The forces of Mother Nature on display for us mere mortals to look at in wonder
When I took my trips to the southwest in the 1990s I never made it to Zion. It too was high on my bucket list of places to visit along with the North Rim and Glacier.
As with the North Rim – I was not disappointed! The forces of Mother Nature on display for us mere mortals to look at in wonder. I tried to imagine the pressure and changes over the millennia that formed the landscape. Amazing!
It was very crowded which forced us to park away from the visitors center at the campground. On the way over Jake got in the stream for a quick cool-down. Bad move on my part as the streams were known to contain a neurotoxin from a type of algae. Dogs were particularly susceptible!
A Ranger at the visitor center alerted me and two of them helped me rinse Jake off. I was scared but when I read about it I was not too concerned that he was exposed. However, I truly thanked those Rangers for helping me out.
Because the crowds we so large we did not get to take the tour. Never the less, we enjoyed the views and took our time driving and getting a closer look at the fantastic scenery!
John had visited the park in the Winter and talked about how it looked with snow added to the mix. Sounds like I just might have to come back and see for myself one day and take in more of this magical place!
One of the first places to visit on my bucket list
I first visited the south rim of the Grand Canyon in the 90s while living in Colorado. I had always heard the North Rim was quite a bit different than the South and wanted to visit. It was one of the first pins I dropped on my bucket list of places to visit.
It has been over 25 years now and I was not disappointed! Given that the region is in a serious drought I found it to be very green and more in your face than I remember the south rim. We visited the main Visitor Center and hiked the trail out to Bright Angel Point.
We thoroughly enjoyed the visit – Jake did great given he heat and the crowds!
We drove two days from Alamogordo, New Mexico to Kanab, Utah.
The trip started with a good ‘Oh Fuck’ early as we climbed a summit in New Mexico. As I reached the summit I saw a pickup come over the rise pulling a single axle trailer swinging wildly back and forth in a classic case of Terminal Trailer Fuckery. Obviously the trailer was loaded and equipped improperly (or the driver was just a giant sack of shit). Anyway – as soon as I saw it (in slow motion dis-belief) it was gone. Hope the SOB didn’t take someone less fortunate than I out 😖.
Valley of Fires
Back to reality. We first saw this aberration in the landscape on the navigation display. Curious as to what a giant, irregular, black shape could be we soon discovered it was the Valley of Fires (Carrizozo Malpais) outside Carrizozo, New Mexico.
The black rock seen everywhere is a lava flow. The flow is estimated to be around 5,000 years old. The site is 20 miles northwest of the Trinity site and White Sands.
Very Large Array
This was a pleasant surprise for a SciFi nut like me 😎. I saw the road signs calling out the ‘VLA’ and had a pretty good idea what it was. I was not at all surprised when I saw it as I have seen it many times before in various SciFi movies.
We stopped on the overnight right over the border in Greer, Arizona. Situated in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in the White Mountains of Arizona. A beautiful if not a bit out of the way campground.
We were treated the next morning to temperatures in the 40s and a killer sunrise at 5AM (Arizona never adopted daylight savings time so the sunrises very early indeed!).
We drove out of the mountains the next morning to Flagstaff. We stayed that night at a large KOA and explored famous Route 66!
Horseshoe Bend – Paige, Arizona
The next morning we did our final leg through Arizona on our way to Kanab. Just outside of Paige is the well known Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River. Jake and I did the hike with throngs of other people to see the views. Breathtaking!
We arrived later that afternoon in Kanab, met up with our friends Dan, Maggie and John and began our week exploring southern Utah!
It’s all happening in Kanab! Seriously – this place is home to so much incredible scenery and adventure it’s mind boggling!
The Jakester and I arrived on Monday as did our old friends Dan & Maggie Matheson and Dan’s brother John. He’s a summary of the activities so far:
North Rim Grand Canyon
More intimate than the more majestic South Rim
Simply stunning – beyond belief. Glad I finally made it here and glad it was worth the wait (and then some!)
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
The ‘other side’ meaning adventure. Like White Sands you can ‘sandboard’ the dunes. Unlike White Sands you can also explore by dune buggy or ATV. Looked like a lot of fun. The Jakester could not take the heat the sand!
A long drive along a dirt and rocky road (thanks Dan!) reveals fantastic views of the canyon. We went late in the afternoon to catch the sunset – incredible!
Indian Canyon Pictograph Trail
Near Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Dan drove a soft sand road to a trail head for photos of thousand year old pictographs. Unfortunately, the Jakester’s paws could not take the 90º+ temperatures and we had to stay at the trail head.
