Travels With Oso con Migo
Odyssey In America
OAE On The Road Again -- Wind Horse Hill Summer Camp
Early June - Petroglyphs & Pie
Not hardly enough people to fill a pew much less make up a
congregation. You'd have to go a long ways to find sufficient for a
fair. Something like only one half a people per square mile in this
Catron county of nearly 7,000 square miles.
It is a hundred mile round trip to the north--half of it on washboard
dirt/gravel road--to the nearest sizeable grocer in Grants. (By
contrast: Conway NH is 71 square miles and had a population of over
10,000 in 2010.)
How are you? I hope this finds you
well and somewhere. On the road to your Summer holiday yet? I'm not
going to get as far as NH this Summer. It will take me a while to save
up for it. Perhaps next year. I still long to spend a Winter there
again just to see the snow and be reminded why I no longer like it as I
used to. But for now... Here at Pie Town some friends have 200 acres of
newly chopped up cattle ranch. Last year we put in a solar powered
well. This year we have added a wood fired boiler--the ground is
littered with juniper slash from previous logging--and a hot tub.
This morning I am baking a bread pudding to have some good excuse for
running the oven. At this elevation, 7,500'MSL, it was only 45f at
The Cat Drag'd Inn is situated
on a nice flat spot between several small trees. Juniper and some sort
of short-needle pine comprise the woods here. There is a tough grass
that grows in clumps and a few cacti as well as a variety of prickly
shrubs. Not a barefoot environment. I've built a nice patio of
sandstone flags for my shower and with the three hundred feet of black
plastic hose back to the well and the solar shower bag there is plenty
of hot water. Sara(h) seems to be straying further and further afield;
her territory is boundless with no feline neighbors. Off to a cloudy
start this morning. Won't be too much solar charging at this rate.
Yesterday I did some serious cleaning. Dusted the carpets with one
poison, sprayed many other nooks and crannies with another and then
showered my self with a third. I hope the fleas are gone now. But the
biting flies remain and a heavy dose of DEET is the only defense.
Amateur Radio Field Day
Total contacts: 163 stations worked were on four bands with three
transmitters and three operators at the NU7DE/3ANM Field Day site.
Stations were contacted in a total of 29 states during the 24-hour
period of this annual affair. Including all the bonuses for solar
power, youth element, information table, &c we are claiming a total
of 996 points. Last week, in town at an antique store cum junk shop I
found a "D-104" microphone setting atop a pile of dusty old CB radios.
A "D-104" is one of those accessories every Ham Shack wants dearly but
often will not afford. This one was encrusted with spittle and a patina
of smoke and the owner was asking five dollars. I couldn't resist such
a deal. A good scrubbing with "409" and the chrome shone like new. And
it worked too! Denali made good use of the "D-104" to send her voice
piping into the ether. Introducing kids to this hobby of ham radio is
part of the purpose of Field Day and worth an extra 20 points as well.
We also set up a Public Information Table--another 100 points--just in
case some stray members of the general public might wander by.
Summer Camp Rolling
Sliding The Cat Drag'd Inn's
"B&B On Wheels" moniker aside in favour of "Summer Camp on The
Road" is my latest twist in the ongoing quest to get someone else to
pay the fuel and food costs to get On The Road Again. This Summer Camp
only has one camper but it is a good beginning.
We are finally covering some ground tho in fits and starts--and lots of
stops. After an arduous beginning on the horrid washboard road north of
Windy Horse Summer Camp we got out to the lava fields, La Ventana, and
the visitor center a ways north. There we learned about the "ice cave"
where it was promised a cool experience awaited. A must see. Well, it
is not a cave at all. A hole in the ground, a collapsed lava bubble
dome deep enough, not over a hundred feet, that combined with the
elevation of 8,000 feet and the insulating quality of the lava, the
temperature does not get above melting in the Summer. 31f is the posted
temperature for the day we were there and it was delightful at first,
even tho one could still see the sky and we were not really underground
at all. After a while the damp cold gets to be chilly and they don't
allow you to get down on the ice and so we climbed back up the long
wooden hill; the temperature went up a degree every few steps and the
sun was still out at the top.
Also included in the attraction was the walk to the rim of the volcano
that made all this lava ten thousand years ago. The bus is an hundred
pounds heavier with all the rocks Denali collected. I hope she
remembers where they are all stashed, and to take them home with her.
