Friday, March 31, 2023

3/31 The Best Laid Plans ....

Just a little rambling, so if you read my posts to get info on campgrounds, you can skip this one. 

I decided to share that this has been a very disappointing winter.  First, you need to know that I plan my travels at least six months in advance, plotting out routes and making campground reservations in advance.  I do that for a lot of reasons, partly because I am a planner at heart and feel uncomfortable not knowing where I am going and that I will have a pleasant and safe place to stay along the way.  

I also do a lot of research about where I am heading.  After a lot of years traveling, there are some places I really enjoy going to over and over again.  Examples are Valley of Fire and Willow Beach Marina near Las Vegas and Zion National Park in Utah. I have a lot of familiar places I like to go back to, and there are always some new places I have been wanting to see, so I take all of that into consideration when planning my travels.

And of course, I like to bounce around so that I can visit my sons and their families (including grandkids) at least once or twice each year.  And I have mostly been alternating winters between Florida and the Desert Southwest.  I love the views and scenery in the West, but I also like the animals, birds, and oceans in Florida.  

So, this past winter was California and the Desert Southwest.  I drove west during the summer, and because it was too hot in California, I spent September and October in Oregon and Washington, mostly following the coast.  Weather there was perfect with mostly sunny and pleasant days.  In November, when it starts to get rainy in the Northwest, I headed east of the Sierras to my favorite places in Las Vegas and then on to Death Valley and back to California to spend the December holidays with my son and his family. 

EXCEPT, California threw a big wrench into my plans by raining non-stop for weeks and months!  Actually, I would have done better to head back to Washington state!  After some major vehicle repairs, I decided that Arizona was likely to be dryer, so I followed my original plan and headed there. 

Unfortunately, Arizona ended up being a lot colder and even rainier than past years, so I not only stayed damp, but found it was a bit too chilly outside to go for long walks in the desert.  I had to run my two little electric heaters and my rear furnace almost non-stop to stay warm. In fact, in February in Usery Mountain near Mesa, AZ, the normally hard desert sand was actually spongy from all the rain--very strange.  And the cold meant the cactus were not blooming as I had expected.  

And it even snowed in Catalina SP near Tucson!


Normally, you would expect temperatures in Phoenix and Tucson in February would be in the upper 60s and lower 70s, with only occasional rain.  

Anyway, I drove on to New Mexico.  A problem with New Mexico is that it is higher in elevation than most places in Arizona, so you have to stay relatively south until the northern parts warm up. I had some nice days at Rockhound and Oliver Lee State Parks, but when I headed north to a campground I had been to before near Santa Fe, I got into a horrible wind storm and found snow on the ground.  I knew Santa Fe was at about 6,000' in elevation, but it had been relatively pleasant in the past.  Not only did my slide toppers almost tear in my drive across the barren desert, when I got to the campground, temps were below freezing, and have stayed there almost every night since.

Normally, in a campground, people put out chairs and grills around their sites, as well as eat out and socialize.  Not the past week or so here!!  There was one day where people came out briefly, but mostly everyone has made day trips or stayed inside all day.  I have been working on some small projects and spent one day doing a bunch of laundry nearby.  I have made two trips to Santa Fe--one to run errands and do some shopping, and the other to visit museum hill.  I picked my days out for the weather as much as anything else. 

The last two days, we have had strong wind warnings, which means I could not really drive out.  BUT, tomorrow is supposed to be fairly decent and there is not supposed to be strong winds, so I am headed to the historical part of the city to walk around.  I will wear long pants and a couple of layers of sweatshirts.

Wish me luck!  Good news is that I did see a mountain blue bird this afternoon.  He perched on my hood and looked at me.  Very pretty.  And I am headed to Zion next week, where I hope it is a bit warmer and sunnier.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

3/29 Museum Hill, Santa Fe, NM - Part 2

After visiting the folk art museum, I headed across the plaza to the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture.  Primary, this museum had a lot of pottery on display, but I decided to focus on the two sculptures on the outside and the few storyteller images inside.

This warrior was about 15 feet tall!!

And this smaller sculpture tells the story of a real child, who loved hoop dancing but died in a car accident when he was only 8 years old. 

Not a very good photo of the plaque, but it tells about this Santa Fe boy who loved hoop dancing and participating in many contests both locally and across the U.S.  Unfortunately, he died as a result of injuries from a car accident in 2015.  A foundation was started in his honor and this statue was erected in 2017.

There were hundreds of pots in the museum from various periods and locations in the Southwest, but after a while, I focused on the storyteller images in the next slide.

The storyteller figure is common throughout the Indian tribes of the Southwest.  The figure is sitting down with an open mouth, symbolizing talking, and has children on his or her lap and climbing all over him.  This one has seven children listening to his stories.

This figure has eight children listening to his stories.  

Only four children. 

This storyteller is playing a drum while he tells a story. 

And this is a version of a Christmas Nativity group of children singing to the Christ Child.  They are praying and two have shepherd's crooks. 

This storyteller is also playing a drum while singing, and has two children on her ankles, also beating out a rhythm on a sort of drum, while three other children are climbing on him or her. 

If you are interested, I took some photos of some animal storytellers at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque in 2021: Indian Pueblo Cultural Center  I like the frog and the owl storytellers here!!

I also visited the Wheelwright Museum that month and posted some photos.  It has a lot of jewelry, and is certainly worth a visit if you are in this area.   Wheelwright Museum Photos

3/29 Museum Hill, Santa Fe, NM - Part 1

 I decided to break this up into two posts because there is just too much for one post.  

