Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Book Review: The Year That Changed The World

A mini book review: The Year That Changed The World by Michael Meyer

Subtitled "The Untold Story Behind The Fall of The Berlin Wall"

The author was the Newsweek bureau chief for Germany and surrounding areas from 1988 to 1992. This gave him the opportunity to be present as eastern Europe countries gave up communism.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Random Photo -- Grain Reaper

This is a fitting photograph to announce my arrival in Denver. A scene from a slower time slowed the pulse after driving the I-25 freeway from Colorado Springs. There were too many cars going too fast for this guy who is in no hurry to go anywhere.

The photo is from a Farm Days event that I attended in the Appleton Wisconsin area in 2002. Rather than seeing this historical creation, I am curious how many of my readers are old enough to have witnessed the original scene of a horse drawn grain reaper.

Yes. I am old enough to have witnessed this in the 1940s. My father acquired a grain combine in 1948. Compared to my father, some of our farm neighbors were in no rush to take advantage of those new grain combines (single operation to cut and thresh). They were still using a horse drawn grain reaper and a threshing machine in the 1950s.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sixteen Tons

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

The chorus lyrics of Sixteen Tons came to mind as I reflected on the workers (those whose jobs haven't been sent off shore) in the US economy. Could the company store be the cozy relationship between corporations and government with credits and tax concessions.

Click here for the lyrics to Sixteen Tons.

Okay. So I didn't think it through very clearly, but there it is. Just saying that is what came to mind.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Petrified Wood Gas Station

Found this building in Lamar Colorado. "Built of wood turned to stone" is what the sign says. Built as a service station in 1932 and other businesses over the years, today there is no business in the building. Hope that Lamar can keep this 150 million year old building around for a few more years.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Found Weather

After over a month of blue skies and not a hint of rain as I crossed Arizona and New Mexico, I found clouds and rain in southeast Colorado.

Way over my self imposed limit of 150 miles travel a day I arrived at Lamar Colorado after 230 miles from Amarillo Texas. Once across the Colorado state line I noticed the clouds building in the west. Dark ominous clouds. It was definitely time to stop when I arrived at the Elks Lodge in Lamar. Pulled in and parked. Hooked up to the electricity and took a photo.

Didn't know it at the time I took the photo, but within those dark thundering clouds there was a tornado lurking which had touched down about five miles east of Lamar.

After taking the photo, it was time to head into Lamar with Silver Slug for some fuel and exploring of the town. Perhaps there was a photo op. Silver Slug wouldn't start to allow me the mobility to get into town -- three miles distant. Oh no! Another of those potholes in the road of life. Small one this time.

By the end of the afternoon, Silver Slug had been towed to the local Ford dealer. With no rental car to be had, I was consigned to spend my stay at the Elks Lodge in Wandrin Wagon.

Rain and wind continued far past midnight. As Wandrin Wagon was severely rocked, I was feeling a little queasy. It was then I recalled that trailers and their trailer trash residents are magnets for tornadoes. Now I was concerned for my safety. Probably wouldn't survive a direct hit. What if Wandrin Wagon was toppled by the wind. Could I get out of here. Too much worrying and not a lot I could do about it anyway.

This morning it was cloudy overcast with more showers possible. Blue was peaking through the cloudy skies in early afternoon when I received the call that Silver Slug's starting problems were resolved. Once I paid bail I was reunited with Silver Slug. Then I filled with $3.95 a gallon diesel and explored Lamar.

Hitching up tomorrow morning, I will head west to Pueblo Colorado along US Hwy 50.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mobile Paint Palette

Spotted this as I walked Old Mesilla in Las Cruces New Mexico. Sure do wonder why there was all that spilled -- or intentional -- paint color in the bed of the pick up. What profession would you practice if you had a colorful truck bed.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Another Struggling Town

Carrizozo New Mexico is another of the many towns that is hanging on. Carrizozo is on the railroad line and with the advent of diesel locomotives and phasing out of steam engines, the trains could go longer distances. In the process, Carrizozo has been on a downhill slide as the railroad employees moved elsewhere.

