is a quirky place, and this trailer, near us at the half-full RV park, fits right in. Check out that beautiful "cloudy sky" paint job; I'd never seen "cloud" camoflage before!

As we were setting up, we heard the crunch of tires on gravel and looked out to see Doug and JoAnn arriving with their 5th wheel. They, too, were escaping the heat, coming from the Benson SKP park for a few cooler days in Bisbee. Fun!

Rosanna and Auntie Carol arrived from Paws & Hooves ranch around 5 pm, to greet JoAnn and Doug (and Fillmore, their princely standard poodle), make a plan for a get-together, then head over with us to dinner at Sydney and Frank's house. It was a busy, social, and thoroughly enjoyable day. Great to be back in Bisbee!

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Let's see... when I last posted, we had been enjoying our stay in Santa Fe and our hike at Bandelier National Monument... and now we are roasting in Tucson, Arizona. Why? Good question!

Odel has an appointment we need to keep in Tucson on Monday morning, so we finally were forced to leave the wonderful weather in Santa Fe for a quick trip down to the lower, hotter elevations. Our first day's drive was a bit over 200 miles, and we had a beautiful day for it. All easy freeway driving, not much traffic, with great views of arid mountains, mesas and big, puffy white clouds mushrooming up in the sky.

AND... we bought 50 gallons of diesel fuel for just $3.75 per gallon! Last time we paid under $4 per gallon was in March, so it was a thrill for us. I don't know what is going on with diesel prices, but we LOVE it. Even here in Tucson, the price is under $4/gallon.

We arrived at Lakeside RV Park (read our review and see photos here) in Elephant Butte by early afternoon. "Lakeside" isn't accurate, though it is but a short walk to Elephant Butte Reservoir (top photo). This is one of our favorite desert parks - beautifully landscaped, perfectly maintained, spacious and friendly, it seems to improve each year. They honor Passport America, too, which means 1/2 priced campsites.

We took a 10,000 step walk through Elephant Butte State Park (across the road from Lakeside) before we left in the morning, leaving around 11 am for a stay at the Elks Lodge in Willcox, Arizona (we thought). On the way, we took the shortcut between I-25 and I-10 through the town of Hatch, home to the best chiles grown in the USA. I took this photo out the side window as we breezed through town - those are chiles drying on the roof, which was a common sight in Hatch.

Around 2:30 pm, when we hit Willcox, the temperature was in the mid- or upper-90's. Whoa! We're not used to this! The Elks Lodge only had 30 amp power, insufficient for our two A/C's.

Only another 40 or so miles west, in Benson, was one of the Escapee RV parks, with 50 amps of electricity at the sites. Even better, our friends JoAnn and Doug are staying there, so we continued on. By 5 pm, we were relaxing with our friends in the shade of the rig, catching up on "How We Spent Our Summer" and reminiscing about the lovely, cool weather in the Rockies.

We were up EARLY this morning, out gettin' our steps circling through the RV park. A quick trip to Safeway for supplies and we were back on the road for a short drive to the west side of Tucson. We are back at Justin's Diamond J RV Park (read our review and view photos here), our third visit. Last time we were here, this past winter, the place was packed, every space full. Look at it now! I don't think 10% of the spaces are occupied... because it is still blazingly hot here!

We were settled in, with the A/C's chugging away, by 11:30 am, and then off to Costco. Our cupboards were about as empty as they get. Now the freezer is stuffed with goodies for grilling, we have a fresh watermelon cut up and cold, plenty of cold white wine...

It was still in the high 80's when we grilled our dinner, but unexpectedly pleasant to sit outside and watch the early sunset (Arizona doesn't observe daylight savings time, an excellent idea in this climate!) while Luna rolled in the dirt, stuck her paw down rodent holes, and sniffed every shrub thoroughly.

As I write, it is 9 pm and 80 degrees. Tomorrow is forecast to be 97. Looks like we'll be out on the trails EARLY!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Four years ago, we visited Bandelier National Monument, another of our monuments set aside to protect the ruins of dwellings of the Ancestral Puebloans. At the time we visited in 2004, the trail we most wanted to hike, alongside a creek through Frijoles Canyon to the Rio Grande, was closed due to damage from a flash flood.

For this visit, I called in advance - yes, the Frijoles Canyon trail was open, but a prescribed burn was planned for sometime during the week! We called back yesterday morning before we headed out (Bandelier is about 50 miles from here) - the canyon trail was open, the burn was delayed, the road construction hadn't started yet... off we went!

We had a perfect day for sightseeing. You can see by these photos that this is an arid area, so the cool, creekside walk through forested Frijoles Canyon as a nice contrast. We cut that hike a bit short, though, because there was another section of the monument, detached from the main section, that I particularly wanted to visit: Tsankawi.

