Letters From a Bus
November 2007: Home Base
5th entry for September/November
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Drive to Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe, New Mexico, Day Two at Santa Fe Skies RV Park, Site: Marigold 5

Monday, November 19, 2007 — We've lived in our bus for six months!

We planned to leave Mountain View on Monday, Nov. 12th, a Veterans Day holiday for some.  But somehow we just never got going.  Lethargy set in and we didn’t get packed.  Too many days parked at the masonry.  We were out of practice.  We got serious about packing and preparations on Sunday and Monday. The "basement" or storage area for the bus are two shelves that slide out from doors on either side of the bus. Each slide is 38" wide and 87.5" long. They can hold a bin that is almost 14" high. We measured and made several trips to Target where we bought plastic bins that exactly fit the slider shelves. Some are shallow and very long. Some are deep and short. They all fit two-by-two or side-by-side along the width of the slide.

We finally pulled out on Tuesday at noon.  Our friend, James, couldn’t bear to see us go.  He just had to come down from San Francisco Tuesday morning to have a coffee with us and kibitz while we pulled the bus together.  Then we said goodbye to he and Brent and the office staff and we finally took off.  Not an early start!

The "basement" for storage are two shelves that slide out from doors on either side of the bus. Our bins are purchased and we're trying to decide what goes into each bin. Walton Masonry, Mon., 11/12/07 . James is talking to Brent who is watching us pull out of the masonry gate. I took this photo through the windshield of the bus. Walton Masonry, Tue., 11/13/07 .

We decided our goal for the day would be to simply hit the road and go a short distance. It was a pretty day in the Bay Area, 72° and very clear with blue skies and little white clouds.  On CA-152E we could see the mountains very clearly.  When we got to I-5S it turned hazy with a fringe of smog on the south and east horizons. That day we drove 154 miles down the San Joaquin Valley.  Three hours later we pulled into Harris Ranch at 2:44 PM. 

It's a beautiful clear day with blue skies and puffy white clouds on the horizon as we leave the bay area. We are heading south towards San Jose on US-101.
Tue. 11/13/07 at 11:55 PM
We're just outside of Gilroy heading east on CA-152. Tue. 11/13/07 at 12:35:38 PM
The Koppen climate classification for Gilroy, CA is CSa  (Mild, Mid-Latitude, Mediterranean). 

The Santa Cruz Mts. bound Gilroy to the west and the Diablo Range to the east.  It supports chaparral and is grassland biomes (dominated by grass), with stands of live oak at higher elevations.  Cattle, garlic, and strawberries, occupy the surrounding acres.

CA-152E This is garlic country. It is a hot climate and excellent farm country. Tue. 11/13/07 at 12:35:56 PM View of vineyards as we head southeast on CA-152. I believe that is the Diablo Range in the background.
Tue. 11/13/07 at 12:37:34 PM
Heading up the hill towards Casa de Fruta on CA-152E. Tue. 10/13/07 at 1:46:14 PM Approaching the summit on CA-152E. In the distance, that spot of blue is the San Luis Reservoir. The reservoir supplies agricultural water for much of the San Joaquin Valley. Tue. 11/13/07 at 12:46:14 PM
Below the reservoir is Los Banos and I-5. Eastward ifrom I-5 is Fresno on CA-99. From the summit, we can see that the San Joaquin Valley is hazy and the Sierra Nevada Mt. range is obscured. Directly east from the reservoir , about 100 miles as the crow flies is McKinley Grove Big Trees in the Sierra Nat'l Forest.

This is a very familiar route.  During the year that Dennis was involved with a melanoma clinical trial we drove frequently from Los Altos to Los Angeles and back.  I-5 is still a pretty empty stretch of freeway and there are not a lot of places to stop.  We got in the habit of stopping at our half way mark, Harris Ranch, where we would generally have breakfast or lunch in their coffee shop.  Harris Ranch is a huge complex with hotel and gift shop and restaurants.  It’s a terrific oasis in the middle of empty ranch and farmland.  It’s located on I-5 at CA-192 near Coalinga and Huron.

So our plan to go to Harris Ranch was for both convenience and sentimental reasons.  We remembered seeing RVs parked there and thought it would be an easy first hop, just to get started.  We thought it would be fun to be different and be able to stay overnight.  We weren’t sure if they had an actual RV park or if they would chase us out of the parking lot if we stopped.

