Saturday, July 14, 2012

Great summer reading

Serendipity: the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.

That's how I found Bad Water, and my new favorite author, Toni Dwiggins

After finishing the classic reminiscence "Loafing Along Death Valley Trails: A Personal Narrative of People and Places" by William Caruthers, I was searching for non-fiction on the topic of Death Valley.  Having practically grown up in the ghost town of Garlock, a gold mining town that's not all that far from the great valley itself, I already know the area pretty well. I've already read much of what's been written, so I'm always looking for something new to add to my list of titles. In my search results, amongst the titles I've already read, or rejected, was a novel that looked interesting.

If you think you'd like a great who done it with a large helping of geology on the side, or if you are one of the many thousands that have become fascinated with the mysteries of Death Valley, or if you like to ponder the many ways a domestic terrorist could attack a critical system, you'll love Bad Water.

This is Toni's first novel in her Forensic Geology series. I felt the first few chapters are just a bit rough, but once the plot gets going the writing smooths out and as the plot develops it takes over. Young Cassie Oldfield and her mentor Walter Shaws are the forensic geologists called in to help solve a case that's far more complex and deadly than the authorities have ever guessed. It's a hard one to put down, and hot weather definitely fits the story line, so enjoy it this summer!

I've just started Toni's second novel, Volcano Watch. Stay tuned for a review on that title.

Toni's books are available in paperback and Kindle formats on Amazon. More about her on Amazon's author page.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mother Nature has a strange sense of humor

Monday - An oasis in the desert..... Bottomless Lakes State Park. This is our second visit to this unusual and very attractive park. Last time we explored the many lakes and the interesting geology of the park, this time, we just wanted to relax.

Arriving in the early afternoon we had our choice of camp sites as there were few occupants. The spaces here are fairly large, and we picked an end one with a nice view of the lake. We were definitely ready for a bit of cooling off by the time we got camp set up, so suited up and took Shiner and her favorite orange ball over to the lake.

We've made several attempts at tempting her to swim with no success, but this turned out to be the magic day. It didn't take too much effort to get her swimming way out in the lake to retrieve her ball.

While Steve tossed the ball for her I picked up some of the trash that had collected in the water around the lake. This park seriously needs some volunteers to give it a little TLC - the result of budget cuts I would guess.

We paddled around in the slightly salty mineral water to our hearts' content, then went back to the rig to relax. Over cold drinks we admired the huge, billowy thunderheads that the southwest is famous for building in the distance, and they were rapidly moving in our direction. They're very picturesque, but sometimes deliver more than scenery.

We had been hoping for a cooling sprinkle, but here's where Mother Nature's sense of humor comes in. Within minutes lightning flashed a little too close for comfort, and we headed indoors. Thunder pounded, the floor of the trailer acting like a giant drum and vibrating under our feet, waves of rain slammed against the sides of our little house on wheels.

Peering out the windows it looked like we were in the middle of a desert sandstorm, as gusts of wind drove the rain sideways in great smokey puffs. The billowing rain completely obscured the building that houses the concession stand at the lake, and made for a very dull sunset!

We are in the desert here, but it's not sand blowing, just water. . .water water everywhere, running in deep rivulets around our camp site sand down the road, turning the entire campground into a lake of mud. Along with all that water the temperature dropped 20 degrees, so I guess we did get our wish.

Welcome to the monsoon season in the southwest. This is totally not what people think of when you mention weather in the southwest.... and that's where we are, in the Sonoran Desert, near Roswell, New Mexico. (See the post from our last visit for more about the campground.) For those who think it never rains in the desert a visit to the Sonoran Desert in monsoon season will definitely change your way of thinking.

We felt for the family with a couple of little boys that just moved in, with a tent. Steve checked on them when the worst of the storm had passed and the tent stayed up. They had been tucked safely in their car so weren't too wet.

After our swim we were all tired and slept quite well in spite of the thunder and lightening that continued throughout the night.  When morning came we packed up all the wet chairs, washed the 5 pounds of mud out of the door mat, and headed down the road, toward Roswell.

The lightening storm would have been a great setting for an alien visitation, but none appeared. It seems we are here in time to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the famous Roswell event (see the Fox news article). As it is, when we drove through Roswell we noticed several businesses that had been open during our last trip  are now shuttered and there are "for rent" signs everywhere. It's hard to keep the public's enthusiasm alive for an event that happened 65 years ago. I'll bet the residents are wishing those little alien guys would visit again!

We have two goals for this leg of the trip. Drive no more than 250 miles a day, and keep as cool as possible. The latter is the hardest to accomplish as the entire country seems to be having  good dose of summer weather. We did find a comfortable little place to hide Tuesday night, in an historic area of New Mexico.

Just west of Socorro, NM, Datil Well is a nice little campground up in the mountains a little over 4,000 feet, along the Magdalena Stock Driveway originally established by the Spanish as a cattle route, with wells every ten miles along the road.

The well here is still producing, now supplying the campground water. We had the campground pretty much to ourselves, so Shiner enjoyed romping in the junipers and sagebrush.
The scenery was so relaxing and the weather so mild that we were tempted to stay another night, but decided we'd better not.

Wednesday, we had an "interesting" drive over highway 60, the snakiest highway I have seen in a long time, through Salt River Canyon.

The drive offered some dramatic views of the deeply cut gorge, Salt River, and the cliffs beyond.

Another noticeable feature of the drive was the multiple switchbacks that offered a good view of much of the road we'd just traveled.

It's also a steep grade, both up and down. Probably not a route we'd choose to take westbound again if we had another choice.

Just east of Superior, a copper mining town, we stopped at Oak Flats campground for lunch. Deciding the primitive campground in a hot little basin wasn't a great place to camp for the night, and since it was still early, we set out for the Elks Lodge in Tempe.

We were making good progress down Hwy. 60 until traffic stopped at Florence Junction for an auto fire. A concrete pumping truck had caught fire, the whole front end and bottom were engulfed and made a huge black-smoke fire.

 The firemen working the blaze didn't seem the least bit concerned about the traffic stacking up, as they stood around and discussed the situation at length before they got around to opening up the road. Two hours later, after waiting in 110 degrees on an overpass, we were on our way again. 

4:06 PM Tempe, Arizona Elks Lodge. 111 degrees. ugh. 'Guess those reflective window shields I made will come in handy tonight.

Monday, July 9, 2012

On the Road Again!

The repairs are all done, the groceries packed, and we're on the road again, leaving the blistering heat and thunderstorms behind, heading northwest - right in to more of the same. Looks like we'll have the same weather pretty much all the way to California.

First night's stop is San Angelo State Park. The park map and several signs inform the visitor "Swim at your own risk" - not much chance of a risk, as there's not a drop of water in the reservoir. We were grateful for the icy drops of rain in the thunderstorm that hit just as we were pulling into our site, and the song birds seemed grateful as well, chirping and singing their little hearts out high up in the mesquites that rim the campground. Toward sunset the blue gray clouds to the south made a beautiful contrast to the lime green mesquite fronds and the blue green of the prickly pear cactus with their ruby red fruits. Lightening arched and thunder boomed, and soon we had a small downpour - just enough to make a few mud puddles for Shiner to sink her belly in. The storm did cool things off a bit, down to about 85, which was a pleasant change from the 103 when we arrived. Steve spent most of the evening straightening out the new air card, which had worked beautifully at home but of course had a change of heart once we hit the road. Upgrades are never as "seamless" as they are claimed to be!

In the morning Shiner and I took a walk, examining the nearby boat ramp, identifiable more by the sign nearby than by the presence of any water. Most of the ramp is now  covered with shrubs, it's been so long since the lake has been high enough to actually use the ramp. Shiner played chase with a night hawk in the parking lot, then tracked several invisible critters in the brush, eventually coming back with several cactus thorns and a few bug bites on her legs. She's fitting well into the camp dog role!

We're  heading for Roswell, New Mexico, watching for visiting aliens along the way!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Independence Day

Happy Independence Day!
Hot dogs on the grill, watermelon, parades, and, if there's no drought in your area, fireworks! Time to celebrate! And, time for a bit of a musical interlude. Just in time for the holiday, we've found a couple of great music videos that are definitely worth sharing.

Our typical Independence Day celebration of fun, parades and picnics is a wonderful American tradition that commemorates a very serious time in our history. The war that won our victory over the British government and the imposition of unfair taxation. That victory, over 200 years ago, enabled the United States to become an independent nation, and we continue to celebrate the unique American freedoms that have inspired so many of us, and generations of our ancestors, to leave the land of their birth and make America their home. The American Bill of Rights lists those freedoms, in case you've forgotten what they are. They're pretty important, and clearly came at a price.

The Revolutionary War, which eventually won us our independence from Great Britain, lasted eight years. It cost 8,000 lives, with 25,000 wounded. (1) It required a coalition of France, Spain, and the Dutch Republic. France's support for our efforts eventually drove their own economy into massive debt. (2) It was not only an expensive indevor, but had uncertain outcomes. Our founders believed their freedoms were worth fighting for however, and we reap the benifits to this day.

The outcome of the Revolutionary War changed the course of history for much of the world. Is it any wonder our national anthem pays tribute in to the military effort that won our independence?

Apparently some currently popular comedians think The Star Spangled Banner is "full of military jargon" and "stupid." A bit offended by that attitude a young rock group has released a new version of the anthem, and we like it! It even includes a new verse. Take a listen to Madison Rising performing the number.. . . . . then get the music on their site One Million Star Spangled Banner Challenge. 
Their goal is to get a million hits by election day. Help 'em out!

Despots being what they are, maintaining our freedom and independence is an ongoing struggle, and there are costs, not only dollars, but lives, mental health, and injury. We must remember to honor and pay tribute to the men and women who serve our country both at home and abroad in maintaining our freedoms, and aiding others in their struggles to throw of tyrannical governments.

Over time there have been hundred of songs written to honor our fallen soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen. Some hit closer to home than others. Angel Flight was written in honor of the crew of Red River 44.

'Red River 44'was the call sign for the Texas Army National Guard (2-149th Aviation Task Force 34) CH-47D Chinook that went down over Iraq in September, 2008, with seven men and 4,000 gallons of fuel on board. The fiery crash was the single worst loss of life for the Texas National Guard since the War on Terror began. Angel Flight is a regular on the radio around here, and a constant reminder that "Freedom isn't free."

This song is available on Radney Foster's album "Revival", on his website.