Because We Can - Fulltime RV'ing

Journal Archive 05/01 - 05/10 2007

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May 1 - Tuesday

Our last workday at Petrified Forest National Park began with the alarm going off at 5:30 AM and waking both of us out of a sound sleep. Yesterday had definitely drained both of us, though that certainly wasn't bad. We'll both take a busy day with wall to wall visitors over a slow boring day every time. Of course I wouldn't have had to of been up quite as early as Linda, but since I was as keyed up as she was, what the heck.

Going one step further, I decided to go up to the Visitors Center when she did, so 6:30 saw us walking up towards the main building complex with the start of a glorious day bursting out all around us in sight and song. Just another one of those little things we are going to miss after we leave, National Parks most definitely are very special places. I helped Linda open by doing the "little things" which allowed her to concentrate on counting the cash tray. Of course it had to be off this morning, but at least there was a note saying it was off when they counted it last night. What was really odd was that it should have been closed out since it was months end. (A short time later Linda was doing that as it WAS supposed have been closed out for the month yesterday, but wasn't.) I had remembered to close out the month at Rainbow Forest last night, (Linda had the early shift opening in the morning) which just goes to show that the experience that older volunteers can bring to the job is one of the additional benefits the NPS gets from their VIP's. Ya, I know that is patting ourselves on the back, but you know something, after all we've done for the park, both Linda and I deserve it.

While Linda had been frustrated on the money end, I had gone upstairs to the Library, not to escape her problems, she was more that capable of solving them, but rather to return the many books and videos we had from the Park Library, which was just another benefit of being volunteers. After checking them all back in and then checking the list of books which were out, I discovered there was one I had missed. It looked like a search was going to be in order. I headed back down to the coach and after some diligent examination of places dark and gloomy, finally found it. It was in the bathroom under a magazine. I smiled knowing that Linda had struck once again, having taken the book in there in the first place, then covering it with the magazine. Given that may be her only fault I can certainly overlook it, though is it any wonder I have so few hairs left on my head.

On the way back to the Visitors Center I stopped at the Interp office to do the weather report. I noticed when I had been up there earlier it hadn't been posted for the past couple of days, so I decided to just do it. I later found out it was wasn't being done because Hallie was off sick, so it was good I did took the initiative, otherwise it would have been done again today. Linda and I both came to the conclusion a long time ago that this most definitely wasn't just a job, it was the opportunity to help make the visitors experience more meaningful, so little things like that have become second nature. To say that we have enthusiasm for what we are doing would probably be an understatement. Passion would be a far more apt and appropriate description.

Eventually it came time to check out a vehicle and head over to the Painted Desert Inn to do the 11 o'clock tour. That was when I discovered that Bill had already checked out the Camaro, which meant that my name was going to be mud when he looked at the gas gauge. I had gotten back at 7:15 last night, which was long after the gas station had closed and had been planning on checking it out again today so I could fill it. Fortunately the Crown Vic was still available so I took that. I turned out to be a small tour, only seven people, that may have been because I forewarned everyone that this was going to be my last tour for the season and they may have thought I was leaving for the wrong reasons. Either that, or they thought I was going to cram every story I knew about the building into my talk.

Needless to say the group was treated to all the best stories the walls of the various rooms in the PDI could tell. My method of leading the tour is to explain that I am a Park Interpreter, but one who has special skills, the ability to interpret what the 220 million year old walls of the building are saying. I then proceed to relate a story or two in each room about something that happened there or the background of some the architectural details found in the room and in the end, try to tie it altogether with why it is important to save old buildings where the visitors live so those buildings too, may have the opportunity to tell their stories someday.

Later, at 2 o'clock, I once again had a great time with the Puerco Pueblo tour. Based on the premise, "How Do They Know?", I try to make it an adventure in archaeology. From the beginning where the group is standing within a few feet of the ruins of a 100 room pueblo and then asking if they can point out where the ruins are (no one can), to the end of the tour when they are excited about being able to identify pottery sherds laying on the ground, it is awesome to see the transformation that takes place in how the people in the group look at and understand things. Hopefully they will never visit a site in the future and see just ruins or vacant walls. They will be picturing in their minds eye what life was like at the very spot they are standing, not only imagining the sights, but also the sounds and smells of everyday life those centuries ago. To me the past is not sterile and dull, the past is every bit as alive as today is alive, and I hope I can share that with others in my Ranger talks.

While I love to spend time after the tour talking with other visitors, pointing out the difference between what their eyes see and their minds understand, I had to leave in order to get back to the Visitors Center by 3 o'clock. Linda had stated in no uncertain terms that I was, under no circumstances, going to be late to our going away party. Unfortunately it looked like I was going to be late until a call came over the radio alerting all law enforcement staff to a theft of petrified wood. Since they were all involved in responding, it allowed me to drive a little faster than normal and arrive on time. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the break room to find I had arrived before Linda. Maybe good things do happen to nice people. Marge had made one of her famous cakes, an extra chocolaty Devil's Food Cake. As was later pointed out, had it been just for Linda, it would have been called a Chocolate Angel Food Cake, but since I was involved, the only name that fit was Devil's Food. ( We think they really liked us!!!!)

Marge, the pastry chef

That was Marge posing by her creation. By the way, the smile on her face matches the smile that comes from inside as she is one of the most pleasant persons we have ever had the pleasure of knowing. On the other hand, there are people like the one shown in this next photo.

How not to cut the cake

Wait, there was even more fun, though it was more unintentional that planned. Marge decreed that she who bakes the cake, gets to designate who cuts the cake and I was the person to do the job. Protesting that I had virtually no experience in such matters and the last cake I had cut was most likely nearly forty years ago on the day Linda and I were married, did no good. I actually managed to do a good job of covering my inexperience until about the sixth slice, then it happened. Somehow or other, that particular piece decided that it didn't like laying on the slicing knife and took a dumper. Fortunately it fell in the table beside the cake, unfortunately when it fell, I did my darndest to catch it and ended up smearing chocolate frosting on my shirt.

Bob, being Bob

This led to some comments about "being out of practice", "what do you expect from a man", to "no wonder Linda never lets him cut the cake." In the face of all this I was defenseless, only able to offer the lame excuse that at least I waited until after we were finished with our volunteer stint to make a fool of myself. We had a great time and most definitely look forward to coming back next year to try and make up for the poor impression I left, if they'll let us that is. Actually they wanted us to stay on now, which we would, except for the other commitments we have in the realm of babysitting our grandson. Like Linda says, everything that happens, happens for a reason, we just don't always know why at the time.

Party girls

The rest of the day was spent in relaxation, or maybe I should say unwinding. Dinner was left over chili with reduced fat Triscuts, slathered with crunchy, natural peanut butter and sugar free raspberry jelly. I managed to contain my desire to wreck havoc upon the PB&J, more because there wasn't much jelly in the jar rather than any supreme degree of implementation of willpower on my part. While an abundance of willpower may be good, lack of opportunity is far better. Having a small piece of chocolate chip zucchini cake just past 9 o'clock was just the thing, as our eyes were already starting to close. One more chapter in our life has come to a close, it will take a couple of days to turn the page to next one, but every day is a great day if we choose to make it such. As we went to bed Linda talked once again as to how in her wildest imagination, she would never have thought that every dream she had as a little girl could have come true in just a matter of four hours one afternoon in the Petrified Forest National Park when she found some fossil bones, a prehistoric stone tool, pottery sherds, and a number of fossil teeth from a carnivore that could have downed her in one bite. We can't wait to see what our guide, Sara N. Dippity has in store for us in the future.

To know the link with the past. To experience the connection of being human. The joy of life. The spirit of individuality. The adventure goes on and on.

May 2 - Wednesday

A new period of our life dawned today and we're not sure what to label it, maybe the time between. Once again we find ourselves "unemployed" so to speak, though a better term may be, 're-retired'. We plan to stay here at Petrified Forest for a few more days before driving over to Gallup, then heading up to the four corners area to spend time at the Ute Tribal Park and Canyon of the Ancients. One interesting thing that happened this morning was, Linda did not sleep in on her first day off, in fact she was up bright and early. I don't think of it as a trend, but it sure was a pleasant surprise.

