Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Two months of adventure as a NM State Parks volunteer

I’m off to Pancho Villa State Park!
Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2006

Life is to have experiences, learn about others and learn about myself.

I’m ready – I think and I hope – for two months as a park volunteer at Pancho Villa State Park. It is one of 30-plus New Mexico State Parks scattered throughout the state that have RV camping facilities.

Pancho Villa is the southern-most park – it is about three miles north of the Mexico/USA border and the small Mexican town of Palomas, and 25 miles south of I-10 and the small town of Deming.

The park is a next-door neighbor to the tiny, no-stop-light town of Columbus, NM. Other than that, there’s nothing but homes here and there throughout the desert. I have stayed at Pancho Villa several times, and know some things about the town: it has a school, two or three churches, bank branch, post office, library, two cafes, a grocery store, small motel, gas station and a place to get propane. Oh, yes – a major Border Patrol and National Guard presence.

This past week has been busy. Because I don’t tow a vehicle, my mode of transportation around the park and the town will be my bicycle and my two feet. My friend Jesse has offered to get my Ford Explorer down there, but I’ve challenged myself to do without it. There will be other volunteers and if I really need to shop in Deming, I can probably ride with one of them.

My lists and shopping have been very important. I don’t recall seeing a laundromat in Columbus, so I’ve shopped for extra clothes. Just about every inch of Jeremiah has been filled, including two locked storage boxes that will be stowed beneath my motorhome once I’m parked.

I arrived at Pancho Villa about 5 p.m., and got settled into an RV site. My friend Selma drove down to spend a few days with me.

Social Life Gets Off to a Good Start
Thursday, Oct. 26

Early this morning, Ranger Martin Nunez stopped by to welcome me. While we talked about my upcoming volunteer time, he said that I would get a key to the park volunteer laundry area on Monday morning! Yippee! Laundry would be convenient after all. What good news!

After breakfast, Selma and I walked into the sleepy town – poking our heads in any door that would open. We checked out a small Mexican café and another breakfast café, read the notices on the community board, stopped at the post office to let the Postmaster know I would be getting General Delivery mail, (not a problem he said: Carol Anderson, General Delivery, Columbus NM 88029).

We also went in a large new-looking building and discovered that it is the San Jose Poncho Villa Lounge: several rooms including a pizza/lunch café, a bar, and a large multipurpose room. Here we met Jerry Poteet – the director of the RoadRunner Touring Theater. The stage was set for tonight’s play: The Housekeeper. The audience would be mostly folks from the LOW RV group. This organization – Loners on Wheels – was having a rally at the LOW RV park nearby. Jerry said it is a dinner theater, and Selma and I were welcome to come. Which we did! The play was hilarious, the meal delicious, and we met quite a few of the friendly LOWs.

Friday, Oct. 27
The LOWs invited us to drive up to their RV park this morning – we met a whole passel of single folks.

We hustled back to Pancho Villa and arrived just in time to meet Selma’s brother who would be taking us to Palomas for lunch at The Pink Store. Palomas is a typical Mexican border town – mostly dirt roads, roadside vendors selling a variety of things (we bought sunglasses), and several pharmacies, dental offices and a few cafes. The Pink Store caters to tourists – Mexican crafts and collectibles and a large restaurant that offers one free margarita with lunch.

We were back at Pancho Villa in time to get ready for the park volunteers’ monthly pizza dinner at the San Jose Poncho Villa Lounge. There were 13 for dinner, including Selma.

Saturday, Oct. 28
Selma headed back to Rio Rancho after breakfast. I walked around the RV park noticing that there were areas where the weeds were pretty high, including around my parking place. Time for some yardwork. I rounded up a hoe and rake, my heavy leather gloves, and got to work. The recent rain made it easy to pull up the weeds and in no time I had the space between Jeremiah and the inner park road cleaned up.

It was a lovely day – cloudless sky, about 72 degrees with a light breeze. I started on another area. I noticed other volunteers were hard at work tackling the weed problem that was created by all the rain the area had been receiving. From time to time volunteers Bill and Lue came by to gather up the weed piles.

Sunday, Oct. 29
I had intended to check out the town churches this morning, but after making such good progress on the weeds yesterday, I decided to continue. Before the day was over, the south end of the park was looking really good – and I had worn holes in my leather gloves; nothing some strips of duct tape wouldn’t fix.

Now don’t feel sorry for me. The weeds pulled easily (one weed, Pursalane, spreads out from a single tap root, and when you pull the root, a three- to four-foot-diameter weed comes up). And the result was so rewarding. I also had ample opportunity to chat with other campers. The park is quite full with two camping groups and a bunch of regular travelers passing through.

And Cat is thrilled. Since I’ve been working near Jeremiah, I let her out to wander around. She has two trees for climbing – higher than one would think for a cat with no front claws. Each time she climbs a tree her goal is to get the bird she sees sitting up there. As soon as Cat gets near, the bird flies off. Cat also “hunts” – but never catches – grasshoppers and butterflies.

Monday, October 30
My volunteer time doesn’t officially start until Wednesday, and I’ve gotten lots of nice comments about jumping right in with weed duty. This morning we had a volunteer meeting and the November schedule was handed out.

My first stint at the museum will be this coming Saturday afternoon – 1 to 5 p.m. Each week I’m on the museum schedule two to three times, totaling between 12 and 16 hours. To fill out my 24-hours-per-week commitment, I’ll take care of miscellaneous needs throughout the park. It will be a lot of weed work for a while.

Tuesday, Oct. 31
I got some weeding time in early this morning because I’m going to have lunch at The Pink Store with some of the LOWs (they go every Tuesday). One of the single volunteers here is a LOW member, and asked if I wanted to ride along with her. You’ll seldom find me turning down a Mexican-food lunch.

I’m looking forward to two months of adventure: being helpful, meeting people, having time to read and write, planning 2007 travel adventures, and enjoying southern New Mexico’s mild climate.

I just started reading Roger Tory Peterson’s biography. He’s the person who is credited with making field identification of birds a science with his bird books. The author says the most important thing he learned from Roger is “there is a lot of life around us that we don’t take in because we aren’t looking, we aren’t listening, we aren’t paying attention.”
I expect to really look, listen and pay attention; and to enjoy my time here.

That said, here’s is something to think about:
Courage has never met its match.
Difficulty motivates it
competition inspires it
criticism challenges it
adventure arouses it.