Actually they have a huge five-acre dirt lot situated in the exit corner of CA-192.  We parked facing south next to big oleander-type bushes that separated us from the freeway more than a football field away.  We boon docked without hookups and without putting down our jacks.  But we decided it would be okay to put out our slides on the passenger side that faced the oleanders.  In the photos below, behind us to the north is CA-192.  To the east is a diesel truckers Shell gas station.  Beyond the gas station are the restaurant and the hotel.   To the south is a small airport. 

After we parked we walked the dogs all the way around the perimeter of Harris Ranch.  We stopped to watch two small planes take off.  It was pleasant and fun to see the ranch on a late fall afternoon when it is cool and breezy.  Usually we are there in the middle of the day and generally it is very hot.  The dogs were very excited to be walking in a new place.  I always feel sorry for them that they can’t run free but actually they looked very eager and animated as they ran from one new smell to the next.  They enjoyed their new surroundings and they had plenty of scope to run at full length on their extended leashes.

We walked across the lot to the restaurant and enjoyed a good dinner.  The lot was fairly empty when we pulled in but many trucks were lined up on the north side near the Shell station.  During the night the lot filled up with trucks and it was very noisy with generators and motors and reefers running all night.  The freeway is audible but it is background white noise compared to the trucks.

Approaching the entrance of Harris Ranch on CA-198E. Tue. 11/13/07 at 2:44 PM Parked by the Oleander bushes in a big dirt lot at Harris Ranch. Tue. 11/13/07 at 2:45 PM
At the southern end of the truck and RV parking lot is a small airport. I took this just after sunset. Can you see the moon? Tue. 11/13/07 at 5:04 PM In the morning I saw what was causing the noise all night. The dirt lot is full of trucks.
Wed. 11/14/07 at 6:16 AM
Above: As we walk towards the restaurant I spot the big noise maker — Market Transit is a "reefer." Wed. 11/14/07 at 6:16 AM
Right: The Harris Ranch coffee shop, Ranch Kitchen, is cozy and serves excellent food.
Below: The Harris Ranch Restaurant and nearby landscape.

Bakersfield's climate is a semi-arid dry steppe climate (Koppen climate classification BSh), defined by long, hot, dry summers and brief, cool, sometimes rainy winters. In fact, Bakersfield is one of the sunniest cities in the U.S. (just behind Yuma, Arizona and Palm Springs, California).  Bakersfield enjoys long-lasting, mild autumns and early springs, giving the region a unique climate suitable for growing a wide variety of crops (ranging from citrus to carrots to almonds and pistachios).

Bakersfield lies near the southern "horseshoe" end of the San Joaquin Valley, with the southern tip of the Sierra Nevada’s just to the east. The city limits extend to the Sequoia National Forest, at the foot of the Greenhorn Mountain Range and at the entrance to the Kern Canyon. To the south, the Tehachapi Mountains feature the historic Tejon Ranch. To the west, the Temblor Range, which features the Carrizo Plain National Monument and the San Andreas Fault, is approximately 35 miles across the valley floor.

The American Lung Association ranked Bakersfield as the most ozone-polluted city in the nation in 2006.  It was also ranked as the second-most polluted city in terms of both short-term and year-round particle pollution. 

The exit at Harris Ranch. Wed. 11/14/07 at 9:45 AM Orange groves along CA-198E.
Wed. 11/14/07 at 9:50 AM
After breakfast in the coffee shop Wednesday morning, it was going on ten when we left I-5 and drove east on CA-198 toward I-99.  All of this area is giant agri-business.  White, fluffy remnants lay beside the road.  All the farms have recently harvested their cotton crop.  We passed a ginning plant called Huron.  The cotton is baled in long rectangles that are covered with plastic.  They are as tall as the bus.  Now farmers are leveling the land and making furrows for new crops.  We passed a lot of stockyards — very smelly.  I understand scientists are looking for ways to trap the methane from cow patties for an alternative fuel source.  That would be great for this area.  They have the potential for a fortune in natural gas!

