Sunday, May 31, 2009

Little Switzerland


We finally soaked our bones enough to leave Pagosa Springs and set our sites on Ouray Hot Springs. That seems reasonable, yes?

From Durango to Ouray is the Million Dollar Highway, a twisting scenic elevated route, the same as the narrow guage railway uses, bobbing along the Animas River. After a few hours, a Swiss village appears in the bottom of a valley, and that would be Ouray. What a little piece of paradise. Imagine living in a valley surrounded by tall cliffs on four sides, waterfalls pouring over the edges, and a big old hot swimming pool to dip in year round, particularly when it is snowing. 4 J Campground is right in the middle of it, scenic, clean, walking distance to shopping and eating and the HOT Springs pool. Look how little Teregram looks in this valley!
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We dined on pizza at an old hotel restaurant, and in the morning, took in the Box Canyon Falls just above Ouray before our soak in the pool.

More scenery followed, as we made our way west through Norwood to Utah, completing our day in Moab with a sandstorm and a family with a rescue collie befriending our Daisy. A good day.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Feelin' Hot Hot Hot


We completed our Habitat commitment on Friday and drove to Pagosa Springs in search of healing waters for all our ouchies. We found the original Spa Motel and RV Park to our liking. It's right in the middle of town and the Spas, and it's 1950's quaint. Friday night I felt like goldilocks though. The outdoor hot tub was filled with Talk Radio wanna be's discussing whether obama is really a citizen, the cost breakdown of a loaf of bread (this from a Kansas farmer), the price of RE in Sante Fe, and the trials of running a cleaning service. Made my head hurt, says Goldilocks. So I moved to the HOT women's room, where the 108 degree water felt like boiling. In and out of that one really fast. Tried the steam room, where two locals were chatting, one of whom told me I needed to move over, honey. There were resting beds, but the flourescent lights were a turnoff. That left me one choice, the big pool with kids in it. I discovered that when you float, you can't hear a thing, so I floated until the kids went home and there was just me and the new moon shining down on me. Goldilocks was finally happy.

The next morning, after a massage from an Australian who got right into my knots, Daisy and I took a walk round this charming town, down the path by the river where springs bubble up and leave large mineral deposits. Across the river was the Schliterbahn of hot springs, called The Spring. It has 23 pools, grass huts serving drinks with umbrellas, big walls of mineral deposits with water flowing down into the river where rafters float by and surfers try to mount a standing wave.

Then we took in the Fiber Festival, filled with spinning divas who raise llamas, alpacas, highland cattle, sheep, dogs, rabbits and anything furry and then spin the hair. Lots of happy spinners there. One of the events was the sheep to sweater contest. It started at 10 and ended at 3. How could you go from sheep to sweater so fast??? It was a miracle.

We were so mild after our soaking and massaging that we stayed another night, soaked another time or two, and were generally bums. I did walk a lot. In addition to the river walks, the spa backs up to Reunion Hill, which is laced with mountain trails. Daisy and I ventured in a ways to explore, but I avoided all vertical approaches. Seemed smart at 7,000 feet.

I remain grateful for the opportunity to work on the Habitat House. So many wonderful people we met, working on a common cause, to make someone's life a little better. We all got so much more than we gave.Posted by Picasa

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The weather turns

 
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Sunshine! Blue Skies! Wow! What a great day!

Today the church group went rafting, blessed with a beautiful day instead of the bitter cold rain. There's a God in heaven.

At the build, we had a wonderful day as well. I learned to stucco, with Tracy and Ray and I doing a patch job on the smooth coat of the house before color coating happens. Evan and Steve did an incredible job in the master bath, and Carl and Derek, Rick's lifelong buddy, put up the rest of the soffit on the porch. As of tonight, we are dried in! Tomorrow is a big day: must finish the beams!

After stucco, we had some product left and like other groups, we made a stepping stone from the leftovers. Do you like my mini airstream? It's the summer of love up here in Taos. Peace!

