Monday, May 27, 2013

Pie Town and Candy Kitchen, New Mexico~Sweet!

 Warm blueberry pie with ice cream~Delicious!
After spending three quiet nights at Datil Well BLM Campground, we headed north to visit Steve's friends Bob and Nancy who live in the Ramah section of the Navajo Reservation, southeast of Gallup.  On the way, we had a nice lunch at Pie-O-Neer Cafe in Pie Town, New Mexico. 

This restaurant has been featured in many travel magazines and has won some awards for its pie.  We were a little disappointed to learn that they no longer serve many entrees ("We are a PIE shop"), but then I tried the green chile stew and it was every bit as good as the pies.  

Pie Town got its name from being a place that was well situated for travelers to take a break, and over the years every merchant in the town has offered pie.  We had our choice of several places to stop to eat, but Pie-O-Neer was the place where all the cars were.  

After our stop in Pie Town, we headed north on NM Hwy 37 which takes you through the Zuni Reservation, then went a little ways east on NM Hwy 53 to the town of Ramah.  I wish I had some photos of Hwy 37--it's a beautiful, lonesome stretch of road with lots of red and yellow rock mesas, and interesting houses and outbuildings made of the yellow limestone.  It's also very green, with a groundcover of scrubby junipers.  However, Steve and I are still getting used to driving and riding in the Beluga, and that road was a little scary for us.  It's a fairly narrow two-lane highway with no shoulders, and there are lots of hills and turns.  Steve was busy at the wheel, and I was busy clenching and gnashing in the passenger seat. So, no pics. 

Bob and Nancy live on a parcel of land in the Ramah Navajo Reservation, which is a smaller part of the Navajo Nation that's south of I-40 (most of the Navajo Nation is up in the Four Corners area, north of I-40).  The Ramah reservation is a checkerboard of tribal, government, and private land.  

 Nancy at the door of the Pinehill Post Office

Our friends have lived up here for full-time for about 11 years.  They have a neat little spread with a house, guest cabin and other outbuildings, and a couple of RV hookups for visitors.  

 One of the gravel roads we drove a few times this weekend
They have to drive pretty far to take care of any sort of business--their PO box is 15 miles away at Pinehill, a small town that is the business center of the reservation, so they pick up and drop off mail for several neighbors when they make their weekly trip to the Post Office.  Seeing a doctor or making a major grocery shopping trip involves at least a half day, going either to Grants or Gallup.

 Drummers at the trading post's birthday celebration
Over the past couple of days, we've made a couple of trips to Candy Kitchen, a town even smaller than Pinehill.  There's a nice store there, the Candy Kitchen Trading Post, which was celebrating its second year in business this weekend with a flea market and drummers.

 Our tour guide, Rae, giving dog treats to a wolf

We went back to Candy Kitchen yesterday for a tour of the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary.  This is a nonprofit that provides a forever home for wolves, wolf-dogs, and various sorts of feral or wild dogs.  They rescue the animals from a variety of situations...breeders who are shut down by authorities, zoos that go out of business, animal hoarders, individuals who realize that their "pet" is really a wild animal, etc.  A few of the rescues are dogs that happen to look like wolves (malemutes, for example) that are sent to them by animal authorities, and some of these can eventually be adopted.  But there are about 60 animals that have to stay at the sanctuary because wolves and wolf-dogs are not pets.

 A Minnesota timberwolf, rescued after someone dropped him off in a Minnesota State Park--he has more of a dog type personality and loves people.  He whined with happiness when our tour group came up to his enclosure. 

Interestingly, the wolf-dog crosses are the most challenging animals to deal with, because they can have sort of an identity crisis.  They don't really fit in with either the wolf or dog population, and they can be difficult to manage.

 Wolves are definitely quicker than I am!
Our tour lasted over an hour and was well worth the $6 admission.  The grounds are very nice.  The critters have large enclosures and the staff thoughtfully accommodates the most shy animals with the largest places to live, so they can hide from visitors if they wish.  

