HOW TO REALLY LIKE PEOPLE – (an editorial)




I am not much of a people person. That is to say, I honestly prefer “lower” animals. My favorite is bears. I have had a lot of experience with them, most of it good until they get into the garbage. Fish are okay, but not very interactive, though they are quite tasty. Birds are beautiful and interesting to watch, until they are directly overhead. Ungulates are sleek and graceful, well, except for cows. Rodents are cute and appear rather cuddly until they eat the wires off of your RV engine. The point is that everything, no matter what the species has qualities of good and bad.

I think too much from people. I expect them to have more intelligence and be more civilized and caring than they are. If I kept a list of things I am wrong about, that would be on it. The sad fact is people are exactly what they are supposed to be, confused, unwitting creatures stumbling through a life of uncertainty, chaos and instability. No one is exactly the way we imagine or want them to be. So it ends up being a matter of tolerance. Cute, furry and cuddly creatures simply rate more tolerance.

When a Deer mouse is chewing on something of mine I simply shoo him away. Just yesterday while I was sitting outside on a lounge chair doing Sudoku puzzles a couple honey bees decided I looked like a big, very big, flower. I brushed them away, having little to no emotion about the situation. On the other hand, when I have spent the morning packing my RV and am just ready to pull out I become thoroughly irritated when an old man walks up and announces, “Hey, I want to talk to you about your solar panels. You’ll have to yell in my good ear, I’m ‘deef,’ but first I’m gonna tell you how I won the big war and then about my various operations and a little something about my anal leakage.” By the time he gets to the war my tolerance is totally shot. And if you think that is a gross exaggeration you do not know any old men.

So right now I am at my favorite spot in the whole world, a remote camping area on the Rio Grande where birds, squirrels, rabbits and a bobcat are the only living things I will likely see during my stay. This is a place of absolute peace and solitude. Not once have I encountered a human here. This is my respite; my place to take a deep breath and forget all there is to forget about the modern world.

There is nothing here to attract my fellow creatures. The amenities of the modern campground are completely absent. There is no concrete patio, no cable TV, nor electric, water or sewer connections. There is no clubhouse, swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna or golf course and the closest Starbuck’s is a half days drive away. The only thing here, aside from nature, is an old picnic table that sits aslant under a salt cedar by the river bank. When I open my door I do not have to make sure my neighbor is not opening his at the same time lest we collide. There is no neighbor, and that is my secret of learning to tolerate and like people as I truly desire.

Distance is the key. Frequency is the lock. When the key finds its way to the lock everything changes. Time spent away from others makes time spent with them more precious and enjoyable than ever before. Rehashing the same tired old subjects of everyday conversation and hammering them out like spikes to be driven into our brains is purely past-tense. New and sometimes exciting subjects can be entertained.

Not everyone is cut out for a life of total connectivity. Today people walk around with a complete social network attached to their ear. There is rarely a single moment of release from the tether of civilization and the social order of humanity demanding constant attention. A mind never gets to rest, to simply be at peace.

Consider a hamster, running relentlessly to make a wheel spin, yet never going anywhere. I once watched a seagull on the coast of Oregon lift up from a rock and fly into the wind. He flew furiously into an impenetrable headwind for several minutes before landing back on the same rock in almost the same spot he had taken off from, seemingly quite content with his lack of progress. I wondered if he thought he had actually gone somewhere.

Could it be that there are times when going nowhere at all is exactly what we need? Call it a vacation from life itself; a time when time does not matter; a place where nothing is exactly what is going to happen.

If you find that place, your very own Xanadu, you will know because when you return to the world of today there will be a smile on your face and big new room in your heart just waiting to be filled.

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There are many times in the outdoors that something you see just does not make sense. An entire TV show is dedicated to “Finding Bigfoot.” Nessie has been chased by the best for decades and “little green men” cost the government enough money to put a colony on Mars and make our own little green men, and women. I remember Yvonne Craig playing a little green alien in the original “Star Trek” and if they look anything like that I will be at the head of the line, along with most men of my species. I say ‘most’ because maleness has taken quite a turn lately and I do not wish to ‘assume.’