The nice thing about her being up early was that she also got hungrier earlier, which meant we had breakfast at a reasonable hour. Since we had gotten such a great deal on eggs the last time we bought them, three dozen for the price of a dozen and a half, it has been a couple of eggs a day, and today proved no exception. Two eggs, some chopped onion, green pepper and nopolitas, two thin slices of cheese and top with a dab of sour cream and salsa. Now that's a breakfast to start the day. It was so good it also go me started writing the daily journal once again and let me tell you, that's quite an accomplishment. Of course the fact that our life has also changed considerably from what it has been may also have played a tiny part.


We did have one thing, and one thing only planned for the day, attending the lecture series that is hosted by the Park on the first Wednesday of the month. That it was interesting is not the best description, that it was thought provoking would be far more accurate. It carried the intriguing title, What Do We Do With Our Ancestors?" Not in terms of discovering them, but rather how do we dispose of them. After introducing the subject by talking about the way we dispose of the recently deceased, the subject changed to how do we dispose of those whom we discover that died long ago. One really had to be there to understand the depth of the subject, to say it was an excellent presentation would be an understatement. I'll leave by saying that just as our religious beliefs through the ages have translated into how we view the disposition of dead, so do the religious beliefs of the people we call Native Americans influence how they view the disposition of there ancestors remains. What happens is the science gets caught in the middle. Like I said, it was a very thought provoking presentation.

The remainder of our day was spent in casual living. Linda working on cleaning up the last of her Ebay sales while I looked for our next volunteer opportunity. She was much more successful than I was, partly because we know what we are doing between now and November, but after that the canvas is clean. We have made an application for a position in Texas, but the initial response was not what you would exactly call encouraging. One thing we have decided is that we are not going to take a position just to have something to do. It's going to be something we really want to do and our current thinking is that we would like to do something that envolves living history. Stay tuned as we try to pursue that dream, which may turn out to be just that, a dream.

When the four o'clock hour rolled around Linda was more than ready for our peanuts and it was more fun than we have had in a long time sitting out at the table, shelling and eating peanuts while talking excitedly about some of the things we might be doing in the future. What a difference from our previous life where we would talk about changes that we felt couldn't happen. Now we talk about changes and know they can happen.

Speaking of changes, dinner was certainly a change. One of our goals has been to 'eat down' the freezer, so out came the last of the crab, which with the addition of a few ingredients became Crab Imperial. It was awesome and made us realize it won't be so many months until we are once again back on the Oregon Coast. Linda spent the evening watching TV, while I began the task of updating the web site, making the first few subtle changes that should make it easier for me to once again keep it current. One thing I have done is to do away with SmartFTP as my FTP client. It was just giving me to many problems with the uploads, so it is completely gone from the computer. In its place is Core FTP Lite, which while not as sophisticated, has proven to be trouble free when it comes to actually getting the code uploaded in the manner needed. It's things like this that get me trouble because in the back of my mind is a little being that whispers, you should write some articles about the software you use. Then the little clockmaker that sits beside it says, isn't the time you spend on these things part of your frustration? I believe it is called Bob's conundrum.

The day ended with dessert being the last of the going away party chocolate cake, which was followed by a phone call from our son. That's what I'd call a great ending to a wonderful day. We are really looking forward to tomorrow when we go on our first ever paleontological expedition, when we lead the Park's Paleontologist out to the site where we found the bones sticking out from the clay mound. It should be an exciting day, and if I'm not to tired from what I hope truly is 'a day of excitement', maybe I'll set some kind of record and post three days in a row, which could hopefully be the start of a new habit.

May 3 - Thursday

Up early today, maybe because of what we are going to do, but I also was eager to get the daily journal finished and uploaded. I love writing the journal and miss it when I don't do it, but the real problem is the time it takes to do it the way I want it done. It doesn't happen by accident and neither does it come pouring out like some gigantic flood of letters which mystically rearrange themselves into words, phrases, sentences and paragraphs. Neither do the photo's just magically appear in the camera, then teleport themselves to the perfect place in the narrative for the day. I'm torn between doing what I think is something I am proud to have both Linda and my names on and just hammering something out to meet the daily deadline. Maybe I will write an article for the homepage about this.

Since we are 'going out in the field' today, the excitement also got to Linda and for the second day in a row she was up early. That didn't interfere with writing the daily journal since I had not only started it last evening, I was up before 5 AM this morning working on it. That early hour is pure pleasure for me, something that Linda doesn't understand, but by the same token, her body seems to need a good bit more sleep than mine does. Just goes to prove everyone is different, which suggests that before we judge others, it truly is best to walk in the other persons shoes. You just might be quite surprised by what you find. Personally I like this shoe I find myself in now at this time in my life. The one that is 38 feet long and 102 inches wide which can take us to wherever we want to go and lets us live whatever kind of life we can dream about.

That Linda was eager to get the day going was an understatement. No stretching, scratching and yawning this morning, rather it was a case of her being a genuine go get'em girl, like the kind that star in many movies. In each case it is a woman motivated. The latter by fame and money, Linda by a day of dreams fulfilled. This meant that breakfast was almost ready before I was, but I managed to have the daily journal uploaded before the food hit the table. Not sure how she made the omelet today, but it was even better than yesterday. Yesterday I had asked her to cut back on the low fat cheese, today she had her own way and I did notice cheese was oozing out all side of the omelet. Maybe her secret is out.

Breakfast, cheese and accompaniments

Go ahead, compare it to yesterdays photo of breakfast. There is most definitely a difference cause by the flying fingers of the cheese lady. After breakfast it was hard to concentrate on anything, what with all the noise emanating from the kitchen. Lunch was being prepared and also the camelback's were being filled in anticipation of our impending adventure. It was long before 8:30 and already that woman was ready, everything packed, sun visor on her head and sunglasses donned. I on the other was busily typing away at the computer and horror of horrors, she discovered I had not yet touched brush to tooth. That certainly got taken care of in quick order. I almost panicked when the door opened and closed while I was finishing up with my fangs, then I remembered she had some paperwork which needed to be notarized. That was certainly a close one and I vowed to be ready when she returned, which I was. It was exactly 8:48 when we left the coach to go on an adventure most people never even dream of. We were about to lead the Park Paleontologist to several discoveries we had made during some of our many extensive hikes in the far reaches of the Park.

It wasn't long before long before Linda and I found ourselves in the backseat of a Park Service Ford Bronco while Bill, the Park Palaeontologist and Matt the Park Paleontological Preparator headed towards the first site where we had discovered what we thought was part of a Phytosaur jawbone. There are a number of websites which will give you an idea of what a Phytosaur looked like, Here and here are two of many sites you can find on the net which reference this strange creature which roamed the late Triassic landscape some 220 million years ago. By the way, if you noticed the reference to the Phytosaur teeth in the first link, we found a dozen or more during our various hikes over the last two months and the only thing we took were pictures so each is still laying where we found it.

Teeth everywhere

In short order we had descended down into the Painted Desert and had located the site. It was interesting watching Bill fit all the pieces together, then he and Matt scoured the area looking for more of the jawbone.

And the jawbone attaches to the .....

Adventure comes in different disguises and this one was not so much the leading of the paleontological party to the discovery site, it dealt more with the climb back out of the Painted Desert. Linda opted to take the same trail she had taken down, while Bill led us up into the heart of the badlands. We were stymied for a brief time by a near vertical wall of badlands clay which led up to the a knife edge crossover, but somehow or other we made it. I have put considerable thought into how to describe the climb and subsequent crossing, but words fail me in this case. Simply put, it was the hardest thing I have ever done. All I can say is that I never looked down, because if I would have that was where I would have been, several hundred feet down.

