Been a slow week on the “moving around” front, splitting the seven days between Caballo Lake and Datil, New Mexico. It’s always nice to stay in one place for a while and get to know it a bit before moving on and that’s been what I’ve been doing lately.
Caballo Lake is a fake lake, it’s actually a reservoir of the Rio Grande created as part of the Rio Grande Project back in the 1930s, when the Bureau of Reclamation was damming up every river it could find in the western US. It’s only about 75 feet deep and the north end dries up regularly, so it’s mostly used for recreational purposes now. (As an aside, I am currently reading Cadillac Desert, a history of water use and abuse in the western states, and highly recommend it as a way to understand how the west was settled. Hint: It wasn’t all about the gold rush.)
Caballo Lake State Park was a good place to hang out: I was on a small loop with hookups, the park itself was not that busy, and there were a couple of good trails to explore. And it was (obviously) close to water, which is always a plus in my book.
As if I didn’t have enough water, I went looking for more, up to Bosque del Apache, which is a fascinating place if you’re a birder or photographer. I am definitely coming back here in the winter when the birds are in residence. It must be fantastic then and I don’t want to miss it.
Caballo Lake was a great place until my latent tree allergy noticed spring had sprung and then it was me and the tissues each morning for a few hours. Ugh. Spring and tree pollen always catch me by surprise since I never had allergies as a kid. So I took one last sunset walk on Sunday night and then headed out a day earlier than planned, hoping higher ground would mean less spring and less pollen.
Perhaps I should have taken these clouds looking like spaceships on Monday morning as a warning sign that this moving day wasn’t going to be the bog-standard, I-got-this kind of day. Maybe I should have wondered just a bit more why both the Garmin RV GPS and Google Maps agreed that my desired route wasn’t really one they were going to recommend. They rarely agree on the details but both of them seemed determined to not let me take Route 52 north instead of Interstate 25.
About 36 miles into Route 52, I hit dirt road. Always the optimist when it comes to road conditions, I figured this wouldn’t last and I’d get back to pavement soon enough. After all, the dirt road near my cousin’s house was like that.
I was wrong.
I drove 60 miles of dirt road, some of it so rocky and washed out that I slowed to 10 mph to get through. It took me 2.5 hours to do that 60 miles. And even though I saw the long trail of dust behind me, it never occurred to me that I might want to close the fan vent on top of the trailer.
So when I arrived at my destination, tired and about two hours behind where I had wanted to be, I had a trailer full of dust. Every surface, from kitchen to vertical walls to bedding had a fine layer of brown dust. And it was cold and starting to rain, so airing out the trailer was, uh, challenging. And, no, this did not help my poor sinuses at all. Lesson learned: check the PAPER atlas and see if the road I want to take is a solid line or a dotted one. Route 52 was a dotted line road. Two minutes of pre-check and I could have avoided this whole mess. Checking the paper atlas is now a mandatory part of my route planning.
The day wasn’t a total loss: I got my first glimpse of the Very Large Array (VLA), which I’m visiting on Saturday and I made it to the Datil Post Office to rescue Flat Eliza from the general delivery bin. She’s delightful, although if this cold weather keeps up, I may have to make her a little paper coat.
Tuesday was such weird weather, and so cold, that we stayed inside most of the day, working on my current project, sewing new covers for the front settee. After 10 months, I felt the need for a change and found a lovely thick batik fabric in Tucson that works with my color scheme. Flat Eliza said she would help me sew, but it turns out she really just likes to watch me sew. She is a good model for the finished product, though.
Today we went to Pie Town to see what all the excitement is about there. Oh, my, now we know! Only one of the three shops was open for business on a Wednesday, but we still managed to score a lemon chess pie that was scrumptious! Flat Eliza, thankfully, cannot eat pie, so it was all mine to devour.
And because I’m such a space nerd, I went looking for the Datil antenna that is part of the Very Large Baseline Array (not to be confused with the VLA). It was down a dirt road with no markings, but space nerds know such huge things are visible from Google Maps so I just followed the blue dot right to the telescope. Isn’t it an amazing structure? But wait, there’s more…
The VLBA is a set of 10 dish antennas, each 82 feet in diameter and almost as tall as a 10-story building. Combined, they simulate a single radio telescope 5,300 miles wide (which is total distance between them). The VLBA produces sharper astronomical images than any other telescope on Earth or in space. Bet you didn’t know that! I didn’t either. Here’s a cool graphic that shows the locations of all 10 telescopes. (I think I can see 4-5 in the next year if I work on it.)
A few times a year, the VLBA becomes the heart of the High Sensitivity Array telescope that includes Arecibo, Effelsberg, the Green Bank Telescope and the Very Large Array. In this configuration, the “telescope” is as large as the Earth’s diameter. Imagine what it can see!
OK, enough telescope geeking out for this week. Next week’s report will be flooded with VLA pictures so consider this fair warning!