Thursday, May 31, 2012

People, trash, Memorial Day and more

The only security any of us has is the confidence in our ability to accept and live with whatever challenges life brings.

Memorial Day weekend at the Park
We were nearly full in Primitive B Loop with mostly tent campers. And not just one or two tents to a site! There were several sites with four vehicles and anywhere between five and 10 tents! And as expected these sites had the partiers! And how they did party – loud music, swarms of children and tables laden with foods.
Loop A – with electricity for campers – was full with one RV per site (one exception). Campers were couples and families, and lots of dogs! 
Between these two loops is the restroom building and playground which were always busy.
Based on my experiences on other holiday weekends at parks, I was expecting to be super busy. In reality, I had plenty of time to visit with campers, encouraging (yes, some nagging) them to keep their trash picked up and their dogs on leash. I enjoyed spending time with children. I had plenty of dogs to befriend and got some ‘petting therapy’. My favorite was Penny – a copper colored cocker spaniel.
How come I had so much leisure time? It’s because Shank, the managing ranger, arranged schedules so that we had nearly round-the-clock ranger presence. They, along with the park’s seasonal employees, were continually cruising the park and keeping the restrooms spic and span. It was a pleasant weekend.
Weather wise it was not so wonderful. The wind blew fiercely at times on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and most likely was the reason several campers left on Sunday afternoon. Those who stayed were rewarded by a lovely Monday morning.
            And wouldn’t you know, we’ve had calm and perfect weather since Tuesday.

DANGER – Tarantula Crossing
Why did the tarantula cross the road? And shouldn’t he walk faster to avoid being squashed by a vehicle? After all, he has eight legs! As he slowly crossed the park road, I walked behind to keep any traffic from squashing him and also to study how he used his legs with alternating precision.
It is rather unusual to see these large, hairy spiders during the day because they spend most of their life underground in a silk-lined burrow, coming out at night for a meal of insects and other small creatures. When mature, male tarantulas will go over land in search of a willing female.

ANTS – what industrious insects
I’m enjoying a large ant hill in my campsite – large “red” ants that seem to have black heads. Ants are continually taking things out of the hill and other things in. This morning three ants teamed up to drag a bird feather to the hill (momma ant wants a feather bed?).

PEOPLE – it takes all kinds
South African travelers.
A couple and their young daughter from South Africa, traveling in a rented RV, spent the night. They asked about riding bicycles on the lake trail. As I started cautioning them about the thorns, stickers and other desert hazards, the woman said – in her proper British accent – “These are nothing compared to where we live. Our area is known as the ‘thorn tree savanna.’” She went on to say that they live in a huge desert that is not even as green as ours desert is! Imagine that!
“Bird eggs”
Two small boys – probably ages 4 and 5 – proudly told me they found some bird eggs. Then one stuck out a grubby hand to show me. What they had were two well-dried rabbit scat (poops). I gently told them what they had – which did not gross them out and they ran to show parents.
Homemade tortillas
They are on vacation, but nevertheless the mother was busy making tortillas for their breakfast. Good thing I had already eaten or I would have begged for one!
Lots of children here
The park’s playground saw lots of action this past weekend. Three girls (probably ages 5 to 8) took turns using my pick-em-up stick and walked the camping loops with me, picking up trash. A couple boys (8 and 10) and I watched lizards and even got to see another tarantula and a snake shed.
Power outage
It was no surprise on a hot afternoon – about 10 campsites were affected. After notifying the rangers, I went door-to-door to assure folks that someone was working on the power issue. Most folks were sweet and understanding – “well, it IS camping” some remarked. Of course there was one extremely hot-tempered man demanding to know when the power would be back on. Then he said if it wasn’t back on quickly, he wanted a refund of his camping fee. I smiled sweetly – through gritted teeth – and said he should be patient before walking away.
I-40 road survey
Evidently, the Feds and the State want an up-close-and-personal report on the condition of I-40. Two college-age girls camped here are part of a highway survey crew. They are walking east from Santa Rosa to the Texas border, noting cracks and such. They have an official car with a light bar on top. Anyone who drives I-40 knows the road is in poor condition in a lot of areas.