To discover the link with the past.
To experience the frailty of being human.
The joy of accomplishment.
The thrill of success.
The adventure goes on and on.

just don't look down

As always pictures never do justice to the place. That is Matt on hands and knees crawling across the knife edge after climbing up the vertical face of the red clay badlands. What does not show is the 200 foot plus drop that is on either side of the knife edge. You ask, "Why is a 60 plus year old man literally risking his life like this", and I reply, "Why not." Life was meant to be lived, we existed for four decades working so others could enjoy the good like, now it is our turn and we are living it to the fullest. Your view may differ and that is your prerogative, but I would never trade the last 16 months of our life for living it another way.

Next we were off to the southern part of the park to lead them to our next 'find' which was a number of fossil bones in a badlands gully. We parked at the aptly named, no name south pullout, and struck out cross country. That was when our guide, Sara N. Dippity decided to lead us. It wasn't long before both Bill and Matt were finding all kinds of bone and bone fragments.

Bones everywhere

It doesn't show in the photo, but many of the objects which look like small pebbles or rocks are actually fossil bone fragments. As the photo shows, Bill is busy making notes regarding the site while Linda and Matt are looking at additional groups of bones. The most amazing thing is how they can pick up several bone fragments and fit them together with no problem and identify exactly what they are. Linda was really intrigued by what Bill was doing, and excitedly watched him documenting this site by both notes and photos.

Learning by osmosis

Before long we had descended into another level of the badlands and it wasn't long until another discovery was made, which was an abundance of fresh water mollusk shells. Once again the notebooks came out and the site was documented. This time I got more involved than just being the photographer. By the time I was done I would estimate that I had examined at least a hundred shells, many of which had the classic lines that identified them as shells still on them. It was just that they were not shells laying along a stream of today, they were some 200 million years old. It is so easy to spot them once your eye is trained and focused on seeing them. A quick glance and you see nothing, a slow examination and they are everywhere, and it makes me wonder how much we miss during the course of a normal day of living.

Bill, look at this shell

I had to laugh more than once because Linda looked about as excited as a honeybee who had just stumbled on a 20 acre field of clover that no other bee had ever discovered. To say that all her dreams were coming true was an understatement. This woman was as happy as she has ever been in her life. Just laying around on the ground were fossil bones, fossil shells and fossil lungfish mouth plates, the latter of which Linda is holding in this photo.

Fossils are everywhere, you just have to know where to look

This, however was not the object of our desire which had brought us back into this forlorn, desolate country. We were here to find the bones we had discovered last month when we got lost while looking for an archaeological site. Linda took the low road, walking up the gullies, while Bill, Matt and myself took the high road. There was one time that I wished I had accompanied Linda however. It was when I topped an extremely difficult climb and realized that the only way way out was by going forward, even though it was even more of a knife edge than the one I had traversed climbing out of the Painted Desert. There is no way this photo does any justice to this traverse, but it was definitely one of the scarier things I have ever done.

The unconquerable, conquered

The reason for my imitation of a mountain goat was to get up high enough to see where everyone else was in the area. While Bill and Matt were off to the East, Linda was down below to the Northwest and waving her arms to show me she had found the site we were searching for. It took a while but soon we were all gathered down in that little gully, where Bill immediately took off his backpack and started searching around in it. In short order he was busily engaged in taking the wrapper off his peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We looked at each other and decided that it must be lunch time and that examination of the fossil bones would come later.

Paleontologist in the field

Then we noticed Bill would occasionally put down his sandwich and reach over to where he had gathered some of the bones into a pile beside where he was sitting. Taking a break, he'd spend a few moments trying to fit them together, then take another bite from his PB&J. Since the bones seemed to be coming from up higher on the slope, I climbed up a few feet and got a good photo of Bill, sandwich in hand, casting his eye on the pile of bones, bones which turned out to be from a Phytosaur.

Lunch doesn't mean the mind stops working

As he examined them he told us who there had been other bones collected from this area, and that we shouldn't worry if he didn't seem enthusiastic. There was one bone we had found that he was specifically interested in, and it was the one which we had emailed him a photo of. It turned out to be a piece from the ilium of a Phytosaur, but what made it special were the small holes in it. They were tooth marks caused when this animal had most likely been attacked and bitten by another Phytosaur. We also learned they can do some measurements based on the spacing of tooth marks to get an idea of what may have made the bite marks. What was really exciting to us was that this was only the second time that a fossil bone bearing tooth holes had been found in the Park and that he would be collecting it so it could be placed in the Parks permanent collection. I don't know what kind of day you may have had, but that sure made our day.

Signs of a 200 million year old fight to the death

Once you start learning what to look for, it's not hard to spot pieces of bone laying on the ground. Here's a piece Linda spied, which she's turned to make it easier to tell that it is not just a light colored rock.

The bones are just laying there

Coming back from the site we took the direct route which lead up and over a mesa where we walked by an area covered with pottery sherds, passed through the remains of fifteen hundred year old pit houses that still had metates and manos (stone tools used to grind corn) laying around, then threaded our way down several near vertical cliff faces as we retraced our way back to the Park road.

And the wonders of the Earth were spread out before them

We arrived back at the RV in the late afternoon, definitely dirty, totally tired out and unbelievably happy. Things we have only watched on TV were something we were privileged to be part of today. It may appear to be most definitely one of 'those never in your wildest' dreams kind of days, but we had really lived it. It wasn't one of those guided tours that tourists take. It wasn't one of those pay a bunch of money to go along, help dig for bones days. It was just what has become a normal day in our life. Little did we know back in January when we saw the opportunity to volunteer at Petrified Forest National Park just what that would lead to. Life, meant to be lived.

Needless to say the rest of the day involved a great deal of of just exactly that, rest. Dinner was a skillet dish consisting of sliced low fat basil and pine nut chicken sausage, green beans, onions and sweet potatoes. It proved just the thing to bring a little energy back to our tired bodies, though not for long as I think it was both of us snoring at the same time which awakened us and got us headed back to bed and a night of sweet dreams to end a day of dreams come true.

May 4 - Friday

Nothing planned for the day in the way of anything special, though we had talked yesterday about taking one last hike, which we've decide isn't going to happen. Yesterdays adventure had proved to be a little harder on us than we had first thought. It wasn't because of the distance, but rather the speed which appeared to have done us in, if having a few aches and stiff joints can be termed, doing us in. One nice thing about sitting at the computer and working on the website is that you move very few parts of your body. This morning that was all the exercise I could handle.

After being the go get'em girl yesterday, Linda was the bed bound body this morning, and I didn't blame her, especially after hearing about all the parts of her body which hurt once she was up. Once she got moving it didn't take long for the hunger pangs to hit, though I do recall a few words about it being my turn to cook sometime. I shrugged it off as just the grumbling of someone who hurt every time they moved and figured she'd either get over it or go back to bed. It proved to be a smart move as hunger won out and she was soon fixing breakfast. Variation on a theme was not part of this morning repertoire, so we had the same thing we had for the last two mornings. Who, me complain? No way. {John and Judy-the dried cherries are wonderful!}

Breakfast, redux and revisited

We did have one little problem with breakfast, we had filled our vitamin containers yesterday and when we got them out today, we weren't sure at first what day it was. I think we are already settling back into our regular life when the days all run together and you really do have to have something to remind you what day it is. It may be the common joke, but it is also true when you live like this. It will be fun to once again have the routine of not having a routine.

Most of the day was spent in doing the little things which need to done in order to hit the road after being parked for several months. Among the tasks Linda undertook was the trimming of the dead blooms in the garden. Of course when you live in a motorhome, this is most certainly not a large scale undertaking, so it only took her about 30 seconds to complete all of the spring gardening cleanup chores.

Rabbit food

Between having an outdoor garden that consisted of only one planter with 12 Iris, then having the local cottontails eat most of the foliage, there wasn't much work to do. The rabbit story was something, because it was soon after we had about 8 of the 12 bulbs in glorious full bloom that we came home one night to find the local bunnies had decided the Iris leaves were just the thing. The only problem was that they apparently found the blooms to be in their way, so they chewed off a few. Looking at it from the rabbit's point of view, it was a new source of food, so who was right. Isn't a weed, simply a plant out of place? If so, then our Irises were certainly weeds. Out here things survive by living in harmony with nature, maybe it is a lesson modern man has forgotten.

