Thursday, July 19, 2018

Motocaching the Counties Finale - Part 3

First one of the day
Santa Fe County
Guess where we are

The next day business begins.  New Mexico has 33 counties and last year Sam and I toured the perimeter of the state and picked up 20 of those counties.  Now I lack just a swath down the middle of the state.  Thus far in all the counties traveled I had previously logged caches.  We left Chama before breakfast because there was no place to eat there at our pre 6:30 am departure.  Our route would take us through a northern slice of Santa Fe County on our way to Los Alamos.  Before getting to Santa Fe County we stopped for a neat cache in some trees in Rio Arriba County.  To my surprise we were the first ones to log it this year.  After getting some breakfast in Tierra Amarilla and shortly before reaching Los Alamos County we stopped to pick up a couple for Santa Fe County.  One was at an overlook and the other was a Travel Bug hotel that didn’t have any Travel Bugs.  The road up to Los Alamos was winding with lots of traffic and a 45 mph speed limit.  We made two stops to pick up caches where on one Yancey almost knocked himself unconscious by banging his head on a steel girder under a bridge where we were searching for the cache.  As far as I can recall that was the only injury of the trip.

A couple of rough riders
After taking care of these two counties we had to backtrack and head northeast for Mora County.  I was particularly concerned with this county because of the three caches I was able to locate two were a ways off the beaten track.  We did have some nice riding on the way once we were able to pass some very slow traffic along Highway 21 up to Hwy 75.  We were on Hwy 75 just a short distance before it merged with Hwy 518.  My GPS headed me on a different route than what I had figured from the map.  When we came to the little town of Moro I overshot the road my GPS indicated I was to take.  So I stopped and turned around knowing Yancey would follow.  Apparently he hadn’t seen me turn off just a half block from where we had stopped.  After I saw he hadn’t turned I stopped to wait and after a few minutes backtracked to the main road.  I was going to tell him not to follow me anyway because it was an unpaved road and didn’t look real great.  However, he was nowhere to be seen.  So I proceeded in the direction we had been going before I turned around and had just gone a short distance when I noticed on my GPS that one of the other caches was right there.  So I stopped and about that time Yancey appeared coming from the opposite direction.  He said he had gotten within about a half mile of the cache we were originally after but encountered a dirt road.  I guess all’s well that ends well because I just had to hike about 100’ to find the nearby cache at a cemetery.  That took care of Moro County.

Cemetery cache
The diner
We followed Hwy 518 as it turned south toward Las Vegas in San Miguel County.  The first cache in Las Vegas was a caboose in a little park.  I’m quite sure it was gone because with the hint it should have been an easy find and the person before us hadn’t found it either.  By the way, it was really hot – like 107’.  So we proceeded down Hwy 518 for about 10 miles to an old cemetery where there had once been a town.  We were in luck this time so that took care of San Miguel County although we did pick up one more down the road a ways that I thought was gone but Yancey found it.

Great menu too

We were on the home stretch for the day heading toward our motel in Vaughn.  Before getting there we stopped in the little town of Pastura and bagged a couple of caches for Guadalupe County.  After unloading at the motel I got another one near the motel for that county.  In front of the motel was a diner fixed up just like the ones of old.  It also served as the office for the motel.  We had dinner there that night and it was very good.  This day we traveled 302 miles, finding 10 caches with 3 DNF’s.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Motocaching the Counties Finale - Part 2

We had a good motel breakfast to start the next day and were on the road again around 6:30 am although we made a stop at Walmart for Sam to pick up some lunch fixings.  Thankfully, this was a gorgeous day unlike the two previous ones. We headed east on I-80 and then turned south toward Baggs, WY, on highway 789.  This was a nice two lane highway with very little traffic and a 70 mph speed limit.  We stopped for an Oregon Trail cache about 15 miles after we turned off the interstate and another one about halfway between Baggs and Craig, CO.  We didn’t stop again until lunch at a cache in the Hot Sulfur Springs Wildlife Area which is on US 40 east of Kremmling.  US 40 past Winter Park has some really twisty downhill road which was a lot of fun.  We stayed on it until it intersected I-70 and then on to Denver.  As you may imagine the traffic was bad, especially as we got into Denver.  With all the traffic Sam and I got separated and I arrived at Yancey’s 10 or 15 minutes ahead of Sam.  We finished the day with just 3 caches and 400 miles.  Yancey grilled some hamburgers for us and we had a good visit with the family.