Update to Trash Report
-- It has been a “profitable” week – found a quarter and nickel at one site and another quarter elsewhere, making the total of $1.05. At this rate, maybe I’ll have enough to buy a Dairy Queen ice cream cone when I’m back in Rio Rancho in July.
-- A used condom!
-- A white chess pawn
-- A heavily loaded disposal diaper – ugh! Glad I have my pick-up stick
--And the usual rusty wire, cigarette butts, beer, soda and water bottle caps, and pull-tabs from aluminum cans. What’s the meaning of the pull tabs? Is it “I am strong man, watch me rip this tab off!”?

From time to time I reflect back on my decision to buy a motorhome – what an adventure this has provided. Here’s a good quote from Daniel Schantz in Daily Guideposts.

Decisions. Who could have imagined that a simple ‘yes’ could contain so much adventure. Who knows what lies in store for you and me when we put indecision behind us…

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The adventure of picking up trash

Yesterday is a sacred room in your heart where you keep your memories. Here you cherish laughter from another day. You hear melodies of half-forgotten songs. You feel the warmth of a hug from an old friend. You see the lingering glow of a long-gone love. From your yesterdays you draw lessons and encouragement to pass along to others.
---Writer Barbara Johnson, Joy Breaks Devotions

Birds are great entertainment
Birds continue to discover my window sunflower seed feeder. Besides the House Finches, recent visitors have been Canyon Towhees, Black-headed Grosbeaks and Brown-headed Cowbirds. Just today a Blue Grosbeak – the first one I’ve ever seen – discovered the seed that I spread on the ground; it’s just a matter of time before he finds the window feeder.
The feeder also had a surprising visit by a Bullock’s Oriole (according to my bird books, they are not seed eaters, so I assume they are just curious). Later the Oriole discovered the hummingbird feeder on the other side of Jeremiah and has been enjoying the “nectar” (sugar water) I prepare for the hummingbirds.
The White-winged Doves still have not figured out how to get into the feeder! I’ve had fun imagining its thoughts as a dove perches precariously on the slick, slanted feeder top. “How do those birds get in? Let me try again – oops, missed again, how embarrassing. I’m know those other birds are laughing at me!”
            Refilling my two hummingbird feeders is a daily chore. I sure enjoy my window feeders – I can look at birds even with my nose on the inside of the window and they don’t know I’m there

My campsite
I have a great campsite with a covered picnic table that gets plenty of use during midday. That’s the time I head out with a tall tumbler of iced herbal tea (favorite is half peppermint tea and half green tea), and my current book. Even though Jeremiah has good air conditioning, I prefer to sit out where there is a breeze to keep me relatively cool. I have finished reading Clive Cussler’s Lost City and Pastor Max Lucado’s “In the Grip of Grace.

 More interesting people
  1. A couple from New Zealand spent a night here. This is their seventh trip, and on four of them – including this one – their goal, besides touring our country has been to buy US-made motor homes to take back to New Zealand. Between here and the west coast, they will be giving away/throwing away all the electrical components (they won’t work in their country). They will have their motor home sent to their country via cargo ship.
  2. One night we had two sisters: one from Arkansas, the other from Dallas. Made me think of last summer’s trip with sister Linda.
  3. Bass fishermen from Albuquerque area had a frustrating time – between the low lake water and the muddy water – and in spite of a variety of odd-looking lures; the largest bass hooked in two days was a measly 2 and ½ pounds.
  4. Four campers were here specifically to see Sunday’s solar eclipse. And it was a full eclipse in this part of the country. As I wandered by their campsite in early afternoon, they gave me some “safe solar glasses” (think 3-D cardboard glasses with mylar as lenses). Thankfully the sky was mostly clear, making the eclipse very visible. I walked around the campground letting folks use the glasses to enjoy the eclipse. What a thrill!
  5. The Baumgardners – they were having a mini-reunion. Wendy and Dayna are sisters and aunties to Lee, Ava and great aunt to Liz. Fun folks – I used them as guinea pigs to demonstrate how a tarantula walks. We were laughing a lot.