Near Hanford we turned south on I-99.  I haven’t been on this portion of highway between Visalia and Bakersfield in probably thirty-plus years.  I-99 is in bad shape.  There are lots of trucks and most of it is gigantic agri-business.  It runs parallel to the railroad tracks.  The scenery is terribly ugly.  Any residential remnants are so poor in appearance as to make me think I’ve been dropped into rural Mexico.  We saw giant piles of nuts lying under plastic by the highway and railroad tracks.  Dennis thought they were almonds.  We passed a number of huge processing plants.  The relatively short telephone poles along the tracks and the highway were tipping over.  Power lines drooped near the ground.  We decided that they no longer carry power.  I saw a sign about voting to improve Ninety-nine, so it’s poverty and decline must be well known to all but me.

Scenery matters were not improved by the weather.  We had a filthy sky.  It looked like a white plate filmed with dust.  I kept saying, “This is really horrible.”  What’s going on over there in King and Kern Counties?

At noon we turned east on CA-58 towards the Tehachapi Mts. and the Mojave Desert beyond.  The scenery changed to oil wells, vineyards and orange groves.  We gained elevation and crossed the summit at 4,164 feet.  They sky turned from white to blue as we passed the exit for Edwards Air Force Base.  This is oak and savannah land with burnt out grasses.  The country got rough with the nearby railroad tracks frequently going in and out of tunnels.  Shadows got longer and the colors got richer.  We passed wind farms perched on the summit of ridges in a dry, barren land.  Then the land got flat with stubs of mountains on the horizon and a long line of bluish mountains on the eastern horizon.  We passed Joshua trees.

It was going on three when we entered Barstow so I started to look for a good camping spot and decided to investigate Calico Ghost Town located just east of Barstow off of I-15.  We took the Ghost Town Rd. exit near Yermo and drove a short distance north into the silver mining mountains of Calico.  The founder of Knott's Berry Farm, Walter Knott, saved Calico and preserved it as one of the few remaining original mining towns in the western US.  In November 1966 he donated Calico to San Bernardino County.  It operates as a regional park. 


The Koppen climate classification for Barstow, CA is BSk (Dry, Mid-latitude steppe: Mid-latitude dry). 

Barstow experiences four seasons. Summer days are very hot, with highs exceeding 100 °F.  Winter days are characterized by cold mornings, with lows near 30 °F.  Daily temperature ranges are large with afternoon highs about 30 ° warmer than the morning low.  It is very dry with average annual precipitation about 4 inches, typically falling during the winter months.  Snowfall is not uncommon. 

Barstow was settled in the late 1840s in the Mormon Corridor.  It’s roots lie in the rich mining history of the Mojave Desert. Because of miners coming to Calico and Daggett following the discovery of Silver in the 1860s, railroads were constructed to transport goods and people.  The Southern Pacific built a line from Mojave, California through Barstow to Needles in 1883.  Railroad magnate, William Barstow Strong, who owned the Santa Fe is the eponym of Barstow. 

Barstow's history was further cemented with the paving of the major highways through the city.  Much of Barstow's economy depends on transportation.

We leave US-99 and turn east on CA-58 traveling towards the Tehachapi Mountains and the Mojave Desert beyond. Wed. 11/14/07 at 12:41 PM
It cost us $20 to camp there for one night and that included admission to the town of Calico.  We were within walking distance of the old silver mining town.

Our dirt site was located in a small box canyon below the town.  It looked like we’d come to the moon. We were sitting in a depression, a series of hollows and grooves carved into small rounded hills of rock.  A few Pepper trees relieved the barren surroundings.  We got settled, walked the dogs and then left them to walk up the road to town.  We made it into the Calico House Restaurant a few minutes before they closed at 5:30 PM and they served us a simple dinner.  We ate on the porch with a few of the Maggie Mine on the ridge above us.  In the gathering dark we enjoyed a lovely cool breeze — lots of stars and a waxing moon. 

History cribbed from the visitor guide:  "Nearly 27 years ago, the town of Calico was bustling with prospectors searching for its mineral riches.  Silver was king here and the Calico Mining district became one of the richest in the state.  Born in March, 1881, Calico could boast boomtown status, producing $86 million in silver, $45 million in borax, and a town population of 1,200 with 22 saloons, China Town and a red light district.  Over 400 mines, including the legendary Silver King, Oriental and Bismarck were the engines that drove Calico's great wealth between the years of 1881 and 1907.  Like most towns of the early West, when the price of silver dropped from $1.31 an ounce to $.63, Calico became a ghost of its former self."

