Monday, October 31, 2005

A work day deserves a play day

Monday, October 31, 2005

As I fell asleep on Sunday night, I decided that today would be a good day to ride my bike to a couple small towns near by. However, I awoke to a windy day, and it was still a fairly stiff breeze by the time it warmed up at 10 a.m. So instead, I got some work done on the Personal Chef magazine. When things calmed down mid afternoon, I did some bird-watching along the river and got a good photo of the fall color reflecting on the water. (photo)

Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2005

Ah, a promising day for a bike ride - when it warms up. It got down to 30 degrees last night, so I elected to watch the cranes from Jeremiah's window. And I was treated to five mule deer walking within 50 feet.

About 10:30 I pedaled down the road, heading to Arrey (pronounced a-ray) - about three miles. I was hoping for a "town" but that is stretching it. It has a café, post office, gas station/grocery, school and two churches. From the looks of the dwellings, the population consists mostly of farm workers. Wondering what Derry (pronounced dairy) would have to offer, I continued south on highway 187.

It was a pleasant ride - primarily flat, somewhat paralleling the Rio Grande. There are agricultural fields, three chile packing companies, two dairies, a small church and cemetery, a roadside produce vendor, scattered dwellings (many old trailers) - and dogs that like to chase bicycles! After I had ridden almost 10 miles, and still hadn't come to Derry, I decided to ride back.

I stopped at the produce shack, manned by an elderly Mexican, and bought a tomato, small honey dew and small cantaloupe. Glad I had taken my large backpack.

The dairy has its version of a nursery/preschool for calves that will eventually replace current cows - each one gets its own little house! Their front doors face south, and several were lounging in their small yards. (photo)

The café in Arrey was calling to me for a delicious Mexican lunch of tamales, and a burrito to-go for tomorrow's breakfast. Chatted with several others having lunch. Remembering the pack of dogs I had barely outrun along the short-cut to the park, I chose to take a longer route.

Along the way I rode through the Eagles' Lodge RV parking area (spotted a whimsically painted trailer - see photo) and then through the Arrey RV Park where I visited with the owner, a self-proclaimed "grumpy old man." When I said "good afternoon" he corrected me and said it was still morning - you guessed it, I had not thought to change my clocks.

In fact, with no TV, radio (my Spanish is not up to it), telephone or Internet reception, I have to think twice about what day it is. And time is not important. I get up when I wake up, eat when I'm hungry, and go to bed when I am sleepy.

I visited a bit with camp host Joyce, a native of New Mexico, this afternoon. We got on the topic of New Mexican food and she said she makes the very best red chile sauce. As she was describing the process, starting with dried red chiles, she stopped and said, "better yet, you can come over when I make enchiladas tomorrow and then you can stay for dinner." Oh, boy! I'll take good notes. If they turn out as good as she says, I'll stop by a chile-packing place and buy some Sandia Reds. (Linda, we can make some enchiladas.)

Cat was roaming outside, and got chased by "the monster" again, and gave me a good laugh as she was clinging to the trunk of a tree. I did take a picture of her on the cabana wall after the dog was called home. (photo)

Today's worthy quote is from actress/writer Katharine Hepburn:

"Genius is an infinite capacity for taking life by the scruff of the neck."

It's 5:30 p.m. and I have a gorgeous sunset. It's been a good day.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Cat's Adventures

Sunday, Oct. 30, 2005

As told to Carol (a.k.a. "mom")

I think mom had a boring day today. But I had a great, exciting one.

Mom went out early again to watch those silly birds. Every day they fly over and every day they fly back. They look like the same birds. How boring. Why does mom keep doing this? She makes me stay inside, which is just fine with me because it's warm and I'm sleepy from roaming the motorhome all night. You see I'm on guard duty all night. I go from window to window, checking things out. (see photo)

When mom finally comes back in she says, "Brrr, it's cold out there!" Well, duh! If she looked at the thermometer she'd know it is cold out. But no, it's the same old routine. How boring.

Today after my morning nap and her breakfast, mom gathered a book, tablet and pencil, fixed another cup of coffee and settled into the swivel chair to read and write. I was hoping to go out, but I was ignored. So I took another nap.

Finally, mom announced that it was warm enough to go outside. Yipee! She sat under the cabana and started reading and writing again. How boring.

She requested that I stay nearby and I did because I wanted to climb my tree again. Last time I did, I could tell that she was worrying about me getting back down. Well, I admit it was not easy, but I did it. I can see the whole world from my tree! This time she was busy reading and writing and didn't even pay attention to where I was.

I saw lots of things to explore, so I came down and took off looking for adventure. I chased some leaves, watched some furry "sticks" with hundreds of legs. You would think that with so many legs they could move fast, but no. They are s-l-o-w. Slow but sure they went. I got bored watching them. The grasshoppers were interesting for a while, but I couldn't catch any.