And there always are some people I wish had stayed home. One night I was awakened by the lights of six or seven vehicles as they roamed the two camping loops. It was about 10:30. Eventually five of the vehicles settled in a campsite right across from me, and proceeded to be extremely loud, disturbing me and other nearby campers. When they still hadn’t settled down by 11 p.m., it was time to call for help. Note: I do NOT go out after dark. After a phone call to Sheriff’s dispatch; two State Police cars arrived less than 20 minutes later. Shortly after their visit with the rowdy crowd, they settled down.

Trash pickup has been a major project
I’m making good use of my pick-em-up tool. From the looks of stuff I’ve found, the previous host has not considered this important. Of course, I’ll cut him slack since I understand that he recently turned 90 years of age! He is remembered fondly by the regular campers.
  • Hundreds of cigarette butts; a couple cigar butts
  • Hundreds of beer and soda caps; one from a TAB soda (is it still made?)
  • Hundreds of aluminum pull tabs – including some real old ones
  • Hundreds of plastic bag ties and plastic bag clips
  • Candy wrappers and sucker sticks (left over from Easter?)
  • Wads of tangled fishing line
  • Rusted steel-wool pad
  • Numerous tent stakes, some bent and some not
  • Money – so far I’ve picked up two dimes, three nickels and nine pennies!
  • Rusted nails and wire pieces
  • A variety of screws and eyebolts and several zipper pulls
  • Pieces of ripped tarp
  • Three single-size foam pads
  • Inflated water toy –PHOTO
  • Various bits and pieces of string and rope
  • Two weird lures
  • 115 tiny – bb-sized – pinkish-red balls (not beads) (yep, I counted them!)
  • Trader Joe’s reusable grocery tote bag
  • And lots of paper trash
And on a last note, if you need to get in touch with me, please call. The Internet service here is weak and occasionally nonexistent, making it difficult for me to get email. (email address in

It’s not officially summer, but the heat has arrived at Santa Rosa Lake State Park. The thermometer on the sunny side of my motorhome has been reading in the mid to high 90s. No complaints from me, though – I grew up in the Phoenix area and lived through temps higher than that.

Life is meant to be a grand adventure to enjoy through all its seasons.

With a busy Memorial Day weekend ahead, I’m posting this on Thursday instead of Friday.       Remember to be thankful for all our veterans and current military folks – we owe our freedom to them.

Friday, May 18, 2012

It’s been a week of interesting campers

It’s been a great week with plenty of interesting people – there’s never a boring day and I certainly don’t lack for conversations.

What is that huge yellow thing?
From my motor home, I can barely see the incoming RV traffic through the piñon and juniper tree branches. But as something bright yellow made its appearance, I was puzzled. When it drove past, I still couldn’t figure it out. It was bright, sunny yellow and very boxy. I MUST check this out!

 The driver, Robert from Seattle, explained that this motor home was custom built on a 2003 UniMog U500 chassis by Global Expedition Vehicles. The living area is a Safari camper box that has many ‘special goodies’.
            Robert and his wife will spend the rest of 2012 traveling fulltime in North America. Next March, the RV will be shipped to Russia to start their Vladivostok to Istanbul trek along parts of the traditional Silk Road. You can follow the travels on their website:

What’s coming?
I heard them coming – and then they rounded the bend and came into full view. Wow! Three beautiful Harleys! Oh, yes, there were three nice looking middle-age men on them – James, Pete and Kyle. The bikers, from Kentucky, are on their way to the Grand Canyon and stopped here for the night. It is their first trip west of Arkansas and as they entered New Mexico, one of them said, “we’re sure not in Kentucky any more!” These three travelers are on vacation from their painting jobs at Berea College.

What is Berea College? Here’s what Google has to say: “Berea College …was founded in 1855 as the first interracial and coeducational college in the South. Berea charges no tuition and admits only academically promising students, primarily from Appalachia, who have limited economic resources. Berea offers rigorous undergraduate academic programs leading to Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in 28 fields. All students work at least 10 hours per week in campus and service jobs in more than 130 departments.”