It was in the very early afternoon that we also began feeling the wrath of nature as the winds picked up significantly to the point where they were gusting over 50 miles an hour. The Park wind gauge is the easiest way to tell the wind speed and it is a very visual meter. One only has to look at the flag flying by the Visitors Center to know the wind speed. Today it was blowing straight out and up more than not and the flag blowing that way means 50 mph winds.

Blowin' in the wind

There was much cleaning that took place on Linda's part, not because things were dirty, but rather because she seemed to be hearing the call of domesticity today. The floors were scrubbed, Bob was told to pick up his things, piles were sorted through, Bob dumped the wastebasket at least three times, clothes were washed, Bob was told to get the Explorer ready to travel, Linda answered email, Bob was told to put everything that needed to be taken down to the bays in their proper place. As you can tell, Linda was certainly busy. {Editor's comment: Note how many things 'Bob was told', well, 'Bob was ordered' might say it better}. Bob was also tasked with finding what was for supper in the freezer. Since our goal has been to eat some of the things which have been in there for a while, at least it is Bob's goal, Linda has charged me with doing exactly that. Something about, "if you want it done so badly, do it yourself." She does have a point. Once I found the frozen spaghetti sauce with sausage, she undertook the task of coming up with what to have with it.

Home made whole wheat bread

What she came up with is something we hadn't had for years, home made bread. First off we eat very little bread, and secondly, when we do it is whole grain with high fiber and low sugar. Not the easiest thing to always find in the stores. Can you bake whole wheat bread without using sugar? She were about to find out. While were waiting to see if the bread was actually going to rise, which Linda was doubtful of, she headed of to the Visitors Center to get some of the special park brochures for our granddaughter (Bob's going to give a presentation to her class on the Park when we return to watch our grandson) when she was accosted by Rita, one of the Park Rangers. Rita had a going away gift for us and was it ever nice.

Opalized wood

What you are looking at is opalized petrified wood which Rita had collected at a mine site in Nevada. The inner fire it displays is nothing short of magnificent, I just wish my photographic skills were at the same level. We joked about our first day at the Park when Rita was leading us back from a special place and Linda did a perfect face plant, badly bruising her chin and tearing some of the skin off her lips. The joke became, Rita had pushed her and we instantly became known to many of the Park staff. This has been a very special place and we shall certainly miss both the place and the people. When Linda returned she discovered the bread had actually done what it was supposed to do, it raised, and it wasn't long before it was nestled in the hot oven, baking away.

Hot bread

Spritzed with a little olive oil, it had both the look and smell of the past, now how would it taste? It didn't take long to find out, and topping the warm bread with minced garlic in olive oil didn't hurt either.

A delicious dinner

All afternoon, Linda had also been drying clothes the natural way. She discovered that by hanging the shirts from the overhead cabinets and opening the drivers window and the front door she had the best of both worlds, warm air and a fluffing motion. The shirts dried perfectly. Did I marry well, or what.

Natures clothes dryer

The rest of the day was spent relaxing. Linda watched TV and I finished up a book, Walker of Time, by Helen Hughes Vick. Written for teens, it is a great story about the culture of the Ancestral Pueblo People, and brought to life many of the things we have been exposed to while here at the Park. Linda had actual read not only this book, but also another one in the series, so I knew it had to be good, and it was. We ended the day just as we normally do, with dessert, only a little different this time. With all the cleaning she had been doing during the day she discovered a partially eaten container of Ricotta Cheese. Mixed with some chocolate mint baking cocoa, Stevia for sweetness and a splash of vanilla, it made for a taste treat to go along with our usual chocolate chip zucchini cake.

Great end to the day

We headed back to bed knowing that our life was going to change tomorrow when we once again hit the road. While we may not know what adventures will greet us in the coming days, we know that whatever they are, life will be fun.

May 5 - Saturday

Got an unexpected surprise this morning. Don't know if it was the Park's own way of bidding us goodbye or maybe a sure sign that it was time to leave, but either way it was not in the forecast.

Snowy surprise

Snow maybe one thing, but unfortunately it doesn't happen in a vacuum, which means snow doesn't fall when the temperatures are in the 60's. It wasn't that it was cold as in really cold, it was just colder than normal and we had become accustomed to the wonderful, mild weather of the past several months. It is at times like this when superior native intelligence comes into play and since I have been blessed by an abundance of it, in my mind at least, it was easy to provide a comfortable environment in which to work. Busily typing away at the daily journal when Linda first came out into the living area, I heard her announce her arrival with a giggle. Somehow or other she thought this view of me was funny. I thought it was a rather ingenious way of keeping warm.

Genius at work

Shocked by seeing such a strange aberration, Linda broke out of her 'mold' of the past week (that is to use the noun form of the word). Something different was in the offing for breakfast this morning and it wasn't a cheeseless omelet. She pulled out all the stops and fixed French Toast using the whole wheat bread she had baked yesterday. When that woman finds a good thing she sticks with it. (Wonder if that's why she has stayed with me for nearly forty years?) Back to the subject at hand, she added some whipped topping and and a dab of SF strawberry jam to make it a true feast to start the day.

Breakfast surprise

We weren't in any hurry to depart, since we only planned to drive to Gallup, New Mexico which was about 70 miles to the west. There were a few things to finish up like putting the ladders away and dumping the tanks. I had decided to move the removable ladder, the one that gives access to the roof, from the bay to the propane compartment where it fits without a problem and also be out of the way. It sits on top of the tank, wedged against the top of the compartment where I use a bungee cord to make sure it doesn't move around, so we will see how it rides. The last thing we did was to dump the fresh water tank and refill it. Figured the water had set in there long enough so Linda gave it a shot of mild Clorox solution for good measure. Once the Explorer was hooked up, it was time to leave our home for the last several months.

It didn't take Linda long to start sniffling and I knew why. Like all our stops where we stay for a while, the people we meet become friends and the place becomes home, so it is sad when you once again leave friends and home. The miles passed by and soon we were nearing New Mexico where the rolling prairie gives way to massive sandstone formations.

Sandstone cliffs

Sandstone formations were not the only thing which was new in New Mexico, the air also took on another appearance, with little white puffs showing up in abundance.

Snowy day

There was one other thing which happened that wasn't a very good sign. While driving along I noticed a light occasionally blink on the brake control, then on one down slope it beeped. I was trying to figure out what it was, when it beeped again. We were right at an exit, so I pulled off to check it out. It didn't take but a glance at the controller while in a position to see it to realize that light was the light for the toad brakes. It was funny that only one light was coming on, since usually the light for both the coach brakes and the toad brakes come on at the same time because of how I have the brake mechanism adjusted. Walking back to the Explorer, Linda was one who noticed the breakaway plug was pulled out of the socket on the front of the Explorer. Taking it in my hand I could see it had gotten caught in the wiring harness somehow. That meant the brakes on the Explorer should have activated. Touching the front wheel I could tell the brakes had gotten hot, but since they weren't smoking, it didn't look like much harm had been done, so we got back back in the coach and pulled out. This time there was no brake light flashing so all looked good.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, though the snow flurries did continue intermittently and before long we were passing through Gallup on our way to mile marker 26 and the exit for Red Rock State Park where we planned to spend a couple of nights. It proved to be an interesting campground with a sign directing you to find a spot then pay at the dropbox in the horse stall area. (It's one of those places that you have to stay at to understand what all that means because explaining it would spoil some of the fun.) We did find a nice spot with a view out the front and the Park's namesake red rocks to the side.

