Mesquite: Retirement Destination for Many

fullsizeoutput_42f8Mesquite is a popular retirement town and there is a Del Webb community, Sun City Mesquite, nearby.  We spent an enjoyable afternoon touring the grounds, recreation center and model homes. We aren’t ready to “hang up the keys” anytime soon but do see the appeal of living in a community like this one. For us that means a nice little house, near a major airport, that is easy to leave for weeks or months at a time.

fullsizeoutput_42f9We viewed nine model homes and very quickly decided on a couple that would fit our needs –  a two bedroom, two bath home with a den (or third bedroom),  light interior, a large patio and a big bathtub. One of the few things we miss about our house in Boise is our big bathtub!

The other appeal of a community like this is great recreation on-site. The recreation center had a beautiful outdoor pool, an indoor pool, billiards, library, and art studios. There are exercise facilities and classes including line dancing.

Sun City Mesquite has pickle ball and tennis courts and its own highly rated golf course called Conestoga.  Mesquite as a town has more courses per capita than anywhere else in America.

Mesquite is also close to the beauty of southern Utah and the airport and entertainment opportunities in Las Vegas.  We’ve gone to both St. George and Las Vegas several times in the last few weeks.

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Snow Canyon State Park is near St. George and we spent a day exploring. I have looked at reserving a campsite at Snow Canyon several times over the years but always hesitated because the sites with hook-ups were described as very tight.  The reviews were right and there is no way we, with a large trailer and slide-outs on both sides, could fit. But we did see some nice sites without hook ups that we would enjoy. Some places are worth visiting even if you have to rough it and Snow Canyon State Park is one of them.fullsizeoutput_42e4

 

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Moki Marbles

One feature we liked at Snow Canyon were Moki Marbles.  The marbles are iron concretions that stay intact when the rock erodes around them.  These same type of marbles have been found on Mars.

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We noticed this plane in the sky while we were in Snow Canyon. We assume this means one of the engines was out. The pilots surely knew but did the passengers?

fullsizeoutput_42f7 Randy is a retired engineer but hasn’t lost his love for tech gadgets.  This gizmo tracks the propane levels in our two tanks. We only open one tank at a time and when it goes empty we find out when the propane stove turns off while making dinner or when we wake up very cold because the furnace has gone out. One of us has to go outside and move the lever to switch tanks.

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With the lever pushed to the left and the dial showing green,  the propane is flowing from the door side tank.  When it shows red, we have to flip the lever to the alternate tank.

 

We operate that way so we don’t run the risk of both tanks being empty at the same time. This new gadget allows us to open the other tank when one gets low (instead of empty) so we can avoid the next “baby it’s cold outside” moment.

We were delighted to get a text from Boise friends Paula and Mike saying they were on the road in their motorhome heading south for the winter and coming through Mesquite! Whoo-hoo! It is great to see Boise friends when we are in Boise, and super cool to see them on the road!

fullsizeoutput_430aThey had season tickets for Boise State Basketball for many years, as we did, and the Broncos were playing UNLV in Las Vegas so we took that 90 minute road trip together. It was a great time to catch up and enjoy a Bronco win! They’ll be here a few more days so we’ll see what more fun we can cook up!

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Great to see Mike and Paula!

 

 

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Mesquite BC (Before Christmas)

fullsizeoutput_428fWe made it as far south as Mesquite, Nevada and will be here a month. The RV park has gone through several owners (and at least two bankruptcies) so it is far from finished. In the meantime they are using every other space so the sites are huge. It is actually quite nice and very quiet.

fullsizeoutput_4289Our friend Mike drove up from Bullhead City, Arizona to spend a couple of days hanging out. Mike and Randy played golf at Coyote Springs, one of the many courses in the area. They also worked on installing Randy’s new steps.

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The steps fold up into the door opening while traveling.   This view is from the inside.