Today we start our continuing excellent adventure heading for Dinosaur. We had a great time with Dan, Maggie and John and really fell in love with the Kanab area. We will be back I am sure!
I explore the town I was born in and close-by White Sands National Park
Or second destination in the Adventure is my ‘original’ home town of Alamogordo, New Mexico. I was born here in 1955 exactly one year and one week after my parents were married. Mom was pregnant with me when she flew out here to meet Dad who drove out earlier.
We did not live here long before moving to San Diego, California where brother Rick was born 18 months later. I returned once – albeit briefly – on a cross country trip in 1978.
There are two significant aspects about this area that have been part of my life. The space program, which has played a huge part in out family, and the Manhattan project – specifically the Trinity Test site – from the 1940s which played such a huge part in our recent past. This occurred here because of what is now White Sands National Monument. I was interested in learning about both.
Jake and I drove from Lovecraft on Wednesday. The scenery changed dramatically as we dropped down out of the Lincoln National Forrest into the Tularosa Basin of the Chihuahuan Desert. Alamogordo was founded in the late 1800s to support the expansion of the railroad. It is an early example of a planned community laid out on a grid whose streets are named after the states. Interestingly enough we lived on Florida Street which is now one of the main drags through town. The old part of town was rather run-down looking but there were a lot of examples of growth. Seems like it is still a one-horse town supporting Holloman Air Force Base.
Thursday I put the Jakester in Doggie Day Care at a somewhat sketchy but ultimately perfectly fine facility just outside of town. I had forgotten this is the big memorial day weekend and the closer facilities were booked.
I visited downtown and the Alamogordo Museum of History which had some fascinating displays of the local area, White Sands and especially the Trinity site. I had goose-bumps when I noticed a very early instrument used to measure nuclear activity which was a precursor to the instrumentation I used as a graduate in Nuclear Engineering at the University of Washington. There are also several monuments for notable people form local history and for the military. An old water tower erected during the railroad still stands guard on the entrance to downtown!
Later that afternoon I paid a visit to the New Mexico Museum of Space History just east of town set in the foothills. I was very impressed with the museum – they had a great collection of artifacts from the activities that Holloman has supported or been involved with.
Inside where five floors of exhibits that widely varied in nature. They are busy adding more attractions too. In particular these caught my eye.
A display of artist Chrystal Jackson’s work on the early space program. She was one of several artists commissioned by NASA in the early 1960s to capture the space race from and artists perspective. Some very cool paintings of live in Cocoa Beach and surrounding areas in the ’60s.
A display on the impact of inertial navigation and the space program. This was of significant importance to successfully launch and navigate. It was also my Dad’s area of expertise that carried on through his work on Apollo and the Space Shuttle.
A great display of Star Trek memorabilia!
I also spoke with the staff about visiting the Trinity Site. Tours are arranged twice a year for people to visit and the next availability is not until April 2022! They also had some very small and expensive samples of trinitite. This was the mineral formed during the blast. My Dad had a box of the stuff when we were kids that would have been worth thousands if it had not turned to dust over the years!
On the way to pick up Jake I made a stop at a well-advertised local tourist trap McGinn’s PistachioLand! The featured attraction is the world’s largest pistachio and hosted tours of the pistachio orchards.
Jake survived the day just fine and we headed back to the Excellent Adventure.
On Friday Jake and I visited White Sands National Park. First, however, we towed the Excellent Adventure to repair shop in the area to fix the air conditioner!
White Sands is the world’s largest gypsum dunefield. It was formed by gypsum runoff from nearby mountains then ‘worked’ by the wind over the millennia to produce a very fine white sand (and dust). It is full of both plant and animal life – the most striking plants were the beautiful soap tree yucca.
The park had a lot of visitors – especially a lot of families with young children riding the dunes on sleds. We enjoyed the drive and hiking the nature trails and boardwalk over the dunes. While it was not a hot day, the blazing sun really took it out of you! The sand was cool too touch partially because it is so white it reflects most of the light. Jake and I both sucked down the water!
We enjoyed the drive and then headed back to pickup Adventure and bask in air conditioning once again!
Tomorrow we head west again and leave New Mexico – this time to the mountains in Greer, Arizona. I had fun discovering my ‘roots’ and look forward to meeting my friends Dan, Maggie and John at the Grand Canyon on Monday.
The trip across Texas was largely uneventful albeit exciting none the less!