View to the front

What with all the red rocks it didn't take long to get the coach set up and go exploring. Well it did take a little longer that it should, mostly due to a problem with the leveling jacks. We had gotten all situated in the perfect spot and had dropped the air, then used the jacks to level the coach, extended the slides and gotten ready to go pay our fees when Linda commented it sure felt like the coach was tipping. Turned out it was. The front jack was disappearing from sight into an ever deepening hole. Later after we had reaired the coach, retracted the jacks and the slides, backed up a few feet, it was actually a more level spot, we were finally ready to take our hike. By way of explanation, the reason we had pulled so far forward was to make sure we could get on line with the MotoSat, something that proved to be not a problem.

After paying for our site at the dropbox, we decided to walk back along the sandstone rock that was so prominent next to our site. Just to give an idea of how massive it was, here is the model I use, posed in front of it.

Red sandstone

From the patterns in the stone, it appeared to have been formed by wind blown sand rather than by water deposition.

Nature's designs

The thing that really amazed us was how soft the stone was.

Sandstone chunk

With just a small amount of pressure the rock just breaks apart, which meant there had to be a cap of harder rock on top of the mesa protecting it from the the effects of the weather.

Sandstone crumbles

In front of the sandstone face there was a path, well not exactly a path, it was more like a channel where storm water apparently runs off after a heavy rain. We decided to walk along it an go exploring, of course with a view like this, it looked like we might also be in for a little bit of climbing as well as hiking.

channel bottom

We hadn't gone far when I thought I saw something familiar laying in the bottom of the channel. Her is Linda pointing to that spot among all the rocks in the sandy channel.

Spot in the sand

And here is what had caught my eye.

Sherd in the sand

By the time we had gone another 100 feet we had spotted another four sherds, though they were all much smaller than the first one. The only thing we could say was, "who would have ever have thought." We didn't make it all the way back to the pinnacle we were seeing in the distance, though we did climb up above the protective rock layer, which proved to be limestone, before turning around and heading back towards the coach. This is Linda, the woman who wouldn't have been within 50 feet of a cliff edge just two months ago, enjoying the the view of the nearby dry falls and the canyon we had just climbed up out of.

Canyon view

For the return trip we decided to take the high route, even though it was much more windy up out of the depths of the canyon. There was one place were the trail was literally chiseled into the sandstone and I just had to take a photo of Linda in the middle of it. This is most definitely not the woman I used to refer to as a "mountain goatless" to emphasize her lack of confidence and inability to keep her footing on any kind of terrain which even the slightest slope to it. To put this into perspective, the rock face slopes down from up above to just past her, with the path is cut into the rock, and then takes a 50 foot drop just to her right. Way to go girl. (Special note to our kids: this is not a cut and paste photo, it's really your Mom standing there, even if you don't believe it.)

Mountain goat

It was later, after we had returned to the coach that we decided to go into town and get some groceries when something came to light that was most definitely not a good thing. When we backed up the Explorer to leave, the brakes didn't work very well. Long story short, it looks like we have a very major brake job to be done on Monday. The front brake pads are gone and the rotors are very badly scored, but like Linda says, at least we caught it before the brakes overheated to the point that they caught on fire. The glass half full or half empty, it's our choice as to how we look at it. The explorer was driveable, so we decide to head off, do our shopping and just enjoy life.

Given the events of the day, Linda decided we needed something a little special for dessert. I think an extra thick slice of chocolate chip zucchini cake, chocolate Ricotta and a warm glass of raspberry flavored milk filled the bill perfectly. Life may not have gone exactly the way we had hoped it would today, but we enjoyed it to the fullest anyway. That saying of Tioga George's, "there are only two kinds of days, good days and great days" is also how we look at look at life. May your days be the same.

May 6 - Sunday

A light dusting of snow on the ground had greeted us yesterday morning and today proved to be headed in the same direction based on what I saw when I first looked out the window this morning. A light dusting was not what mother nature had in mind however, she was aiming towards a genuine snowfall. And fall was what the snow did. Not just for a few minutes, nor for just a few hours, but for the entire morning. It was shortly after noon that it let up, then resumed off and on over the next several hours, sometimes raining, sometimes falling in large flakes that were larger than the size of a quarter. At times it would melt off to the point we could see the roadways in the campground, then it would cover them again, but no matter what it did, it was a very pretty sight.

Showy, snowy surprise

One thing it did was to put a crimp in our plans for the day as we had decided to hike back into the Park and see if we could get up on the pinnacle we had seen yesterday. It wasn't the snow which was deterring us, it was the intermittent rain. There was one very special moment when we looked out to see the trees, their new green leaves covered with a frosting of fresh snow, when we both exclaimed, it's our Christmas this year. It was a very special moment, and my minds eye I could see the bright lights of Christmas sparkling in the coach. Life, it's what you make of it.

Winter wonderland

What with all the action taking place outside it seemed like we spent most of the morning looking out the windows every few minutes to see what the weather was doing at the moment, but that didn't mean we neglected activities relating to matters of the stomach. Remembering the huckleberries I had seen in the freezer when we had defrosted it last week, plus seeing the snow falling outside helped decide what was for breakfast. I would bake scones, which was exactly what took place. The aroma of them baking was permeating the air and when Linda cut into one of the Texas Ruby Red grapefruit we had bought last night, it made a special time even more special. Talk about a good way to start the day, new fallen snow, the tang of grapefruit, the aroma and taste of hot scones, how can it get better than this.

Breakfast surprise

This was not an early breakfast, but since we had nowhere to go, so what. One other thing that was different this morning was the lack of both internet and TV. The snow had accumulated on the dish to the extent that it was blocking the signal.

Snowy surprise on TV

That it wasn't watchable is an understatement. But then I made the mistake of thinking that stowing the dish would knock the snow off and we allow us to get reception once again. That wasn't the case, because when I redeployed the dish it couldn't find the satellite to save itself. The fact we had no connection to the outside world wasn't going to ruin the day, except that I just didn't feel like working on the daily journal. I did do a few things with other portions of the website, the Odds and Ends link under Neat Things on the left side of this page being one of them. Eventually the snow stopped for good and the hills in the distance, followed the mesas farther to the south began to appear from out of the clouds. This also brought on rising temperatures, rain and a complete melting of the snow. Putting two and two together and coming up with four for once, I hit the search button on the MotoSat and within a minutes Linda was watching the same show I wanted to watch. That didn't last for long and soon I was watching the show she wanted to watch. At least I know my place in life.

It's days like this when the pangs of hunger play tricks on the mind, and soon they were, only not just tricks with the mind but also with the stomach. That meant lunch, or a midafternoon snack at the least, was shortly in order. I got out the whole wheat bread Linda had baked yesterday and slathered on some pimento spread, which in turn caused those pangs to suddenly strike her the same as they had struck me. Fortified, but not filled, we decided to go for a walk since the rain had stopped falling. This proved to be another of those adventures we find ourselves falling into as once again Sara N. Dippity proved to be our guide. We decided to walk along the same path we had taken yesterday with the thought in mind of climbing the pinnacle at the back of the Park.

Unfortunately we hadn't gone to far when the clouds can rolling back and it began to lightly mist. We debated whether to turn back or keep going and the desire to explore won out. It was a short distance later when we came upon a place where the sand was washing down off the top of the red rocks. Walking across it, I took a slightly lower track that Linda and was amazed to see my shoe sinking into the sand. I pointed it out to Linda and when she stepped where I had, the same thing happened to her foot. We walked up higher to get to the other side, then went back to examine this phenomena some more. That was when we discovered this was super saturated sand, otherwise known as quicksand. For some reason all I could think of was the Lone Ranger episode where he rescued the bad guy from the pit of quicksand. The reason why may have been because I wanted to step into it and see what would happen and I sure hoped Linda had seen it and would remember to throw me something I could grab onto and drag me out. She didn't have Silver to help her, but in a pinch I figured she'd find the strength she needed. As you can see from the photo my shoe quickly started disappearing below the surface.

