Exploring the Southwest In 2007

Like the crow,  miles fly when you're on the computer, and it's easy to take shortcuts. Not so on the road. We visited many interesting places, and looked at their history. The brave people who ventured westward were a pretty hardy bunch. They didn't have fast moving vehicles with heat, or air conditioning, restaurants and motels.

We have everything we need in our motor home, and when it's time to stop for the night, we usually park at a truck stop. The first time we did this I didn't think I'd be able to sleep, but was surprised that the sound of the truck engines lulled me to sleep. Even though we have food, we often eat in the restaurant. We also spend the night in Wal-Mart parking lots where we load up on groceries.
How do you like this beautiful purple truck, and it's cute logo on the hood?
Well, we're on the road again not far from Yuma, Arizona where some friends live.
This is what the landscape looks like in their neighborhood. Yuma has a huge retirement population during the winter months. They like the warmth, and the fact that they can get cheaper medical and dental care in Mexico.
Here's Fay and Lin's place. They built it with three RV hookups.
They grew up in Alaska. What a difference a lifetime makes. Arizona? Actually, they like to travel with the seasons, like the migrating geese.
Fay's instructing Lin how to make a lemon crème pie.
Lin's brother Jim shows us a clever card trick. Let's see if I got it right. Sort out each deck in suits. Then put suit in mathematical order...One through ten. A12345678910JKQ. Red, black, red, black. One card cut. Stack on one stack and cut as often as you want the lay out in 13 piles. No matter what pile you pick up will be the same suit.
Donna has a card trick too. Have a person pick a number, but don't tell what it is. You tell them to double the number. Then tell them to add the number you give them (an even number is easier). Have them divide by two, and then subtract the number they started with. Their answer will be half of the number you gave them.
While visiting a big wind sand storm swept across Arizona, so we stayed another day.
Too dangerous to travel. The mountains disappeared in this picture.
One goodbye photo of the bunch. It's been so much fun visiting. We'll be expecting you next
When we reached Zion National Park, there was an extra $20 fee if you were in a vehicle longer than 21 ft. and over 7.5 ft wide. We thought we were legal, but the ranger measured our RV and said we had to pay because they stop traffic on the other side so we can go through.
We're waiting for the on coming traffic to clear.
This is what greets us at the exit.
 Zion National Park's road snakes around the mountains. We'll soon double back on that
road beneath us.
We stopped at the museum in Silver City, New Mexico to see if we could find anything on grandfather E. A. Wayne. They've since found some news clippings about our grandparents moving several times, and buying a house there in 1910. It burned in 1911 and was then sold. The researcher is going to check on the Last Chance (Ernestine) mine in the Mogollon mountains that grandfather partly owned at one time. While we were searching the thought Muggy Owen kept haunting me, because Uncle Earl mentioned it. I was staring at a booklet "The Mogollon Mines" never dreaming it was pronounced Muggy-yowen by the locals. I picked it up and found this on page 27.
"When I stop to think what one mill, the Last Chance or the Ernestine Company, has accomplished under the personal direction of that prince of mine owners and gentleman, Mr. Ernest Craig, it has a tendency to make 'Has Been' think that the biggest sometimes is the smallest. The latest rumor in camp is to the effect that Mr. Craig has parted company with his holdings in this district. The fortunate purchasers are E.A. Wayne and associates, one of the strongest financial combinations in the United States. This, if consummated, is a source of congratulation, since the new blood which will be infused into the mineral development of the Ernestine bodies good to the entire district. Operations will be conducted upon a much larger scale, and every advantage and appliance known to the science of mining and metallurgy will be placed in practical operation at once."
Last Chance - Ernestine Mine
Next we visited friends in El Paso, Texas and got a night peek at the lights of Juarez, Mexico
across the Rio Grande.
All the sights we'd seen couldn't match the real life adventures of Floyd and Pat. Last year, 61 years after WWII, Floyd was awarded the Bronze Star (below) for heroic service with the 165th "Fighting Irish" Infantry Regiment serving on the island of Okinawa. Out of his unit of about 215 men, only 16 survived. The Army lost 4,675 soldiers between April 1 and July 2. The combined losses of the Army, Marines and Navy were the greatest casualty rate America had in the South Pacific. His wife Diane and I were classmates in Nevada City. Mel and Floyd were friends when Mel introduced them.
Floyd's WWII medals.
Floyd's war stories and flying experiences could surpass Indiana Jones. His friend Pat shared many of them. Some time ago Pat discovered three metal bars in a cave on the old Spanish trail in New Mexico. They bore the Spanish stamp. He was overcome with joy that they might be gold. He gave them to an expert to examine and was told that they were Spanish brass used for the bells in the missions. Pat was disappointed. Later he tried to find the bars, but couldn't locate them. Some explorers wanted him to go treasure hunting with them, because they heard he'd found three gold bars. Later I did some research and discovered that the Spanish gold bars contained a large percentage of copper.
Pat and Floyd are getting ready to go treasure hunting on the old Spanish trail...They're posing with the map and a pair of rattlesnake proof boots Pat made for the trip. I made them promise to take pictures for a story, and later emailed Diane the story about the lost treasure of Victorio Mountain.

Napkins come in handy for making notes and maps.

 Floyd and Diane took us to the El Paso Museum.
The natural history displays and information were interesting.
Those could hurt a guy.
Diane told us that they'd seeded the nearby desert with poppy seeds a couple of years ago, and this is a picture of how it looked. She said they didn't have rain at the right time, so it didn't bloom this Spring.

The large, beautiful mulberry trees around their home attract many birds. Floyd's allergic to the trees, but loves the birds...like this Mourning Dove.

Goodbye, and thanks for the marvelous time.

Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin is one of the world's great natural wonders - the glistening white sands of New Mexico. Here, great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert and created the world's largest gypsum dune field. The gypsum that makes up the white sands starts out as clear, translucent sand grains. As the wind bounces the sand grains along the ground, they collide and scratch each other. The scratches change the way light reflects off the grains, making the sand appear white.

Ripples on a dune. It takes a wind of 17 mph to start sand movement.  The bouncing sand grains form ripple that line up perpendicular to wind direction. Bouncing sand grains accumulate at the top of a slip face until they reach an angle of 34 degrees.  Then gravity pulls an avalanche of sand down the slip face, moving the dune forward. The white sands dune field is an active dune field. The dunes move from west to east as much as thirty feet per year.

White Sands Missile Range 1 Mile ahead.

White Sands Missile Range, formerly known as the White Sands Proving Grounds is located in Otero County, New Mexico mostly in the Tularosa Basin, a valley between the Organ Mountains, San Andres Mountains and the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico, it includes the northern reaches of the Jornado del Muerto. At almost 3,200 miles the range is the largest military installation in the United States. WSMR is located on U.S. 70 between Alamogordo and Las Cruses; the highway is sometimes closed for safety reasons while tests are conducted on the missile range. The area of the range is approximately three times the size of Rhode Island.  West of Alamogordo, as vast area of desert and mountain ranges 100 by 40 miles in extent is closed to public access and used by the military for various kinds of weapons testing; this includes the Trinity Site where the first atomic bomb was detonated, in July 1945.

Interesting birds?

The Malpais (meaning "badlands") lava flow also in the Tularosa Valley. This blackened, misshapen phenomenon that stretches 250 square miles through the northern section of the Tularosa Valley east of Carrizozo and directly north of White Sands is the result of a fiery upheaval that has produced one of Nature’s strangest caprices. One of the fascinating things about the lava is the evidence of its awful writhing movement as it crept relentlessly over the land. The great rips, blowholes and thin-roofed blisters create a tumbled mass of upheaval, needle sharp and tortuous. Shoe leather lasts no time at all when you try to explore this forbidden land. Two principal basalt flows, originating from a volcanic vent at Little Black Peak near the northern end of the Tularosa Valley, are responsible for the Carrizozo Malpais and Valley of Fires.

