Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Highlights of Week 4

Tuesday, Nov. 14
I’m really enjoying my time as a park volunteer! It is a good feeling to be helpful to both RVers and museum visitors. I make it a point of stopping by and welcoming campers, in my section of the park, shortly after they arrive. This week about 30 RVs from the Alamagordo Traveling Elks and the Airstream Club are here. Also various campers are here for a few days to buy medications and/or have dental work done in Palomas, Mexico.

At noon today I went down to the Pink Store with the LOWs group (a singles RV club). This was probably my fifth or sixth time down there and each time I order something different. So far, everything has been exceptionally delicious. By the time lunch was over and we stepped outside, the wind had picked up; by the time I was back to Jeremiah, there was a full-scale gale. It was a good day to hunker down to read. I’ve started a book, The Tail of the Tip-Off, by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown.

Wednesday, Nov 15
Today was an all-day shift at the museum – 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a lunch break. There usually aren’t any visitors for the first hour, giving me time to get some housekeeping chores done: restock pamphlet display and restock the small gift shop. In between visitors I read my current book, work some crossword puzzles, and read through some books and articles about Pancho Villa in order to be able to answer questions. Sylvia, the ‘heritage educator’ for the museum does guided tours by special arrangement.

Gwen stopped by and invited me to have dinner with them. Gwen and Jim are such interesting people.

Thursday, November 16, 2006
Brrr! We had our first cold night – down to 30 degrees just before the sun came up. Thank goodness for a good forced-air heater. Cat was eager to go out this morning, but stayed out less than 10 minutes before happily jumping back into Jeremiah, curling up to take a nap. Cold or not, I decided to tackle some more weeds along one of the paths.

It was still chilly when I walked to the museum for an afternoon shift, so I bundled up. But once inside, it was toasty warm. It is fun, and interesting, to greet museum guests.

As I walked from the museum to Jeremiah, Lue (another volunteer) called out that one of my friends had arrived this afternoon, although she didn’t know who it was. She only said it was a lady and a dog in a camping van. I walked around the park looking, and was surprised to find Nita and her dog Maxwell from Albuquerque. We had a nice visit. I didn’t know she was coming, and unfortunately already had plans for the next day that couldn’t be changed. Nita had come for dental work.

Friday, Nov. 17
With a busy day ahead, a pile of laundry and ‘house cleaning’ to do, I was on my way to the laundry room at 7 a.m. I got plenty of walking in because the laundry room is at one end of the park and I’m at the other end.

My friends Ellen and Paul arrived bearing some lovely lavender gifts. I originally met them when I lived in the San Diego area. They had bought a piece of property that was overgrown with weeds out in the country west of Valley Center and developed it into an awesome lavender growing facility. They also distill the lavender oils and make and sell lavender products. A little more than a year ago they started looking for property in Arizona and New Mexico. I suggested they check out Silver City. The immediately fell in love with the town and now they own a second home here in New Mexico. We enjoyed lunch at the Pink Store and walked around Palomas.

And my RVing friend Carol Rayburn, and her cat Zia, arrived today to spend a week or so here at the park.

Saturday, Nov. 18
The Park’s Saturday morning event was a presentation by the author of Gringo’s Curve. This book tells of the January 1916 ambush and killing of 18 American miners, who were on their way to a mine in Mexico, by some of Pancho Villa’s cohorts.

Then I worked in the museum in the afternoon. In between visitors, I started planning and developing a way to improve communication between the park and its campers. Having been in quite a few state and county parks and experiencing varying ways of getting information – and some complete lack of information unless I sought it – I had some ideas. I wanted to have these ideas thought out before approaching Ranger Brian.

I came up with a sort of newsletter/flyer titled: “This Week (or This Month) at Pancho Villa State Park.” It would list special park events, on-going activities, names of rangers and volunteers, etc. It also would include information about Columbus including names and hours of eating places, library, post office, grocery store, historical society, etc. And also have a section about Palomas and the Pink Store. The park has an official ‘camp host’ but not all campers stop at their RV. My suggestion is to have other volunteers act as “greeters” – sort of a ‘welcome wagon’ to give out information.