What constantly amazes me about unusual sightings is that the photos always look like someone stuck their camera in a mud hole or mass of underbrush and just snapped away hoping that somewhere on the ridiculous picture someone will think they see something exciting. We never do, but there will certainly be a smudgy dark glob somewhere and someone will exclaim, “OMG, I see it! It’s right there!” And when someone with a clear mind asks “What?” they will excitedly answer, “I don’t know, but there it is!”

From that point theories will fly about like mosquitoes in a hurricane, and you can bet that before long a small dog will have mysteriously disappeared and someone’s crazy aunt, the one who makes her own elderberry wine and channels the spirits of passed-on cats, will have a riveting story of abduction.

I would love to have an incredible story to tell about what I saw swimming in El Vado Lake in New Mexico, but I do not know what it was and the only thing I could really see was the breakwater at the surface just above it. What I do know is that there was something very large under the water, moving with purpose to cross the lake. It was swimming. But what was swimming causing a surge of breakwater just above it and over 100 feet long?

Look for the whitish horizontal streak

Look for the whitish horizontal streak

Now you can see it

Now you can see it

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Giving Thanks (Something I Hope Everyone Will Do)

Giving Thanks



This is a time when giving thanks is on the minds of most of us. Those who do not, I feel a certain sorrow for. And whatever their reasons might be for having nothing or just believing they have nothing to be thankful for I pray they find some small thing to brighten their darkness.

As for me, I have so much to be thankful for that it would make a long and boring list, so I will condense that list to one thing, the beauty in my life.


Every day I wake up to the beauty of the natural world. Today I look out across a deep blue lake edged by mountains and sculptured by landforms that carve out bays, make contoured shorelines of silky beaches and fill the mountainsides with craggy shadows as the sun goes down.

DSCN4325       I must admit there is a little piece of my heart that longs for the emerald green Appalachians with deep forests of hardwood and pine, canyons, waterfalls and amazing autumn colors.

“The Lord sure makes some beautiful worlds;” a line from one of my favorite sci-fi movies seems fitting here because now that we have seen photos of the terrestrial planets in our solar system, is there any doubt where the intricate beauty of land and life forms is the greatest? Right here, on the “third rock” where we have the extraordinary pleasure of existing. Nature provides everything we need. She feeds our bodies and our senses with every pleasure imaginable. Nothing yet created by human hands can compare in delicate beauty or eloquent complexity to the delicious splendor and perfection of a single tree leaf or the magnificence of a single-celled euglena with it’s wavy shoreline-like appearance, so seemingly uncomplicated, and yet capable of dividing it’s chromosomes, creating two nuclei and dividing (mitosis) into two separate beings. Imagine the excitement of a farmer going to bed one night having one John Deere tractor sitting by the barn and waking up finding two John Deere’s sitting there. Oh dear!

In comparison to nature, which generally appears to sit around doing little more than ‘being,’ we are pretty simple minded. Things we struggle to accomplish through brainiac technology are accomplished in nature every day without, may I say, the Grand Lady even breaking a sweat.

So how marvelous is it to live so close to Mother Earth? Nothing I can imagine, not any level of material wealth, celebrity or might, could surpass that of the simple life of an Earthling who can give thanks every day for merely being one.

I never could resist a Texas Tornado

I never could resist a Texas Tornado

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As promised here are more photos of northern New Mexico now that the uploading

Sulphur Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum)

Sulphur Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum)

seem to be solved. DSCN5555

Back road hazards can slow you down

Back road hazards can slow you down





Hepatic Tanager (Piranga flava)

Hepatic Tanager (Piranga flava)

Desert Prickly-Pear (Opuntia phaeacantha)

Desert Prickly-Pear (Opuntia phaeacantha)


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Traveling in New Mexico is absolutely my favorite thing. Of course there is always tomorrow. In this life things are changed more often than adult Pampers. For now, New Mexico is my stomping ground and I see no edge of boredom in sight.

One of the best things I have discovered about this state is the friendliness and acceptance of the residents and visitors. There is always someone new to meet, whether local or traveler, who is interesting and sometimes even fun. There are also occasional encounters with someone of royal status. Although not a common occurrence, meeting a prince, duke or earl can be quite exciting. After all, it is in New Mexico where the famed El Camino Real (Spanish: Royal Road) is.

It was a cool morning on a hiking trail that I met my first member of royalty, whom I will now introduce.

Meet Solare, a Regal Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma solare).