The first day was spent driving through the rage’n Cajun country! Miles of trestle bridges over the low country until I got to Shreveport Louisiana for the evening stop. The KOA there was very nice and we headed towards Dallas the next day.
The next day proved to be more exciting as we finally crossed the dreaded LA/TX border. I immediately noticed two things:
Every thing took on a redish hue 😏 (but fortunately I did not bump into Ted Cruz)
There are apparently no speed limits especially if you are a semi-truck!
Yes – welcome to the United States crappiest highways and fastest fucking drivers! The speed limit suggestion (if you can find a sign) is 75 mph and it seems regardless if it is an Interstate or a two lane road through bum-fuck.
Then it started raining. Raining hard. As I got closer to Fort Worth the rain got harder. Did that slow the trucks down? No fucking way! In the space of ten miles I saw three major accidents all involving jack knives semi’s. What fun this is 😖.
Well – needless to say we made it through that evening to Eastland Texas for our only overnight. The park I stayed that night seemed to cater to long term residents especially work crews. Fortunately it was dry – at least when I got there! By morning it all turned to shit and I got to do my first tear down in the rain! I donned my raincoat, rain pants and hiking boots and got ‘er done!
The next day was our final day through Texas. It rained hard through mid-morning – so hard I had to pull over for a while. IOt finally cleared up to reveal a pretty country-side with rolling hills and Mesquite trees. A lot of oil wells and then something unexpected – miles of wind farms!
Pretty soon I came across some very large solar farms too. So all three forms of energy generation were there – oil, wind and sun! I also started to understand why the RV Parks were full of workers! Looks like the wild, wild, west is back!
By the end of the day we had reached our goal! My ‘original’ home state of New Mexico!
We ended staying in cheap no-frills RV park that night with a half a dozen other trailers that looked like they had not moved in a while.
Tomorrow our second stop in my ‘original’ home town of Alamogordo!
Our first stop – a New Orleans wedding reception for my nephew Adam and his beautiful bride Zeynab!
We arrived safely at the NOLA (New Orleans Louisiana) with some interesting challenges along the way!
On the way to brother Dave’s house on the 19th we ended up getting a nail in one of the trailer tires. Thankfully I was immediately aware because of the TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) I installed before I left. Good move on my part for sure after reading tails of what could have happened. But it did not and we met some interesting people which actually re-instilled a sense of faith in this country for me.
We arrive here safely on Thursday with no incidents on our way from Panama City and with some trouble found the KOA campground near the airport. the drive here was through territory relatively new to me (in the past 40 years at least) as will be the rest of the journey until I hit Fort Collins.
Driving in this city is fucking crazy – worse than Atlanta and Atlanta is pretty bad. Once I got the trailer setup I setup the X6 for Sport mode and took it in stride. I am amazed how well the X6 drove in heavy fast traffic!
The KOA here is in a compound of sorts but very nice and not too full. It took me about 30 minutes to get to where everyone else was staying.
We visited with them Thursday evening. Friday I dropped Jake off at Pet Paradise boarding and helped them setup the venue.
Zeynab and Adam’s Reception
The reception was held at the Marigny Opera House slightly east (down-river) of the French Quarter. An old Catholic Church turned into a Opera House and then abandoned after Hurricane Katrina. It has been partially restored now by the local community and serves as a multipurpose venue including weddings and performances.
This is the first time the whole Tubridy family has been together since Kari & Carl’s wedding in Florida in 2019. Zeynab’s Family was there in force from the Washington DC area. Zeynab family is from Somalia and they all belong to the same tribe! Her mother was going to school in the US and forced to stay here after political unrest in her country some 30 years ago before Zeynab was born.
After a great meal of traditional local cuisine (and boy does NOLA have cuisine!) the main act arrived. A fantastic performance by a traditional New Orleans Jazz Band the Young Fellaz played for several hours and included a second line march around the opera house!
The event was very special – as special as Adam and Zeynab are. It was great to meet her family – now part of ours – and what the future will hold!
Saturday we all got together with Adam, Zeynab and her mother Fay for a great brunch at Broussard’s – a famous dining establishment in the French Quarter. I was fascinated as Fae told us the story of her family in Somalia.
I picked up Jake later that day – he did better than I expected and of course everyone loved him. We headed back to the Excellent Adventure and prepared for our journey to Alamagordo!
I have thoroughly enjoyed the last couple of weeks doing the final preparations for the first trip. Here’s the stops we’ll be making:
New Orleans, Louisiana
May 20-22: Hanging out with my entire family for the first time since Mom’s funeral to celebrate my nephew Adam marriage to Zeynab Abdulgadir last year during the pandemic. They are hosting a reception on Friday night at the Marigny Opera House.
