Sunday, November 16, 2008

Road Trip: Gilman, NM (Holiday Mesa)

One of my favorite rides takes us to the Gilman Tunnels - a road that used to be a railroad pass through rock with a winding stream next to it and high cliffs on either side. On many trips to this area, John and I have looked to the cliffs and wondered "How do we get there?" Well, John and his trusty steed found the way to the cliff tops - Holiday Mesa - while I was visiting Sam in PA for Halloween. When I returned home, he took me to see the sites.

Being in November 9th, the weather was COLD, so we wore our winter gloves and pants. We experienced snow covered ground in the North facing valleys. The weather made me think of ski season.

The "road" was hardly a road at all. Dirt and horribly washed out, the going was slow and sometimes hard. Often we had to leave the deeply rutted path to venture around trees and back to the road. A couple of times I was sure I was going to get tossed to the trees, but John always assures me... If I just hold on, he'll get us through. Trust me - I hang on!

John stopped at a couple of cool turn outs with great views and cool rock formations. Yes... I felt compelled to take some artsy photos to share. I think you will agree, they are pretty cool.

On the route to Holiday Mesa Overlook, John showed me a little pull out he'd found earlier. If you stepped off the road about 20 feet, there was a sign noting the archaeological remnants in the area, and asking that they be left alone. Scattered about, literally everywhere, were pieces of pottery with hand painted images. I would have loved to have found a larger piece just to have a better idea about the designs painted on them. It was fascinating enough just to stand out in the middle of nowhere and imagine a people living there in population enough to have left so much behind.

The entire area is rich with volcanic formations. So much of New Mexico is. Among the rock formations we saw were "tent rocks" and "razor edges" (pictured here.) We wonder if the razor edges are hollow in the center, but without really good climbing gear and a satellite phone to summon the rescue, we aren't about to try to find out.

(See photo on right - John contemplating a dangerous motorcycle jump... "I can make that!")

On the top of Holiday Mesa, there is an incredible view. It looks back down in the direction of the Gilman Tunnels. Although you can see the road, you can't see the actual tunnels. The view seems to go on forever. You can see the Sandia Mountains off in the far distance.

It was warmer on top of the mesa than most of the rest of our drive. We stayed up top for quite a while - snacking on fruit leather and jerky while enjoying the view. John grabbed the camera and took a couple of photos of his favorite things... his motorcycle and me!

The entire trip (leisurely stops included) took about 6 hours and was all told 140 miles.

A Fine Pickle Indeed!

Ok, so we don't get it. The pickles FAILED - horribly. We aren't sure why. If you have ever made pickles (hot pack method), we would like to hear from you so that we might track down the issue and not repeat the sqishy, slippery-slimey things we ended up with.

On a higher note... our Dilly Beans (made the same day/same way) seem fine.

John and I also made salsa, the day after the pickles. The salsa has been good so far. I think it needs to age a little more - it's very tasty, although a little vinegar-y still. We made a larger batch a couple of weeks later from our own tomatoes and a bushel of Anaheim chilis bought and roasted at the farmstand in Corrales.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween with Sam

I went to Lansdale, PA to spend Halloween with Sam and take him trick-or-treating. Sam has grown; he is taller and thicker - finally.

Upon arrival, I managed to finally pull out the loose front tooth Sam had been nursing since before school got out the previous year. Sam, if you are reading this - wiggle those teeth!!

For Halloween he decided he wanted to be Death. I bought his costume this year, as my sewing machine is close to its last leg - it seems to have a timing issue. Sam wore a skeleton suit with skull mask, under a black cloak. He carried a scythe. He looked very scarey, and actually did scare some of the people he visited.

Before we left the apartment to haunt the local neighborhoods, Sam asked if he'd be able to eat any of his candy that night, and I foolishly told him he'd be allowed 2 pieces - thinking the candy would be miniature bar sized. I quickly learned that people living that close to Hershey pass out FULL sized candy bars.

Sam, Chris and Missy kindly took me on a tour of Philly my last night - complete with Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Valley Forge and a cheesesteak dinner. Thank you guys so much for hosting me and providing time for me with my boy!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Balloon Fiesta 2008

This year for Balloon Fiesta, John and I took the dogs for a ride from Rio Rancho down into Corrales in the early morning to observe the mass ascension. I often describe this event to people as "candy in the sky" because of the rich and varied colors.

