After a long hiatus, I’m finally getting back to updating our website. Thanks to all my friends who’ve asked for updates and have been patient with me. Below are posts bringing up to date our travels through the end of August. While in Albuquerque last May, we received the sad news that Jerry, Bob’s brother, had passed (there is a post under “Character Map” if you want to read more about Jerry). We left our rig in Albuquerque and headed to Southern California to be with family. By the time we returned to our rig, we had to make a bee-line for Redding, where we planted ourselves for the Summer to babysit our grandkids.
Babysitting was an adventure for sure – so happy for the opportunity to get to know the kids better and spend quality time with them. Above is a photo of our fun tie dye experiment. They are all very talented! We sang a lot of songs in the car (seemed we were always driving somewhere) – the favorites were “Puff, the Magic Dragon”, “One Eyed, One Horned, Flying Purple People Eater” and “On Top of Spaghetti”. I have to say though, I will be happy if I never hear “The Chicken Dance” again! [Double ditto!...BR] We also sang the “Buckle Up for Safety” song nearly every time we got in the car. Precious cargo! We miss them and are looking forward to spending more time with them when we’re done with our travels.
We also had the opportunity this Summer to spend more time with my Mom than we’d had in years. It was wonderful. There is a saying that home is where your Mom is. That feels so true. Many of my friend’s mothers have passed from their lives. So I feel especially Blessed to still have my Mom in mine. Living, breathing and making prize-winning strawberry jam!!! We’re looking forward to spending more time with her, too, when we’re back from our travels.
ROSWELL and CARLSBAD, NEW MEXICO
Roswell was not what I expected in that it was a much bigger town but the goofy, alien bent to it was exactly what I thought it would be. The photo above, taken just outside of town, shows a colorful scene of aliens landing and some local farmers offering to give them a jump start and some pie. Gave us a good laugh. Even an ad in a local magazine for the main hospital showed a bandaged alien saying “take me to your hospital” – too funny. The town seems to have a good sense of humor with the whole thing – even having an annual “alien chase” 5K run and other fun events. Bob’s favorite part was visiting the Goddard Rocketry Museum. Goddard is considered the father of modern rocketry and the museum had Goddard’s actual full workshop that you could walk through – pretty cool. We did the obligatory visit to the Roswell Alien Museum and it was fascinating. Still on the fence about what happened there [sigh...BR] but a fun museum. Every 15 minutes, an alien spaceship diorama would become animated with billowing smoke, blinking lights and the usual alien spaceship sounds. The spaceship would actually rotate – all pretty entertaining in a kitschy sort of way.
Carlsbad was hot, dry, smelly from oil wells and refineries everywhere and nothing much in the area other than the caverns. They were definitely worth the trip! We visited them three times while we were there (literally, the coolest place in town) and hope to visit again. The drive alone was beautiful – wide open spaces with amazingly beautiful skies. One of our favorite trips to the caverns was in the evening to watch the bats fly out. We were early in the season but it was still very impressive. I had the honor of being the first to see the first bat fly out! They came out of the cave and circled right over our heads before heading on their way to find a yummy mosquito dinner – there were so many, it was almost dizzying. I can’t imagine what it would be like later in the season when more bats are there, including the current batch of “pups” joining the flight as well. A must see event!
One funny aside about Carlsbad was a warning sign posted on the main highway. It noted if you took another connecting highway to the East, within 1000 feet after turning on the highway, there is danger of a sinkhole. What in the world? Who, after reading that sign, would take that highway? [And, why don’t they repair the road or reroute it?...BR] Fortunately, we never had a need to go down that road!
Texas is a BIG state and we only saw part of the western half. I read recently that if you put the world’s population all in the state of Texas, it still would not be as dense as New York! The prettiest part of Texas was our drive through Hill Country. We both love rolling golden hills filled with oaks and Hill Country didn’t disappoint. It was interesting too, that wherever you were in Texas, you really knew you were in Texas. Not only did the number of pick-up trucks on the road increase tremendously over cars, the Texas flag was hung everywhere – almost at every home and business. Texans definitely take pride in their state and have a strong sense of identity. It was pretty cool in that sense and I found myself wishing Californians were more bonded together with a greater sense of pride in our state.
We first stayed in Weatherford which is just outside Fort Worth and it was the best campground yet. It was shaded and beautiful. Very peaceful. And to top it off, just down the road was a great restaurant – Brazos River Catfish Café [mmmm…BR]. Very old style roadhouse restaurant and a packed house with long rows of tables where you get to know your neighbors. In fact, we shared delicious hush puppies with our table mates. We also had fried green tomatoes and a green tomato relish on our salads and our beans that made them the best ever. There was fun Elvis memorabilia taking up every inch of wall space as well as historical information about the restaurant. Would definitely like to go back and wear my hungry shoes!
We also discovered fried pies – me o my, how we love pie! I have to say – we did some of our best eating in the Weatherford area.
While in Fort Worth, we went to the Stockyards and had a big steak dinner – of course. We ate at The Cattleman – a restaurant Bob and his field work buddies ate at 25+ years ago. It hadn’t changed – it was still as delicious as he remembered. We also went to the museum of Natural History and saw the Indiana Jones Archeology Exhibit. That was one of the most enjoyable exhibits we’ve ever been to. It was – to quote Bob – “pleasantly entertaining and surprisingly educational”. It was a mix of the all the Indian Jones movies juxtaposed against the real archeology of the times. There were actual movie props along with behind the scene movie clips and information – very fun.
In Dallas, we went to the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealy Plaza – a museum created on the floor of the Texas School Book Depository from where Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy. It was an amazing experience to be there – you could see and actually feel the history of this tragic event. It was palpable. I didn’t expect to be so overwhelmed by it. I was only six years old and Bob was a young boy living in India when this happened so we’ve never felt that connected to it. The exhibit is done so well though that it really draws you in. I found myself sobbing through some of the film footage of his funeral and the worldwide response to his death. I knew that President Kennedy had an impact on our world but I didn’t realize how profound it was. [We stood at the windows over-looking Kennedy’s route. Puts the whole shooting into perspective…BR] We walked through the grassy knoll area and through the street where there were “X”s painted on the road marking the spots where the two shots struck Kennedy. We also walked to his memorial a couple blocks away. It was an oddly designed monument (to us) but it was very calming to sit inside of.
I saw a quote of President Kennedy’s in the gift shop that I liked – “One person can make a difference and everyone should try” but my favorite was on a marker in the grassy knoll area. This is from the final paragraph of the speech he was to deliver in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963:
We in this country, in this generation, are — by destiny rather than choice — the watchmen on the
walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility
— that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint — and that we may achieve in our
time and for all time the ancient vision of “peace on earth, good will toward men.” That must always
be our goal — and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength.”
It was a heartbreaking afternoon but glad that we went. I feel much more connected to this history now. I think every American should go to this place if possible.
After visiting the Dallas / Fort Worth area, we headed down to Austin. “Music City” is definitely a truism there and it’s clear the town takes pride in their music scene. The photo above is a statue of Willie Nelson along with a tribute to his influence on music. We heard great music just walking around the town on a Sunday afternoon. Of course, we had delicious BBQ – how can you not in Austin?
The best thing we did in Austin was go to the “Bat Watch”. This is truly a community event and one we would love to do again someday. This takes place at the Congress Bridge where it spans the Colorado River. Hundreds of people start gathering about 30 minutes before sunset. Many people line the bridge where it goes over the river. Most people plant themselves on the grassy area at the river’s edge where the bridge makes landfall. Many others gather on the river under the bridge in kayaks, paddle boats, tour boats – whatever floats!
The tension mounts as the sun sets. The Austin skyline starts shimmering in the darkening sky. Suddenly a few bats start flying around and people get excited and fingers start pointing upwards. Within seconds, the air literally explodes with thousands of bats flying out to catch their dinner. It’s amazing how long the exodus lasts – several minutes of bats streaming out from under the bridge. Finally after about 10 minutes, most of the bats are far from the bridge and it’s getting too dark to see those that are nearby.
Happy people begin leaving and everyone is talking about how thrilling it was to see so many bats flying over their heads. What we loved especially about this part of the evening was all the different languages we heard. People come from all over the world to experience this. How lucky we are that this is in our own backyard!
We took a day trip from Austin down to San Antonio to see the Alamo. The Alamo story is a sad but fascinating history – the town has done a great job of preserving the grounds and telling the story of the times and culture there when the stand-off occurred. San Antonio itself is a beautiful city – a lot of history there. We enjoyed walking around the river walk – something everyone we met told us we had to do. Very cool and relaxing – a great people watching area. Bob had his first pickle juice snow cone and loved it. Now, he wants one whenever he sees it available but alas, we haven’t seen them in too many other places. Must be a Texas thing. Along with big hats, prolific gun shows (Bob even enjoyed one while we were there) and Lone Star flags on every porch. Looking forward to exploring the rest of Texas next year!
LAS CRUCES and ALBUQUERQUE,
Heading back to the West Coast, we drove through the southern part of New Mexico through Las Cruces. Las Cruces was going to be an overnight or two at most but the heater core on our truck failed and we had to get it fixed. Because the part had to be ordered, we ended up staying longer than we planned and we were so happy we did.
We rented a car and explored the White Sands area. We first went to White Sands Missile Range which is where Bob spent many long days working on … [redacted for national security reasons!...BR] – his favorite thing to do. The above photo shows a couple of missiles at Missile Park and I thought it was ironic that a dove made it's nest in one of the missiles (a bit hard to see near the top of the red missile). It was also funny that in an Aerobee rocket, there was a hive of bees and you could hear the whole rocket buzzing. We quickly passed that one! Bob really enjoyed revisiting that area as a tourist instead of as a worker – though, in truth, I think he’d still rather be working there. While strolling through Missile Park, I could see that longing in his eyes and hear the excitement in his voice as he told me what each missile and rocket was used for.
We then explored the White Sands National Monument which was stunningly stark and beautiful. I couldn’t get enough of it and hope to go back someday to take advantage of some of the hikes and moonlight tours offered by the rangers. We also visited The New Mexico Museum of Space History which was a fun museum in Alamogordo. The first American space monkey – Ham – is buried there. He was clearly loved and honored – a very sweet tribute. They do a good job there of presenting the history of early space exploration. Bob had the chance to fly and land a space shuttle (in a simulator of course). He tried it two times and crashed two times – going twice “where no man has gone before”. Pretty funny. [Pretty fun!...BR]
In Albuquerque, we explored Old Town – very charming and very old! We also went to the Atomic Museum which was cool and heartbreaking at the same time. I tried to look at more of the positive aspects, the modern uses in medicine, energy, etc. since many of the historical exhibits were similar to what we saw at the Los Alamos Museum. They had a great gift shop with a lot of funny nuclear/science quotes like “Never trust and atom – they make up everything”. Definitely worth visiting this museum and hope to again – maybe when we come through someday for the balloon festival.
We also took a day trip to Socorro and the VLA (Very Large Array) – an item on Bob’s bucket list. It was so cool being there – Bob couldn’t stop smiling. The VLA museum there is small but informative and they had a great documentary about the VLA. We walked the grounds (staying obediently on the designated path, of course) and were able to get within a few feet of one of the antennas. They are gigantic – very awesome actually. This site has been used in many films. It was used in the filming of one of my favorite movies – “Contact” with Jody Foster – so I was happy to be there too.