The next morning we were up about 5:30 for breakfast.  We soon departed with Sam going north and Yancey and I going south.  Yancey had a beautiful new white Honda Interceptor 800.  I named it “Mr. White” but Yancey said I could just call him “Walter”.  Yancey led me through the maze of traffic in the Denver metropolitan area which took quite a while.  Eventually we somewhat broke free and were heading southwest on US 285.  This was a beautiful ride, scenic and twisty.  Our first stop was at a cache featuring a huge statue on the mountainside out in the distance.  Unfortunately we didn’t find the actual cache.  Someone had changed oil there and left a container of used oil and the filter.

Marring a beautiful ride were two construction stops with a combined wait of at least an hour.  To make it worse we could see no evidence of any work actually being done.  Ironically we later passed through yet another construction project where they were actually working but we didn’t have to stop.  We weren’t concerned so much with caches this day other than to take breaks.  We did stop at a couple of cemetery caches that were close together. The last cache we found this day was one called “Alien Cache” located on a long stretch of rather desolate road at the entrance of some kind of alien attraction.  I had thought about taking a little side trip east to take in The Great Sand Dunes National Park but Yancey had been there years before and said the roads were sand which could be a real problem for our bikes.  
This one was on the fence
The Alien Cache

Instead we headed on down to Chama, NM, where we had motel reservations.  It was not the best motel experience although it could have been worse.  The motel had a prominent “For Sale” sign displayed which was not a good omen.  It was located on a creek with an adjacent park or campground also owned by the motel.  Chama is a small town that seems to close early but we did find a decent Mexican restaurant.  After our dinner we took a stroll down to the creek to give the mosquitoes theirs.  This was a short travel day since we passed on The Great Sand Dunes with just 312 miles and 3 caches along with a couple of DNF’s.
[To be continued] M/W

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Motocaching the Counties Finale - Part 1

The time has come for the final push.  I lack just 13 counties in New Mexico from having logged at least one geocache in every county in the eleven western states.  The departure date is pinned to June 17th because my friend Sam Charles, who rode with me last year to New Mexico and Texas is leaving for his High School reunion in Iowa on that date and he will ride with me to son Yancey’s place just north of Denver.  Sam and I were on the road at 6:30 am to begin our ride up Hwy 12 toward Lolo, MT.  It was cool and overcast looking like rain.  I was glad I had my heated liner under my jacket. 

We stopped for a cache at the Major Fenn Picnic area.  It was not paved in the picnic area and wet from recent rain.  My bike did a little slipping and sliding through a mud patch on the way in and out but we made it.  Fortunately the rain seemed to stay just ahead of us.  The highway was wet but we didn’t get into any significant rain.  After stopping for gas at Lolo we headed south on Hwy 93.  We had lunch at a Rest Area at the summit of Lost Trail Pass and I got a geocache there that required me to climb up a big sign support to reach the cache on the back of the sign. 

After lunch we turned east on Hwy 43 toward Wisdom, MT.  My planned route was to follow Hwy 43 over to Interstate 15 to our evening destination at Melrose, MT.  However, Sam suggested a different route he had once ridden that takes off of Hwy 43 north and loops back to the interstate – a bit longer but more scenic.  As it turned out this was a fantastic ride called the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway.  The first part of the Byway was not only scenic but twisting with rolling hills making it a motorcyclist’s delight.  One complaint I had with my Triumph Tiger XRx was that on deep leans the feelers on the bottoms of the foot pegs would sometimes drag.  I replaced them with short bolts and this road gave them a good test.  On one deep lean the outside of my boot hit pavement briefly but no metal parts.  Again we were fortunate to just beat the rain to Melrose.  We stayed in nice cabins there and had dinner at the local cafĂ©.  We had traveled 432 miles stopping for just 3 caches although I picked up another one at Melrose.

The rain set in that night and was still going strong in the morning.  So we donned the rain gear and were on the road by 6:30 am.  No place for breakfast in Melrose at that hour so we stopped down in Dillon at a restaurant for some breakfast.  Meanwhile Sam was experiencing some brake problems.  His BMW has power breaks and he thought he may have inadvertently hit the brake lever during the startup procedure which caused the power brake feature to go away.  He felt he was OK on the interstate where he would have sufficient lead time to stop but he would have to significantly reduce his speed on the usual back roads we take.  Sam is an accomplished motorcycle mechanic but he needed some help on this problem which he felt was related to software.  It was a Monday and most all motor sport shops are closed on Mondays.  He had had this problem before and said that usually after a while the problem would fix itself.  So far that had not happened so he suggested that I go ahead at normal speed and he would follow along and meet me at the motel in Rock Springs.  He knows it drives me nuts to poke along.  I hated to leave Sam but since there was absolutely nothing I could do I decided I would take his suggestion and move on.After turning east off of I-15 onto Hwy 33 west of Rexburg I stopped for a cache at a roadside historical marker.  Just as I was pulling back on the highway I noticed a motorcyclist coming behind me.  Lo and behold, it was Sam who raised his arm jubilantly in the air signaling that his brakes had healed themselves.