Sandy surprise

That's when we discovered something about the real thing versus the movies. In the movies, whenever the hero extricates himself from the quicksand, he is always pretty clean. Let me tell you that the real thing is not clean, you get muddy sand all over yourself. Not one to do something foolish, I decided that we had learned all we wanted to know about quicksand and pulled my boot out. In only just a few seconds the spot was once again filled water, sand and mud, just waiting for its next victim.

after the sandy surprise

It was also at this time that the misting rain turned into something more like a drizzle and we decided to head back. As we neared the coach I was warned in no uncertain terms about the dire consequences that would befall me if I were to enter the coach still wearing my shoes. As for Linda, she stopped at a water puddle that had appeared in the road, sloshed around some and lifted her foot. Not being a dummy, I soon had a sharp rock in hand was cleaning out the mud from the cleats of her shoes. Now that is one smart woman. Later, I stood in what was fast becoming sleet and dutiful held the door open for her while she took off her boots, then after removing mine climbed the stairs.

Shorty after we returned, Linda decided to call her sister while I decide to eat something, opening a jar of salsa and digging out the chips. It it not only satisfied my desire for a snack, it also gave me an idea for supper, shrimp tacos with a cilantro sauce which Linda had made earlier in the day. We decided to cook the shrimp in olive oil, garlic and green onions, then serve it in one of our whole wheat burritos and top it with ultra thin sliced cabbage. A salad of lettuce and green onions, salsa and FF sour cream, plus some refried beans completed the meal. Talk about something good, I oftentimes have trouble believing just how good some of the meals we come up with actually are.

Shrimp in the skillet

The before and after photo's.

Shrimp surprise

Later, we watched 'Walking with Dinosaurs' which was followed by dessert, black bean brownies and a glass of milk. Now I know black bean brownies may sound like something you might have to choke down, but they are anything but. Having helped Linda make the brownies by doing my turn with the food wand mashing and whipping the canned black beans into the mixture, I knew exactly how they were made. I also knew from my tastebuds that there was no way they could had been made with a can of black beans and no flour. This is one of things that you just have to eat to believe and it seems like every time we bake them, they get even better. Who says there is no such thing as a tasty dessert that is healthy for you.

For some reason or other we had both been tired this evening, having spent more time napping than actually watching TV, and it was as the last of the brownie crumbs were disappearing that the lights were being turned out and the covers turned down. It was another of those dream about days when we experienced something we had never before encountered. Tomorrow me will head off into Gallup to find out what the verdict is on the Explorer brakes. Like Linda always says, things happen for a reason, we just don't know what is is yet.


May 7 - Monday

This was going to prove to be an interesting day in more ways than one. Given the program for today, taking the Explorer into town to find out what how badly we had damaged the brakes, I guess it was no wonder that I had no desire to work on the daily journal and Linda had no desire to get up at an early hour. Eventually we were both active, the egg omelet had been fixed and eaten and so, it was time to head into town.

One of the problems with always living in a strange town is who do you go to for the ordinary things in life? That was our problem with this situation. Our solution was to go to Big O Tire. We figured that since we had been treated so well when we stopped at one of their Phoenix area stores, we would give them another try. Second, and most important, this was a fairly small town and we suspected we would be treated fairly. Maybe not the best reasons for picking a shop to place yourself at their mercy, but it was what we chose to do.

Waiting for service

Since we had arrived a little later in the morning, we weren't the first ones in line, in fact we were down the line a not to small distance, but then, what did we have to do? We didn't need to be anywhere, so what was the rush, there wasn't any. Eventually we got the word and went across the street to see what was wrong and hear what the estimate would be.

'Break' pad

It proved to be not nearly as bad as we had thought it would be, as only the front brakes had been damaged. Resurface the rotors, replace the calipers and the pads, plus all the other things that go along with a complete brake job.

Not that bad

We ended up being there for longer than Linda wanted, but I didn't have much of a problem. I worked on the computer and read a book which Linda had brought along for her to read, while she just sort of sat around. We, or I should say she, had prepared and brought along lunch, which we ate in the waiting area.

Better than McDonalds

In the afternoon Linda really started getting antsy, but it was mostly her own doing. Maybe she shouldn't have brought along a book that I found really readable. In fact it was so readable that I was up until after 3 AM finishing it. Guess you could say it was real page turner, though I thought the author took the easy way out and introduced something totally unexpected and out of character as a means of tidying up the loose ends as she brought the story to its conclusion. So I will take the diplomatic way out and not mention the title or author. You know, the old saying, "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything", which is my own way of doing a own cop out.

We did get back to the coach in time to enjoy our peanut time, but that wasn't all. We discovered why we had the problem with the brakes. It had delayed us long enough in Gallup to change our travel plans once again. You see, when we had been enduring the cold weather of Saturday and then the snow storm yesterday, we had decided to head south to warmer weather. Now, after once again checking the weather, we decided to again head north. Hence peanut time was really a special today as we discussed the prospect of taking one of the Ute Mountain tours and then spending time later in the week near Cortez searching for ancient ruins.

Peanut time

After a day where the stress level was a little elevated, we decided to kick back and fix something special for dinner. That's how the Chiliad Rellanos ended up on the menu. Linda found the recipe and I took care of whipping the egg whites into the right state and the result was a plate of baked Chilies Rellanos that was better than great.

Dinner delight

It wasn't just the Chilies Rellanos, add the cilantro sauce, the refried beads and the tossed salad and there is no way that we should be allowed to repeatedly eat food that tastes so good. After dinner was the time for me to rewrite and post the daily journal article I had written while we were getting the brakes repaired. Such was not to be the case as I was not in the mood to do that simple task. Linda on the other hand had no problem laying on the couch and watching TV. Somehow or other I need to learn to relax like she does.

Delightful dessert

Of course we ended the day just as we always do, with dessert. Since we had come up with something special for dinner, we did the same thing for dessert. Black bean brownies topped with sliced fresh strawberries and SF white chocolate sauce. We may have been the only people on the entire planet to have eaten that for dessert tonight. If so, there were a lot of people who enjoyed an inferior dessert to end the day. A day when I probably wrote too much about the food we ate, but when you eat as good as we do, it's hard not to talk about the food. Regardless, it was a day when the good far outweighed the bad.

May 8 - Tuesday

Excitement was in the air this morning and it showed when linda was the first one out of bed. In fact the alarm had barely begun to ring when she turned it off and threw back the covers so I knew she was really looking forward to today. I had decided that until we got to where we were going, I was going to be the best "yes ma'am" man on the entire earth, because if there is one thing I have been taught over the years, it is that woman must arrive early for her appointment with the hairdresser.

She had not only decided what time we needed to leave, she also had the list of things she wanted me to pick up at the store. Seems, she was not going by herself, so I was designated the tasks of chauffer and errand boy. Going to the hairdresser usually proves to be a very fruitful endeavor, simply because she is always in such a good mood after getting her hair cut. Well, almost always, the exception being the one bad haircut she got last year, but like they say, just wait awhile, it will grow out. Todays appointment was at the same place she had it cut at when we had come over to Gallup in mid March, a haircut she had really liked. While she was getting herself beautified, I was going to be picking up eight more avocados (8 for $1.00 wow!) and a few other things at WalMart.

What kind of bird am I?

As we were eating our omelets, Linda noticed a different kind of bird eating the seed we had scattered on the ground next to the coach. Birders we are not, so the best we could come up with was a Lazuli Bunting, or some variation of one. We always laugh when we try to identify something new like this and trust our summer sojourn at the wildlife preserve will not involve species identification. Then again, we sure aren't concerned about it, after all, it wasn't one of the questions they asked us. After all, since they had no one signed up at all, I think they just wanted someone who was breathing.

Where we shop

The nice thing about going grocery shopping so early in the morning is that the stores are never crowded. Saturday evening we had to battle the crowds to shop, but this morning there was hardly anyone in the store. See, just like I always said, why in the world would the little old lady or man want to shop at the stores busiest times when they can go when no one is there? Guess we have to admit to being guilty of the same thing. It didn't take long to find everything on Linda's list, plus a few things I wanted, got to have an occasional treat, and head back to pick up Linda. When I arrived she wasn't completely styled, or put another way, the doo wasn't done, so it was photo time.