The Tsankawi pueblo has not been excavated. The trail, more primitive than those in the main section of the monument, winds up to the top of the mesa, where you can wander among the fallen stones of the pueblo, down a ladder and along a ledge to the small caves used as cliff dwellings.

What I LOVED, though, was the trail itself. These mesas are the product of volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago that deposited a thick layer of ash, volcanic "tuff". Tuff is rather soft, which made it easy to "work" into dwellings - to cut for bricks, or to scrape to enlarge already existing caves. It also wears easily, and the pathways used by the Puebloans to travel through their "neighborhood" are easily seen.

Look at the wear pattern in this picture. At times, the path was so deeply etched that the sides were knee high - sometimes even higher. I can tell you, the Ancestral Puebloans had feet and thighs considerably smaller than mine! The white tuff dust covered our shoes and pant legs.

We crawled up or down three ladders, explored the insides of small cave dwellings, and examined the pictographs along the cliff face. We sat for awhile and tried to imagine ourselves as A.P's, gazing at our maize patches in the canyon below our feet. The deeply eroded trail and the carved hand and footholds going up and down the cliffs captured my imagination much more powerfully than the excavated pueblos in the main section of the monument. If you visit Bandelier, don't miss Tsankawi.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Santa Fe had a big party this past weekend, and everyone was invited - so we went. The celebration marked the rebirth of the Santa Fe Railyard, a derelict 50-acre railroad switching yard redeveloped over the past 13 years into a lively, beautiful, multi-use community space.

The Railyard is southwest of Historic Santa Fe and the plaza, an easy walk. The development isn't complete, but the commercial anchor, an REI store, was open and doing a booming business. New restaurants are open, along with a couple galleries and facilities for non-profits - and an imaginative park is close to completion.

One building that is completed is the new, permanent space for the Santa Fe Farmers' Market, our target on Saturday morning. We hopped on the bus outside the RV park and, guess what? It was FREE both Saturday and Sunday, for the "special event" opening of the Railyard. What a hospitable touch!

The bus dropped us off 1 block from the Railyard and we followed our ears and noses right to the park. Bands played on a couple different stages all day long, and food vendors filled the air with savory smells. The Farmer's Market building was bustling inside, and surrounded by more stalls on the outside. This is the kind of market we love - produce, eggs, organic meats, cheeses, jams, baked goods. There were chiles and chile products everywhere! We sampled, browsed and bought.

People-watching in Santa Fe is superior! Of course there were lots of kids and dogs, and strolling old folks. Many women in voluminous, flowing garments. Interesting hats. Dreadlocks. Colorful shawls and heavy turquoise jewelry. Expensive strollers. Cops on three-wheeled Segways!

We couldn't stay all day on Saturday because we had produce to take home, but we enjoyed ourselves so much that we returned on Sunday (the bus ride was free again) to eat, drink, and laze around on the lawn watching the other visitors enjoy themselves.

I couldn't help thinking of the railyard in Sacramento, our ex-hometown. The discussion over what to do with their huge urban eyesore has lasted several years in Sacramento, though we never see any progress when we visit. The new Farmers' Market building in Santa Fe reminded me of Bellingham, Washington's, Farmers' Market, a wonderful amenity in that city - and the spaces for the non-profits and restaurants brought to mind Ft. Mason in San Francisco. I hope Sacramento can pull off something similar one day... or should I say one decade?

Our Boomer friends Bobbie and Jim Chapman, who we last saw at the Great Sand Dunes (after Odel gave Bobbie the "Odel haircut" in Buena Vista), came by for a happy hour visit this afternoon and told us about their plans to work for as "seasonals". They are on their way to Coffeyville, Kansas, to the Amazon warehouse, where they will work from mid-October until December 23rd filling all your Christmas orders. Amazon hires 700 seasonals just for the Kansas warehouse! I'm looking forward to the story of their experiences there.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Northern New Mexico has some fabulous scenery! We enjoyed several day trips around Taos - the Enchanted Circle, the "High Road" through the ancient Indian Pueblos, a hike above 10,000 feet to Williams Lake - all quite striking, with fascinating history. Still, I was disenchanted with Taos and was happy to move to Santa Fe yesterday.

We have settled into Trailer Ranch RV Park (read our review and view photos here), an urban RV park on the south end of town. Driving into historic, convoluted downtown Santa Fe, on roads established a few hundred years ago, didn't appeal to us - here, we can catch a bus right outside the RV park that goes straight to the downtown transit center, two blocks from the plaza. It's great - a buck a day for each of us for unlimited riding!