I'm not saying where else I went, but I came back running after a scary incident. The camp host snitched on me, though. She told mom that I was snooping around their motorhome when their dog discovered me. I took off running - the monster was closing in - so I made an amazingly fast trip up a big tree. The monster's boss made him go home, and when I felt safe I tumbled down and raced home. (see photo of monster)

All that excitement called for a long nap. Mom just keep reading and writing. How boring!

My turn (Carol writing again)

Boring? Anything but! I've been enjoying my time of solitude and reflection. Don't get me wrong, family and friends, I'm not redefining or changing myself in any way. I'm just pausing to decide just what is important to me.

In today's reading I found another gem written by traveler/author William C. Anderson:

"We are tethered to life by a very thin thread.
No one ever knows just when that thread is going to be clipped.
So the only thing to do is live one day at a time, milking each for all it's worth. Then when the time comes, you can say you have truly lived."

Those are potent words to mull over.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

If sand cranes could talk, what would they say?

Saturday, Oct. 29, 2005

It's my fourth morning of watching the cranes fly overhead. I'm continually amazed at the whole thing. This morning and afternoon, feeling in a silly, playful mood, I gave the cranes "dialog."

Morning dialog:
Let's go straight south.
Hurry, the other group is catching up and they might beat us to the best place.
Do we have to have corn again?
Stay in the group, no playing until we head back home.
Look, they are headed southeast, have they found a better field?
Slow down, I'm flying as fast as I can. (spoken by a crane that was straggling a bit)
Oops, I'm with the wrong group (spoken by a crane that reversed his flight and went to join a group behind).
I'm only going because I'm hungry.
When does this boring routine end?
I wanted to stay at the lake and order take-out. (spoken by a lazy one)
Come on, you guys. I told you to set your alarm. (spoken by one in a small group that was the last to fly by)

Afternoon dialog:
Yipee! It's time for happy hour.
Here's a good thermal.
I can soar higher than all of you.
That corn sure was good.
This is the best time of the day.
Look at that lady below; she was there this morning taking pictures of us.
Whee! Look at me soar!
My daddy can fly higher than your daddy.
It was a good day, today.

I told you I was in a silly mood. It was cold outside this morning, so as the last of the cranes flew by I was glad to get into Jeremiah and have a bowl of oatmeal. Penny stopped by on her way out and handed me a stack of information - including the Milepost Book - on Alaska. Hmmm. Maybe next summer!?!

My evening reading the past few days have included a stack of magazines, re-reading Barb Thacker's book "Since I don't know where I'm going I'm never lost," and selected portions of Charles Swindoll's "Wisdom for the Way." My current book, given to me by my friend Maria Negri, is "Eccentric Circles - around American in a house on wheels" by Richard B. McAdoo.

I also had a back issue of Motorhome Magazine where I read a poignant column by William C. (Andy) Anderson (no relation to me). In his column, written shortly before he died at age 83, he encouraged readers to:

"Get out, hit the open road, visit new places, meet new people, and you'll find that your life has been much richer, happier and fulfilled. And you will have chalked up some marvelous memories in your memory bank to draw upon when you finally hang up the RV keys."

Friday, October 28, 2005

Serenity replaces busy-ness

"As life picks up debris from busy-ness, activities, and involvements, one needs to stop and seek solitude," wrote Charles R. Swindoll in his book, Wisdom for the Way - wise words for busy people.

Friday, (October 28, 2005)

After a short visit, the other camper left this morning to settle for a couple of months in T or C. I'm now the only one in the park; a good day to read, think and write. Sitting still was difficult for me the past two days. There was much to explore. Today I found things to rearrange in Jeremiah, etc. I soon ran out of busy projects and decided to slow down for a time of inner refreshment. It was time to replace busy-ness with serenity.

The day was lovely - warm and breezy, blue sky with a few puffy white clouds, and not a soul around. I sat out under the cabana to enjoy my surroundings. I heard a variety of birds, the leaves rustling in the breeze, the ground squirrels scolding, and the motor from a distant tractor.

I watched an army of caterpillars work their way through the grass blades and up and down small dirt hills. I watched Cat as she explored and chased leaves before disappearing behind the neighboring cabana. I noted which types of trees had started taking on their fall colors, and how their shadows changed as the day progressed.

All this sitting still didn't come easy. I kept wanting to get up to do something. "No, Carol. Sit ...breathe ... relax ... enjoy."

