Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Archive for the category “Tourista!”

Pima Air & Space Museum

How’s this for obscure? This Columbia XJL-1 amphibious plane was developed and built from a Grumman design in 1946, then accepted for testing by the Navy in 1947. The 3rd of 3 built, it suffered repeated structural failures in 1948, and was dropped from the program in 1949. Two surviving examples were sold to a Martin Aircraft engineer for $450, and he worked at restoring them until his death in 1955. In 1957, his widow sold this one to a Chicago resident on the condition that he make the plane fly at least once, which he did later that same year.

If you like a goodly percentage of aircraft that you’re unlikely to see anywhere else, the Pima Air & Space museum is for you. It’s a private, non-profit museum in Tucson, Arizona. With 150 aircraft indoors and another 150 on the grounds spread out over 80 acres, this is an aircraft extravaganza not to be missed. They claim that you can see everything in 3-4 hours, but this is an optimized estimate based on fast-marching and tram-riding like there is no tomorrow. I suspect this timing assumes that the visitor take a stout dose of amphetamines, wear roller skates, and have an aversion to reading informational placards. If you want to stop and gawk or want to get up close, the additional minutes quickly add to the hour count.

This 1970 Pereira Osprey II amphibian was tested for use as a civil police observation plane in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. It successfully completed tests, but was dropped anyway. It became a home-built kit plane in 1975, with 200 sold. This one was wrecked in 1982 after an engine failure, then was rebuilt over the next 6 years. It can reach 130 MPH, which is not too shabby for an amphibious Short Takeoff and Landing craft (STOL).

There are 4 hangers, of which I toured one and listened to a volunteer docent do his thing on each craft. I got there about 9:15AM and gawked, then did the docent-guided tour at 10:30, which lasted until 11:20. That gave me just enough time to grab a reserved seat on the tram tour, which lasted almost an hour. By that time, I decided that Read more…

El Morro National Monument

But first – before leaving Milan, New Mexico, I took a few pleasant moments to Hoover up this seafood pasta salad at Wow Diner. They serve some eclectic dishes there, and a stop there is well worth the effort. Yum!

[This is a photo-heavy post, so if you’re scraping by on a tiny cellular account, you may want to abandon ship now, before too many of them have downloaded. They’re small files, but there are a lot of them.]

Yup, I’ve been well out of range of any cellular signals for the last week, blowing that time at a campground that can be found while heading for the Visitor’s Center at El Morro. It’s all paved roads and vault toilets here, so considering those and the provided trash bins, staying here is not exactly roughing it. The GPS coordinates for the camp are 35.036999, -108.335999. Elevation is 7,200’, providing daytime highs in the 60s in Late October. Maximum posted rig length is 27’, and this is a very pleasant camp that seems to be used mainly for overnights only.

Simply a view down the campground road.

Some of the campsites here are quite short in parking length, and some are able to take longer rigs. Most have some degree of slope to them. This campground is designed mainly for tenters, providing a level gravel square bordered by wood planks at each. There are tenters here, a few car campers, a small pickup with a shell over the bed, an occasional small truck camper, and a fair number of small van-based motorhomes – including a formidable one that seems to have made its way over from Germany. Picnic tables and grilles are provided, and surrounding trees provide Read more…

Departing Joe Skeen Campground

Guess where I am now?

Since my alloted 7 days were up at the Joe Skeen Campground in New Mexico, it was time to move on, but not before driving 10 or so miles south first, just to survey the scenery. The photos below do not do justice to what can be seen from the highway, since most times there is no place to pull over for a shot. Let’s just say that the drive south toward a large stone arch is not to be missed.

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The Price of Being Picky

The Furd looks better from a distance. Though merely filthy on the outside, the wheelwells and side steps looked like giant barnacles on a ship’s hull. I cleared away all I could by hand before this photo was taken.

Problematic campsites, like plane crashes, seem to run in threes. This one was called the Caja del Rio Plateau, miles west of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The coordinates given were 35.691879, -106.21582. What I’m guessing was 15 miles of off-road adventure led me to open pasture with no sign of past camping activity, no promised magnificent vistas, and nothing to recommend it but solitude and solar. Then again, I couldn’t do the last several hundred feet because of vegetation and slope. I assume that the coordinates given are bogus, or perhaps I copied them incorrectly.

Once I arrived in that alleged camping area, two problems stuck in my mind: No cell service, and a peculiar silty “soil” that compressed underfoot and promised to create a sticky mud when the rains hit in a couple more days. The kind of mud that stays a half-inch thick on shoe soles and doesn’t want to come off. It was time for an executive decision, and I decided to seek better. Problem is, the selection of campsites in this overall area that are Read more…

Taos Junction Recreation Site

The Rio Grande at Taos Junction.

[This post is photo-heavy, so if you’re on a very limited cellular plan, exit right now and go to the home page or anywhere else.]

