Tuesday, May 02, 2006

What IS that delicious aroma?

The drive from Bottomless Lakes to Oasis was flat and easy – all on highway 70 except for the last few miles. The road paralleled train tracks and took me through four “don’t blink or you won’t see them” towns: High Lonesome, Elkins, Kenna and Elida.

As I approached Portales, I started seeing large dairies: a major industry in this area.

I had barely gone past the Portales city limits when I smelled something. The computer in my brain started working to identify the source. Bingo! I remembered that Portales is a peanut-growing area and the delicious just-roasted aroma was delighting my sense of smell – and taking me down memory lane. I recalled being 17 years old and working part time at F.W. Woolworths in Glendale, Arizona. I worked behind the candy and nuts where my job was to keep the candy bins stocked and the nuts “roasted” – actually the nuts were cooked in hot oil. What a wonderful fragrance.

I couldn’t reminisce too long because I had to navigate through the town and keep an eye out for the turnoff to Oasis State Park. Being both driver and navigator is a full-attention job. I didn’t even notice the Dairy Queen until I had passed it! Fiddlesticks!

From the looks of the Oasis State Park map, there are less then two dozen developed campsites with electricity, and about half of them are set aside for folks making reservations. By traveling on weekdays, I am hope to find a non-reserved, electric site. I found the park and lucked out with a spacious level site - #23. I was right, there are only 23 RV sites.

The park has a fairly small man-made lake that’s popular with locals for fishing, so there are plenty of day-use sites. Ranger Jim told me that the lake level has been lowered in order to find and fix a leak. But that doesn’t seem to matter to the geese, ducks and coots that were either dozing on the beach or floating on the water.

As soon as I was hooked up and settled, I went out to walk the park, visit briefly with the campground hosts and then stopped by the park ranger’s office. He was at his computer chuckling over a camper’s photographs of a roadrunner admiring himself (herself?) in the side mirror of his vehicle. Seems this bird is a nuisance – but a cute one in my opinion. When I got back to Jeremiah, there he was, trying to use my mirror.

The campground hosts invited the park personnel and the RVers – all three of us – to have homemade ice cream and cake. I met Valerie, the park’s interpretive ranger, and got better acquainted with Ranger Jim, the park manager.

One thing Oasis has going for it is a lot of birds, including three I had never seen before: Bobwhite Quail, Summer Tanager and Lark Bunting. I quickly put out a bird feeder.

Wednesday evening I started reading the book, “Bubbles” a “self portrait” by opera star Beverly Sills. I never had been interested in opera until I met my friend Maria Negri, a retired opera singer who traveled the world with her husband, an Italian tenor. She has such fascinating stories of their singing life that I wanted to learn more. Maria and Beverly Sills – both amazing women in my opinion – were in the opera world at the same time, that’s why this book caught my eye. (Note to Maria – hurry up and move back to Rio Rancho so I can learn more about your interesting life.)

During my night at Oasis, I was lulled to sleep by the songs of the night birds.

Between Tuesday afternoon and early Wednesday morning, I had walked the few short trails, taken pictures, and got some writing done. Since I don’t fish, there aren’t a lot of things to do here. There are only two other RVs in the park. With a storm brewing to the west, I decided to cut my four-day stay at Oasis short and head for Sumner Lake State Park. Thank goodness I can be flexible, and since I am traveling without any park reservations, I can easily deviate from my original plan.

Another reason for moving was because my friend Emy is planning on spending the weekend with me. Oasis is a long drive for her to make to end up with not much to do there. Sumner Lake would be a shorter drive, and I am hoping that there will be more hiking trails. One thing for sure, the lake is giant-sized compared to the one at Oasis.

Here’s a delightful anecdote from Beverly Sills book. It took place on her trip to Israel’s Wailing Wall.

“I was standing there, not knowing what to do…I felt a tugging on my cape. It was a tiny old lady. In a thick accent she said, “Nu? You’re not going to pray? You’ve got nothing to pray for?”

“Yeah,” I said, “I’ve got something to pray for.”

“Then come, I’ll show you a spot, you rub the spot, talk to God, and you’ll walk away from the Wall laughing.”

As we were walking, she stopped and looked at me again and said, “Nu? You got nothing to cover your hair?” Then she dug into her shopping bag and pulled out a facial tissue about four inches square. “Here, cover your head with this. “At the wall she took my hand, placed it on a particular stone and said, “Now rub, talk to God. You’ll see, you’ll walk away laughing.”

I rubbed the stone, said a few personal things to God, and suddenly I burst out laughing. There I was standing in the rain with a piece of paper on my head, draped in a long black cape, wearing high boots, standing next to a four-foot-tall old lady, rubbing an ancient stone and talking to God. It had to be the funniest sight in the world and so I had to laugh.

The little lady looked up at me, in triumph. “See?” she said. “I told you you’d walk from here laughing.”