The grumpy guy from Texas
Not everyone likes to hear the throaty rumble of a Harley – and count Gary from Texas as one of them. I got an earful this morning as he complained that motorcycles should be banned from state parks. “This is supposed to be a quiet place for campers,” he insisted. I sweetly suggested that perhaps he would be happier if he camped at large commercial parks, or maybe he should just stay home.

They arrived after dark
I saw the headlights of the cars as they drove by to occupy five of our campsites. I had no idea who they were or where they were from. In the morning as I make my 6 a.m. walk of the campground, I saw numerous small tents and exposed sleeping bags scattered around the area. They are geology students from The University of the South – aka Sewanee – seeing first hand what they learned about the Southwest.
            They were definitely young people – I overheard one guy saying, “I think I’ll be able to grow a moustache in a couple of years.”

Of course I went to the school’s website to learn more about this Tennessee school. “Sewanee campus sits atop the Cumberland Plateau about 50 miles west of Chattanooga. In October 1860, the founders laid the cornerstone for a campus that would eventually grow to house 1,500 students on 13,000 forested acres.
‘This physical environment provides a remarkable academic and recreational resource. It invites students to become involved with nature and to engage in careful study of the natural environment. Rock-climbing, caving, cross-country running, and mountain biking are popular among students and faculty. One of the University’s strategic goals is to be a national leader in environmental studies and sustainability.”

On their way to a race in California
Two young 20-ish guys arrived, towing a race car. Their goal at a Riverside, California, race track is “just to finish”. They are beginning drivers and need to accumulate points toward to advance in the race-driver ranks.

The reluctant church bus
Also arriving after dark was this small bus – and the next morning, the bus stubbornly would not keep running. A Good Samaritan, who was driving by, worked magic with some black electrical tape. The grateful bus passengers were thrilled and waving as they succeeded in leaving for their destination of Albuquerque. 

Watch out bass, here they come
This weekend is the Duke City Bass Tournament – and plenty of hopeful fishermen with their fancy, sleek bass boats are here. The actual tournament starts tomorrow (Saturday) morning; today is a “practice day” to get familiar with the lake conditions. As to the conditions, the lake is quite muddy which will make it a challenge.
Fishermen have been having some luck and thanks to Stony the fisherman, I have two just-caught bass filets in the refrigerator for tonight’s dinner.

Other interesting campers
  1. A father/son duo that will spend three days scuba diving at the Blue Hole in order to get their certification.
  2. A young man on his way to Canada where he has landed a job as a pilot for sky divers.
Three cheers for the birds
With a little help on my part, birds have finally found my window feeder. After two weeks, the feeder was still being ignored. So, I took it from the window and placed it on the ground nearby. Then I created a trail of birdseeds which the birds followed. Once they were used to the feeder on the ground, I put it on the window. The House Finches now try to monopolize the feeder. The White-wing Doves have succeeded in standing on the top, but have not figured out how to get into get the seeds.
            Numerous hummingbirds – the Black-chinned and Anna’s – are regular users of my window hummingbird feeder. I enjoy watching birds up so close.

That’s it for this week – I leave you with this quote from Patsy Clairmont:

As long as there is a breath in my body, there will be moments to revel in.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Moths, birds and interesting people

Life is a gift bulging with mystery, intrigue, comedy, tragedy and purpose. When we realize our days here matter, our pain has significance and our choices are meaningful, we can step through the darkest times with hope in our hearts.
--Patsy Clairmont

The Invasion of the Miller Moths
Not dangerous, just a huge nuisance. This area at SRLSP – and most of northern New Mexico – was inundated with these flying creatures. Each evening I was swatting moths and they just kept coming in from somewhere. Those buggers sure can get in tiny places, and I can only assume that moths were somehow finding a place they could get into the motor home. I also discovered that I'm a lousy shot with a swatter. That combined with the fact that moths don't die easily, meant sometimes as many as three or four swats to kill one.
            After one week with the moth issue, the weather turned cold and the next day most of the moths were gone! Was this the end of the moth invasion?  I celebrated while drinking my morning cup of peppermint tea. And then, to top that off, my morning's devotional was based on Ecclesiastics 7:8a that says: "The end of a matter is better than its beginning." The lesson goes on to talk about retiring things such as resentments, bad attitudes, and even those clothes we think we'll one day fit into.
People – it takes all kinds