The next morning we came back for breakfast and then spent the morning touring the town and the mine.  The structural roots of the original town are still to be seen with buildings built of adobe and a museum in the home of longtime resident Lucy Lane.  It is a tourist town and we got overrun with school kids but I think the stop was worthwhile and I recommend it.  The tunnels are not shored up with timber posts because they are drilled into hard volcanic ash!  You can walk through an actual mine shaft.

At the risk of sounding like an old fuddy-duddy, I feel that I must comment on the behavior of the many groups of school children that roamed around the town that morning.  They appeared to be fifth or sixth graders and they were anything but well behaved.  They treated the town like their private playground — running and screaming down the sidewalks, in and out of the stores, up and down the trails.  I saw no evidence of teaching or learning and no attempt by their teachers and aides or by town management to monitor their behavior.  This was like a holiday for them and any attempt to gain knowledge from the outing seemed entirely beside the point.  I felt shocked and very annoyed.  They were distracting and at times a threat to my equilibrium.

As I am a former teacher (high school) I wondered why they had not been prepared.  Why did the town not sit them down in one spot — such as the schoolhouse?  Why were they not taught some basic rules of etiquette, i.e. this is not your private playground; you share this space with others; we expect you to walk not run; we expect you to talk quietly; we expect you to move about in twos or threes without disturbing our other guests.  At the same time they might also have gone through the basics of town history and oriented them with landmarks and landscape.  Why did the teachers not set up their classes with some organization and assignments?  They could have been put into groups of five.  Teams could have been given a list of questions and assigned the job of discovering answers that could be compared and shared the following day in class. 

Absolutely nothing was done to control these children.  We walked through the Maggie Mine, a tunnel shaft with a Y fork and a climb up steep metal stairs to the exit.  Dennis and I were admitted with another couple and we were slotted between two groups of children.  The ones admitted three minutes after us could be heard behind us screaming in delicious fright, as if they were in a Halloween haunted house.  They soon began to catch up with us as the boys were racing each other down the dark tunnel.  Their leader was prepared to shove by me as I climbed the stairs, but my old teacher instinct prevailed and I turned and said loudly and firmly, “Do not pass me!”  He held back.

Okay, call me old fashioned, but I worry that children who are not taught to be aware of others will grow up to be very self-centered and from a civic point of view, very poor citizens.  Why is bad public behavior being tolerated and not addressed by parents, schools and others?  I am dumbfounded.

Our view from the cab of our Calico Ghost Town camp site. Dennis thinks we landed on a moonscape. Wed. 11/14/07 This path from our camp leads up to the ghost town. It's walking distance. Thu. 11/15/07
We walk back to camp after touring the town. It's hot. Thu. 11/15/07 After arriving in camp we walk up to the town and sit on the porch of Calico House Restaurant for a hamburger dinner. Wed. 11/14/07
From the porch at Calico House we have a view of the Maggie Mine. Wed. 11/14/07 This looks like a movie set in the evening dusk but it's all real. Our campsite is down the road just below the carriage. Wed. 11/14/07
We came back to the Calico House for breakfast and saw many of these birds running across the ground. They are called Chukkars and they were imported from India. Thu. 11/15/07 In the morning we walked up to the parking lot in front of the town and saw these odd rocks. Thu. 11/15/07
"Abstract The Calico Mining District produced over $20,000,000 of silver, from 1880 to 1940, ranking the district as the largest silver producer in California. Silver-barite mineralization occurs in both the Lower Miocene Pickhandle Volcanics and the overlying sedimentary units of the Middle Miocene Barstow Formation."

"General Geology - Structure The Calico Fault Zone is the major structural feature within the district. It lies along the southwest flank of the Calico Mountains, trending approximately N 60° W. It is described by Dibblee (1970) as a right lateral strike-slip fault. The Calico Mountains are part of a northwest plunging anticlinorium, itself folded into a series of synclines and anticlines with northwest plunges. Barite veins within the Pickhandle are localized, for the most part, in a series of northwest striking, subparallel, normal faults."

