Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Two Handed Driving To Albuquerque!!

As we left Tucumcari, it was a gorgeous morning, but just after navigating a jam-packed Flying J for fuel, the winds came up.  By the way ... the Flying J in Tucumcari only has biodiesel.  I barely had 40 gallons of fuel in the tank and it took 60 to fill it up.  I guess I'll find out if I can run with it soon enough.  So far I haven't been able to confirm that I can use it with my engine.  I'm definitely not happy about it ... after all, wasn't it to be more economical??  The price was the same as regular diesel across the street, but I hear you get worse mileage.  How's that better??  Like Tom, the other thing I don't understand is how they can say it has 5-20% biofuel or vegetable and animal oils.  5% I could live with.  The other thing to note is that manufacturers are not covering any damage to your vehicle caused by using this stuff.  I guess I'll throw away that Flying J credit card I just got.  

Anyway, the further we went, the worse the wind got.  My 11 mpg made a sharp dip down to 8.  Maybe it was the fuel???
We skirted around some black clouds with nary a drop of water and headed for the dark skies over the hill.
This is the first time I've seen a long freight train in the last month!!  
Hmmm those clouds are getting thicker ... and darker ... with wind that is just terrible.  I didn't buy enough "stuff" on this trip ... my rig is pretty light and I'm all over the road the entire way.  The big trucks don't help.  They just can't seem to stay on THEIR side of the white line!!
By now we can actually see the rain coming down in sheets ... it looks like fog it's so thick in some areas.  Still the winds are beating me up!!  I was hoping that at some point they would let up.  I checked the weather on my phone since my Weather Alert radio kept going off, but thankfully it was for Tucumcari ... and we were coming in to Albuquerque.
Finally just over the hill and down into the Albuquerque Valley, the wind quit.  We got a few spots on our windshields, but not enough to even turn the wipers on.  The road just seemed to turn at the right time as we slipped around the big black clouds.  This one was huge and had just dumped rain and hail on the Balloon Fiesta grounds.  It was raining so hard the entire cloud went straight to the ground!!
Thanks to Tom and Barbara's expert navigating, we drove right to the check-in point with hardly any traffic at all ... well except for that red light I had to run!!  There was no one in line, we just drove right up and checked in!!  We were the first of the Boomers to arrive, as Cool Judy and Luke Rinehimer were all set up to welcome us!!  
This is the view of the balloon landing field out my front window ... along with the rest of the clouds we missed yesterday!!  This will be my first experience dry camping for an extended period of time, so we'll see how THAT goes!!  I'm trying to use as little electrical as possible to keep from running my generator due to the fridge.  

There's nothing on the schedule until Thursday, so it's SHOPPING for me ... a yarn store, a quilt store, a western wear store, an antique store ............ you know, just because I need the added weight for the rig!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Always Return To Neutral!!!

Don't you just hate it when your memory fails you??  I certainly do, especially since I actually work on memory on a daily basis.  My old photography teacher told me to "always return to neutral"!!  It helps you get it right the first time instead of spending hours later.  Now if I can just remember THAT statement, I'll be in good shape.

I wanted to get some pictures of Route 66 neon and last night was my last chance, since we are leaving this morning.  It's not exactly safe to go alone after dark with a lot of camera gear, so Barbara graciously agreed to go with me.  I hate to say, she probably got better pictures with her new phone than I did because I forgot the rule ... always return to neutral.  That is, always put your camera setting back to neutral ... ISO 100, F-8 and shutter speed 200.  When you forget that the last images you took were inside and the ISO was set to 8,000 ... well you get the results below instead of what you "really" wanted.