As soon as we set up yesterday afternoon, we visited Santa Fe's Trader Joe's - it had been way too long. Looking at our receipt, I see wine, wine and more wine... and junk food, delicious Trader Joe's junk food: triple ginger snaps, chocolate covered dried cranberries, chips to go with homemade salsa. Speaking of homemade salsa...

It is chile time in New Mexico. Ristras of dried red chiles are on display everywhere. Almost every large parking lot has a tent set up with 3 or 4 chile roasting drums and roasted Hatch chiles for sale, both red and green. It seems like an unusual sight to us, but obviously is very common here this time of year. The smell is delicious!

We took the bus to the plaza today and spent several hours wandering the narrow streets, getting our bearings and people watching. I'm starting to suffer a touch of "adobe fatigue" - as much as I enjoy the pueblo style buildings, it begins to feel a little overdone when even the Target store looks like a pueblo! Check out this great old door, though - there is plenty of architectural splendor to admire.

As I write this tonight, I am watching the excited Weather Channel reporters as they describe the landfall of hurricane Ike on Galveston Island. Our first visit to Galveston was last year, in March of 2007. I posted a message to our blog back then describing the deadly hurricane of 1900 (click here to read the post and see photos). If you haven't been there, and don't know how closely the lifestyle revolves around proximity to water, click here. You will also see some photos of Galveston Island State Park, on the west end of the island, currently underwater. According to the news reports, around 20,000 people did not evacuate Galveston in spite of the mandatory evacuation order - beyond my comprehension. One woman, when interviewed, said she stayed because she didn't want to get caught in the traffic jam. Best of luck to them all.

Monday, September 8, 2008


Time to face it: Taos is not the favorite I thought it would be, and I will come away with very mixed feelings.

Fascinating history, beautiful setting, appealing architecture… galleries, museums and good restaurants… its all there. So are Wal-Mart, fast-food chains, weedy strip malls and traffic gridlock.

The historic plaza (top photo), dating from the 1500’s, is the bull-eye of Taos. This is where a visitor would love to sit in the shade of the huge old trees to admire the centuries old buildings and watch the pedestrian traffic - except that the ornate iron benches are not comfortable for anything other than a brief rest.

From the plaza, “Historic Taos” radiates a few blocks in all directions - the old buildings that now house galleries, hotels, restaurants, t-shirt and gift shops, candy stores, toy stores and a pet shop where you can pay over $100 for a stroller to walk your dog. It feels like an upscale, “Pueblo style”, shopping mall, pure retail except for Kit Carson’s house, now a museum.

The old buildings of Historic Taos give way to a ring of attractive, expensive, upscale hotels, motels and B&B’s, still within walking distance of historic Taos, housing the pack of tourists coming to experience the Taos mystique.

It is fortunate that they can walk to the galleries and restaurants, because one block from the plaza, through traffic on all the major highways traveling this part of northern New Mexico funnels down to the grid-locked narrow streets of Historic Taos - trucks, cars, RV’s, and tour busses. Morning, afternoon, and evening, stop and go traffic snakes through town.

Once outside the Historic District, mundane realities of life in what is no longer a small town set in. Chain restaurants and fast-food joints, strip malls, Wal-Mart, Chinese-food buffets (when did they get so popular?) and all the other businesses that thrive off servicing locals and guests. Traffic everywhere.

Finally, beyond all that, the beauty of northern New Mexico - high, forested mountainsides sloping to arid, high desert and sweeping vistas. It is easy to see why people have been drawn here for centuries, and why the creative and artistic spirit was and is nourished here. Travelers coming to Taos 20, 30, 50 years ago were no doubt able to see and appreciate that creativity, and the lore of Taos was born… and promoted.

How is it different than what I expected? So much bigger, so much more commercial, so much traffic… it’s a city, some of it lovely, much of it unappealing. Not unlike many large towns/small cities, but I expected something different, more magical, less commercial.

The magic is to be found outside Taos. Our first day’s exploration (second and third photos) included a hike along the Rio Grande Gorge (breathtaking) and a visit to the Greater World Earthship Community (last two photos), truly inspiring. One of three “earthship” communities in New Mexico, homes (earthships) at Greater World are earth-friendly in the truest sense - built of recycled materials (“garbage” including tires), they are completely off the grid - no utility hookups allowed. Electric power is generated by sun and wind, water is collected, stored, and reused, sewage is treated locally (septic tanks - no city sewer hookups).

We toured the Greater World visitor center, a 1,400 square foot earthship - a fascinating abode that seemed an organic feature of the countryside it (and the rest of the earthship community) inhabits. Even though we have no interest in a permanent house, we left feeling impressed and inspired!

