Tuesday, December 9

full of thankfulness!

A day of Thanksgiving - well can it be with so much preparation involved? Yes, it can, if you do everything with a spirit of thankfulness. With as many trips as we had made to the store over the last few days, I was thankful we had everything we needed for the meal. The turkey was thawed and I got up early to finish the stuffing, stuff the bird, and put him in the oven. Then I could rest for a couple of hours - the remainder wouldn't take long. It was nice to be surrounded by helping hands of loved ones just happy to be sharing space and time together. We even had a chance to talk to Troy, their cousin, our nephew, and few other loved ones.

The meal was completed with sweet potatoes (started the night before), green beans, greens, fried corn, macaroni and cheese, dinner rolls, cranberry sauce, gravy, sparkling and mulled cider. We served our plates and sat down at the table blessing the food, each of us speaking to what we were thankful for. An dutch apple pie baked in the oven, which we ate as room became available in our tummys. We had such a lovely time this last full day of our time away. We were in the midst of the beauty of God's earth.

It seems when we take these trips we come across unusual programming. Here we saw several episodes of Dirty Jobs, another Discovery channel offering. We saw snake habitats and crocodile habitats cleaned; clams shucked or whatever you call it and more. The shows we get hooked in - oh my!

We began the packing process; who was it we were taking back as much as we brought? Check out was 10 a.m. but us Norman's had a long drive ahead; we were hoping to be home by midnight. The Rodriguezes had a bit of a drive themselves. The next day we packed up the cars and headed on out, leaving our not so Ruidoso Camelot with Crown drive above. We stopped for breakfast at the local Denny's and then went our separate ways. They would stop in the Roswell (their pics) area on their way back to Texas.

We pretty much drove straight home. Having parcelled off all of the leftovers including the carcass for soup, all of us had turkey sandwiches for the road and snacks handy. The hubbi started off the drive and took us all the way into Arizona once again. He likes to collect caps, so we stopped in two Love's to add to his collection. As we left we saw the hill with the cross on top of it commemorating the Battle of Round Mountain. We saw some of the places we missed on White Sands day, and stopped by Eagle Ranch and a local road stop for my souvenoirs.

The skies seemed emotionally clouded at our departure, even shedding a few tears of rain along our way; yet there was a rosy glow as the sun went down on our vacation. I covered the Arizona span from Tucson, and the hubbi drove the rest of the way. Hours and hours later we made it home, shortly before midnight. It would be Saturday and we had time to re-adjust to the real world. It has been a wonderful escapade.

Sunday, December 7

an awesomely austere new mexican adventure

Ps. 139:17-18 — "How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee."

As the eldest identified in the sand, we "were here!" to be remembered as long as a grain of sand is stationary. This big adventure was the trip to White Sands. Again, there was an aspect of New Mexico here that had just previously eluded me. It was here that the atom bomb was built - Los Alamos. It is here the NRAO Very Large Array, Johnson Space Center, the infamous UFO sghting at Roswell. It is here White Sands - you often hear about missiles being tested. It is here where there is the Carlsbad Caverns, petroglyphs, cliff dwellings, a volcanic past, and the gypsum of White Sands. There was once more not nearly enough time to see all of this, but we did see the majesty of White Sands gypsum.

The plan was to go to Cloudcroft and see the Sunspot Scenic Byway and a view of the Tularosa basin at the National Solar and Apache Point observatories, Trestle vista overlooking the Mexican Canyon, and Tunnel Vista. On the way, you passed a very recent attraction - the Inn of the Mountain Gods casino.

As we proceeded, the GPS seemed to have a penchant for indian reservations and frequently took us upon dirt and little travelled byways through flashflood zones and the like. This was not the road test we had in mind for Rondo. So we didn't expect highway244 to come to end and have to back track, but we did find a lovely little church there.

As we stopped for food, we didn't expect to parallel the highway on another backroad, backtracking once again. While it frustrated me, the navigator, and expended much of our day, we finally made our way to our destination. We cast aside the Tularosa Winery and the Eagle Ranch, only to pass highway 82 which would have taken us directly to Cloudcroft. Those weren't to be part of our day.

But we arrived at White Sands National Monument about 4pm. We drove into a wonderland of whiteness, at first there was plant life, but the deeper we went in, the scarcer it was. We were told not to rely on our sense of the direction or the sun. Gratefully, the GPS was working with us here. There was a stark loveliness here, and austere beauty - a world within a world. They set up an educational area that highlighted the animal and plant life in the area. It demonstrated how they could maximize solar power. It identified the types of munitions from testing fallout that one should leave alone if encountered here. There was also a play area too. Sledding was ideal.

