January 23, 2012

Leaving Winter Behind

Press HERE to see a slideshow
of New Mexico and Arizona.

White Sands
IMG_0005: White Sands National Monument
Slider on White Sands Dune
IMG_0007: White Sands National Monument
Casa Grande Ruins
IMG_3458: Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
Chapel at St. Anthony's Monastery
IMG_3253: Camden Harbor
Lower Part of Pump
IMG_3502: Lower Part of Pump
Imperial Sand Dunes
IMG_3540: Imperial Sand Dunes

The super cold weather was just descending on the northland when we headed south out of Sioux Falls two weeks ago. We made good time cutting across the country before stopping in Liberal, KS. It seems like a funny name for a Kansas city, but the town has been there more than 100 years. The most notable thing in it was the mountain of rotting waste from the local meat processing plant. It stunk!

Teresa and Joe Ruiz
Teresa and Joe Ruiz

The next day we continued southwest. Soon we were in New Mexico driving south on US 54 through some beautiful and desolate land. We arrived in the late afternoon in Alamogordo, NM. We came to visit my cousin Teresa Brinker Ruiz. It has been more than 25 years since I last saw her. Since then she has married twice and had three children. Her husband, Joe Ruiz, is a good and kind man. Her brother, Tim, yes another cousin, also lives in Alamogordo. We visited with them quite a bit. I also got to see Karen Johnson, Aunt Vonnie's sister, for the first time in more than 40 years. We only stayed a couple of days, but we did get a good sense of the area with its mountains and orchards. The valley they live in produces pistachios, pecans, almonds and wine. We also visited the nearby White Sands National Monument. The white sands looked like snow fields. The sand is incredibly fine, almost like powder, I suspect that the look of snow and the reduced friction of the powdered sand is the reason that folks bring there families there to slide down the giant dunes on snow saucers. Joe and Teresa were headed for a cruise on Sunday morning, so we departed on Sunday driving west.

Aunt Mary Lue and Bill
IMG_3536: Aunt Mary Lue and Bill
Keyboards at the MIM

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of Musical Instrument Museum.

We drove to Las Cruces and got on I-10. After nine hours on the road we arrived in Casa Grande, Arizona. My aunt Mary Lue and her sister, Esther, spend winters in Casa Grande. We arrived just before a little get-together at Mary Lue's house. It was fun to meet their friends. Esther left the next day. She was going to Portland to be with her son's family. She was going to enjoy being with her grandchildren for the next two months.

We did a number of things over the next several days. We visited my old friend David Groves in Fountain Hills. It was a nice visit. We visited the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. What a fantastic museum! It is a very large museum with thousands of instruments from ALL over the world. The next day we visited a pumping station of the Central Arizona Project. The project moves water over 100 miles from Lake Havasu to south of Tucson. Later that same day, we visited a fairly new Greek Orthodox monastery, called St. Anthony's Monastery. Our final night we had diner at the community center.

The best thing about the visit to Casa Grande were all the conversations we had with my aunt Mary Lue. It was fun to talk about the family, which we did hour on end.

We left Casa Grande a couple of days ago. I had decided to drive on I-8, because I have driven I-10 between Phoenix and Riverside several times before. The landscape is much the same on I-8, except for the Imperial Sand Dunes. When we got to El Centro, we turned north on California 86. This took us pas the Salton Sea. We stopped to see a mass of dead fish, Cormorants fishing nearby and the strong odor of dead fish. We continued north to the I-10. In Palm Springs, where we turned north again on a highway that brought us by the Joshua Tree National Park. While we did not get into the park, we certainly saw a lot of Joshua trees. Just before sunset we rolled into Victorville and my aunt Tiny's home.

We have been in Victorville the past couple of days. My aunt had a severe stroke last August. Her recovery has been very slow and difficult. We are hoping for the best. It has been good to see her sons, Steve and Chuck, and her grandchildren, Troy and Tyler. We plan to head of to San Diego tomorrow.

Posted by bill at 10:48 AM | Comments (2)