From Ice Cave to Grants for some shopping, then, by way of the Flying-J
fuel & Internet stop near ABQ, to Los Lunas to visit Liz, an OAE
friend. Two or three nights have passed... I've already lost count.
Last night was a movie and popcorn for supper. We are at the moment
camped at WallyWorld. Headed back to ABQ for a museum today. I think it
Now it is Thursday
Great Wenzday at the New Mexico
Museum of Natural History. Well, a great few hours anyhow.
Fascinating place to wander through. It is laid out in a rather
structured way that purports to journey the visitor along a timeline of
natural history from the Big Bang through a more or less recent
geologic past. We wandered through in reverse. Along the way there are
decent docents--some of whom are students of 13-15 who relate really
well to kids like Denali--and several Touch Me displays, as well as a
kids' room of special interest, including some live animals.
Although our itinerary called for a side trip to Jemez and Spence Hot
Springs, after the morning at the museum we bypassed them and instead
went off on the second of many spur of the moment diversions.
All-in-all I had a better time, and so did Denali, going north by way
of Santa Fe to meet Fred. The Inn Drag'd into a playground/park and
k9gaj came to visit. We stood around outside the whole time and
discussed and storey'd whilst Denali ran around the playground with
hordes of peers. I had previously discovered a disconnected air hose in
the exhaust brake system that needed repair and initially thought I
would do it in the morning however by the time I got to that point in
the storey with Fred the motor had cooled sufficiently to fix the
problem right then.
So now, at this writing, we are in a rest area somewhere short of Ojo
Caliente. Lots of rain and thunder/lightning after we left the park.
Some of the streets were awash. Lots of hill climbing for the bus but
the day was cool enough mostly. We did a geocache near Tres Piedras and
another in some rest area that I remembered from a previous trip. By
the time we got settled at this rest area it was mostly nice enough to
have supper outside at a picnic table while distant lightning continued
to stalk the setting sun.
On the way to visit Char & Fred in Alamosa, we had spent some time
exploring the Cumbres & Toltec RR yards in Antonito. Of all the
rail rides I've been on this was one I'd driven next to, and explored
both ends of over the years, but never ridden. Denali said she had
never ridden a train, period. The time was now. We laid out an hundred
dollars for ride and lunch reservations for Friday and went on to
Alamosa for Thursday night. Also took some time off driving to practice
bicycle riding and playground playing. All told only about a hundred
miles of driving today. Char & Fred, OAE friends in Alamosa, took
us to dinner and then Denali worked with Char to make a bean salad for
some party on Saturday whilst Fred and I and Gran Mariner rehashed old
times in Antarctica.
To Ride an Iron Horse
Today is Friday and we are about to set out, already late in the
morning timeline, for a ride on the Cumbres
Scenic RR. The morning is already a long storey of
projects getting in the way of one another, lingering over breky,
construction delays in the traffic downtown, the kind of slow-pokes
driving in front that I'm sure I often am, and a high speed chase that
would have done credit to the Great Train Robbery. But suffice it to
say we made it to the rail yard with ten minutes to spare--the last
persons to board. Whoooooo---Whooooooo---
The only fly in the ointment was that all-consuming "Game Boy" that
Denali cannot live without and, as in Travels with Ian, I seem
powerless to compete with. In spite of it we both had a good time; I
suppose that is all that matters however the spectre of that mindless
game machine hangs in the air between us like the sword of Damocles.
Cumbres & Toltec runs narrow
gauge trains between Atonito ColoradO and Chamas New Mexico. You can
ride end to end in one day and return by bus or you can ride half way,
to the lunch buffet at Osier, and return. The ride lasts all day.
Departure from Antonito at 10h00, return at 17h000. At the mid-point
the engines swop trains so they go on to the other end but the cars
return to their starting point. That's what we did. Antonita to Osier
and return. Started out behind #484, had a nice lunch, and returned
behind #487. Both engines were of 282 arrangement. For next year's
Summer Camp we will have to do the other half: Chama to Osier. Then a
more leisurely drive back to Alamosa for supper, showers, and good
byes. We are a day or two late in the itinerary of this Summer Camp on
The Road and will try to make up at least one of them.
