Ghosts and Death!

OK, maybe with all that’s going on right now, I shouldn’t tease about Ghosts and Death… couldn’t help myself…


I think it was in 1964 when our family took a travel trailer into Death Valley.  I’m pretty sure about the year, because we had a 21 foot trailer (that was HUGE in the day!) pulled by a white ’64 Pontiac Bonneville Safari station wagon (That info is for you, Lori!)  We drove out of the valley to the east, to a ghost town called Rhyolite.  I remember a nice little museum, full of interesting artifacts.  That’s impressive, since I was only about 11 at the time.  One exhibit involved a wealthy resident who came down with diabetes.  He was good friends with the local Indians, who so valued him they gave him the Indian cure for diabetes – eating ants!  So he had his house staff catch and thoroughly clean a bunch of ants…  The Indians then told him he couldn’t wash them… he had to eat them as they were.  I seem to remember that they worked for that man.  If you Google “eating ants as a cure for diabetes” you will find many references to ants in the diagnosis and treatment of diabetes.  Not too much on effectiveness, though.

So that museum is gone now.  There are only the remains of a few solid buildings.

Gold was discovered in this area in 1905.  By 1906 Rhyolite had grown from a mining camp to a vibrant new town, with far more brick and stone buildings than you usually saw in mining towns.  It was said to feature 4 bakeries, 6 barbers, 8 doctors, 18 grocery stores, 19 lodging houses, 35 gaming tables and 50 saloons! They had indoor plumbing and electricity.

The glamour of Rhyolite was short lived.  By 1910 the mines started failing, then closing, and people moved out.  Within a few more years, most of the buildings were torn down for materials, and Rhyolite faded into an interesting Ghost Town.



As you approach the town today, there is a small (closed) museum building, and another of these spiral maze things.  And weird sculptures in white.



This is supposed to mimic Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper.  The figures were formed by draping plaster impregnated cloth over live models.  Hopefully the models could then wiggle out!



I found a teenager tourist willing to recreate the creation of this sculpture. The bike is part of the art…



This pixilated person is supposed to represent an Indian maiden.



I have no story on this bizarre sculpture.



In 1905 Rhyolite, lumber was scarce and expensive.  But there were plenty of saloons.  Tom Kelly spent 6 months collecting about 50,000 bottles, and mortared them together into this three room house.  This was a palace in those days!  He was pushing 80, and decided not to live in his nice bottle house, but to raffle it off for $5 per ticket. The winning family lived there till about 1920.  In 1925 Paramount used it for a movie set. (I’m not sure what movie – anyone who knows, please enlighten me!)  Later it was a museum (maybe when I was there as a kid?).  The inside was all plastered like a normal house, but peering through a window I saw an area where the plaster has broken revealing the bottle matrix.










This prominent building was a bank and jewelry store.  You can still see the massive safe room in the back.






There were once three train lines into Rhyolite.  This one was converted into – wait for it – a museum!  But that was long ago, and it is all boarded up now.  ALL ABOARDed up!




A mine shaft I felt no compulsion to enter…





Death Valley

The story is that in 1849, a huge wagon train headed west a bit too late in the season to attempt crossing the Sierra Nevada mountains.  Many in the group were afraid of ending up like the Donner Party, snowbound and resorting to extreme measures to survive.  So some of these elected to try a shortcut… through a wide valley south of the normal route. They experienced extreme difficulties, but the opposite of the Donner Party – instead of cold and snow, here was heat, terrible terrain and no water.  Even though only one of their party died, as they finally were able to leave, they removed their hats and said “Goodbye, Death Valley”.

Today Death Valley is the largest National Park in the lower 48, and is celebrating its 101st birthday.  There are over 1,000 miles of roads, occasional rest areas, and amazing scenery everywhere.  There are more colors in the mountains than can be imagined (Or accurately photographed).




A name like Death Valley seems to bring out all kinds of other fierce sounding location names… like the Funeral Range of mountains, Coffin Peak, Dante’s View, Desolation Canyon, Hell’s Gate, Devil’s Cornfield, and the Devil’s Golf Course, pictured below.