Happy customer

Back at the coach, we packed up, which wasn't nearly as hard as several days ago when we left PEFO after being there for two months, and hooked up the Explorer. Talk about making sure everything was hooked up correctly, we both checked everything about five times, as we had certainly learned our lesson, till the next time that is. We had really enjoyed our time at Red Rock State Park and will no doubt stop here again sometime in the future, after all, we have lots more exploring we want to do. Plus that rock pinnacle is drawing us like a bright light does a bug.

Todays drive was going to be a fairly simple trip up to the Cortez area, as all we had to do was drive over to Gallup, exit on US-491 and stay on it till we crossed over into Colorado. The trip through Arizona was all within the Navajo Reservation and as we drove further north we began to see the eroded cores of ancient volcanos along side the road, the most famous of which, is known as Shiprock Peak, or simply Shiprock. The peak is sacred to the Navajo people and is known as Tse Bi dahi, or the Winged Rock. This name comes from an ancient folk myth which tells how the rock was once a great bird that transported the ancestral people of the Navajos to this land. Of course, doing a little reading yields other Navajo names for the rock, but that is what makes learning about things so interesting.

Lost in the mists of time

Gazing upon that photo, I can see the mists of time enveloping and shrouding the tales the mountain carries from the distant past. Sometimes I feel sorry for people who journey blindly from one place to another, then at times I wonder what it would be like to have an uncluttered mind. Shiprock was not the only extinct volcanic core in the area and some of the others are also quite spectacular.

Emerging from the depths

Other objects also began to appear, the high buttes among them, as the country seemed to turn drier and the vegetation became more and more sparse.

Buttes and mesas

We made one small detour, which was to stop by the Four Corners Monument, a must see according to Linda. It is located out in the middle of nowhere on the Navajo Reservation, where they charge $3 a head to get in, and RV parking is not the best. We were there on what was obviously a slow day and the RV lot was almost full. My guess would be that it wouldn't be much fun finding a place to park in the busy tourist season. Of course we did have to take the obligatory photo's. Here's Linda with her right hand in Arizona, her left hand in New Mexico, her right foot in Utah and her left foot in Colorado.

Wandering woman

Once course I had to do it differently. Maybe this is reflective of the multiple split personalities I seem to exhibit at times, though I prefer to think of it as Bob once again doing the near impossible, after all, I am balancing on four corners at once.

Bob balancing on four corners

We weren't done at Four Corners yet because around the outside of the area were Navajo shops selling all kinds of things the tourists just couldn't resist. We passed on the thingy, things, but the food thing finally got to us and we decided it was finally time to eat our first Navajo Fry Bread. The cook started with a dough ball, flattened and shaped it, then deep fried it. We ordered it with apple butter, then walked over to a table overlooking the canyons of Utah and ate it with a great amount of lip smacking and finger licking. Never having eaten any KFC Kentucky Fried Chicken, I don't know if it is "finger lickin' good" or not, but I do know this simple snack was truly just that, finger lickin' good.

Fry bread

It didn't require too much backtracking to get back onto US-491 again and in just a few miles we were at the Sleeping Ute Mountain RV Park where we planned to stay for a few days. We spent a relaxing evening, especially after having fish tacos for dinner and went to bed early in expectation of a big day tomorrow when we go on a daylong tour of cliffdwelling ruins with a Ute guide.

May 9 - Wednesday

Excitement was in the air this morning for the second day in a row. When a late sleeper like Linda has the alarm set two days in a row I know without asking that there is definitely something see wants to do today. Of course I had to admit that I also wanted very much to do what was happening, tour cliff dwelling ruins. I was surprised that Linda actually fixed an omelet for breakfast, because I would have thought she would be in a bowl of shredded wheat and go frame of mind. Then I checked the clock and realized that excessive speed in getting ready to go was not a worry this morning. We had gotten up an hour earlier than necessary, at least by my way of thinking.

Of course since life is always an adventure, we couldn't just leave the RV park and arrive at the meeting point, no, we had to take a small detour. There are two ways into the Casino, Hotel, RV Park from the main highway, one that is a direct turn onto the complex from the North and a second way that involves turning onto the road to Towaoc, then making a second turn into the complex. By now you may have guessed that when we left I had turned onto the road to Towaoc, not onto US-491 South. Luckily for me, it only took a short distance for the realization that we were on the wrong road to hit me. Linda was happy it did, because she admitted to not having a clue as to whether we were on the right road or not. Women navigators, now that's an oxymoron if there ever was one. We still managed to arrive at the rendezvous point at the time she wanted, which was early, so all was well. After we waited for our guide to open the building, we went in and registered for the tour.

Where the tours start

There was an option to drive your own vehicle or to pay a little more and ride with the guide. We had already decided to ride with the guide, but the other three ladies who where also going along just couldn't seem to make up their minds. Eventually they decided to pay the extra $8 apiece and ride in the van. They learned what we had already figured out. It was the best money you could spend, all during the time we were riding, our guide, Marshall, kept telling us stories about the area, all of which you would miss if you drove your own vehicle. We had signed up for the all day tour, so just before 9 AM we were off. The first stop was the old visitors center and it set the tone for the rest of the day.

That' a real door

The Ute Mountain Utes had first opened the cliff dwellings up to tours some thirty years ago, yet to get to the point where they are now, there was, and is, a division in just how they should approach and promote their heritage, casting those who would preserve the old ways against those who would change their ways. We saw this dichotomy in the Casino up the road, contrasted against the way the tours are given for the cliff dwellings down here. Marshall was raised in the old way, even though he was a young man and we were honored in having him as our guide. Like he said, he would speak from the Ute point of view, not from the white washed historically inaccurate point of view. I found it extremely refreshing, particularly because of how we have become so much into cleansing the past and avoiding upsetting anyone's sensibilities in the current cultural and governmental climate. It's gotten to the point where I've concluded that most bigots are the people who accuse others of being bigots. It's been a while since I've gone off on a tangent, maybe I am getting into this writing thing once again. One more thing before I go, one of the basic tenets of interpretation as we learned at PEFO was to provoke people to action. I doubt that Marshall had ever studied interpretation , but he seemed to intuitive know just what it meant.

Our next stop was at a rock adorned with several faded Petroglyphs, where we learned the meaning of those symbols and the fact that it was a solar marker. It was interesting listening to Marshall talk about all the scientists going around discovering the solar markers, when the People have always known about them. I found it interesting as to how many times during the day he would point out some fact a scientist had uncovered and then comment, if he had only asked the People about it, they would have told him. By the time we returned to the van, we all understood how the symbols on this piece of sandstone told the creation story.

Creation story

From there, our route lead us back along the road on the floor of the canyon, past ancient watch towers, and finally to the base of an ancient volcanic formation where we began the ascent up to the top of the mesa. Once up out of the dry, fairly barren canyon, the mesa top appeared to be almost flat and covered with vegetation. We drove for miles and miles, and all the while Marshall kept up a running patter of interesting information about the area and the People. Eventually the tranquil and serene beauty of the mesa was broken by the denuded devastation that marked the wake of a recent forest fire. Caused by a lightening strike, one wonders how the Ancestral Puebloans would have reacted to such an event. Eventually we came to our destination, which before the fire, must have been a very beautiful spot. Of course, it still was if you opened your mind to what lay before you.

Edge of the world

Before long we were descending ladders, ladders that not only took us down below the rim of the mesa top, but also took us back in time to another world. I guess you could look at it as a descent in both place and time.

Descent into the depths

A short walk and we reached our first stop, Treehouse, so named because of all the trees which grew in front of it. It was interesting how it contrasted to the cleaned and sanitized ruins at Mesa Verde. It was also quite moving the way Marshall spoke of the People who had lived here, People that were not the ancestors of the Ute, yet they were not treated differentially, as is so often the case, but with a subdued reverence. In Marshall's telling, the land and the people are to be appreciated and revered, in the hands of 'modern' man, the land and people are to the used, abused and tossed aside.

Tree house ruins

One wall was covered with pottery sherds, animal bones and stone tools.