After lunch, I decided to have my time of solitude at the river. Before I could leave, camp host Joyce came by to invite me to go to the Eagles Lodge this evening for the monthly steak dinner.
At the river, I walked a bit and found a comfortable place on the river bank to sit. An Old Testament Bible verse, Psalm 46:10, came to mind as I marveled at my surroundings: "Be still and know that I am God." Unlike the campground area, there was nothing man-made in sight - only God's creation. (photo)

It was time to head back to Jeremiah, take a shower and get ready for my dinner date. On my way I saw that another motorhome had arrived. I stopped to greet the new arrival and met Penny, another single female adventurer. She calls Maine home, but has been a full-timer for a couple of years. This is an overnight stop for her as she heads west to California. She has traveled widely, including a couple of months in Alaska. I didn't have time for a long visit, but I did warn her about the "silent" mosquitoes and alerted her to the morning sand crane show.
Dinner was delightful and delicious! The Eagles Lodge is located in nearby Arrey (pronounced a - ray). The lodge has some type of dinner each Friday evening: steak on the last Friday is $7.50 and the others are $5.

Shortly after I got back to Jeremiah, Penny came by and brought me some "guaranteed to repel biting insects, made from eco-friendly products" liquid made in Maine. We had a nice visit. She is a physician (internist) who has taken time off from working for a few years. We talked about motorhome things - adding solar panels, finding free wireless Internet connections, travel-related books we've enjoyed, etc. She prefers to travel about 100 miles a day, making time to explore towns and local attractions along the way.

What a good day I had! Beauty, solitude, steak dinner, friendship - and the anticipation of more days to come. I head off to bed with a grateful heart and a smile.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Exploring Percha Dam Park

"Risk-taking, trust and serendipity are key ingredients of joy. Without risk, nothing new ever happens. Without trust, fear creeps in. Without serendipity, there are no surprises." A quote from author Rita Golden Gelman.

Thursday (October 27, 2005)

Thank goodness for a good forced-air furnace! It got down to 37 degrees outside and 60 inside, but I was toasty warm under my down comforter. I put on a warm coat and scarf and took my morning coffee outside while the cranes noisily flew overhead in the early morning light. Again they are in basic, poorly defined-V groupings. (see photo)

After breakfast, with camera and binoculars in hand and Cat napping in Jeremiah, I spent the morning exploring. I walked along the river below the dam - actually along river bottom because it is so low. (photo) At one point I started following some fresh-looking deer tracks, and then saw a young deer bound away into a thicket. A birdwatcher pointed out a red-tailed hawk perched in a tree, and I met the other camper, a crusty woman named Joy. She and her young male cat - a hunter who keeps bringing home critters such as rabbits, pocket gophers and mice - are full-time RVers.

As I was returning from my explorations to have lunch, I heard the cranes overhead - coming back from feeding. Instead of small groupings, there were huge masses of birds overhead. It almost seemed that they were joyfully celebrating full gizzards (stomachs for those of you who don't intimately know the inside of a bird or chicken). Instead of just flying north, they appeared to be swarming overhead, going in all directions. As I looked closely I could tell they were soaring on thermals, spiraling higher and higher rather than flapping their wings and making any forward progress. I'm near a large open field, so I was able to easily watch this crane show and take pictures (photo above).

Cat went roaming outside while I fixed lunch. As I ate outside at the picnic table, Cat looked longingly at a nearby tree. Next thing I knew, she had jumped up and was precariously heading farther up one of the large branches. She was doing fairly well for a cat with no front claws, but how would she fare coming back down? I couldn't watch. Soon she was back and under the bench. I breathed a sigh of relief.

In the afternoon, I walked about a mile down the gravel road, making a couple side trips down well-used paths in the wooded area to the river's edge above the dam (photo). Here I spotted raccoon and deer tracks - and got another mosquito bite! The ranger calls them "silent mosquitoes" because you never hear them.

Back at the park, I took my shower, fixed dinner and settled in for the night. Another awesome day. I am so blessed to be able to have Jeremiah, Cat and the desire and ability to travel - to stay out any ruts.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Sandhill Cranes - and an unplanned move

Wednesday (October 26, 2005)

My life is like an orchestra. I am the conductor,
directing the many facets in order to make my own music.

Today's "music" started at 5 a.m. I had slept well, but didn't want to get up because it was cold - 54 degrees inside the motorhome. I turned on the heater and the coffee pot and climbed back in bed. In a few minutes the coffee was ready and Jeremiah was toasty warm.

It was pitch black outside, but started getting light about 7 a.m. I bundled up and went out for an early morning walk. As soon as I stepped out the door, I could hear birds overhead. At first I thought they were Canadian geese heading south, but later learned that they were sandhill cranes. They flew from north to south in sort-of "V-shaped" groupings of 50 or so, squawking loudly as they went. I counted 15 groups in just 10 minutes, and this continued for about 30 minutes. That's a lot of birds! These cranes spend the night on the sand dunes north of Caballo Lake, fly south to fields for feeding, then fly back in the afternoon.