See the album to capture the frontal views!

It was indeed an unusual drive to arrive at this place; but well worth it. Handsdown, we were all in agreement. It did not detract that we sighted the destinations we had missed on the way back. As the skies darkened and we meandered our way back to our place on high, we knew we had had quite a wonderful day. The next day would be Thanksgiving and, well, we were quite thankful. What an awesome God we serve!

stepping back into old new mexico

Land of enchantment - I was definitely enchanted with this area called New Mexico; amazed at the history in this place, the geological and other aspects of this land. I grew up on the tale of Smokey Bear, learning that "only you can prevent forest fires", but I didn't know the tale of that little bear cub.

I had learned a lot of native and mexican american history - mostly from TV because it was inaccurately, or poorly, or not taught in school - but was unaware how much of what I knew had taken place in this area - geography not being a strongpoint. Here there were Pancho Villa, Kit Carson, Billy the Kid (William H. Bonney), Geronimo, Buffalo Soldiers, Navajo Code Talkers of WWII and so much more. Other historical figures listed on the http://newmexico.org/western site are Archbishop Lamy, Charles Bent, Kit Carson, Willa Cather, Flying Priest, Greer Garson, Conrad Hilton, Mable Dodge Lujan, Fred Lambert, John Gaw Meems, Robert Ollinger, Millicent Rogers, Will Schuster, Carrie Tingley.

We took a step into some of this history the day after the Rodriguezes arrived, allowing them to rest and acclimate. I had a number of resources to plan our day trips, particularly the AAA tourbook, the New Mexico Vacation Guide 2008, and the Ruidoso Visitor Guide. For this expedition, we took the Rondo on the road northwest through the Hondo Valley onto highway 380 to Capitan. It was here that a little black bear (the state animal) was rescued from a forest fire, subsequently becoming the symbol for educating the public to prevent such disasters.

A little further up the road we head steep into history of the old west. Up that road was the most serene scenery, where I could easily imagine the deer and the antelope play and nary was heard a discouraging word and the clouds ..., well they did get cloudly at times. It was on this road, we saw elk.

But if you follow the history nary would not be quite accurate. Lincoln County had a rather feisty and turbulent past - Main Street called 'the most dangerous street in the West,' I believe. They had what was called the Lincoln County War - full of factions fighting factions. We walked down this street, getting a slight glimpse of the times. We further drove over to Fort Stanton from which soldiers came to intervene in that war under a new Governor Lew Wallace (author of Ben Hur), another aspect of those very times. Other noteworthy names are Sheriff Pat Garrett, cattle baron John Chisum, General John J. 'Blackjack' Pershing.

Hunger overtook us, so we made our way back to Ruidoso, amidst the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation to get some chow.

rudimentary in ruidoso

We had a few days to ourselves before those Rodriguezes arrived ;-). They would be leaving for our parts Sunday around midnight and arriving near noon Monday. We just really enjoyed the time basking in our surroundings and each other's company. As I mentioned we had certain creature comforts of home - so the guys were playing their games y estudiƩ el espaƱol. We brought a lot as we are in the habit of doing. We found the local store nearby - a Walmart - with everything else we would need. Amusingly enough, we made at least one trip every day - guess we're not used to not being at home; there was always something we thought we could use.

Oddly enough, I became very domestic - I made breakfast nearly every morning - hashbrowns, eggs, bacon and sausage - and kept the kitchen cleaned up. I walked around the facilities. I went over to the clubhouse every now and then to make sure all was right with the world on facebook and mobwars and the hubbi did some banking. But we also had cellular wireless connection which could be used right there in our accommodations.

The first day I had a headache - symptomatic of high altitude as we were 7000 ft up; after 24 hours I adjusted. We watched movies - The Mist (the book by Stephen King) - without the youngest; he was playing his games. What an intense (and I mean that in the most intense way imaginable) movie! I was pacing the floor and wondered how anyone could have sat through the amped up atmosphere of a theatre with that movie. It still was a great look at the human psyche under extreme circumstances.