 The original "candy kitchen," which is now part of the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary

Candy Kitchen is an interesting community that got its name during Prohibition.  A local moonshiner needed a cover for why he purchased so much sugar and why so many folks stopped by his cabin, so he started making pinon candies which he sold over the counter while selling liquor under the counter.  It's still a town full of characters.

Steve, at the wolf sanctuary

We've been here at our friends' place for the long Memorial Day weekend, and we'll head out early tomorrow morning and cross into northern Arizona for more adventures.       

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Boondocking (With Perks) on the Historic Hoof Highway

 I can hardly believe we left my hometown of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, a mere 29 hours ago--we have already had some adventures!

There was getting out of town.  We weren't even sure if we were leaving yesterday or whether we might delay a day or two, because I was waiting to see if our local ALCO store got a 26" women's mountain bike in on their weekly truck.  However, as of yesterday morning, the truck had not even arrived yet, so we decided to leave and find a different bike somewhere along the road.  I'm definitely going to need a bike on our travels, because, due to arthritis in my left knee, I do better getting around on a bike than on foot.  But the right one will come along.

 Sonja in the Sherpa bag

 So we packed up and hit the road.  We needed to drop my minivan at our friend Misha's house where it will stay for the summer, but--shades of February 14, 2011!--my cat Sonja escaped from the rig at the first opportunity.  She hid under the motorhome and it took a while to catch her.  After this escape, she had to ride in her Sherpa bag.  Once again she must become accustomed to life as an RV cat.  It will take a few days.  She is already doing better today and no longer needs to travel in the bag.

 My view as a passenger along I-25

Our plan was to drive an hour north on I-25 to Socorro, then head west on Highway 60 to a BLM campground called Datil Well.  Steve drove the first leg to Socorro, and then we switched so I could try driving the Beluga for the first time.  The first few minutes, it was a little scary to drive a Class A motorhome, but then I started to get the feel of it.  There's a tendency to think you have to pull to the right whenever traffic approaches, but, in fact, it's important to hug the yellow center line so you don't get blown to the right by the big trucks.  So you gotta be tough.  

 Steve at the wheel

After 20 miles, I was ready to let Steve take the wheel back at the small artsy town of Magdalena.  But when he got in the driver's seat, there was no battery power!  This made no sense, since the battery should have been charging as we traveled.  We called AAA, and they sent a couple of nice mechanics out from Baca's 24 Hour Towing in Socorro.  The guys brought a battery with them and determined that the problem was the alternator, not the battery, so we had to backtrack to Socorro for repairs.  

 Some cool antiques at Baca's garage

The whole alternator adventure pretty much took up the most of the afternoon, so instead of camping at Datil Well, we boondocked at the Socorro Walmart, which wasn't bad at all.  In fact, I got nine hours' sleep and we got better stocked up.  We also had dinner at a Chinese buffet which would be "bleah!" by Seattle standards, but wasn't half bad for being in the middle of New Mexico.  

 Three of the radio telescopes at VLA

This morning we made a fresh start--got more gas and propane and headed west on Highway 60 again.  Now we had the entire day to get to Datil, so we could be more leisurely.  We stopped at the Very Large Array west of Magdalena.  This is a big radio astronomy observatory where "Contact" and some other sci-fi movies were filmed.  It was a nice stop--we ate lunch in the RV and then went inside to see a short movie that explains basic radio astronomy in terms that I understood. 

Highway 60 is beautiful.  As we headed west, we began to see scrubby pinon and juniper trees, and they got larger the farther we went.  West of Magdalena, we began to see herds of pronghorn antelope--more than I'd ever seen in one day, probably at least 100 antelope.   

Approaching the Datil Mountains

We got to Datil Well Campground in the early afternoon.  It's a very nice place--nice big sites with picnic tables and barbecues, some with small shelters, and vault toilets.  The water here is wonderful, because it comes from the old well.  Datil Well was on the "Hoof Highway" that joined Springerville, Arizona, with the railway at Magdalena, starting in the 1880s.  Cattle and sheep were herded to the railroad, stopping every 10 miles or so for water and rest.  