Today is Junly
We are at "The Well", a.k.a. Dakota Hot Spring, near
Penrose ColoradO. Been here? Cool place unlike most commercial hot
springs. There is one large pool, a long irregular oval, must be nearly
60-80 feet on the long axis, with a huge showering fountain of hot
water in the middle coming from a calcium encrusted rock, like a coral
reef. The whole place is clothing optional except on Tuesdays when
costumes are required for the clothes-minded. Perhaps forty people were
in and around the water--all nude--but Denali was the only person under
twenty. Nude dry camping is permitted in the backyard. Great place to
spend a few days. Except Tuesday of course.
Along the way here we stopped at Jim
Bishop's Castle in Beulah
ColoradO. I'll not write much about that as it is well
covered elsewhere. Fantastic piece of art.
iron and river stones. Brilliant! Cool! Fascinating!
Tomorrow is the 4th of July
Visited with Dee in Colorado Springs. She was busy changing the
sparking plugs on her van when we arrived--in convoy with Bill who met
us back along the road in Antonito at the conclusion of our train
ride--but happily took time away from that to have lunch with Denali
whilst I went off to lunch with Joe and Cindy.
In about 1963, when I was a fledgling traveller, my job sent me to Midway Island for
a couple of months of playing on the beach and exploring the innards of
the telephone office. Midway at that point in time was an active Naval
Air Station and the southern terminus of the radar picket planes that
flew to and from AlasKa. There was a sizeable civilian population of
officers' families with enough kids to make a Scout Troop. The work I
was doing was classified "Secret" then, maybe still is, but the
beachcombing is ok to talk about. The first thing I did after dumping
my gear in the BOQ was to look up the Scout Troop and one of the first
persons I met was this boy named Joe Pinner; he was perhaps 16 to my
22. Today Joe lives in Greeley and we have recently been corresponding
Now, this Summer Camp on Wheels is over the hill. We are somewhere west
of Vail but not as far as Glenwood Springs. At a rest area with Wilmar
Lake to one side and a nice rotting-rock climbing wall on the other.
Gone through a few gallons of glycol to get over the 11,000 foot pass
and through the Eisenhower Tunnel. The bus does not have a low enough
gear to do that sort of hill-climbing without overheating one thing or
another. It might be worth a few experiments just to learn how best to
climb long steep hills but then Diesel is too expensive to fuel around
Today is The 4th of July
Also realised this morning how much water we've gone through getting
over the pass. The 80 gallon tank was filled when we visited with Dee a
couple of days ago. Normally I can live on that much water for a month.
Using the mister on the main radiator for additional-essential cooling
these past few hill-climbs has seriously depleted the supply. There
was sufficient for face wash and coffee this morning and it is downhill
for a while now so... We'll make it out to somewhere before the
This morning The Cat Drag'd Inn
is perched on the edge of Dead Horse Canyon. We have Sawpit and Lizard
Head Pass on the road today before we get to the hot spring at Rico and
then Four Corners beyond that. But I should not be predicting the path;
here it is recounting that counts. Yesterday's ride was mostly down
hill until just near the end and then it was up and up and up again. We
had been more or less following the drainage of the Colorado River down
from the snowfields above the Eisenhower Tunnel. Stops along the way
to play in the water and watch the rafters and discuss how this very
water finds its way to the taps and toilets of Denali's home in
The Placerville Volunteer Fire
Department was washing all their equipment when we stopped to
fill up the water tank. Their motto, emblazoned on truck and T-shirt: Same Day Service. I left them one
of my Haiku Dish Towels in trade for their water and then used a lot of
it getting over 10,500 foot Lizard Head Pass.
One bright spot was the hot spring at Rico--except for the biting flies
anyhow. Rico is a real hot spring where the water bubbles out of the
ground steaming hot right next to a cold river. Magical! We soaked for
a bit but it seemed the longer we sat there the more the flies came, as
if the ones who survived our swatting went off to tell their friends
what tasty dinners awaited them at the feeding tub.
Another bright spot was that of finally finding the leak in the cooling
system of The...Inn. Perhaps
now we will not go through so much glycol. But then we are out of the
worst of the hill-climbs so it mayn't matter.
And yet another bright spot was the hours at a playground in Dolores.