After we knocked off for the day, all three dogs reached a peaceful state of coexistence on the porch. I made an internet trip to the local library, where I was the only patron, and the library ladies were great company. We shared stories of Alaska trips and blogs and dogs. I'm excited that I have two more blog followers!

Tracy and Evan have a bocci ball set, and we played several rounds. Daisy and Max loved it. It was street bocci ball, so anything goes, including a dog catching your rolling ball or moving it. They had a blast. Carl and I were hopelessly behind and ready to cry uncle when Yvonne stopped by to see the progress on the house.

We had another successful potluck, with Steve's freshly caught trout the perfect appetizer. Just an hour from the stream to my mouth. After dinner there was a hot game of balderdash. The answers were incredibly inventive, but I won! Imagine that! It was 12:30 when we returned to the RV, stars everywhere and a sliver of a quarter moon sparkling. Tomorrow is going to be tough! Not enough shuteye!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Habitat gets better

 
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The weather sucks, the people rock!

It keeps on raining, which means no outdoor work, like pouring patios and color coating the house. That's okay, plenty to do indoors.

But the mud is incessant. I saw Rick using Mudlucks, grocery bags tied over his boots, and have adapted them as my own. It works, even if it is a pain, and certainly better than cleaning shoes for an hour. It's a red goo everywhere, slick and sticky. A few steps and you are an inch taller from the mud stuck under your shoes, and few feet further you could play center for the Rockets.

Enough about the rain, which is unseasonal and COLD. It does produce amazing rainbows.

The people are great. We are joined this week by the college youth group from Northpark Presbyterian in Dallas. What a delightful enthusiastic group. They've rocked the ceiling in two days, dug in the mud to frame the patio, and brought our energy level up. Christie, who just finished at Schreiner, is on her 9th Habitat Build, doing a yearly build since 9th grade. Very impressive group. They alternate years between Mississippi and Taos.

Carl has two buddies working on the porch beams, which are an engineering project that changes daily. One of the best additions is that with a large group, Rick gives his safety meetings, about how to have a limb buddy who will find your finger if you cut it off and take it to the ER for you, how to avoid heat stroke (it's in the 30's at night!).

We've also added RV'rs Tracy and Evan from California, on sabbatical, planning to build a house in Puerto Vallerto (pardon the spelling, I've only got a U.S. atlas this trip). They have the tiniest airstream possible and a big lab named Max, who makes it a full house.

Tuesday night we had a group potluck, yum! with brats, salad, corn on the cob, pasta salad and chocolate cake. We sat around Evan's portable table inside the habitat house well into the night, okay, till like 8 pm, when it got too cold for wine to warm us anymore. And Tuesday I finished my Watercolor of the Habitat House. Just a little stucco house in the valley with a million dollar view.

This week for the homeowner dinner, we went to the Taos Mountain Retreat where the church group is staying, and they shared incredible hot hot water showers with 4 of us who don't use our RV showers. Yvonne came without the girls, because it would have been a 50 mile round trip to go get them. As was true last week, I was impressed with her ethics and character and what a lovely person she is.

She shared with us that last week Friday, the day we came in the bank and she looked so tired, her car engine had blown. She's now driving her daughter's old clunker that was only meant to go 5 miles to school and back and trying to figure out how she can afford a car payment and house payment too. But she says God never gives her more problems than she can handle, so they will figure it out somehow. It makes me want to buy her a car.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Dude!


Today I went to Red River to check out the rally. Wall to wall hogs, a mile thru the center of this little ski village nestled in a valley along the Red River. Even in the rain there was a party going on.

I kept driving the Enchanted Circle to Angel Fire, where I photo'd the furry gentleman on the Harley pictured below.
 

Back in Taos, the sun came out for a glorious afternoon. The artists booths in Kit Carson Park provided a fun diversion before I settled in on the Old Town square to pretend I was a watercolor artist. Hard to work on wet paper in this climate. It dried in a snap.

