Friday, June 1, 2012


The final leg on RT 140 into Oregon was spectacular! I am so happy to be in Oregon. I have a good feeling about our future here. I can feel my words leaving me and my images returning, so I think it is time to paint, instead of writing. I leave you all with some final images of the wonderful RV Park we found near Lakeview, Oregon, and where I am spending my birthday. It is an 80 acre working ranch with beautiful trails to ride and lots of wildlife, cows and COWBOYS! I could not ask for more, and as Roy and Dale used to sing.......HAPPY TRAILS TO YOU until we meet again!



Wednesday, May 30, 2012


We landed in Montrose, Colorado, after going over the big pass and touring some cute historic towns along the way. Our new digs are quiet and peaceful next to a gurgling creek and lots of shade. We arrive early and Michael headed out to explore the “deepest canyon” in the United States. 1000 ft deeper than the Empire State Building is tall. I took a nap. When Michael returned he had a great tale to tell about driving MY CAR to the bottom of said canyon! But, he had enough of white knuckle driving for the day, AND regretfully no pictures.   The good news was we had outrun the smoke and wind.

We had a relaxing evening here, but are starting to feel like moving along and getting closer to our destination, so we only stayed one night and continued on into Utah to Green River. Unfortunately, my technical tools have been giving me some issues, or maybe just my brain is giving me issues, so I can’t find pictures of anything in Utah! I am sure I took some.....didn”t I????

Green River was a lovely little town and we stayed in the State Park right in town with 30-40 University of Montana geology tenters. It was fun to have the entertainment of so much youthful exuberance. Great place to study geology, the colored rocks varying from sage green, to bright red, to black. We had planned to cut through Utah with only 2 nights straight across US 50, but had to divert and go north to Salt Lake/Provo area in order to find some of my needed anti-inflammatory herbs. Success with that, but that put us at a huge city RV park in Salt Lake. It was okay, but not our style, so we headed out early for Nevada, which we knew would be a bit bleak after Utah.


Utah: Gorgeous, colorful, wholesome, wilderness appreciation.
Nevada: Bleak grey, forgotten American dump-ground, offering lap dances at the first sign.


To be fair, our one night in Nevada in Battle Mountain was not terrible, seemed to be a thriving little town, with gold mining and not much housing. Our park was newly built and filled to capacity by full-time workers.

But now we are ready for Oregon! My goal was to be there on my 65th birthday. On the last leg of Nevada rt 140 we began to ascend into Opal Country. Took a side trip up to this camp in the Sheldon Natl. Wildlife Refuge. The only wild life we saw was a couple who approached us selling OPALS. They were quite the pair, he with his cowboy hat and loose tails and she with skin the color of the desert dust. We looked at the opals they has packed in water, but declined to buy and promised to come back. When we drove away he was on his hands and knees looking for more opals in the desert sand. Ummhmmm........OPAL FEVER. This cabin built in the hill
may have been their home, but not sure. There was a lovely geologic pond there, which she was headed for.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


We had a small reprieve with the wind and smoke on that last morning in New Mexico, but Michael was ready to get out of the desert! We high-tailed it north again, but still no reprieve from the conditions in the area. I am hoping for the best for all the people who live here

We stayed in an RV park in Durango, but had little desire to explore this lovely town, choking on smoke. Luckily, we had secured a nice spot for the night in a park which was loaded with road bicyclists that were running a 50 mile race through the mountain pass. YIKES!

Some time in the night, the wind subsided and the temperature dropped. We woke up to 23 degrees
and no smoke.....Yay!

We took off early and are headed to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, where Michael wants to explore and we are hoping for a 2 day stay. Traveling over a 10,000 ft pass in the Rockies is an awe inspiring vista. As I listened to veterans stories on NPR and tried to keep from driving off a cliff, I felt I could not be in a better place on Memorial Day. America, the beautiful, before my very eyes.
10,000 FEET and snow......

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Our plan was to be in our next campsite early enough to explore Santa Fe some, but fate dealt us another dustbowl day.  We were also peppered with minor vehicle issues, causing a lot of delays. I had scraped the underside of the car on the dusty road where we stayed, so had a flopping underside! We stopped in Socorro, a very sweet little town on the Rio Grande, and I crawled under to duck tape temporarily, while Michael was in the store. So many people saw me and stopped!!  I forget “normal” 65 year old women don’t do things like that.........and we are in mano y mano country. But hey, it just took a minute, and it needed a woman’s touch for the tape to stick!

