Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Ghost Town That Wouldn't Die

This morning, I left Needles, California headed east on I-40. I pulled into a rest area, just before the end of the Mohave Desert and took a few pictures

Rolling on into Arizona, I saw a sign for a historic ghost town, Oatman, Arizona. Just before Kingman, Arizona, I got off of the Interstate and headed west down Historic Route 66. Oatman was twenty-two miles off of the Interstate. This took me into the mountains on a road that I would swear was designed by burros for burros! Once I passed Cool Spring, the speed limit dropped to twenty miles-per-hour. Believe me, on that road, you dare not go much faster!

Back and forth, always climbing until the top of the pass. Then, down the other side. The scenery was beautiful! The photos below show the view south from the top and the smaller one shows the detail of the elevation.

Looking north, toward Oatman, the scenery was breath-taking. Especially since I would now be driving down from the pass!

The town of Oatman was an old gold mining town. In its heyday, burros were used to transport goods into town, to work the mines and just about everything else. It virtually shut down during World War II when the government closed their mines. As the people left, the burros were let loose to fend for themselves. But the town did not die. Now, it is a tourist trap. The descendants of the released burros wander the streets and the nearby mountains. They are wild and, according to the signs, will kick and bite. Federal law protects the burros, so they pretty much have the run of the town.

The first store I passed driving into town was the Post Office. The town has its own Zip Code - 86433. Anything mailed there gets a special postmark. Going through town, there are about two dozen old buildings, all refurbished and selling everything from groceries and beer to leather goods, art work, jewelry, knives and sulveneers. The town also sports several restaurants and a saloon.

I did not see a doctor's or dentist's office, a medical clinic, a hospital or an ambulance service. There is no flat ground, either in town or in the immediate area, for a medivac helocopter to land. Don't get sick or injured here because it is a long, slow ride to the nearest hospital!

Route 66 continues west, twisting and turning its way for miles, down to the Mohave Desert, toward Death Valley, CA. I did not take it.

Instead, I turned around and headed east on Route 66, back up and over the pass and down to I-40. I made it before noon and headed east on the Interstate.

After a while, I decided to get some lunch. I pulled over in Williams, Arizona. This is the home of the Grand Canyon Railway. I wandered around the railroad depot for a while to stretch my legs. Of course, I took a few pictures. Then, I got back on I-40 and headed for the New Mexico state line.

I ran out of day and pulled over for the night in Gallup, New Mexico.

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Time for Me to Head For Home

Well, the planned time is up. But, of course, the work is not done. I have to head back to the ranch and to my off-the-ranch job. My wife and our children, however, have no such deadline; so, they are staying for an additional week or two to (hopefully) get the work done. Since the plan was to rent a van or a box truck to bring her share back, this is not a real problem. I will take the car and the three of them can ride in the truck.

I rolled out after church and after lunch, headed for Interstate 40. Rolling along on California 14, I pulled into an area which overlooked the whole Antelope Valley. A nickname for this valley is Aerospace Valley, because of Edwards Air Force Base and the aerospace contractors who had, and in a few cases, still have offices, laboratories and factories in this valley. Many, many historic events took place, including numerous space shuttle landings.

Once I got on I-40, I headed for the Arizona state line. I-40 follows the route of the now decommissioned US Route 66. This is the legendary highway of the days before the Interstate Highway System that ran from Chicago to Los Angeles. It even inspired a television show in the 1950s.

I-40 took me across the Mohave Desert - mile after mile of it. Along the way, I saw a road sign - Twenty Mule Team Road. This reminded me of the old television show, Death Valley Days, with their team of twenty mules pulling two wagons of borax and a water wagon.

This image is from Wikipedia.

I did not make Arizona. I pulled over in Needles, California, and called it a night at the Model 6.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Six Flags Magic Mountain

Today, we took time off and went to Six Flags Magic Mountain. This theme park is known for its roller coasters and it has a mess of them. Check out their web site!

Getting in and parking were free. We are season pass holders from Six Flags Fiesta Texas and those season passes are good at any of the Six Flags theme parks. That includes parking, too!

Considering that it is Thursday and school is not out yet, we were surprised at how crowded it was! We later found out that tonight the seniors of some of the local high schools were scheduled to spend all night at the park and it would be open exclusively for them.

This time, one of the original rides, Sky Tower, was open. On the past occasions when we visited, it was always closed. We took the ride to the top and walked around, looking out the windows for almost an hour. I did get some pictures....

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Monday, June 10, 2013

My Brother-In-Law's Shindig, Redux

Today, we went back to the site of my brother-in-law's shindig. This time, it was to help clean up. The small props were packed up on Saturday evening and Sunday and returned to their owners. However, the stage still had to be disassembled, packed up and returned. The "hay bales," really coarse straw, had to be removed - they were great to sit on, but livestock could not digest that stuff, and so, they had to go. All of the paper plates, cups and napkins that had gotten blown around had to be policed up. It took several hours for my brother-in-law, my children and I to get this all done.

Now, the real work started - helping my mother-in-law go through 50+ years of accumulated stuff. Lots of stuff was simply thrown away. Other stuff was piled up for my wife, my sister-in-law and my brother-in-law. This a real slow going. So many items have a story behind them and this makes for slow going and lots of long-winded stories from my mother-in-law of when her children were growing up, of her childhood and her relatives during the Depression, World War II and the Korean Conflict.

