Archive for the ‘Adventure’ Category

Trinity Site

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

Today I visited a place called Trinity Site. It’s in a remote section of White Sands Missile Range, not far from Socorro, NM. The site is quite significant because of what took place there over 60 years ago. On July 16, 1945 the first atomic bomb was assembled in a small farmhouse two miles away, taken to what is now called ground zero, raised on a 100′ tower, and detonated just before dawn. After that, life on earth would never be the same. Like it or not, we entered the nuclear age.

There is not much left there anymore and contrary to general belief (I have to admit I was a little worried about the radiation), I didn’t glow when I got back to my camp. Because the place is only open twice a year, there were mobs of people visiting. It’s all free, even the bus that takes you to the McDonalds Ranch where the final assembly took place. 

I have a feeling the crowds will be smaller next year. When I left I noticed a sign stating that starting next year, because of budget cuts, there would be a charge of $25 per car to enter. It’s nice to say you’ve been there but not worth that much money otherwise. Most of the landmarks were only information boards with crowds of people standing in front of them. If you are really interested in ‘The Manhattan Project’, read about it on the Internet.

I’ve been staying at a campground called Valley of Fires Nat’l Recreation Area, about 50 miles east of Trinity Site. It’s the nicest BLM campground I’ve ever been at: spacious sites overlooking the valley of an ancient lava flow, new modern restrooms with showers, and even electric and water hookups if you need them. Tomorrow I will head on east toward Carlsbad Caverns. I can’t go by there without stopping. 

Long Beach Remembered

Friday, January 28th, 2011

On Tuesday Jan 21, Richard, Dianna, and I drove to Long Beach, California. The plan was to visit the old neighborhood where, some forty years ago, we lived, worked, and went to school. I was hoping a drive through town would jog memories of bygone days of my youth.

Things sure change a lot in forty years. I remembered the names of streets I used to tool around on in my old Volkswagen beetle, remembered the place I used to work at, remembered the landmark of Signal Hill, and vaguely recall a place I used to eat. But there was so much unfamiliar to me, most of the time I could have been on another planet.

My brother is a super tour guide. As we wove through the streets of Long Beach, Dick pointed out points of interest and changes to the area. We passed by General Valve where we both used to work. I remembered some of the characters I met while working in the shipping area. The college I attended for a short while is no longer there, instead a housing development of run down buildings. The whole neighborhood seemed seedy, not even safe to walk through anymore.

The one bright spot in a community forgotten in progress was Signal Hill. Dick and I used to cruise up and down the twisting, steep, hairpin turns that characterized the dirty, oil field sloaps of Signal Hill. I’m not quite sure what the attraction was for driving up there except for the fact you could see the city lights below and scare girls with a roller-coaster type drop on the other side, but we were always going up there. Now the hill is built up with modern townhouses, beautiful roads, and a park on top with walking trails along the ridge. It’s really quite nice and we spent part of the afternoon strolling along the pathways, reading signs about the history of the oil fields and enjoying the views. Dianna prodded Dick and I into taking an extended hike all the way around the top of the hill. It felt good to walk.

After lunch at a nostalgic burger joint, ( everything was smothered in chili) we drove to the Queen Mary and signed up for all the tours. For the next five hours we ducked through hatches and compartments on a Russian submarine, climbed through five decks on a magnificent ocean liner, and learned the history of a cruise ship turned troup carrier during WWII.
Queen Mary 007
Later that evening, we found a nice restaurant on the waterfront where we had tacos and drinks, and then strolled through some shops where Dianna found a cute hat. Dick steered us next to an ice-cream shop where we sat on a bench, licking our cones, gazing across the water at the mesmerizing lights of the Queen Mary. It was a perfect end to a perfect day.
Queen Mary 018
My brother and sister-in-law are so good to me. We had a wonderful time. Thank you Richard and Dianna for a beautiful day. I love you both.

West Coast Trip

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

I thought I would take a few minutes and update everyone on what I have been doing. It seems like the days blend together so quickly that nothing is very important, but as I think back over the last couple of weeks, a lot has happened.

My first stop was in Quartzsite, AZ to explore the phenomenon community of RV living. Every year, the area around Quartzsite explodes with snowbirds escaping cold and snow in the north to live for a few weeks or months in the southwest desert. I drove through the campgrounds of two visitor areas and talked with a retired couple about the requirements for staying in the park. It’s really quite an inexpensive way to live and ideal for people on fixed income. By the time I explored several sections of campgrounds the afternoon was slipping away, so I staked out a section of parking area in a boondocking area and stayed for the night. The next morning I headed out early for Joshua Tree National Park.

Joshua Tree is a nice scenic area within the Colorado and Mojave Desert, and I enjoyed the drive along unique boulder formations and colorful cactus displays. The Mormons named the Joshua tree. They thought the trees looked like Joshua raising his arms to Heaven. There is a beautiful place in the park called Cholla Gardens, scattered with hundreds of flowering cacti, accessed by walkways winding through the desert. I took a couple of hikes during the morning and found a campground later in the day. Even though it was a fairly low altitude, it got very cold in the night and I scraped frost from my windshield before I could pull out the next day.
West Coast 010

Nothing on the West Coast moves at a slow pace. It is not a place to find restful activities or tranquil spots for relaxing. Even visiting the beaches at the Pacific Ocean sometimes involve traffic, parking troubles, and expensive admission to the State Beaches. Visiting the Los Angeles area usually involves trips to the wild and wonderful amusement parks scattered throughout the city, and I have to admit that I stood in line and became a kid again. For a few hours, and maybe my last time, I rode the cars, trains, and boats through Disney’s jungles and temples of adventure. It was a tiring two days but I probably got my moneys worth of enjoyment.

Don and Betty graciously opened their home to me and I enjoyed staying with them for a couple of days. I had a good time visiting with them and meeting Betty’s three daughters. Don and I went to the Getty Museum for a little culture on Saturday and then we visited the Ronald Reagan Library on Sunday. It was fun spending time with my brother, but I have to admit that one time at each place will be enough for me. The Reagan Library was a disappointment because there were so many exhibits closed for remodeling. On Monday, Don, Betty, and I will visit Universal Studios.

Don by Berlin Wall

Don by Berlin Wall

Right now I am staying with Richard and Dianna as they prepare final arrangements for Dianna’s parents home and belongings. The idea is that I’m helping them box, arrange, sort and distribute a household of belongings, but I am actually so glad to be here and spending time with them that it doesn’t even feel like work. I will help them for as long as they need me. My plan this weekend is to spend a couple of days at Death Valley National Park and I will try to update more quickly this time. There are a few photos on my gallery.

Along the Rio Grande

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

Yesterday, I drove to Santa Elena Canyon and walked the short trail back into the canyon. It’s an awesome place to see. The gorge narrows to 30 feet with vertical rock  walls 1500 feet high on either side. I took some pictures, but you really can’t capture the experience with anything but your eyes.  The Rio Grande River is famous for it’s beautiful passage through spectacular scenery in and above the Big Bend area, and that’s why many people raft/canoe the miles of waterway along the border.  I decided to drive the road that follows the river through Big Bend Ranch State Park to Presido and check out the scenery. 

Mexico is privileged to hold most of the beautiful mountains and canyons along the Rio Grande and I often wished I could explore them. I heard tell of one canyon, feeding into the Rio Grande, that is so lush with vegetation it is like a rain forest. The drive was very pretty and interspersed with information at canoe access points. 

From Presido I drove north and soon came to the Border Patrol checkpoint. I have the wrong kind of vehicle to pass through an inspection station in innocence, and they always give me the third degree. I answered questions about every part of my life for the last few years and even some about the future. I kind of guessed I was in for a grilling when I saw the narcotics dog held by one of the patrolmen as i pulled up. I guess it’s good that they are spending money and time with these inspection stations, but all the miles I drove along the border, not once did I see a Border Patrol vehicle. 

Last night i stayed at Davis Mountain SP in Texas, and tonight I will camp somewhere near Carlsbad. I want to see the cave one more time and then head back to Arizona. 

Big Bend Nat’l Park

Friday, December 10th, 2010

I guess I’d better catch up on my journal. It’s been so long since I’ve had a cell signal my writing fell into extinction. This section of the southwest, from the Gila National Forest to White Sands National Park and Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, down through Guadeloupe National Park all the way to Big Bend Nat’l Park in Texas never once gave me one bar of  AT&T signal. This is not the section of the USA to have an iPhone. 

The Gila Wilderness is the neatest place on earth. I would love to backpack there someday. It took forever to cross through the mountains but it was worth it. The road is so winding and steep it keeps you to about 20 mph all the way through. Finally, you come down from the mountains and skirt the Missile Range on I15 to White Sands Nat’l Monument. 

I took a nature trail through the sand dunes and drove the 8 mi loop around the park. There’s not much to see there except pure white sand. Most of the visitors were sledding down the dunes with there kids like they were on a hill of snow. 

Carlsbad Caverns Nat’l Park is worth the trip all by itself. I never remembered it being so hugh when I was there before. It took me two days to tour only about half what is open to visitors, and then I wanted to do them all over again. Two of the largest and longest cave trails are now self-guided:  the Natural Opening that spirals down a trail for over a mile to a depth 800 ft below ground, and the Big Room, another trail over a mile in length were free with my Golden Pass. I liked them so much that i came back the next day and did them again. I also joined two guided tours, a lantern walk and the Kings Palace. It is just such a place of alien beauty I may stop and do It again on my way back, if it is not too far out of the way. 

Guadeloupe NP was a good place to spend the night while I toured Carlsbad Caverns. I left there with a full tank of gas for what I knew would be a long lonely stretch of barren highway through southern Texas. Texas likes to put up a lot of Historic Markers along it’s highways, and for awhile I stopped at each one to marvel at some fact, but soon I tired of stopping from 70 mph every few miles to read about some cattleman killed by Indians, or where a railroad went through, and passed a few by. 

I’m now spending three days- or maybe more- at Big Bend NP. I’ll have to see how many Mexicans I can get in the back of my van to bring to Phoenix.  Donna says they need a lot more illegals there  That’s the only scary thing about being here, this park is pretty active with smugglers. Most of my hiking has been in the Chisos Mountains though, and the heavy traffic goes through the Rio Grand area twenty miles from here. 

Today I climbed Emory Peak, the highest point in the Chisos Mountains at 7825 ft. My legs are a little tired but otherwise I feel good. I’m not sure what I will do tomorrow