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This will sound strange coming from me and maybe it's a sign of age. But sometimes it feels really good to come home. The back to back trips to Arizona were an adventure but not one I want to repeat anytime soon. The first trip was me driving all the way to meet my family in the White Mountains for Christmas. The pre-Christmas midwest blizzard delayed me leaving for two days. So I actually left on the 23rd with more than 1700 miles ahead of me by Christmas Eve. If I could have figured out a legitimate excuse besides, "I'm worn out and don't want to drive that far." I probably would have. My Dad even told me just to stay in Illinois. Unfortunately, he knows when he says that, I take it as a challenge and will do it anyway.

So I left the morning of the 23rd and drove across snow and ice encrusted MO and Ks with my trusty companion Mr. Bear riding shotgun on the dashboard.



The roads were pretty much crap until after Kansas City, then they got a bit better. I stopped to see chimerae for a few hours to just get off the road. We had a fun discussion and then I was back on the road, down through Hutchison and Witchita and I made it to Pratt, KS that night. Camped out in a down at the heels hotel and was back on the road by 8 the next morning. The weather started to improve. Lots of sunshine but still cold.

Oklahoma was windy and dry and I kept seeing all these little yellow birds, but nothing much to really catch my eye and stop to shoot, except for the long abandoned Ranch House Motel in Texhoma.

I finally went through Conlen, TX in the daylight and got a shot of the big cowboy, which seriously is about the only thing that town has going for it.

The suddenly I passed the entry sign for NM was back in God's Country once more. I rolled down the windows to breath in the heady scent of sage and dust. I made a rest stop in Nara Visa, NM to shoot an old Chevron station, Some decaying trucks And Ira's Bar and Package Store

All these will be posted in full on rural_ruin soon.

An hour or so before sunset, I stopped in New Kirk, NM for gas and wouldn't you know it, there was an abandoned church there for me to explore.

I was driving through the highway cuts of the Sandia Mountains overlooking Albuquerque at sunset



Then on across I-40 to Gallup and into AZ. I called the folks from Holbrook. My brother answered and said they were dining on steak and wine. I had just finished my dinner of beef jerky and Gatorade so I cursed him for the little shit he is. They went on to Midnight Mass. I just went on driving another 75 miles. I got to Pinetop around 10:45 and did donuts in the snow in the Safeway parking lot, waiting for them to return my cell phone call and lead me to the resort. Guess I didn't need to haul that suit all the way across country anyway did I?

Hanging at the resort for a few days and spending time with the family was fun even though we spent a lot of the time cramped up in the resort because it snowed daily. At least the great room at the resort had this huge warm fireplace and there was a big hot tub to relax in.

We had Christmas dinner at the White Mountain Apache Casino. Huge spread they put out. Much easier than cooking ourselves. Make that 2 end of the year holidays I spent with family at resorts and eating resort food.

One day we went out to see the Casa Malpais Indian ruins but they were closed because of all the snow. So we toured the museum and bought gifts



That's my younger brother Joe next to the big tree ring slab. Upon trying to find the museum, we made a wrong turn which took us out into the countryside and we got to see a bald eagle. I also got to try out my new 70-300 mm zoom lens. Thanks Eric!



At one point the eagle flew down from the tree to munch on the carcass of a dead coyote. Now there is some good family entertainment let me tell you!

Another day we just went out to drive around and see the landscape. Mom was amazed that we could have a foot of snow at the resort and just 10 miles away it was like late Autumn weather

On the 28th, we took my brother to the airport at Show Low early and said goodbye. He later got stranded in Phoenix for almost a whole day. We went to Denny's for breakfast before the folks went to pick up their van which had been in the shop all week getting a new transmission. Great Christmas gift eh? At Denny's, Dad tried to feed Mr. Bear. He should know Mr. Bear is a meat eater and doesn't like hash browns. He snuck a slice of Dad's bacon when he wasn't looking.

After that we parted ways. I went North while they got their van paid for. They ended up about 3 hours behind me the whole first day. I stopped off in the little ghost town of Woodruff to snap some pix of a storage space ingeniously dug into an existing rock formation.

I stopped again on I-40 at Ortega's Trading Post near Window Rock and chatted with a pretty little Navajo girl named Delores about the differences between animals considered bad omens from the Shawnee to the Navajo. She invited me to join her and her friends at the big Gathering of Nations Pow Wow in Albuquerque in April. We'll see how that goes. She told me I should stop at Window Rock and get some shots of the scenery, so I took her advice. Mr. Bear had to ham it up for the camera.

But I did get some really good shots of the rock formations and the remains of an old horno oven.

How would you like to live in that house and have that view to wake up to each morning?

Then came the long drive in daylight back across NM. I swear it takes forever to get from Gallup to Albuquerque. I stopped briefly in Zuni Canyon near Grants for self portrait.

By the time I hit Albuquerque it was getting dark. I turned north to head up to Cimarron and visit my elderly friends Buddy and Irma. I stopped for gas in Santa Fe as it started to snow. Driving up I-25 in the snow was really no fun at all. But I got to Cimarron around 8:30 and found my friends still awake. They invited me to spend the night on their couch next to the nice warm wood stove and I readily accepted.

I got some good sleep and had breakfast with them the next morning before taking off. I went down to the village and visited for an hour or so with my friend Shirley Dale in her 1800's style trading post and outfitter.

See that nice deerskin tunic hanging up there? She's making me one just like it. Mr Bear had a good time visiting with Shirley too.

Shirley was about the only one of my friends available that day. My cousin Tracy was sick and Jim Beil was out of town. Even Val Kutz was not working that day. So I toured around a bit taking photos of the other Cimarron residents.







And places where I'd worked before.

And sights that made me fall in love with that country.

And I shot an accidental self portrait in the process.

After that, I said goodbye to God's Country for another few months and beat feet back across the high plains to Kansas. I made it as far as Witchita before stopping for the night in what has to be the worst cheap hotel room I'd ever stayed in. The kind of place they rent by the hour. I slept on top of the covers in my clothes and feared for my safety when taking a shower the next morning considering this was hanging overhead.

I went on to see chimerae later that morning for a short visit. Then up to Kansas City to see our mutual friend Kim who gave me a wonderful upper body massage and fed me. Unfortunately, after my massage, I wasn't wearing my glasses and mistook the squeeze bottle of massage oil for my water bottle. I'd advise against drinking massage oil. It smells much better than it tastes. I left Kim's around 8 and was home by just past midnight.

Deb and I spent New Year's Eve at the farm. Another blizzard that had been tailing me across the plains finally caught up with me on the prairie and dropped another 6 inches of snow on us. Deb and I drove back to the city the next afternoon. I went to work the following day, then went home and repacked my bags in order to fly to Phoenix the next day. That's right, I was going back where I had just come from. More on that in the next post.

Peace,

Wander

Comments

ladykalessia
Jan. 30th, 2008 05:12 pm (UTC)
Lovely pictures! Reminds me though - when are you headed out this way? (Need to add it to the calendar. :) )
wander
Jan. 30th, 2008 05:26 pm (UTC)
I don't have a specific date yet. Finances will dictate that a little. I'm waiting for the Tax rebate check and hopefully I'll get something for a tax refund and then our company bonus and my raise. But I'm thinking latter part of April or early part of May which is when I would normally go to the East Coast to do a fireworks show. But since that is not happening this year...

Thanks for the compliment on the photos!

w
ryl
Jan. 30th, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC)
But since that is not happening this year...

Wait, what?

Well, sir, I may have to use my tax rebate to go up to the Great Flat North! If I get one.
wander
Jan. 30th, 2008 09:41 pm (UTC)
Like what happened two years ago, they told us early they wanted us to do it and right at year end they decided against it. Said it didn't fit with the theme. So let them field all the complaints from all the kids. I'll be in NC in March for Spring Council meeting but don't know if I'll get over to see you or not. You are always welcome up here.

W
ryl
Jan. 31st, 2008 01:14 am (UTC)
The Scouts really need to get it together. Don't they know that the whole fun of the Camporee is blowing shit up? Isn't that what Boy Scouts is all about, knots and explosions?

Man, first I miss out on Arlo Guthrie and now this. *kicks things*

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wander
Wander aka StoneBear
Bear Dancer Studios

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