Saturday, June 29, 2013

Alamogordo, NM Dust Storm

Since Roy and I have been RVing in southwest Texas and southern New Mexico, we have gotten to experience what are referred to as dust storms.  They come up quickly when strong winds blow and disappear just as quickly as they arrive.  You can see the wall of dust off in the distance coming!  The air can get so thick with dust, as to obliterate nearby mountains from view!  We experienced them in Alpine, Texas and the communities of Roswell and Alamogordo, New Mexico.
Here is the view of the Shady Grove RV Park office out our picture window.  It's a nice sunny day!  Note the mountains in the distance, the power pole, and the motor coach to the side of the building.  They are about to disappear! 
This is the initial wind shear as a building rain storm arrives!  Note the distant mountains are gone! 
A little more of a gust and the power pole and motor coach disappear! 
Increasing winds and more dust!  A few minutes later and the view is back to a clear sunny day!  That was the scenario for this dust storm, but they can go on all day and longer.  Dust gets into the camper any way it can and can be seen and felt on things. It's obvious that breathing whatever is blowing in the wind can't be healthy, when the air is this thick.  During prior dust storms Roy and I started to become aware of burning gritty eyes and a feeling of dust in the sinuses, throat, and lungs.  There were some low grade flu like aches and a mild pneumonia feeling in the lungs.  The symptoms always dissipated, as quickly as the dust cleared from the air. 
In the 1930s major dust storms swept across the plains of Canada and America with regularity over a period of ten years!  Roy and I happened to catch a couple of documentaries.  I was surprised to hear reference to Dust Pneumonia!  The name alone seemed to describe what Roy and I were already suspecting, as an impact of dust storms on a person's health!  Here is a nice synopsis of  what the Internet has to say about Dust Pneumonia:  Symptoms include breathing difficulty, shortness of breath, painful breathing, and burning of the eyes, nose, mouth, and throat.  Headache, nausea, weakness, confusion, and flu like symptoms may also be present.  Dust pneumonia is not a condition which can be assumed to be curable with home remedies. 
Roy and I are glad for the opportunity to witness some dust storms during our travels in the southwest, but we'll be happy to leave them behind!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

On The Road With Odie

Odie, our beloved orange cat, is announcing that he will now have his very own Facebook page called, On The Road With Odie.  During our travels, Odie makes true friends with people everywhere he goes.  His friends are always sad to see him leave, and want to stay in touch with him.  Roy and I have joked for some time now that Odie’s friends will one day be reminiscing with each other and say something like, “Remember those people that had that orange cat?  What were their names?  I don’t remember their names, but I wonder how Odie is doing?”  It’s okay!  We understand!  He is very lovable!  His enthusiasm for life is addictive!  His cute waddle and social interaction makes him that much more of a fascination.  He’s not a cat!  He leaves no doubt in whoever he meets that he is truly a fur person!  Odie invites our Internet friends to get to know him and enjoy his adventures through his Facebook page, On The Road With Odie!  

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Tricky Planning

June 15th was rent day for us at Shady Grove R.V. Park in Alamogordo.  It was time to commit to leaving or staying for another month.  Alamogordo is in the center of the tan area near the bottom of the New Mexico map.  We had been living like tourists on the run during our month stay, and it sure went by quickly.  There are still a few things we would like to do in the area, but higher temperatures are encouraging us to head north into higher elevations and cooler temperatures.  Alamogordo is at an elevation of 4,350 feet.  Using elevation as a guide to a destination choice has been a new factor for us to consider in our search.  We considered Santa Fe at 7,000 feet and Taos at 9,800 feet.  We quickly learned that cool mountain air in desert country comes at a high price!  Santa Fe r.v. parks run close to $700 a month, if you want full hook-ups, wifi, and cable t.v..  Electricity is additional.  That is rich for our budget anytime, but especially having just registered the truck and replaced all the tires.  We looked at the Taos area and found the r.v. park prices similarly high, so that meant we were looking at increased travel expenses plus high r.v. park rates.  We considered bypassing the expensive tourist places and jumping the border into Colorado.  Everyplace in Colorado has cool temperatures, right?  Wrong!  Pueblo, Colorado has temperatures just as high as Alamogordo!  We thought we could beat the system by boondocking in the national forest campgrounds.  It appears even dry camping (no water, electric., or sewer hook-ups) is $6.00 a day in a national forest campground!  That's $180 a month and would be a rough month in our opinion!  State park campgrounds are $14 a day with electric as the only amenity!  That's $420 a month! There currently are several forest fires in New Mexico and research into some of the state park and national forest campgrounds showed them as closed until further notice due to the fires!  If that wasn't enough of a deterrent for staying in a national forest campground, we came across the warning below for Carson National Forest near Taos!  We'll pass on forest living for now! I once heard that a grizzly bear is more likely to attack you, but a hungry black bear is more likely to stalk and kill you!

