Saturday, April 30, 2011


We are really sorry, Cairn, that we didn't listen to you. (Cairn is our GPS) We left Silver City this morning at 8 am, headed for Elephant Butte Lake State Park. We were out early to beat the high winds that were supposed to come up in the afternoon. When we put in our destination, Cairn said to go south on US 180, which would take us to Deming, then head to I-25 on NM 26. No, no, we said. It is a direct shot on NM 152, straight east. We really should have paid attention.

Hwy 152 is like the road we drove on the way to Gila Cliff Dwellings--lots of 10 mph hairpin curves, and even more 15 mph curves.

Look at this image on Cairn.

I thought it was a beautiful trip.

John was driving so he wasn't as impressed. He didn't see much other than the road and the steering wheel and the speedometer. In addition to the curves, we went from 6,000 ft to 8,200 ft, down, back up, and finally down to 4,100 ft.

When it leveled out some, we came to a sign that said narrow bridge. Then it said 12'6" bridge. Our RV is 12'9"--at least. The sign on the bridge itself said 12'8".

We pulled over to the side while we talked about what to do. We had spent over an hour driving at an average of 25 mph up and down hills, around sharp curves. Did we have to back up to a place we could turn around and drive back the same way? While we were thinking, a motorcycle rider stopped and said he thought we could make it if we stayed in the center of the road. Copper trucks drove this road. He said the 12'8" was at the sides of the road where the supports came down. God bless that biker.

We drove to the bridge and I got out and walked in front of the truck to watch and see if we would fit. (Obviously, we have done this before.) We had at least a foot of room above the front air conditioner. When we reached the second bridge, we drove on through without stopping for me to check it out.

Thank heavens, we made it to our destination. Don't ever take a 36' fifth wheel trailer that is 12'9" high on Hwy 152 in New Mexico!

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Really Old Community

The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is 44 miles from Silver City. "Allow two hours driving time," it says in the brochure. What? Why on earth? Well, the road, while paved, is narrow and curvy. It passes through a beautiful Ponderosa Pine Forest with some great vistas over the Gila Wilderness.

But when the sign looks like this:

and the road looks like this:

It does take two hours.

After going in the Visitor Center, we stopped at the Trail to the Past, a short walk to this old two-room dwelling.

Nearby there were some pictographs. I have no idea what the first one represents, but the second photo shows a person. The actual rock paintings are not this bright or sharp. My photo editing software does amazing things.

The cliff dwellings were built between 1276 and 1287 (determined from dating when the trees for roof beams were cut) by people of the Mogollon culture.

These people were hunters and gatherers and farmers who traditionally built pit houses or surface pueblos in the mountainous areas of Arizona and New Mexico. They found abundant game and fertile soil in the Gila River valley. For some reason, the Tularosa Mogollon built inside the caves of cliff Dweller Canyon. By 1300 the people had moved on from the canyon.

The dwellings were built in six caves, using small rocks.

The cave opening gives a nice view out into the canyon.

This is a two-story building in the corner of one cave.

The soot coating on the ceiling of the cave shows the results of many fires for cooking and ceremonies.

Archaeologists believe the square area seen here was a hearth and the two circles were rings for round storage pots or ollas.

T-shaped doors are important clues for archaeologists. Unfortunately, I can't remember what they are clues to.

This view gives a good idea of the size of Cave 3.

Here we could see a tall basket (possible a waste basket?) and a smaller basket, each holding small corn cobs. Both are modern replicas, I believe. As you hear often in old sites like this, use your own imagination about how they were used.

To protect the fragile ancient walls, the Park Service has built several small ladders like this so visitors can see what is on the other side of the wall. They are very sturdy and easy to stand on.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Farming and Mining

We are staying at the Rose Valley RV Ranch in Silver City, New Mexico. So it is no surprise we have seen a lot of old farm equipment and a lot of mines--although they aren't silver mines.

This water tank tells you where we are.

And this is the sign for our street.

There is a lot of rusty farm machinery decorating the park. This slide show gives you an idea of what we see here each day.

This is a great park with huge, private sites, wide roads, a walking trail out back, and fun things to look at. We are enjoying our stay. And there are lots of things to see in the surrounding area.

In 1870, silver was discovered south of here near Lordsburg. According to the Historic Silver City Area Scenic Trails, "Captain John Bullard and his men rode south to investigate. After examining the ore, one of the men said, 'Boys, if this is what silver looks like, we have plenty of it at home. They hurried back and began to dig one half mile west of the present courthouse."

Silver mining grew the city from one cabin to over 80 buildings and Silver City became the county seat. Later, copper mining became the biggest activity. As we drove to Silver City Saturday, we passed through the town of Tyrone and saw copper mining there. Yesterday we passed the Santa Rita Mine and stopped to look at it and read about it. The mining pit is huge, over 1 mile across and 1,600 feet deep. The open pit mining here began in 1910 and it operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

In 1854 the United States bought land south of the Gila River in New Mexico and Arizona to provide a southern railroad route to the Pacific. It looks like we got a good deal for our 33 cents an acre purchase prize.

The two copper mines we have seen here, as well as many other mineral resources, came with the land we bought.