—Calico Mining District http://geology.csupomona.edu/drjessey/fieldtrips/

We walked up the main street and began to window shop in the various buildings. Then this movie extra began a pistol packing performance. He warned the many school kids present that they should never touch a gun. Then he proceeded to entrance them with his fast draw, pistol twirling skills and loud shots with blanks. To me, his solo performance seemed insincere, noisy, boring and unnecessary. Thu. 11/15/07
This is the top end of the town. Thu. 11/15/07 We climbed a hill and looked back down on the town. Thu. 11/15/07
Some of the buildings are reconstructed. Thu. 11/15/07 Some of the buildings are original with repairs. Thu. 11/15/07
Some buildings are very makeshift. Thu. 11/15/07 Construction materials are adobe and wood.
Thu. 11/15/07
This building is obviously not original. The bottle house was built in the sixties. Thu. 11/15/07 This rough shelter was built into the cliffs. Thu. 11/15/07
Calico was named for a calico quilt because of the many colors in the surrounding rocks. Can you see the many mining shaft openings in the rock? Right: Here's a closeup of one of those mine shafts. Thu. 11/15/07

The Koppen climate classification for Needles, CA is BSk (Dry, Mid-latitude steppe: Mid-latitude dry).

Needles, like Death Valley, is known for extreme heat during the summers. Temperatures in Needles routinely reach 120°F in late July and early August, and Needles occasionally sets national or world daily high temperature records.

The city of Needles is situated on the western banks of the Colorado River in San Bernardino County, CA.  It is located in Mojave Valley, which straddles the California-Arizona border.  The city was founded in 1883 as a result of the construction of the railroad, which crosses the Colorado at this point.  It was named after "The Needles," a group of pointed rocks on the Arizona side of the river. 

Mohave people had been living in the area for hundreds, if not thousands, of years prior to the European exploration of the area.  Ancient petroglyphs, pictographs, intaglios, old trails and stonework sites can still be seen in the area. 

In 1859, Fort Mojave was built to protect immigrants to California and other travelers from the Mohave Desert.

We toured the Maggie Mine. Inside the mine tunnel these vignettes were set up. Thu. 11/15/07

We didn’t leave Calico until 1:00 PM so we only drove 150 miles for two and a half hours.  We took I-40E running parallel to historic route 66 and made it as far as Needles, CA on the Arizona border by the Colorado River.  That day the landscape was flat with sandy gravel, green chaparral and distant mountains. 

In Needles we stayed at Desert View RV Resort, a lovely private park on Route 66 at exit 139, the River Road Cutoff from I-40E.  We were treated to first class service and a beautiful wide gravel site with a cement patio.  For privacy, it was surrounded on both sides with tall oleander bushes blooming with pink blossoms.  That night we sat outside in the dark desert night looking at the waxing quarter moon, stars and the lights of Needles below us.  We stayed in for dinner and ate an excellent beef and vegetable stew that Dennis made before we left.

Above, our Desert View RV Park campsite. Campsites were separated by oleader borders. The sites are pull-thru and the entrance lane has a long line of palm trees. We had a view of sunrise from our campsite, (sunrise photo 6:16:18 AM). In the morning we pulled out facing west on the entrance road, National Old Trails Highway, driving towards the freeway exit, Old Route 66, (photo 7:43:32 AM). Half an hour later we crossed the state line into AZ and Mountain Time jumped us from 8:17 to 9:17 AM. We no longer had an early start.... Thu. & Fri. 11/15-16/07

I wanted to be in Santa Fe by Saturday and all of a sudden I realized on Friday that we needed to make tracks.  So we made an early start and left at 7:45 AM.  Good thing we did because in an hour we crossed the Arizona state line into Mountain Time and all of a sudden it was an hour later.  It was very pale and hazy — 68° in the morning.  To amuse myself I baked breakfast cinnamon biscuits in our convection oven while Dennis drove ever eastward on I-40. 

By late morning we had climbed those dark mountains that had been on the horizon and reached 5,000 elevation.  The Grand Wash Cliffs were to our north and the Aquarius Mountains to our south.  We were on red, rocky soil with grasses and (I think) juniper trees.  We were in ranch country and had passed out of the Mohave Desert as we approached Seligman.  After Seligman the land looked like yellow calico with dark green oval polka dots.  It was grassland with small evergreen trees.  The sky was a pale blue.  By noon we were climbing again and into yellow pine mountain territory.  We passed through Flagstaff at one.  By two we were back onto a flat, level landscape with red earth and burnt out grass and a few distant buttes.  We were entering Kachina and Indian pottery country with giant advertising signs at every exit. 


The Koppen climate classification for Flagstaff, AZ is BSk (Dry, Mid-latitude steppe: Mid-latitude dry).

