Into Texas

October 17 – October 25, 2011

It was a good day to get back on the road. The weather was beautiful, we had reorganized our belongings, gathered our thoughts and our riding gear was feeling fresh. It was a relaxed ride through Arizona, the sun was warm as the earth became flat and the sound inside my helmet was pure bliss. Oh, I miss that sound. If peace and calm made a noise, I am certain it is this.

Our general direction for the day was towards New Mexico. There were a few interesting stops on the way and the first would be Meteor Crater. The story is that 50,000 years ago a nickel/iron meteorite crashed into the Earth and the damage created is supposedly the most well known, best preserved meteorite crater on Earth. I know this only because it was written in the description at the entrance beside the admission fees. We decided not to go see it once we discovered that it would cost us over $30 to view this large space of nothingness. I would have paid something to see it but $16 each is a bit much when you’re on a tight budget. Maybe I’ll regret that someday but I certainly don’t yet.

Our next stop was Petrified Forest National Park. Back when we were riding through Yellowstone National Park, we rode past a gated area that held a sign reading ‘Petrified Tree’. I didn’t understand. There was a tree stump in the center of the fence but it was too far away to notice anything special about it. It seemed odd that it was called a petrified tree, and I laughed at my own thoughts when I imagined that perhaps it had encountered the Texas Chainsaw massacrer. Arriving at Petrified National Park, it began to make sense as I read the definitions posted throughout. The word petrified comes from the Greek root petro, meaning rock or stone, not scared. Petrified literally means wood turned into stone. This park had many fallen trees from the late Triassic period (approximately 230 million years ago), when I looked at them up close I was shocked to see that the wood was solid rock, sparkling with colorful stones and crystals. If I weren’t concerned with preserving this awesomeness, I would’ve stolen a few chunks to make myself some lovely jewelry.

As one example, I understand the process to be as follows… We start out with a tree, on a much warmer tropical earth million of years ago. As time goes by the tree gets old, or the weather changes, and it dies and falls into mud. As the tree decays the cells become hollow and the water seeps into the tree and into the cells. The water is filled with minerals like calcite and silicone and as the water evaporates it leaves the minerals behind filling up the cells and creating a petrified tree. Since Opals are silicon and water, that is the exact same ingredients that make petrified wood. So most silicon based petrified wood is really Opals, of various forms and qualities.

Unfortunately, we have no pictures to show because ——-*SPOILER ALERT* my point and shoot camera was stolen before I got the chance to copy my pictures to a hard drive. ——- Rocky didn’t take any pictures, he was feeling too lazy to push a damn button. Ok, I can only honestly partially blame him. We kept the camera, lenses, flash, battery chargers, cords, and all that kind of stuff in the tank bag. Although the bag was easy to get to, it was perfectly packed in order for everything to fit in it, so, removing anything from it meant constantly reorganizing. Packing and unpacking was annoying at times, this was one of those times.

After leaving the Park, we rode until we got hungry and stopped at Subway in Springerville, Arizona. Uhgg, I was getting real sick of eating Subway. We decided to spend the night nearby and asked the girl behind the counter if she had any suggestions of where to camp. She recommended a park and gave us directions but we ended up behind a police station, and when we rode a bit further we ended up at a grave yard. I wasn’t about to sleep at either place so I was excited once we finally found the park. It was a great place to camp, there was a large overhang with a few picnic tables and BBQ pits. We set up the tent in the corner and got ready for a comfortable night sleep.

We awoke the next morning and prepared to enter New Mexico. Our first stop was to check out a Very Large Array. (VLA) is a radio astronomy observatory consisting of 27 independent antennas that serve multiple purposes, but it is not, despite rumors, used to assist in the search for E.T. or any of his alien friends. After gawking at all of this amazing machinery for a while, we continued our journey until we finally reached Roswell, and found most of E.T.’s friends.

Roswell, New Mexico has been a popular conversation since 1947 when an extraterrestrial spacecraft and its alien occupants crashed in the area. The U.S. Armed Forces say that what was recovered was debris from an experimental high-altitude weather and surveillance balloon. But, many have refused to believe that, and Roswell continues to attract attention and tourists interested in UFOs, science fiction, and aliens. It was kinda weird to see green Martians displayed throughout the streets, in the shops and pretty much everywhere. It was dark when we had arrived and after using McDonald’s for their wifi, we found a park to sleep in, I’m surprised that I didn’t have creepy dreams that night.

It would be our last day in New Mexico but we he had one more stop to make before entering the state of Texas. Carlsbad Cavern is one of the most incredible places I have visited. We took an elevator 750 feet below ground that led us to a few different chambers made of natural limestone. This cave was insanely huge (4,000 feet (1,220 m) long, 625 feet (191 m) wide, and 255 feet (78 m) high at the highest point) and it took a few hours for us to walk around. I have no words to describe the intense beauty of theses caves, we got a few awesome pictures but they don’t show how amazing it was in three demential form. We spent the rest of our day in the cavern but still had a lot of road to cover before reaching Texas. The weather had been increasingly warmer as we traveled south and I was excited for all the warm days ahead.

To be honest, I wasn’t too thrilled about going to Texas and I’m going to blame that on politics. If I were asked to describe Texas with 5 words, they would be Bush, Cheney, Halliburton, guns and oil. I’m not a fan of any of that and I could tell that Rocky wasn’t either as he flipper the bird to a Halliburton vehicle we rode past.