Sunday, Nov 18
My alarm went off at 4:30 this morning – we (Friends of Pancho Villa State Park and park volunteers) would be preparing and serving breakfast for about 60 campers this morning. A bit before 6 a.m. – pitch dark outside, flashlight in hand – I headed to the recreation hall. I was the first one there and got the coffee started and tables set. The $4 breakfast was scrambled eggs, sausage, pancakes and coffee. I was in charge of flipping pancakes. We had lots of laughs in the kitchen and plenty of grateful campers.

I had a good time to talk with Ranger Brian and tell him of my idea for communicating park activities to campers. He immediately latched on to the idea and asked me to keep working on it.

In the afternoon I worked in the museum, and shared some of my homemade Mushroom and Barley Soup with Carol Rayburn for supper.

Monday, Nov. 19
Many of the campers have left, either for home or for other camping locations. The next few weeks the park should be fairly empty. This lull will give us time to get various projects done. One project I’m looking forward to is relocating and organizing the park’s ‘leave a book – take a book’ library. The ceiling of previous library location got sogged out in the late summer rains, causing the library to be closed.

After a morning shift at the museum, Carol Rayburn and I went into Deming to get some shopping done: Walmart, Luna Rossa Winery (two bottles of Dolcetto) and Peppers (a grocery store with some organic items and good produce). At Peppers I struck up a conversation with a lady who was buying 10 turkeys and other items for Thanksgiving. Each year she personally hands out “uncooked Thanksgiving dinner in a box” to needy families.

Last stop before heading back to Pancho Villa was dinner at The Ranchers’ Grill in Deming.

Tuesday, Nov. 20
Carol Rayburn has a Verizon wireless card in her computer (I’ll be looking into this when I get back to Albuquerque), giving her wireless Internet access here at the park. She brought her computer over to me this morning and I was able to check and answer email.

She and I went to the Pink Store to have lunch with the LOW group. Afterward we stopped at one of the pharmacies and bought some medications. My $54 eye drops are $32 for the same thing!

I heard my first complaint about Pancho Villa State Park today. Many campers come here regularly and say how much they love the peace and quiet, the wide-open spaces, and the desert environment. Today’s complainer was a woman camping in a tent. She was in a semi-developed (means water only, no electricity at the site) area on the west side of the park that is near acres of undeveloped land: all sagebrush, tumbleweeds, cactus, etc. In my opinion, this is probably the quietest, most private area because it is farthest from the well-traveled highway 11. Her complaint? It was too noisy! “The barking of the town dogs (probably coyotes) at night, the beeping of some equipment working clear on the other side of the park (repairing a water leak) and the cooing of the doves” greatly annoyed her. So what did she do? She turned her radio up full blast to block out these annoyances! Go figure! Fortunately, the grumpy woman packed up her tent and left.

I don’t think I have mentioned that I have joined the “I-Pod” world. Knowing that I would have pretty slim pickings in radio stations here at Columbus, and knowing that it is a nuisance to play CDs on my cab radio (take curtain down, climb over Cat’s litter box, etc.), I wanted a way to have music. After advice and guidance from John Moore at the USPCA office, I bought a Nano I-Pod a couple days before leaving home. I loaded most of my personal CDs and have certainly been enjoying them. John told me what to buy so I could play the music through my motorhome surround-sound speakers.

So you can see, that as my 4th week here at Pancho Villa State Park ends, life is interesting and exciting; there’s plenty to do.

Sorry, no photos to post, and I've been too busy to do much reading.
More next week!

Monday, November 13, 2006

A very busy week

Thursday, Nov. 9 With four camping groups here at the Park and two special events this coming weekend, it’s a busy place. To add to the activity, Gwen, Jim (a lively ‘young’ volunteer couple that have been married 62 years!) and I joined two other volunteers at the Pink Store for lunch today. I finally remembered to take my camera to Palomas, and took pictures of both the outside and inside of the Pink Store.

After lunch, Gwen, Jim and I explored part of this small Mexican town. We found a bakery (bought dinner rolls), hardware (bought a quiote – more on that later), grocery and cheese shop (didn’t need anything but did enjoy looking at the products). I also checked out the American Dental Clinic where Gwen and Jim get dental work done.