As the sun came up over the mountains, I walked throughout the park enjoying the beauty and appreciating that I was there to see it. The river is very low, and it would be possible to rock-hop across in places. It's a huge difference from the full and fast-running river when I was here in the spring. A retired couple from nearby Truth or Consequences was fishing in one of the deeper spots.

After lunch I unloaded my bicycle and rode about three miles to Caballo's Visitor Center. While talking to a park ranger, I asked about Percha Dam Recreation Area (another section of Caballo). He raved about the beauty - the cottonwood trees taking on their fall color, the sandhill cranes and ducks feeding nearby, wildlife, including squirrels, rabbits, coyotes, foxes, raccoons and mule deer, roaming the park. Interested, I encouraged him to elaborate. Then he said that the park is very quiet because not many RVers want to traverse the mile-and-half washboard-rutted gravel road to get there.

He said that Percha Dam Park, established in 1970, is one of New Mexico's smallest parks. Its low dam was built in 1917 to provide irrigation water for local farms (they grow a lot of chile and alfalfa). This park is less crowded - mostly empty on weekdays - making it great for bird watching.

Since the park was only a few miles away, I biked over to check it out. The bumpy gravel road runs between two fields, one with silage and the other with alfalfa. The actual park entry drive goes over a rickety, one-lane wooden bridge.

It was "love at first sight!" It is spacious with grassy areas and hundreds of tall trees, including cottonwoods, Russian olives, green ash, and salt cedars. (see photo) This riparian area seems somewhat out of place in the southern New Mexico desert. There are 30 spacious electric/water RV sites (only one was occupied), and a huge area for tents, campers and picnics. The river is a stone's throw away. Reportedly it is good fishing for walleye, white bass and catfish. However, with the river so low, (see photo) I doubt that fishing is good now.

After checking with Bob and Joyce, the campground hosts, about moving from Riverside, they said, "No problem. Come on ahead, and choose any of the sites you want." I hopped on my bike and high-tailed it back to Jeremiah. I quickly got unhooked and ready for the short trip.

I chose site #2 because it was shaded from the afternoon sun, had a picnic table/cabana alongside, and wasn't too far from the restroom/shower. (see photo) I was hooked up in no time, getting four mosquito bites in the process. When I settled in for the night, I reflected on another good day, eager to explore this park in the morning. As my coffee mug says:

"Adventure is worthwhile in itself!"

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Yipee! On the road again!

"Granted ruts are comforting, but one must stretch, explore, and look for new adventures. There is no way to explain the joy of the open road, the wonder of the beauty of nature, and the adventure of new places and new people," wrote travel author Barb Thacker.

Tuesday (October 25, 2005)

After a somewhat hectic morning - checking and double-checking lists and fussing with a refrigerator that for a while seemed unwilling to do its job - I was ready. I put Cat, along with the last of my necessities and refrigerator items, into my Winnebago rolling home named Jeremiah, promising to organize stuff later. At 2 p.m. as I headed south on I-25, I kept reminding myself to "breathe, Carol."

I'll be gone about 7 weeks, part of the time in warm weather and part in cold and the first two weeks out in the sticks (20-plus miles to the closest small town, laundry, and groceries), so the packing required a lot of thought.

Once I left the Albuquerque area, there was hardly any traffic on the interstate. An easy drive - it seemed like my private road! Even though I don't need a compass for this part of my trip, I'm grateful for the one that my friend Jesse installed yesterday. Unlike my last trip, I will be able to keep track of direction.

My destination was Caballo Lake State Park, 170 miles south at the foot of the Caballo Mountains in southern New Mexico. It is one of my favorite places to stay.

Caballo is one in a series of lake parks created by the damming of the Rio Grande. In 1930 an earth-filled dam was built to catch and store water released by Elephant Butte Dam (25 miles upriver) during electrical generation. When full, the lake is 18 miles long. Caballo is New Mexico's third largest state park.

In my opinion, the river-side portion, which is more secluded than the lake portion of Caballo, is the best. It has cottonwood, black willow, green ash and Arizona sycamore trees. It is a great bird-watching area, and last spring I saw the Vermillion flycatchers migrating through.

I arrived about 5 p.m. and settled into Riverside RV site 55. The park had a few other RVs, and one tent. I was thankful for a level site that made setting up easy. Cat looked longingly out the window, but obediently stayed inside while I got plugged in and water hooked up. I told her she could go out in the morning.

I walked around the park, stopping to visit with the park hosts, Roy and Patty, then settled in for the night. Cat snuggled on my lap while I read. I was glad to climb into bed. It had been a busy day. I'm looking forward to two weeks of what I'm calling a "personal retreat - an oasis for my soul."