Also helping out was my brother-in-law's dog, Barfly. No, that is not a spelling error. No, I do not mean cartoonist Bill keane's dog in Family Circus, Barfy

Barfly is an Australian Sheep Dog, supposedly. I have never seen a dog marked like this. She has no tail: I do not know if someone docked it, or she is naturally docked. The dog was found, as a young puppy, sitting outside a bar for several nights; thus, the name Barfly.

Barfly, the Dog

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Sunday, June 09, 2013


Today, being Sunday, we headed for church. We attended the same church where I met my wife 30+ years ago and where we got married 30 years ago. The sad thing was that the congregation is so much smaller now - only about twenty-five or thirty worshipers for the service.

After church, they held a pot-luck dinner in the fellowship hall. My wife and I were the guests of honor due to our upcoming thirtieth wedding anniversary.

When we got home from church, we were greeted by an unusual sight: a cactus flower. One of my mother-in-law's cactus was actually blooming!

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My Brother-In-Law's Shindig

Well, we made it to California in time for my brother-in-law's shindig in the canyon. It was held on one of the neighboring ranches. The theme was "spaghetti western" and it featured a spaghetti dinner, a chili cook-off, several bands, movies (spaghetti western, of course) in the barn, and other entertainment.

This being Los Angeles, he asked his friends if he could borrow some old movie props. They lent him a truckload! They even tossed in a professional portable stage for the bands! He decorated the barn area with these props to really give the event a Western feel.

There were characters galore. Most of them were residents of the canyon who came in their Western duds, complete with antique sidearms, mostly Colts. A few were hired for the occasion, paid with free admission, free food and a few bucks. One of the hired characters called himself "Jack Ash" and played the part of an old-time "snake oil" salesman, complete with a sample case that doubled as a table. His sales patter was very funny, but was a perfect match for similar characters from the television Western of the 1950's and 1960's. There was a woman in an old-style Western dress, very similar to Miss Kitty from Gun Smoke.

There was one character that had me puzzled. She called herself Wicked Wanda and was dressed as a late 1800's rancher, complete with Colt 45 six-gun. We talked for about half an hour, but I could not figure out whether she is a denizen of the canyon, from somewhere nearby or was one of the hired characters. Of course, I was not gauche enough to ask! She was knowlegible about horse ranching and had the look of the genuine article. I really like her! Maybe our paths will cross again - my brother-in-law is planning to do it again next year.

As to the food - the spaghetti and such was provided by one of the local Italian restaurants. Suffice it to say, I hope he picks a different restaurant next year! The chili cook-off worked very well> They had about a dozen contestants and the crowd got to vote on which tasted best. They also had someone manning a grill and they sold bar-be-que chicken. They also may have sold other meats, but we got there a little late and chicken was all that was left. Deserts were also on sale, including cookies, cupcakes, and so forth.

The band we saw was great. As part of their act, the presented their own "fractured" version of some classic songs. They played a lot of Western swing and more than a few couples got up and danced. The local Arthur Murray Dance Studio got into the act with several of their instructors giving free dance lessons. Thank you, Wendy, for making me look good on the dance floor!

One of the highlights was a demonstration by the Valley Vaulters. This is a horsemanship and riding group that works with "special needs" children, along with normal children. They put on quite a show!

All in all, a good time was had by all. Cudos to my brother-in-law!!

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Thursday, June 06, 2013

Vacation 2013

We are headed out on vacation, again. It is not totally a pleasure trip. We are driving out to visit my mother-in-law. Last spring, my wife's father died and now, her mother wants to reduce har "footprint" and move into s smaller place. The plan is to rent out the old homestead in the canyon for enough to pay the rent on the smaller place and have a little left over. This, of course, means going through more than fifty years of accumulated stuff and memories, keeping some, giving some to my wife and her siblings, giving some to friends and charities, and throwing away whatever is left over.

We plan to arrive on Saturday, just in time for a big shindig that my brother-in-law is running for the other residents of the canyon where the homestead is. No, this event is not being held in our honor, but it is a good time for my wife to chat with people she knew when she was growing up.

Sunday, we will be the guests of honor at the church's monthly pot-luck dinner. A week later, my wife and I will mark the thirtieth anniversary of our wedding in that same church.

I will try to be good about recording our vacation this year.....

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Sunday, June 02, 2013

And the Cowboy Rides Away....

It has been a while, again. It just gets so busy around the ranch...

Yesterday, we went to the Alamodome in San Antonio to see the concert. The place was packed with 74,000 fans. Unfortunately, our seats were up in the "nosebleed section." The tickets for this event sold out in six minlutes. Somehow, most of the tickets seemed to end up in the hands of the ticket scalpers who, of course, gouged the fans for even the worst tickets.

The show started with a fiddle group, the Q... Sisters. The the "no name" local opening act, they were very good. I was pleasantly surprised. The stage was circular and in the middle of the arena. It rotated about 350 degrees in one direction, then reversed and went in the other direction.

Martina followed the sisters. I had never seen Martina in concert before.She did mostly old standbys, but she did some new stuff also. She was not comfortable with the rotating stage, remarking that it was freaking her out a little.

My favorite performer on this ticket, Miranda Lambert, came on next. She did some stuff from her "Gunpowder and Lead" tour along with her new hit single, Mama's Broken Heart." Although I am not always thrilled with her voice, I really like her music and what she has to say. As a refugee from folk music, this is more important than the presentation.

George Streit, the headliner on this ticket and my wife's favorite, was last. He did a lot of old stuff. The only new stuff I remember, was the tour theme song, The Cowboy Rides Away." He brought our Martina McBride for a couple of duets. He cut the show off with only one encore, probably because he had been informed that his father died during his performance.

Our sincerest condolences to George and his family at this time.....

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