Ray Gonzales came along for the ride today, and he bought me a Flat Tire on the square before we headed back to Questa. I picked up Carl and Daisy and we headed to Red River again. The crowd was bigger and more colorful. Hope you enjoy some of the photos in the album. Don't worry, they are G rated. Too much rain to show off tatoos.
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Saturday, May 23, 2009

O Jo wonderful

 
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We were off duty from Habitat for the long weekend, so we settled into our little Questa Lodge RV Park with a laundry, showers, satellite so Carl can watch the Indi 500 and sometimes, but not reliably, internet.

Friday evening we picked up a rental car from Enterprise, and Saturday took a trip to Ojo Caliente to soak our bones for three hours. I've got iron for my blood and arthritic symptoms, soda for my digestion and skin ailments, arsenic for my arthritis, and steam for my sinuses. I think the soda pool is my favorite. I'm very bouyant in it and I can actually go to sleep while floating. It was not a good day for mudding, as the sun was out only a few minutes and it was quite chilly, so my skin tone will have to wait for another day.

On the way to Ojo we crossed the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and bought some home made lollipops from an earth mother of 5 boys who really wanted us to buy $30 fairies. On the return, I took off cross country on a local road. When we got to the Rio Grande this time, it turned to single lane dirt steep grade switchbacks till we reached the river crossing. That is one deep gorge. I was really glad not to be driving the RV, as I have done one of those roads in it and it was not easy. Did I mention it was also raining and the road was muddy slippy? No guardrails. Quite the excitement.

The motorcycles are everywhere, even in the rain, all congregating in Red River for the annual Memorial Day Rally. One of their activities is to ride the Enchanted Circle over and over. Can't see their tattoo's with all the rain gear and leathers.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Meet the family

 
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Last night we met Yvonnne and her daughters Mandy and Stephanie. What a lovely family! Yvonne is a bank teller, and her daughters are in high school and middle school. They came to the house with Frito Pie for dinner and told us their stories. To qualify for the habitat house their family income had to be lower than 40% of the median in the county. Since I know bank tellers have the hardest jobs for the least pay, I'm not surprised she made the cut.

By the time the house is finished Yvonne will have 500 sweat equity hours, including her dinners, working on the house on the weekends with her daughters and her daughters grades in school. It's a good plan.

This particular 1100 square foot house will cost $96,000 and have a value 2 times that because of the donated materials and labor. Yvonne will have a 30 year HuD loan and earn out the equity over 15 years. She also has to make a down payment to bring the loan to $90,000.

The family leaves two miles from here in a trailer she rents from her brother. This house will be their home in just a few months. She said she learned that she was accepted on her birthday January a year ago, and over the last months has gotten over her shyness in talking to groups. She's also starting to pay it forward, doing things for others that might not have occurred to her before she saw so many people giving without asking to her and her girls.

The night with the family has been the best event of the build.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Habitat Day 3

Life goes on at the Habitat Build, developing a rhythm and compatibility. Everyone is on a similar wave length, here just to do a job.

I've continued in the zen of mudding, staining, and making additions to the punch list. Most of my punch list is sheetrock repair, which Ray goes around behind me doing. Carl's been working on porch beams, sanding, installing sheetrock. Tomorrow doors, oh boy, something clean and not so dusty. Steve is carpentering, putting in attic openings and installing window sills and the like. He's an energizer bunny. There's lots of work, and it won't be finished tomorrow

Ray writes. He's retired college professor, foreign service guy, and served as director of the Peace Corp in the Clinton years. Sometimes he writes books, or articles for encyclopedias. One of his books is a mystery based on his time in Granada. He hangs in Oceanside half the year, and up here doing Habitat for the spring, visiting his son in Farmington between builds. He travels with Pepita, an almost teacup chihuahua. She'll take to anyone's lap, but she's not fond of Daisy.