This process has happened many times before in the US for different reasons. Railroads had chosen routes other than than through a very prosperous transportation hub town on a river. The river town died. In the middle of the 20th century, the interstate freeway system bypassed many towns including one time towns which had railway stops. Those towns continue to die as the jobs disappear.

The freeways bypassed the old downtown areas. Some have survived. Others are mostly boarded up store fronts. Developing downtown Carrizozo for artists is a struggle.

Far away from a freeway, Carrizozo is made of up of mostly family businesses. There isn't enough money to be had in the town for the large corporations -- including Wal-Mart.

In larger cities, the growth model continues with the development of mega malls incorporating big box stores, food courts, high end restaurants and boutique stores. These developments have made twenty and thirty year old shopping centers obsolete.

Today, very little shopping is done in nearby neighborhoods. Get on the freeway and drive ten miles to the mega shopping center -- sometimes just for groceries. No wonder the freeway traffic is snarled in the middle of the day.

I wonder. Could the price of fuel start a reversal of these mega stores and a start to think small and local.

A corporate model is growth. Revenues have to be more than last year. This focus on growth and always more reminds me of an Edward Abbey quote: "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." Lao Tzu said it another way: "To hasten growth is to hasten decay."

When verifying the words for Abbey's quote, I came across a Growthism essay by Kent Welton. A rambling piece which speaks to the main premise of corporate America. The author urges each citizen (consumer) to think for themselves rather than listen to that mantra of corporations, religious institutions and government.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Still Here

Just to make sure there wasn't some confusion in time zones about the end of the world, I waited most of today. Finally, I decided that I must be in hell. It is hot here in Amarillo -- 90 degrees. And windy.

In addition, my parochial religious education told me that in heaven we would all wear white robes and we would be singing praises to God. Actually, that sounds pretty boring. Since there are no white shirts in my closet, I wore the usual tropical themed shirt. Regarding the singing; I am a little out of practice. So I couldn't have been in heaven.

So is it heaven or hell. Some days are heaven. Some days are hell. That's what life is all about. Good days and bad days. Get used to it.

You really have to wonder. No doubt Harold Camping is a "nut job". What really bothers me is that there are people who actually believed this crap and blew their savings or did other things they would never do otherwise if they actually thought about it or got a second opinion. Sounds like brain washing.

No doubt that some of those people in Camping's camp actually voted in previous elections. That is a scary thought. What happened to critical thinking. At least being a skeptic. Worse yet, those people are still around to vote in the next election.

How about the next episode of this story when Camping and his inner circle of followers are found on a private island in the South Pacific spending the money that all the conned believers donated to promote this "end of the world" scam.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

RV "Oops" Stories

Without mistakes, we wouldn't be human. We wouldn't have stories to tell. Without mistakes -- of others or myself -- I wouldn't have stories to tell.

RV Oops Story One...
Many years ago as I was having my breakfast while a neighbor in the RV park was hooking up his fifth wheel. Seemed to be a lot of talking going on while the hook up was in progress. I was pretty much concentrated on the crossword puzzle and my morning shake.

That was when I heard the kerplunk/crash (or what ever the sound was). Looked out the window to see the front of the fifth wheel resting on the truck beds rails. Of course there was sheet metal damage. Lots of it. The talking stopped. When I looked out there was the unmistakable expression on the guy's face. It said.... Nothing that could be printed here.

Conclusion.... Chatting and hooking up is not a good idea. Not a good time for multitasking.

RV Oops Story Two...
At an Elks Lodge the power and water spigots were along the fence. Back up to the fence to get shore power. No lines on the gravel to indicate parking location, etc.

The only other guest in the lot was a coach about 34 feet long. I heard the coach start. With a gasoline engine, there wasn't a lot of noise to bother me. Glancing through the window I saw that he had pulled away from the fence and shore power. However, the power cord and water hose were being dragged along. Never saw that method before. Perhaps it makes it easier to roll and store. Or maybe not. That was when I noticed the water pouring out of the faucet. The end of the hose had ripped off.