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The steps are very stable and Randy is happy with them.   Elko and I are withholding judgement.

fullsizeoutput_4285One evening Randy and I drove to the Tuacahn Center for the Arts, near St. George. We saw the best show called Fairy Tale Christmas! All the fairy tale villains, like Cinderella’s evil step-mother, band together to take down Santa. Of course, they fail and all live happily ever after but the show was very, very well done!  Bravo!

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Another day we drove in the opposite direction for the Las Vegas Bowl featuring our Boise State Broncos against the Oregon Ducks. We had been at their two previous games (2008, 2009) so, since we were in the vicinity, of course we were going!

fullsizeoutput_42ddBecause it is Vegas, there was Vegas entertainment during timeouts. We were fortunate to be near the stage!

fullsizeoutput_42e0  There was a very moving tribute at half time to the victims and first responders of the Las Vegas shooting. #Vegas Strong

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Boise State won in a game that wasn’t as close as the score!

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We took a day trip to Nevada’s first State Park, Valley of Fire.  Last spring we tried to visit Valley of Fire but there was no opening in the non-reservable campground. That blog post was Nice and NOT in Nevada. We didn’t try to camp this time, but it would have worked if we had. December must be the perfect time to camp at Valley of Fire as there were plenty of open sites.   We’ll keep that in mind.   Instead we enjoyed hikes, scenic drives, and some special stops along the way.

fullsizeoutput_4296Our first hike was Fire Wave.  After the rocks in our campground, Elko was loving the soft sand!

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A 1.5 mile hike is quite a job for a 12 year old boy, even on a cool day.

Our second hike was to White Domes.  Elko stayed in the truck and Randy and I took turns.

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It had a nice slot canyon.

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And an arch!

fullsizeoutput_42b1There were remains from the hacienda for the set for the 1965 movie “The Professionals.”

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A formation I can’t begin to describe!

fullsizeoutput_42c2In other areas of the park we found other interesting sites including a beehive formation.

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Petrified wood

fullsizeoutput_42e2Three cabins built by the CCC in the 1930s and rented by park visitors for many years.

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Each cabin had its own fireplace.

fullsizeoutput_42c6We saw a lone gravesite for Civil War Veteran Sgt. John J. Clark who died of thirst in 1915.

Valley of Fire State Park was very cool and we might come through again someday – in December if we want to camp!

fullsizeoutput_42d2Back in Mesquite, I noticed an article in the local paper saying the Salvation Army was short on bell-ringers.   I rang the bell for a couple of hours one afternoon will do so again on Saturday.

We send our holiday and Christmas greetings to each of you from Mesquite BC.

 

 

 

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When Real Life Happens

For many of you, you last heard from us in mid October from New Mexico. We’d had a great time at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and were continuing to explore the state.

Yet in the background, real life was happening. My father, Glenn, was hospitalized August 21st with stroke-like symptoms. When he was released, I flew to Vancouver for a visit. He was hospitalized a second time in September and I flew in again. In mid October, when he was hospitalized for a third time, I flew to Vancouver to stay. Randy and Elko followed with the trailer. Unfortunately, his “strokes” were then diagnosed as brain lymphoma.

My father passed away November 25th, a scant three months after his first symptoms. During dad’s last weeks, my mother, brother, Randy and I shared round the clock care and comfort. It was very hard to be there, but it would have been harder not to be.

I so appreciate retiring early and living this lifestyle which allowed us to relocate our lives when needed. I so appreciate nurses and CNAs. They are heroes. I so hate cancer…. my dad’s and my husband’s.

In early December, we left my mom and brother in Vancouver and traveled to Boise for Randy’s bladder cancer re-check. Praise God, all looks to be fine in Randy’s bladder at present. His cancer has a high reoccurrence rate, but we have a reprieve for now. I am thankful.

My mother, Beverly, is doing okay and with her encouragement we have renewed our travels. We are in the warm sunshine of Mesquite, Nevada. Life looks better in the sunshine. We will be here for a month and Randy will have his next set of maintenance treatments in nearby St. George, Utah. In between appointments there are lots of places to explore and things to do. We are glad to be here and are looking forward.

But first, a look back at my dad, the man we love.

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My parents were neighborhood friends as children, married young, and had me a few years later.  This is “our” graduation photo from Eastern Washington State College.   They purposely gave my brother and me names that couldn’t be shortened into nicknames.  But then he called me Charlie.

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My dad was career Army as a social worker but didn’t own dress whites until I asked him to wear them at my wedding.

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I had never seen this photo until a family friend posted it on Facebook after her “Uncle Glenn” passed.  Her dad, Larry, is on the left.   Bud, in the center, was getting married and Larry and my dad were his groomsmen. These three were childhood friends (along with my mom) and stayed connected always.  My dad was the last of the three to pass away.

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We never lived near each other but Granddad and Bevie were always part of Natasha’s life.

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Another wedding photo!  This time dancing with Natasha at her wedding.

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My dad was an only child but had 58 first cousins.  He is here with his cousin-brother Guerin.

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Randy and I traveled frequently with my parents.  This photo is from our 30th anniversary trip to Alaska, part land tour and part cruise.

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My mom and dad visited Alaska quite a few times by RV and cruise ship.  This picture was from their 60th Anniversary Cruise which they hosted for our family.   My parents were married 61 years.   Love you dad!

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All Things

fullsizeoutput_4225The number one tourist destination in this region of New Mexico is Ruidoso Downs. Racing occurs throughout the summer season.   On Labor Day the winner of the All American Futurity receives the largest purse in quarter-horse racing, $3 million.  In contrast, the Kentucky Derby winner gets a mere $2 million!

fullsizeoutput_4226More than 25,000 folks descend on this unassuming racetrack in the town of Ruidoso Downs. All was quiet during our visit as racing was done for the season.

fullsizeoutput_420fWe traveled further afield and found Fort Stanton, established in 1855. Like many forts in the west, it began as an outpost to protect settlers from Indians, in this case, the Mescalero Apache.

In 1861, Union soldiers abandoned the fort setting fire to it as they left so advancing Confederate troops could not benefit. A rainstorm put out the fire and left the fort and supplies available for a brief Confederate occupation.

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Commanding Officer Quarters

Union Colonel Kit Carson and his troops reoccupied and refurbished Fort Stanton in 1862.  The fort served to monitor the Apache until 1896.

General “Black Jack” Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force on the Western Front in World War I, began his military career at Fort Stanton.

Once military usefulness passed, Fort Stanton’s purpose was varied – encompassing almost all things!

In 1899 Fort Stanton became a Marine Hospital for tuberculosis patients. A seaman was required to have served a minimum of three months aboard a United States flagged vessel to be treated in the first federal tuberculosis hospital in the country.

fullsizeoutput_4215In keeping with medical treatment protocols at the time, patients lived in open air tents and had a strict protocol of nutrition and rest.

fullsizeoutput_4217Although many patients recovered, a nearby cemetery holds those who didn’t. The hospital was the primary occupant of the Fort Stanton facility from 1896 to 1953.

The Civilian Conservation Corps had a camp nearby from 1933 to 1940 assisting at the hospital and with the forest service.

fullsizeoutput_4216One of the most interesting chapters in Fort Stanton’s history was when the crew of the SS Columbus, a German Luxury Liner,  were housed there from 1939-1945.

Britain was at war with Germany in 1939 and the SS Columbus was caught in the middle.
Under orders from Hitler to avoid captured by all means, Captain Dahne unloaded his passengers in Cuba and scuttled his ship off the east coast of the “neutral” United States. Over 500 survivors were rescued and taken aboard the USS Tuscaloosa. They spent time on Ellis Island in New York and Angel Island in San Francisco Bay before 410 of the crew eventually occupied the abandoned CCC camp.    Captain Dahne continued to command the men and operations at Fort Stanton.

In 1941, when the US formally entered the war, the men were reclassified as alien enemies. Life went on much as before, except a fence was installed around the camp. The men were repatriated to Germany at the close of the war.

Yet, Fort Stanton’s story is not done!