We hurt at night. It's the standing up all day on concrete. It's hard to get to sleep with the aching, but it is a little better in the mornings. I'm growing in virtue every day.

Questa is a village in the valley north of Taos, about 1/3 of the distance to Red River, a popular ski area. It's part of the Enchanted Circle drive from Taos to Red River to Eagles Nest and Angel Fire. Life seems pretty low key here, and very low income. The
Red River flows through town, and for a while was quite polluted by a molybdenum mine nearby. People were told not to even let their dogs go for a swim in it.

We've been to the Questa Cafe for lunch twice, a habit which really needs to stop. I eat like some heavy laborer and all I'm really doing is mudding, which is like painting on a canvas except messier. Today I had a sopapilla burger, oh my gosh, a cheeseburger smothered in green chilies in a sopapilla. It comes with home made french fries and I can see the oil glistening on them when they are served piping hot. Tomorrow night the family is coming, and they'll be making us Frito Pie for dinner. This is going to be a fattening experience.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Habitable

 

Today was our first day on the job at Habitat, and what a view this family is going to have. They are making us dinner on Thursday, so I will wait to describe them until we meet them.

Today we met Rick the supervisor, an adorable music major from Kentucky who now supervises Habitat Taos builds. His description of the day 35 college students hung sheetrock and things kind of got away from him answered my questions about who on earth had hung the sheetrock. Oh well. I'll bet it was fun.

We walked the house, made lists of projects, and then everyone got to pick whatever they wanted to work on. Carl put doorknobs on the exterior doors, Ray cleaned window sills, Steve was doing all sorts of fix things projects, and me? I mudded. There's a zen to putting mud in sheetrock cracks. It was a good day. It seemed over with before I was ready to quit, but about an hour later the bottom fell out of my energy. We are working at 7,500 feet, and it's a real sneaker, that altitude.

Carl, at the end of day, started sanding, and he was so full of dirt that we came to the local RV park for the night so he could have a good shower. This little place costs a whole $13 a night.

Shiner Beer, however, is $8 a six pack. It is a necessity after a day of mudding, no matter how much it costs, and I have a lot of mudding ahead of me.
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Sunday, May 17, 2009

New Mexico Rocks

 
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New Mexico means Rebstocks. It is always such fun to make a stop at the Rebstocks. This stop was no different. We visited and ate until our eyes glazed over, then got up the next morning and did the same. John is retiring next month, and it was my duty to hand out "advice".

Anna had a friend visiting, Oksana, who was born in Belarus. Oksana lives in Santa Fe, so we took her on an RV ride home on Sunday. She came to visit by Railrunner, but the train does not run on Sunday. How strange...

We are now in Questa, 25 miles northwest of Taos at our Habitat Build. So far we've not lifted a finger, but work starts Monday morning at 8:30. Carl has many talents in the handyman category, but we always hire out sheetrock and tape and float because it is such an art. Guess what stage this house is? Tape and float. Oh well....we can't do a worse job than the previous workers on this house. The sheetrock is going to need some serious texture to hide its many faults.

There's just four of us, me, Carl and two single guys with interesting stories. The coordinator Steve is a full time RV'r who lives off his savings and works on Habitat 45 weeks a year. Ray is a retired public service guy who comes every spring to this area to work on Habitat houses.

I was hoping for adobe, but this is a stick frame house, stucco on the outside. Next week we will probably apply the color coat of the stucco. That should be a new experience.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Palo Duro makes me think about the moment

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Before leaving today on the scenic route through Caprock, Turkey, and Palo Duro Canyon on our way to Dumas, I read a meditation. It's worth sharing.....

A tiger gave chase to a monk who had been walking peacefully near a cliff and the monk, running as fast as he could, had no choice but to be eaten or leap off the edge of the cliff. He was able as he leaped to grab hold of a vine trailing over the cliff and dangle in midair with the tiger snarling at him overhead and under him a very long fall into a rushing river full of boulders. Then he noticed a mouse gnawing at the vine. He also noticed growing out of a cleft in a rock in front of him a strawberry plant with one ripe berry. He ate it. He said, "This is a very good strawberry."