Natural Bridge is a short hike up a narrow canyon, with rather imposing tall walls.




Many of the colors in the mountains remind me of ice cream… a whole country of Fudge Ripple!




In the Artist’s Palate loop road, the way is rather dippy… no vehicles over 22 feet allowed, due to both dips and very tight corners in narrow canyons.



And finally, we have moved “Home” to Arizona, planning on staying put for a while till this viral menace calms down.



Mercury Rising?


When we were in New Mexico a while back, I played a bit with Star Photography.  I thought I could do the same here, but there is too much light pollution from the big truck stop down the road, and we have had some pretty cloudy nights.

Monday was supposed to be the best day to see 4 planets in a row: Jupiter, Mars, Saturn and possibly even Mercury.  Here are a couple of pictures with the first three (Right to left), but it was way too light before Mercury rose over the horizon.  We knew Mercury would be hard to catch, being so close to the Sun’s rising, but got up to try anyway.




Some other random pictures showing plenty of stars…





The Milky Way was just barely discernible, and I wasn’t able to get a good shot of it.



Next week’s blog will feature highlights of the outskirts of Kingman, Arizona!  Hope you can endure the suspense!









Grand Canyon and Grand Panic

I try to have all the stuff I put up on this blog be from one week ago… meaning it is old news by the time you read it.  That hopefully gives me a bit more time to sort through stuff and  get it ready to post. (I know it may not look like it… )

But I have to mention the Coronavirus and our travels.  Back a long time ago, (Last week), we were still traveling, and spent time at the Grand Canyon.  Already people were somewhat afraid of each other, so we kept our distances, but there were still lots of people around.  We hiked most all of the South Rim of the canyon, and took tons of pictures.  There were places the dirt/mud trail was only a foot from the edge, and it was hard not to think about how far down the bottom was!  Here are a few of the resulting photos…





I can’t remember when we were here last, but it was too long ago!  The views are literally breathtaking!




The first afternoon we were hiking along (Can you call it hiking when the trail is pretty much flat??) and a storm quickly rolled in from the west.  We got a bit of rain, then some very tiny hail!  It passed pretty quickly too, and left us a beautiful rainbow! If you have good eyesight, you might notice a second rainbow too. It was also interesting that the rainbow seemed to be the edge of a bubble – with darkness excluded from the bubble. (Maybe that’s where we should live now… in a bubble with the darkness excluded!)



Have you ever been fortunate enough to stand taller than a rainbow?





The bright blue of this beautiful bird doesn’t show up too well here.


More odd birds…



Speaking of odd birds, check out these insanely fearless folks literally living on the edge!





A brightly colored helicopter flew up from the bottom of the canyon and pretty much right over us, carrying a long skinny parcel at the end of a long line.  From a distance it looked like it might be a stretcher, like maybe it was a rescue of some sort.  But if a sick person was in that basket, instead of inside the nice helicopter, he’d be getting sicker yet, because the basket was spinning slowly.  We decided it was lumber or building supplies.  Then the ‘copter dropped his load somewhere on the South Rim, and flew back for more.  We watched several trips, sometimes with a box, sometimes a bag or two.  We figured that’s how they take the trash out of the bottom of the canyon!





On the day that we were planning on driving out of the Grand Canyon area, we woke up to find two inches of snow everywhere!  Snow sneaks up on you very quietly during the night, so we were certainly surprised.



We’ve never seen the canyon in the snow, so we decided to drive the almost an hour trip back to the canyon and check it out.  Turns out there really wasn’t any snow in the canyon, but we did see another rainbow!  You will have to look closely at the next two photos to find it.




Only the end of a rainbow in this one. (Good eyes, Ashlyn and Bryan!)



Crazy photo man… carrying a tripod 10 miles in hopes of a tiny bit better picture!



So back to the world now… I know all you have seen grocery stores looking like this.  I’m putting these pictures up to document the craziness of this pandemic world.  I’ve never seen stores like this.  These were a few days ago; it will probably get crazier before it gets better.


