Monthly Archives: May 2017

Raton Pass Scenic Overlook

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I was driving. We were headed north on I-25, on a spur of the moment trip from Las Vegas, NM to Trinidad, CO.

I’d been on this stretch of interstate once before, but I didn’t remember too much about it. The Man kept talking about the beauty of the Raton Pass. He was excited to see it again.

According to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raton_Pass),

Ratón Pass (7834 feet or 2388 meters elevation) is a mountain pass on the ColoradoNew Mexico border in the western United States. Ratón is Spanish for “mouse.” It is located on the eastern side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains between Trinidad, Colorado and Raton, New Mexico, approximately 100 miles (160 km) northeast of Santa Fe. The pass crosses the line of volcanic mesas that extends east from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains along the state line, and furnishes the most direct land route between the valley of the Arkansas River to the north and the upper valley of the Canadian River, leading to Santa Fe, to the south.

The pass is a historically significant landmark on the Santa Fe Trail, a major 19th-century settlement route between Kansas City, Missouri and Santa Fe. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 for this association.

The Raton Pass is at an elevation just over 7,800 feet.

The really beautiful mountains were to the west. They were snow covered and wonderful. I wanted to see more of them.

Can we stop? Can we stop? Baby, can we stop? The Man chanted.

He’s been known to pull off on the shoulder of the road–any road,  highway, interstate, any road–to take a photo. I’m a bit more safety conscious. I don’t like to stop on the side of a busy interstate or a curvy mountain road (or a curvy mountain busy interstate), but I will, it that’s the only way to get a photo the man or I (or both of us) want. In this case, I’d seen a sign for a scenic overlook and decided it would be much safer for us to stop there.

Scenic overlook, Baby, I told him. We’ll stop at the scenic overlook.

I took the scenic overlook exit and was tremendously disappointed to find we could not see the huge, snow-covered mountains.

Why didn’t they put this overlook where we could see those other mountains? I asked rhetorically.

Oh well, the scenery seen from the scenic overlook was lovely. The Man and I stayed about ten minutes, taking photos of the land and each other, then got back on the road. We were soon in Trinidad.

Panoramic view from the Raton Pass Scenic Overlook

I took all of the photos in this post.

Read more about the Raton Pass and its history here: https://coloradoencyclopedia.org/article/raton-pass-0.

 

 

No Overnight Parking

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We’d been on the road almost all day, so when we pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot, I really only wanted to eat some dinner and go to bed.

As I drove through the parking lot, I gave a cursory look for signs prohibiting overnight parking and saw none. I pulled the van to the perimeter of the parking lot, on the edge of an embankment. A metal barrier kept cars from rolling down into the trash-strewn gully, and there were certainly no signs there telling folks they couldn’t park overnight.

While cooking and eating dinner, we saw several people walk up the embankment on a well-worn path between the railroad tracks below and the Wal-Mart parking lot. About one couple, The Man said the fellow seemed a little twitchy, but the woman was clearly methed out. More people came and went within 30 feet of the van, but no one approached us to start a conversation.

The Man watched people come and go and saw some of them walk out into the field beyond the tracks. Then he saw a light bouncing around in the field and concluded people were living out there. While we got ready for bed, we saw a new-looking car rolling next to the railroad tracks. Only railroad vehicles are allowed to drive next to the tracks, The Man said. What is going on down there? he wondered. We decided night time was not the right time to go down there to explore.

We’re locking the doors tonight, The Man said before we crawled into bed. He’s not usually one for locking doors, even at night. Heh’s confident he and the fiercely barking, protective dog are capable of scaring off any bad news that comes around.

I might sleep with my knife, he said, referring to the giant knife he uses to peel the bark from wood before carving it. We laughed about what he might shout at anyone who messed around our van in the middle of the night.

We went to bed around nine o’clock. I was exhausted, and I think The Man was too. I fell asleep quickly and slept deeply.

The Man said I woke screaming. Someone had knocked on the van and dragged me from a wonderful place of oblivion. Was it someone high on meth? Was it the police?

Who is it? I said loudly as I moved to the side window.

Wal-Mart manager, a male voice said. There’s no overnight parking here.

Oh. Sorry, I said. We’ll leave. We didn’t see any signs.

There’s one on the pole behind you, he said,

Ok. We’ll leave, I said again as I groped in the dark to find my clothes.

When we had pulled in, I’d noticed the lack of RVs, 18-wheelers, and van dwellers in the lot. In New Mexico, Wal-Mart parking lots often look like truck stops or RV parks, but I just figured not many people wanted to stay overnight in this not very scenic part of Colorado. Frankly, I was so tired, I hadn’t given it much thought.