The land was flat in comparison to all of the small volcanos we rode past in New Mexico. There were oil rigs, pickup trucks and cowboy hats everywhere. As the day came to an end we finally stopped for a bite to eat and to search for a place to sleep. We came across a small town and decided to sleep at a truck stop with an Ihop near by. Mmm I was craving bacon, eggs and pancakes. Even since the maple syrup was not real maple syrup, it was only a little disappointing. Anything but subway was delicious at this point.

We packed up the next morning and headed to San Antonio, Texas. Back when we were in Boise, Idaho, staying with Kent, we met his employee Jeff. Jeff had mentioned that he was moving to San Antonio right around the same time we would be in the area, and he kindly invited us to stay with him. Before arriving at his house, we were hungry and stopped at a BBQ restaurant named Rudy’s. It was a picnic table kind of place with a large sign that read ‘Rudy’s, the worst bar-b-q in Texas’. The sign lies, the food was ridiculous deliciousness I will never forget! Shortly after eating we rode to Jeff’s house, he lives with his son Arden and his dog Sadie, and we were warm welcomed when we arrived. It was easy to be comfortable in their home, we were immediately treated as if we lived there as well. Literally, he gave us our own set of keys. Jeff has got to be one of the most thoughtful men I have ever met. He went well out of his way to be sure that we were comfortable. The day after we arrived he told me that I probably missed a nice bubble bath and that there was a deep tub he scrubbed clean and purchased a few different products for me in the case that I have missed being a girl while on this trip. It meant a lot to me that he was so kind and that i was able to soak in a nice hot bath.

During the first few days of our stay, we were able to change a tire and find a store that sold PacSafe. PacSafe is an adjustable high-tensile stainless steel locking device, designed to cover and protect a variety of bags and packs from thieves. Since most of our belongings are accessible to anybody, it is a good idea to purchase another PacSafe so that we can lock up our riding gear and helmets as we leave our bike to wander around. Very convenient and I highly recommended it to most travelers.

With all of our errands taken care of, Rocky and I were able to wander around town. San Antonio is a very large city. We explored the city center and took a stroll through Riverwalk, where the San Antonio river winds and loops under bridges as two parallel sidewalks are lined with restaurants, shops and hotels, and there are river boats that carry passengers from one end to the other. As the day turned to night we found ourselves wandering throughout the city and stopping to see the Alamo. The Alamo, originally known as Mission San Antonio de Valero, is a former Roman Catholic mission and fortress compound and was the site of the Battle of the Alamo in 1836. It is now a museum in Downtown San Antonio. We enjoyed discovering San Antonio, it is a really nice city to visit.

Over the weekend, Jeff and Arden planned a day trip to take us to Corpus Christi, a coastal city in southern Texas. Jeff, Arden, Rocky and I packed a picnic and got into the SUV for a nice road trip to the beach. Once we finally arrived, the road lead us to a booth before entering the beach area. We were greeted by a park ranger and we became a bit confused by his demeanor and ascent, “Enter if that’s what you want to do. Go ahead, at your own risk of course.” What kind of a greeting is that? We all joked about him as we drove away. Suddenly, our throats got itchy, our eyes burned, we were feeling symptoms of something. The beach was vacant. We entered the tourist building and the park ranger was very helpful and explained to us that there was a Red Tide. Red Tides are caused by tiny, single-celled marine organisms that are normally present in the Gulf of Mexico as resting cysts or ‘seeds’ on the ocean bottom. When certain conditions are right (salinity, temperature and upwelling) a dense concentration also called a ‘bloom’ exposes these organisms to the surface and when hit by light the ocean appears as a brownish red colour. Certain species are toxic and kill fish, contaminate shellfish and cause an irritating aerosol in the air. It was horrible, I felt bad for the park rangers that had to be exposed to this all day/week/month? We ran back to the SUV and headed away from the beach for plan B. Hungry, we decided it would be nice to find a good place to have a picnic and we conveniently found a man selling some tamales to eat with our lunch. Rocky and I had never tried tamales, they turned out to be tasty. After having lunch and walking around the coast, we stopped to check out a museum before heading back to San Antonio. It would be our last night at Jeff’s house and we decided to relax for the night and watch movies on the big screen.

Visiting with Jeff, Arden and their pet Sadie, became another amazing moment and memory of our journey. Texas will now mean a little more to me than just corrupt policies and politics. We packed our belongings the following day and prepared to approach the Mexican border but not without stopping at Rudy’s BBQ one last time.

   Paula at The National Radio Astronomy Observatory Very Large Array, 150 km (100 mi.) southwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico

   The observatory consists of 27 independent antennas, each of which has a dish diameter of 25 meters (82 feet) and weighs 209 metric tons. The VLA has made key observations of black holes and protoplanetary disks around young stars, discovered magnetic filaments and traced complex gas motions at the Milky Way’s center, probed the Universe’s cosmological parameters, and provided new knowledge about the physical mechanisms that produce radio emission.*

    230 meters (750 ft.) below the surface in Carlsbad Caverns, near Carlsbad, New Mexico

   Carlsbad Caverns includes a large cave chamber, the Big Room, a natural limestone chamber which is almost 4,000 feet (1,220 m) long, 625 feet (191 m) wide, and 255 feet (78 m) high at the highest point. It is the third largest chamber in North America and the seventh largest in the world.*

   Paula at The Alamo, in San Antonio, Texas.

   The Alamo

   Downtown San Antonio

   The River Walk, San Antonio’s Venice – The San Antonio River Walk (also known as Paseo del Río) is a network of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River, one story beneath the streets of Downtown San Antonio.*

   Paula, Arden & Jeff in Corpus Christi, Texas

* Wikipedia

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