Camping groups here this week are the Border City Travelers (Winnebago and Itasca owners in southern New Mexico), Silver City Traveling Elks, FMCA Chaparral Chapter, and the Chili Chapter of Escapees. I joined the Border Cities Travelers for happy hour.

Now about the Quiote (pronounced Kee-yo-tay). I saw several of these strange looking things on a hardware store shelf, wondered what in the world it might be used for. In the clerk’s minimal English I learned that it was for “those little colorful birds.” I decided it would be a good conversation piece, and since it was only $3.30 US dollars, bought it.

When I went to Useful Spanish class this past Sunday I took the quiote to ask Javier for more information. He said it is from a quiote plant that is hollow in the middle. It is a parakeet nesting “box”. “The female and male parakeet mate, then the female – with maybe some help from the male – chips away at the hole that has been started by the saw until she can get inside to lay her eggs. (And about Javier – he is the town judge.)

Friday, Nov. 10
We are still working on weeds – I usually put in a couple hours each morning. Then this frees up the middle of the day for me to work on my magazine writing. I take frequent breaks to visit with other campers.

I finished the Roger Tory Peterson biography - what an interesting person. Also very bright and industrious. By the time the biography was written (mid 1970s), the appendix listed that he had authored, edited and artist for 6 field guides, editor of 15 more field guides, author and artist for 10 additional books, there were 6 pages of additional books that he worked on, 5 pages of awards and 3 pages of activities and professional affiliations. His high school, senior yearbook had this under his photo: "Woods! Birds! Flowers! Here are the makings of a great naturalist!"
He certainly lived up to this!

Veterans are honored today
Saturday, Nov. 11
About 75 campers and townspeople, including the men from the American Legion Hall came to our Veterans’ Day program. There were two presentations: one about the Buffalo Soldiers and their role in the Pancho Villa Punitive Expedition, the other was given by a man who is the grandson on a Jenny pilot who gave a talk about the airplane’s history at Columbus’s Camp Furlong.

I had the afternoon (1 to 5 p.m.) shift in the museum, and took this opportunity to take some photos there.

This photo is a replica of the 1916 JN-3 bi-plane (the Jenny).

This photo is of a 1916 Ford truck – identical to one used in the Punitive Expedition.

There is a quote by Porfirio Diaz, Mexican president and dictator for 30 years in late 1800s and early 1900s:
“Poor Mexico! So far from God and so near the United States.”

Saturday evening’s special event was a great fireworks display that was sponsored by the Columbus Chamber of Commerce. They were quite good – and I joined the Border Cities folks for a front-row seat.

On your mark, get ready, go!
Sunday, November 12, 2006

Today is the “IV Carrera Binacional Columbus-Palomas” (translated: 4th Annual Binational Run between Columbus, USA, and Palomas, Mexico)
The race attracted 200-plus runners from several countries hoping to win part of the $5,000 in cash prizes.

My volunteer t-shirt says: “Corriendo por una meta en comun” (translation: Run for a common goal)
I helped with a variety of jobs, starting with setting up the registration area, folding t-shirts and stacking them by size, putting hats in the runners’ bags, and then helped with registration. The most difficult part was helping with registration because the majority of the runners were Mexican. Why, oh why didn’t I pay more attention in high school Spanish class?!?

We had three runners Kenya – they came in first, second and third! And we had four Taraharmura Indians from Mexico: two men and two women who ran in traditional clothing. The men ran in a skirt-like outfit and thong-type sandals, and the women in knee-length full skirts. These Indians are well known for distance running/stamina.

Logistically the run had some unusual complications. Many Mexican runners could get to the USA border, but had to be met by vans driven by USA volunteers to bring them the last three miles to the park. And then their belongings (non-running clothes, etc.) had to be bagged up and driven to the finish line on the Mexican side. The USA runners had to take their ID information with them, or have it taken down, so they could get back in the US.

Here is a picture of the goal (meta). The awards ceremony, lunch and intermission entertainment was held in Mexico.

I got back to the Park just in time to head to the Useful Spanish class. Part of today’s lesson was information about shopping in Palomas and ordering in Mexican restaurants where the menus are in Spanish and the wait staff speaks mostly Spanish.

