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Monday, March 27

Dunes, Caves and Big Bend

Western Diamondback -  Big Bend National Park

It was always the wrong time of the year, not enough time, out of the way to where I was headed, to long of a drive, or some other lame excuse.  I now realize, after spending the past week in Big Bend National Park and the surrounding area, this procrastination was a mistake.  The area has it all....vast open spaces, few people, wildlife and night skies second to none. It's an area I'll be back to as I didn't scratch the surface.  Being in the Chinook there were many areas that I couldn't, or wouldn't attempt, and to really get the full effect of the area an off-road motorcycle or four-wheel drive is required.   Both of which I've got so I have no reason not to return.   I did unhook the trailer and leave it at a service area inside the park but didn't venture too far off the pavement, even without the trailer.  Damn trailer is like dragging an anchor around with you.  En-route to Texas and Big Bend National Park, I checked out White Sands National Monument and Carlsbad Caverns  Both areas one can easily see in a day. Although I camped in the White Sands area for a few nights there really isn't much to see in the area other than the dunes.  It's pretty, but it basically all looks the same. Miles and miles of white dunes.  You do get some nice sunsets, sunrises and lighting off the dunes so it's certainly worth the stop.  Caverns in Carlsbad are........caverns. Hike down about 800 ft under the surface, hike around in the caverns and hump back out of the hole.  Caverns are worth a stop but I couldn't spend more than a day here. I guess if you're really into spelunking you could spend more time here but I'm not, so I hit it early in the morning and was back on the road by 11:00. 

 Entrance access by foot into Carlsbad Caverns.  You can take an elevator down (over 800 ft down) which 99.9 % of the masses do, but I didn't want to stand in the line with screaming kids so I hiked in and hiked out.  It's a hump coming out.

White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.  No camping in the National Monument so I ended up staying on Holloman Air Force Base about 7 miles up the road.  Drive into the Monument every morning for sunrise and then again in the evenings for photo hikes with Petey. 

Finally got into Texas and headed into the Davis Mountain area for a couple of nights camping.  Also spent a few hours touring Fort Davis, an old military fort that was established during the Indian Wars.  Interesting touring the grounds and old structures.

Next stop was the highlight of the trip so far.  Big Bend National Park but first I had to stop and check out the old ghost town of Terlinqua.  The locals like to call it a ghost town but there are actually people, although not many, living here along with some small funky/artsy businesses.  I'm assuming the designation of ghost town brings in the tourist. The central point in town is an old mercantile store and bar with a large porch.  Everyone seems to gather here, tourists and locals alike, along with their dogs, to hang out, drink and shoot the shit.  Quite a place to kill an afternoon.  You can certainly meet some characters here with a few hours to kill.  Day I hung out here the temps peaked around 100 degrees so the shaded porch was a welcome relief.

 Terlinqua local

Terlinqua Cemetery

After spending a day and night in Terlinqua it was on to Big Bend National Park where I spent four nights.  Having been to many of our National Parks I'd have to rate this one in the top three.  It's got remote off-road camping, vast open spaces, is not overrun with people, with lots to explore.  Most of our National Parks are now overrun with people, bus tours, damn gift shops and are set up to herd the people from one exhibit to the next.  Don't even get me started on what tourist traps are jammed up right next to the parks.  Due to this many are no longer enjoyable, at least to me, to visit during the peak season.  Big Bend is one of those areas where it's a little bit of work to even get to so it keeps the hordes away. There's no Disney Land, fancy restaurants or mall nearby so the masses see no reason to come.  The pictures below give a small sampling of what can be found.

 Saint Elena Canyon - Mexico on the right with the USA on the left.  You could wade across here so I made my first illegal crossing into Mexico.

  Chiso Basin "The Window"

Rio Grande River

 Cross country hike one evening near Cottonwood Springs

Chiso Basin area

 Great Horned Owl above camp one afternoon

Old homestead on the Rio Grande.  Bluffs in the foreground are in Mexico.


Wish we could have stayed longer but we're working our way towards Dallas/Forth Worth for the next tradeshow.  More later.

Thursday, March 16

Back on the Road

Home for the next five months.

The five-month trip finally got under way after some mechanical issues which included the meeting and ride along with not one, but two tow truck drivers.  All in one afternoon.  A few days before the trip after doing some rewiring the Chinook decided not to start.  I couldn't trace the problem so had the rig towed to a car stereo place to remove the after market alarm system.  With the system twenty years old I'd been having some trouble with it recently and made the assumption, incorrectly, that this was the problem.  After determining that the alarm system wasn't the problem another tow was in order to the Ford dealership. Was a short of some type in the fuse box!  I'd checked and re-checked but didn't locate it.  I didn't get to talk with the actual mechanic but $284 dollars to Ford and two tows later.... I was back in business.  Tiffany was riding south with me for the first leg of the trip where we were headed to the Bay area for the first show. After my first trade show, I now have a completely different outlook on what happens at a trade show from the vendors perspective.  It's a lot of work!

Tiffany of Totally-Tiffany

After the first show, we were scheduled to be in Albuquerque in a week.  Next stop was Vegas where Tiffany would fly out en-route to Tampa where she'd be appearing on the Home Shopping Network Channel.  After Tampa, she'd fly back to Albuquerque where we'd meet up again.  In between Vegas and Albuquerque I'd be free to do what Petey and I signed up for.....roam about. While in Vegas though....we got married in true Vegas style, at a drive-thru chapel.  Just like going to McDonald's with a different outcome.  Can you believe someone would actually go through with it and marry me?  Go figure.  After 9 years together it was time.  Following day Petey and I were solo again with a week to roam.

Petey....somewhere in Arizona.

While out walking around ducked into this beautiful church during mass.

Petrified National Park....Arizona.

Next stop was somewhere I'd wanted to check out on previous trips to the Southwest but never seemed to make it happen.  Chaco Canyon ruins in New Mexico.  I should have come in here earlier while either on the motorcycle or with the truck camper.  This is not a road to be pulling a loaded trailer down as it's about 20 miles of rough dirt road getting here from the south.  The problem I had, and one I heard about, later on, was that all the product for the next trade show was covered in dust.  In forty miles you can pick up a lot of dust! Everything had to be wiped down.  I've promised the boss that this will be my last extended dirt road trip pulling her product.  The site is well worth visiting if you're into old Indian ruins and culture.  The sites are amazing and they have a nice primitive style campground nearby.

It was on to another show in Albequrque where we checked out the Old Town District one night.

After four days in Albequrque, I dropped Tiffany back off at the airport where she'd fly home before meeting me in Dallas at the end of March.  With over two weeks to kill, Petey and I were back in roam about mode.

My kind of establishment.

Posting outside the No Scum Allowed Saloon.  
Wonder if he lost it while inside drinking?

Lots of open country in New Mexico.

 Late night shot from an old cemetery where we camped for the night.

Spent a few hours checking out the tombstones and came across this.

 Currently in White Sands National Monument.

 Petey and I have been hiking and exploring the dunes most evenings.

After a long hike, Petey likes to nap on the way back to camp.

We'll be leaving here soon, en-route to God knows where, Carlsbad Caverns and Big Bend National Park before the next show in Dallas.

Monday, January 23

Lost Coast....almost.

Driving the beach off Fort Stevens.  Wreck of the Peter Iredale.

One last opportunity to take off for a week or so before heading east in late February.  More on this trip later but it will consist of being on the road for about four months.  Tiffany had a business trip down to Arizona last week so Petey and I decided to head down to the Lost Coast in Northern California for some roaming about time.  Having been several times it is the highlight of the west coast area.  Always a gamble to go this time of the year due to the weather but we figured what the hell, how bad can it be.  As it turned out, pretty bad....towards the end of the trip.  As I'm typing this I just heard over the radio that the bay area has received more rain in January since they began tracking rainfall.   Since we had no itinerary or set destination it wasn't that big of a deal. First few days were good, last few not so much.  A good time was still had. One major benefit of traveling this area during the winter months is lack of people.  The Oregon/California coast during the summer is crawling with them.  Personally, I'll take the less than perfect weather and solitude.  We left Tacoma, dropped south to Olympia and then made a bee line for the coast.  From there we worked our way south over the next week stopping to explore, hike and check out some areas we hadn't been in before. 