  1. It was quite a sight. An incoming camper passed by: motor home towing a car – that’s normal – what interested me was that the car had a lawnmower tied on top! (look closely at photo) Campers are Mark and his elderly mother Pat. Marks says he “rescued his elderly mother” from a nursing home and takes her traveling. I visited briefly with Pat as she was sorting through a large collection of costume jewelry. I’ve invited her to come watch birds at the new bird blind. She mostly gets around in a wheelchair.    
  2. Bill from Portales (NM) is one of the regular fishermen. I mentioned that I knew peanuts are one of the crops grown in the Portales/Clovis area. “We call them goobers,” he said. Nice guy – collects aluminum cans “for a lady in town who gathers them for Habitat for Humanity.”
  3. Solo guy #1 in an SUV, traveling with four large mean-looking dogs. Have no idea who he is because the dogs – even though on leashes – discouraged me from going into the campsite. Stayed one night. He cleaned up after the dogs.
  4. Solo guy #2 – small trailer and tow vehicle – also with four large, barking/growling dogs on leashes stayed one night. Left dog poop all over the campsite.
  5. Tutti-Frutti – a bird, not a person – is the traveling pet of Tom and Peggy Boracjek from Marathon, Florida. They own a business offering Florida Keys sailing vacations and tropical bayfront cottages. And I now have an invitation to visit them. Hmmm! One more reason to plan on an east coast trip one of these days.
The Birding area
To facilitate birdwatchers and occasional birding programs, the host site has a bird blind, a bird “pond”, and three Russian olive trees. The pond is roughly 6-ft by 6-ft and 4-ft at its highest point. The water line runs slightly underground - one end attached to the water faucet and the other inserted in two holes in the rock for a continual slow drip. There are two seed feeders and a hummingbird feeder.

I also put birdseed on a large flat rock on the other side of the motor home and my window feeder is up and filled with sunflower seeds. This window feeder has yet to be discovered by the birds. So far I’ve identified 20 birds.

Yesterday I had a quartet of Great-tailed Grackles - squawking as they gobbled up the bird seed I just put out. They are quite majestic - glossy black except for an iridescent blue/purple heads and necks, and yellow eyes. As other birds come close and threaten their food supply, they puff up and drive the interlopers off. What an adventure bird watching is!

An interesting fact about the Brown-headed Cowbird is that they lay their eggs in different bird species nests. The foster mother hatches the egg and raises the young cowbird. This afternoon a female Yellow-headed Blackbird has had a young cowbird with it, seemingly teaching the cowbird how to scratch for food. They fly in together and fly out together. An odd sight.

Current reading
Today I finished reading “Thoughts for the Road” by Kay Peterson. The book is a collection of Kay’s heartwarming stories from her nearly 30 years of living the RVing life. Along the way she and her husband Joe started Escapees, the popular RV organization. She also includes many thought provoking musings. One of many is, “Happiness does note depend on possessions. Happiness is making the most of whatever you have.”

That’s it for this week – I’m having a super time!

Friday, May 04, 2012

Life is great at Santa Rosa Lake State Park

By noon on Sunday, April 29, Jeremiah and I arrived, parked, leveled and hooked up at the Host Site for the Rocky Point Camping area. For new blog readers, Jeremiah is my 2007, 30-ft Winnebago Aspect. I’ve also brought along Bucky, the ventriloquist dummy I bought in Ohio a year or so ago. During the day he sits proudly outside with one of my NM Parks visors on.

The park
Trees are primarily Juniper and Piñon pine. The lake level is exceedingly low and barely visible from my campsite at sunrise. There are lots of wildflowers – whites, yellows, blues, pinks mostly. There are some cholla cactus and dried up remains of some prickly pear.  So far, except for birds, I’ve only seen one small rabbit, a coyote and numerous lizards.

