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Monday, June 29, 2015

Albuquerque

I arrived a day early in Albuquerque and on the following day, the family started to trickle in from all points of the compass. My niece, Leann, and her husband from Colorado in their newly acquired Euro Van, my other niece and her partner from North Carolina, nephew and wife from Ely, niece and husband from San Jose, Ca. brother and partner from California, sister and husband from Reno, and so on. Our hosts, Lance and Kathy, have a lovely home in the traditional southwest adobe style with a big backyard where much of the festivities took place. The weather was, as is the case in most places these days, strange and unpredictable. Some hot spells, some violent thunderstorms with torrential downpours, some pleasant, warm days. There were a variety of activities to partake of depending on the mood and tastes of the attendees. One morning a group went to a Nature Centre where Lance and Kathy's daughter works. There we participated in a planting exercise. Golfball size balls had been made with dirt, fertilizer and seeds to distribute in a field in order to return it to a natural state. 

So we walked from one end of the field to the other tossing the seed balls around. 




After distributing all of our balls, we learned how to make more and set them out in the sun to dry. This planting strategy insures that birds won't eat the seeds and the seeds will have the nutrients to give them a good start. 

 
Sifting the soil

 
Mixing the soil, seeds and fertilizer with water


 

 
Making seed balls

 
Road runner with catch



For another outing, a group of us went to tour a couple of noteworthy markets. The first, Umami, began as a Thai grocery and has been expanded into a large international market featuring food from most of the major cultures on the planet. The other market was Mercado El Ranco , or something along those lines and catered to the Hispanic community (New Mexico is 55% Hispanic). In this huge super market style store, there was pretty much anything you could ever hope for in the way of ingredients for Mexican or Southwest meals. A group of us were booked for a hot air balloon ride Saturday morning but when we woke up (very early) the weather didn't look very conducive to ballooning. Nonetheless, we went to the launch site and stood around for a while hoping for improvement but it was not to be so we rebooked for the next day. Hungry for breakfast, we took Lance's recommendation for a quintessentially southwest breakfast. The Frontier Restaurant is right across the street from the university and they are set up for volume. School was out and it was early so it wasn't crowded as we shuffled through what looked like cattle chutes to the counter manned by maybe ten guys who were waiting to take orders. I had huevos rancheros that were very good, smothered in green chile. Red and green chile largely defines southwest cuisine. It is served on or with most everything. Every fall, the air in Albuquerque is redolent with the aroma of roasting chiles. After roasting they are peeled and chopped up or left whole, frozen or canned. New Mexico is the only state with a state question: "red or green?"


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Nevada - Utah - Arizona

The drive that day started out pretty ugly scenery-wise, a featureless landscape broken only by wind turbines and power lines and it was getting hot.

So I got off the interstate at a place called Gooding, ID and followed the Snake River where numerous waterfalls gushed into the river from the cliffs. This is big time dairy farm country as the pungent odours indicated. Entering Nevada it began to cool down as the elevation rose. Just inside the border at Wells, Nevada, I stopped for gas and looked for coffee. There was a place among the truck stops with a kind of faux Italian motif that prominently advertised espresso. I needed to stretch my legs and decided to give it a shot (pun intended) I ordered my usual double short americano which flummoxed the server, "we only have 12oz cups". "So don't fill it full", I replied. When she announced a price of $4.25 I did a double take. She said it was the owner's special custom blend. This better be good. And it was. Very good. In Wells, Nv. Who'd a thunk. The drive from there through the Great Basin to my nephew's place in Ely, Nv. was gorgeous, through a broad valley bookended by high mountains. I've done this drive before but have never seen it so green due to a comparatively wet spring.

My nephew and his wife have a beautiful, new home surrounded by his hay fields and horse paddocks and I passed a nice evening there.

Next morning off early continuing through the Great Basin, down the length of Nevada, up and over another couple of mountain ranges and winding up in St. George, Utah. Despite my fears, the temperature remained comfortable until then with even a few drops of rain. But it was stinking hot there. The highway drops down a long way to St. George and approaching town I crested a hill and before me was the first of those outrageous red rock formations, quintessential Southwest. I just about drove off the road! This is the beginning of that amazing red rock topography, Zion on one side followed by the Vermillion Cliffs, rugged, wildly coloured cliffs stretching for many miles.

I was hoping to camp that night but v arrived at Lee's Ferry too early to stop. Lee's Ferry is the favoured launch spot for Grand Canyon raft trips and I'd camped there before.

Someone there told me there was camping on my intended route through the Hopi reservation so I continued on. And on, and no camping in sight. By then I'd been driving for about 10hrs and not eaten much and was starting to flag. In desperation, I made a couple of cheddar cheese tacos (not recommended) and revived a little. Still no campsites. A sign for a motel but way overpriced it turned out. By then I was close enough to Albuquerque to just keep on going. So, after 15hrs, I arrived, dead tired, in Albuquerque where my cousin, Lance and his wife live and where the reunion was to be held.

 

 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Family Reunion in Albuquerque - this one's for Harry

After much badgering from my friend Harry, who apparently is an avid follower of my blog, I will resume blogging with posts about my road trip to Albuquerque for a family reunion. The first leg of the trip was to my daughter's place about 60mi east of Portland up the Colombia Gorge. The usual interstate travel but quite lovely driving up the Gorge.

My daughter broke her ankle recently so I left a couple of days early to help them out. She's a teacher and this is a very busy time at school winding up the year so help was appreciated. Did lots of housework and laundry and also enjoyed hanging out with the family. My son in law and I went to Council Lake up at the base of Mt Adams with his inflatable kayaks and we paddled around a bit.

He fished unsuccessfully but the serenity and and beauty of the place more than compensated for the lack of fish.

That's a beautiful area wth Mt Adams and Mt. Hood, and many rivers.

Mt Adams
 
Mt Hood
 
White Salmon River
 

While there, the thermometer began to rise, the days in the 30s but cool at night. With that in mind, I got an early start for my next leg of the trip to Bosie where my mother in law lives. The interstate follows the Columbia Gorge, a gorgeous route until it diverges from the river and heads out across a seemingly endless, flat stretch of farmland.

And it was hot! Finally reaching the end of that landscape, the road began to ascend the Blue Mts., a steep climb and when I happened to look, down at the dash and I saw that the temperature gauge was at the top. Yikes! So pulled over immediately, opened the hood but saw nothing obviously amiss. Waited until it cooled enough to resume but it started overheating again so I limped along dreading any uphill. That went on all the way to Bosie making for a very hot, stressful trip. Made it to my mother in law's where I would spend the night. She lives in a little single wide manufactured home on a desolate piece of property. It was about 32C when I got there and AC never felt so good.

So the question was, to continue limping along since I was on a pretty tight schedule, or find a mechanic. With my daughter's urging, I opted for the mechanic, not relishing the thought of breaking down on one of those lonely highways in Nevada. I got a recommendation and first thing next morning was at the mechanic's, the problem quickly diagnosed and fixed and on the road by 9:00am, much relieved.