Alamogordo, New Mexico
May 26-28: I was born here in 1955. Dad was stationed here at Holloman Air Force Base working on the early space program. He moved back with newly married & pregnant Mom after leaving the Air Force and joining Goodyear Aerospace who was one of the contractors working on the program. White Sands missile test range is here as well as the famous Trinity test site where the first atomic bomb was detonated as part of the Manhattan project.
May 31- June 5: I’ll be meeting my friends Dan and Maggie Matheson here near the north rim of the Grand Canyon and south of Zion. They have been here before so I will let them act as a tour guide and see the north rim of the canyon, Zion, Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell and other sites they know about.
This blog starts where the last one left off – with the death of my beautiful Mother Betty.
Mom passed away in October of 2019 on the one year anniversary of Dave & Lisa’s house being destroyed by hurricane Michael. My cousin Sandra came down from Delaware for her funeral service.
Then 2020 hit like a Tsunami! Dave and Lisa made a trip in the Summer to check out Rick & Myhra’s new digs in Rockledge. We were able to get together at Mom’s final resting spot at St Josephs in Palm Bay.
Several years before my retirement I started thinking about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I have always had in the back of my mind that it would be fun to travel the USA in a RV of some sort. The idea began to take shape and I created a map with all of the places I could think of to visit. Over the next couple of years I would add places to the map.
Now that I own a boat my initial idea was to buy a small motor home of some sort. I started looking at those but at the same time didn’t care much for the idea of have a large vehicle like that as a tow vehicle. I also felt it would really restrict what I could do on the road.
In late 2019 I got a visit from my good friends Dan and Maggie Matheson from Colorado. They visited in their Winnebago RV that they have owned now for several years and made many trips. I was very impressed and started thinking this might be the way to go.
I have owned some sort of SUV since my days in Colorado in the 1990s. I had seen the BMW X6 a few times and was instantly drawn to it’s unique styling. I checked into it as a tow vehicle and determine it would fit my bill perfectly. I could tow it to the destination and then enjoy the X6 to drive and see the sites.
I started looking right at the peak of the pandemic and found a low-mileage, red (of course) 2016 X6 in South Florida. Research told me to stay away from the bigger motor and everything I read said the V6 had plenty of power (boy howdy!) For a month they wouldn’t even talk to me because of the shutdowns. I was finally able to pick it up around Memorial Day. It was of course a blast to drive although a very different ride than my past Porsche and Mercedes SUVs. And yes – plenty of power and awesome stick with a twin-turbo 3 liter through a 8 speed high tech wizardry transmission and drive systems.
Does one actually take vacations when they are retired?
Me to Jake
Later that Summer Jake & I did our first trip in the X6 to North Carolina to spend my birthday with Brother Dave and Lisa. We enjoyed the idea of getting away (even in retirement) I decided to start looking for a RV. I started to embrace my Dad’s concept of going on vacation when you are retired!
By the end of the summer I was set. I research and found a Micro Minnie slightly smaller than Dan & Maggies and new 2021 model. I was very impressed with the quality of fit and finish when I looked at it. It took me a while to figure out the equipment I needed to safely tow the trailer including lowering the suspension to be more compatible with the X6.
The rest of 2020 was spent outfitting the trailer. In March of this year we took a shakedown trip to a campground just north of Gainesville. I was very happy with the way the X6 and trailer handled although not so much with the nearly 50% drop in fuel mileage! The layout and features fit Jake and I very well it seems.
Meanwhile back at the Beach
Before any of this transpired I first started taking the steps to build my dream workshop out in the backyard. Also something that I had been thinking about since my brother Dave planted the seed at Mom’s funeral. He suggested I look into a portable shed to put in my backyard and build out a workshop. After some research I found what I was looking for with a 12 x 20 foot shed built in south Georgia and shipped by truck to yours truly in Cocoa Beach.
The execution was straight forward – I opened a part of the back fence and made sure they could get the shed down the drop in the back of my yard. It all went well and soon the shed was in place.
I added a 100 amp power circuit and proceeded to insulate and panel the shed, build shelving and hang the appropriate tools after figuring out how to put all the tools jammed into the garage into the new digs. I was worried that it would be too tight but ultimately those fears were dispelled after optimizing the layout.
As an added bonus I got the garage back! The M Coupe is much happier being inside these days and I actually drive it a lot more now that it’s easier to do. I also have been able to setup a second workshop for household and auto work saving the workshop for more refined activities!