Tour the Gila

When we arrived in Silver City, we were asked if we had come for Tour the Gila. No, what is that? we asked. It is a bicycle race, we were told. Well, it is a really big bike race. In fact, Lance Armstrong was in it for several years, including last year. It lasts 5 days. Stage 1 is 73 to 94 miles long, with the last few miles climbing 2,100 feet; Stage 2, 64 to 80 miles long, is a loop; Stage 3 is a 16.1 mile time trial; Stage 4 is a Criterium, whatever that means, with bicyclists riding a downtown loop for somewhere between 13 and 43.4 miles. Stage 5 is the Gila Monster Road Race, ranging from 72 to 106 miles in length. It is the most accomplished men's group climbing a total of 9,360 feet in 106 miles of riding. On Sunday, after the Criterium, the person in each group with the best overall time is the winner.

That is probably more information than I, or any of my readers, are interested in. But we really wanted to get a feel of what this was all about. After all, this is the 25th annual event here in Silver City. The opening day begins with a parade downtown, with the first group taking off at 8 am. We arrived before 7:30 to see what everything looked like. Yes, there is a bike race about to begin.

The bike riders aren't the only people involved. Each group has a support vehicle that carries extra wheels. No spare tires, but extra wheels, one or two per rider.

One of the professional women's teams had this waiting area.

And here are their bikes.

Here are two members of one of the men's teams. They didn't have chairs, so they leaned on the bikes.


Apparently, a race reaches the big time when some company agrees to sponsor a neutral support team, helping whatever rider needs it. SRAM sponsors this race and provides support. I think they sell bicycle equipment.

A tool kit is essential to a support team.

This is another way spare wheels make it onto the race course.

This guy looks like he is wondering if he will even make it to the starting line.

There has to be a more comfortable place for this woman racer to sit while she waits.

Racing bikes must not have kick stands. When you head to the porta potty, all you can do is lay it down on the ground.

I don't think this fellow was planning to ride in the race. My guess is, he was a spectator, just like us.

Here is the first heat of Men 40+, waiting for the start of the race.

And away they go!

And there they go.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wind, Wind...

go away. Come back when we're gone.

We often had to contend with wind in Arizona. But nothing like what we have experienced since coming to New Mexico. When storms pass to the north--with rain and snow--the southern parts of both states experience wind. Since Saturday it hasn't stopped. On the TV news last night, they told viewers to take in any loose items in the yard and be prepared.
It was blowing when we woke up this morning.
It has been blowing all day.
It is still blowing.
As I write, Weather Underground says the speed is 9 mph. I don't believe it. It was in the 20s during dinner. We have had gusts up to 61 mph. Thankfully, the wind is hitting the rear of the RV, not the side, or we would really be shaking.

Because of the wind, it was a good day to stay indoors--except for our run this morning and a short trip to town.

We get our internet, most of the time, from a Verizon wireless broadband card. We were eligible for our "New Every Two" upgrade, so we visited the Verizon store. This is what we got.

It is a 4G MiFi device, meaning we can have up to five devices using the internet at a time. We have three--two laptops and an ipad. Who knows when we will be in a location to get 4G service, but at least we are up to date. In the photo, it is plugged in to charge the battery. So much so, the folks in the store didn't know that we wouldn't need to download software to connect!

And the best news is, it is free. We paid $53 today, but we receive a $50 rebate. I'd say $3 is free. Not bad, huh?

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Catwalk

Today we drove north from Silver City on US 180 to The Catwalk, a trail up Whitewater Canyon that includes a suspended walkway. In 1889 silver was discovered up the canyon and in 1893 a mill was built near the base of the canyon to process the ore. The mill needed water to operate it's generator so a 4-inch metal pipeline was installed in the canyon to provide a continuous water supply to the town there and the mill. In 1897 a larger 18-inch pipeline was built to run a new, bigger generator. The canyon is so narrow that the ore was not brought through the canyon, but instead was carried along the top and lowered into the mill.

In the 1930s the CCC (yes, they were here, too) constructed the Catwalk to make the canyon accessible for recreation. Since then, the US Forest Service has reconstructed it twice.

The drive to The Catwalk was very pretty.

Here you can see the treeline that shows where the Gila River flows. For three winters we have stayed near the dry bed of the Gila in Arizona. That river had watered the fields and villages of the people who built Casa Grande Ruins, where we were volunteers.

In New Mexico, the Gila is actually a flowing river.

To reach The Catwalk, we walked through the large picnic area with the very nice entrance gate. Many large sycamore trees grow in the picnic area and up the canyon.

Many sections of the 1.1 mile trail are on metal platforms anchored in the rock walls of the canyon.

This stairway leads down to creek level.

This photo helps show how narrow and high the canyon is.

There are numerous small waterfalls along Whitewater Creek.

Not all of the trail was hanging from the canyon walls. We had to duck between two boulders in one place.

Some of the trees had leafed out and were a great shade of green.

In one area, we walked under a large rock overhang.

We really enjoyed this walk. Though we had to drive about 60 miles to get there, it was a great outing. We saw this neat old car along the road as we returned to our RV site.