We have three more days here at Sierra Village RV Park (read our campground review and see more photos here), where we don’t have phone or internet access. Expect our next blog posting to come from Santa Fe, next stop on our southward trek.

Friday, September 5, 2008


After six weeks in Colorado, we reluctantly left beautiful Great Sand Dunes National Park on Thursday to head farther south. The afternoon before we left, a heavy, cold rain rolled in, drenching the dunes and the campground, turning the wet dunes dark and rosy. The rain cleared by evening, and we had a successful campfire (no mosquitoes, no wind, big flames) with our Boomer friends. A campfire at night, and no hookups - we were CAMPING!

We did one last loop hike through the dunes before we left, then drove 120 miles to Taos, New Mexico. Though Taos is not large, the congestion of traffic, buildings and people made me realize that we haven’t been in a town of any size for over a month. Taos felt HUGE!

Though the RV park we chose is by far the prettiest in the area, I was completely shocked to find that we have no cell service here - no phones, no aircard. I can’t remember the last time we were without a cell signal, even in places that seemed remote - Westcliffe, Mueller State Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park. It never occurred to us to ask if an RV park in Taos, New Mexico had a Verizon signal!

So… don’t be surprised if blog posts lag a bit. We will be checking email as we can - I don't like feeling soooooo out of touch.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Surprise! Thanks to a new cell tower, we've got phones and aircard reception here at Great Sand Dunes National Park (read our campground review and see campground photos here). It's a good thing, because I have taken almost 100 photos in less than 24 hours - I need to get some of 'em posted!

Don't ever pass up a chance to visit a National Park! This designation is used to preserve the most beautiful landscapes in our country, and Great Sand Dunes is no exception.

We arrived just after 1 pm yesterday, carefully timed for the best campsite selection - after the departing campers had cleared out, but most of the new arrivals had not yet come in. We knew there were few sites here that would accommodate our size but, with the help of Dave and Marie Dengate, the camp hosts and Boomers, we squeezed into a "pullout" site with a wonderful view of the dunes. We immediately noticed (even before we read the sign posted at every site) the "bear box" where campers can store food... as the signs say, this is bear country. I'd love to see one - from the safety of Scoopy.

We did a big loop hike after we set up - considerably longer than we had anticipated - down to the dunes, along the creek, up to the visitor center, then up the flank of the mountainside on a trail back to the campground. The dunes loom to the west of the campground; the Sangre de Cristos loom even higher (WAY higher) to the east. According to our GPS, we are only about 25 miles southwest of our campground in Westcliffe (where we were a week ago) - with 13,000+ foot peaks in between.

As I mentioned, the campground hosts here are a Boomer couple we met earlier this summer. When we awoke today, we were anticipating the arrival of two more Boomer couples, Chuck and Jan Moore and Jim and Bobby Chapman. We wanted to get some hiking in early, knowing socializing would be on the afternoon agenda.

Around 8 am, we hopped in Jules and set off down a sand road to the "Point of No Return" - past which only 4 wheel drive vehicles can pass. Now, Jules is a Jeep, so technically we could motor on past the small parking lot, but we were detered by the sign that mentioned deep sand ahead and suggested we lower the air pressure in our tires to 15 psi. Yeah, right...!

We parked at the Point of No Return and headed off to the dunes on foot. They are fantastic! In most places, the sand is sufficiently firmly packed that walking was not difficult, and cheery masses of small sunflowers bloomed in protected bowls. We saw all sorts of tracks (no bear tracks, though), and left a few miles of our own.

Once we were off the dunes, we headed up the mountainside to the Dunes Overlook, almost as high as the highest dunes, which gave us a fabulous view of the huge dune area. It looks just like a hunk of the Sahara has been set down next to some of Colorado highest mountains - really crazy.

Monday, September 1, 2008


This morning we are saying goodbye to Buena Vista, heading south to Great San Dunes National Park and Preserve. These dunes (photo from the NPS website) are the tallest in North America, and look at that gorgeous backdrop of the Sangre de Cristos!

When we were in Westcliffe last week, we viewed these mountains from the east side - now we will get to see them from the west (and we know they won't be snow-capped).

Like us, several Boomer couples have stayed in southern Colorado since the Boomerang in Buena Vista in July, and we hope to meet up with them at the dunes for a few days. Since the dunes are in an unpopulated area snuggled up against high mountains, I'm not sure about phone and aircard reception while we are there. If I don't post to the blog over the next three days, don't be surprised. Once we leave the Dunes, we're planning a week in Taos, New Mexico - I know we can be in touch from there.