Next thing I noted was the "towed" was being driven up behind the coach. The guy got out of the "towed" and saw the power cord and water hose. At that time he realized that they were from his coach. Then he looked back at the "shore power" to see the water coming out of the faucet. He walked over, turned off the water and unscrewed the hose end. As he started to walk back to the coach with that hose end in his hand, he appeared to have another moment of inspiration. He looked in the direction of my trailer and then flung the hose end back to the fence. He proceeded to coil and stuff the power cord and hose in the coach's bay. After hooking up the "towed", he left.

Conclusion... Have an RV check list. Or at least look at the list.

RV Oops Story Three... How about my "oh oh" moment. My experience goes back many years. Even though the trailer was outfitted with rear-stabilizers, they were rarely deployed. As the only occupant of the rig, my movements weren't noticed as I walked around.

On a very windy day and parked on a concrete slab, I seemed to be experiencing motion sickness. So I set down the rear stabilizer jacks. After several days, the black/gray water tanks were full. Easy enough to hook up, dump and return to the site. Hitched up and pulling away, the campground neighbors were waving and pointing, but with the diesel engine I could not hear them. I waved back. It was then that I heard that distinctive sound of steel on concrete. Oh oh.

The stabilizers couldn't be retracted after that bending. Removed them and put them in the dumpster. Been without them ever since. Dramamine might be a better solution to rear stabilizers.

Conclusion... Rear stabilizers should be placed on a four inch block. Or don't use them.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Three Rivers Petroglyphs

Three Rivers Petroglyphs was mentioned in a previous blog where I had met the guy who had done years of research on petroglyphs across the southwest.

According to some researchers, this site has the most petroglyphs in a single location. Along a less than a mile long ridge, there is a petroglyph every couple of feet. As I walked along the ridge on a very windy day, it was tough for a guy who already has an inner ear (balance) issue. That plus the rocky trail and terrain made the exploring somewhat stressful.

With each stop there were more for photo ops. Animals, faces and geometric designs were represented on the rock surfaces.

My interpretation is as good as any others; this was the art colony. Tribes all over the south west sent their most promising artists to this location to practice their art and expand their skills.

Then I came across this one. Wondering if this one dates to the same period as all the others. It is so much more fluid than the other animal depictions. If this is contemporary with the others, this guy had definite talent.

Whatever the reason for the petroglyphs, it was great to have the opportunity to view North American art works of 500-1000 years ago.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Everyone Has A Story

Story One.... The Visitor's Center at White Sands is where I met George. At the desk and greeting visitors was his job. That along with selling the books and other park mementos was his job a couple of days a week. Probably just a few years younger than me, he was the one time morning news face for 20 years at a TV station someplace in Indiana.

Eventually, it was burn out as the consultants said how to present the news. "It leads if it bleeds". Poorly researched stories. Beat the competition for advertising dollars. He also said that gray hair and an aging face is not what the consultants or station management wanted to see in 2003.

It would have been easy to talk more of our respective experiences in corporate America, but he was frequently interrupted by arriving visitors. The nerve. And some only wanted to know where the restrooms were.

Story Two.... Three Rivers Petroglyphs was a two hour visit just a five mile journey off the main road. (A blog about that stop will appear here sometime.) As I was headed onto the trail to view the petroglyphs, a retired guy about my age was signing up to stay for another day in one of the two electric RV spaces. I commented that petroglyphs must be a focus for him. Yes. It was. He did field research for ten years and published materials. Difficult field for research with many conflicting opinions. The best that can be done is to date the petroglyphs. Beyond that, symbol interpretation is near impossible for most.

Currently teaching at a Utah college, he was on the road just a few days after the end of classes. As we chatted, he received a phone call about some grades that didn't get recorded. After the phone call, our conversation was over. He was upset with the issue. He sure didn't want to drive back to Utah after having just left. Damned cell phones will find you anywhere. And this place was remote -- over 20 miles from a small grocery store.

Story Three....  Yesterday I was camped at Valley of Fires Recreation Area. A stiff wind blew me into the visitor center and bookstore. Manning the center was an elderly gentleman. He was reading a book when I arrived. When asked what he was reading, it was another on New Mexico history. He has over 300 of varying titles in his library at home.

I asked if he lived in nearby Carrizozo. Yes. For 94 years. A fit 94 years, he was born there. The only reason he was there was that his father had come from Ohio to work for the new railroad in Carrizozo in 1899. After high school, the gentleman worked for the railroad for a number of years and then worked at a bank in Carrizozo until he retired in 1982. Today with nothing to do, he volunteers at the visitor center and bookstore.

Asking about the dying town of Carrizozo, he said that it was a thriving town until the railroad converted to diesel from steam. Railroad employment kept the town going. Today, the town struggles to attract new business to the mostly abandoned down town.

The guy probably had few visitors most of the day. As soon as I arrived, they kept coming in and interrupting me from getting more of his story. What is it about me that draws visitors.

There is a story everywhere. Sometimes I wonder. Was my life so interesting. Perhaps to someone else.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

White Sands National Monument

275 square miles of white sand at White Sands National Monument. That is one huge sand box.

White dunes make dramatic scenery as I walked atop the dunes and looking far in the distance to see more white in every direction. It is a blinding white requiring sun glasses. For perspective of the dunes, here is a photo of Silver Slug in the scene.

With frequent winds blowing from the west, the dunes are on a relentless path eastward. Flora and fauna have adapted to this harsh environment. The fauna was in evidence by the tracks on the sand. The flora stood still allowing for some photo ops.

The White Sands are in the middle of the White Sands Missile Range. North of the White Sands NM is the 'Trinity Site' -- the location of the World's First Atomic Bomb.

As I continued my journey along the eastern edge of the missile range and the Trinity Site, I had hopes that all the radio-active fallout from that bomb had dissipated.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mainlining Butter

Mini Book Review: Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes. Subtitled And What To Do About It.

In a recent visit to a Barnes an Noble bookstore, I noted an aisle where both sides of which were cook books. In the next aisle over one entire side had books of eating healthy and diet books. There is something wrong with this picture. That is where I first noted the Gary Taubes book where it was prominently displayed.

Why We Get Fat is not a diet book. This is a book which summarizes the story of human body metabolism of food. He notes that current observations about the diets of fat people is not any different than it was 200 years ago. He also reviews the literature of 20th century hunter gatherers and their diets.

The 50 year long fallacy of why we get fat is "calories in -- calories out". Taubes points out that this is wrong. That isn't the way the human body operates. In one chapter, the author summarizes the findings of studies of some of the more lasting diets and finds that the Atkins comes out a winner. The Atkins diet is a low to very low carb diet with calories essentially coming from fat and protein.

Although this is not a diet book, he does describe a diet that looks very like the Atkins diet. The book is worth the read whatever you take away from the book.

After years of hearing "calories in -- calories out", it will become a major effort to change the way we have been brain washed for fifty years.

How about my experience with a personal variation on the Atkins diet.... A long time ago when I was still employed, there were lunch meetings with customers. Knowing that I was going to have a hard time keeping my eyes open for the 30 mile drive back to the office, I would take No-Doz. Upon returning to the office I mentioned the drowsy drives to co-worker Jane. Her recommendation was to have a naked burger next time. No carbs. She also suggested reading the Atkins diet book. Which I did. It made sense.

It worked. No more carb crashes after lunch. Thanks to Jane, I also changed my eating habits. Reduced my consumption of breads and carbs. I love bread and still do. Or perhaps it is the butter that I love. I've been "main lining butter" for many years -- slice of butter without putting it on bread.

The reduced carbs in the diet caused me to lose ten pounds in two months. The diet was mostly proteins and salads and very few carb loaded foods.

Time to return to the diet that worked and forget about a "balanced" diet -- whatever that is.

Note: Never did really have any guilt for main lining butter, but Taubes' book makes me wonder if this is something my body was telling me it needed. 

For additional reading on the harmful effects of carbs especially the concentrated carbs in sugar, check out a piece on Toxic Sugar at the New York Times.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fun Being Lost

"Half the fun of the travel is the esthetic of lostness." -- Ray Bradbury

That was the quote under the banner photo on my blogspot***. That inspired Boonie to leave this comment: "I'm having trouble with the banner quote by Bradbury. If his thought is true, then why do SOME travelers mount GPS gadgets in their trucks!"