We drove the entire main street, picking out the good shots, then caught them on the way back.  This was one we didn't remember seeing before ... The Wash Lady!!  I think she's atop a laundromat, but to be honest, it was so dark I couldn't tell!!
My all time favorite and probably the most photographed in Tucumcari ... The Blue Swallow Motel.  I had an inkling something was wrong, since even though I was using the tripod, the camera was taking the images MUCH faster than expected.  That should have been a warning bell right there!!
Almost completely dark, this Conoco gas pump was lit up, even though it doesn't have fuel any more.
My second favorite, the Tee Pee Curios shop.  They are keeping this building and the signs in amazing shape, which I'm really glad to see.  I hope it lasts another 50 years!!  At this point I was complaining about why the steer head was so bright and blown out.  It never dawned on me to check the ISO!!  
I kept changing the settings, but they still didn't look like I wanted!!  If only the old memory would have kicked in!!  About this time, some strange guy came walking down the sidewalk talking like crazy, so I wrapped it up pretty quickly.  You never know who you might meet on the street corner at night!!  
I think this one is my new favorite ... it's just next door to the Cactus RV Park.  Pretty reasonable room rate!!  Someone said the other day that they used to be $10 a night for a room!!  You can probably still find rooms for that price here, although I'm not sure I would want to stay in one!!
Our Cactus RV Park sign needs a little TLC.  The neon gas in the US seems to be gone!  It was at this point that I finally remembered the ISO setting ... it was at 8,000 instead of 100 for good night photography.  How upsetting that we spent all that time on photos I'm not so happy with.  If done right, these can be enlarged and printed ... but not this time!!  I guess that means I'll just have to come back!!
Hoping my memory kicks in this morning ... we're buttoning up the rigs to head for Albuquerque and I don't want to forget anything, like unplugging the electrical or leaving the antenna up!!!  The forecast was for a little rain about noon ... hopefully it holds off until we are set up!!  Oh ... I DID remember to set the camera back to neutral this time!!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

FIRED UP ... In Tucumcari!!

I found out quickly in my travels if you ask people in a small town what there is to see, you will find some amazing treasures.  I knew Mesalands Community College had a dinosaur museum ... really? in Tucumcari New Mexico??  Yes they do ... because they have classes and students that actually go out in the desert and find fossils, which they learn how to recover, clean and display.  It's a great little museum where you will learn quite a bit.  You can even RIDE a dinosaur if you wish!!
I wouldn't want to meet this guy in a dark alley ... look at those teeth!!  Most of what they have here are smaller dinosaurs, even though this looks like T-Rex.
There are so many different dinosaur names that I couldn't keep them straight.  If these classes had been offered at MY school, you can bet I would have been signing up.  This is fascinating stuff!!
Here's one I've never seen ... the hollow head crest of a Parasaurolophus, 75 million years old, found in New Mexico.  
This is what they think it looked like in real life.  Pretty crazy!!  The hollow tube is a resonance chamber they used to "talk" to each other.  
We've all seen the velociraptor in Jurassic Park ... that's it on the top right, with the American alligator on the bottom left.  Not quite as big as in the movie ... I think they took dramatic license and increased it's size considerably for effect!!  Who knew??  
We heard around town that FIRED UP was on for Saturday night, so we decided to check it out, having really no idea what it was about!!
Held at the newly renovated train depot that used to bring thousands of passengers to this booming town, it was all about Main Street ... a comprehensive downtown revitalization program to encourage development while keeping historic preservation in mind.  In other words, bringing Tucumcari back to life.
It's actually like a big street fair however, that must have brought out everyone who lives here.  By 7:00 the place was packed!!  The first order of business was to elect Prince Tocom and Princess Kari to reign over the festivities!!  The girls were decked out in their finest Indian Princess costumes that someone had spent a LOT of time creating!!  
Same for the boys ... these guys were decked out in their Indian BEST!!  All 4 and 5 years olds, they told us their favorite color, their pets name, yelled "thank you" and waved to the crowd.  It is interesting to note that almost all had only one parent ... and most were single dads.
The winners!!!!!
This is Vince Smith of San Jon NM, demonstrating his dutch oven skills.  We didn't get to taste any of the peach cobbler, but it must have been good since he's won several competitions, including some at Cheyenne Frontier Days last month.  We bought some roasted corn with any topping you could ask for (Barbara said the cinnamon-sugar was the BEST) ... homemade cookies and I made a beeline for the local 4-H table where they were selling S'mores!!!  What a GREAT idea ... and they were yummy!!!
Way off in a corner was a Leather/Antique store that just drew me right in the door where I found this old table top grinding stone for sharpening knives.  It's a nice conversation piece for my kitchen counter!!  Tom found an ammo can in perfect condition for $10.  
Here's Mark Lake, demonstrating Raku pottery.  He makes the pieces, bakes them in a kiln, then finishes them off in buckets filled with stray.  The hot pot sets the straw on fire, which bakes the finish.  It was pretty smoky and didn't smell all that nice, but the results were fascinating!!
Here he's just taking my pot out of the bucket.  Now you KNOW I couldn't get away without some local art!!  It's not only the art, but supporting the people who continue to make things by hand.
Here's the final result!!
Here's another purchase to support the locals ... The Thomas Family Cookbook.  The nice elderly lady selling these spent some time in California before returning to her roots outside of Tucumcari.  This cookbook is full of recipes from her great grandmother, including sopaipillas, Navajo fry bread, hard tack, pasole, knishes, best ever dog shampoo, poop cookies (not misspelled) and creme brûlée!!  All that and helpful hints every few pages ... how could I pass THAT up!!
The Sons of Confederate Veterans had a great time firing cannons at each other, as did the audience.  This was pretty impressive to say the least!!
THIS however, was the best of the festival ... the 2-Man Blacksmithing and Artistic Blacksmithing Contest.  I'm sooooo glad to see this type of work, not only still being done here, but taught in the local college.  This truck is just amazing ... not because of the fire painted on the side, but because of how it's built.  The trailer opens up to become 10 blacksmithing stations.  The gentleman that owns this truck with his son, is a champion blacksmith, traveling the Midwest promoting blacksmithing excellence and training through competitions.  
Having been involved with horseshoers all my life, these guys were fun to watch.  It's amazing how they can take a plain flat piece of steel and shape it into a useable horseshoe.  In the artistic competition, they made a door knocker and a corkscrew ... both pretty amazing ... that you could silent bid on, but the prices quickly got too high for me!!
Horseshoes aren't made from square stock ... they are almost triangle shaped ... so here he hammers the steel in a mold to get the shape.  There's lots of flotsam flying off the steel as they heat, mold and hammer away ... kind of like coal cinders on a steam train.  We got covered!!!
They had one hour to make two shoes to definite specifications ... one very large for a clydesdale and one small ... one guy making the shoe, the other assisting.  When done, they started the clock again and changes places.  They were working almost 3 hours straight!!
It just tuckered this baby out completely!!
And me along with her.  I actually thought I might sleep in today, but that wasn't to be.  The RV park was full when we returned to our rigs and this morning I can't believe how rude they were.  Slamming doors, running what I thought was a generator, it was so loud ... at 7:00 on a Sunday morning.  The two rigs on either side of me weren't the least bit quiet as they packed up.  I was up at 6:00 anyway, but I'm sure the other people here didn't appreciate the racket!!