Before we’d gone to sleep, I had seen another rig parked a couple rows behind us. It was a nice-looking pickup with a fancy slide-in camper. The camper’s stabilizing poles were down, so I figured the driver was in for the night. However, when we left, the pickup with the camper was already gone. I don’t know if the people in that rig were asked to leave or took it upon themselves to go.

There was still one rig parked in the lot when we left. A shiny, new-looking camper trailer was hooked up to a shiny, new-looking (matching) pickup truck. No lights were on in the trailer, and no one was in the truck’s driver seat looking like I felt–sleepy, disheveled, and a little bit frantic. I didn’t see the Wal-Mart manager knocking on the camper door, and I wondered if he’d done it so quickly that he’d been able to make it back into the store in the time it took me to dress and climb into the driver’s seat. Maybe shiny new rigs get to stay overnight. Maybe it’s not considered overnight parking if folks roll in after midnight. Maybe the people in the camper hadn’t answered the manager’s knock and could truthfully say they hadn’t gotten the no overnight parking message I’ll never know.

Luckily, on our way into town, I’d seen a billboard advertising a Love’s travel center only a few interstate exits from the Wal-Mart. The Man and the dog never got out of bed, but I managed to stay awake long enough to drive us to the truck stop. As I drove through the Wal-Mart parking lot to the exit, I saw the one no overnight parking sign I’d managed to miss on the way in. That store might want to invest in more signs so the night manager doesn’t have to go out into the dark to knock on vehicles.

 

Big Tesuque Campground

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The Man and I were going to be in Santa Fe for a few days, so I got on the Free Campsites website and found us a beautiful, free campground on the outskirts of the city.

If you’ve never used Free Campsites (https://freecampsites.net/), you should check out the website the next time you need to stay somewhere overnight. Whether you want to boondock one evening or plan a multi-stop vacation, Free Campsites can help you find what you need. The website moves beyond Wal-Marts and truck stops and focuses on public land.

According to the site,

Our community provides the best free camping information available. Free campgrounds can be hard to find. Freecampsites.net makes it easy. We give you a simple, map based search engine to find free and cheap camping areas. Community reviews and ratings provide you with up to date information and help you select the best camp site for your next camping trip.

We believe that free camping areas are often the most beautiful and peaceful camp sites. Our focus is on public lands. You own these lands and you are entitled to use them. We especially like camping on Forest Service land, BLM (Bureau of Land Management) areas, WMA’s (Wildlife Management Areas) and county or city parks.

Contrary to the name of the website, not all camping spots listed on the Free Campsites websites are actually free. Some sites included cost up to $15 or so, which is still quite a bit less expensive than the average RV park. Of course, I’m cheap (like my mawmaw, about whom my father said more than once, she could hold onto a nickel so tight the buffalo would moan), so it’s a rare penny I spend to park my van and sleep. However, Free Campsites gives the option of inexpensive campgrounds to travelers who like the extra amenities offered and have a bit of spending money to put down.

I’ve used the Free Campsites listings on my laptop quite a bit but recently installed the free app on my (Android) phone so I can use it on the go. The app is a little slow, but I blame that on my 3G phone.

This photo shows NM Hwy 475, aka the Santa Fe Scenic Byway, as it snakes up the mountain.

When I looked at the options for free camping near Santa Fe, I found several spots on Highway 475, aka the Santa Fe Scenic Byway. (Read more about the Santa Fe Scenic Byway here: https://www.newmexico.org/things-to-do/scenic-byways/santa-fe-national-forest/.)

We chose to stay at the Big Tesuque (pronounced [tuh-SOO-key], according to http://encyclopediaofsantafe.com/pages/words/tesuque.html) Campground. It’s part of the Santa Fe National Forest. The campground’s GPS coordinates are 35.76917, -105.80861, and it’s located near milepost 13. It’s small but does include two pit toilets and bear-proof trash cans. There is no drinking water available there. (Learn more about the campground at https://freecampsites.net/#!13966&query=sitedetails.)

The campground is really intended for people in tents; there’s no space to park vehicles at the camp sites. The parking area has room for about a dozen vehicles. Campers are meant to park in the small lot, then carry their equipment and supplies up to the sites to unpack and set up.

We simply parked the van in the parking area. When we were ready to cook, we unfolded one of our tables next to the van and set up our stove and equipment. Only four or five cars pulled into the campground’s parking area during our stay, and nobody else spent the night. Even during busy times, I think it would be fine for a van dweller to take an empty parking space and stay there for the night.

Even if we had been tent campers, the entire campground was covered in snow while we were there! It was May 1, but there were several inches of snow all over the camping area. I guess at over 9700 feet in elevation, snow can come late into the spring. Despite the snow, it wasn’t too cold out, at least until the sun set. After dark, we hunkered down in bed and got to sleep early.

I was quite impressed with the cleanliness of the restroom I used. It even had plenty of toilet paper! (Were I a better campground reporter, I would have checked both restrooms for cleanliness and toilet paper.) Although Big Tesuque Campground has no camp host, someone was cleaning, restocking toilet paper, and scrubbing the pit toilet, even during the slow season.

My favorite feature of the campground was the brook/creek/stream/river (one of these days I am going to learn what makes those bodies of water different) running alongside it. There were even two small waterfalls of sorts where the water tumbled down to lower levels. The sound of flowing water helps me sleep peacefully, and I had a very good night in the parking lot of the Big Tesuque Campground.

Snow! Trees! Waterfalls! All at the Big Tesuque Campground, less than 20 miles from the Santa Fe Plaza.

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

 

 

Wild, Wild Horses

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I’d always wanted to see the wild horses living on the Colorado side of the San Luis Valley. I’d made the trek from Taos, NM to San Luis, CO (and beyond) on NM Hwy 522/CO Hwy 159 several times, but I’d never seen a single wild horse. The only indication of them were the yellow roadside signs proclaiming “open range” and a silhouette of a horse letting drivers know it wasn’t cows they needed to be concerned with.

The Man and I had been staying at our friend’s place 40 miles north of Taos for a few days when we decided to make a quick trip to San Luis, the oldest town in Colorado. It had been cold the last two nights, and the sky was overcast when we hit the road, but no rain or snow was falling.

We passed into Colorado and hadn’t been in the state long when there they were! There was a small herd (six or eight individuals) of wild horses on the road and on its shoulder.

Oh Baby! We’re so lucky! I exclaimed to the man. I’ve always wanted to see the wild horses, but this is my first time!

Pull over so we can take pictures, The Man implored.

There are a lot of reason I love The Man. He is a kind, caring person who makes me laugh. He is patient with my moodiness and terrible driving. He’s smart, enjoys reading, and encourages my creative endeavors. Also? He likes to stop and take photos of interesting roadside attractions as much as I do.

I carefully maneuvered the van to the shoulder of the road. The horses moved nervously, and the ones in the middle of the road shuffled to the side. It was good they’d moved because a little sports car came flying by way too fast right about then. From the opposite direction, a large pickup pulling a 5th wheel slowed to a crawl so as not to spook the horses. Some people got a clue, and some people don’t.

According to the Fence Post website (http://www.thefencepost.com/news/hidden-treasure-of-costillia-county/),

At the far southern end of the San Luis Valley in…is the hidden treasure of a thriving herd of mustangs.

These horses are not pure mustangs but are more closely related than the wild horses of the managed areas of Colorado.

The bands of horses in Costillia County date back 400 years and are not protected by the Bureau of Land Management, so they are not subjected to culling and rescue operations. These horses still roam on original Spanish land grants dating back to the 1600s and not on BLM land. The open range bordering the Rio Grande River and the vast plains and mesas of the San Luis Valley provide 60,000 acres of natural habitat for wild mustangs to move freely in and to thrive.

Once I could see no other cars on the highway, I slowly moved the van closer to the horses until I could see they were getting nervous. I turned off the engine. and The Man got out to take his photos. When he returned, it was my turn.

I walked slowly toward the horses, trying not to spook them. I didn’t want them to trot off before I could get even one photo, but I also didn’t want to upset them with my presence. After all, I was the interloper.

The horses were big, stunningly beautiful creatures, mostly brown, but with black tails and manes. They were such a joy to see, walking freely through their world.

The photos I got of the wild horses are not great. I wish the camera on my phone took better photos. I wish the lighting had been better. I wish I could have gotten closer to the horses or that my camera did a better job of zooming in. However, overall, I was pleased to get any photos at all.

Getting photos of the horses was not the most important part of my day. The most important part of my day was seeing those majestic, free beasts in real life, out in the open, living their lives a few yards from me.

I took the photos of horses in this post.

More More New Necklaces

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I’ve sold three necklaces since I posted photos of pieces I made. Yippie! In the interest of letting folks know what I have available, I’m posting three more photos of new necklaces today. I’ll add these photos and the information about the jewelry to the “Jewelry for Sale” page too. That’s the best place to see a variety of necklaces I have for sale.

As a reminder, all of the necklaces are made from hemp by my own two hands. I didn’t make most of the pendants, but I try to remember to indicate if one was made by me. I do custom pieces too, so if you don’t see what you want, feel free to send me an email and ask if I can do what you are interested in.

The necklace on the left is 14 inches long. It features a pendant with “pearls” (I have no idea if they are actual pearls) and some sort of blue stone that looks a bit like turquoise but probably isn’t. It costs $13, including shipping. The second necklace is made from natural hemp that is tied in a spiral design. It has a mystery stone pendant. It is 18 inches long, and costs $13, including postage. The last necklace has an orange metal flower pendant. It is 14 inches long, and the blue hemp is tied in a spiral design. It costs $13, including shipping.

 

The necklace on the left features a small cross. The necklace is 18 inches long. The cross is metal, but not sterling silver or anything fancy like that. It costs $13, including shipping. The middle necklace is 20 & 1/2 inches and features a large cross with a cutout design. This cross is also metal, but not sterling. It costs $13, including tax. The necklace on the right is 20 inches. The cross is black and silver metal, but not sterling. It also costs $13, including shipping.

 

All of these necklaces have heart pendants of one kind or another. The necklace on the far left is 14 inches long. The heart is some kind of unknown black material in silver. The metal does not seem to be sterling. This necklace has small metal heart accent beads and costs $13, including shipping. The second necklace has a pendant made from two metal heart beads with a blue bead between them. The beads are not sterling or any other fancy metal. The necklace is 14 & 3/4 inches and costs $13, including shipping. The third necklace has a stone heart. I don’t know what kind of stone it is. The necklace is 15 inches, and costs $13, including postage. The necklace on the right has a blue plastic heart pendant and small metal heart-shaped accent beads. The necklace is 17 &1/2 inches and costs $13, including shipping.

The Opera

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I was well into my 40s, and I’d never experienced the opera. It’s not like I’d purposefully avoided; I’d just never had an opportunity to attend.

My computer guy friend and I were IMing one day, and he mentioned the opera. He attended. He enjoyed it. I might enjoy it too, he said. He offered to treat me to a performance of the San Francisco Opera next time I was in town. I was excited to take him up on his offer, but I didn’t make it to San Fran for over a year.

When I started planning my visit with Bay Area friends in 2016, I contacted my computer guy and asked him if we were still on for the opera. He said yes.

My short visit to San Francisco coincided with a Sunday matinee of The Makropulos Case starring Nadja Michael. I’d never heard of this opera, but when I did a Google search, I found information on San Francisco Opera webpage (https://sfopera.com/discover-opera/201617-season/the-makropulos-case/).

The seductive diva Emilia Marty has broken hearts for over 300 years and yet she doesn’t look a day past 30. Now that the magical elixir granting her eternal youth is wearing off, can she seduce her way to immortality?

Music by Leoš Janáček | Libretto by Leoš Janáček

Sung in Czech with English supertitles

The story sounded interesting enough for me want to see the show.

I was concerned because don’t people dress up for the opera? I asked my computer guy. I’m not exactly toting around an opera worthy wardrobe in my van, so I wasn’t sure what I was going to do if I had to dress fancy.

My computer guy didn’t seem worried about the opera dress code. Hwwever, he is a man who–for the last couple of decades–has partially based his acceptances of job offers on whether or not he’d be allowed to wear shorts to the office.

Are you going to wear long pants to the opera? I asked him, and he said he supposed he could.

The afternoon of the performance came. I wore a long, straight black skirt and a colorful 100% cotton top. My computer guy friend wore full length black  pants and a dark shirt. We may not have looked fancy, but we looked respectable, much like everyone else in the audience. I was relieved to see no one else at the matinee wearing evening clothes. (I guess by definition, “evening clothes” are not worn at two o’clock in the afternoon.)

The day of my first opera attendance was also the occassion of my first ride with an Uber driver. Before we left his apartment in the Mission, I asked my computer guy if we would be riding the bus so I would have adequate bus fare if necessary. He said no, so I assumed we’d be walking. When we got out to the corner of his block, he raised his phone above his head.

What are you doing? I asked.

Hailing our ride, he told me.

I was a bit confused when the car that pulled up had no markings distinguishing it as a taxi.

I set up a ride with Uber, he said.

Oh, yes, Uber, I thought. I’d heard of such a thing.

The driver was friendly and polite; the three of us chatted about the opera. The car was exceptionally clean, and I felt safe for the duration of our short ride.

My computer guy had the driver drop us off so we could walk through the lovely Memorial Court. After we climbed the steps into the War Memorial Opera House, we picked up our tickets at the box office and found our seats under the balcony.

The War Memorial Opera House is a beautiful building, inside and out. According to http://www.sfwmpac.org/history,

The cornerstones of the War Memorial Opera House and Veterans Building were laid on November 11, 1931. These two buildings and the Memorial Court between them formed the original San Francisco War Memorial.

The War Memorial Opera House has been home to the San Francisco Opera since it opened on October 15, 1932. Despite the nation’s severe depression, Puccini’s Tosca, conducted by Mr. Gaetano Merola, saw its original schedule of nine performances quickly sell out and three additional performances added, due to the incredible anticipation of opening season in the new house.

The Opera House is also home to the San Francisco Ballet, and served as home to the San Francisco Symphony until Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall opened in September 1980.

We only had a short while to flip through our programs before the performance began. Of course, I don’t understand Czech, so I was glad for the subtitles projected throughout theater.

I must have stayed up too late the night before, because my head was nodding and I could barely keep my eyes open by the time intermission rolled around. It’s not that I wasn’t enjoying the performance; I was enjoying it–but damn!–I felt sleepy. While my computer guy went off to stretch his legs during intermission, I took myself a power nap. Staying awake was easier during the second half of the show.

We walked back to my computer guy’s apartment after the performance, and it was a lovely afternoon to stroll through the city. As we walked, we discussed what we’d just seen.

We agreed the diva, Nadja Michael, was a lovely woman with a great voice and a commanding stage presence. I highly recommend seeing any show she stars in.

My computer guy didn’t enjoy this performance as much as other operas he’d seen. First, he thought sitting under the balcony had detracted from the sound quality. Second, he thought some of the performers were not giving their all since the show was near the end of its run. Finally, much of the opera consisted basically of sung dialog rather than full-on operatic singing.

I enjoyed the opera, I really did, but I wish we’d have been able to see something more traditional and well, famous. In any case, I really appreciate live performance and will choose live performance over a recording any day.

As I told my computer guy friend, I’m glad I was able to attend the performance. (I’m so grateful he bought me a ticket!) I enjoyed going to the opera house (and wish I had taken photos!) and experiencing the performance, but it’s not like opera is my thing now. It’s not as if I’m going to follow the opera like Deadheads followed the Grateful Dead, but I will attend the opera again if a free ticket is involved.

 

 

 

My Jobs (Nine Truths and a Lie)

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In response to the Facebook nine truths and a lie game about concerts, a couple of my friends played by listing jobs instead of music shows. I wanted to play too, so here today I give you nine jobs I’ve actually held and one lie.

Can you guess which job I never worked? Leave your guesses in the comments below.

#1 Worker at dog food factory. I made sure bags of Kibbles & Bits didn’t jam the equipment, and I picked up any bags dumped on the floor because of incorrect weight. I lasted at this job literally two days before swearing I would never go back.

#2 Lunchroom lady at a junior high school. Specifically, I was the dishwasher. I mostly ran the red plastic trays and the silverware thought the dishwashing machine, but I did wash some pans and utensils by hand.

#3 Photographer at a camp for kids with disabilities. I took posed group shots and lots of candid shots. I developed all the film and printed all the photos for the camp yearbook.

#4 Switchboard operator at a bank. I wore conservative dresses, covered my tattoos, answered all incoming calls, and routed them to the proper department. Between phone calls, I did light typing and read magazines.

#5 Worker at a scanning service. My job consisted of removing staples and stacking papers neatly for eight hours a night. I saw people’s financial information, including mothers’ maiden names and social security numbers.

#6 Picker at a chestnut farm. Chestnuts aren’t picked from the trees, They are picked up from the ground after they fall from the trees. I sat on my butt on the ground and gathered all the chestnuts within arm’s reach before moving to the next spot.

#7 Birthday party clown at a fast food joint. When I was over the job and had to do a party for kids too old for a fast food joint party, I told a boy my clown name was “Dildo.”

#8 Sales associate at a t-shirt shop on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. I was fired for being aggressive and having a bad attitude.

#9 Concierge at a French Quarter guest house. I got cash commissions for booking tours and spoke to people who made pilgrimages to see the place where Johnny Thunders died.

#10 Scorer of student responses to standardized tests. I’ve actually worked this temp job on four different occasions. It’s a physically easy but mind-numbing job.