Travels With Oso con Migo

Sojourn In America

OAE On The Road Again, Springtime in Albuquerque

Greetings Cohort:

    I have been collecting things since my last stream of consciousness letter and that is the way this one will unfold as well. Day by day I move closer to the end of something and the beginning of something else. The boundary between the two is fuzzy at this distance and any attempt to sharpen the focus seems to cause the zoom adjustment to move as well.

March 2001

    Bill Spindler came to visit. I've visited him in New Orleans more than once, now he is the one on the road and I am the one sitting still. I'll let him tell you about it.

2001 May 16, Verde Hot Springs

    Look Mommy, a naked man!

    What a way to wake up, eh?

    Actually I was awake but that little voice yelling at the top of her lungs sure brought me out of my daydreams and back to my senses quickly enough.

    I'd hiked into Verde Hot Springs early in the morning. Pretty early anyhow. I think it was still before ten when I arrived there. Really beautiful place. You all just have to come here with me someday.

    The drive up from the 100f degrees of Phoenix to the 65f at the top of the hill rest area was done before midnight. (On the news two mornings later was a storey about an 18-wheeler flatbed loaded with a big bulldozer that rolled off the highway on the steep curve going north right there.) The harder the climb got to be the lower the temperature went so the bus did all right then. I took a nap for a few hours and then drove down into Camp Verde and east to the Clear Creek USFS campground before dawn.

    From that campground I took the little truck for the drive over 23 miles of ever worsening gravel, up and down and then down some more, and then down a lot more, to get to the Verde River and the end of the road at Childs Power Plant. The trail starts there and goes upstream along the east bank of the river for a mile. Some parts of the trail are grassy and there were lots of ants and lizards to watch; other parts are over rock with blooming prickly pear cactus and mesquite trees. You have to watch them too, mostly to avoid walking into them and getting stuck.

    Eventually you come to a place where there are some small rapids to attract your attention and on the other side of the river, the west side, there are two palm trees--very much out of place in this cactus and scrub desert--one at each end of an old stone façade. That is all that remains of the Verde Hot Springs resort and you have to wade the river at the middle rapids in order to get there. Once upon a long ago there was a bridge but that and all the buildings save one small bathhouse are gone. The resort was in its heyday from the 1920's to the 1950's according to Mike, one of the several locals who care for the place now. He comes out to the camp for three days every few weeks and hikes in daily to clean the springs and pack out the trash left scattered about by the uncaring people.

    On the inside of the roofless walls of the remaining bathhouse someone has painted a picture of the resort before it burned. There is a lot of graffitti--wise and wonderful sayings, cartoons (a rendering of a fully equipped nude Simpsons family among other things), other paintings and decorations--on all the other walls.

    The pool inside the bathhouse is clean, clear, and just right warm--for me anyhow. Outside there is another pool, murky with sediment but clean, and bubbling. Then there are two caves with pools inside them. The caves were dug into the cliff above the river, perhaps in an attempt to get closer to the hot springs. The pools in them have lost their flow and gone stagnant.

    Mike and I chatted and soaked for an hour or so before he left to return to his camp. He comes out most every morning to soak and clean the pools. I was just beginning to explore the caves an hour or so later, just going into the second one, when that young voice rang out: --Look mommy, a naked man.

    That sure woke me up but they didn't have anything on either so everything was just cool and we all went to soak and sun.

2001 May 17, Looking for a tow. Again.

    I was going to write and tell you what a great time I was having tooling around over mountain and valley, how nice everything was working, how great it was to be on the road, and then I waited a day too long. Now I am having a bad hair day.

    Started out this nice cool morning with the long climb out of Camp Verde Aridzona, towards Happy Jack and Clint's Well; eventually I wanted to return to Albuquerque and be back to work after the weekend.

    The first problem was another of those damnable nylon air lines blowing out. I stopped at the top of the first big hill and spent an hour walking around in the woods whilst the engine cooled so I could get close enough to fix the line. Perhaps that should have been sufficient warning that I was headed downhill so to speak. But I was headed up hill and so the warning made no sense.

    Eventually it came to be the same scenario as that time in '98 when the tranny smoked. This time the tranny didn't smoke but by the time I'd reached the top of the really big hill it was bucking and snorting and flopping between gears and then it wouldn't shift at all. Stuck in first.

    I limped along another few miles to a place with a phone--no cell service out here in these woods--and called for help. The nearest Allison dealer is about a hundred-fifty miles behind me. Needless to say, as I am getting use to when dealing with the fools who populate the "help" desks, they have little help and lots of run around.

    They cannot just take my word for where I am and where I want to go and they are incapable of understanding when I tell them what equipment is required to tow this old bus. So after a two hour wait an inadequate wrecker shows up. The driver is pleasant enough and will call back to have a proper truck dispatched but in the meantime the day is quickly passing and what should have been a easy fix is quickly becoming an affair that will drag on into early next week.

18 May, At the Happy Jack Post Office, Still waiting for a tow.

    Waited overnight for the second wrecker. It never showed. This morning I started the process over again. Now it turns out that there is no wrecker available within a hundred miles. Few truckers come this way so there is little demand for anything to tow them. As of this point in time a truck is coming out from PHX and it will take until early afternoon to get here. By the time we get to the shop it will be too late to start anything until Monday.

20 May, Williams Detroit-Allison, Phoenix

    I'm presently sitting in the lot of the Detroit/Allison dealer. Got my awnings out all round as the temperatures threaten to top mid-nineties today. Maybe tomorrow I will get into the garage and see whatever about this tranny. I am not a happy camper. This is going to put a serious crimp in my summer plans.

22 May

    The old transmission had bits of gear and clutch parts in the oil pan when they took it apart. The new one works well and everything checks out ok but the bad news, aside from the cost, is that there is a fundamental problem with drive train alignment. It has been that way since the repower back in 1995-97. The question dogging my footsteps now is Why is this only now coming to my attention. Why had none of the previous tranny people pointed it out. The answers to these questions and others may have to await a future installment.

    In any case, I take it very easy going back to ABQ. Missed enough work as it is and I want the rest of this project to be accomplished on "home" turf. Not to mention that I have got to get out of the heat.

23 June CSN Nude Rec Week Celebration & Summer Solstice Camp & Field Day

    Over the past few weeks we have lowered the back end of the engine and raised the angle of the differential in order to straighten out the drive line. It's been quite a project involving lots of heavy equipment and three different shops. At the same time the 7m antenna I've been working on has been completed and we have packed it all in a 40 foot shipping container and sent it off bound for American Samoa.

    Nude Recreation Week is July 8th to 14th but the Canyon State Naturists celebrate early with a camp out during the Summer Solstice. This year it was also coincident with the Amateur Radio Field Day operations. The CSN encampment was to be at Hollingshead Butte in the Coconino National Forest.

    I've been hanging out with the Albuquerque Roadrunner Naturists and went with their contingent to the CSN camp. I had several projects to work on--new PV panel for the roof and some wiring under the instrument panel--just in case the weather was not so good and I planned to make a pie and a bread for the potluck.

    The only RoadRunner with a bicycle had to be me so there was naught else to do but set aside my wrenches and put my projects on hold when Beth said --We're counting on you. Good thing my rhubarb pie was already out of the oven.

    The pace setter disappeared off around the corner setting a torrid pace and the rest of the pack dutifully followed along up the first grade. This was supposed to be a bike race but I'd have characterised it more like an obstacle course. The first one was the cattle guard--we'll come back to that later. The next obstacle was the hills. My Uncle Newton always said --Whatever goes down must come up. I could see from the speed we were descending that the route back to camp was going to be arduous to say the least.

