Friday, February 29, 2008

Leapin into Better Health with Jesse James

My legs burn...a feeling of being lightheaded, and the sensation of still moving....Yep, I actually had my first workout this morning! As I wrote in my last post, ol' Doc C is really riding me about my health, and this week I got the grim news. Do or die time, so to speak. So I joined the local health club yesterday and pumped myself up for a change in habits.

Kathy is supportive, in her own way. At 5am this morning, looking at me from her comfy chair with both hands cupped around her coffee, the look in her eyes one of sympathy and concern, with a touch of amusement all rolled into one..."Don't over do it dear." I was just thinking about that myself, which is why I took my own personal trainer to the workout with me. Nick, my 16 year old, goes through this kind of training for football, and I knew he could guide me proper.

Did just over 1.6 miles on the treadmill in 30 minutes, the first five of which was spent with a touch of panic trying to figure out the fastest way to slow that damn thing down. The rest of the time was comparing Nicks workout to mine, envying him as he doubled my speed and didn't seem to break a sweat...Ahhh, to be in my teens again. Once I was on it for a while it actually felt good, and I can honestly see why other people enjoy working out. Now, let's see if I'm one of those people. It was a great way to start Leap Day!

Meanwhile, Kathy says she's having another banner month on Legends Of America. Over 400 thousand unique visitors, with 32 Million hits in February, as of last night, and she still has today. The biggest drive to her site has been Jesse James. Evidentially there were a lot of people like us who decided to wait for the DVD to see "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford". Brad Pitt did a respectable job playing Jesse, and based on everything I've read about the James clan, I really think this movie probably had more truth than we'll ever know. It didn't portray Jesse as some kind of hero..more like a paranoid killer on the run, and one who finally decides he's done hiding. Kathy's Jesse James page, along with Robert Ford, were both in the top ten on Legends Of America all month. Jesse James page has been number one on her site for the past couple of weeks.

Kathy and I are headed back to Warsaw this weekend, spending some time at the lake house. Despite the fact I come home Monday, Kathy is sure to stay a couple of weeks and enjoy the peace and quiet. It's funny how much history you can find in your own back yard. Kathy had a small story on Warsaw, but just this week decided to really dig into the town's past. She's busy in her office now wrapping up on probably 5 pages of wild times during the 1800's, that included the town being burned by Union Soldiers. She'll load em up today I suspect, and I'll come back into the blog and link it here.

For now, I'm finally settling back into the old normal routine, heart rate has slowed and the dizzy spell is gone. Gotta say, that first cigarette when I got home just wasn't as good, so I guess that's probably my next task....that'll be a while though...gonna eat this elephant one bite at a time.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Did they Worry about Cholesterol?

I've been trying to convince myself since late last year that 2008 is a turning point. I have to make a change for my health if I want to enjoy this life more. So, here I am smoking my cigarette, ready to go down stairs and rustle up some bacon and fried eggs (maybe some biscuits and home made sausage gravy on the side...mmmmm), pondering what it is that I can do different.

The points really being driven home at work. Two of my co-workers ride their bikes to the office, and one of them, Warren, rides his bike every chance he gets. Even has a daily blog where he sets the pace for others, writing about his ride through the slush and sub zero temperatures. Jim, the other co-worker, eats healthy foods for lunch and doesn't take part in greasy menu's. It keeps the issue in front of me constantly, and with my doctor getting more and more worried about my Cholesterol, weight, smoking, etc, my mind is a flurry of ways I can justify not changing anything at all.

Really, if you look at how people lived in the Old West, did they have to worry about all this health crap? For instance, a quick search on Legends Of America reveals plenty of insight on the diet of a Cowboy. Under Frontier Recipes I find "Fried Camp Apples". The list of ingredients is simple and delicious. Apples, Sugar, Cinnamon, and Lard or Meat Droppings (yum yum!). And then theres other Old West Recipes like BBQ Biscuit Pie, Buffalo Steaks with Chipoltle-Coffee Rub, and oh, one of my favorites, Cowboy Sausage and Sweet Taters. All with good ol fashion wholesome ingredients. Didn't seem to raise any alarms over Cholesterol back then, why do we care so much now?