You can't beat the price of Datil Well, just $5 per night, but only $2.50 for us because Steve has the Golden Age pass.  We aren't sure how long we'll stay here, but probably a while since we discovered that I can get free wifi in the cute little visitors center cabin where I'm sitting right now.

A couple of new things I learned as an RVer that I'd like to pass is that I'm learning to make just about anything that I'd normally cook in an oven on the top of the stove.  For instance, here are some green chili enchiladas that turned out very nicely cooked in a skillet:

Also, I finally figured out a good way to contain Sonja's water and food dishes while on the road.  I cut down a plastic placemat to line a basket.  Now everything stays in place or at least doesn't tip over and make a mess.  The cat, however, still likes to take a few pieces of her kibble and eat it other places such as our bed.  


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Goodbye, Guppie!...A Month at the Artesian Bath-House.

Yesterday I took the Guppy, my 1982 Toyota Dolphin, to a local used car lot.  I was glad to find someone else to sell it for me, because I have a lot of emotional attachment to my old rig, and it would be difficult for me to deal with strangers who'd give me lowball offers.  I've had so many adventures with the Guppy!  I'm sad to say goodbye, but also glad to be moving on to a larger rig that suits my needs better today. 

Steve and I have been living in the Beluga, my 1991Holiday Rambler Class A motorhome, since he brought it over to Truth or Consequences from his winter camp in Arizona around April 20th.  We're parked at the Artesian Bath-House & Trailer Park in downtown TorC.  I've stayed here four times in the past couple of years--it's my go-to place whenever I'm in transitionIt's inexpensive ($130 per month plus electricity), very close to everything, and RV guests get half-price soaking in the mineral waters.  

The Artesian is crowded, however, and I'm looking forward to getting out of town in a little over a week.  We're going to take the Beluga out to Elephant Butte for a little shake-down trip before we hit the road for the summer.  We'll spend a few days along the Rio Grande with no electrical or water hookups, seeing what life is like in this rig when we're using battery power and water from the holding tank.  We have a generator and a small solar panel. The rig is set up for solar and apparently used to have a bank of solar panels on top which were removed at some point.  We'll probably replace those and get several more "house batteries" in a year or so, when I have the rig paid off.   

In the meantime, we've been figuring out a lot about the rig while staying here in town.  Everything seems to be working well--stove, oven, fridge, freezer, shower, furnace, air conditioning, etc.  It truly is like having a small one-bedroom apartment on wheels.  I've been able to function very well in this space, having room to do artwork, sell on eBay, and even entertain a little bit. 

Of course, when we're not hooked up to electricity, we'll have to "rough it" a little--no a/c, for instance, unless we use the generator.  But that's why we'll be heading further north and to higher elevations for the summer, so we can stay places that are naturally cool. 

I've also been figuring out where to stow everything.  Even with lots of "basement storage" under the living space, I've had to make some hard choices.  I gave away all of my mosaic supplies and tools.  I decided that, much as I enjoy it, mosaic isn't going to fit into my life anymoreNow I'm doing other art media that use some of the same processes of taking apart and putting back together again--collage, mixed media, fabric art, etc.  

 An unstretched canvas by Ruth

Speaking of art, I was pleased to find wall space in the new rig for the work of local artists that I've collected.  I've hung paintings and posters by Stacy Jo Harms, Ed Moss, James Gasowski, Roy Lohr, Ruth, and Delmas Howe.   

Also speaking of art, tonight is the last TorC Second Saturday Art Hop that I'll be around for, at least for a few months.  I have paintings at Grapes Gallery and later today I'll be bringing some new drawings up to January's Gallery.  

So, we're doing well in our new space. Sonja seems to be enjoying the Beluga very much.  Boy, is she going to be surprised when we start up the engine and she realizes she's once again on an RV adventure!!!

 P.S.  Steve says hi: