Monday, September 26, 2016

Had to split up the 'catch-up' post due to the number of photos. This catches it up until we leave on 09/30.

08/22 to 24 –El Malpais National Monument, Grants NM

The Spanish originally explored this area and gave it the name “El Malpais” which means Bad Country or Badlands.  They gave it this name because they could not use their horses to cross much of the area, as it was (and still is) covered by lava flows.  As the lava cooled cracks were created, some very large, which prevented them from effectively utilizing the animals.  Additionally, water is fairly scarce in the area, which contributes to the “Badlands” connotation.  In fact, the only consistent source of water in the area is at El Morro National Monument, over 40 miles to the west.
In order to make some use of our two days in Grants, we took an afternoon to tour the eastern side of El Malpais National Monument and Conservation Area.  We stopped at the Sandstone Bluffs to take in the view of the valley to the west.  On the side of the road out to the Bluffs, we came across a ruin of a rock house.  The view of Mount Taylor, the largest local volcanic cone, was impressive.  When we got to the Sandstone Bluffs, the view of the valley is not only spectacular, but one can really see the impact of the lava flows, the most recent of which is only 3900 years old.  The lava is visible between the small scrubby vegetation, giving the valley floor the appearance of an irregular green/black patchwork.  The only 'wildlife' we saw though was the critter on the photo (either a large squirrel or a prairie dog, as there were others around that area) plus a little chipmunk or small squirrel and a lizard (barely discernible on a rock (see if you can see him/her on the photo.)

Can you see the face in the rock? (top looking right)

Can you see the lizard?

Can you see the rock FACE (at the top).

Can you see the Skull (or is it a Monkey)?

Can you see the face (looking left, with a beard) 



While on the bluffs, we noted a couple about 100 feet away, who were VERY close to the edge of the cliffs.  They started up a conversation, indicating that they were there because her grandmother had just passed away and their purpose was to honor her spirit.  By standing on the top of the cliffs and facing into the wind, they were breathing in her spirit.  They were members of two different local clans of the Acoma clan.  We had a fascinating conversation about their beliefs about honoring the spirit of the departed.  They also pointed out various items in the landscape and described how they were used in the native culture.  In the top of the stone bluffs were some depressions, some of which appeared to have been man made.   They were.  Our new Indian friends explained how the depressions at the top of the bluff were used for soaking their feet and the importance of the tadpoles that were swimming in the water of one of them, as they are supposed to possess superior spiritual powers.  They also explained how to make a tea from sprigs of the evergreen next to us.  The tea is excellent for bronchial infections.  They also explained how to make a tea from a type of grass that grows along the road.  Before they left they asked to keep in touch, as they had so enjoyed sharing their culture with us.  A few minutes after they left, they came back.  They had identified the grass that they were telling us about, stopped to gather some and came back to bring it to us, so that we could try making a tea out of it.

On down the road we stopped to see the Ventana Arch, the largest natural arch in New Mexico. 

We stayed at the Bar S RV Park, which we had read about with positive reviews for a short stay. The RV park was OK but nothing special; yet at $22/night with full hook up (Good Sam) it really was a Good place to stay for a few days to use it as a base to tour the area.  We’ll probably stay there again, to finish exploring the parts of the area we didn’t get to see.  There are nearly 30 volcano cones in the area, along with ice caves, which is why the area is called the land of Fire and Ice.  Then there is El Morro, with its inscriptions in the ruins at the top of the cliffs and then there are the lava tubes and bat caves to hike to and the Wolf Sanctuary to visit. Next time.

09/03 – Texas A&M Game Watching in Conroe TX
Bill is a Texas A & M grad, so being here close to College Station and Bryan has given him an opportunity to show me around the area where he went to school.  It has changed more than a bit in the last 30 years.  It has given me a chance to learn more about A & M and the school’s culture.  For the first game of the year, we headed to Wings and More where the local A & M Alumni group was meeting to watch the game against UCLA.  We were late getting there because we elected to stay at the motor home and watch the Michigan/Hawaii football game.  What a great game – the Michigan game that is (M-63, H-3).  The Aggie game was more if a nail biter, going into OT, but the Aggies pulled it out 31-24.  Full disclosure, Mary had to purchase Aggie shirts to wear for the games and when we are in Indiana, we will take a side trip to Ann Arbor, where Bill will be required to pick up a couple of Michigan shirts.  Yes, we are a house divided, but at least it isn’t an Aggie/Longhorn or Michigan/Ohio State rivalry that is between us. 

09/24 - We now have some “yard ornaments.” 
We have an American garden flag on a stanchion with solar spot lights on it at night and as of yesterday, we also have Texas A & M and University of Michigan garden flags on display.  We have also started an herb garden in a planter, parsley and chives at the moment, with plans to add Basil and cilantro or something else. 
That is it from roughingitgently for the moment.  We’re headed to Indiana on the 30th and will be in Decatur on the 15th to prepare for having Fleetwood work on our coach.  We don’t know how long it might take to have everything completed, so again we’re standing by to stand by reminds Bill of military life, while someone is working on our coach.   When Fleetwood finishes the work, if we have time, we’ll head to South Carolina and have Freightliner perform some mileage-scheduled maintenance on the coach, then back to Florida.  NEXT POST will be from Indiana.
NEXT POST: October 2016 - At Indiana and Michigan 

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