Back on the road again, and we were soon stopped on the main freeway for over and hour for the most bazaar DOT debacle we had ever seen. On a holiday weekend, they shut down the freeway completely, with no warning and chance to divert. The windy, hot, waiting and inching along reminded me of what it must have felt like to the travelers escaping the intolerable circumstances they faced in the dust bowl.

Once we escaped captivity we just wanted to get out of the dust and smoke as fast as possible.  Fires in Arizona and elsewhere also brought heavy smoke riding on the gusting 30-50 mile an hour wind. So we drove north and did not even stop for a Santa Fe break. On to Abiquiu Lake in the area where Georgia Okeefe roamed and painted.


I was disappointed in the air quality that evening, but in the morning we were granted a reprieve and I could see the beautiful cliffs and put myself in her shoes for a little while.

 I have been a Georgia fan all my life and loved seeing her terrain in person for the first time. I can completely relate to her love of this country, and I am re-inspired to study her life and works. I spent some time reading about her life here and bought a small print, "MY BACK YARD".


Friday, May 25, 2012


The 21/2 hour drive up to TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES was hot and dusty, bringing back the sense of my theme Wrath of the Grapes. Urgency happens when you can barely stand in the wind and you are being exfoliated by blowing sand. I was reminded of the many years in sub zero weather in Alaska, where relaxation does not happen outside, you just get-er-done as quick as you can. So much for our relaxed meandering.......

We hooked up at the beautiful Elephant Butte Lake, and were sheltered somewhat, until later in the night when the winds picked up again, giving us a rocking all night long.

My niece’s husband, Bruce, hosted us for our brief respite, before taking off early the next morning, hoping to get ahead of the wind.  I am starting to feel whipped............

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


We followed the Rio Grand west, after descending from the Davis Mountains, towards El Paso. Traveling with Michael means we go the roads “less traveled”, so there is very little interstate freeway travel. We always meander on the smaller roads, usually running parallel to the interstate, but with much more interest and history, and that was the case coming into El Paso. We followed the river valley, with Mexico on one side and the U.S. on the other, seeing little difference in many cases, between the two sides. Farming along the river, with the emphasis on pecan groves on the U.S. side, and much poverty on both sides, each saturated with hispanic culture. In this manner, we approached east El Paso, where my sister, Linda, lives and presides, like a small whirlwind of a matriarch over her family.

We entered her realm and were quickly absorbed in her busy and long rooted wake, where one must swim along, in order to enjoy any moment of time with her. Michael was soon discovered by 2 year old Kindle, who proceeded to wooo him with her precocious charms for the entire 3 days!
MICHAEL AND KINDLE There is something about him and red heads!

We took this time to take care of some maintenance on the vehicles  and ourselves, between visiting with Linda and her daughters Laura and Katherine, and Laura’s children Sara and Chase.

I have been doing some scrambling to find resting camps along the way, North through New Mexico, on this Memorial Day Weekend. My sense of time is fading, as we journey on, which is a rare pleasure for me. Each day is marked by experience rather than dates on a calendar. I am grateful to be able to just enjoy the moment, and have the time to contemplate life, mine and others.

Michael and I drove to Las Cruces and met 2 of my childhood friends for a wonderful visit with them and their spouses. We spent the afternoon laughing about our childhood “activities” in our old neighborhood, from 5th grade through high school graduation. Somehow, we all made it! It had been many years since we had seen each funny how old friends still seem the same. It is comforting in an odd sort of way, like recognizing your own history through others eyes.

For our entire visit in El Paso, we had strong wind and blowing sand. Happy to be parked in Linda's back yard with her home as shelter, and happy to not live here.  This is our last town in Texas, now to head north. Our trip north and west is somewhat unplanned at this point, though we know we will travel north through New Mexico, stopping at TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES,  where my niece has a lovely lakeside home, for one night and then on up to the Santa Fe /Taos area, where I want to view Georgia O’Keefe’s “lovely desert light” for a couple of days. We have been experiencing west Texas’s famous gusty, dusty wind for a couple of days, and are looking forward to the mountains again and less wind and heat.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


As we head out into the higher elevations of the Davis Mountains, I can feel my heart swell with the openness of vistas that allow for seeing a hundred miles in any direction. This feeling is bred in me and lies at the core of what I long for, when in more constrained society and environments. The walls come down, the protective nature becomes more primal, and for me there is more room for joy.  The spirit flies.