With the ongoing drought, wildlife are becoming more stressed and looking
for easy meals. If you plan on visiting the Carson National Forest, please
read the flyers on how to deal with wildlife. Thank you.
·         Black bears of New Mexico

We decided that maybe we would save on travel expenses and just go up in elevation locally to Ruidoso at 7,000 feet or the Sunspot/Cloudcroft area at 8,663 feet.  R.V. Park prices run around $550 a month plus electricity in those locations.  We found many r.v. parks in the mountains don't offer cable t.v..  It may be available for an additional price that hasn't been stated.  Internet and cell phone signals are iffy in some areas.  With our Shady Grove RV Park rent at $245 a month with all the amenities, staying awhile longer started looking good!  Once we got over our mini internal tantrums of not being independently wealthy and able to do what we want when we want and for as long as we want, we actually sighed a peaceful sigh of relief at staying put for awhile.  Our past experiences of staying in an area longer than we might first choose to do has proven to be a good thing!  It makes us delve a little deeper into a community and discover even more exciting things about it!  We've discovered that Alamogordo has a great deli, a dog park, and a nice recreation center!  Staying for another month will give us time to do a few more things we were regretting we hadn't gotten to do, and will give us time to kick back and do a few home projects.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

New Mexico Museum of Space History

The New Mexico Museum of Space History has an impressive location on a mountainside in Alamogordo.  It is a modern structure that has a science and technology appearance.  It is full of windows, with great views overlooking the mountains, desert, and Alamogordo.  The entrance fee for adults is $6.00, but there are senior and military discounts.  Your receipt is good for a second visit the following day.  An elevator takes you to the spacious fourth floor where you begin a self guided tour and walk down easy ramps to each lower level.  From the first floor an elevator will take you to the ground floor where there is a gift shop.  Roy and I thought the elevator ride up was worth the admission price for the museum!  The elevator surprised us with sounds that made us feel as though we were being taken up for departure on a space ship!  A bit startling at first, but then very cool!  We thought about a return visit the next day just to ride the elevator!     
When you first enter the museum, you will see this 1/4 scale model of the Apollo Command/Service Module.  The cone shaped part would be the command module.  It was the main crew cabin to and from the Moon.  A heat shield at the base of the cone shaped module protected the crew from the 5,000 degree Fahrenheit heat during re-entry into Earth's atmosphere at 25,000 miles per hour!!!  The cylindrical part of the model is the service module.  The service module contains the life support system, main rocket engine, and more.  This part was jettisoned prior to re-entry.  Roy and I are reasonably smart, but we have to admit that after reading a few information signs and feeling our brain cells popping that we decided just to take a look around!     
This is a nice bulletin board showing a space history timeline.  I think if you enlarge the picture and the viewing percentage on your screen that you could read the information on the plaques.  This displays 3,500 BC to 1610.
Here is 1687 to 1947. 
Here's 1957 to 1965. 
Here is 1969 to 2004.  After that was a plague that just said, "Future???". 
This is the Apollo Lunar Sample Return Container (ALSRC) or a Metal Box For Rocks! 
This was a nice display showing the size of various rockets in relation to the size of the astronauts that flew in them.  
Here is Roy practicing his space shuttle landing skills!  He successfully landed twice! 
Missiles of all sizes! 
This is the Explorer 46 Meteoroid Technology Satellite. Meteoroids were once thought to pose a significant danger to spacecraft.  Explorer 46 was launched to gather scientific data on meteoroids.  The results indicated that meteoroids are not a serious hazard to spacecraft.  
The Explorer 10 satellite orbited the Earth investigating its magnetic fields and nearby plasma.  It was the first satellite to measure the "shock wave" generated by a solar flare.  
The Ariel II satellite was designed to measure radio noise from outer space, micrometeoroid impacts, and the ozone layer surrounding Earth. 
The Alouette I Satellite was an Earth satellite designed to measure variations in ionosphere electron density, radio noise origination in outer space, and observed cosmic ray particles.  Ouch!  I can feel some brain sells exploding! 
This poster tells about missiles being tested at White Sands Missile Range.  We first heard what we thought was rolling thunder from missile testing in the White Sands area near Carrizozo, NM and Valley of Fires Recreation Area.  We at times could feel a compression come off them that was amazingly strong for being at a distance from the explosion.  Our dogs don't like the sound, but then they don't like thunder either.  We hear the explosions at the White Sands Missile Range here in Alamogordo occasionally.  Roy and I personally feel the sound of explosions, the compression that is felt, the disturbance to the atmosphere, and whatever chemicals are released during an explosion can't be good for ones health.      
This is a picture of the John P. Stapp Air and Space Park taken from inside the museum.  In the distance is Alamogordo.  The park is named after International Space Hall of Fame inductee and aeromedical pioneer Dr. John P. Stapp.    
The 86' tall rocket is the Little Joe II.  It was an American space launch vehicle used for five unmanned tests of the launch escape system and to verify the performance of the command module parachutes for the Apollo spacecraft from 1963-66.  It is the largest rocket ever launched from New Mexico.  
This was an exciting discovery!  New Mexico is the home of an annual event called the X PRIZE Cup.  It is a two day air and space expo designed to bring together all sections of the aerospace industry to demonstrate their capabilities for the general public.  It sounds fascinating and I would think be mind blowing!   