By the time the Rodriguezes joined us we had regrouped from our long drive, were relaxed and acclimated. It would take them about a day and half to achieve the same. We had lovely weather - nice and warm fresh air slightly thin on oxygen. In the evening it cooled quite a bit and we cuddled up in our quarters by the fireplace - every day closer to Thanksgiving was a little cooler.

When they arrived, we watched a few more movies - Traitor, Hulk, Taken and Wall-E (the hubbi and I still have yet to watch this one). We played a few games - Carcassonne, Mille Bornes, and Spouse-ology. We enjoyed all the movie selections as well as the games. The Rodriguezes and the Normans tied in Spouse-ology. It was a lot of fun testing the strength of our marriages in this competition. The youngest learned and quickly grasped Milles Bornes, a game our family has played 3 generations now. We introduced the Rodriguezes to the intracacies of Carcassone on the initial level while indicating how enhanced it can become. The winner was undetermined, as we moved pieces off the board before it could clearly be determined.

That's pretty much it for the day-to-day activities. We made a couple of extracurricular outings - and those are yet to come!

Wednesday, December 3

the road to Ruidoso

We took off Friday morning hoping to have a couple of hours to spare before the offices of our accommodations closed in New Mexico. It was a pleasant ride - the youngest is a very good road buddy. We had food, we had music, we made restroom and gas stops - and we made away into the southwest - Blythe, Phoenix, Tucson, Las Cruces. I actually did a lot of the Arizona drive.

The scenery was indicative of an imaginative God with lively skies and wonderful mountainscapes and desert vegetation. The youngest can identify cactus. There was a section of mountains that the rock reminded me of "The Never Ending Story" - remember the rock guy - Rock Biter "Where-where-where I come from in the North, we used to have exquisite gourmet rocks. Only now... now, they're all gone." The formations had the same rounded shape. My S-I-L's favorite quote "They look like big, good, strong hands, don't they? I always thought that's what they were". A delightful movie; but I digress.

By Las Cruces, our Garmin was indicating our timing was tight - would we make it before Crown Point Condominiums closed. Oh yeah, we lose an our traveling into Mountain time. The youngest has been very amusing describing my stress as to whether we'd make and his dad trying to reassure me. A half hour away, I called to let them know our predictament; they were willing to make it so we could get a key to our place, even if they closed. However, in fact, we made it with minutes to spare.

We were using a timeshare with a full kitchen - so along with clothes, I packed a lot of things I preferred not to buy like seasonings, condiments, etc. You buy those things and you come back with double your need. Also while those places provide things like dish soap and stuff - usually more is needed, so I brought that too. So the Rondo (our car), same name as the Celtics basketball player, was packed to the gills with all the creature comforts of home - I even had a candle. I like places to have a familiar pleasant smell, so I bring my own. Didn't use it this time though, the clean fresh, woodsy air seem to more than suffice. I keep a bag with such things as these for when ever the ocassion arises - its filled with samples of things, like ketchup packets, lotion, aspirin, antacid, tissue - you name it. We unloaded Rondo and settled in for a night's sleep at Crown Point, Ruidoso, NM - our home away from home for the week to come - leaving most of the unrefrigerated fully unpacking for the next day.

Monday, December 1

Plum Loco RoadTrip

As I was lovingly reminded, it's been awhile since I've posted. I've actually penned one, but haven't uploaded it yet. But just back from New Mexico it's time to cover that trip. This is the first installment.

Plum Loco is a wine made in Deming, New Mexico. I actually acquired it in Alamogordo where wine is fine as well, along with pistachios. Tularosa wines were recommended too. I debated between my selection and a peach wine variety; the clerk convinced me to go with the plum. It's a sweet wine I found plum delicious. I'm intrigued enough to find some of these varieties online.

That intro leads me into our NM adventure. What a week! We traipsed into Ruidoso, also visiting White Sands Dunes, Capitan (did you know that was the origin of Smokey the Bear?), Fort Stanton, and old Lincoln NM. It turns out that New Mexico is a bevy of history and events that our travels only touched upon. I was quite impressed with that as much as its beauty and diverse people and landscape.

It proved to be an excellent opportunity to get away and relax, see some sights, enjoy family, and, well, take the new car out onto the open highway. Some might have thought our choice for a Thanksgiving week celebration was just plum loco; I think it was, as my dear son-in-law would say, Sweet!

The slides cover the aforementioned locations as well as the going to and fro and, well, our cast of characters.

Fitness Footnote

'the highs and lows of' my Weight Loss Journey