This is our last night before heading off to the balloon fiesta.  Here's to smooth sailing since some storms are expected to roll in Monday ... the clouds and winds are gathering as I type!!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Staging ... The Process of Dumping, Filling and Cleaning!!

We're still parked in beautiful downtown Tucumcari at the Cactus RV Park, getting ready for almost two weeks of dry camping at the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque.  You know what that means, dumping tanks, filling tanks, trying to clean out all the dead spiders and creepy crawlers we've picked up along the way.  Kentucky and Tennessee were the worst for buggy friends ... I think I still have a cicada or two in the bays below!!

See that Tractor Supply sign???  Don't go there!!  Although they did hire a couple of locals, most of the employees are from out of state.  To the credit of Watson's Tucumcari Ranch Supply, they decided to "join them" ... you know, keep your enemies close??  They offered to set up one of their barbecue trailers out front along with a supply of their homemade donuts!!  Hopefully it will all work out for the best in the end!!
You can tell between working and cleaning, we've been playing a little.  This was Cooper's ball about 10 minutes after I gave him a brand new one.  
In between filling the water tank and reorganizing the closet, I've spent maybe 30 hours on this scarf!!  I know ... it's rather small, isn't it??  It's a pullover scarf ... different than the usual, but I like it enough to make another.  I hear this will come in handy on those chilly Albuquerque morning balloon launches.
The out-of-business motels on Route 66 outnumber the open ones, but a few are still giving it the old college try.  The Roadrunner Lodge has a brand new sign, new paint and remodeled rooms for your sleeping pleasure.  We stopped in for a cache near here and wished them good luck!!  It's just so cool to see these old 50's hotels come to life again!!
Lunch was at Watson's BBQ of course ... yummy in the tummy!!  Their barbecued turkey was awesome ... and you get a cookie!!!  I'm sure we'll be back before we leave!!
After lunch, we walked across the yard to the store to see what they might have ... and I found one of the best treasures ever!!  A large 20" wide bowl for my "cowboy" castle ... not the mobile one, but the real one.  Talk about a great idea for a Western craft!  I've never seen anything like this anywhere!!  The cool part is, I have several old ropes and lots of barbed wire at home ... so I'm sure I can make a couple more small ones!!  Probably not good as a yarn basket, but I see LOTS of potential!!
Tonight is one of the town's biggest celebrations at the newly remodeled train station, including food, vendors and fire eaters!!  Can't wait to see THAT!!!  Pictures tomorrow!!!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Staging in Tucumcari New Mexico!!