The drive down from Buena Vista, Colorado via Alamosa to Taos Junction, New Mexico was scenic, to say the least. Broad, sweeping valleys bordered by high, rugged mountains were the order of the day. Just don’t run off the highway staring at them. Alamosa, Colorado is a good-sized town with much to recommend it in the way of supplies. When 2 o’clock rolled around, I stopped at an improvised burger palace in a section of a repurposed city building, where I got a good hamburger, perfect onion rings, and perhaps the best chocolate shake I’ve had so far. The shake came with a straw large enough in diameter to pass as plumbing pipe, and it worked admirably. Due to their running a special and providing a 10% senior discount, I walked out with a loss of under $7. Yes, that’s no typo. Even the Safeway in town had unusually low prices on most food items, and with the fuel credit they give to regular customers, I was able to top off my tank at their station for just $2.29/gallon, which was a lot better than the $2.98 stations I’d passed on the way down. People in the Safeway parking lot greeted me with a friendly hello as we passed. My kind of town, Alamosa. Nirvana for cheapskates.

Here’s one view of camp, showing the shelters.

I had three sets of GPS coordinates for my next potential camp, all hopefully between 6,000’-7,000’ high. All are in extreme northern New Mexico. The first was Read more…

Peru Creek Climb

Out for a foot-drag at 10,000 feet elevation, this is the view!

This post is a follow-up to the initial one on the Peru Creek camping area near Dillon, Colorado. Because of a problematic cellular signal, the only way to do that was to leave there. Not a unique situation in Colorado. But ahhh, the scenery as you drive along!

This very rough trailhead is officially adaptable for vehicles as well as people and mountain bikes. As I walked past, this Toyota SUV that had money poured into it gave it a go. It returned maybe a half-hour later, while a stock Jeep that preceded it stayed in for quite a while. I could not handle the climb rate on foot, so I could not gauge the degree of mechanical challenge. Some big rocks at center maybe a hundred feet in promised some adventure, however.

A low temperature front about to move in just as supplies were starting to run low made it a Read more…

South Dakota Air & Space Museum

This is what greets you at the museum’s entrance. Imposing.

Rapid City, SD is about a thousand feet higher than Wall and the Badlands. That means the upcoming temperatures would be 3 degrees lower there. The Black Hills National Forest is reputed to range from 5,000-7,000 feet, meaning that I could look forward to a 6-9 degree reduction. That can turn game-ending heat into mere mild discomfort, so off I went.

Before reaching Rapid City however, there was the siren call of the South Dakota Air & Space Museum, which is next to the Ellsworth Air Force Base in Box Elder. Yep, another aircraft museum. Can’t help myself, apparently. This one has its aircraft displayed outside, and you can be the judge as to what’s displayed. The inside is modest, relating mostly to uniforms, insignia, equipment, scale models, and a few specialties as shown in the photos below. The museum is free, though they do Read more…

Driving Through the Badlands

[I have moved to a cellular-friendly location that I found on my own, so I’m resuming posting, but in the original sequence.]

Emerging from the camper with a typical old-man groan, I instantly heard a rumbling. A herd of Antelope was apparently startled and dove off the plain down into the erosion, and stayed there until I departed!

Yup, With temps being forecast to be in the high 80s and low 90s for almost a week around Wall, I reluctantly decided to vacate the premises. I had considered doing a week south of the Badlands (in the vast grasslands that surround it) because a Ranger had recommended it for its wildlife, but livable weather has its priority with me. I needed significantly more elevation.

So I packed up and instead of making the short hop to Wall and I-90 west, I looped back down into the Badlands National Park in order to take advantage of the free hot shower, potable water and dumpsters available at the campground next to Cedar Pass Lodge. The Badlands Loop Road is nearly 30 miles long, so at the Park’s 35-45 MPH limits, it takes a Read more…

The Badlands Photo Extravaganza

Sometimes it’s best to just show a place for what it is, and not distract with words. I haven’t been here for three decades, and although the people-herding side of the Badlands National Park has changed a lot, the natural features have not.

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Wall, South Dakota

Ugh! The view out my screen window was like an RV park just for tenters. And this is after some had already moved out!

My second night at the Sage Creek Campground was much like the first: crowded, with lots of chattering going on until all hours. It obviously appeals to many, but it’s not my favorite camping experience.

The window view out the other side was better, except for more vehicles packed in close beside the Intrepid.

After a mediocre night’s sleep, what’s a budding hermit to do? Move out. I headed for greater metropolitan Wall. Despite a cloudless sky, I had to go to an alternate location on my list but do it in a timely manner, since storms were predicted to arrive about 2 PM. In sufficient quantities, rain can make trail passage difficult, and my alternate location is known for mud in wet weather. Downtown Wall offers Read more…

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