By evening, nearly all the club campers had left, leaving just a few motorhomes. The calm before two more clubs start coming in tomorrow. Ranger Brian says starting next week the park will have far less campers the rest of the year.

Monday, Nov. 13
After weed work and trash detail, I spent a good day reading, writing, and doing some cleaning. The clubs started coming in: the Sierra Sams (a Good Sam chapter) from Elephant Butte and the Traveling Elks from Alamagordo.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

My Volunteer Time officially starts

Week 2
Wednesday, Nov. 1

“Get your chores done early because you never know what opportunities for adventure will come your way today.”
That’s the Carol Anderson daily plan.

And that’s why I was out by 7 a.m. working on pulling and cutting weeds. All the volunteers, and some of the park employees have been busy removing weeds this week. I carefully worked around any plant that had flowers. They were a dash of color in the otherwise gray/green/tan/brown desert landscape. Volunteer Bill stopped to chat. He reached down and started to pull one of the flowering plants.

“Don’t pull that one, it has lovely yellow flowers,” I said.

He gave me a funny look and responded, “It’s a weed.”

“The plant’s yellow flowers are pretty and it’s currently butterfly habitat,” I said as a small brownish butterfly landed on a flower. Then I assured Bill that when the flowers were spent I’d pull the “weed.” He seemed satisfied.

I’ve been doing so much weed work that now my leather gloves have holes in them – that I’ve patched with duct tape. It is obvious that soon instead of leather, I’ll have “duct tape” gloves. New gloves are needed. My friend Hilda came to my rescue! I called Village Mercantile in Corrales (the only place I know that sells heavy duty leather gloves in the extra-small size), then asked Hilda to pick up two pairs and mail them to me.

On one of my walks around the park, I went by one of the group shelters and recognized some campers that I met this past April in Alamogordo. Turns out they are part of the Los Paisanos Good Sam group. Before I walked on, I had an invitation to join them for the evening’s Happy Hour. They will be here at Pancho Villa until Sunday noon.

Also today, RVers that will be caravanning into Mexico arrived. Here they will meet up with the tour leaders; they will leave on Saturday morning.

Weeds, weeds, and more weeds
Thursday, Nov. 2
More early morning weed work for me. I tackled tumbleweeds, cleaned up a large area and had huge piles for the clean-up crew. The park is looking mighty good. Of course, the park will never be an oasis of green like the Midwestern parks I stayed in this past summer – it is the desert after all.

Cat enjoys morning outside while I am busy weeding. She has a couple trees for climbing, lots of birds to watch, and thankfully avoids the cactus spines.

Besides weeds, I’ve been writing and editing articles for the Personal Chef Magazine. I need to have all the work finished in about a week.

This evening, the Friends of Pancho Villa State Park met for dinner and the monthly meeting, and all volunteers were invited.

A Day Off in Deming
Friday, Nov. 3
Park volunteers Gwen and Jim Young invited me to go to Deming for shopping and lunch. First stop was the Luna Rossa Winery where we tasted several wines, and bought our favorites. After a few errands, we stopped and picked up “Mary of the Rocks” – an eccentric older woman who has lived in the area for many years and has been befriended by several park folks. She is indeed what I would call a “crusty” woman. However, she’s very bright and is interesting to talk to. She lives in a Deming motel room, doesn’t have a car, and depends on others to take her shopping, which we did. We also had lunch at a Mexican restaurant. It was a good day.

Campers come and campers go. The Chili Chapter of Escapees started arriving; and a large group of Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts from El Paso (Texas) arrived this afternoon and will be camping in tents on a large grassy area. The Mexican tour group left.

I’ve had two bird feeders out for just over a week, and the birds have found them. I have one feeder with sunflower seeds and another with thistle seeds. The sparrows and house finches found the food first, followed shortly by the White Winged Dove (the dove’s song sounds like “Who cooks for you”). The dove make me laugh as they try to sit and balance on the feeder’s small perching area.