Ft Davis State park and Indian River Lodge are our destination for the next few days. We are camped in a shaded arroyo in this beautiful park, where wild Javelina and Prong horn antelope roam the area with plenty of snakes and lots of pretty birds. The park is quite high (5-6000 ft), and though we have no cell service, we can get wi-fi at the lodge which is one of the CCC’s amazing facilities, that has withstood and prospered for 80 years, giving enjoyment to thousands of traveling Americans, as well as international travelers from everywhere.

The past couple nights we have spent in the Davis Mountains State Park, a spectacular example the enduring work performed by the Civilian Conservation Corps created  by FDR to employ desperate Americans impoverished by the Great Depression.  Back in 1935, some 350 young men trekked up into this gorgeous canyon and constructed first a work camp, then mountain access roads and trails, and finally a crowning masterpiece, the Indian Lodge.  All the buildings are constructed of locally harvested materials, including the massive 40# adobe bricks that form the foot-thick walls of all buildings, the stucco surfaces painted a brilliant white, the stone roadways and trail markers, and even the bulrush ceiling poles found on the banks of the Rio Grande.  We are here in a cool oasis in the middle of the Chihuahuan desert, a place once thick with black bears and cougars and still full of deer, pronghorn antelope, javelina wild pigs, and amazing bird populations.  The buildings are perfectly preserved and form an elegant ambiance at the luxury lodge and the shaded campsites where we reside.  I cannot recall ever seeing a more beautiful and lasting monument to the New Deal, or a more appreciated project built by young men who signed on to hard labor in exchange for three meals a day and $25 per month, nearly all of which was sent home to help feed their hard hit families and siblings.  Here is a project that no Texas rancher would ever have conceived or accomplished without federal stimulus.  And just down the road is another CCC built oasis in Balmorea, complete with 2 acre swimming pool and a vast irrigation network.
As we hear the outcry from conservatives to rein in government spending, let’s not forget the wonderful successes of the CCC and the stimuli that helped our nation recover from that depression.  Magnificent public works projects are not the province of private investors and will not be accomplished by lowering taxes.  Our nation has so many opportunities for public investment and such resources that can and must be harnessed to ready our infrastructure for coming generations of Americans.  We cannot succumb to individual greed and shortsighted policies that will leave our children poorer.  Take the example of the CCC as testimony to America’s bright future.

 From this home base, we head down for a day trip into Marfa, where I was born. Marfa has  evolved from the small Tex/Mex town I was born into.  Even in 1947 the town had a lot of character, with numerous artists and eclectic folk, but mostly , it was a ranching town. After Hollywood discovered it, and filmed the epic movie GIANT here, things began to change more toward the eclectic.  Housing famous movie stars like Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean brought a bit of the avant guard to cowboy country. After Hollywood left, the town struggled on for a few decades until a group of way out in space East coast artists “discovered” it, and two new movies, recently famous NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and primed the town economically again, and now the weird mix has created a little town recently named in the Smithsonian Magazine as the 4th best small town in America! Believe me, the locals are still shaking their heads in wonder. As one local told us, “25 years ago, all the kids could not wait to leave Marfa. Now, they all really want to move back to the IN place.”

Michael and I visited some of the quaint establishments, as well as my old stomping grounds.  My grandparents on my fathers side owned the Marfa Hotel off Main St, and as a kid I visited them there often, after we left Marfa for points further west. We looked up the doctors home/office, where I was born, and talked to many locals that remembered visiting Ms. Niccolls snack bar as kids, or helping in the hotel.  The movie GIANT spawned the fancy hotel Paisano around the corner, which is still a beautiful center Oasis on Main St. The old Marfa hotel is being renovated into apartments by “one of those weird investors”, according to the local talk. It was good to see someone is preserving the old building, weird or not.

We ended the day by visiting a shop where a young man is making handmade boots in the old way, where I was hoping to get fitted for a pair of “cowgirl” boots for my 65th birthday, coming soon. It did not work out, but it was fun talking to him and seeing the individual boots he was making. This is a dying art he has rejuvenated, and he has been discovered, receiving orders from all over the world. Such a polite and genuine Texas ranch boy, a new generation of art meets country. (