Friday, August 28, 2015

Scenic Routes & Homol'ovi AZ

After leaving Silver City NM, we take Hwy 180 northwestward towards the Arizona border. It's a very scenic two lane blacktop without much traffic - our kind of road. We first drive through rolling hills dotted with sagebrush and junipers.

Soon we find ourselves skirting the Mogollon Rim, which is an escarpment along the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau, home of many National Parks including some of our favorites: Gila Cliff Dwellings, Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, and Canyon de Chelly.
Mogollon Rim

We pass through a few small towns, including Cliff AZ where their high school boldly proclaims themselves to the "Home of the Cowgirls and Cowboys." We are definitely traveling through classic Western country. A little beyond the town of Cliff, we enter the Gila National Forest and are treated to some great scenery.
Cliff AZ high school

Entering Gila National Forest

As the road starts to level out, we leave Gila National Forest and start seeing ranches and small towns again. Just across the Arizona border in the small town of Alpine we turn north on the scenic US Route 191.
Love the artwork on Dry Creek Ranch's gate

This motel welcomes river runners

... but there's not much river to run this year.

After winding our way through the pines at the higher elevations, the road drops down into the high desert as we near I-40. 
Hwy 191 descending

into high desert

A few miles south of Holbrook AZ not far from the Petrified Forest National Park, we pass various roadside attractions beckoning tourists to stop in.  One has such wonderful statues of large dinosaurs, we can't resist pulling in to see what it's all about.
Dinosaur stop nearby?

Love them!

Hey - didn't we see this on TV?

We soon discover we've chosen to stop at Jim Gray's Petrified Wood Co, which was once featured on a Discovery Channel program we watched a few years ago. All the petrified wood they sell has been sourced from private ranch lands in this general area. Some of their pieces are truly amazing - huge chunks and even whole tree trunks can be found in their outside displays.
Large petrified log from an enormous tree

We would love to have some of these pieces

Great colors on this one

We then enter the main store. It does have an impressive array of petrified wood, fossils, and minerals. The only problem is their prices are on the high side compared to the gift shop at the Caverns of Sonora. Still they do have much larger and more impressive pieces than we've ever seen.
Wow - what a selection

Petrified wood chair

Petrified wood coffee table for $14K - ouch!

Even though we find several pieces we like, none of them match our pocketbooks. So it's time to mosey on.
Nice meeting ya partner

We join Route 66 at Holbrook and I-40

Old car buffs love Route 66

From Holbrook it's a short drive westward to the turn off for Homol'ovi State Park, which is famous for it's extensive ruins of ancestral Hopi archaeological sites. We have stopped briefly here before and had earmarked as a place to return and explore further. After securing a campsite, we drive to the parking lot for Homol'ovi II where a plaque reads:
"Around A.D. 1330, a group of people arrive from the Hopi Mesas, 60 miles north, drawn by the lush flood plain of the Little Colorado River.  These people built a 1200 room village; 750 to 1000 people lived in this pueblo..."
It's a large site in view of the San Francisco Peaks

Examples of the many pottery shards found in this pueblo

Peter peers into a reconstructed Kiva

By late afternoon we return to our campsite, BBQ dinner and settle down for the night after an eventful day.
Peter grills dinner

Sunset at Homol'ovi

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Silver City NM

The morning at Faywood Hot Springs is beautiful and we have enough time for yet one more relaxing soak in the pools before getting back on the road bound for Silver City NM.
Peter in the pool area at Faywood Hot Springs

On the road to Silver City NM

We missed Silver City on an earlier trip three years ago to Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument because we ran out of time (travelers lament). We have a few hours to explore the old part of town before we need to move on, besides it's too nice a day to waste it sitting in our van.

Early on the city was once an Apache campsite. In 1870 silver deposits were discovered near by at Chloride Flat and the town was founded. As in many mining boom towns, violent crime flourished until the arrival of Sheriff Harvey Whitehill. He is credited not only for bringing the town to justice but also more famously for being the first lawman to arrest Billy the Kid.