Generally, dogs and horses react negatively to balloons nearby. I've been told it is the sound of the gas going through the baffels that sets them off. Stinky never used to bark at the balloons. In fact, he used to just sit and watch them go by, but with Chica prone to barking at anything that flies, he has a tendency to get caught up in the action.

Each year, Thursday and Friday nights host the Special Shapes Glowdeo at the Balloon Fiesta Fairgrounds. This year we went, had a dinner of fair-food (hamburger, hotdogs, nachos, flavored lemonades) then visited the chainsaw carving contest and exhibits. The crowds at the carving site were deep and it was difficult to fully enjoy the carvings, but there was a display and sale tent that had really interested and intricate carvings.

We walked back to the middle of the field. John and I bought funnel cakes - two to be exact. Next year, we'll know better - one is plenty! We stuffed ourselves, and still were unable to finish them both.

As the sun sets, the balloon teams lay out their balloons and inflate them. At dusk, the pilots gas fire the balloons in synchronization, lighting the balloons from the inside for the crowd to enjoy. We particularly like the Special Shapes due to the creative variety. This year we had a haunted house, Darth Vader, a couple of different flying pigs, a clown fish definitely not called Nemo, a bumble bee, ristra, giant beer, and many many more.

Balloonists come from all over the world to take part in the Balloon Fiesta. During the Glowdeo's, pilots often hand out trading cards with images of their balloons and facts about country of origin, size, etc.

Sadly, each year I've been in New Mexico, there have been accidents. With the large numbers of balloons in the air each year, it's expected. This year was particularly tragic. As John and I were walking out of the Fiesta with the intent of enjoying the firework show from our patio, we noticed and enjoyed the inverted triangle balloon. The very next day it was blown into wires, its propane tanks catching fire and the co-pilot died. In true New Mexican tradition, the pilot's wife's vehicle was broken into at their hotel the following night and all of there personal property was stolen too. We are horribly saddened by these events.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


We had a couple of false starts on our garden this year... in fact we were pretty sure we weren't going to have any produce to speak of, but in the end our garden produced a lot of cucumbers. We also ended up with a large crop of tomatoes, but we are still waiting for them to ripen. If they do, we will be making and canning salsa.

So what do you do with a pile of cucumbers? Make pickles of course. We read about canning, bought jars, and gathered ingredients. We also bought 2 pounds of green beans to make dilly beans with.

John doesn't like this picture. I think its funny - he was hamming, but managed to look possessed. The untold truth is we enjoyed the project and are VERY excited to try the results just as soon as the pickles are aged.
The process and recipes are straight forward, but the actual act of canning and processing is work for octopus. The hardest part was keeping the jars at a high enough temperature. Water boils at a considerably lower temperature at high altitude. The whole project took us about 4 hours all told.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Road Trip - Western NM / Extreme Eastern AZ

June 26-29 John and I roadtripped from home to Gallup, NM into Arizona, back to Grants, NM and finally home again. We did the whole trip on the dual sport, which means luggage was as much crap as we could stuff into 1.5 cu. ft. backpack without forcing me to tip off the back.

We followed 40 West and got off the highway and onto Route 66 as soon as possible. Riding the highways on the dualsport, two people on and a heavy backpack can be difficult and tiring. The wind whips us about "sumpin' wicked."

Our trip started on a high note - while taking a break and pulling off by a railroad pass on an otherwise deserted dirt road, John found $80 in cash blowing in the breeze. Sadly he also found a deceased pet, but we figured without thumbs, El Gato wasn't going to be spending the money anytime soon, therefore, finders keepers.

Gallup is a trading post Indian town. There are beggars. It is also a primary hub for freight trains. They passed constantly and we seriously questioned the location of our hotel (approx 100 feet from the rails) but had an oddly peaceful sleep, after consuming the WORST Tom Collins to ever be glassed. For those Gallup bartenders requiring reminder... that's gin, preferable in a clean glass, perhaps with ice and sour mix... not sweet and sour margarita mix. Thank you for holding the salt. I guess thats pretty exotic when shots and Budweiser are the norm.

Still, Gallup has its brighter offerings. You can buy a budda doll, barbie doll, crucifix, and shower curtain rings all from your seat at breakfast. The food really was VERY good.

