Thursday, July 14, 2016

July 9 thru 13,2016

July 9, 2016

We have spent the entire day relaxing in the campground.  We walked around the other camping loops, including the equestrian area.  Since we were tired from traveling and it is nice and cool up here on the mountain we decided to stay a second night.

July 10, 2016

We went to Mass at the little church in Pecos, then returned to the Pecos National Historic Park so Roger could transmit for awhile. Out next national park is called Fort Union, about an hours drive from Pecos.

I surely do like the New Mexico sky.  It has the prettiest fluffy white clouds against a beautiful blue background.  It causes me to raise my eyes up to the heavens, which is such a good thing to do.  It puts life in a better perspective. 

Near Las Vegas, New Mexico, I was surprised to find flat level prairie land with not a tree in sight.  It was about 25 miles before we saw short trees and shrubs again. Then the prairie land returned.  This pattern repeated itself as we traveled throughout the day.

We arrived in Ft. Union and learned that the fort was established in 1851, after the US/Mexican War.  It was designed to protect citizens traveling on the Santa Fe Trail from Indian raids.  One of the things I found most interesting was a separate hospital building. In its day, it was the largest hospital west of the Mississippi River.  The staff treated civilians as well as the military troops and their families.     

Fort Union was the storehouse for as many as 40 other forts through out the southwest. It was also the place where the dragoons and mounted riflemen became the 1st US Calvary. Ft. Union served as an important, active location for almost 40 years.  But once the railroad was constructed to Santa Fe, the fort had “outlived its usefulness” and was abandoned in 1891.

As we continued out travels Roger pointed out that it was nice to see buttes that are green.  So many we have seen before are dirt without any vegetation. We reached a canyon with a river at the bottom called the Canadian River.  We sure wish we knew how it got its name.  It was very late when we arrived in Logan.  Gratefully, they had plenty of campsites at the campground.  As it turned out, this is the nicest one we have stayed in on this trip, as far as facilities go.  All of the sites have very long pull throughs at least 50feet long.  Each has a covered picnic area with brick walls on two sides, as well as electric and water for only $10 per night.  What a deal!  There is a really nice boat dock at the launching area and numerous picnic areas.

July 11, 2016

We decided to take the interstate route to our next location, thinking we were more likely to find a Laundromat, as well as cell phone service and internet.
Looking out the big front window of the RV, where the prairie land meets the sky, it looks like we could fall off the face of the earth.  So many places seem lonely, hot and dry, with only scattered greenery in the far more prevalent beige grasses. There are very few people living in these remote areas and those that do, we can’t imagine what their source of income might be.

I suppose, if you are born and raised here, you would have gotten used to the openness of the landscape and a tree-filled land may feel claustrophobic.  Being able to see for miles and miles might be comforting. But it makes me nervous and sometimes bored and longing for the eastern part of our country.   

We crossed over into Texas at 11:30, but the only way we could tell is by the signs.  Out view remained the same for a few more miles.  Then we noticed a few small hills.  The only variation in the landscape was a large windmill “farm” with hundreds of windmills.  They went on for over 25 miles across the prairie land.  I wondered what it cost versus the electricity they produce. At least they are in an area where hardly anyone lives, so there probably haven’t been any complaints about destroying the view.  Other than a few cattle herds grazing near the interstate and I doubt they care one way or the other.

We finally started seeing farm land just west of Amarillo.  How great to be back to civilization again.  It gave me a feeling of hopefulness.  We got a great deal on gas at Sam’s, only $1.78 per gallon.  Unbelievable!  Next we located a laundry and spent the next couple of hours cleaning our clothes. To celebrate, we went to a local steak restaurant named Hoffbrau and had an early dinner. Roger had seen it from the interstate and could tell it was local, rather than a chain restaurant.  We had rib eye steak, which was delicious!  What a treat!

After a Walmart stop for groceries, we downloaded our blog, then headed toward Lake Meredith, where there is another national park.  On the way, Roger checked the temperature.  I was shocked to hear it was 110 degrees. I knew it was hot, but had no idea it was that bad. I wonder what the heat index was.

We passed another windmill “farm” with about 80 windmills.  The nearer we came to the park, the more rugged the surroundings.  The prairies gave way to shrubs and some small hills and valleys.  It was 7 pm when we reach Alibates Flint Quarries, about 30 miles north of Amarillo, Texas.  Here the mountains were higher and the valleys were lower.  Of course the visitor’s center was closed at that time of day, so we located an RV park that accepted Passport America and had electricity so we could run the air conditioner. 

July 12, 2016

We returned to Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument, very curious to learn more about his unusual site.  It is so hard to believe that Paleo-Indians quarried flint here over 13,000 years ago.  But they also traded the flint, which was noted for its hardness, to other Indians.  Turquoise, from Arizona, shell jewelry, pipes and obsidian found at Alibates quarries verifies the large range trade with peoples of the west and north.  The park ranger told us that this may have been the very first form of commerce in what is now the continental Unity States.  The name Alibates came from a man who worked in support of preservation of the quarries.  This was the very first National Monument in the state of Texas.  We learned that National Monuments are selected by the President, where as National Parks must be approved by Congress.  

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Before we left the park, Roger spoke with a man outside who was tanning a buffalo hide.  He recommended a small restaurant in Amarillo called the Golden Light Café.  He sells buffalo meat to them. Then he donates the hides to the National Parks, who pay to process them and use them for presentations and displays. 

We located the café easily and ordered the buffalo burger with fries. It was quite good.  The basket of french-fries was huge, and it was only ½ an order.  We ate our fill and still took french fries “home”.  The menu told the history of the café, which opened in 1946.  It has changed hands five times, but still does a good business.  It is the oldest continuously serving restaurant on old Route 66.