Flagstaff has a highland semi-arid climate with four distinct seasons. The combination of high altitude and low humidity provide mild weather conditions throughout most of the year, and the predominantly clear air radiates daytime heating effectively.  Temperatures often fall precipitously after sunset throughout the year, and winter nights can be very cold.  Winter weather patterns in Flagstaff are cyclonic and frontal in nature, originating in the eastern Pacific Ocean. These deliver periodic, widespread snowfall followed by extended periods of fair weather.  Brief, but often intense, afternoon rain showers and dramatic thunderstorms usually break this pattern common during the so-called monsoon season of July and August.  Summer temperatures are moderate and high temperatures average around 80 °F.

At 7,000 feet elevation, located adjacent to the largest contiguous Ponderosa Pine forest in North America, the area around Flagstaff is considered a high altitude semi-desert.  However, ecosystems ranging from pinon-juniper studded plateaus, high desert, green alpine forest and barren tundra can all be found within a short drive of Flagstaff.

Flagstaff is the county seat of Coconino County in northern Arizona.  It is named after a Ponderosa Pine flagpole made by a scouting party from Boston (known as the "Flagstaff Tea Party") to celebrate the United States Centennial on July 4, 1876. 

Flagstaff lies near the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau and along the western side of the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the continental United States.  It is located adjacent to Mount Elden, just south of the San Francisco Peaks, the highest mountain range in Arizona.  Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 feet is located about 10 miles north of Flagstaff.

We drive through green chaparral with mountains on the horizon — after Seligman and before Flagstaff. 65° Fri. 11/16/07 11:45:24 AM MST
Climbing into mountain country. Approaching yellow pine country. Fri. 11/16/07 11:49:36 AM MST I-40E near Devil Dog Rd exit 157.
Fri. 11/16/07 11:50:02 AM MST
High plateau; more mountains ahead. Approaching Flagstaff, AZ Fri. 11/16/07 12:09:14 PM MST Blue skies, white clouds — a beautiful driving day.
Fri. 11/16/07 12:11:12 PM MST
We finally stopped at Holbrook Petrified Forest, a KOA camp in Holbrook, AZ.  We did a good job and made up for lost time on Thursday.  We drove six hours and logged 316 miles.  Holbrook is at the entrance of the Petrified Forest National Park and is not far from the New Mexico border.

This was our first KOA campsite.  I always thought of them as being of poor quality but this one was fine.  We camped on a level dirt site and had plenty of space.  There was a walking dog trail around the park and we had a nice view of the surrounding plateau although we were near route 66 and all the fast food amenities. 

Our jovial host recommended the El Rancho Restaurant and Motel for an excellent Mexican dinner so we drove into Holbrook.  This restaurant was a big surprise.  It was large and very popular with lots of booths and a bar.  We were lucky to snag a booth and we waited awhile for service.  The staff was on the run.  The menu was basic Mexican fare but I could tell that this was the real deal.  There were tourists like us but the majority were locals — many appeared to be Mexican or Indian.  We noshed on chips and salsa.  For dinner we chose something I’ve not had before.  Our waitress recommended Stuffed Sopapilla.  Wow, they were delicious.  Dennis had two Margaritas and we were happy campers. 


The Koppen climate classification for Navajo County, AZ is BSk (Dry, Mid-latitude steppe: Mid-latitude dry). 

Navajo County offers the infamous Monument Valley, Keams Canyon, the entry to the Petrified Forest, the largest stand of Ponderosa Pines in North America, and the Sunrise Ski Resort owned and operated by the White Mountain Apache tribe.

Navajo County is located in the northern part of Arizona.  It contains parts of the Hopi Indian reservation, the Navajo Indian Reservation and Fort Apache Indian Reservation.  Navajo County was split from Apache County on March 21, 1895.  The first county sheriff was legendary gunman Commodore Perry Owens, who had previously served as the sheriff of Apache County.  It was the location for many of the events that played out during the Pleasant Valley War.

The county seat of Navajo County is Holbrook.  Other towns include Pinetop-Lakeside, Show Low, Snowflake, Taylor, and Winslow. 

Holbrook Petrified Forest KOA. I was walking the dogs on the perimeter trail around the large RV park when I took this photo. Fri. 11/16/07

I see that El Rancho is well known.  I ran across this review.



The Koppen climate classification for Albuquerque, NM is BWk or BWh (Dry, Mid-latitude desert or Subtropical, low-latitude desert).  This means average annual precipitation is less than half of evaporation, and the mean temperature of the coldest month is above freezing.