Solare, the Regal Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma solare)

Solare, the Regal Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma solare)

Solare was travelling when I met him. He probably travelled from Arizona, or perhaps his parents migrated sometime earlier. After refusing to answer any questions about his actual origin or purpose here I surmised that he could be on a secret mission from the ACLO (American Counterintelligence Lizard Organization).

Being very close to noon it seemed quite possible that we might share a light lunch until I learned what that means to a Regal Horned Lizard who generally dines on spiders and flies as well as most any insect that will fit in it’s mouth, though it’s taste is really for harvester ants of which he devours as many as 2,500 at a sitting. That is a lot of acid. An entire roll of Tums would be like putting a Band-Aid on one of Freddy Krueger’s victims. Besides, they are very slow eaters, being ectothermic (cold blooded, such as many politicians except for Senator Manchin) which also requires a high food intake.

Because he needs to regulate body temperature by absorbing heat from the atmosphere this tiny, armored lizard has sort of a cute (is ‘cute’ appropriate for royalty?) way of heating up. He digs a hole in the sand and buries his body except for his head, which is the only part sticking out. Obviously, they never live on a golf course or well-manicured lawn. A chamber in the head heats the blood until it is just right (I do not know what is ‘just right,’ ask Goldilocks) and then a valve in the neck opens to circulate the blood throughout the body. When the weather gets too darn cold for proper lizard frivolities he might go into a temporary state of hibernation called ‘torpor.’

But there is a downside to being an, ever so cute, 3-4 inch lizard; it is predators. Although he does not look too tasty to me, there are many critters that look at him the way we look at those little Chinese food take-out containers, easy to open and full of tantalizing goodness. First, of course, they have to see him. That is where good camouflage pays off. This little guy’s camouflage is so good he just might be a Cabela’s shopper. He can also puff out his horns and for less visibility to hawks can flatten his body and reduce his shadow.

Pretty good camouflage

Pretty good camouflage

After surviving hunger, cold and various attacks this little guy has truly merited a treat, a little bit of what Golden Earring sang about, “Lizard Love.” Oh yeah, that was “Radar Love,” but they are Dutch; what do they know about lizards? In order to attract a mate the fine young prince will display his physical prowess with pushups and a bit of suave coolness by rhythmically nodding his head (I am certain this is where Will Smith got the idea for “Nod Ya Head” without a single acknowledgment to the Lizard Prince from the Fresh Prince).

Once a Mate is acquired the nuptials (AKA lizard love) go on from April to July when apparently the female has had about all of the horny prince she can handle. Then, from late July into early August she will lay 15-33 soft, white eggs. Does that not sound romantic? Well, that is where the romance ends. After a few weeks in the sand the hatchlings emerge to …? Mom and Dad have skipped out to ‘Peoria’ without so much as a Hallmark moment. These poor little cuties are left to fend completely for themselves. They immediately dig into the sand and hope for the best. Looking back on the article about genetic memory, this is another fine example. Without it they might just stand on a rock waiting until they finally end up as predator poo.

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EXPLORING ONWARD (this will consist of later photo additions)




After leaving Abiquiu Lake I found the road headed north to my liking. Leaving main highways behind and venturing up into higher mountains is always a pleasure. The San Juan Mountains go up over 11,000 feet and are sparsely populated. The roads are two-lanes, and sometimes not quite that, as well as frequently turning to dirt. Maintaining a reasonably well stocked larder can be a bit of a pain, requiring taking advantage of every opportunity to obtain supplies. Any town of more than 500 residents is an occasion to stop, find a Laundromat, a grocery and/or general store and the local bar/grill where the beer is always cold and the food is like home cooking.

Chama, New Mexico

Chama, New Mexico

I found just such a place back on the blacktop, almost to the Colorado border called Chama, New Mexico. Chama is a little main street town with a surprisingly large grocery/hardware/hunting/fishing/camping store that is hard to beat. And a Laundromat? Oh yes, which is also a combination visitor’s center/cell phone/local bulletin board store. But about the bar/grill; I could have not imagined one better. It is in the Wild West era Foster’s Hotel that has not changed a weathered plank or molded ceiling panel since it was built. I asked the bartender “Is it haunted?” She slyly cocked her head, smiled and said, “Whadda you think?” accentuated with a demure wink.

Foster's Hotel built in 1881

Foster’s Hotel built in 1881

Inside Foster's

Inside Foster’s



Foster's Saloon veranda. The stumps are seats.

Foster’s Saloon veranda. The stumps are seats.

Foster's Dining Room

Foster’s Dining Room

After completing all of the in-town chores it was late afternoon and time to get back out on the road. As usual, blacktop leads to dirt which leads to a good camping area. By ‘good’ I mean close to a lake or stream, remote enough to have more wildlife than people and have a flat spot for the RV.

My view of one of the better roads

My view of one of the better roads

Two magpies came to visit while I set up camp. As I talked to them they sat calmly turning their heads listening intently to my gibberish for a couple minutes before flying away, no doubt to find food or  something shiny. They are master thieves, like ravens. Apparently, they believe that if they get the booty to their nest it is now theirs.


Not meant for an RV, but I'm from West-by-God-Virginia; I don't care

Not meant for an RV, but I’m from West-by-God-Virginia; I don’t care

The high mountains are most wonderful at daybreak and sunset. Temperatures change dramatically, as if another season was coming in. Up on a high mountain ridge, just after the sun slips below the summit, there is an amazing temperature related pressure change that causes warm air to rush up the mountain slopes. It roars and rumbles like a freight train, and is very forceful when it passes through camp.

Cool evenings in the mountains are ideal for a blazing campfire. With a ranger’s permission I harvested a dead elm to have logs for several nights.


Once in the higher, montane forest region trees get noticeably smaller. Most everyone is familiar with the phrase “timberline” which refers to the elevation at which trees stop growing entirely and Alpine flora takes over. At my present latitude tree level is around 10,000 feet, but up in Alaska at a higher latitude tree level drops to around 2,500 feet. And what, you might ask, is above Alpine forest? Rock; either a dome or jagged and craggy range with spires and deep crevasses, like the Saw Tooth Mountains in Idaho/Montana/California. That is where people are separated by how jagged and craggy they are, and sometimes are separated into various parts while plummeting into a crevasse. If you are not schooled and experienced in mountaineering, nice rolling hills are very pleasant and much safer. Even with a mountaineering education from the National Outdoor Leadership School, Lander, Wyoming and many years of experience I have had my share of close calls and accidents that could have been very serious or fatal to a novice. There’s an old expression that goes “There ain’t a horse that can’t be rode, and there ain’t a cowboy that can’t be throwed.” That bit of western wisdom is suitable in a lot of circumstances.














DSCN5364NOTE: Problems with uploading photos has brought me to a stopping point. There are many more which will be added in the next post.





Out here in the wilds a fellow is usually pretty much alone. Few city people that I have brought out to such areas last longer than a night or two. When dark slithers over the mountains there are no street lights. The sky comes alive with more celestial bodies than the freckles on every nose in Ireland. The ground almost seems to ooze creepy crawlies out hunting an evening meal. The sounds of civilization are completely absent, but now the sounds of the forest and it’s night creatures begin. To me it is all living poetry. This is where I am most at home, at ease and comfortable with life.

And so, rather than ramble on about the wonders of nature I prefer to show you. Welcome to my summer.



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American elm (Ulmus americana). Stump to right is harvested tree.

American elm (Ulmus americana). Stump to right is harvested tree.

Do you know what that title actually means? Since this is not the 19th century, I doubt it. There used to be an old expression, “you’re barkin’ up the wrong tree, pal.” First, it has nothing to do with dogs. ‘Barking up a tree’ was the term used for removing the bark from a tree. And why is this important to us? Do you like campfires? Of course you do.

When a camper is not close to a store that sells firewood, did not bring any from home, or simply prefers to gather and cut his/her own it is essential to know a little about trees and what makes one a good campfire tree. I will not bore you with rules, regulations and safety precautions. If you have stopped wearing diapers and sucking your thumb you are old enough to know or find them out for yourself.

This article is not meant to teach you all about trees. My purpose here is to show you one good campfire tree and how to turn it into usable camp firewood. Yeah, cut it up, right; but there are some things to point out that you might not know.

The tree is a dead elm which I harvested with permission. Live, standing trees are a total waste of time, not to mention illegal and anti-environmental. The latter being my principal objection. Once cut into usable logs there are three things worth mentioning: 1) the type of the tree 2) the bark 3) indicators of usability.