The park between Highway 145 and the Dolores River beckoned to both of
us. Grand flat spot, three baseball fields, and lots of picnicking
families. For me it was time for a cup of tea after the arduous road
down out of the mountains. Denali asked: Is there any playground for
children? Just follow the horde, and be sure to keep your shirt on. I
sat for a while and wrote letters and had tea, walked over to the play
yard and back to check on my camper, had a mug of merlot and a nap,
back to the play yard and then wrote another letter. Next time I do
this camp thing I want to have three times the kids and at least twice
the time and half the miles.
The Day After The 4th
We are nearing the end of this fortnight Summer Camp on The Road. The 4th
was a good mix of weather and geography. From the mountains of Lizard
Head Pass & Meadow's lush green grasses, tall trees and surface
water, down and down through layers and layers to the sparse dry brown
of the shiprocks and mesas of Four Corners.
As we pulled off the road last night at the intersection of United
States Highways 160 and 64 in Teec Nos Pos, Denali asked: Why don't
these people celebrate Our Country's Birthday. It was just at sunset in
a flat windswept brown desert within the stretch of a dust devil from
Four Corners. A tree here and there, a few buildings scattered about,
the skeletal remains of roadside kiosks lined the turnout, scraps of
paper and tumbleweeds rolled along in a wind that rocked the bus side
to side. Over supper we discussed what These People have to celebrate.
It is not their country whose birthday is today. The Indian Nation is
far older than that of the White European Invaders who stole their land
and literally imprisoned them in these dusty, windy desert
reservations. What have these people got to celebrate? Denali wanted to
know if she was a bad person for what her ancestors did.
...as the GPS navigator says when it runs out of waypoints. The last
day was the longest drive, 268 miles, in a fortnight set whose shortest
was 40 miles. We averaged 136 miles/day; the total mileage was 1497.
And I still have to go on to the Wind Horse Base Camp where we started.
A long part of the road today paralleled an electric railway--"Black
Mesa & Lake Powell" according to my chart--which must run between a
coal mine somewhere along U.S.160 over to the generating station at
Lake Powell. The steel rails and electric catenary struck me as somehow
out of place at first until I made the connexion; it just looks so
incongruous there in the high desert--no communities, no stations, and
electric at that. The road was well surfaced and after all the days of
slow but interesting driving on the curves and hills in the mountains
the driving now was fast and somewhat tiring.
Our last visit was at Wupatki
National Monument. Denali was fascinated with the ruins and
attracted a bit of an audience at the visitor center to her performance
of the Junior Ranger's Promise. She went on to take her new authority
seriously on our walk about the ruins, reminding me not to stray from
the path and her Self carefully replacing each rock she picked up to
examine. Imbuing children with such aura of responsibility must work in
the short term but I wonder how long it lasts when challenged by peers
and parents who trash and deface elsewhere. We tried to imagine what it
must have been like to have lived there a thousand years ago when there
was water enough to grow crops and how it is that the weather and the
times have changed.
Williams Ham Fest
Denali is home and once again Sara(h) can nap in peace. I have a few
days to catch up on mail and projects and to sort through all the
leftovers and forgotton stuff. Around me the buying and selling of old
radio equipment and parts is going on. Saturday was a good day for a
flea market; some folks sold lots of stuff, I bought much of it--well,
some of it anyhow. Lots of odds and ends. Correspondent Betty is this
Summer "jammin'" an old red bus over the Going To The Sun highway in Glacier National Park--working for
a salary and tips, driving tourists [crazy?] and telling them storeys.
Visiting her was one of the places we didn't get to on this Summer Camp
tour. Another thing of note about The Cat Drag'd Inn: the oil leak I
fixed on the 3208 motor back about the time of the last oil change has
resulted in being able to drive the last few thousand miles with no
added oil. However I've had to change the air filters twice due to
Back to Wind Horse & Plans for Next
Year's Summer Camp on the Road
Next Summer I'd like to do another of this kind of tour; perhaps a
month of easy driving from AridZona to Idaho and Washington and back.
If you are looking for adventure, if you want to mosey along the "blue
highways", write me and we'll see what we can arrange.
Be Well, Do Good, and Please Write.
I do not know what I may
appear to the world; but
myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and
diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a
shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all
before me. --Sir Isaac Newton
Back to Oso
Back to ajo
Copyright © 2007, A.J.Oxton, The
Cat Drag'd Inn , Tonopah AridZona 85354-0313.