Raining harder than it looks

Our cozy cabin in Melrose

The Big Spud

The rain had slacked up considerably and we stopped at a restaurant in Driggs, ID, for lunch.  We got into a conversation with another biker there and he informed us that we would be in snow if we took the route we had planned to take over to Jackson, WY.  With that information we changed our plans and headed south to Alpine to take another pass at a lower elevation.  It added quite a few miles to our journey and we did avoid the snow but we didn’t avoid cold driving rain.  This route did bring back memories as on the way to Hoback Junction we passed the place on the Snake River where there had been a hot springs pool and camping resort that Yancey had managed for several years. We did stop at one cache near Driggs that had one of the few remaining operational drive-in theatres.  The theatre was called “The Spud” and the cache “A TON of French Fries” was at a flat bed truck with a huge potato on it. (I don’t think it was real).  We slogged on down to Rock Springs stopping for only one more cache along the way.  We stayed at a nice motel (Quality Inn) there and I took Sam over to my favorite fast food restaurant, Dickey’s, for some great barbeque.  We traveled 472 miles that day with just 3 caches. [To be continued] M/W

Saturday, July 14, 2018


Ina's pretty little garden notebook

Daughter Hallie commented on how lovely it would be to grow and put up your own food – and to be organized about it so that you prepare for the whole year – perhaps as her Great-grandmother Ina (1870-1957) had done on the farm.

I found a little notebook in which Ina and her daughter(s) kept notes, titled, “Garden Book.” Entries were made intermittently from 1934 through 1941. These are someone else’s rough notes and not easy to read.

Entries made in 1935:
·      Peas: about 2 ½ rows, early and late. Decided to plant all marrowfat in 1936. [According to Wikipedia, “marrowfat peas are green mature peas that have been allowed to dry out naturally in the field, rather than be harvested whilst still young like the normal garden pea. Marrowfat is a traditional, starchy, large-seeded variety of pea.”]
·      Beans: 1 row white stringless, 2/3 row brown
(Got peas and beans from Bertha [her sister] for part of canning because of short crop.)
·      Onions (pickling) – 9 short rows were plenty into fall
·      Tomato seed saved from best plant; note date on package of seed in box.
·      Plant 4 rows of head lettuce; thin for early use.
·      2 dozen tomato plants well spread is enough.

Canning Record for 1935
Probably written by daughter Shirley, not Ina
·      Peas: 23 qts. -- canned the 3-hour way. My note from 1934 was tried and proved. Can like this in 1936. Cook open pot until tender, then process 1 hour. Taste fresher.
·      Beans: 24 qts.
·      Beets: 6 qts.
·      Tomato puree [no number]
·      Cherries (olivet): 16 qts. [apparently a sweet cherry]
·      Apricots (from Clarkston, WA): 24 pts.
·      Peaches (1 box Elberta): 15 pts.
·      Pears (local): 13 pts.
·      Elderberries: 3 pts.

On August 2, 1938, Ina planned her garden for 1939:
·      About 1 row peas or less, this of all kinds
·      1/3 row beets, parsnips, and carrots
·      8 or 9 short rows of onions are ample
·      4 rows of lettuce are ample
·      1 row radishes
·      1 row cress
·      3 rows Swiss chard
·      3 rows golden wax beans
·      6 cucumber hills are ample
·      2 garden queen squash [acorn squash]
·      1 doz. muskmelon [probably cantaloupe]
·      1 doz. watermelon
·      About 6 or 8 squash – zucchini squash

I wonder why carrots, spinach, and corn are missing from the list. They did grow potatoes, but I think Grandpa Jack took care of that. In 1941, "Jack cut three 10-quart pails heaped up of potatoes – 1 pail Irish C. [perhaps Irish Cobbler?]. Made 2 rows south of orchard. 2 pails Early Rose on flat and 1 pail small Irish C. on flat. Planted May 2 on flat."

I have no idea of the size of the garden, so I can’t even estimate the length of a row. I remember picking string beans and strawberries on the farm in the ‘50s. Even as a child, I thought picking was backbreaking work and cruel and unusual treatment of a child. “Get up!” I remember Daddy yelling, half jokingly, as I collapsed on the grass. I’m sure Ina expected all of her children to help with the garden, but I was never a farm child.

It seems to me I remember the garden on the north side of the house near the chicken coop – or where the chicken coop had been – and that's probably good fertile ground. We don’t operate our little gardens there today because by the same token, that's where our best lawn is. I also remember my dad stirring a large compost pile on this side of the woodshed.