Newport Oregon

Wreck of the Peter Iredale on the Oregon Coast.  It went down in 1906 and this is what remains.  With four-wheel drive, you can access this and drive up and down the coast for miles in either direction during low tide.   Broke camp inland and got out here about an hour before sunrise. Was glad to have the truck out here as it was well below freezing and windy.  Being able to sit in the truck and drink coffee awaiting the sunrise was a bonus. It was....take a few pics, back to the truck, warm up, suck down more coffee....back out, few more pics and repeat.   Went back for the sunset (below) that evening.  

For the next few days, we kept working south on the Oregon coast.  The vistas are never ending and when the weather cooperates it's tough to beat this area.

 Shores Acre State Park.  I had hoped that the storm sitting off the coast would bring some of the huge waves that this area is known for but I was a few days early and after spending a day and night here decided to move on.  Here is a video from the net worth watching of the area during such an event.  I need to get back here and witness this first hand.

Astoria, Oregon.

Cape Arago Lighthouse

Full moon setting when up early one morning.

During a short hike late one afternoon I watched this poor fella come out of the surf and work his way up the beach.  You could tell something wasn't right with him.  Pretty sure they don't come ashore like this alone.  Got to this point and didn't even acknowledge that I was in the area.  I could walk right up on him and no response at all. Still breathing but seemed to be laboring with each breath.  The following morning it wasn't that far to get back to this cove so I hiked back in to see if he was still there.  Still in the exact same spot and now evident that it was dying.  Felt sorry for the old guy.

Once I got towards the southern part of Oregon, the weather was looking bad. Heavy winds, as in 50-60 MPH, and rain were forecast along the Lost Coast area.  Plus, I had already encountered some slide areas that were being cleared along some of the back roads.  Where I was headed, I doubted the roads would even be passable.  Most of them are dirt and are not priority when closed due to slides or downed trees.  One area I had wanted to get back to was Sinkyone Wilderness State Park.  The road going in drops rapidly to the coast and is susceptible to being closed in severe weather.  I've heard of people being in there and not being able to get out for a few days due to a road closure. It's one way in and one way out so there are no alternate routes.  So, based on the forecast, the Lost Coast area was out.  I headed back inland, hiked and hung out in the Redwoods for a couple of days and then worked further inland to the Six Rivers National Forest area.  Weather wasn't anything to write home about as we had winds and rain but nothing like the coast was getting.  Explored some new areas I hadn't been in before so it wasn't a total bust.

California was getting hit hard with the heavy rains and this scene came up several times during the trip.

 Abandoned general store and post office in Zenia, Ca. (pop. 180)

 Back road in California


 Roosevelt Elk
A roof that has seen a little rain over the years.  Back road in California.

Large old oak with a light dusting of snow and the fog early one morning from camp.

I'll wrap this post up with a couple of people I met.  I always seem to run into some interesting characters when out on the road and this trip didn't disappoint.  I never did get her name but I'll refer to her as the  Dachshund Lady.  She had four on leash, two in the stroller and two more back home.  The six she had with her were barking none stop and giving her nothing but trouble.  She had spotted Petey and stopped to talk but that was next to impossible.  They were a loud, rambunctious mass.  She's attempting to ask about Petey while screaming over the chaos of her herd, untangling the mess and tending to the two in the stroller.  It was quite a sight.  Petey just stood there looking up at me with that WTF look.  From what little bit I could get from her I was able to gather that she is a major, and I mean major, lover of Dachshunds.  You'd have to be to put up with that herd and sport that headgear in public.

I ran into Brant along the coast as well.  He was pulling the tarped trailer headed north with his dog and I struck up a conversation.  He had made his rig from  a couple of wagons, covered it in a tarp with some duct tape.  Had his sleeping bag, stove and was all set up to be out of the weather each night.  He'd  been in the Marines for four years and had currently been working as a helicopter mechanic when that job ended due to some cut backs.  Decided he needed an adventure so he made his home on wheels, rigged up a harness for him and his buddy, pointed it north and started Alaska.  That's right, he was walking to Alaska.  Now that's an adventure.

Soon as Petey gets some rest we'll be back out on the road soon.