Monday, June 10, 2013

Cloudcroft, NM

Cloudcroft is located 17 miles from Alamogordo in the Sacramento Mountains.  Alamogordo is at an elevation of 4,350 feet and Cloudcroft is at 8,663 feet! 
Here is a beautiful view looking back toward Alamogordo!  Check out the white sands along the mountains in the distance! 
This is the same valley looking the opposite direction.  According to an informational sign the overhang of this south facing cliff created a prehistoric shelter for nomadic tribes.  Many artifacts have been discovered in what is called the Fresnal Shelter. 
Cloudcroft is a four season resort!  There is downhill skiing, an outdoor ice skating rink, a golf course, and hiking trails.  The average July-August temperature is 70 degrees. 
There are lots of rental cabins ranging from rustic to the fancy!
There is an upscale lodge simply called The Lodge.  We enjoyed our day trip to Cloudcroft!   

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Toy Train Depot

Roy and I were curious about the Toy Train Depot in Alamogordo, and so decided to check it out.  We're glad we did! 
We began our visit with a ride on what is officially referred to as a park ride train.  The Toy Train Depot is America's park ride train museum!  They have some other beautifully restored park ride size trains to see! 
Check out Roy's big smile!  He's got his ticket and ready to go!
It added to the experience to have the big train go by blowing its whistle, as we got on our way.  This little train moves right along! 
Check out my big smile!  Woo woo!!!   
We've made the turn around and are heading back.  It's a nice long ride and definitely worth doing!  The train ride and museum tour are $6.00 per adult. 
The museum is an original train depot built in 1898!
The museum has trains on nearly every wall!  There are over 8,000 pieces of railroad memorabilia!  
This is a model of one of the earliest trains!  I didn't know that the stagecoach design was used for train passenger cars!  It's not just a toy!  They really did!  
Here is a beautifully carved wood train! 
The second room in the museum has lots of trains on the left wall..... 
and lots of trains on the right wall, as well as in the middle, and around the ceiling!  There is even one on the ceiling!   
Scale and gauge are words you'll hear referred to often.  Scale refers to the ratio of the model to the original (1:1 is full scale).  The model train scales are Z=1:220, N=1:160, HO=1:87, S=1:64, O=1:48, and G=1:22.5.  Gauge refers to the distance between the rails of the track.  This tiny train is a working model.   
Here are more operational trains! 
The sign behind the conductor says:  "I spent most of my life collecting trains.  The rest I've just wasted."  Touring the train museum and speaking with the enthusiastic volunteers gives one an appreciation for the individual interests that captivate people.
This huge replica of 1940s Alamogordo took two years to build!  We came away from the museum with a better understanding of the world of toy train collecting.  It's not just about playing with with toy trains!  There is a connection between the model and history that a collector understands.  There is also the technical attention to detail in the train scale and accuracy in its surrounding environment!  Go to Toy Train Depot's website for more information:   www.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Eagle Ranch Pistachio Groves