Tularosa Valley, New Mexico.  When you look West, the landscape in the above pictures has gone from Indian settlements, Spanish farmlands, mining camps, stagecoach and train stations to the world's first Atomic bomb test. During the late 1800s, busy towns grew from dusty tent camps of the early miners. With this growth came the need to move more and more people and mail between the Rio Grande communities. At one time, horse drawn stage lines were the only means of regular commercial transportation. The Ozanne and Company stage lines, which operated in this area for eight years, served the New Mexico towns of Carthage, White Oaks, Nogal, Fort Stanton and Lincoln. The arrival of railroads in the Tularosa Valley in 1899 brought the stage lines to a close.
Looking East...This landscape was once composed of vast cattle ranches where livestock followed the rains to good grass and water. Although Apache Indians and Spanish settlers were also living in the region, the upper end of the Tularosa Valley had few settlements until the railroad arrived in 1899. Competing for access to the wide open territory of the southwest, the El Paso and Northeastern Railway extended a rail line from El Paso to Carrizozo. In the following years, people flocked to the new town to work on the railroad and settle the surrounding range. Although much of the valley remains as sparsely populated today as in the past, the highways which cross the valley and the development in the nearby mountains have brought changes to the overall economy. Mountain resort towns have replaced the railroad boom towns and gold mining camps of the past. Tourists come year round for skiing, fishing and camping in the Sacramento Mountains. Horseracing enthusiasts come from all over the country for the rich quarter horse races held in Ruidoso.
When I took this picture I didn't see the little bird in the foreground...Only the one
that was singing. Was it the object of his song.
Below are the Navajo Bridges in Arizona.

Navajo Bridge crosses the Colorado's Marble Canyon near Lee's Ferry in Arizona. Apart from the Glen Canyon Bridge a few miles upstream at Page, it is the only roadway crossing of the river and the Grand Canyon for nearly 600 miles. Spanning Marble Canyon, the bridge carried northbound travelers to southern Utah and to the otherwise inaccessible portions of Arizona north of the Colorado River, such as the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Construction of the original Navajo Bridge began in 1927, and the bridge opened to traffic in 1929.

 Prior to the construction of the first Navajo Bridge, the only river crossing from Arizona to Utah was at nearby Lee's Ferry, where the canyon walls are low and getting vehicles onto the water is relatively convenient. The ferry offered only unreliable service, however, as adverse weather and flooding regularly prevented its operation. In 1990, however, it was decided that the current traffic flow was too great for the original bridge, and that a new solution was needed. The sharp corners in the roadway on each side of the bridge's approach had become a safety hazard due to low visibility, and the deficiency in the original design's width, and load capacity specifications were becoming problematic. The bridge had also become part of the US Highway System's Route 89ALT, and it did not meet the required standards of such a road. Deciding on a solution was difficult, due to the many local interests. Issues included preservation of sacred Navajo land, endangered plant species in Marble Canyon, and the possibility of construction pollution entering the river. The original proposal called for merely widening and fortifying the bridge, but this was ultimately rejected since this could not possibly bring it up to current federal highway standards. Replacement was then the only option, and it was eventually decided to entirely discontinue automobile use of the original bridge. A new bridge would be built immediately next to the original and have a considerably similar visual appearance, but would conform to modern highway codes.

The new steel arch bridge was commissioned by the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, and was completed in September of 1995, at a cost of approximately $15 million dollars. The original Navajo Bridge is still open to pedestrian and equestrian use, and an interpretive center has been constructed nearby to showcase the historical nature of the bridge and early crossing of the Colorado River. The original bridge has been designated as a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

The Colorado River and a boat traveling beneath the bridges.
Aerial view of the bridges.
The sights in Marble Canyon.
....And beyond.
And away we go across the desert. It was overcast much of the time and not too hot.
The road stretches across the wasteland like a mirage. We got a kick out of one sign that warned us about low flying airplanes. It reminded us of Floyd having to make an emergency landing on the highway. When it came time to take off, he was told to watch for the Sheriff's signal and then go for it.
Eventually we reached Reno and spent the night at the Boom Town Casino truck parking lot south of the city limits. The next morning we had breakfast at a nearby restaurant, and then headed home. What a coincidence! As we approached the Five Mile House, Timmy and Vicky waved to us. They were bicycling with friends.
Nevada City's a welcome site...
...But even better to finally be home. The dogwood tree's now in full bloom.
We made it home Easter morning so we could spend the day with the family.
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