The Host Site is in a central location – between the 27 electric sites in Loop A and 23 primitive sites in Loop B.
Typical of Sunday afternoons and weekdays, the park was sparsely occupied. Good time to get acquainted with the campground. My “job” here is to be a “presence” – putting tags on reservation sites, helping campers as needed and picking up any stray trash. Once summer is in full swing and the park has more visitors, I’ll be doing some interpretive bird programs. No restroom cleaning, no money handling, no dealing with reservations! What a life!

The weather is wonderful.
Nighttime temps are perfect for sleeping - in high 50s to low 60s, afternoons have heated up to the high 80s and of course, the famous – infamous – New Mexico wind blows.

The park’s rangers are super nice and will be a pleasure to work with.
Manager is Shank Cribbs – tall (another inch and he would not have been able to stand up in Jeremiah), raised on a ranch in the area.
Ranger and park volunteer coordinator is Chris Baca, also raised in the area and formerly on the Santa Rosa PD. Billy Velasquez is a park tech.
Summer seasonal park workers will arrive May 12.

The “nuisance” visitors – Miller moths
While they are not harmful, Miller moths are pesky. They fly in semi-swarms, dive bombing people who get in their way. Somehow they manage to get into my motor home and each evening I’ve killed at least 20 of them. They are hardy; they often just shake off the blow and keep flying, requiring two or more swats to kill them. The Western Kingbirds are having a feast on them.

Speaking of birds
I have bird feeders out, including a hummingbird feeder. The birds have discovered all of them except the window feeder on the motor home. The park recently built a bird blind near my campsite for bird watching. Last Thursday was a day for “blue” birds – first to show up was the Western Tanager, then the Lazuli Bunting and lastly the Western Scrub Jay.

People – it takes all kinds
  1. Two “good old boys from Amarilla” are here for a week of fishing. Ronnie and Tommy say they are both 70 years old and have known each other since age 8.
  2. Was dumping my bucket of trash when the man from site 11 walked up with his trash. I commented that here sure were lots of cigarette butts around campsites. He proudly said he didn’t throw his butts on the ground; he put them in the fire grill instead. My response was, “that’s doesn’t help me at all since I also have to clean out grills.” And then he said he would go clean them out before he leaves and he did.
  3. Met two gals – Merrilie and Dede – from Florida and North Carolina. They were on Day 5 of their first ever RV trip in their first ever Roadtrek RV. “Visit us anytime in the early fall at our North Carolina house” they said. Hmmm! Let me add this to my possibilities for another year.
  4. Another couple with “genuine English accents” were here for a night – traveling with their German Shepherd Koby; Interesting couple on their way to the Grand Canyon and points beyond.
·        Just when I was thinking that I was picking up more water bottle lids than beer lids, I found a cache of the beer ones. Cigarette butts still outnumber the lids, though.
·        My first day here gifted me with my first sight of a V22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft. It flew relatively slowly right over my head at a low altitude, giving me a good look. At the time I didn’t know what it was, but the folks I was talking with did know. Then I went to the Internet and got more information.
o       It was manufactured by Bell Boeing
o       First one flew in 1989
o       First used by the Marines in 2007
o       The Air Force used it starting in 2009
o       As of January 2012, the U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force have a combined 110 V-22s in service
o       Length is 57 ft 4 in (17.5 m)
o       Rotor diameter is 38 ft 0 in (11.6 m)
o       The propellers can tilt to suit the flying need. The aircraft is capable of operating like a helicopter as well as flying straight. 

My usual day
During the heat of the afternoon, I read and write. Late afternoons and early evenings are for walking the campground, visiting with campers, more reading, writing, and occasionally piddling with watercolors. I just finished reading Skeleton Coast by Clive Cussler and started Journey by James A. Michener. 

Another birthday has passed - and this quote seems appropriate:

Youth is a gift of nature; age is a work of art –Helen Carrall