Ina and her daughter Myrtle (Aunt Lynn) stand at their garden, 1950
Ina and her children were all good gardeners, but that doesn’t mean it always went well. There were years when the weather just wasn’t right – too wet, too cold, perhaps even too hot. The growing season in the upper country is shorter than in the valley. You might lose your garden to frost if you planted too soon, and in Ina’s day, you probably didn’t expect much produce after the first of September. Hot July days would find you slaving over your woodstove to can peas, beans, etc., as Ina mentioned in 1933.

Eventually, my dad only planted corn on the farm, and he moved the plot from year to year. Ina probably moved her garden, too. KW

Thursday, July 12, 2018


The grain is ripening quickly in the July heat

Fruit is very scarce here, no cherries or prunes to speak of, apples scarce and poor, no currants or gooseberries, and only a few raspberries. It was too wet and cold this spring. We had a good crop of strawberries . . .  Ina Dobson, 1933

Well, when we last went to the farm, the riding mower wouldn’t start. We were discouraged since we hoped the new mower would be trouble-free. When Mike was unable to fix the mower, we trailered it to town for service. You might not be surprised to learn that those pesky mice were the culprits. The shop said they found a mouse – maybe a nest? – between the flywheel and the starter, which knocked the starter out.

Anyway, it was ready yesterday. So, after yoga – yes, we went to yoga class first – we picked up the mower and headed to the farm. Mike had anticipated that we might need to rake the grass since he hasn’t mowed in about a month, but actually, it wasn’t that bad. We don’t have a wonderful lawn there, and we don’t water either. We had a lot of weed heads – whatever those weeds are. Mike set the mower as high as it would go. Otherwise, he mowed according to his usual pattern.

It was a lovely day. The cool breeze made the July heat bearable – sort of. While Mike mowed, I carried water to my garden beds and trees. I expected to find the zucchini wilted in a heap, but this was not the case. It looked a bit stressed, but it’s blooming and I even picked one small fruit. I poured plenty of water on it, sprinkled a little fertilizer, and set four 2-liter bottles of water in the plant nannies.

I missed a picking of strawberries or two, but the good news is that the plants are blooming again. I hope the timing of our visits will coincide with picking. I carried plenty of water to them.

My experimental drought-tolerant bed on the bank looks good. I don’t think all plants survived, but many did, and they should spread. I have yarrow, lavender, and a stonecrop groundcover there. I need to weed and gradually expand that bed. (“Gradually” because it would be overwhelming to do it at one time.)

Laurel tree
Hallie’s laurel trees look good. The grass has grown up around them, but Mike cut a path for me so that I can water them. Even without water, they are doing well. Mike suggests the proof of their ability to survive might be the winter.

But – like Ina in 1933, I notice a lack of fruit. I see no pears on the old pear tree. If the cherry tree bore fruit this year, the birds got it, but the tree has lots of new growth and looks good. In fact, I think a cherry pit might have sprouted in the raised bed. I left the plant there to see if it really is a cherry tree. I’m afraid the gooseberry bush might be dying. And I had already decided to quit trying so hard with the raspberry patch, though some of the bushes look good and are bearing – or did bear. And as Ina said, apples are scarce and poor.

A view to the north
I didn’t have time to check out the serviceberry bushes, but the black hawthorn trees have plenty of berries. And the elderberries in bloom look wonderful. The farm kitchen won’t be ready by jelly-making time, and my town stove isn’t adequate for that process, but I can make juice for the freezer.

Oh!! And I had an encounter with a rattlesnake. It pays to be on guard at this time of year. I was crossing the yard in front of the house when I heard the telltale rattle and stopped dead in my tracks. I just caught sight of a little vole scampering away, my sudden appearance undoubtedly saving its life. I hailed Mike, who was mowing on the backside (east) of the barn, and he removed the rattler from the yard. It didn’t seem exceptionally large, but having ten rattles, it was a mature snake. I was busy keeping Bess back and didn’t get a picture. (Bess has had her antivenom shot and booster – just in case.)
Torn apart

I did unlock the kitchen door and take a picture. As you can see, the sub-floor has been removed, and this is where we are in the process. Materials to lay a new sub-floor are on the front porch.

By 3:00, we admitted we were tired. It still took us some time to put everything away and load up for town. Mike is planning to camp soon, so we brought the 4-wheeler back to town as well as one of his bikes.

As we drove down the grade, I watched the thimbleberry bushes on the bank for berries, and I saw some. We couldn’t stop to pick. Thimbleberries are delicate but lovely.

You haven’t forgotten about the little zucchini, have you? I wasn’t sure about its quality, but I cooked it up for supper with onion and green pepper, and it was very good. It made a nice side dish with the bass that Ken gave us. He also brought a big bag of raspberries from his garden. KW