Today the town has a population of around 20k. Although mining is still a part of the local economy, tourism, retirees, and the Western New Mexico University form the current economic basis for Silver City. We quickly navigate through the modern fringes of fast food and gas stations to the more interesting old section of town.  We park under a tree and set out on foot to explore.
Main Street, Silver City NM

Walking the sidewalks

As befitting Silver City's colorful past, it is a colorful town today. Not only are many of the buildings painted in bright colors, but we also spot many large murals. 
Artist shop

Wow - cool mural

Colorful Silver City

We get a kick out of the local signs and many courtyards with fountains.
Buffalo Bar

Town clock

Courtyard with green turtle like rock fountain

We are disappointed to learn most of the business are closed shut this morning. We learn too late that not much happens on Tuesday mornings in Silver City. Still we enjoy admiring the buildings and having a chance to stretch our legs.
Real verses trompe-'oeil windows

Our favorite

Large mural

One of the few businesses that we do find open is a large Antique Mall, so we walk in to check it out. Turns out it's a mix of antiques, crafts, and thrift store finds. My Texas cousins would be proud of us buying a hat rack made of old horse shoes welded together by a local artist.
Finally - an open business

Too bad this shirt is too small

Mix of antiques and junque

After having fun in the Antique Mall, we walk around a little more before saddling up.
Revitalized Silco Theater

Bet this bar hops on a Friday night

Corner location - ripe for renovation

One last look down Main Street before we leave. I'd like to come back when more is happening.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Alamogordo & White Sands NM

It's a glorious cloud free day as we wake up in the morning. After a quick breakfast we leave the RV park for a day of exploring.  Our first stop is across the street to McGinn's Pistachio Tree Ranch & Arena Blanca Winery. I love their giant pistachio statue and simply MUST have some shots of it.

We then drive a short way over to New Mexico Museum of Space History. This museum covers the early work of scientists which helped pave the way for launching humans into space.
Giant pistachio

NM Museum of Space History

Flags marking entrance

Before we go in we check out the large exhibits outside.

NASA space capsule

We get a kick out of talking to each using the Whisper Dish which uses a parabolic dish to capture our voices even though we are far apart. We marvel at the Sonic Wind No. 1 rocket sled ridden by John Paul Stapp to test the effects of rapid acceleration/deceleration of over 30 g (30 x the weight of Earth gravity) on the human body (as in blasting into space or returning to Earth).
Whisper Dish

Peering into a jet engine

Sonic Wind rocket sled

Once inside, we get a laugh out of the humorous signage used in the museum.
Uh... can I get a copy of this one for our RV?

Cute former space man

The exhibits contain materials from very early space explorations.
Replica of Sputnik 1

Apollo Lunar Sample kit for collecting moon rocks

Cira 1950's drone

John Paul Stapp
fastest man alive

V2 Rocket gyroscope used for navigation

Space toilet
How does it work?

After the museum we leave for White Sands National Monument. Along the road, we pass the entrance to the White Sands Missile Range. Seeing how they stop traffic for an hour during tests, we are happy no missile launches are currently in process. We've been to this area before as the dazzling white sands are mesmerizing. On our first trip over 20 years ago, we arrived just in time for a spectacular sunset complete with brilliant shades of oranges and flamingo pinks all reflected on the sand dunes. Just as the sun was setting, a large bus pulled up next to us in the parking lot. Out filed a long line of Japanese tourists with fancy cameras. Everyone was so awestruck that the only sound heard was of clicking cameras. Sigh - I didn't even have one with me on that trip. The photo that got way haunts me to this day.

Entrance to White Sands Missile Range

WS National Monument

WS Visitors Center

The fine white sand easily drifts over the park roadways. So much so, the staff are constantly "sand plowing" the roads creating a a surrealist scene. Then sure enough, a Magic Bus (psychedelic bus from the '60's)  appears on cue. For some strange reason we were both expecting it.

To top this visit off, we arrive on Monday April 20 or 420, a major counterculture holiday. We spot several groups of college students in the dunes, probably skipping classes from New Mexico State University in Alamogordo and having a high time. Our celebration turns out to be more down-to-earth as we stop for lunch at one of the covered picnic tables.
College students in high spirits

Our van at White Sands

Me celebrating lunch

After a late lunch we drive west on Hwy 70 and then I-10 until we turn off at Lordsburg to Faywood Hot Springs.
Hwy 70 westward

Peacocks at a gas stop

Turn off to Faywood

This hot springs is a favorite stop for us and we're interested in seeing how it's changed since the last time we were at Faywood three years ago. First off, we notice their prices have increased, but then again just about everything gets more expensive as time goes by. Then we start noticing several major improvements including the updated Community Center.

Community Center


After a nice hot soak in the pools, we wander around the grounds as the sun is setting.
Barrel cactus

Now that's a spiky plant

Moon rise

Sun setting by the hot water towers at Faywood Hot Springs

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Retired and enjoying life.