Monday, March 31, 2008

Worth It

There are magnificent calcite structures in every area of the caverns

Stalactites are "tite" to the roof and stalagmites "mite" grow to the roof

Being 800 feet above the plain allows you to see "forever"

A flowering Cholla Cactus alongside a desert trail

Two days of boring landscapes are a small price to pay in order to visit the Carlsbad Caverns. The caverns, another of the “1000 Places to See Before You Die” (1000 places to add to your “bucket list”), are amazing. They stretch for 30 miles underground and descend to 850 feet below the surface. The “Big Room” has the interior volume of 14 Astrodomes and takes 1 ½ hours to circumnavigate on a one mile long paved trail. Chambers with the names of “King’s Palace”, Queen’s Palace” and “Papoose Room” each exhibit unique calcite structures of enormous size. At one point in the Big Room the ceiling is 80 feet above you and the “Bottomless Pit” extends 140 feet below your feet. We have been in caves with more spectacular structures but nothing of the scale of Carlsbad. Just entering the main caverns involves a 1 ½ mile underground walk from the surface to the 745 foot level. The cave is so large that photographing the features is almost impossible because flashes will simply not cover the vast distances.

Coming back from the caverns we cruised a very rough gravel track through desert canyons and over high bluffs, allowing panoramic views over the New Mexican plains to the horizon. A very wild country indeed!!!

Sunday, March 30, 2008


After 3 hours of driving we stopped to stretch and........ take a picture of a fence????

The UFO Museum in Rozwell. The government is definitely covering up something!!

The Pecos River flows through downtown Carlsbad

Did I mention that there is not much to see?

If you ever get a hankerin’ to hop in the car and drive through south-eastern New Mexico, let me be the first to give you the news flash – DON”T WASTE YOUR TIME!!!!! The drive from El Paso, Texas to Carlsbad, New Mexico is the most boring way to spend 4 hours you could possibly imagine. We love desert landscapes but, this is just scrub; no interesting plants or animals; nothing!! Every so often, we saw a lone cow trying to obtain sustenance from the sparse ground cover. Where “Farmer John” was, or where he lived, remains a mystery. No wonder the aliens selected Roswell, New Mexico as their terrestrial (crash) landing spot. Who the hell would ever see them????

Speaking of Roswell; our current “home base” north of Carlsbad is only 50 miles from the UFO capital of the world so, we decided to drive up and see how many “crazies” we would find. Apart from oil, aliens and the infamous army air base there does not seem to be much reason for Rozwell’s existence, although they do have one of the largest mozzarella cheese factories in the world. The Rozwell UFO Museum and Research Centre is hokey but, I was surprised at how many copies of official government reports and documents they possess. Something went on there in 1947!!!

The entire reason for visiting this “interesting” part of the country of course was to visit the Carlsbad Caverns. Today being the last Sunday of the local March break, we could not obtain tour times so, tomorrow is the day.

Friday, March 28, 2008

On The Road Again

Just for something completely different........... out for a fancy dinner with Jonathan and Meghann

Mother (with the tan) and son (not so much!!) in the hot-tub

Geez ............ it was clean this morning!!!!!

Back in the Sonora............. lots of Suharo cactus

A long shadow at sunrise

I know this may not be too popular with our northern friends but……….. this winter has flown by!!! Our list of “things to do” in Palm Springs remains 50% undone and yet, we have “hit the road” for home. The Pacific Life Open Tennis Tournament has just wrapped up and the Kraft Nabissco (formerly the Dianna Shore) Golf Tournament is about to begin. We even had tickets!!!! Palm Springs is 5 hours behind us but, we’ll be back. The last couple of weeks have been filled with kids visiting and, preparations to leave. The kids visiting part was the best part!! They spent half a week in San Francisco and the Napa Valley (one of their favourite places) before coming south to “Geezerville”. (Kids can be SUCH a pain in the ass!!!)

We pulled out of Palm Springs (actually Cathedral City) this morning in yet another ferocious wind. We expected serious handling problems with the ol’ RV but, the wind was mainly on our tail or at least on the aft quarter (used to sail you know). As we climbed out of the Coachella Valley, we were sad to be leaving but, eager to be heading home……….. figure that out!!! Many snow birds are heading home because, they are saying, “it’s too stinkin’ hot!!!” We are parked for the night in Picacho, Arizona and, at 6:30 P.M. it’s 101°F. That IS “stinkin’ hot!!” We’re heading for the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, a place that we passed by on the way through last year but, which is conveniently in our path on the way to Dallas / Forth Worth. We’re back in the Sonora Desert, one of our favourite places and, soaking in the heat and the “desertness” of it all before we get back to “April showers bring May flowers”. I think we are really going to miss being “on the road”. Try it!!!!!!

No internet connection last night so this is being posted from Demming, New Mexico, a convenient place to stop but........... no tourist Mecca. Today we experienced "dust devils" hitting the motor-home. Out on the high plains you could see them coming because they were full of desert sand but, every once in while one would come up the highway, containing no dust and damn near rip the steering wheel out of my hands. No need to experience that one again!!!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Biker Bash at Pioneer Town

Pioneer Town doesn't have much going on any more!!