After the tuberculosis hospital closed in 1953, the property was given to the state of New Mexico.  Between 1963 and 2009, the state used the old fort for a series of purposes. It was a facility for the “mentally challenged,” a women’s low security correctional facility and a drug rehabilitation center.

The state eventually designated Fort Stanton a state monument and then a state historic site.  Many of the old fort and hospital buildings are available for viewing.

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Enlisted barracks


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Four men slept in this double bunk.  Head to toe both upper and lower.


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Catholic Chapel


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This fireplace shows multiple faces from use over the years.

And continuing in the spirit of all things – I often tell Handy Randy that he can fix all things! He always demurs but those of you who know him, or know of him through the blog, know that I am right. He even impressed himself this time!

P1130456For awhile I have grumbled about a shade spot on my photographs.  I called about having the camera cleaned but the estimate was $175 just to get started.  Usually the spot was buried in photographic content and was just a nuisance but at the balloon fiesta it was really a problem.

We discussed getting a new camera but I REALLY don’t like learning new technology.  On a whim, Randy watched a video about cleaning the camera. He figured it was worth $10 to order a precision tool set.fullsizeoutput_421b

fullsizeoutput_421fWhen he got it, he set to work.

fullsizeoutput_421eAnd to the surprise of no one,  he took the camera apart, cleaned some dust off the CCD, (the electronics part that captures the light for the image) and no more shade spot!

P1130781Whoohoo! He saved us about $400 for a new camera and me from having to learn new technology!   Like I said, Handy Randy can fix all things!!

 

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Smokey Bear: There’s More to the Story

fullsizeoutput_4208I grew up with the story of Smokey Bear.  I even taught Smokey’s story as a kindergarten teacher. A bear cub was rescued during a forest fire and nursed back to health. He was named Smokey and became a messenger for the prevention of forest fires. Those basics are still there, but there is much more.

Smokey’s story actually begins in World War II. Forest resources were critical to the war effort and there was great concern about enemy attacks. After a Japanese submarine landed shells near Los Padres National Forest in southern California, the forest service created the Cooperative Fire Prevention Program.

The Wartime Advertising Council looked for an animal to lead the fire prevention message and used Walt Disney’s Bambi for one year. In 1944, after considering a squirrel,  they decided to use a bear and named him Smokey.

 

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This was Smokey’s first slogan.

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This message began in 1947.

fullsizeoutput_4219So what about the little bear cub in the fire we all know about?   It wasn’t until 1950 that he was rescued near Capitan, New Mexico. He was badly burned on his paws and buttocks and he weighed five pounds.

The cub was taken to a veterinarian in Santa Fe by Ray Bell, a pilot with New Mexico Fish and Game.  A local newspaperman nicknamed the little bear Hot Foot Teddy.  The veterinarian was able to treat the burns but the little bear wasn’t eating.  Ray Bell took the bear home where his wife and daughter nursed the bear every two hours and restored him to health.

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The photographer used the honey on the chin trick for this photo.

When word of the cub spread, California wanted him as a living symbol of their flag. The United States Forest Service wanted him as a living representative of their campaign bear, Smokey.  The New Mexico game warden made the decision to send the cub to Washington DC.

With no budget to transport the little cub, Trans World Airlines (TWA) was approached and they agreed to take little Smokey to Washington as freight but would not fly an attendant.  Bill Piper of Piper Aircraft Co. came to the rescue sending a brand new plane to fly Smokey and his human tender to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

Smokey began his work for the Forest Service and children came to know him and his message.

fullsizeoutput_4220Another New Mexico orphaned black bear, Goldie, was brought to the zoo to be Smokey’s mate in 1961. She was also known as Mrs. Smokey. They never had cubs.

Smokey lived and worked at the National Zoo as a Federal employee of the Forest Service. He retired in 1975 at age 25, the bear age equivalent of 70 in human years, the mandatory retirement age for federal employees.  He was officially a member of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees.

fullsizeoutput_420aSmokey died a year later and his remains were returned to Capitan, New Mexico and buried at the Smokey Bear Historical Park.

fullsizeoutput_420bWhen Smokey retired another New Mexico orphan cub went to the National Zoo.  The new Little Smokey embodied the message until his death in 1990 when live bear representation was discontinued.