Located in central New Mexico, Albuquerque lies within the northern, upper edges of the Chihuahuan Desert.  It also has noticeable influences from the adjacent Colorado Plateau Semi-Desert, Arizona-New Mexico Mountains, and Southwest Plateaus and Plains Steppe.

Albuquerque has one of the highest elevations of any major city in the United States, though the effects of this are greatly tempered by its southwesterly continental position. The elevation of the city ranges from 4,900 feet in the valley near the Rio Grande to over 6,400 feet in the foothill areas of the Northeast Heights. 

Like the Nile, the Rio Grande is classified as an 'exotic' river because it flows through a desert.  The New Mexico portion of the Rio Grande lies within the Rio Grande Rift Valley, bordered by a system of faults.  This system lifted up the adjacent Sandia and Manzano Mountains, while lowering the area where the life-sustaining Rio Grande now flows.

Albuquerque's climate is usually sunny and dry, with low relative humidity.  Brilliant sunshine defines the region, averaging more than 300 days a year; periods of variably mid and high-level cloudiness temper the sun at other times. Extended cloudiness is rare. The city has four distinct seasons, but the heat and cold are mild compared to the extremes that occur more commonly in other parts of the country.

Most of north-central New Mexico and southern Colorado fall within what is known as the transition zone, a climate zone that rests at 6,500-8,500 feet in altitude. In this zone trees like ponderosa, oak, juniper, spruce, and fir thrive in the cooler weather and higher altitude of the more mountainous landscapes.  Hard, desert plant life, like shrubs and chaparral, dominate the landscape.  In fact, the state flower of New Mexico is the Yucca.  Oak and ponderosa pine forests run throughout the desert highlands.

Holbrook has cabins available as well as RV sites.
Fri. 11/16/07
View of our campsite from the cab.
Fri. 11/16/07
On Saturday we covered 283 miles in five hours.  We pulled into Santa Fe Skies RV Park at 3:00 PM.  We traveled through the Navajo Indian Nation.  More signs advertising everything from pottery to Indian ruins.  This is a land of canyons with buttes and big horizons.  Most of it is at surprisingly high elevations.  Did you know that Albuquerque, NM is higher than Denver, CO?  So is Santa Fe. Denver: 5280; Albuquerque: 5314; Santa Fe: 7000.
En route to Houck on I-40 at exit 348.
Sat. 11/17/07 10:28:42 AM MST
Minutes from the New Mexico state line.
Sat. 11/17/07 11:12:08 AM
Next to the state line is a big outpost selling goods.
Sat. 11/17/07 11:12:14 AM MST
On the map this area is called the Painted Cliffs.
Sat. 11/17/07 11:14:12 AM MST
We just passed Gallup and the Bluewater Outpost.
We are 85 miles west of Albuquerque.
Sat. 11/17/07 11:37:48 AM MST
Albuquerque has wonderful architectural designs around their freeway exits. This bridge decoration is rather odd, however. Sat. 11/17/07 2:00 PM

The Koppen climate classification for Santa Fe, NM is BSk (Dry, Mid-latitude steppe: Mid-latitude dry)

Santa Fe has cool winters and warm summers.  The average temperature ranges from a low of 14°F to a high of 40°F in winter, low of 55°F to a high of 86°F in summer.  Santa Fe receives 2-3 inches of rain per month in summer and about 5 inches of snow per month in winter.

Santa Fe is located at 7,000 feet (2134 m) above sea level, making it the highest state capital in the United States.  The next highest state capital is Cheyenne, Wyoming, 6,097 ft., followed by Denver, Colorado, 5,280 ft, Carson City, Nevada - 4,687 ft, Salt Lake City, Utah, 4,560 ft, and Helena, Montana, 4,125 ft.

Santa Fe is the seat of Santa Fe County and the capital of the state of New Mexico.  It was originally occupied by a number of Pueblo Indian villages originating from 1050 to 1150.

Santa Fe was the capital of Nuevo México, a province of New Spain explored by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado and established in 1515.  The "Kingdom of New Mexico" was first claimed for the Spanish Crown in 1540, almost 70 years before the founding of Santa Fe.  Coronado and his men also traveled to the Grand Canyon and through the Great Plains on their New Mexico expedition.

Spanish colonists first settled northern New Mexico in 1598.  A settlement on the site that would become Santa Fe was first established by Juan Martinez de Montoya ca. 1607-1608.  The town was formally founded and made a capital in 1610, making it the oldest capital city in the US.  It is perhaps tied with Jamestown, Virginia (founded 1607) for second oldest surviving American city founded by European colonists, coming in behind St. Augustine, Florida (founded 1565).

In 1846, the United States declared war on Mexico.  By 1848 it officially gained New Mexico through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.  In 1912, New Mexico became the country's 47th state, with Santa Fe as its capital.

In Albuquerque at exit 159C we turn north on I-25 towards Santa Fe. We are excited because this area is brand new to us. We've never been here.
Sat. 11/17/07 2:03 PM
In Santa Fe at exit 276A we turn east on NM-599. Within five minutes we are at 14 Browncastle Rd., the entrance to Santa Fe Skies RV Park. Sat. 11/17/07 2:50 PM
Santa Fe Skies RV Park. View from the cab. We are facing NE towards the Santa Fe Nat'l Forest and Taos.
Sat. 11/17/07 4:09 PM
Santa Fe Skies RV Park. Our site is Iris #5.
Mon. 11/19/07 11:32 AM
On Sunday, our first day in Santa Fe, I got up early to see the sunrise. About 5:30 I put on my white terry cloth robe over my red flannel PJs and took the dogs outside. Very cold! It was 44° inside the bus and 22° outside. But there was no frost on the ground.

We don't understand our heating system. We've been using the electric heating system. But with freezing temperatures, we're supposed to use gas heating system (hydrohot or aquahot) to keep the basement warm. Dennis had the diesel burner turned on all night (hydrohot) but the gas heat in the morning wouldn't come on. So we warmed up with electric heat. By 7:30 AM the indoor temperature had gone up to 69°. Cold and clear, we had a beautiful blue sky and the sun shining through our door to warm us up.

Unfortunately we didn't get to sightsee on Sunday. I was ready to go out for breakfast in the morning but finally settled for cereal. I worked on my webpage all day while Dennis worked all day trying to solve technical difficulties with the bus. This was because the batteries were overheating. In other words, the Inverter was charging too much. The ? in the bus read zero. On the small Inverter in the basement there was a message, "High Battery Shutdown." The Inverters work together but this one handles the refrigerator, which runs off of solar power. The refrigerator was working but we couldn't figure out what was causing the batteries to cook.

Parked on our left was a 32' 2003 Allegro Bus. Doug and his wife have a home in Santa Fe but their daughter lives there and they live in their bus because he travels so much for his job. He is a failure analysis engineer. Parked on our right was a 45' 2002 Wanderlodge. David and his wife and their baby live in South Carolina but spend a lot of time traveling because they can work from their bus. They are both engineers. We had the right kind of neighbors for figuring out a technical problem. David was working outside on his bus and spent most of the day, on and off, helping Dennis figure out the cause for our battery problem.

Who knew there was so much to batteries? Our bus is set up for flooded batteries. Could it be that we had a get battery or an AGM battery and therefore the readings were wrong? David and Dennis tried to figure out the mystery. As it was Sunday, there was no one to call. David had the equipment to test the batteries and they read as being normal. We began to suspect that the readout in the bus was reading incorrectly and getting a wrong signal.

Finally Dennis felt he had done everything he could and that the overcooked batteries weren't overcooked. We ventured down Cerrillos Rd and saw — I-Hop. Too tired and hungry to try being tourists, we stopped and at four o'clock we had our long delayed breakfast combined with dinner. After that we made some fun errand stops at Walgreens and Wal*Mart and got back to the bus at six o'clock.

So we've gotten a taste of our environment but haven't really seen downtown Santa Fe. Maybe on Monday!

David Brady stands with Dennis in front of his very impressive '45 bus after a day of working together trying to solve our batteriy mysteries. His wife Suzanne spent her day shopping with fifteen month Daniel in tow. Both are engineers and both can work from the bus when they're on the road.

The 2002 Wanderlodge is impressive. Like a Prevost it is metal — not fiberglass like ours. Metal buses are heavy and generally only have one slide because slides are heavy. Our four slides make our bus heavy. We have more room but the metal bus is safer. It's a toss-up.

Elsa Walton, Santa Fe Skies RV Park, Santa Fe, NM, Monday, November 19, 2007