The "SOME travelers" to which he refers would be me. I confess.  I have a GPS Navigator in Silver Slug.

For about the first six years of my nomadic journeys, my travel was done with the aid of maps and internet mapping programs. That solved the issues -- mostly. There were times I found myself in the wrong lane when I needed to make a turn. Sometimes I had to find a turnaround. With Wandrin Wagon in tow that could be several miles -- depending on the travel location. I could still live that way if all travel was in the country.

But for city travel, getting lost and going in circles was not the way to get fuel economy out of Silver Slug. It becomes even more discouraging when trying to find parking near the destination for Silver Slug when most parking spaces are made for small cars. That was when I purchased a GPS Navigator. It is the only way to get around in unfamiliar cities.

The quote is still valid. Being lost is fun. Arriving in a strange town even with a map and a GPS Navigator, I am still lost. It's like walking into a strange grocery store where I don't know the layout of the store. Driving into a new town is like that. Don't know where anything is -- let along the grocery store.

However, I find being lost exciting and challenging. I know I am alive.

***If you read my blog posts at the blogspot site with the photo banner across the top, you may have also noticed the quotes underneath. Those quotes are changed periodically. Sometimes as often as once a week.

There are other readers who subscribe to my posts via RSS or other service. Most of those readers only see the post. They do not see the banner, the quote, the sidebars -- or advertising that does not exist on my blogspot site.

This is not the first comment I have had referring to quotes at the top of my blogspot site. Time to stop changing them and return my personal philosophy to that location. "Enjoying Life Is A Matter Of Balance..."

Those blogger mast head photos change from time to time. Those that have been posted in the past can be viewed at the Picasa album of Wandrin Blog Masthead.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Thoughts on Travel

Some thoughts after ten years of nomadic travel...

There is something special about every place.... There are some places for which no return visit is planned. There are some areas that qualify for return visits time and time again. For me, the Four Corners area is one of those.

Meeting people make the travel much more interesting.... Whether that be other travelers or locals, I am always looking for the story. Everyone has a story.

Too much of the same thing causes boredom.... For me, most museums start to look alike as they curate the local historic collections. Specialty museums still garner the interest -- if I haven't done that particular focus in a previous museum visit.

Get off the main thoroughfares.... Get off the freeways and onto the secondary roads and back streets. That will provide some texture to the mono-culture found in the malls at the chain shopping venues. The mono culture is particularly bad at the chain restaurants. The same meal can be had at any member of the chain restaurant; it's the same menu decided by corporate HQ. Frequently, the hole in the wall restaurant has been a great dining experience.

Best part about ten years of nomadic travel is that my obit will NOT say, "He was employed at X corporation when he died."

Monday, May 9, 2011

Silver City Downtown

After several days of exploring with my Silver City host, it was time for him to get some bicycle exercise and time for me to walk the downtown area looking for photo ops.

Nancy's restaurant is in the one time building of the Elks. As Boonie and I were headed to the restaurant, I noted one of these mythological creatures on each side of an entrance door. Apparently they were an addition by the current owner. Trying to remember where I saw that creature before.

An apt name for the tattoo business.


As I walked the streets, I noted several of the large murals that cover the blank walls of the commercial buildings. When I spotted this one, this was a sure photo op. Love the colors.

Parked at the mural having his breakfast is where I found Glenn who blogs about his travels at To Simplify. Much younger than the usual RV full time traveler, it is encouraging to see one breaking away from the "normal" and "musts" that society seems to inflict on the human being.

Continued walking is when I came across this bumper sticker.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Beauty of Rocks

The destination for my Silver City host and me was the City of Rocks State Park.

It was late morning as we walked the rocks. With the sun over head, it wasn't the best time to be taking photos of the rocks. These carved rocks are the remnants of an eroded volcanic flow. Nature does a beautiful job at creating shapes and balanced rocks.

Peer through the crevice formed by the rocks to see a very small rock in the distance. (At least it seemed to be a photo op when I took the photo.)

Wait a minute. Not sure I want to have a picnic lunch at this table with that boulder stuck above. What if there was an earthquake. Or perhaps there is a very small flake of stone holding it there. As the rocks heat and contract, that rock may slip and ruin a pleasant picnic.

In all directions from the park is grass land prairie with an occasional windmill.

Quiet and remote with access to a Verizon cell tower is where we found a codger road friend parked for several weeks taking advantage of New Mexico's State Park pass.

We interrupted the codger's breakfast and then continued to chat for several hours catching up on each others lives as well as resolving the world's problems.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Time Passes

My Silver City host suggested a visit to nearby Ft. Bayard. As most every other fort across the western US, this one was established (1866) to protect the local settlers of Silver City. Here the enemy was the tribes of Apache Indians.

When the fort was slated for abandonment in 1899, it's life was extended as it became a sanitarium for Army personnel suffering from tuberculosis.

When drugs were found to address tuberculosis, the fort and its buildings went into a steady decline. Lack of maintenance and vandals have been taking a toll on the buildings dating from 100 years ago.

At one time, it was a busy community of families. How about some low budget teeter totters. I remember something similar from my childhood. Wondering. Do they even exist today. Not these. A child might get hurt.

At one time, the Fort's officers and their families would have sat on these wrap around porches looking over the parade ground immediately across the street. Or perhaps they sat there in the cool of the evening.

Some of the medical and patient buildings were in use until just two years ago. They were replaced by newly constructed facilities nearby.

The fort was named a New Mexico Historic District and a National Historic Landmark. Does that help them from collapsing. Probably not; Nature is a persistent recycler.

These are empty shells of buildings and no current usage. They have already become a magnet for vandals. Do they have a future. Can the buildings rise from their current state of collapse and be put to a use in the 21st century.

No answers. Just questions.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Boonie proved to be the good host upon my arrival at Silver City. The first venture was to explore the Gila Cliff Dwellings. Boonie was familiar with the road from the seat of his bicycle -- for the first 15 miles. It was all new terrain to me -- as were the last 30 to Boonie. The ruins are located in a canyon with a year round spring fed stream.

My nomadic journeys have taken me to many of the Anasazi ruins around the greater Four Corners area. This is one of the more remote and very short lived. According to the ranger at the site, it was occupied for less than a generation from about 1275-1300. The structures were built far enough into the cave to prevent water seepage and rainfall from undermining the "clay mortars" of the structural walls. The walls are original with very little work done for stabilization.

Our conclusion was that the residents were much more agile than we were to crawl in and out of the rooms and crannies under the rocks. And much younger. I could not imagine getting up in the middle of the night to "use the facilities".

Thanks for the tour, Boonie. Where next.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Head to the Chiricahua Desert Museum to see live rattlesnakes of North America and Mexico. Great exhibit at the museum. There are about twenty terrariums containing rattlesnakes and a few unusual members of the reptile family such as the Gila Monster. How about an albino rattlesnake. This is the place to see it. Close up.

Bob Ashley is the man behind the museum and a huge collection of snake, reptile and amphibian memorabilia that Bob has collected in his short life time. He may be in his early 40s.

This part of New Mexico is also a wintering ground for birds. That makes the area a popular spot for birders to visit in the valley and in the hills of the nearby Chiricahua Mountains. Once in the area, the Chiricahua Desert Museum becomes an obvious stop.

In addition to the usual gifts for the birder or herpetologist, the museum store has a huge book selection. Bird books available range from the general bird books to the specialist volumes for the serious birder. Another rack of books are for those who like snakes, the reptiles and the amphibians.

Off the beaten path, this is a definite find while crossing State HIghway 80 in western New Mexico. Nearest major town is Lordsburg New Mexico on I-10 about 40 miles north from Rodeo -- the village nearest the museum.

Take an hour out of your journey and check it out when you are passing through the area.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Random Photo -- Perkulator

In 2006 when exploring North Dakota, found this drive through coffee stop in Williston with the very appropriate name Perkulator.