Sunday, March 16, 2014

Part 3 of Spring Habitat Travels 2014

Silver City, New Mexico

Sunday, March 16
Las Cruces to Silver City, NM
110 miles

     Oh, the wind did blow last night!  Our little trailer shook and trembled, but we held fast!!  Fortunately, Rick had already put down the TV antennae, and there wasn't much else to blow away.  (The hyacinths blew over!)  I will say I was glad when we woke up around 2:30 to use the bathroom and realized it was finally QUIET!!  

Crossing the mighty Rio Grande....
where's the water???
   We intended to get away around 11 or so, but Rick was up and moving and closing up shop, so at 9 I finally got dressed and did my part!  As Bill and Linda prepared to pull out around 9:40am, everyone started to gather between the two halves of the 'campground' to say our goodbyes.  Rick and I also walked over to knock on the door and saw goodbye to Pam.  Terry had 'Happy Trails' blasting out on the speakers of his motorhome!  Dyana was doing her laundry!  Pete came out.  Hugs all around and we were 'out of there'!!  Good people.  

      We left one of the hyacinth for Pam to welcome her into the site!  Had a text later from her that she was all safely backed in (with help!) and set up.  
All set up in Silver City.  

      Head west on 70 through the west side of Las Cruces and UP a long hill to join I-10.  It is about 50 miles and one border checkpoint to Deming.  There we gas up and head north on 180, past City of Rocks (Rick said we could come back some evening) and a copper mine and into Silver City.  We found the campground no problem, but the office was closed until 1 and we arrived shortly after 12:30.  We walked around abit, and then Rick found a guy who could tell us what site we were supposed to be in.  #1 - that's not hard to remember!  
Our hyacinth on the picnic table -
a touch of home!
   Our site is short and cozy, but we fit.  It backs to one of the ditches (empty of water right now) and lots of trees.  Next to a rental cabin and across from the restrooms.  Convenient!  Bigger showers this week!!!  

     Down to pay up for the week in the office (the gal has returned from church) and then out to Walmart for some groceries.  It is a beautiful day in Silver City - typical Baker spring weather: sunny and blue skies and a COOL breeze!  The sun is deceiving!  
     Afternoon/evening spent visiting on phone with moms, dinner of some salmon fillets we picked up this afternoon (and tater salad for Rick!), and then I spent a couple hours making salad and egg pancakes for the week!  We have PLENTY of food!!  Also talked with Mac today!!  
     A new adventure begins tomorrow morning!!!  We checked out where we are going this evening.  Hope the real thing is as easy as it looks on the maps!  G'night.  Going to be freezing tonight - we'll bundle up!  

Monday, March 17
Getting Started! 

Silver City Habitat house in construction
     We left the little heater going last night and it was only 51 in the trailer when I got up this morning!  Not too bad!  We could be a little more leisurely since it is only a mile to the job site.  Even so, we left at 7:40 to make sure we knew where we were going.  Ended up waiting about 15 minutes for Michelle to show up!  But we used the time to look around the development.  The city has nearly 50 homes planned for this hillside, all designed to be affordable housing and somewhat  subsidized. Habitat will probably be involved in many of them, but the first two are through a different group - homeowners have 1% loans.  Michelle has been the supervisor for two houses here - both to meet energy efficient qualifications (LEEDS certification?)  They were built using pre-formed SIPs construction - OSB boards with styrofoam on either side.  Predrilled for all the wires and piping that must run through them.  We spent nearly an hour learning about it all!  
Michelle shows Rick the house plans

     The intended homeowner is a single mom with three kids.  Mom has some vision disabilities and severe allergies.  The house is completely tiled - no carpeting in bedrooms here because of allergies.  
Rick preps the floor trim

     We met Mike, a local retired guy who has been a super volunteer for the build.  He had come day in and out to work with Michelle, laying tile, sheetrock, etc.  Nice guy, but he doesn't paint!  Where have we heard this before???  So they were glad to see Rick and I and learn that we aren't afraid to paint!   Mike spent the morning patching a bunch of sheetrock flaws and holes and then left around lunch time.  
     Rick and I  cleaned the floors, laid down some blue tape, and put a final coat of paint on the floorboard trim in the three bedrooms.  A group of Mormon mission youth did the preliminary painting, but spots were missed, so a little touchup was in order.  We'll finish up with the living room and kitchen, and then grout all the gaps with a grout caulk that matches the tile grout.  
Painting floor trim!

     We finished up today around 3 and came home to both shower at the same time!  The showers in the RV park are really nice!  
I'm not used to a mini
little caraf of wine!

One of the old theater buildings downtown.
     For a little St. Paddy's Day celebration we walked downtown to Tre Rosat Cafe, which we later learn is Albanian for three ducks!  We had guessed at the ducks from clues on the walls, but would NEVER have guessed at Albanian!  Both just had a bowl of soup along with a glass of wine (me) and cheap beer (Rick).  Then a brief walk through some shops, including a stop at the PINK Shop.  Most stores closed at 5, but this Mexican import store stayed open until 5:30!  I did a little birthday shopping for myself and Annika!  
     The full moon is gorgeous rising above the hill around 9:15.  Seems like a slow-action movie as it appears we can see it actually rising!  
A pano of the Habitat street above the city. 

TUESDAY, March 18

More Painting...
City of Rocks State Park (80 mile loop)

     Well, this is the second time I have written up my blog for today, so I am sure this will be a little more brief!  My blogger account froze when I went to insert the pictures and I lost everything I had written.  :(  Not nice!  

Rick is still smiling after 2
days of trim paint!

     When we arrived at the job site this morning at 8am (and in a much warmer day so far!), we found the gas company arriving soon thereafter to continuing their search for the missing gas line.  Evidently the connection is located somewhere under the gravel driveway of the Habitat house across the street.  So…a couple trucks and a backhoe digger are at work. 
     Mike arrived before Michelle and let us in.  Rick quickly got started finishing up the white trim paint in the master bathroom, while I vacuumed and then taped the hallway and great room.  Basically, Rick and I finished up all the white trim painting today, including doors, etc.  I did a little caulking of seams and nail holes before I started in painting.
     The job site was chaotic today as the gas crew was working outside, plus the furnace was installed in the hall closet.  Two or three plumbers showed up to install toilets and other fixtures.  Michelle and Mike had a Habitat board meeting at noon.  Rick and I just kept painting the best we could through it all, but by 2pm we decided to call it a day.  We didn’t want to start in on something new (caulking the grout caulk along the floor joint) so we told Michelle we were calling it quits until tomorrow.  She said it should be quiet tomorrow! 
Our afternoon exploration
Near Visitor Center at City of Rocks
           With much of the afternoon ahead of us, I told Rick I would drive if we headed down to City of Rocks State Park (on the road back towards Deming).  Quick change of clothes and we are on our way by 2:40.  We decided to take the full circle route (80 miles total) which took us down US180 toward Deming, up NM61 to City of Rocks and then on up the Lower Mimbres River toward San Juan and San Lorenzo and the junction with NM152.  From there, back to the junction with 180 about 5 miles east of Silver City. 

          City of Rocks State Park features a tuff-stone plaza of volcanic rock chiseled and eroded into a series of oddly shaped rocks.  The campground sites are situated among the rocks, tucked into little niches here and there.  We stopped at the visitor center and looked around.  Since the wind was blowing at 30 mph, we opted not to hike any of the trails, but rather to drive around the formations.  Rick took the wheel so I could take pictures!  There were two neat old windmills, one still turning at a crazy speed in the wind!  The first state park observatory in New Mexico is located here, but we will miss the star party scheduled for next Saturday night.  I will just let my pictures provide the rest of the park description….
Sotol Yucca with the rocks. 

Along the road. 
West side windmill
There's probably a campsite up there somewhere! 
Use your can see all sorts of things! 
View NW from the Observation Point - the rocks just emerge from the grassy plateau. 

     As we left the park, we drove up to the top of Observation Point where we could get an aerial view of the whole series of rocks.  Nice, and two signs helped us identify other mountains in the distance.  Leaving the point, I took the wheel again to head north along the Mimbres River. 
Soaptree Yucca
     I don’t have any pictures of the rest of the drive as I was driving!  The landscape was dry and grassy, dotted with junipers, yucca, and acres of golden grass.  After the summer monsoon rains, it would be beautifully green!  Cottonwoods lined the river, although we didn’t see much water flowing at the moment.  We wound through a couple of small settlements and finally junctioned with Rte152.  From here, we crossed over some mountainy ridges and past the Santa Rita Copper Mine, one of the largest operating mines in the state. 
     Back to Silver City around 5:30pm.  A great little afternoon explore! 
     Quiet night as Tuesday is Rick’s TV night.  I might get started on a Silver City Habitat drawing as soon as I finish up here.  


Grout Cauking!  

     Ah!  Another day on our hands and knees on tile flooring.  Thank God -  This affiliate had two pairs of knee pads in the garage for us to use!  
Rick puts down a bead of grout caulk....

     We awake to another clear crisp morning in the mountains!  Brrr!  Arrive at the house site to find Mike already busy inside - sweeping the floor and tearing the paper off the tile. So much gravel, sand, etc. had gotten underneath the paper that it really wasn't doing the job.  Partly because they only taped in places, rather than all edges to seal it.  (Going from one affiliate to another, walking in at different stages along the way, really helps in getting the TOTAL PICTURE - what little tricks help make things easier later on in the finishing process).

...and Ginger makes it pretty.
 We decide to 'master our technique' in one of the bedrooms.... Rick laying a bead of caulk under the floor molding while I followed to 'clean it up and make it pretty!'  At first we just do big gaps, but later realize it looks better to just do it all, with more in the big places.  We quickly tell Michele we are going to need more grout!  She leaves on a grout and coffee run!
Back of house and countryside.

     Rick finishes up his bathroom door while I took my morning break and chatted with Mike.  Then we swapped brushes and I did the front door while Rick took a break.  Michele returned with the coffee, but then had to go back out for the grout!  Longer break!  
     We got everything done but one bedroom and bath and when Michele needed to leave at 2p to go to the Re-Store, we decided that was enough time wallowing on the floor.  We can finish up tomorrow!  And we wanted to visit the ReStore with Michele.   
ReStore "Man"
out front
     The Re-store is an interesting place.  In an old metal corrugated building with a huge lot outside.  Materials are organized, but much of it appears to also just be a regular thrift store.  This town has alot of thrift stores, all to benefit different groups (garden club, humane society, hunger programs, Habitat!)  We make a huge purchase of a knob for the upstairs heater at 25 cents!  
     It is a BEAUTIFUL day!!  The wind is gone, the air is cool, but the sunshine feels WONDERFUL! 
One of the Youth Mural Projects
 Back to the trailer to clean up for a stroll downtown.  I wanted to go back to the Pink Store for some more earrings, and then check out some other shops.  We end up at just one - Manzanita Ridge - which is an ecclectic second-hand shop also selling imported Mexican stuff.  I bought Cherrie a  small biirthday present there (don't get too excited, Cherrie!)  
Typical ecclectic mix
from Manzanita

     Then next door to Jalisco's Mexican restaurant.  Michele said it was the best one in town.  Authentic and spicy!  Rick loved the salsa.  It was pretty hot!  Interesting place as it appeared they took over 4 storefronts and connected them all.  We had a great little waitress, who I would guess is at student at Western NM University just up the hill.  
Along the ditch with spring blossoms!
 Wander around town admiring some of the murals and artwork enroute back to the trailer park. Walked along the ditch park for abit - it was in full forcythia bloom.  So pretty.  

      I spent the rest of the evening finishing up my Habitat design for this affiliate.  It was hard to get all the Mimbres stuff in there!  
Addendum....had to include this sculpture from one of the gardens.  You have to love the teeth!

THURSDAY, March 20  
First Day of Spring in Silver City!
Final Work Day at Habitat!

     It’s springtime!  Morning temps today in the thirties, so it was cool, but today was gorgeous!  Sunshine and clear skies and temps probably hit low 70’s and NO WIND!!!!  I wanted to just soak up the sun every chance I got! 
Mike, finishing up the texture
on the stove vent
     Rick and I had a mission today: finish the floor trim caulking, touch up the white paint, and get the front door a second coat of red.  It took until 3pm, but we made it!!  By then, I was ready to be ‘off my knees’!  Of course, it wasn’t until late yesterday that I figured out I had been wearing the knee pads upside down and for some reason they kept slipping down too low to be of much use.  Well, a quick flip and that certainly helped the problem!  We were VERY THANKFUL for kneepads this week!! 

A Gila Habitat picture! 

     Mike was in to finish up his sheetrock patching and I finally managed to get a picture of him.  He is a local volunteer who has been on site nearly every weekday since Christmas.  That’s dedication!  He and Michele, the construction supervisor, are personality opposites, so it has been entertaining to listen to them go at each other, in good spirits!  Mike is a conservative ‘red-neck’ and Michele a liberal former self claimed ‘hippie’.  What a combo! 
      We met at least three more Mikes today – seems like everyone connected with the project is named Mike!  Also met Nina, the executive director and office manager, some city personnel, etc.  Michele brought us coffee today, and also made a pizza run for lunch!  Boy did that taste good – dinner for us!!  We ate our ‘lunch’ this evening.  Michele also brought me a package at lunch...all wrapped up in gift wrap.  She said she realized it was 'mine'!  It was a beautiful tie dye shirt with a heart design in the center!  What a thoughtful gift!  
Heart shirt from Michele

A final pose with Michele in
front of our newly painted
red front door. 
        Oh before I forget once again to mention it….these two houses are LEED houses using SIPS.  That stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” and “Structural Insulation Panels”.  Getting certified as a LEED house is A LOT of work for a tax credit – Michele said they will work toward that energy efficient goal in the future, but will not put the time and money into the certification.  They DO hope to make more SIPs homes. 
        We stopped for a few snacks and a cold drink at the little market near the RV park (and breakfast goodies for Rick!) and then plopped down at the trailer for the rest of the day – reading, basketball, etc.  Need to rest up for our day of adventure tomorrow!!  

Today's travels! 
FRIDAY, March 21, 2014
Gila Cliff Dwellings NM Loop

     Finally, a day to PLAY!!  The weather is forecast for partly cloudy, but it ends up being nearly flawless deep blue skies north of Silver City!   We leave the campground around 9:30, coffee up at Micky D’s, gas up at Wally World, and I take the wheel for the first (easy) shift east toward the Santa Rita mine and Hwy 35 which angles up toward the national monument.  The road north of Pinos Altos to the 35 junction is reputedly narrow, steep, and very twisty.  Rick can drive it on the way back!!  J
Kneeling Nun formation
     After my research last night on Fort Bayard, I decide there is no reason to stop there.  It was designated a National Historic Site in 2004, but it appeared there wasn’t much to see.  Up until 2010 it was being used as a nursing home for veterans.  In the late 1800’s it was the fort used by groups of Buffalo soldiers to defend the area from Apache raids.  It then became a VA hospital for nearly a century. 
Grass fields of Upper Mimbres Valley
     Past the Kneeling Nun rock formation above Santa Rita mine, and over the pass to Highway 35.  This is the same road I drove on Tuesday coming back from City of Rocks.  The road winds along the Mimbres River in what is called the Upper Mimbres Valley.  We passed the town of Mimbres and a cultural museum that I had thought to visit, but it wasn’t open for another hour!  Drove right past! 
Ponderosa passage!
      The valley is grassy – after the monsoons it will be beautifully green.  Eventually we got into a few stands of Ponderosa pines and climbed up to Roberts Lake.  We walked up to a view of the lake and the site of some pit house ruins.  Rick took over driving at this point (I don’t think he wanted the camera responsibility anymore! J)  A good thing, because the road got much windier as we climbed to the junction with Hwy 15 coming out of Pinos Altos.  We’ll go home that way.  Somewhere prior to Lake Roberts, we crossed over the Continental Divide!  Now on the Pacific side again. 
From Anderson viewpoint, the Gila. 
     Another 14 miles or so into the large canyon of the Gila River.  For part of the way we wound along the top of a ridge overlooking the Gila Wilderness.  At the Anderson viewpoint, we saw a display explaining much of the geology of the area.  Needed Mark Ferns to interpret for me!  Down near the river, rock formations line many of the cliffs and there is evidence of fire and flood.  Later, in talking to the rangers, we learn the flood came last September (when much of the Catwalk further north was destroyed).  Following a fire, the flood did considerable damage.  Rangers and crews were clearing some dangerous cottonwoods near the trailhead of the monument.  We went through Gila Hot Springs Village – basically an RV park, a store, and the hot springs – and then a stop at the Visitor Center.
Crossing the Gila River. 
     Browsed the store, displays, and a short video.  I really enjoyed all the quotes by Aldo Leopold, a conservationist Forest Service employee who paved the way for the Wilderness Act of 1964.  The Gila Wilderness was first designated back in 1924!!!  Years before it became popular!  I will include some of his quotes at the end of this blogpost. 
The caves are right around the
left corner of this rock. 
     It was another 2 miles up a the Gila River to the trailhead for the Cliff Dwellings.  We passed a couple of primitive campgrounds enroute.  Not much there!  Ranger volunteers were on hand to let up know what was going on, but the good news was the trailhead was OPEN.  They were just finishing up.  We changed shoes, grabbed a bite to eat (no food allowed on the trail and in the caves) and headed up the trail.  Our ‘hike’ was all of a mile total – nothing strenuous here, although there is a little stretch of uphill to ascend from the creek level up to the base of the caves.  Mostly we traveled over at least 6 little bridges spanning the tiny creek.  But the brook ‘babbled’ so the sound was wonderful in all this ‘dryness’.  A few wildflowers out, but it is still early. 
Structures in the caves. 
     There are 7 caves in all along the rock face – only 5 have evidence of structures built inside them.  The 6th cave has fire evidence, and the 7th is so high up that it took rock climbers to enter it and declare no evidence of human occupation. 
Prickly pear
     We spent about an hour poking around through the rooms, ladders, and various openings.  Caves 3-4-5 are all connected from within and they are the ones you are allowed to enter.  Cave 2 has a simple structure, while Cave 1 just has the floor foundations to indicate what WAS there.  We talked with the park volunteer for awhile – he was formerly an educator and retired a few years ago.  He was interested in hearing about the Care-a-Vanner program with Habitat. 
Rick silhouette from back of cave - opposite side of canyon. 
Rick in Cave 3 entrance - note the blackened ceiling
Another view into Cave 4
Tower in cave
Ginger outside Cave 2
Cave 7 is unaccessible
     We head back up the road around 2:30, bound for Pinos Altos.  Indeed, right after passing the Hwy 35 junction, we lost our center lane, the road narrowed, and twisted its way to the top of the ridge in a series of steep hairpin curves.  Fortunately we didn’t meet a lot of traffic on this section!  And going south is definitely the direction of choice – better to hit those steep hairpins uphill than braking downhill.
Buckhorn Saloon in Pinos Altos

Back into Atlantic
     We didn’t get into the Ponderosa Pines until right before Pinos Altos.  The town itself was a surprise.  So….backwards.  We were going to eat at the Buckhorn Saloon – and the food is reported to be excellent – but….it was not very inviting.  (I know, don’t judge a book by its cover!)  When we called Michele to see if she and her husband Tom wanted to meet us, we heard that Michele had been called down into Cruces to help her mom as dad was having emergency surgery.  We called from the Continental Divide RV park, located just south of town at the top of the divide appropriately!  (This was where the CAV group last fall stayed during Silver City’s only CAV build.)  
     With no real reason to turn back and try the Buckhorn, we decided to head back into Silver City and eat somewhere else, or, as it turned out, to eat from the freezer! 
     Back at 4:30 and done with our classy chicken chunks dipped in BBQ or Teriyaki sauces by 5:15.  High class dining!  (Hey, I had a glass of wine too!)  Beautiful sunset tonight. 
     We leave for Tucson in the morning, although no hurry.  Checkout isn’t until 1pm!  Next blogpost will come from Old Pueblo (Yes, that’s Tucson’s nickname!)

Sunset from Silver City RV Park
“The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: “what good is it?”  If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part of it is good, whether we understand it or not.
If the biota, in the course of eons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts?  To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”
“Like wind and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them.  Now we face the question whether a still higher ‘standard of living’ is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free.
For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television, and the chance to find a pasque-flower is a right as inalienable as free speech.”
"We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us.  When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
“To those devoid of imagination, a blank spot on the map is a useless waste; to others, the most valuable part.”

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