As stated, the tree is an elm (Ulmus Americana); a deciduous tree and therefore hardwood, even though its common name is “soft elm.” It is dense enough wood to be used for constructing furniture, containers and paneling. This means it will burn hot and for a long time. It also will be hard to start, especially the large logs. Three to four inch diameter logs are ideal. Much tinder and kindling will be necessary to get a good hardwood fire going, but once it does it will require minimal tending and create a wonderful area of warmth around it. This could come in very handy if you are a witch because dancing naked around a fire is best when it is a warm one that does not pop and eject burning embers. A hardwood fire will also keep burning in a light rain shower, unlike soft pine or fir that is relatively easy to extinguish. In order to get pieces just above kindling size it is necessary to split thick pieces. This allows for a four stage lighting process (tinder-kindling-large kindling-logs) that works much better than the classic three stage (tinder-kindling-logs) method used for typical pinewood fires. By adding a ‘large kindling’ step, the fire transfers more easily and smoothly up to the log stage. Many hardwood fires lose their momentum when the size difference between kindling and logs is too great.

The bark is a major consideration. Thick, furrowed bark like that of the elm is the trees natural defense against fire. So the logs must be “barked up” to perform at their best. If you are now barking at the logs like a dog return to the first paragraph. Removing the bark is not difficult. It is easy to see where the outer bark layer meets the second, or cambium layer. There are a couple methods of removing the bark quickly and efficiently. A hatchet can be used to strip the bark lengthwise by chopping into the bark at a right angle until you reach the cambium layer and then slicing downward removing the bark in lengthwise strips. Another method is to lay the log on it’s side and either make a saw kerf or use a hatchet in steps to cut a long, lengthwise kerf through the bark. A hammer or small sledge to strike the butt of the hatchet makes this operation much easier. Now insert the hatchet blade or a chisel into the kerf and work it under the bark in a motion to peel the bark around the outside of the log. You may have just had an epiphany about why it took more than a day to build a log cabin. Easy there big guy, the real work is finished. If the dead tree has had sufficient time to dry and is not full of water molecules and/or sap it is now ready to burn.

Beginning to 'bark.' I use a hatchet for the kerf.

Beginning to ‘bark.’ I use a hatchet for the kerf.


Indicators that the wood is ready are a real snap, which is the easiest way

Section of bark removed

Section of bark removed

Entire bark removed

Entire bark removed

to determine dryness, by snapping things. Snap a twig; the size that will make good kindling. Snap a small branch. Test a large branch with pressure to feel if it is brittle or springy; brittle is good, springy is bad. The more easily the wood cracks and snaps, the more ready it is. If the wood is limber and springy it might take a few embers from Hades to get it burning and when it does there will be popping, crackling and billowing smoke. This is a campfire that will send seasoned Girl scouts running away, rubbing their eyes, muttering unintelligible epithets, and the next day you just might find your tighty-whities full of poison ivy.



Bark scattered in fire pit

Bark scattered in fire pit



The bark that was removed now has another use or two. Scattering it in the bottom of the campfire ring will create air space below the logs so they will burn better. Bagging it up to take home makes wonderful mulch for around plants, especially those that like a lot of water and acidic soil. Broken into small pieces and tossed around the forest floor is good for forest plant growth.

Barked and split for use

Barked and split for use

Always be a good steward of nature. If you are going to enjoy it part of the preservation and upkeep is your responsibility. Do you remember that puppy you promised to feed, walk and clean up after? It is sort of like that, only this time you are dealing with Mother Nature, and she cannot be toyed with or fooled.

Who's got the marshmallows?

Who’s got the marshmallows?

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A couple hours drive north from Cochiti Lake is Abiquiu Lake (pronounced a-bi-kew) developed and operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. Moving up to a little over 6,000 feet the environment becomes woodier with larger plants, a Piñon/Juniper forest. Jurassic sandstone formations become almost dominate.

