Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Mexico

The drive from Oklahoma through Texas and down to New Mexico was a very strange trek. The scenery stayed the same most of the time, bright red dirt (the only white-ish shirt I own is now orange spotted haha), bristly sage brush and yuccas dotting the desert floor, and a bright blue sky that goes on forever! Through Texas though the scenery was broke up by factory farms. I had only read about them/saw photos in text books but seeing them in real life is an experience in itself! I'm still not sure how I feel about them, the cattle get plenty of room to move, they have food bins and water troffs everywhere so they're not dehydrating/starving, but all they do is stand in acres and acres of red dirt-sand in the hot sun. I saw a couple fighting over a little hill to stand on (playing king of the mountain?haha) But I felt like I was looking at a concentration camp. Like that would be what Auschwitz looked like from a distance (with similar end results).
Those lasted all through the Texas Panhandle (yeah I know it's not a panhandle but that's what they call it) right up to the TX - NM border. From there it was desert, desert, desert. After driving too long through the desert it really does do something to your head. The map would say there's a town ahead, then I would pass a house and it'd be back to desert. This was very unhandy when the gas gauge kept creeping lower and lower and I'd tell my truck, "There's a town on the map, we can make it to there.", and it'd be a house. Light reflecting off some distant semi looks like a town in the distance, when it drives past you, you start questioning yourself. When I came upon Roswell I didn't believe it at first, I thought it another mirage till exit signs came into view and I knew I finally made it!
I had contemplated camping in Roswell, it was still a few more hours drive to Traci's house, so I drove around town for a bit. What a mess of a town, there really isn't anything in Roswell, other than very rude people! So I got my gas and a 99cent hot dog and left! The rest of the drive wasn't as bad as before, I had to travel through the mountains so it gave me something new to look at! And Oh My Goodness the mountains were soooo cool! Temperature and scenery wise. Evergreens, rocky cliffs, resorts, Smokey Bear's home... so very different from the desert! When I got to the other side of the mountains the view over town was breathtaking! The world went on forever! I made it down the mountain and caught up with Traci and settled in! What a drive!
The next day Traci had to work so I went out exploring! I went over to White Sands National Monument, WOW it's incredible there!
White Sand Dunes NM
White Sand Dunes NM
White Sand Dunes NM
That little black dot in the mid right of the photo is a person!
Some of the dunes are 30-60ft high!
White Sand Dunes NM
The only way the plants can grow here is by tunneling all the way down through the sand into the desert soil below to find water. Some of the yuccas that looked 2ft tall on the dunes were really 32ft tall! Then when the winds move the dunes the yuccas being too top heavy fall over and die.
You might be asking, how is there white sand in the red desert? Well I'll tell you hahaha. The mountains you see in the far distance of some of the photos are full of gypsum that washes down from the mountains and fills the Tularosa Basin (the area between the San Andres and Sacramento mountain ranges) With no outlet to the sea, water flowing into the Tularosa Basin either sinks into the ground or pools up in low spots. One of the lowest points in the basin is a large playa called Lake Lucero. Occasionally, this dry lakebed fills with water. As the water evaporates, the dissolved gypsum is deposited on the surface. Even more gypsum deposition occurred during the last Ice Age when a larger lake, Lake Otero, covered much of the basin. The Alkali Flat area is the exposed bed of this Ice Age lake. In wet periods, water evaporating slowly on the playa floor causes gypsum to be deposited in a crystalline form called selenite. Along Lake Lucero's shore and in the Alkali Flat, beds of selenite crystals—some three feet long—cover the ground. The forces of nature— freezing and thawing, wetting and drying—eventually break down the crystals into sand-size particles light enough to be moved by the wind.
Really awesome!!!
White Sand Dunes NM
Then the storms started rolling in so I went back home.
The next day Traci got off work so she and I went to the Air Force Base where she worked (haha leave work and end up back at work) It was pretty neat! It's its own world there!
Air Force Base NM

Then we went touring a pistachio farm! I had never tried a pistachio before, omg yum!!
Pistachio Field NM
Field of Pistachios
Pistachios NM
Fresh from the tree-bush!

The next day she and I went up in the mountains to the casino (since neither of us have ever been to one) then to see the old train trellis in Cloud Croft.
Casino View NM
View from the casino!
The casino was a lot of fun! I can see how easy it would be to get in trouble there! The best I did was won $100, then thinking I could make more than that on a dollar 5card machine I went down to $52. Haha $100's about the best you can do on one of those machines, but I still went home with a profit so it's all good! :)
We then drove to Cloud Croft, such a pretty drive! The mountains are beautiful!! We then hiked down a twisty turny up and down hill trail back to the train trellis.
Train Trellis Cloud Croft NM
When we were just a hundred feet or so from the end of the trail it starts pouring! So we wait, and wait, and I ask the sky to stop so I can get a few photos, so it stops and I run out from under the trees, grab a few shots, then it starts pouring again! I thank the sky and we head back. It was really neat there though, I can't imagine being on a train going over that! (A lot of the trains couldn't imagine it either since many jumped the tracks!) The hike back was nice, eventually the rain stopped and the sun came out, but the thunder was picking up so we headed to the car before it started storming storming!
Mountains NM
View of the mountains from the mountains
The next day (Saturday) she and I went to Las Cruces to go shopping and see the sites over there. Super adorable town just past Las Cruces (can't remember the name) but it's exactly what you'd imagine when you think of NM. Little shops built to look old in the Adobe style with chili peppers hanging everywhere! From there we
headed towards the Rio Grande, but on the way saw something very interesting...
Road Runner Statue NM
It was really neat, he was made out of recycled shoes/odds and ends!
We then made it to the Rio Grande!
Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand
With all the rain lately the river was flowing pretty strong!!
From there we headed back to Alamogordo, but on the way we stopped at the Organ Mountains!
Organ Mountains NM
What a sight!!!
Then from the mountains looking toward the desert
Mountain View NM
It just goes on forever and ever!
Desert Flowers NM
It's amazing the amount of color in the desert!
I've had a great time here and Traci makes amazing food!!! But it's time to move along, Rocky Mountains here I come!!
then stopped to take photos of the Organ Mountains

Sunday, July 25, 2010

OK lahoma

On the way to Oklahoma while driving through TX I saw a pack of camels haha better yet, a field full of camels!!! Coolest thing ever!

So many abandoned buildings/houses
Oklahoma countryside.

I finally reached Oklahoma in time to go to the rodeo with Sherri where she was one of the time keepers and her roomie and friends were riding in it! It was a ranch rodeo where everything they do is what they actually do on the ranch. Yeah, there are still real cowboys (that kinda blew my mind!)
Rodeo OK
Rodeo OK
Rodeo OK
They even had events for kids, here the kids were put on sheep and had to try to stay on the longest.
Rodeo OK
It was something else, but it was a lot of fun!
Wind Turbines OK
There were tons of wind turbines around the countryside as well. For being such a huge oil area I thought that was kinda surprising.
But the scenery was absolutely beautiful!
Oklahoma sunset
On the day before I left we went to Sherri's boss's house for a cookout where I got to try calf fries for the first time. What are calf fries you ask, well, they're also known as rocky mountain oysters. Yep. haha But deep fried and covered in breading and not thinking about what they are, they're pretty good. They taste like dark meat chicken just a little more squishy.
I also went to the national route 66 museum in Elk City. It was really interesting to see how we've changed in the way we travel, but we ended up killing our mother road (rt 66).
Oklahoma is such a nice place, everyone knows everyone, everyone looks out for everyone!
On the way out I stopped in Amarillo, TX at the Cadillac Ranch.
Cadillac Ranch TX
And left my mark. :)
It's really a neat thing to see, a row of Cadillacs planted in the dirt and painted by everyone who visits.
From there I headed to New Mexico!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma

I left Mississippi and headed south down to Baton Rouge Louisiana. On the way down a big truck flung a rock into my windshield so now I have a pretty star right under my frame of vision, but I must have positive thoughts that it won't spread so I can get it fixed when I get home! I made it down to Mike's place pretty early (about 1) then we went over to his friend's where we hung out for a bit, got some daiquiris and found the cutest kitten ever! It was a dark calico with a bright orange stripe that looked like a mohawk so we named it Punky Rooster! Unfortunately the neighbor claimed the kitten so she had to stay there. Something really cool about Louisiana is they have stores where you buy daiquiris in big styrofoam cups to go! It's the strangest thing! haha.
Then we went to the state capital (Louisiana's is the largest in the country!)
Baton Rouge State Capitol Building LA
and went to the top where you can see forever!
Baton Rouge, LA

The grounds at the capital were very pretty too,
Swallowtail flowers,

palm trees,
Spanish Moss
spanish moss,
Big tree
big trees, and
Tree growths
weird cypress knees(?)

Exotic Flower LA
Outside of his apartment was this pretty flower!
Natalie (Mike's roomate's girlfriend) and I went to the Louisiana Art and Science museum, there was a real mummy on display which was awesome! It's amazing how well preserved he was! Then we saw the battleship in the Mississippi and ate at Frosttop (a really awesome rootbeer place). It was a lot of fun down there, but I had to move forward!

Next stop was down in New Orleans! Fun fact, there's 15 miles of bridge to get to New Orleans! When I got there it wasn't quite what I had pictured in my mind, still really neat, but in my mind I pictured Burbon Street to be more on a hill where you could see water, sort of like what I imagine France and Italy to look like haha. The architecture was absolutely amazing though! I got there on a weekday morning about 9am and it was already packed! So I didn't end up stopping there. I did, however, stop by one of the old cemeteries downtown. That was so awesome! All the graves/tombs were above ground (the ground is too wet that the caskets would rise right up if buried)
Cemetery New Orleans, LA
Cemetery New Orleans, LA
Cemetery New Orleans, LA

From there I headed up north towards Tyler, TX where I reserved a campsite. On the way there I realized I hadn't ate yet and I needed gas so I stopped at a truck stop that was dressed up to look all old timey with a casino and trading post restaurant. So I stop, get gas, and go inside to eat. I walk inside and the room gets dead quiet, yep a place where the regulars go and I'm a Yankee haha. I take a seat under a deer holding a musket rifle and order my food. A couple of truckers from a table over start talking to me, so we talk and laugh and whatnot for a bit till it was time to leave. Upon leaving they wanted to check out my paintings, so we go to the truck and I get out my paintings and to my amazement/surprise they buy most all of them! :) Angels on the road!

I finally made it to my campsite, set up, and walked around. There I found a great big terrifying snake skeleton
What is this? TX
and a beautiful view!
Pond TX
The site didn't feel right tho, I was all alone (only person in this section) and it was right next to swampy water with alligators around, not to mention there were 2 chupacabres found not far from there just a few days prior. Yes, I believe in chupacabres, big foot (I saw one on Brenn Rd), and aliens! haha. But yeah the site had a bad vibe, so I found another one up on the hill where there were people around so I felt a little better. I set up my tent (if nothing else, to serve as a decoy) and boiled some water for supper then sat down and started writing. Well, I ate, cleaned up and kept writing even tho it was getting dark out, I had my citronella candle and my lantern turned to nightlight, then I start hearing something in the bushes. I ignore it, I mean I'm in a forest, of course there will be critters in the woods! Then I hear something with nails on cement, the only cement around is under the picnic table that I'm sitting on, then I hear a strange noise and feel something trying to bite my leg! I jump up on the table faster than I've ever moved before, I hear it trying to climb up on the table till I turn the light on full brightness and it runs off into the woods. I never did see what it was, maybe a baby chupacabre, maybe an alligator, maybe a raccoon, but whatever it was left a strange little concave mark on my leg! After that I immediately went to bed in back of the truck and stayed there till it was bright as day out! When I woke up I took a shower (they have really nice camp showers there) and made some coffee, then I looked out in the woods and saw two woodpeckers on the same tree! Not the little woodpeckers, these were the Woody the Woodpecker types and had to be nearly 2 foot tall!
two woodpeckers TX
That was really neat to see so close to my site! I then headed out toward Oklahoma, another 6hr drive ahead!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ohio, Tenn, and Mississippi

After leaving PA I headed back to Ohio.
On the way I stopped in Burbank to meet mum and grab some food. Then headed down to Columbus and stayed with Lauren for a few days. Unfortunately she had to work while I was down there but we got to hang out for a bit after work which was fun! :)
From there I headed down to Nashville, Tenn to stay with Karen. I went downtown to see the Parthenon
Pond View
It's a replica of the original Parthenon in Athens, Greece
Beautiful Details
The Parthenon
On the grounds there was a beautiful park!
at the Parthenon
Flowers at the Parthenon
Butterfly at the Parthenon

From there I went down to Broadway and 2nd where all the shops and restaurants are, it's a really neat town, music floating through the streets, delicious food smells all around. Only a few signs of the flood remained, the Opry was closed, and a few windows on the strip had signs.
Evidence of the flood
The architecture was pretty awesome as well!
Oh No! A Spaceship in Nashville!
The combination of the old brick buildings with new style buildings created a unique scene. This photo looks like an alien spaceship landed in Nashville!

BB King's Blues Club

General Jackson's Showboat

When I got back Karen and I grilled steaks and had a nice relaxing evening! The next day I headed out, after building a bookshelf and Karen loaded me up with tons of food for the road! :) It was fantastic!

My next stop was Grenada, Mississippi. "hello mother, hello father, here I am-a, camp Grenada." haha ok maybe I'm the only one who found that funny. Online, I found a pretty state park there to camp the night before so I made reservations only thing was I had to be there by 4. From Nashville there was about a 5 hr drive so it was going to be close "30 minutes, it was going to be close" So I left about 10:30-11 ish so I had time to stop at JoAnne Fabrics to get some canvases and there was a Staples next door so I sent my dear Staples-ers a store-to-store fax :) I hope they liked it!
Finally I was on the road! After about 3 hrs of twisty turny roads I made it to Memphis where I realized I would barely make it on time, but I pushed on, staying optimistic and singing to the radio full volume. About 75 miles from the camp it was 3:45(even after the time zone change) so I call them to see if there's any way possible to check in later than 4 and they laughed and said you made reservations don't worry about check in. o_O So I took my grand old time the rest of the way!
When I got there I drove around and checked out the sites, the lake there goes on forever! It's very beautiful! I then stopped at the ranger station and got my pass and directions to my site. When I got there it wasn't quite what I expected, I was thinking I was getting a regular campsite, ya know, grass, place for a tent, etc., turns out it was a hard dirt/paved RV spot. Always making lemonade I decided it was an opportunity to try out my nifty cap-bed-sleeping-area I have set up!
Sleeping arrangements
After I arranged everything and made some ramen noodles (thank you Brittany!<3) I started painting for a bit and a guy drives up in a golf cart and starts asking me about a camper that was for sale next to my campsite, I had no clue about it so we start chitchatting and he said he and his wife were making a big pot of Gumbo and that when his wife got back he'd send her down to pick me up! So I continue painting for a while kinda thinking they forgot about me then she pulls up and we chat for a bit then head over to their site where they're having a family get-together and everyone there was so nice! I had never had gumbo before but OMG it was so good! And there was garlic toast to go with it! Mmmm. Then we all chatted till it got dark so they made me a to-go plate for the morning and took me back to my site. It was Southern Hospitality at its finest! When I got back to my site I noticed one of my camper neighbors sitting outside on a picnic table in the shadows, so I continued doing my thing always keeping half an eye on him just to be sure. Finally I was ready for bed and he was still out there so I figured if I don't introduce myself my mind will wander to worst-case scenarios all night and I wouldn't be able to sleep and it'd be all bad so I head over there to say hi (with my mace and whatnot, don't worry!). So I say hi, introduce myself, and make small talk for a bit. Turns out my neighbor is a retired border control guy who moved up there from Texas and now lives at the camp full time. So we talked for a few hrs and I learned about his family and views on border control (we should have open borders, it's a lost cause, basically like the Speedy Gonzalez cartoons) and about the campsite (apparently most people stay there full time and it's like a big family) So after I knew I was safe I went to bed (with my knife I my pocket) and slept surprisingly well for being in the back of my truck. I only woke up once when the raccoons decided to get in the trash and cause a ruckus. When I woke up my neighbor was making coffee so I joined him for a cup then headed out toward Louisianan! at the Grenada, Miss Dam
View of the lake early morning style. All those dots are dragonflies, they were out there in swarms, I felt bad driving through them but there was no avoiding hitting them. It was really awesome!
Now time for my next adventure!