This was our home for the night just East of Amarillo.  Although I did see the 5 kitties, I missed the emu and the lama until this morning.  This little park filled up to the brim by late night and emptied out just as fast at dawn!!  For $12.50 a night, it's a good deal for sure.
We are back on Historic Route 66 ... you can tell by the old abandoned buildings and the groups of motorcycle riders that are passing us.  With a 75 mph speed limit, it felt like we were standing still.  Just the way I like it.  Cruising along a great highway enjoying the scenery!!
This restaurant that probably thrived in it's day has become Ricky's Towing Service.  I'd sure like to get inside and see what treasures it holds!!  I imagine Ricky has greased the place up a bit!!
All the trees of Kentucky and Tennessee have disappeared as we made our way across the high desert.  It's still beautiful though ... the recent rains have turned most of the grasses green and flowers are blooming!!
This was interesting ... an old silo looking very abandoned ... while the heavy haul truck delivered two big brand spanking new pieces of yella paint ... harvesting machines!!  That's not a misspelling ... that's what we call heavy equipment because of it's yellow or orange color ... wow, he's got some nice yella paint!!!
With a short 130 miles to go to our next stop, it didn't take long to cross into New Mexico.  I have to say, that out of every state we traveled through in the last 5 months, New Mexico is the proudest of it's state and has the most beautiful welcoming sign.  Some had small signs in the bushes that needed paint, some states didn't have any signs at all!!
This picture doesn't do justice to the yellow daisies alongside the road, but they covered almost the entire distance into Tucumcari.  
Finally we arrived at one of my favorite RV parks of the entire trip ... Cactus RV in Tucumcari.  The couple that run this little park are terribly nice and willing to do anything to help you.  The sites have 50 amp full hookups, for $20 a night with Passport America.  They even ask if you have a satellite dish so they can put you where it will work.  With big pull through level sites, it's a great one.  No reason to stop in Tucumcari you say??  It's the perfect distance between Albuquerque and Amarillo, with some great little restaurants.  The Route 66 history alone is worth stopping for, but the drive along the highway seeing all the neon-signed hotels, like the Blue Swallow, is SO worth the stop.  They have an amazing museum in an old brick schoolhouse full of interesting history and probably more spectacular murals than any city I've seen.  Course I only know that because Barbara and Tom brought me here almost 5 months ago ... and I can't thank them enough!!  When they broke down awhile back, they spend a couple of weeks here .. and loved it!!
Definitely go to Tucumcari Ranch Supply and say hello.  Do not, I repeat DO NOT, go to the Tractor Supply store that just took up residence here.  It's a perfect example of Big Business trying to put the little guy OUT of business.  Ranch Supply is locally owned, has been here forever and needs your support!!  They also sport THE BEST barbecue restaurant around, not to mention their donuts!!  Come on folks, spend the night at Cactus RV, stop in for lunch at Ranch Supply and check out old Route 66 downtown.   By the way, if you're a geocacher, this place is plumb full of caches!!

We had dinner last night with Bob Parker and Donna Huffer, major geocachers and friends of the Westerfields.  The Pow Wow restaurant was the perfect place to get caught up on conversation and filled up on Mexican Food.  What could be better .. good friends and good food!!

Time changed at the New Mexico border ... Mountain Time now.  I slipped the last time change past the puppies by keeping everyone up late playing.  I tried that again last night, but it didn't work twice in a row.  Cooper was bright and shiny at 5:00 a.m. 

We'll stay here for four nights, resting up and either emptying or filling tanks as needed for the two weeks dry camping stay at the balloon fiesta.  It's only another 120 miles or so to Albuquerque, so this is a perfect spot to stage for the big event!!