R pic 583

On our drive through northeastern Texas, we see a combination of fertile green fields of corn and periodic tall white windmill “farms” on a flat, open range.  Most of the undeveloped land is still a golden brown in places where irrigation is not present. Just west of Allenweed, Texas, we started seeing rolling hills again, which was very pleasant.  It broke the monotony of the flat land and gave a little feeling of anticipation:  what is over the next hill?  It just happened to be a rest area that was built into the side of a hill, quite unique and practical; helping keep utilities costs down, I’m sure.

When we reached McLean, Texas, I noticed the grasses were taller and had a greenish tent, mixed with the golden brown.  There were a few more, taller green trees, kind of like a very slow “awakening”.  Then, believe it or not, just as we crossed the Texas Oklahoma state line, vegetation became greener and the number of trees increased.

We left I-40 at Sayre and headed north to Washita Battlefield National Historic Site. Again, it was closed when we arrived. We found a really pretty city park, where we spent the might.  Though the town of Cheyenne is small, it is a very clean, well kept community. It is so peaceful, that it seems completely opposite of the heritage from which it was derived. 

July 13, 2016

We returned to the visitor’s center this morning and learned about the “Battle”. It sure seemed more like a massacre. It was one of Custer’s very frightening decisions. Chief Black Kettle was a peaceful chief. He had signed treaties to protect his people. But Custer attacked the village before dawn. What a horrible choice he made.  Though there was a small band of warriors who were camped down river that was a raiding party, Black Kettle loved his people and wanted them to survive.  Instead, he lost his own life that fateful day, November 27, 1868.

At 10:00 we headed to Oklahoma City. Gosh!  It is great to see greener grasses again.  I have surely missed them. But I had not realized that we have Southern Plains.  When ever I heard or read about the plains, I visualized the Northern Plains of Montana. It shows how lacking I am in my own country’s geology.  But it also shows I can still learn new things, which I find very encouraging and hopeful.

It appears that eastern Oklahoma is devoted to farming and/or cattle ranching.  But there are still areas of undeveloped plains.  The soil is a very deep red color, which creates a wonderful warm contrast to the surrounding light green vegetation. 

We have passed another large windmill “farm”, just west of Weatherford, Oklahoma. I have to admit that they spoil the scenery for me. They seem so out of place with the natural environment around them.

As soon as we reached Oklahoma City, we went to the Oklahoma City Memorial of the April 1995 bombing of the Federal Building. It is modern in design, but has a wonderful symbolism.  There is a black granite “pool” only ¾ of an inch deep, with constantly flowing water from underground pumps.  This color granite allows it to reflect light in both the daytime and at night.

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Bronze backed “chair” symbols are situated on the lawn next to the pool.  There is one for each of the people who died.  The individual monuments are in 9 rows, representing the floor of the Federal building where they lost their lives. The second floor has small chair memorials representing the children who were in the nursery on that floor. There were a total of 168 victims, 19 of whom were children.


Roger located the person who was in charge of the memorial, as well as the security supervisor. He explained his desire to activate this park on the National Parks On the Air program. They were very helpful and readily agreed.  Then he contacted the ARRL representative who is coordinating the program. He also readily approved of the activation and was very excited.  Roger told him it would be a little over an hour before he would be ready, as we were going to do a tour of the Capitol Building first.  (It still amazes me when Roger is able to accomplish something like this.  I just don’t have his degree of faith.  But it is very inspiring!  I had anticipated at least a long delay in getting approval from three different agencies.  But, no.  He just assumes success and then achieves it. )

The Capitol Building, itself is very impressive and designed similar to many such buildings, with columns and a tall staircase out front and a dome on top.  But I was surprised to see a tall oil rig right in front of the building.  On the tour, I found out that this structure was the first, original oil rig in the State of Oklahoma and the oil industry has had a great influence in the state since the early 1900s.

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The state seal has a star within a circle, which actually made me think about the Texas “lone star” state.  But it really is not alone, because there are stars between each point representing all of the states that were already part of the United States when Oklahoma was approved for statehood. The five points stand for the five major Indian tribes living in Oklahoma.  The center of the star shows an indian, a farmer and a cowboy together.

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We toured the House and Senate chambers and saw many great paintings throughout the building.  There is a grand portrait of Will Rogers and one of Jim Thorpe, a Native American winner of two gold metals in the Olympics in 1912 (the pentathlon, consisting of the five events of fencing, shooting, swimming, riding and cross country running and the decathlon, which is 10 track and field competitions including the long jump, discus throw, javelin throw, sprint and wrestling.)   No one has ever won both events since that date.  

Roger and I were surprised to learn that San Walton was another famous Oklahoma native.  He was the founder of the Walmart and Sams stores. His portrait is also hanging in the Capitol Building.

We returned to the Memorial parking lot and Roger transmitted for about an hour.  He wanted to continue as many people were trying to contact him for this location. But the noise level was so high that it was very difficult for him to hear them well enough to count as an official contact.

We found the Moose Lodge in one of the suburbs of Oklahoma City. (Roger had join just before our trip, for this particular purpose.)  As Roger’s good luck would have it, the “governor” of the lodge was one of the first people we met.  He was very gracious.  After talking for awhile, he heartily agreed for us to use their electric hookup for the night.  We had planned to eat dinner there, but the kitchen is undergoing repair, so it will be some time before meals will be served again.

This evening Roger tried to reach Bill Westmoreland, a classmate who could not make it to our 50 year high school reunion.  Though he couldn’t get a phone number, he was able to get a work e-mail.  He sent him a message that we were in town and would like to see him.

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