So from the Grand Canyon we went to Death Valley (I hope that’s not an omen!) and an old ghost town that I fondly remember visiting as an 11 year old.  So next week you will see Death Valley, and the week after that – who knows?  Pictures of us hiding from viruses?  Stay tuned!




Kitt Peak

Tucson, Arizona

Our “campground” in Tucson was literally a small city of aluminum and fiberglass homes.  Some with wheels, some with the wheels removed or hidden… in other words, lots of “mobile homes” that aren’t really mobile anymore.  But there were still tons of RV’s: there were more than 1,000 units total in this place. It was all very nice, but a bit too much like a city!

There was even a large scale model train setup!




The Tucson SDA church is pastored by long time friend Jim Brauer. A really wonderful “Grace Filled” church!


Jim and Janell came to our “house” Saturday evening.  We had a nice dinner and a great time catching up.  Jim told me about the Kitt Observatory, so we headed up there next…



Kitt Peak National Observatory

Space exploration was all the rage in the 1950’s… and the need/desire for telescopes to investigate the heavens was huge.  All the country’s telescopes were held by universities or privately.  Many European nations had national telescopes, so it was time we (the USA) got one!  This mountain peak about an hour outside of Tucson, Arizona was chosen for the dry weather, high elevation, distance from light pollution and many other reasons. The first telescopes were built here in the late 50’s and early 60’s.  Now there are twenty some telescopes on the peak.  We spent a whole day touring the fascinating telescopes!  There are great night tours, where you could see more than just pictures of what these scopes record, but the tours are booked up quite a ways out. On our next trip through this area we will reserve long ahead to include some super star gazing!

The only sad note is that I seem to have lost all my “real camera” pictures of Kitt Peak.  Sigh.  So you get a few iPhone pictures…

This is the view from the 4 meter telescope.  It is currently attempting to create a 3D map of the visible universe!  It can run a spectral analysis on up to 5,000 stars every 15 minutes; this would previously take individual astronomers years! With this analysis they can decide the composition of the star, and its distance from us and the direction it is moving. The goal is to have all the stars in the northern hemisphere mapped in a 3D model within 5 years… and then to continue with the same apparatus in an observatory in Chile to do the southern hemisphere.


The names of all the telescopes are on this map… too bad you can’t read them!


Inside the massive dome of the 4 meter telescope.


This is inside the 2.1 meter telescope, the first major optical telescope on Kitt Peak.  One fascinating thing about this instrument is how they “fine tuned” it: they shoot a laser light into the night sky, and create a “false star”. They then analyze its image.  Since they know what it should look like, any interference from the atmosphere that distorts the image can be corrected, giving more accurate images of everything else.  Pretty cool.


The most unusual telescope is the McMath-Pierce Solar telescope.  Its design is quite unique – one of only a few in the world.  It was created for spectroscopic measurements of the sun, and can see farther into the infrared than any other scope in the world.

Below is a model of its construction: a tall pillar holds three mirrors.  These mirrors reflect the light down a long shaft; two hundred feet long above ground, and three hundred feet below ground.  The light is then bounced back up to the mid point, where it is sent sideways through prisms to create a spectrograph 70 feet long!


This is looking up at the junction of the tower and the 200 feet of above ground shaft.


This is from the midpoint, looking up and out to the sky.


This is looking down from the midpoint, to the mirror on the bottom of the shaft.


This is the control room for the Solar telescope.  There are some computers that help align mirrors and things… state of the art, for 1960.  All of 64K memory!


Here is a spectral image just displayed on the wall.

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This massive Solar telescope is now decommissioned.  It will soon be converted into a museum.


This is taken through a heavily filtered scope looking at the sun.  You can see a solar protuberance on the top left.



Our last night in Tucson we had dinner in a cute little Mexican cafe called Seis.  Yes, six.  The name came from 6 very special dishes they are proud of.  Or something like that.  Anyway, the food was really great and the open air dining a lot of fun.



Next stop: The Grand Canyon.  Stay tuned!




To Roswell and Beyond!

Caprock Canyons

This Texas State Park has so much red in the canyons you might think you’re in Colorado!  You can drive or hike – plenty of areas to explore.




Some ancient Indian artifacts are on display, including this arrangement of Bison skull and many mandibles.



In the early 1800’s, North America was home to between 3o million and 60 million bison!  Professional hide hunters began “The Great Slaughter” from 1874 to 1878, almost eliminating the whole number!  Mary Ann Goodnight urged her husband to rescue some of the few that had missed extermination, and they grew that herd to over 200 head.  That herd has grown, and is now the Texas State Bison Herd.  They roam the Caprock Canyons, including the campgrounds.




A bit hard to see, there are six bison behind our motorhome on the lower right.


Here is a poster from the 1920’s encouraging people to “Cut Straight thru the heart” of the fertile South Plains…



Bison aren’t the only critters around; we saw several sharp looking Road Runners.



Adjoining the campground is a prairie dog village.  Dozens of the little squeakers pop in and out of their holes.





Ending our time at Caprock with beautiful sunsets.




Roswell, New Mexico

The “Roswell Incident” occurred in 1947, when a whole host of folks say they saw a saucer-like craft crash land outside of town.  Many people claimed to have picked up scraps of strange metal and other debris.  When taken to the authorities, all the samples vanished, and were replaced with scraps of weather balloons.  Many claim they were threatened with death if they told what happened that day.  Some mysteriously disappeared.

Roswell is now a focal point for all things UFO… with the centerpiece perhaps being the “International UFO Museum.”  (Should we be concerned about the U-Haul in front of the UFO Museum?  Are U-Haul trucks really alien spacecraft in disguise?) (Just getting in the spirit of things here…)



Inside are scads of reports from those who saw or were involved in evaluating the wreckage.  It’s enough to make you believe in the whole UFO thing, if you are the type to believe in it… whatever…

There are also lots of props from UFO or other science fiction movies.


This large exhibit played spooky music, flashed colorful lights, and blew fog from the spinning disk.



This is a replica of an ancient South American tomb lid.  There is a legend that describes possible nav systems, braking and acceleration controls, oxygen system, and symbols for planets and space travel.  The Mayans seemed to have it all figured out.



Big Blade!

If you ever want to make your motorhome feel like it’s not so long… watch one of these huge windmill blades going around a corner!  Three blades, about six support cars blocking the highway intersection as they SLOWLY crept around the corner.  These blades are about 120 feet long, making some corners very difficult.  I’ve always wondered how fast the tips of these blades travel when in operation.  Turns out at a typical 10 – 20 rpm, the tips speed along at about 120 mph, but in heavier winds may hit 180 mph!  That explains the frequency of bird strikes… some studies say that wind turbines kill about 300,000 birds annually… but the same study says cats kill over 2,000,000,000!  That’s two billion!



Faywood Hot Springs in New Mexico has several fabulous soaking pools.  It was a popular stage stop in the mid 1800’s, at time even sporting a 50 room hotel.  It burned down, (Very Hot Springs?) and the site has gone through many more changes, resulting in a very rustic “back to nature” feel now.  For privacy reasons I didn’t take pictures of the pools, but there were other interesting features.  Below is a “Stone Circle”, which certainly won’t steal tourists away from Stonehenge, but is still interesting.  I couldn’t find out about its origin – Native American or Cowboy?



Another puzzle is the Labyrinth, just a path spiraling around and around till it arrives at a rock in the center, where people have donated lots of little treasures.  Or junk.  No clue as to the origin or point of this feature either.



We had no Bison here, but there were a few crazy loud Peacocks.  This one walked between our car and motorhome, and around the front.  There is a mirror-like panel in the front of the motorhome, placed at just the right height for peacocks to admire themselves in.  And boy did he!  After a while there, he walked down the length of the coach looking at his reflection in the chrome trim strips at the bottom of all the storage doors.




After the sunsets, the stars were absolutely incredible!  I had to try some night photography, and now you have to look at some!