And if they did get sickly, there were plenty of easy remedies to cure it. Got the Croup? Pack sheep droppings into a tobacco sack and soak in warm water. Then just apply the sack to your neck and wear it until the choking spell is over. Worried about Cancer? Eat three almonds a day. Have a Boil? Catch a Road Runner early in the morning, kill it, boil it and eat it...the boil will go away. Eat an onion sandwich and wash your hair to prevent a cold, and for a cough, boil cow dung in water and gargle with it three times a day. They even had a cure for stuttering, just hit the person in the mouth with a chicken gizzard.

Seems to me if those living in the old west could eat the way they did, and cure things so easily, why are we so obsessed with our health these days? Of course, I'm sure someone's going to point out that the life expectancy of someone born in the US in 1900 was only 47 years. Guess that means I have to look deeper for more excuses.

I'll leave you with some old west wisdom. "Life is not about how fast you run, or how high you climb, but how well you bounce". In the meantime, I smell bacon!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Mogollon to El Paso via Shakespeare - New Mexico Pt 2

Southwest Airlines has changed their "cattle herd" ways a bit and actually started assigning 'positions' in line. It's a better process than before, since everyone in groups A, B and C aren't all standing in their respective lines at the same time, instead just a specific group and positions. Poles mounted along the line tell you where to stand, and you don't line up until they call your group and position. Of course, this is a bit confusing the first time you use it and, while Kathy and I were on our way home from New Mexico, I heard a woman frantically trying to find seat A-56 on the plane. I felt for the poor woman, but I was just too tired to do much else. We made it back to the El Paso airport about 3pm this past Tuesday, both of us thankful for the great adventure in New Mexico, but even more thankful we were going home.

Sunday's Mogollon Voyage

We made a wise choice on Sunday and decided that we had pushed ourselves hard enough. Staying at the Econolodge in Silver City two nights instead of one gave us an opportunity to relax that morning, then pick just one 'must see' ghost town not too far away. Kathy agreed to drive, since I was still recovering from Saturdays long trek through the Black Range mountains. However, If I had known what was in store, I probably would have passed on her offer. The drive up state highway 180 from Silver City started simple enough. It wasn't really mountainous, more large hills than anything, with the continental divide just outside of town. We could see the Mogollon Mountains from the road though and knew we would be heading into them in no time.

Taking the turn just north of Glenwood toward the town of Mogollon, I got the real since this wasn't such a good idea. Signs proclaiming that the road should not be traveled at night, warnings about limited snow plowing, and the fact that the town it self doesn't open to tourists until Summer (and then only on the weekends), made my stomach twirl with anticipation. I know, I know...I'm a control freak when it comes to whose driving, but if you drove with Kathy while doing 50 in a 25mph zone, in the mountains, your asshole would pucker too. She wouldn't be that brave this time though, as it only took the first curve to put her in caution.

We didn't see a lot of it at first, the sun doing a good job of melting most of the ice and snow in our path, however as we inched our way up in the shade of the mountain the danger became more evident. Longer and longer patches of snow and ice with only a couple of tire tracks to show not many had passed through here since the storm. That was when we noticed the road getting narrower, and wouldn't you know it, there was SUV coming down at us as well. They stopped above us at a curve, the road between a steep grade covered in snow. Kathy didn't blink as she kept her pace going up. "What are the rules of the road in situations like this" I pondered nervously. "Oh, my brother told me once, but I can't remember, bottom line is I have no place else to go", Kathy's voice full of determination that it was the SUV's burden to find a spot and let us pass.

I know she was only going 5mph, but it seemed like we could slip off the edge any moment as she inched past the SUV. The passenger looking at me quite curiously at the panicked look on my face as our side mirrors came within a hair of each other. I'm sure they could read my lips as I proclaimed over and over "Need to move over more, more, moRE, mORE, MORE!" Speaking of pucker factor, I think I sucked in half the seat before we made it past. Kathy never flinched, leaving me with the knowledge I have a ways to go to catch up in testosterone levels. Luckily we met only one more vehicle on the way back down into the valley where Mogollon hid, and Kathy did the right thing, found a spot to pull off, returning balance to our karma.

Pulling into the edge of town we immediately knew this was worth the effort. Mogollon had seen it's share of disasters, from floods to fires, but somehow this quaint little ghost town had been preserved well for adventure seekers like us. We spent quality time taking pictures and enjoying views. There were a few residents who obviously run the shops during tourist season, but for the most part it was just us. Kathy, being a lover of old cemeteries, decided we would trek up the side of the mountain again to find Mogollon's. Fortunately for me the road was more like a dried up creek bed, and Jeep or not, it was beating us so badly she finally turned around.
I strongly recommend Mogollon to any Old West Ghost Town lover...just do it in the Summer.