Eagle Ranch Pistachio Groves located just north of Alamogordo on Hwy. 54/70 offers free guided tours of their pistachio grove and processing plant.  We highly recommend it!  The tour starts in their fabulous visitors center!  
The visitors center has a wine tasting room and art gallery!  Be sure to try some Pistachio Rose'!  The wines we tasted were excellent! 
I like these horse pictures.  They came in pretty copper tones, too.
There is a gift shop offering high quality gifts, and of course, pistachios!  The pistachios come in an assortment of flavors.  Lots of free samples are available!  You can stop by the visitors center without taking the full walking tour. 
This is a male pistachio tree.  You can tell, as it has rougher bark and the branches grow upward.  Only one male is required for 15 females.  The pollen is transferred by the wind rather than bees.  Since the wind blows from the southwest the males are planted to that side of the females.  Irrigation in the groves is done through a drip system. 
This is a female pistachio tree.  The bark is smoother than the males, and its branches grow downward. 
Pistachio means happy nut!  By mid May the pistachios outer shell is fully developed, but the nuts won't be ready for harvest until early September.   
Pistachio trees grow to a mature height of about 30 feet.  They begin to produce nuts in their 4th-5th year after planting.  Good production takes 8-10 years, with full bearing maturity occurring after 15-20 years.  Average yield per tree is 1/2 pound the 5th year increasing up to 45 pounds at maturity!
Pistachio trees are deciduous trees and are dormant December through February.  In March the female puts out sticky leaf buds and the male is ready to pollinate by April.
The first nut harvest is done in early September using shaker and catcher equipment.  The tree is shook for only 8 seconds, so as not to damage the roots.  One more harvest will be done later in the season. 
The red on the map shows where pistachios are grown in North America.  Pistachios are also grown in Iran, Turkey, and Afghanistan.  The climate in the Tularosa Basin of New Mexico is said to be almost identical to the pistachio producing areas of Iran and Turkey! 
These are the bins that the pistachios are transported in from various points in their processing.  Prior to machines being adapted to pour nuts directly from these crates, workers had to hand off 6 gallon buckets of nuts to each other to fill the processing equipment!  
This is one of those great innovations!  Rather than handing off a 6 gallon bucket full of nuts to a worker on a ladder to fill the hopper, a forklift raises an entire crate to the top and the machine dumps the nuts into the hopper.  The stainless steel funnels are taken to other processing machines around the plant.  
This machine is a high tech color sorter.  It uses a computer and infrared lights to separate the pieces of nutmeats that are below standard from the good nutmeats.  The computer is programmed by showing it a handful of below grade product and pushing the "reject" button.  The computer is then shown a handful of good product and the "save" button is pushed.  The pieces of nutmeats travel at a high rate of speed down two black channels where the infrared light scans them.  The computer either lets the piece pass as a "save" or triggers a small jet of air which kicks the piece out of the line into the rear "reject" bin!  Wow!  Amazing what computers and the people who set-up computer programs can do!        
This is a needle sorter machine.  The inside of this rotating barrel has thousands of needles.  As the barrel rotates, the pistachios with the shells split open will get caught on the needles.  They are carried to the top of the cylinder where they are brushed into a chute that goes to a bin.  The barrel is on a slant so that the closed shell nuts called tights will eventually work their way out the end of the barrel into a bin. 
This machine is a nut size sorter.  As the nuts vibrate inside the stainless steel troughs they fall into holes matching their size and then into bins.  The stainless steel trough in the blue stand sorts out the small nuts and pieces.  The medium to large nuts travel into  the lower stainless steel trough where they are sorted by falling through holes matching their size. 
This machine catches the shells and other discards.  The steel tubing going off to the right vents dust size particles.  The shells and other discards are used to build-up the pistachio grove roads!  Nothing goes to waste! 
Although the machines do the vast majority of sorting, the human eye is the final inspection! 
This is the roasting and flavoring room.  Many of the flavors are sprayed on in a water mixture, as the barrel shown to the left rotates.  The oven on the right can roast several thousand pounds of nuts at one time. 
After the pistachios are machine weighed and packaged, they are weighed again manually by human quality control! 
The nuts can be kept fresh for up to a year in 45 degree cold storage.  Nuts are shipped UPS.
A variety of flavored nuts and other products can be custom packaged as gifts at your request! 
Meet George and Marianne Schweers, owners of Eagle Ranch Pistachio Groves and Heart Of The Desert Wines.  They purchased a grove of 400 two year old pistachio trees in 1974 prior to George's retirement as an Air Force officer at Holloman AFB in 1979.  Growing up in rural Nebraska, it was a family goal to return to agriculture after George's military service.  Little did they know what the future would have in store!  For the first five years George, Marianne, and their three children did the farming all by hand!  Having the only pistachio grove in New Mexico at that time, they had to develop their own processing operation or truck the nuts out of state for processing.  In 1986 they built their first gift shop store at Eagle Ranch.  Taking a step at a time they met the challenges of expansion.  They now have 85 acres with approximately 12,000 pistachio trees!!!  In 2003 12,000 grapevines were planted to add diversity to the farm.  In 2004 they opened a second gift shop in Las Cruces, NM and in 2009 opened a third store in Mesilla, NM.  Their children are all active in running the family business.
It's always interesting learning about people who have pursued their dream by taking the first simple steps, met the challenges, and eventually oversee an operation with national recognition!  We purchased three wines at the end of our tour:  Pistachio Rose', Muscat of Alexandria, and Syrah.  They carry a large variety.  Check out the products that are available for order online at: