Along the Natchez Trace

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It must run in the family....

In 1922 Bill's Grandpa John lived in Kansas...  that's where Bill's mother and aunt were born.  Not long after that, John moved to Rattlesnake, New Mexico to work in the oil/gas field.  Bill has traced his family history quite a way back and the most interesting things are the "stories" that go along with the facts.

Rattlesnake is quite a name for a town, isn't it?  It's located not far from Four Corners, where NM, CO, UT and AZ come together.

Bill's Dad and maternal grandfather both worked for Conoco for a while....  more in the production end than the drilling part.  Bill's dad went on to work for Mountain Bell...  and for a time Bill also worked at Mountain Bell, installing phones.

When Bill started college in Las Cruces, he knew he wanted to work outside.  He majored in geology and after graduation went to work for Ohio University, in the geology department.  He worked the hydrology workshops and when a big drilling manufacturer donated a drilling rig to OU he was the driver/driller/etc.  He drilled gas wells on campus and monitored their output.

Our daughter, Celeste, moved to Texas after graduating OU a few years ago...  she started out at a communications company that went belly-up....  She then went to work for a company that was in the oil and gas business...  supplying parts and supplies to the oil field.

The other day, Celeste took us on a tour of the plant where she works...
That's Bill and Celeste...  standing outside one of the huge buildings that builds equipment for the oil field.

Celeste takes orders from companies that want specific components on their rigs...
This is her office...  that diagram is the beginning of..

This particular piece of equipment is for fracking...  
Fracking wells is very controversial in many parts of the USA now, but it is a common practice in the business so the equipment is being manufactured.

The production line is amazing!  I think it takes around a month to 6 weeks from start (bare trailer) to finish (ready to roll).
There are around 120 employees at this plant working on various stages of the jobs.
This is the layout of a wiring board...  I can't remember how much wire goes on this but....

This board is only half the size of what is usually installed.

This rig is almost done....
The company that ordered this even specifies the paint job...  they have a particular color of paint that identifies their rigs.

The cost of this rig (not including the truck) is $1,000,000.
A lot of work...  a lot of technology...  a lot of equipment go into it.

Celeste orders all the parts and components to build the rigs with "3 axles" at the rear.  There are also rigs with 4 axles.

These are all finished rigs, waiting to be picked up.

It's funny to listen to your kid talk about filters, pumps, cables and stuff like that...  especially such a "girly" girl as Celeste is.

But she and Bill talk the same language ...  wouldn't her Great-Grandpa John be amazed at the oil/gas industry these days!

That's All for Today!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Grocery Shopping and a Few Birds

We've had some cold and windy weather but unfortunately, no rain.  The farm ponds are drying up really fast.  Yesterday we saw a couple of ducks on one of the ponds as we drove to town, but we've seen very few birds in the time we've been here.  Even our bird feeders haven't attracted more than a dozen or so birds which is kind of unusual for this time of year.

Our "most frequently sighted" bird...
Yeah...  that's a black vulture.  
I know...  one ugly bird!  But they're the original recycler!

I read a blog recently about grocery shopping...  the blogger had gone to a brand new Trader Joe's in Florida and they were disappointed in what they found.  They were used to Whole Foods markets and found the TJ's lacking.  I love Trader Joe's and one opened fairly recently in Ft Worth so we've made a couple of trips there to shop.  But I got on-line and found that a Whole Foods is located in Arlington, which is somewhat northeast of Ft Worth.  (you sort of drive right out of one city into the next without really seeing any difference).  

We had to make a trip to Ft Worth last week and decided to check out the Whole Foods.  It's been a while since we've shopped at one...  I think the last time was maybe when we lived in Albuquerque a few years ago.

We found the store,  which is located about 60-70 miles from where we are staying.
The store was HUGE!  
It was just a mile or so off I30 so was easy to find.  

Walking around inside was almost overwhelming!
 The produce section was quite colorful as well as nutritious!

 That's Bill...  the cart is empty now, but, believe me, it quickly got loaded with all kinds of goodies!

I kind of forgot to take any pictures for quite a while...  We were busy reading labels, filling bags with bulk foods, and just cruising every aisle so we wouldn't miss a thing.

I was like a kid looking at a Christmas tree!

One of the neatest things was the "salad" bar.  
There was a large section of the store with prepared foods.  You filled up your container with whatever you wanted.  
Everything was well labeled...  no matter if you are omnivorous, vegetarian or vegan, you'd have no problem finding your kind of food.

 These olives kind of reminded me of La Ramba in Barcelona.  I wanted to try them all! 

It was hard to choose what to put in my "lunch box".

When you're done, they weigh your container...  it's all $7.99 a pound.
I think together, our lunch cost around $20.00.
We had both overloaded and so had plenty left over for dinner that night.

Do I still like Trader Joe's?
Yes I do, and they do have quality foods at a good price.
(and there's always "Two Buck Chuck")

But I can certainly understand that bloggers statements about size and choices.  
Of course, I'm happy shopping in any grocery store.

I doubt if we drive that distance to shop there very often...  but it was fun to see what they have to offer.

I do see one other bird around at times...
I love seeing the roadrunner!
There are a pair that live around the corner from here.  It's always a treat for me to encounter them when I'm heading to town.

They're fast little rascals...  dash across the road before I can get my camera out...  often all I get is...
"The End"

That's All For Today!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

There's Always the Weather...

It's been pretty quiet here lately.  We've seen a few flocks of cranes fly over, but I'd think most have already migrated by now.  Hey...  the Bosque del Apache NWR's  "Festival of the Cranes" is coming up this coming week and those critters better be there by now to make that a success!

Bill has been working outdoors a lot....  mostly clearing brush and trying to figure out why the water feature is leaking.  

I've been spending more time with Rosie.  Hey...  have I told y'all about Rosie?  Well, a couple of years ago for my birthday, Bill got me the Rosetta Stone program.  (yeah...  2 years ago at least)...  You'd think by now that I'd be speaking Spanish quite fluently.  Well, I suppose if I stayed with it maybe that might be so.  But...  I've had lapses...  lots of lapses.  I could blame it on computers crashing, I could blame it on time spent volunteering at refuges, heck, I could blame it on anything ...  but that's kind of a cop out.  Truth is, I just haven't stuck with it.  

Someone asked me if I only knew "cerveza" and "banos" (see... I don't even know how to put that tilde thingy over the n)...  but that's not so.  I also know Corona, Dos Equis, Modello, Carta Blanca....  and in a pinch I can come up with margarita.  Oh heck... I forgot Tecate.  

Okay... truth is, I kinda know my number, my colors, foods and stuff like that.  But verbs and tenses and putting it altogether into a sentence is beyond me.  I'm like a toddler learning how to talk.  In fact, I buy workbooks designed for grade schoolers to help me out.  AND...  unlike the NY Times crossword puzzle, I wouldn't even THINK of writing the answers in ink!

Okay... so that pretty much takes care of our days here.

It looked real dark and dreary a couple days ago...  the wind came up, the sky got real dark....
And we got rain!

Unfortunately, it lasted less than 5 minutes.

This part of Texas needs rain real bad!

It stayed windy...  it even stayed dark and threatening for a while.
Real rain never came.

Bill's back to clearing brush...
I'm back to frequent trips to the local library...

Maybe next time I'll have something more interesting to write about than the weather.

That's All For Today!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Slight Change of Plans....

When we left Ohio in October we had "sketchy" plans in mind.  I write it that way because as is more the norm than the exception, what we thought we'd be doing and what we're actually doing isn't exactly the same.

We'd planned to get our annual check-ups (we do all our medical stuff in Granbury, Tx now), then find a job as gate guards.  Gate Guarding is something we've wanted to do for several years but didn't really know how to go about it until this past spring.  We took that test that certifies us to be security guards (okay... those of you who have taken it know it's not really much of a test) with the intention of looking for our very own gate this fall.

Back to the plans....  nothing serious, but age has taken its toll and I need a "lift".  Nah...  not a face job ...  (although that might be a good thing) just need my plumbing updated.

A few months ago Murr Brewster, who writes "Murrmurrs" had a hilarious blog about this very thing.  At the time I laughed until...  well you know....  not really thinking that my time was coming.

So in a couple of weeks I'll get my little problem fixed.  Which means no gate guarding this year.  It also means that we'll set back our 2 months in Spain from Jan/Feb to Feb/March.  I must write to Mitchell and see if we'll  be there during the flamenco events....

Plans can, and often are, changed.  I read several other blogs and am always sorry when someone has to change their plans due to health reasons.  I'm always happy to hear when they are ready to get on the road again.

Probably 75% (or maybe more) of the travelin' folks we know, or know of, travel as a couple.  Many have dogs as part of their family.  We who have a companion (the 2 legged kind)  have someone to take us to the doctor, fix meals, and even take out the dog when we can't.

What do solo travelers do?  One great blogger I read has to have a hip replaced.  I have no idea what all that entails...  especially the rehab time frame.  I'm sure most have us have thought about all this...  checked into the Care Center at Escapees in Livingston...  maybe even things like Visiting Nurses, Meals on Wheels and other programs designed to help when we need it.

Many blogs I read are by "some time" RVers...  they still have a home base...  maybe even a house and family support in an area that they can return to for these needs.

But no matter what situation a person is in, when something needs fixed... whether us, our companion, or a blogger we feel like we know, it makes me stop and think.

 I'm fortunate (or just oblivious?) in that I always feel that things work out as they are supposed to.

Our plans might change...  or be changed for us... but usually those changes are so much better in the long run.  Here's hoping that we all have lots of happy miles left - on our rigs, and on ourselves!

That's All For Today!

P.S. Did you notice that the cows are in the road... fenced OUT of those fields?  Isn't open range ranching interesting?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sandhill Cranes .... Waaaaay Overhead!

I saw my first sandhill crane in 2001.  We had started out on our new adventure - traveling in our RV - and were on our way to Alaska for the summer.  We left Ohio in March, but had some time before our scheduled ferry departure in Washington, up the Inside Passage, so headed to New Mexico.   We visited Bill's sister, but even more prominent in my memory, we visited the Bosque del Apache NWR in central New Mexico.  This was the very first National Wildlife Refuge that I'd even heard about, let alone visit.

We drove the auto tour and saw a lot of birds...  but the sandhill cranes, that winter there, had long since departed.  They go back to Idaho, Nebraska...  and even Alaska...  their nesting grounds for the spring and summer months.

We arrived in Anchorage, Alaska near the end of April, and headed south to the Kenai Peninsula where we were to be campground hosts for the summer.

A snow and ice storm hit late in the season...  so late in the season that those overhead traffic warnings were lit with this .... "Spring is Here...  Have a Nice Summer".  There were no road crews working.

The road to the Kenai was closed and we made an unscheduled stop at a state park office, just before heading into Turnagain Arm.  We stayed in their parking lot for 3 days before the road was passable.

Apparently the cranes didn't know that spring would arrive late that year, because they, too, had arrived in Alaska.  We walked a lot and saw quite a bit of wildlife.  Bill came upon a moose blocking his path on one of his walks.  But it was the ponds along side the road where we saw so many birds.  I saw my first horned grebe there, and if I were to get out my journal, I'm sure I could list several other "firsts".  

I saw my first sandhill cranes there....  not many...  but seeing the first small group will forever stay in my mind.

Since then, we've been fortunate that we've "lived" close to the cranes in the different flyways.  We did eventually volunteer at the Bosque NWR and even worked the Festival of the Cranes a few times.  In Louisiana we had the opportunity to go with a crew that was tracking cranes who wear transmitters.  They track the radio signals to locate the cranes.  We even helped hold a crane who was injured and needed transported.  Let me assure you...  they are one BIG bird...  with one HUGE beak!

Once you've heard the call of the cranes you'll never forget it.  When they're migrating they catch a thermal and are so high in the sky it's very difficult to see them with the naked eye.

But...  you'll hear them.
This flock of about 80 flew overhead a few minutes ago.

We're about 50 miles SW of Ft Worth, Texas.
I don't know where this group is migrating to, but know that we've seen flocks of them frequently in the couple of weeks we've been here.

Another fairly large flock was right behind them.
Even using my 300x lens and doing some cropping, it's still difficult to get a good photo.

Often we hear them but seldom locate them as they fly over.

But, we hear them talking to each other...
Possibly giving directions...
Or maybe just telling ancient crane stories they learned from their ancestors.

I hope every one of you get to hear the cranes flying overhead someday.

You'll never forget it.

That's All For Today!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Happy Birthday, Natalie!

Our kids all left home as soon as they got out of school...  they not only left home, they left Ohio.

The girls got married and all three of them have lived in various places all over the USA. In fact, one of them even lived in Germany for a few years.  So our five grandkids were born in California, Washington, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

Our son is the only one who stayed in Ohio but he's the only one who doesn't have kids.

We've made it to all of their graduation ceremonies and see them all at least once a year, but one thing we've just not been around for is birthdays.

This year we're in Texas in time for our youngest grandchilds birthday...  she's 20 years old today.

That's Jordan, Natalie's boyfriend, decorating her car.

Happy Birthday, Natalie!
Lots of love from Grandma Sharon & Grandpa Bill!

Oh my Goodness!...  you're no longer a teenager....
Darn!  These kids grow up way too fast!

That's All For Today!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Geocache Milestone

I often write about our geocache adventures - a fun game that is played by participants world-wide.

We went on our very first geocache adventure on Thanksgiving Day, 2004.  We met two of our daughters in Albuquerque for the holiday, and Celeste, the one we're visiting as I write, told us about this new thing she was doing.  She got out her handheld GPS and took us on a ghost tour of Old Town, in ABQ.  

We learned a little history, walked around the historic district, and had a lot of fun finding the final site where the cache was hidden.

Nothing would do but I had to do that!  We bought our own GPS as soon as we got settled at Cameron Prairie NWR, and found our first geocache in Lake Charles, Louisiana in February, 2005.

Since that time we've found caches in 49 of our 50 states, 7 Canadian Provinces, several states in Mexico, and in a total of 16 different countries.  Those finds were in everyplace from very public places like the Oklahoma Federal Building site to very remote places like that rocky beach in Mexico or on top of Strawberry Mountain in New Mexico.

The website with our personal profile keeps track of all our finds.  Another thing it keeps track of is the milestones you reach.  

Our 1,000th find was in the Visitor Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.  That's been a while ago.  I'm kind of an opportunist when it comes to my caching...  if they're around, I'd love to find them.  If they're not, we go a while between finds.

When we were in Maine this summer, I realized that we could probably reach our 2,000th find before the end of the year.  Especially since I knew we'd be coming back to this part of Texas where there are quite a few within an hour's drive of where we're staying.

As of last weekend we were within 12 caches of reaching my goal.  After we finally got our license plates and our driver's license transfer done on Tuesday, Bill & I headed off on a little geocaching trip.  I had my map in my hot little hands...  my GPS turned on and ready to go.  

I drove...  Bill navigated.  We stopped at the first cache...found it!  and the 2nd...  Oh Boy!  Only 10 more!  And we were on a roll.  I had my camera ready (as usual), and with each cache I'd ask Bill (again)... "how many more?"

Finally...  the 2,000 cache is coming up.  
 Well, of course it has to be hidden in some prickly cedar tree.... (and yes, I always check for snakes, or any other problem that may await me)...  Here it was just cactus and cedar ...
But I've been known to crawl around on my belly, attempt to climb trees, and a lot of other rather undignified ways to nab that cache!
Found the little rascal!  This cache is fairly good size...  some are a tiny as my little fingernail.  
I extricate myself from all those briers and emerge victorious!
Here I am...  signing the logbook for Cache 2,000

Actually, 2,000 finds isn't really a high number...  I noticed when I was logging in one of my finds that the previous cacher was logging in find number 21,342!

Now, THAT'S a LOT of caches!

(For any cachers out there, our geocache name is:  RVers)

For folks like us who move around a lot, it's a great way to spend some spare time and see some of those out of the way places.

It will take quite a while before we reach our next milestone.... 3,000 finds.
But, we'll have fun getting there!

That's All For Today!