We are all dangling in mid process between what already happened, which is just a memory, and what might happen, which is just an idea. Now is the only time anything happens. How often do I get caught up in rehearsing for the future which I cannot predict, or ruminating about the past, which I cannot change, all the while not awake to present experience?

It's your life, don't miss it!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Dumas Dancing

Tonight was dance recital rehearsal in Dumas for Allison. What a cutie! It was a sort of family event, the good kind of sort of. I've known Allison's mom for years by way of my brother's family and we are sort of in-laws, but mostly family by choice. We plotted our course through Dumas in order to see them, except technically they no longer live in Dumas, but Sunray. It's 30 miles to Oklahoma and 30 more to Kansas, and Allison had been on field trip to Oz that day. Then there was dance recital rehearsal. It was fun to watch the wee ones. Allison at level one is quite advanced and accomplished. Joining her were mom, dad and brother Sammy. Sammy doesn't dance, but he sure does have other skills. I would be hard pressed to pick my favorite personality, as they are both incredible. They treated us to dinner after and then we shared a Shiner in the RV in the FREE Dumas RV park, right by the train tracks, till no one could stay awake any more. It was a good evening for all, although maybe not quite so restful a night. Lots of trains, lots of winds. We experienced "weather" in the Panhandle. All prime time programming was pre-empted to highlight the wild weather; this is storm chaser country. After all, we are just 60 miles from Oz.
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Thursday, May 14, 2009

How long does it take to get out of Texas?

We made short work of the 4 hour trip to Fort Worth...it only took 6 hours. While there, we spent the evening with good friend Carol. She drove us through Trinity River Park after dinner where we found ferral cats and raccoons cohabitating.

Overnight there was a rainstorm and I was reminded how loud rain is when lying 6 inches below a metal roof. Just getting used the RV again and working out our routines.

This morning I decided to try out internet and couldn't find it. We ended up at the Geek Squad for diagnostics. As a result, once again we were off at the crack of noon. This is turning out to be a really long road out of Texas.

Carl got out the scenic drive books and chose 199, the Jackboro Highway. Once we left the trailer zone, which cuts a deep swatch northwest of Ft Worth, it actually was scenic, rolling hills, followed by high plains and then into patches of random canyons similar to the Caprock Canyon landscape. The only excepion to scenic was the town of Jackboro, which is "not quaint". Even the courthouse is a square dull box. West of Seymore our map showed a scenic drive that is a rectangle with the northeast corner marked by Gililand. Carl wanted to bike it clockwise while I drove it counterclockwise. The north south roads were quite scenic canyons, while East West sides were pancake flat fields of lonely lonely grain crops.
 
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At this point it was 5:30 in the middle of nowhere, so we headed north to Copper Breaks State Park for the night. There's only the park host and us here, and lots of rabbits to drive Daisy nuts. Last night cats, tonight rabbits. According to the sign on the bathrooms, it is also rattlesnake country. I'm going outside to check for stars now. Do rattlesnakes like days or nights?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Leaving Texas

 
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Cannot bear the return of the heat, so at the crack of noon we rolled Teregram off the front lawn and headed for elevation. Our first major stopover will be two weeks in Taos on a Habitat build. Actually, the location is Questa, a small town North of Taos. Working off the items on my lifelist....

As you can see from the photo, we expanded Teregram's exterior storage this year....at least double. The experiment was untested before we left town, but luckily we've had no incidences of feeling back heavy or rattles or anything like that.

So, anybody know a scenic way to get out of Texas?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Put down that brush

and step away from the painting, and Nobody gets hurt!

Here they are, my first two watercolors, overworked and tedious, but hey, I am off to Plein Air Painting at Ghost Ranch, there's no stopping me now.











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