In some places the colour goes for miles

A Yucca in full bloom

A Joshua Tree in full bloom

Our new best friends in full bloom

If you push the first bike over do the rest fall like dominoes. Dare ya!!

The blooming of spring desert wildflowers is a huge event around here. Again today we ventured out into the desert and saw even more plentiful carpets of blossoms. This time it was back to Joshua Tree National Park, which has about a 3,000 foot rise from its southern to northern border. As a result, you will find flowers at peak bloom somewhere along the altitude continuum. It turns out the best show was at the southern end of the park, indicating that there will be wildflowers for at least a month to come, heading north.

Pioneer Town is a permanent community established in the 1940’s by Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, several other western movie actors and, a group of investors. Its purpose was to act as a permanent venue in which to shoot western movies and in fact, dozens of movies were shot in the community right up to 1996. The structures are real buildings as opposed to the facades often used in the movies. Pioneer Town was on our way home from the north gate of Joshua Tree Park and, we felt it our duty to mosey in and quaff back a beer (or two) at the town’s western saloon (only open on weekends). Much to our surprise a LARGE group of Harley drivin’, beer swillin’, leather wearin’ bikers had taken over the saloon, to hold a fund raiser for one of their comrades, seriously injured in a battle with a car (car won!!!) (Hillary’s health care initiatives might have been helpful in this case.) In any event, we walked in, tennis shoes, shorts, (matching top in Brenda’s case) and, started swillin’ with them!! We didn’t bother to mention that we had been out taking pictures of wildflowers!!! To say that this crowd was not in our usual circle of friends might be the understatement of the trip. More good pictures though!!!

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Bloomin' Desert

Joan and John getting ready to cruise in the "Coolmobile"

Anyone remember Monty Python's skit on Lupines. These are the desert variety

A Beavertail Cactus about to reach full bloom

John & Joan, friends from Brockville, left today, after visiting the area for the better part of a week. We had a great time and jointly discovered a few new eating establishments all along the dining spectrum. Since most of our exploits were nocturnal and, since I am getting lazier and lazier, we have few photographs with which to blackmail each other. They, too, rented a sporty convertible and therein blasted out of town this morning, heading to Phoenix in order to visit with John’s brother, who lives there. Tonight we’re eating in!!!!

Brenda and I hiked through the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto National Monument today. This is a national park in which the desert wildflowers are just coming into the peak bloom season. Again this year, the lack of rain last autumn prevented many of the seed species from germinating. However, some late winter rain did manage to coax many species into bloom. It is almost impossible to believe that so much colour can be produced out of rocks and sand. We are told that in a year where there have been autumnal rains in the prior year, the desert floor becomes a blanket of colour. We’ll just have to come back again!!! Even now, hiking through the washes and trails gets very hot by mid-day. The summer heat must just bake all this flora into oblivion.

We have sadly begun to plan the trek home. Since no comprehensive road trip of the USA could possibly be complete without a visit to NASCAR, we have just received our tickets for the Samsung 500 in Forth Worth Texas. We will be spending some time there on the journey home, in order to visit with Brenda’s brother, who is posted there. He promises us a rootin’ tootin’ time so we had best rest up. We noticed that north Texas got a dump of snow last night so, we’ll stay put for a few more weeks before setting out.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Rolling Stones were right!!!!

Brenda and "JB", our golf instructor after a mid-day (hot) lesson

“You don’t always get what you waaaaant”. The Stones got it right!! Thinking my recent golf lessons would somehow improve my game, I played in a “scramble” at our local par 3 golf course, wanting nothing more than NOT to be the game’s comic relief. It was not to be!! Now… when I go to the driving range, I can put 3 shots out of 4 within 20 feet of a pin 100 to 120 yards out so, do you think I could hit the GD greens on these little par 3’s? Noooooooooooo. In fact, my short little drives were so wild, my team mates were yelling “Fore” BEFORE I swung (in the interest of safety of course). The group on the hole in front of us were always looking over their shoulders to see where I was and, took a particular interest in my drives!!! Could they ever dance!!

There was, however, SOME good news. I out-putted virtually everyone on our team and made three long birdie puts. Now if I could just figure out some other way to get that damn ball down to the greens!!! In spite of my “best” efforts, our team finished “in the money” and took third place. The golf lessons continue with a VERY understanding pro. Tuesday is “Scramble” day. I wonder if that term was coined in recognition of MY golfing ability????

One of the tiny facts that the Chamber of Commerce omits from its glossy brochures is that The Coachella Valley (Palm Springs) is one of the windiest places on earth, as evidenced by about 10,000 wind generators located just west of here. It can be bright, sunny and 85°F, yet the wind can be howling. When buying homes, the locals select their sites based upon wind exposure and/or protection. Not a phenomenon with which we Canucks are familiar. Maybe it’s the wind affecting my golf?????????