My first shift in the museum
Saturday, Nov. 4

As I headed to take a shower this morning, the moon was setting. I took this picture:

The park was hopping with activity today. About 60 folks from town and the park were here for a program at the Museum. After a variety of refreshments, people went inside to hear two storytellers, one speaking English and one Spanish. I was scheduled to staff the museum this afternoon, but went in early to help during the program. Once the crowd dispersed, the museum was fairly quiet in the afternoon, and I had time to continue reading the Roger Tory Peterson biography.

Here’s your nature lesson for today: I haven’t taken time to check this out, but when Peterson is explaining how to net butterflies and moths without damaging their wings, he says, “A butterfly always flies up when leaving a flower. So after clapping the net over it you hold the netting up and the butterfly flies into the cul-de-sac. On the other hand, a moth drops, so you place the net below when they leaving their feeding place. In summary: moths drop, butterflies fly up.”

On one of my walks around the park I took a picture of the first grease rack built to service US Army vehicles that arrived to try to capture Pancho Villa after he attacked and raided the town of Columbus. This was the military’s first use of motorized vehicles.

The Friends of the Park Pancake Breakfast
Sunday, Nov. 5
Thank goodness I’m an early riser! I was up and in the shower a little before 5 this morning because I volunteered to help with a pancake breakfast. The early start gave us time to get the tables in the recreation hall set, the coffee started, the pancake batter made, eggs cracked and in the mixing bowl, and the sausages started. Then we cooked just enough for the six volunteers. So we were able to have our breakfast before the park campers arrived. By 10 a.m. the work was done, giving me 3 ½ hours of volunteer time for the day. A little work time here, a little there - there is always something to do so I won’t have any problem getting my 24 hours in each week.

This afternoon I joined two other volunteers and some town residents at a “useful Spanish” class being offered in town. Besides taking Spanish in high school, over the years I’ve picked up some words and phrases; but not enough to be really helpful. It is a small class and the instructor, Javier, helps us with general as well as specific things.

Just call me the ‘trash lady’
Monday, Nov. 6
Now I can add ‘trash collection’ to my resume! This morning Volunteer Diane (another single gal) and I collected trash from the RV sites. It also was a good time to visit with other campers. In all it took about two hours.

One of the regular campers said he would get the weeds out of his camping site if he had a hoe – and I volunteered the hoe I had been working with. So no weed work for me until he finishes.

This volunteer “work” is very rewarding. While weeding and gathering trash are hardly glamorous jobs, they are important. We are having such wonderful weather, and the chance to meet a wide variety of people is well worth the effort. For the most part, the RV campers I’ve met have figured out how to really live! They remind me of a quote by William Least Heat Moon in his book, Blue Highways:

"I never worried about making a living, but I’ve done thinking about making a life. It’s hard to know the difference sometimes, and it must be getting harder, judging by all those that don’t know the difference."

Greeting interesting museum guests
Tuesday, Nov. 7

Today I was assigned the museum from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and met quite a few interesting people. For most, even though they’ve been to this park before or they used to live in the area, it is their first time to see the museum. (The grand opening was this past March.)

Today’s guests included a National Guardsman who recently was assigned to border duty, a former Border Patrolman who now lives in Georgia, a man who knows someone distantly related to one of Villa’s cohorts, and a man who knows someone distantly related to one of the pilots stationed here at Camp Furlong in 1916. This last man told me that because of the arid conditions here, the pilots had to remove the wooden propeller from the plane each evening and keep it in his tent overnight.

Also today two young men who had just completed the Continental Divide Trail were at the park. Turns out that one of three trail ‘ends’ is not too far from Columbus/Pancho Villa. The hikers tented here last night and left this afternoon hoping to hitch a ride to El Paso to catch the Greyhound Bus for the trip home.

I’ve been here two weeks – and have enjoyed every day! The next few days will be extra busy: four camping groups are here, there will be a Veterans Day program Saturday morning, fireworks Saturday evening, and a 5K race on Sunday morning. Oh, yes. And the park just received more rakes, hoes and pitchforks – and best of all, the gloves that Hilda sent arrived so I can retire my duct-taped gloves.

Here’s a picture of my new gloves!

That’s all for this week.

You can email me at carolinnewmexico@azulstar.com