Museum Hill is a place on the outskirts of Santa Fe, where there are several large museums:

  • The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art
  • The Museum of International Folk Art
  • The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture
  • The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian
  • The Santa Fe Botanical Gardens

I had known from past trips that I needed to park in the dirt lot across the street near the botanical museum, but there was lots of space over there.  Also, today was the first warm day since I have been in this area!!  Yea!!  

I had been here before, but it was a long time ago, and I had not visited the Museum of International Folk Art, so I started out there. 

There are three main areas in this museum.  The first is a display of Japanese ghost art, as evidenced by the photos below. 

The next section was Mexican festival art.  Most of the items displayed were 20th Century and typical of face masks, costumes, and characters from various festivals.  

These items were about a foot tall, but very creative.  

Next, occupying the largest part of this museum, The Girard Wing, was a collection of Mexican folk art collected by a couple who traveled to Mexico on their honeymoon in 1939, fell in love with folk art, and came back with several carloads and then truckloads of things.  They also traveled to other parts of the world and continued their amazing collection.  Eventually, they donated 106,000 pieces which were donated to this museum. It is truly amazing!

The items are arranged in large vignettists showing scenes of life and festivals in various places.  I can show you only a sampling, but you really have to go here to appreciate these displays.  

I took this photo to give you an idea of the size of this exhibit room. 

This is just a small sample of one of the vignettes.  

And here is another, more detailed with several hundred figures.  And, by the way, almost all of these vignettes can be seen from all sides, but I took only a few photos. 

This item below is one of several vignettes that were sort of doll houses.  This first photo shows what looks like a toy store. 

This is a closeup of the wall on the left side of the toy store above.  Amazing detail.  Some of these items are less than an inch tall.  

And this is a closeup of the wall on the right of the toy store.  The wall is only about 9" tall, so items are tiny but very detailed.  


In the hallway on the way out, there was this vignette that was only about 30" tall.  In the next photo I took a closeup on the middle level.  The whole display is of a festival of some sort. 

Lots of prickly pear cactus in fruit in this vignette.  Most of the figures were only about an inch tall.  Maybe a 100 items in each level??  

 Anyway, I did not know what to expect from this museum, but I was certainly impressed at least with this part of it.  

Sometimes, parts of this display go on tour and are showcased in other museums, so if you see a Girard folk art display announced, don't skip it. 


3/27 Cochiti Lake SP, near Santa Fe, NM

On March 21, I left the slight warmth of southern New Mexico and headed a couple of hundred miles north to very cold northern New Mexico, near Santa Fe.  It is colder here, not just because it is farther north, but it is also higher in elevation, about 1,000' higher than Alamogordo, NM.  Plus, compared to other years, this part of the desert southwest has been a lot colder than previous years.  

The first part of the drive here, was not bad--a very good divided highway and then an equally good two-lane highway with almost no traffic.

However, when I got to about 50 miles away from Santa Fe, I hit an area of strong winds.  Strong winds are very bad for driving a tall vehicle like mine--think driving a billboard down the highway at 60+ MPH!!!  Normally, most of us who drive RVs pull over and stop driving until winds drop below 20 MPH, but that was not a choice here.

At one point, one of the awnings that cover my slides started to come undone and flap noisily.  I knew from past experience that it was likely being torn.  Note that in the photos below, however, that there were very narrow shoulders.  There were also no wider places to pull over and there were occasionally groups of big trucks coming by.  

I pulled over as best as I could, got out, and saw that the awnings seemed to be rolled up, and there was no one around to check them for me, so I continued to continue driving but dropping my speed to about 45 MPH.  It was going to be a long drive to my campground.

Pretty countryside, but nerve-wracking when you are having to drive slowly with blinkers on while worrying about the slide toppers tearing. 

Then to make things more exciting, as I got closer to Santa Fe, and higher in elevation, there was a lot of snow in the mountains and on the side of the road.  Luckily, the snow was from earlier in the day, so the road was dry and clear.

At this point, I was beginning to think I had come to the wrong place.

Even the town of Santa Fe had gotten hit. 

I had been to the Cochiti Lake Recreation Area a couple of times in the past, and it was NEVER this cold, but it is a beautiful place in the middle of an Indian reservation.  It is about 25 miles southwest of Santa Fe, so I got on I-25 and headed south and then on a smaller road to head west.  This is the middle of the big earthen dam that forms the lake.

I was apparently here a month or so too early because there was no one at the check-in both, no hosts at the campground, and only one of three campground even open!  Found my site and got set up, then turned on my two little electric heaters AND my rear furnace to try to get warm!!

Note how big the campsites are.  Each not only has a covered picnic table for hotter weather, but there is also a parking spot for an extra vehicle at each site.   Good electric and water hookups as well, but I filled my tanks and made sure they were drained afterwards because it was going to be well below freezing that night. 


New Mexico has not had as much rain as California and the West Coast has had, so the lake is a bit low.  

I had reservations here for a full 14 days, but most days, it was too cold and windy to go out, so I have spent most of the 8 days I have been here working inside on projects, doing some baking, and cleaning.  One good thing was that I found a really nice laundromat just outside the recreation area, so I spent a few hours there one day doing three weeks worth of laundry.  I also drove into town one day to run a bunch of errands--groceries, Amazon pickup, prescription, hardware, etc.   I now have an absolutely stuffed refrigerator and freezer!  

The funny thing is that most people when they arrive at a new campground, put out things like lounge chairs and barbecue grills, etc.  Because of the cold, I have seen almost no one outside.  People have driven out for sightseeing and to eat out, but that's about it. 

I really like campgrounds with nice views! Just wish things were a little greener!

The good news is that it is going to warm up in a couple of days, so I am planning a trip to Museum Hills in Santa Fe in a couple of days.  Stay tuned.