    By the time we had cleared the first check point the pack had spread out somewhat. Skipper waved us on and then raced ahead to greet us all at the next one. He must have a lot of cushion under his seat to be able to take the bumps that fast. My eyeballs were rattling.

    At each junction Skipper was there to wave us through. Down the long rough hill and then off to the left at the T. The road became smoother for a bit but it was a short respite. The pace setter went screaming past in the homeward direction and my worst fears were confirmed--just as my Uncle Newton said, we were going to have to climb back up that awful hill.

    Around the lake marked halfway. It didn't seem like we had gone three miles and I'm not sure when I had worked my way through the pack to be in first place but once I had the lead Beth's words came back to haunt me, and to spur me on. --We're counting on you. RoadRunners are supposed to be fast but I was getting slower and slower. The altitude was doing a number on me. At the bottom of the Big Hill I stopped for a drink. It was there I realised just how tired I was. But it also became apparent that everyone else must have been worse off. Or perhaps they were just being nice in letting me lead the way. For a moment I considered walking the hill but then something wild clicked in and as the rest of the pack made the turn below me I jumped into the saddle and went off in a shower of rocks and weeds.

    From the top of the hill the only thing left was the dreaded cattle guard and then the Finish Line. And the cheering throng. This last part turned out to be harder than the Big Hill. I've never been in first place before; cameras and crowds give me the willies. It was tempting to slow down, feign a flat, or miss the last turn. But Beth's admonition came back to keep me on the narrow path, to go for the gold.

    So there you have it. Ham radio operations took up some time between other activities and the pot luck was well attended. My Every Flavour Beans were cleaned out and my rhubarb pie went over well.

25 June, Speaking of pie... The Daily Pie Cafe at Pie Town New Mexico

    "When Mr.Craig applied for a Post Office, and the postal inspector came to inspect the location for a post office, he said everything was in order except that a more suitable name must be given. He felt the name "Pie Town" was ridiculous and "beneath the dignity of the department". But Craig would have no other name and is reported to have told the inspector that it would be Pie Town or they could go to Hell! So, in spite of the letter, and the objection about the name, on May 14, 1927, the U.S. Postal Department granted to Pie Town an Post Office..."     Pie Town, New Mexico and Neighbors by Kathryn McKee Roberts (p8)

    Big Dike was a small gold mining town west of Datil on what eventually became U.S.60. In about 1889 at the Big Dike town fair Big Mama Kate retained her championship at the pie eating contest by downing 15 pies. It is said that it was that event which changed the name of Big Dike to Pie Town.

Today, at the Daily Pie Cafe, you can get a big slice of made-right-there apple pie; and if your lucky enough get treated to a reading from Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire by the young scholar of Every Flavour Beans who lives there with his mum who makes the pies.

26 June

I've acquired a new transmission. And I've got the drive train realigned. Now I am trying to figure out how to take up a collection without actually coming out and asking for money. Anybody got any ideas? This old bus is an antique. How does one go about getting something designated a National Historical Landmark? (Roadmark?)

> spoken with several folks who have there teaching degrees
> and all seem to be bummed out how difficult it is to get
> a "good" job teaching and all the politics involved. I am
> always astonished to hear this when every other blurb on
> the boob tube is about teacher shortages.

Ain't it the truth? But the same is true of some other fields as well. Those who are working are all complaining about the long hours and the harsh conditions; those who are not working would love to but they will not put up with those conditions. The crux of the matter seems to be that the companies, and the schools, find that the benefits per person employed cost them far more than the salaries even with all the overtime that is paid for the long hours.

As long as the driving force in this society is profit (greed) and not the quality of life this is the way we will continue to go. Perhaps the time is near that the unions will make a comeback except that it will be the _un_employed who will get organised. But perhaps it will someday be society in general that will come to terms with these issues of greed and profit and learn that making money is least important to having a good life.

Regards, ajo

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Copyright © 2003, A.J.Oxton, The Cat Drag'd Inn