Day Two we went West into Arizona. First stop - Painted Rock Visitor Center. I have a lovely picture of John looking at the map, another of him looking at the map some more. Sadly, neither actually shows any of the visitor center or painted rock... so I'm not going to post them.

From painted rock we went North, deep into the Navajo Nation. AZ is very green along its boarder, and it often reminded me of riding through NH. John commented to me that his originally planned loop was a far shorter ride than he initally thought, and that "my monkey butt" permitting he wanted to do a slightly bigger loop. I had agreed, and on we went. We didn't count on John misinterpreting/missing the turn fault in part to his "scenery awestruck state of mind" and thusly found ourselves relatively close (200 miles) to the Utah border.

This "lucky" turn of fate brought us up over Buffalo Pass and down into Shiprock Valley. The picture posted here was taken from stock photography on the net. We drove perpendicular to the spine of rocks you see leading up the the Shiprock steaming away. John selected this photo as it clearly shows the dirt road "we could have taken" but chose not to out of respect for the angry red monkey living in my jeans. True Love.

The ride down out of the twisting evergreen road over Buffalo Pass into the windswept sandy ocean populated with giant pirate ships of stone was breathtaking. No, we didn't take a single photo. I didn't need to - it was that good.

As I type this John walks in to tell me, map in hand, that we were "closer to Utah than I thought." We were 30 miles away, not the 200 initally reported. HA! This is why I love riding with him... adventure and happy accidents.

Day Three: Today we aimed to wander to Grants. We've been to Grants a couple of times before and had seen promotional material for "Fire & Ice - Volcano and Ice Caves" - always game for cool geological formations this was our goal. Along the way we stopped at Window Rock which as a beautiful Veteran's Memorial for the Windtalkers.

From here we rode through Carson National Forest. In one particular area there were incredible rock formations that shot straight up into the sky in narrow towers. Some were so thin and so tall you expected them to either blow or collapse in the wind. We took a couple of breaks in this area to simply enjoy the views. Our first break was in a little pull out next to one of these giant towers. Down at the base an artist had taken the time to carve out a perfect likeness of the rocks spirit.

Our other break was "lake"side at what we are more likely to dub pond. The pull out road, boat landing and view reminded me of Ossipee.

Later in the day we visited the volcano and ice caves. The walk up to the volcano rim was fascinating. The $7 per person brochure/ticket was our informative guide to volcanic formations, lightening attracting iron rich trees, mini ice holes, and lava types. The walk in the NM sun did wonders to impress the sorching power that formed this volcanic region.

The ice caves, located only about a 1/2 mile from the volcano ridge we an equally amazing experience. We followed the foot path past more amazing lava formations and twisted trees to a staircase that leads down to the cave. At the top of the staircase the temperature was about 90 degrees. At the bottom, 31.

Mom - that little sign about halfway down the stairs say "UnEven Steps". Note: it's located about 13 steps too late.

It was the best kind of staircase. UnEven defined both the rise and treads, as well as the left to right horizontal placement in some areas. Repairs were additional boards nailed on over the broken parts of the original. Limited rail and spectacular overhead views of jagged rocky declines were a shocking contrast to the equally scary taxi ride I took from Navy Pier to Midway Airport only days before. The taxi ride was actually scarier, but I was laughing to hard at my co-fare screaming with fear to realize it at the time.

Apparently the store/admission office area used to be the dancehall / saloon and they actually did store their beer down there.

I was happy to see my own bed again late the next day, and the dogs were even happier to see us.

And that concludes this episode of Road Trip.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sam's First FauxHawk

Sam has always been fashion forward for his age, but here is the real deal. This is Sam's first official professionally cut fauxhawk.

No, the blue was not permanent, just a temporary color painted in with a hair wand to emphasize the style.

Isn't he handsome!

Monday, June 2, 2008


Sam and I had our portraits taken so that we would have pictures of us together before he moved to Pennsylvania. We took 3 or 4 poses, but this one is really my favorite - it really catches his personality.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Spring is Springing!

Warmer temperatures are finally becoming a constant. I've started some seeds indoors - mainly herbs and flowers. I still need to start the first batch of vegetables. Last weekend, John and I built the garden frames. They are huge! We now have two gardens that are 4' x 8' and about 20" deep. We're going to need about 4 cubic yards of topsoil before we can plant. We also plan to construct a larger compost bin near the gardens to handle more of the yard weeds.