From 1950 forward, millions of children in the United States and around the world grew up with Smokey’s fire prevention message. In 1992, a Forest Service review considered the prevention message to have been very successful as human wildfires were reduced by half even though use of public lands increased tenfold. In fact, the message was so successfully received that the public had difficulty understanding that natural and prescribed fires were beneficial.

fullsizeoutput_4223At the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta we talked extensively with the current coordinator of the Friends of Smokey Bear Balloon. He told us how the original thought of a Smokey balloon slowly gained momentum and was eventually approved by the US Forest Service. A public and government partnership funded the original Smokey balloon which took flight over the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in1993.

fullsizeoutput_4224In addition to hundreds of appearances around the country, the Smokey Bear Balloon was the first non-Disney balloon invited to fly over Walt Disney World.

The original Smokey balloon snagged a radio tower at the 2005 Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and was destroyed.

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The first Smokey Bear Balloon is also buried at the Smokey Bear Historical Park.

fullsizeoutput_419aWith public support, funds were raised for a second Smokey Bear Balloon. It continues to make dozens of appearances each year.   That balloon is aging and the future is uncertain. The Friends of Smokey Bear Balloon organization have the “rights” to the image but funding a new balloon and continuing operations going forward look challenging.

We are hoping for a future that includes Smokey Bear for our grandson and yours!

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“It’s Amazing!!”

fullsizeoutput_4198It’s Amazing!   That is what we said over and over again at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.

fullsizeoutput_41d5We decided a year ago to meet Art and Beth at the Fiesta and coordinated arrival so we were parked side by side. Beth arranged a balloon flight and had a great time. We paid big bucks to fly over Lake Tahoe previously so didn’t plan to do so again.

 

fullsizeoutput_419c Friends Gerry and Kathy are balloon crew and Fiesta veterans. They advised, encouraged and provided opportunities and experiences that we never expected.  Kathy was a fount of information about individual balloons and Gerry knew everything about the science of it all. They helped make the Fiesta an amazing experience

fullsizeoutput_41a6Through them we met Cheryl, a balloon pilot and instructor.  She is also a member of the Fiesta Board of Directors.  In addition to providing entry passes, Cheryl told us stories about security, sponsorship, statistics, volunteering and the design process for their balloon Twisted.

fullsizeoutput_4199 Her husband, Fred, is the pilot for Twisted, the balloon Gerry and Kathy crew for. We were invited to come out and crew.

fullsizeoutput_41f1The process looks complicated to a novice.  A dozen people were preparing Twisted for flight.

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My task was to loosely velcro the crown piece.  The pilot needs to be able to pull the crown away to release air for descent.  I  asked Kathy to double check me because I didn’t want to make a mistake!   This picture is inside the balloon looking up.

fullsizeoutput_41deRandy had the job others didn’t want when it’s cold outside – standing in front of the fans for the initial inflation process!

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Randy was invited to fly with Fred and Kathy!

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Zebras, in all manners of black and white, give permission for launch.

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Randy aboard Twisted!

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His picture of the launch field.

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Randy found our home for the Fiesta, the Montana in the middle.  The temporary RV park has 30 amp power and water, a shuttle to the launch field,  and is close to the action!

fullsizeoutput_41b5 Art, happily babysitting Elko while Randy and I crewed, noticed Twisted heading toward a nearby field and walked over.  Elko found his dad in the balloon!

fullsizeoutput_41b4We spent two amazing mornings sitting at our campsite watching waves of balloons come over us.  With 550+ balloons at the Fiesta,  we were always noticing one we hadn’t seen before!

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Elko enjoyed the balloons!

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A balloon eclipse!

Special shapes are fun!   Next time we will plan to be there on special shapes day!

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After sunset, we enjoyed the night glows and fireworks.

Enjoy the night glow video!

fullsizeoutput_4190We enjoyed learning about the America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race, one of only two distance races for gas balloons in the world.  The America’s Challenge was founded in Albuquerque in 1995.  The balloons are white to lessen the impact of heating and cooling  and filled with hydrogen, the lightest of gases.

 

fullsizeoutput_41c1Balloons launch consecutively from the same stage holding two pilots, oxygen, and all the gear needed for a 3-4 day flight. They have sand and water ballast.

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The yellow box holds tracking equipment to monitor the balloon’s location – important information for race monitors and their chase crew!

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A gas balloon uses a closed envelope.  The pilot tries to balance winds, ballast and gas usage for flight length and direction.

Balloon routes were available on the Festival App and we monitored the race many times each day!

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Eight teams, four American and four international, competed.   These are landing sites.

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AC-1 and AC-6 were back and forth for most of the race!

fullsizeoutput_41d7At the Balloon Museum we learned about the first balloon flight in France with a crew of a duck, sheep and rooster.  We learned about a failed attempt to land in the arctic and the beginnings of the Albuquerque Fiesta.   We learned about milestone flights across the country, across the Pacific, across the Atlantic and around the world.   We learned about balloons used in warfare.

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We also learned about the Albuquerque box, a unique combination of topography and winds that sometimes allow a balloon to take off and land on the same field.  It’s amazing!

fullsizeoutput_4193We experienced another amazing thing away from the Fiesta grounds – a Musical Highway.   We traveled east of Albuquerque on Route 66.  Once there, Randy drove on the rumble strip at exactly 45 miles per hour and we heard America the Beautiful.    A video from youtube is here.     Other Musical Highways are in Japan,  South Korea and Denmark.   The only other Musical Road in the US, is in Lancaster, California, playing the William Tell Overture.   We’ll get there!

So much is amazing!

 

 

 

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Four Corners – We Pick Colorado

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The title sounds as though we went to Four Corners, whirled the spinner, and chose Colorado.  Although some people travel that way, we don’t. Colorado was pre-planned but Four Corners wasn’t.

fullsizeoutput_415bWe had both been to Four Corners before, the only place in the US where four states meet.   We remembered a parking lot with a medallion and were ambivalent about going again. But when the sign says you are only five miles away – why not?

fullsizeoutput_4159A  lot has changed in 40 years. It is now marketed,  requires $5 per person admission, and has a full complex with booths. It is actually quite nice.

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Supposedly you are only allowed to take three photos. 

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It isn’t all fun and games.

After finding our campground in Cortez, our first stop was Montezuma Veterinary Clinic. Elko had been fussing with his ears and we found he has a double ear infection. Poor boy.  He’s had ear drops for several days now and is improving.

In our first adventure out of Cortez, we drove an hour west to Hovenweep National Monument.  During our drive on the plateau, we had wildlife sightings!

fullsizeoutput_4162Randy saw this tarantula crossing the road so we turned around and took pictures! It was about 3 inches wide and five inches long.

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Later, we saw open range horses. There was a herd of 10 horses and these two were quite comfortable in the road. They weren’t concerned as we moved slowly by.

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We made it to Hovenweep National Monument and were surprised at the crowd. This place is an hour from anywhere but the parking lot was almost full.

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Unlike most national park sites, Elko was welcome to walk the trails. 

 

fullsizeoutput_4169At Hovenweep we saw remnants of Ancestral Puebloan culture in the form of round and square towers.fullsizeoutput_4175

 

 

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There were outlines of multi-room pueblos and tumbling rocks.

The Four Corners region was occupied by Ancestral Puebloans (previously called Anasazi) between 700 and 1300 when the peoples abandoned the region for unknown reasons.

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The ruins at Hovenweep were thought to be built and occupied between 1230 and 1275.

fullsizeoutput_4176The ruins were discovered in 1854 by a Mormon expedition and later named Hovenweep for the Piute/Ute word for “deserted valley.”  The ruins were surveyed by Smithsonian Institution representatives in 1917-18 and designated a national monument in 1923.

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There are a number of similar ruins in the area on BLM land designated Canyons of the Ancients. It takes a little effort to get there, but is worth the trip!

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