Saving Shakespeare

Monday morning we headed out early again. The plan was to head south from Silver City on state highway 90 to Lordsburg, where just outside of the city is probably our best adventure of the entire trip, Shakespeare. Promoted as "The West's Most Authentic Ghost Town", it's only open for regular tours a weekend or two per month. You can make an appointment, but Kathy and I weren't organized enough to do that this trip. And since it's privately owned by a local rancher, we were resigned to taking pictures from the fence looking in. As we pulled up we encountered a very nice lady getting papers out of her car. I'm so horrible with names, so please pardon the fact I can't remember hers, but she just happened to be acting as secretary to the rancher while doing research for a book she was about to write. The book is going to be on Janaloo Hill, the ranchers wife who had passed away only a couple of years ago. The Hill family has owned the land Shakespeare sits on for years and years, and has preserved it best they can for everyone to enjoy, including some weekends with re-enactments.

After we talked to the secretary and got the Ok to at least get pictures from around the fence line, she went back into the ranch house. It wasn't long however that she came running back out waving us down. "Manny says he wants to meet you" she said, surprising us both as we never imagined being able to enter on an off day. Manny Hough, Janaloo's husband, is a one of a kind character, much like his wife was before she passed. Rough, rugged cattle rancher with a deep love of Shakespeare and the area, and could tell you anything you wanted to know about it's history. While some historians may discount his knowledge of the Butterfield Stage going through Shakespeare, Manny was able to explain it quite well, telling how the stage moved several times due to water quality, etc, and that looking at just one route during a three year period didn't mean it hadn't also come through his backyard.

There were stories of Billy the Kid along with other outlaws and lawmen who had made their way through. And when Manny spoke of his wife, his eyes sparkled with memories of great times keeping Shakespeare alive, and Janaloo's lasting impression on not only his family, but the entire area around Lordsburg. You could also tell he was doing everything he could to make sure the history stayed alive for years to come. Shakespeare's already a National Historic Site, but Manny had tried previously to make it a New Mexico State Park. The state was definitely interested, but the demands were too much for Manny to except. So he's spending time talking with historical societies and the like, laying the ground work to keep the ghost town from returning to the desert.

Manny, his secretary, and a volunteer ranch hand (Jim?, again beg my pardon), were all very kind to Kathy and I that day. The ranch hand opened up several of the building so we could take a peek, and we wound up spending a little over an hour at Shakespeare, walking away with a real since of history and gratitude for their incredible hospitality. We could never thank them enough, but Kathy's sure to beef up her story of Shakespeare and send more people their way. Check their schedule, or call for an appointment...this Ghost Town, even more so than Mogollon, is a MUST SEE!

Steins to El Paso via Highway 9

Steins is another ghost town just west of Lordsburg near the Arizona border. It was closed too, but it appeared to be more shut down than just closed. So Kathy just snapped a few photos and we were back on the road, this time heading for our final destination, El Paso. Of course, we couldn't do I-10 back through New Mexico. Kathy had to make it another one of those Mexican border adventures for us, so we headed south to Animas and hit Highway 9 east.

No more mountain driving, that was for sure. Just mile after mile of New Mexico desert. About half way between Animas and Hachita I began to notice a silver spot in the sky off in the distance. I watched it closely and realized it wasn't moving at all. Memories of my horse adventure the first day of our trip came back and I fought the urge to say anything. But after another few miles of watching it I finally spoke up. "Kathy, is that a plane or a UFO?".

Kathy didn't say much about it this time, but humored me after reaching Hachita and tried to get a shot of it. It was still too far away, but we were heading that direction. Highway 9 after Hachita jogs south to the border of Mexico. We could tell as we got closer due to the increased presence of border patrol and what appeared to be National Guard. They had these mobile lookout towers stationed every few miles, and the Home Land Security vehicles were perched in the brush beside the road in between. My spot in the sky started getting bigger, and Kathy and I soon realized it was an aerial surveillance device floating high in the sky. I bet the 'aliens' didn't think it was a UFO.

Columbus, south of Deming, is home to Pancho Villa State Park. This is the area where the only foreign army invasion of the US took place, and it's chalk full of interesting stories of the battles between the US and Mexico. It's also the first place where the US launched air strikes back in 1918, and the park it self is a good stop, worth the $5 per vehicle for those curious about our early dealings with our neighbors to the south. We stayed for a while and then decided it was time to wrap up the day and head into El Paso.

Tuesday morning we got another early start and did the walking tour of downtown El Paso. Great history there too, but many of the buildings they point out are hard to imagine back in the day due to the retail shops they house. We also took time to head south east along the Mission Trail, where missions that have been active since the 1600's provide even more history of the Spanish culture in west Texas. We were going to take in the Fort Biggs Museum near the airport, but the line to get passes into the active military base was long and our time was short.

It was a wonderful trip to New Mexico and the El Paso region, and Kathy and I both decided it was probably our best "Ghost Towning" trip yet. We are also glad to be back in Kansas City, despite the fact we left 70 degree (F) weather behind for 20 degrees when we landed. Kathy's busy writing up the history of all these places and posting her chosen pics, so be watching the What's New page over the next few weeks. In the meantime, it's back to the routine corporate world for me. First on the agenda is to plan our next 'vacation', expanding on Legends of America one piece of history at a time.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Kathy, Billy the Kid and E.T. - New Mexico Pt 1

"What a Tourist"

I'm laying on a soothing pillow top bed, enjoying my first morning of good internet and peaceful quiet since the beginning of this adventure 4 days ago. I have a whole new perspective on Econo Lodge hotels. This one, nestled in the town of Silver City New Mexico, is actually very nice and so far a great place to stay. Of course, I could just feel this way after spending three nights in hotels where at each something wasn't up to par enough to be annoying. Although, I will say, if it wasn't for the cold shower in Riodoso, the Best Western would have ranked higher. I haven't turned the shower on here yet, so I reserve the right to change this paragraph later.

El Paso to Carlsbad

Kathy and I's February adventure to the warmer climates of Southern New Mexico began last Wednesday with a flight into El Paso. Kathy had our trip all mapped out and we would begin by exploring regions East of El Paso, then shoot up toward New Mexico, landing in Carlsbad that night. I get driving duty during most of the trip, since Kathy's on the look out for photo opportunities along the way. I try to help the best I can, but don't have her "eye" for the stuff that makes Legends Of America interesting. Instead, I usually pop of with the unusual.

Like driving up this lonesome Texas highway between I-10 and Carlsbad. The landscape was rugged but beautiful, and we hadn't seen life out on the plains for quite a while. "Hey, there's some cows" I spout off in an effort to show it's not completely desolate. "Well Dave, those are horses, not cows" Kathy retorts with a smug smirk hiding the giggle and the urge to call me a DORK. "Oh, they are horses aren't they" I agree as we get closer and realize it's time for another optometrist visit.

As we approached I watched with great interest how the majestic animals, about 15 of them, just stood there on the hill top without any movement at all. Then by the time we were beside them, I was sure they weren't animals. In fact, they appeared to be statues of horses stationed on the hill top by some rancher with a weird since of humor. "Those aren't even real horses" I called out, amazed that someone would take such care in planting them there. Kathy, looking at them the entire time I was, agreed that something was odd. It was too good an opportunity to pass up, so I quickly put on the brakes and made the u-turn back to the side of the road where we could get some good pics for 'Quirky Texas'. We must of stood there by the side of the road for a good 2 minutes, convinced they were statues of horses, when all the sudden one of them began to walk away. I thought we were going to fall into the ravine laughing so hard. Turns out we are both DORKS.

By the way, the speed limit in Texas State and National Parks is 55 mph, not 76. Found that out the hard way shortly after our horse adventure while going through Guadalupe National Park. Very nice Texas Highway Patrolman did his best to make sure I remember next time I'm in Texas. I think that was about the time we decided to have late lunches with no big dinners the rest of the trip. Gotta make up that couple hundred dollars somewhere along the way. By the time we reached Carlbad I wasn't hungry anyway, just ready for a nice relaxing night at the hotel. Once we got past the diesel engine running right outside our door, and the waves of pot smoke coming from the room next to us, we finally dozed ready for our next adventure into the world of Aliens.

Carlsbad to Ruidoso via Roswell and Fort Sumner
It was an early start for us Thursday morning, our body clocks still on central time, and we had went to bed by 8 the night before. Skipped Carlsbad Caverns, since both of us had seen them before as kids, and caves weren't really on the agenda this trip. Instead we headed up the road to Roswell, anxious to see Alien memorabilia and all the quirkiness that entails. It really didn't get quirky until we reached the downtown area. Shops on both sides of the street decrying Alien ware, and there on a corner, the UFO Museum and Research Center. For the UFO buff, this museum was great. History abound on the legend of the crash landing near Roswell, from news paper articles to a recording of an actual radio news broadcast talking about the event. There were movie props and maps, all dealing with E.T. and our fascination of the unknown Alien world. For me it was nice side note to the Old West history Kathy and I were really after.

We scooted up the highway from Roswell to Fort Sumner, resting place of Billy the Kid. A lot of history here and Billy was only a small part of it. Fort Sumner was the destination of thousands of Navajo on "The Long Walk", and the State Monument was a wonderful tribute to these displaced peoples, drug from their homes by Kit Carson. Very knowledgable staff and well kept, I would definitely recommend the Fort Sumner State Monument to anyone wanting to get closer to the rich history of our Native past. It's also the place where Billy was shot and killed. In town, a privately owned Billy the Kid Museum houses all kinds of Old West memorabilia, including what is claimed to be Billy the Kids gun. It also houses some really cool early 1900's cars, late 1800's Buggies and every thing you can think of that was involved with living in New Mexico way back when. Since it's privately owned, ran by the son of the original proprietor, you may want to check this out in the next 5 years or so. Don't know what happens when the owners decide enough is enough and hang their hats.

From Fort Sumner to Ruidoso by way of Vaughn and Carrizozo was an interesting drive. Flat lands out of Fort Sumner dotted with a couple of ghost towns for good measure. Then between Vaughn and Carrizozo some small mountains to break the monotony. Actually thought we were going to try to find a place in Carrizozo to stay the night, but since it's more of a spot in the road that pushed us on down to Ruidoso, and into the beautiful South Eastern New Mexico mountains. Found our way to a Best Western, which turned out to be a pretty good stop if it weren't for the cold shower the next morning.

Ruidoso to Socorro and the Billy the Kid Trail

Down State 70, turning at Hondo, the Billy the Kid Trail takes visitors up through Lincoln, where the legend of Billy began. Very nice stop, with knowledgable folk at the museum eager for you to take in the town, see the Court House where Billy escaped, and learn all about the Lincoln County War, of which Billy was a prominent figure. It doesn't take long in Lincoln before you figure out that the Legend of Billy is really just that...Legend. And Legends don't always ring true. In fact, I left Lincoln with the keen sense that Billy was really just an ornery young gun slinger who got caught up in the day and was a hero to some who sided the same. Never the less, Lincoln offered up some good times and is a good place to stop.

Don't bother with Fort Stanton, it's a state run drug rehab facility now and not a lot to see (wouldn't want to get out of the car unless visiting someone you know still living). On down the trail, then back through Carrizozo, back toward Vaughn just a short ways, we cut off to see some 'real' ghost towns. These are the ones abandoned years ago sitting out in the middle of no where on a county dirt road. Our first stop was White Oak, though not a ghost town (probably a hundred or so people still there) it still had some of the structures first built back in the 1800's. Nothing you can tour though and didn't hold our attention very long.

Did I mention I bought a Tom Tom for Kathy this Christmas? Neat little map gadget that so far had made our trip smooth and concise. It was nice knowing how many miles to the next destination, turns up ahead, and all that great stuff. Get ol' Tom off the beaten path though and expect the unexpected. Coming out of White Oaks I did my thing and pointed the wizard toward Jicarilla, a true ghost town up into the hills on roads only ventured by ranchers and history buffs like us. My first clue that Tom Tom wasn't going to help much was when it told me to turn right. Kathy's voice raising "You don't want to go this way". I keep turning responding "I need to go where Tom's telling me too". Kathy now getting a little frustrated saying "Ok, ignore the Dead End sign then". Oh, Ok, guess I'll go left instead of right. It wasn't long before Tom re-routed though and pointed down the path we were on. Then just a few miles up the road, Tom starts sqawkin about a left turn ahead. Slowing down to see the rugged ruts jotting off to the north I decide to listen to Kathy this time and stay on the road. Tom must of done this about another 5 times before we finally reach Jicarilla. Then another two or three times as we made our way down to Ancho. Tom's great though, and at least I could see where we were.

Ancho was pretty ghostly, even though it appeared to have at least one active resident. Ruins of yesterday still sat on the south side of the railroad tracks and there were plenty of photo opportunities to keep us happy. After Ancho it was back down through Carrizozo and then west on state 380 toward Sorocco. Went through the Malpais Lava Beds, and by the Trinity site, or at least the closest you could get to the Trinity site. The area is still off limits to the public despite it's historical value as the site of the first atomic bomb explosion, and it's deep enough into the White Sands Missile Range that you really only get the marker to look at from the highway. There may be something off 380 that you can get more information, however Kathy and I were focused on getting to Socorro, so a pic of the marker was all I got.

Socorro to Silver City (and ghost towns on the side)

Socorro wasn't a destination but just an overnight stay for our next adventure, and man was it a long adventure. We started out down I-25 and cut off to see the old mining towns of Monticello, Winston and Chloride. What made our start special Saturday morning was the snow overnight. The further south on I-25, the whiter the landscape. Not enough to cause us travel problems, but it was enough to transform the desert and surrounding mountains into the perfect "postcard" view. I don't think the camera could capture the beauty we experienced as the sun broke through the clouds and illuminated the snow dusted landscape. We were a little concerned it could change some of our plans, as Winston and Chloride were in higher elevations, but our worries didn't last long as the Sun had everything back to normal within just a couple of hours.

I think the best experience we had on this piece was Chloride. A family with history that goes back years in the ghost town has revived it's past with a museum and a couple other shops. Great treasures from it's boom days, and even greater stories told by someone who has a true love for the area made it a wonderful stop. On the way out, Tom Tom told us to get to our next destination, Hillsboro, we would have to back track to I-25 and head down through Truth Or Consequences. Kathy's all about avoiding the major highways, afraid she's going to miss a bit of history still locked away from the general publics eye. So she decides to explore Tom's feature of "Alternate Routes". Low and behold, the first route that comes up is one that takes us due south, completely avoiding I-25 off to the east.

I knew something was wrong as soon as we were told to turn right. Two ruts that reminded me of the day before near Jicarilla shot off the main dirt county road. Being adventuresome we followed Tom's lead, but only a half mile in we were faced with a steep snow covered grade. Four wheel drive rental Jeep or not, it was a long way to Hillsboro and we both came to our senses and headed back to the interstate. I think we wasted about an hour with that little jaunt (I'm leaving out a lot here, including getting turned around and going by the same house at least 4 times).

Hillsboro was alright. Kathy got her quota pic of me behind bars at an old west jail, and the town had some life to it with artists and other residents keeping up it's quaint mountain town appeal. Kingston, down the road a bit, was a bust. Back in it's boom days it was home to 7000, all there for the mining of course. Now just a few residents remain, and no one that really appears to care about preserving any of its history. By this time it was getting well into the afternoon, and Kathy had us plotted to come through the Black Range Mountains to our next overnight stay in Silver City. There would be a few more short stops along the way, but what I wasn't prepared for was the mountains we had to cross to get there. Emery Pass at 8200 feet was only a few miles from Kingston, but I swear it must of taken an hour to get there. The kind of winding up hill climb that wears the body down. Tensing with each turn and moving 20mph max on a good stretch, by the time we reached the pass I was beat. Problem was we weren't even half way from Kingston to Silver City yet, and there was plenty of mountain driving to go.

It goes without saying that this soothing pillow top bed at the Econo Lodge was the perfect place to rest my mind, still moving from side to side as if perpetually coming through the mountains inch by inch. In fact, after the busy travel schedule of the past few days, Kathy and I have decided to stay here another night. We did get out and adventure today to probably the best ghost town yet, Mogollon. Kathy drove the hour trek up north on state 180, and it was a heart pounding experience getting there. I'll write about that in part two of our New Mexico adventure. For now, I'm getting into the History Channels' "Life After People". A fitting show that truly corresponds with our ghost town adventures. It's amazing what happens to our man made past without us being there.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Pause In the Chaos

The server move is complete and Legends of America is now on a new host and dedicated server and the world is pointing to it just fine. Had only a couple minor glitches (that we know of so far) and very minimal down time, even though her previous host just couldn't wait another 12 hours and deleted the site from their servers in the middle of the move. What that means for readers is a foundation to a better experience as we now have breathing room to expand. It also means that Kathy can stop pulling her hair out for a little while and actually do what she loves...write about the American West.

The next big undertaking is the Rocky Mountain General Store, and the new shopping cart. This will introduce Google Checkout in addition to Pay Pal, and give shoppers an easier way to find their way around the on-line store. From over 5000 postcards, hundreds of books, Photos, T-Shirts and other apparel, videos and of course Route 66 Merchandise.

But for now, Kathy's taking a pause in the chaos and will not be making the big switch until after we come back from Southern New Mexico. There will of course be plenty to write about and I'm looking forward to putting the mechanics of Legends Of America on hiatus for a couple of weeks, and doing what we love....tell the tale of Americas rich history. I'm sure I'll have my own tales about our trip here on the blog too ;). Traveling with Kathy always produces some interesting side notes.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

New Mexico Outhouse Adventure

It was early May 2004. Kathy and I were just a little over a year in our relationship, and both of us were brimming with excitement over the prospect of our first vacation together. We had the perfect plan... make it to her mom's in Ulysses down in Southwest Kansas, spend the night there, then head out to her mom's condo in Angel Fire New Mexico the next day. Relax in the Angle Fire/Eagle Nest area for a few days, then travel down south, meet up with Route 66 and head into the Texas Panhandle where we both have family. Kathy had warned me that it would take a while to get there, especially since she planned to do some photography for Legends of America on the way. I didn't mind at all. In fact, I was intrigued with the notion of seeing some history and watching my best friend do her work. By this time she had already written about so many ghost towns and old west legends, I figured this would be a great chance to see how it all came together.

So off we went, down I-70 to the highway 156-Ellsworth cut off, making great time until we discovered our first distraction, Fort Harker. It was a quick side trip, couple of pics, and back on the road. Through Great Bend (an old stomping ground for me back in my days on the radio) continuing down Highway 56 with a stop at Pawnee Rock (and that's exactly what it was, a rock, but with a lot of history and a treasure tale), through Larned, skipping Fort Larned due to the fact we were running out of daylight, then down to Dodge City. Spent some time at Boot Hill but overall I was disappointed. Though the history was there, it was a bit too commercialized if you ask me. Sure, the buildings were cool and all that, but it was definitely no Tombstone. Only spent a couple of hours there before heading off to Ulysses, spent the night, then up and adam for our trek to New Mexico.

Deserted highways and nothing but grassland for miles as we traveled through southeast Colorado. Of course, Kathy had her eyes peeled for picture opportunities. But now she wasn't looking for old ghost towns or historic sites. She was looking for....well, uh...Out Houses. Evidentially this had been an obsession over the previous months, and she had already started collecting quite a few shots. I don't know what troubled me more, the fact that she was on the search for shitters, or the fact that I seemed to step right in and look for them as well. Couple of stops here and there, but not a lot of out houses to see in southeast Colorado. Did manage to get a pic of Kathy working that she wound up using on her about us page. If people only knew what she was taking a picture of (LOL).

The Sanore (San) De Cristo Mountains are gorgeous in May...

Lush green with white snow covered peaks that melt into the clouds as majestic reminders that there's more to life than just wheat fields and city skyscrapers. Just being there was like taking a dip in the fountain of youth, and I immediately felt more relaxed than I had in a long time. Having Kathy there with me didn't hurt either. I could tell she felt right at home, and the tension of her own life seemed to melt away as we rolled past Eagle Nest to Angle Fire. As a child she spent many summers at her grand mothers cabin in Idle Wild, just outside of Eagle Nest. Her brother lives in the area as well, and family still come up every year for the peace and tranquility of the Moreno Valley.

After settling in we wasted no time getting around to exploring and adventuring. Stopped by to see her brother John and his family, took time to go visit her grand mothers cabin, and take pictures of, you guessed it, outhouses. By now though, Kathy had deputized me and my own camera...tasked with the responsibility of getting the perfect angle, looking for the perfect light, achieving the best possible picture of each and every crapper we came across. And oh my god were there crappers! Fancy ones, old ones, funny signs and various shapes. I had no idea just how popular outhouses were until I experienced New Mexico. Actually it was a blast, and by late afternoon, after hiking up trails and checking out the old Klondike Mine, we were ready to stop by the historic Laguna Vista Saloon for a drink to cap it off.

The Guney, as they called it, was built in the late 1800's and to this day is a watering hole of choice for many. Of course, on a Sunday afternoon in the off season, only the locals hang out, which is a great time to get stories and gossip. Lot of history in the Guney, from the painted ladies to some ghostly tales. Burt Clemens, the owner, had as much character as his watering hole did, and we enjoyed the atmosphere. Our visit with him about the history of the Laguna Vista Saloon would later make for a great story on Legends of America. And that story would wind up catching the attention of the David Letterman show, who paid a visit and did a bit on Eagle Nest and the Guney in 2005.

The Enchanted Circle can be romatic....

And as Kathy and I held each other on our make shift dance floor later that evening, swaying to the sound of Garth Brooks "The Dance", my breath was literally taken away by her how much I love every part of her soul and mind..and by the high hopes and dreams of where this life was taking us. The remaining time we had in New Mexico was equally as wonderful. We made sure to visit the ruins of what used to be the roaring gold mine settlement of Elizabethtown, then day tripped over to Taos for some window shopping. One of my memories from childhood was a moment in some mountainous area, in a town with a square like Taos. I must have been old enough to begin liking girls, as I remember seeing a couple walking along the square..hand in hand. The look on their face drew my attention, and though I didn't fully understand, I felt a longing to be like them. As Kathy and I strolled along Taos' town square, she gently took my hand, and as I turned to see her face the memories of that day, long ago, poured over me like a warm rain. I wanted the moment to last forever, and in many ways it has. It was the perfect end to a perfect time in New Mexico.

Trekin down to Route 66...

Down from Angle Fire to just south of Las Vegas, NM is an old alignment of the Mother Road that we hooked up with on our way to Texas. Rugged country and plenty of ghost towns dotting the roadside along the way. One of my favorites was Glen Rio, right on the Texas and New Mexico border. I can't really say why, but I was fascinated by how close I-40 replaced the route there, and how Glen Rio still shriveled up and died as a result. Amarillo was our main target of the day though, and we had a ball with the quirky signs, horse statues and of course Cadillac Ranch. In fact, I made Kathy proud and got an incredible shot of the icon near sunset, with a good ol Texas Thunderstorm rolling in the back ground.

We both got to spend some time with family while we were there, but unfortunately didn't get to make the trip back to Kansas City together. I wound up flying out of Amarillo to Mexico City, Mx on business, and Kathy made one, of what would be many, adventures down Route 66 on her way back home. In fact, I think she has traveled at least the Oklahoma portion of the route six times since, and the entire route at least twice. Her work on the Mother Road is probably the most extensive on the web, talking about the out of the way places that once thrived, then faded away with the Interstate. Readers from all over the world have commented, and it surprises me to this day the traffic she gets, from Australia to the UK, all wanting to learn more about the historic trail that went from Chicago to Santa Monica, carrying hopes and dreams along with it.

That trip in May, 2004, would be the first of many "working" vacations with Kathy. It resulted not only in great stories of Eagle Nest and Route 66, but also
in one hell of a "Crapper Saver". Yep, by the time I returned from Mexico, Kathy had loaded up her out house pics in a computer screen saver. In fact, you can download it for free to this day. Luckily for me, it was a passing phase, and Kathy's adventures haven't included outhouses since. Although, she has been on a long kick of getting photos with me in old Jails for some reason. I'll take that over the crapper any day.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

We're gettin there!

Kathy's got her site loaded to her new hosting provider, and now we are ready to make the switch. Looks like the domain name server (dns) propagation starts Monday. That's geek speak for telling the world we're on a different server. Still possible we could be down for a day or two, depending on what all I did wrong. You see, I'm a computer nerd, but not fully trained in web servers. So when we got our new dedicated server for Legends Of America, I was like a kid in a candy store.

Oooh...what does this button do? Hey check out this little software gadget. About 30 minutes into my exploration, Kathy was already squawkin to get the hell out of it. LOL, she was right, I had already done something I shouldn't, but tech support helped me get past it. Any way, we're excited to be at least this far in our change, and ready to get past all the geek crap and back to business.

We still hope to travel to Southern New Mexico middle of this month. Going to explore some ghost towns and have fun with the aliens. I'm sure we'll both have tales to tell soon. Which reminds me, think I'll write about one of my first adventures in the great outdoors with Kathy this week. All I'll say for now is that it produced one hell of an "outhouse" screen saver.