Bits and pieces of life

Everywhere we went, one only had to keep their eyes open to see sherds laying around. We wondered how many people went on the tour and really appreciated the plethora of artifacts scattered around. And not only were there the remains of implements, there were also innumerable corn cobs scattered everywhere.

700 year old corn cobs

We were on the North wall of the canyon, which was where the People built their dwellings. This way they faced south and the warmth of the sun penetrated the depth of the canyon. Leaving Treehouse, we walked to the West along a trail which connected one alcove with the next. As Marshall pointed out, they didn't live in isolation from each other, they lived with each other, utilizing every square inch of protected space possible to build either the rooms in which they lived, their ceremonial Kiva's or the storage rooms where they kept their food. The walls were marked with the holes they carved into the stone to enable them to ascend to the mesa where they cultivated their crops. Later we were to climb out of one location, assisted in our last few feet of climb be the hand and toe holds the ancient ones had also used.

Hand and foot holds

The sandstone was their friend, not only providing protection and housing, but a place to sharpen their tools.

sharpening stone

Plus it was a place for the early white explorers to carve their names. In fact on all of the ruins the names of the Wetherills are carved, as if they were claiming these for there own. How petty we are, how small our vision of things. The world existed long before us, and it will exist long after us. Will it be better off or worse off for our having lived, and who should be the judge of that?

Mark of the white man

What is better, to gaze upon the ruins as they actually are, or to restore them as we think they should be so the public has easy access and can see something that might not have been. I'll take this view any day.

Reality of the ruins

This is not a tour for the faint of heart, and so not everybody went to every place, other than Marshall, Linda and I, that is. This dwelling required a 30 foot plus ladder climb, followed by crossing a very narrow ledge that sloped down to the cliff face and a sharp drop off. More than once Linda remarked that she couldn't believe she was going where she was.

Steep slope

Here is the final approach to this ruin, which was called Eagles Nest. As apt a description if there ever was.

Final approach

A view of Eagles Nest showing the top of the Kiva and some of the interior walls. Much of the original plastering was still in place. It was a very special feeling being here. It was almost as if the ancient ones were walking around while you were there. Talk about closing your eyes and going back into the past. This was a place to do it.

Eagles Nest

Before leaving I peered over the edge and tried to take a photo that did justice to where we were. It is nearly impossible to make them out, but there are small dots down below that are the members of our group who chose not to make the ascent to Eagles nest. Then far, far below them is the side of the canyon. It is a wonder that any children ever survived up here, one misstep and you were over the edge of the cliff.

Eagle eye view

Walking back to the ladder, I stopped one last time and took a picture of things so distant, yet so timeless. I think the name, Eagles Nest, is perfect to describe where we had just been.

Hanging in the air

Later, when we were over on the other side of the canyon, we took a picture of Eagles Nest to give a better idea of just how awesome of a place it was.

Hand and foot holds

This wasn't the end of the day, and we saw more ruins, each of which was special, which made for a day that neither of us will ever forget, and one we will likely someday repeat. After all they do offer a special remote country tour that takes you to the places very few people ever see. Thank goodness for Sara N. Dippity, otherwise, just think of all the things we would miss. Heck, we miss so much as it is that I couldn't even begin to imagine all there is to see. We'll leave you with a photo, one that shows the link we hold with the past. The fingerprints of an ancient one and the finger of Linda.

Hands across time

To know the link with the past.
To experience the connection of being human.
The joy of life.
The spirit of individuality.
The adventure goes on and on.

What an awesome day this has been.

May 10 - Thursday

Today proved to be a little different from what we had planned. It was due to a combination of two things. First I was up early and managed to really get into writing the daily journal. Second, Linda decide she would sleep for eleven hours last night, which meant she didn't get up till 9 AM. I decided that since I was enjoying writing so much and since she didn't care when we got started this morning, that I would just write until I was caught up with the journal. It was after noon until I reached my goal, though she did fix breakfast sometime after she got up. Other than the fact that it was another omelet, it was pretty good, especially since it had avocado and something else which I couldn't identify on it. With luck we will have oatmeal or something else tomorrow.


In the course of writing, some movement outside the window caught my eye. There was a different bird out there. Grabbing the camera I waited to take a photo while it decided where it wanted to perch. It finally decided to alight on the 'do not enter' sign that is at the end of the drive. Then just as I was taking the photo, it decided to fly off, hence the photo is of the bird in flight.After looking and looking through our bird books, we still don't have a clue as to what it is.

What am I?

Eventually everything was completed that needed to be done, the website was updated and current, plus it was time to leave. Our trip would take us north past Cortez, to the Anasazi Heritage Center near Delores. We had been there in 2002 during our last trip to Colorado and were looking forward to a return visit. At that time we knew next to nothing about the Anasazi, or Ancestral Pueblo People, still we had been greatly impressed by all the information they had available. Today we were really looking forward to visiting the center and learning much more than we did last time. But before we went in, we had something else to do. it was lunch time and not only were we repeating the lunch we had eaten those five years ago, we even got to sit at the same table. It might not mean something to most people, but to us it brought back a day filled with many pleasant memories.

Lunchtime redux

it didn't take long before we were immersed in the past. As you can tell, Linda was really enjoying this display of pottery.

Pots galore

The center was a different place for us this time and we couldn't get enough of all the pottery.

The world in black and white

One of the stone tools that has always intrigued Linda is the Metate and Mano. While her technique may leave a little to be desired, it seems to get the job done. At least that was what I thought before I knelt down beside her and put my on hand on the Mano. I quickly discovered that I had to smash the corn before I could grind it, plus grinding it isn't nearly as easy as it looks. To grind all the corn it would have taken to feed your family everyday took a lot of work and this was the womans job. The life of the Ancestral Puebloans was not a bowl of cherries, nor was it necessarily simply hard work. While it may not have been a struggle to survive, if we compare it to the work we need to do to provide the necessities of life, theirs was a much harder existence..

Living in the past

After our brief moment in their shoes so to speak, we began to look at the displays in a slightly different fashion. Sure there was the beauty and the craftmanship, but there was also the picture of someone spending hours each day collecting and carrying drinking water back to the village, then slowly and carefully filling the large olla in which it was stored. We find joy in the variety of foods and dishes that prepare, but what about these people. What variety did they have? One piece of pottery, yet two ways of looking at it. A broken pot or a smoothed sherd which could function as a scoop. The old glass half empty or half full in a different context.

Beautiful pot or back breaking hard work?

Another part of the exhibit was a replica of a pithouse. We remembered it from having been here before, but this time we examined it with a much sharper eye. When we were here before, we had just come from spending a few days at Mesa Verde NP, where we had seen a couple of pithouses that had been covered by a building like structure to protect them. This time we were coming after having spent time in PEFO where we had climbed to the top of a mesa and viewed the ruins of a fifteen hundred year old pithouse community. What a difference it made in the way we looked and felt about what we were seeing. As always, the more we know, the more we find out we don't know.

I would be remiss if I neglected to mention one other part of the Center which we really enjoyed, the microscope stations where you can get a different perspective on what the relics from the past can show us. It is one thing to read about the use of ground pottery sherds as temper, it is another thing entirely, to peer through a microscope and view the edge of pieces of 700 to 1000 year old pottery that have been made using different materials for the temper. Or how about looking at the fingerprints of the potter which are still imprinted in the clay after all those years. If a person does not consider that a connection with the past, I don't know what is.

Eventually it was time to say goodbye to the Center, but not before walked up to the top hill overlooking the valley and visited the Escalante ruins. We didn't remember visiting them the last time we were here, though we did remember walking up the path. Once we saw them, we remembered that indeed we had visited them, it was just that after having spent the previous three days at Mesa Verde back them, they were less than memorable. I will admit, we certainly enjoyed the view of the mountains over the lake, but other than that, it was nothing spectacular./p>

Quite a view

The rest of the day was spent in relaxation and after our usual dessert, we went to bed early because of what we had planned for tomorrow. If things turn out the way we hope they will, it will be one of those lifetime kind of days, so stay tuned.

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