Allow me a little side trip back in time here. The movie “Jurassic Park” was magnificent, but I cannot help commenting on a few unscientific portrayals. First off, T-Rex did not live during the Jurassic period. It was a Cretaceous dinosaur living from 68 to 66 million years ago, a period only about one million years before the mass extinction event known as the K-T Extinction. Secondly, the concept of using modern frog DNA to complete an un-cataloged genome simply would not work. What they would end up with is a highly mutated form of the original or a completely new species that never existed at all. Still, I love the series so much that I own them all and watch them a couple times a year.

Back at Abiquiu lake, it was originally known as the Piedre Lumbre (Spanish for shining stone) region. The elevation is 6,400 and it is nestled between the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) and San Juan Mountain ranges.

DSCN5025        It was in this region that researchers from the University of Southampton, U.K. unraveled a mystery that has plagued scientists for some time. It seems that large plant eating dinosaurs (BrachiosaurusDiplodocus and Brontosaurus) were common at high latitudes (farther north) during the Triassic, but were missing from the tropics where only a few small carnivores lived. That did not make a lot of sense to people who insist on making sense of things. Then they discovered the reason right here in New Mexico. To condense the scientific jargon down to a palatable mouthful it goes like this. Extremely dry heat caused by high levels of carbon dioxide (four to six times above today’s level) created an environment that kept big veggie eaters away until about 200 million years ago when those levels dropped and Mother Nature’s catering service began providing a sustainable food source. Pity there were no veggie restaurants around like the Tawny Tomato or Amazing Graze. Although, it all worked out wonderfully for the dinos when after a mere 30 million years they were thriving.

Now we, Homo sapiens, are here. I could name a few critters that are not especially happy with what we have done with the place. When it was just the critters and Mother Nature everything was going so well, and like Norman Bates said, “A boy’s best friend is his mother.”

It might be worth giving a thought to our own carbon dioxide problems in relation to the Triassic dinos. As you probably know Venus’ atmosphere is a wonderful example of runaway global warming. The first probe sent there simply melted. With a surface temperature of 9450f my Popsicle would not stay on the stick either. Funny thing, they have no cows to blame.

But here in the Abiquiu area Mother has been truly wondrous, sculpting a landscape that is not only aesthetically appealing, but has served as a home for modern (sort of) humans for some 5,000 years. This was mostly a hunter-gatherer culture area, but Pueblo villages were built and agriculture was achieved. Georgia O’Keeffe found the area to be irresistible; lived and painted here.DSCN5067

Of great interest to me are the stories told of the Abiquiu brujas (witches) who apparently roam the area even today. In the mid-1760s there was an outbreak of ‘witch hysteria’ and tales of their misdeeds thus followed. This certainly was not as monumental as the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, but witches are witches and there are few things more fun than witch stories around the campfire.

The Abiquiu Lake campground offers lots of hiking choices – great for bruja and lizard hunting – and just as many for relaxation while enjoying the scenery. And no matter how diligently I watched for one, I did not see a single bruja. That was probably a good thing. I always picture them looking like the women on the old series “Charmed,” but I was informed they looked more like the Shakespearean crones stirring the cauldron and cackling, ‘Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble, too much mead and I’m seeing double’ (I could not help editing that).

Hiking trail

Hiking trail

Working my way to the top

Working my way to the top

A good campfire at night is one of my favorite things. When darkness enwraps the forest the really fun critters come out to eat. Flycatchers, Pewees, bats and other insectivores amass in the sky while slithery things slide along the ground and predators skulk about in the shadows. Coyotes create an amazing chorus and frogs join in with a bass line. If it was earlier in the spring elk would be trumpeting their eerie mating call.

I like lichen

I like lichen

The sounds of the forest are marvelous, lulling one into a peaceful sleep or awakening and exciting the sleeper. So as the critters all around bid me a good night, I bid you the same, my friends.

Where the sun sets first

Where the sun sets first


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A quick update

Hello all!

Dave wanted everyone to know he’s alive and well and enjoying more adventures. Currently, he is out of WiFi range and won’t be back from his latest trek until early this Fall. He has a load of stories to tell when he picks up his blog again in September. So keep coming back to see what crazy sights Dave has been experiencing this Summer!

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That is not exactly true. My very first overnight stop was in Belen, New Mexico at my favorite sports bar/restaurant, Fat Sat’s. It was an overnight stop to avoid drinking and driving, and eat the most delicious hot wings on the planet, made with their own secret recipe sauce that will make you sweat just a little, but after washing that bite down with a crispy cold beer you will hardly be able to wait for another bite. Oh yum!

Belen is a few miles south of Albuquerque so I waited until after rush hour to leave in the morning. It was hot the day before which made the cloudy morning sky look rather pleasant and inviting, even though clouds bring humidity.

Humidity in the desert southwest is nothing like the swamps and bayous of the southeast, and no place on Earth holds a candle, a very dripping candle, to Houston, Texas. I once told a pastor he could forget about threatening me with Hell because I had spent a sweltering summer in Houston. Believe me; the humidity here makes a tough Texan laugh because when it gets above 30% we whine.

Nevertheless, the drive up I-25 was delightful, except for one stretch of road that made me wish my RV had four-wheel-drive. It was not a ruddy dirt trail through the outback that made the RV buck and stutter, slam over sudden drops and shake the inside contents into a mass of clatters, bangs and …, do you remember the movie “Chitty, Chitty, Bang-Bang?” Well, this was one Chitty road; the I-25 freeway running right through Albuquerque. It could be that the military used it for shelling practice, but thank the Lord and Governor Martinez the road is being rebuilt. I often wonder how the New Mexico state government manages to keep this state running as well as it does on a budget that would not be sufficient for a Ted Turner afternoon soirée. This is the west; let us call it a hoe-down, though I doubt that Mr. Turner even has a hoe.

Continuing northeast on I-25 only a few miles beyond the halfway point to Santa Fe, New Mexico is the Santo Domingo Indian Reservation and Pueblo on SR 22, well-known for silver and turquoise jewelry, and traditional Green Corn Dance held in August. SR 22 heads north to Cochiti Lake at the Cochiti Pueblo where ancient crafts are celebrated such as pottery, jewelry and the making of Cochiti drums, made from hollow tree trunks. Their sound is rather unique, although it is doubtful that bees, termites and woodpeckers enjoy it.

If ‘reservation’ and ‘pueblo’ are unfamiliar, allow me to explain. A reservation is Indian land and recognized as a sovereign nation. They have their own laws and regulations. A pueblo is a community within the reservation. If you would like to read a little about reservation life as told in novel form pick up a Tony Hillerman book. He tells terrific mysteries that take place in tribal country. You will get hooked.

Once at Cochiti (pronounced: Coach-eh-tee) a campsite with a good view was easy to find. From the northeast the legendary Rio Grande flows into the lake through a carved-out canyon. At this latitude the river is impressive. It comes into the lake as a powerfully wide watercourse. The lake is small, but the campground is remarkably big, well-maintained and beautifully designed. Every site has a covered concrete pad with a picnic table and standing barbeque. It is the patio cover that immediately got my attention. An arched roof of what appears to be polished bronze gleaming in the sunlight would get anyone’s attention. The weather is a bit cooler up here at 5,520 feet.


The first morning in a new area calls for a hike. Only a short distance into my hike I meet a group of the most venerated meteorologists in the world, ants. Look at the photo. They are clamoring to get inside. It is going to rain. The sky is bright with cumulous clouds and there is little breeze. Yet, I start working my way back to camp. I rarely believe politicians, but always believe my little formic friends. Moments later the sky changes to an ominous dark rolling mass of cumulo-nimbus clouds heading my way. The wind kicks into gear and the sweet smell of rain wafts through the air. Not many things taste as bad or smell as good as juniper during or after a warm spring rain. As the first drops begin to fall I am at the door of my RV. Moments later rain pours. And people wonder why I am so fond of pesky little critters.


DSCN4948          This is a short-lived monsoon type rain even though the season has not officially started. Perhaps Mother Nature did not get the memo.

When the rain lessens into a gentle shower I cannot help enjoying it on my face. It makes me smile. It feels like tiny butterfly kisses on my cheeks and as it pools and streams down my neck my only thought is to move before it goes down my pants.


Opting for a site with no hookups, as usual, is economical and makes me feel more like a camper than an RVer; an illusion I know. My solar system (which does have tiny little planets and it’s own gravitational field – in my mind) is perfectly sufficient to provide the electricity I need. Operating on ‘clean, non-consumptive power’ as much as possible is important to me. My fossil fuel consumption is already way out of line driving ‘Mr. Thirsty.’


Tomorrow morning I will be off to see something new.








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