Wednesday was Sam's Parent Teacher Conference. I'm proud to announce Sam has achieved the top reading level expected, as well as excelled in Math, Art, Music and Physical Education. His only weakness appears to be his desire to entertain the class.

Sam is on vacation until the end of the month. We are planning a trip to the zoo early next week.

John's knee is healing vey well. He is walking unassisted now, and continues to do muscle building exercises religiously. He hopes to be able to run a couple of the late season races.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Break from the Bleak

This weekend, February 9th & 10th, we finally caught a break from the frigid and windy weather, hitting just over 50 degrees.

We woke up Saturday to about 20 hot air balloons passing over the house. With the winds, this has been a rare site since the festival. This is just one view from our front garden. Often the balloons pass so closely that you can hear the pilots talking.

This winter has been particularly cold. Although we haven't had the snow accumulation we saw last year, we did manage an ice storm that left us under 1/2" of bullet proofing.

John's sister, Brenda, will be visiting next weekend. We hope decent weather holds out for her trip, and would love for her to see the beautiful ballons.

John's New Knee

January 9th, John had knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus and to complete a cadaver ACL replacement. Please note, the following images are HIPPA complient (John said I could post them, and he'll sign a consent form if you really need proof), however some may find them too graphic. Clicking on the image will open a new window with an enlarged view.

John's surgery went very well. Post operative pain was brief and easily managed, and John has been avid in his follow up therapy. The hardest part of this entire process for John is forfeiting the racing season to ensure complete recovery.

On a science fiction note -- we think the donor was a "nice guy" as John has managed to be "pleasant" throughout an otherwise frustrating period of recovery. We can only attribute this to the donor, much as we have seen the recipients of other donor organs and materials suddenly become killers and seers of the dead.

On a more serious note, please, if you have not already added "Organ Donor" to your ID's and Living Wills, do consider it. Something as simple as a ligament in your knee can significantly improve quality of life.

Road Trip into the New Year

December 31st, John, Stinky, Chica and I loaded into the car at about 6:30am and hit the road to explore New Mexico. Although Google Maps told us the trip was about 5 hours one way, we were confident this was an over estimate, and were leisurely about our trip. We made it home about 10:45pm.

Our first stop was "the store that shall not be named" for a new choke chain for Stinky. I bought him a brand new collar over the summer, which he promptly lost with his choke chain. We've searched the back yard repeatedly, fruitlessly. I had to replace it before I could take him to parts unknown. Sadly, and much to John's frustraton, this is the only store open at this hour with the item I needed.

Next we were off Dunkin Donuts - a big treat! DD's are few and far between in NM. Stinky was just dying for a couple Old Fashions and some hazelnut coffee. We had clear skies with very brisk winds. We were greatful to return to DD's lava hot bean juice from the many "doggie stops."

Among our stops was NRAO - better known as the Very Large Array. The VLA was one of those places that was "science fiction" in my mind; something I really needed to see with my own eyes before I believed it was real and not just a movie prop. The sheer size of it is astounding. John and I took time out from the road to do the mini tour in the visitor center. The fact that we were looking at science of the future, through information from the past on New Year's Eve seemed an appropriate way to usher in the new year. Our return trip, many hours later, had us driving back by the array under the stars. I had hoped the array would be lit in some manner so that I could see them at night. I'm delighted to report that contrary to the beautiful sight I imagined of lit antenna, we marveled at the night skies with ZERO light pollution. We were able to see the skies I remember from my childhood; constellations I haven't seen in a decade or more. This was truely a poetic highlight to an already beautiful day.

Further southwest of the VLA, we visited a ghost town, Mogollon. This former gold mining town was buried deep in a little valley between high peaks. It was late afternoon by the time we arrived and temperatures had dropped significantly. The roads were narrow and snow covered, deterring us from getting out and wandering around. Perhaps we will return in the summer to explore more.

The furthest point of our journey was the Mogollon Catwalk. The park featured a rocky trail leading up to a series of metal walkways over a 100 foot whitewater canyon gorge. The walkways were originally installed to maintain waterpipes for the nearby gold and silver mining. Our 3+ mile round trip walk over these suspended metal grate walkways terrified each of the dogs, but they survived and napped happily most of the trip home.