Monday, July 14, 2014

The Annual Taos Pueblo Pow-Wow — 29th Edition

It is cool and cloudy, the sun a silver ball rising behind the mountain. At 5:36 coffee, and soon we are on our trek, up and over the mountain headed to Taos, a about an hour away. We climb. On the way we see a hitchhiker and stop. He is from Boston, hiking all the way, to see a friend in Taos. His name is Shenandoah. He is as sunburned as a summer berry

We drop him off at the Taos library, get coffee at a cofee shop, and look around. It is a beautiful day — a beautiful day for the 29th annual Taos Pueblo Pow-Wow!

A couple of muffins later we are at the admissions gate. The sky is deep blue above us and the gathering crowd of early arrivers.

Warrior or Dancer? 
Gourd dancing is first, a warm-up to the later serious dance competition that will follow in the afternoon.

The drums beat a steady rhythm.

"The drum is the heartbeat of the Earth," the announcer says. "The mountains, streams, forests and trees, all of nature are her Bible." 
The drumming rises into the air above the crowd from a half-dozen drum circles, groups of five or six men sitting around one large drum, pounding in unison. Later the drummers will sing, traditional pueblo songs, in high rhythmic voice for the competition.

Two dancers confer
The grand entrance begins

Colorful costumes

Dancers carry numbers 

Color guard and entrance into pavilion
There is a magic to the dancing it seems to be. As the afternoon builds so do massing clouds in what had been a clear blue heaven. The power of dance?

Younger dancers ...
... embrace and expand on tradition

With the closing of the dancing, dark clouds amass and soon the rain begins
We drive back the next day. In the rain the mountains glisten. Fir trees are likes Christmas trees with light reflecting water drops as ornaments. The land is timeless and tired. Ranches are struggling. Condominiums on the slopes are out of place. 

I remember the dancers. Old ways, new ways collide in eternal regeneration. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Spectacular Sun Rise — Return of the Pocket Gopher

Coyote Creek, NM

Here at the state park the sun has to climb a high hill or small mountain before it sheds its light on our creek below. At first there is only a faint glow in the sky. The clouds floating above the mountain are tinged with pink. But the mountain and the valley are dark. The sun climbs.

Then just before 7:00 the sun scales the eastern slope and burns an arc-like light at first through the trees. Within minutes it climbs higher shining brighter and brighter like a white hot star.

It does so until bright star-like light wakens the camp.

The normally shy southwest Pocket Gopher tunnels in the soft ground here throwing up mounds of black earth. The one at my campsite, however, is not so shy. Perhaps other campers before me have fed him.

Our new friend pops his head out into the sun
At breakfast this morning he broke through the earth and looked around. That was our cue to bring out the walnuts, cashews, basil leaves and a cinnamon cookie or two and approach. He seemed undeterred by our presence.

Nibblingly, he takes a gift or two from our fingers. If it is small, like a nut, he eats it. If it is larger, a cookie or a leaf, he carries back down into the bowels of his earthen home.

Fearless, he sniffs a gift of basil leaf

...and claims it for his own

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Much Catching Up to Do

am at a small state park campground, Coyote Creek, in Northern New Mexico.  It is cooler here than down south. I am camping with a friend, Jennifer, who has her own van, a red Dodge Caravan.

Leaving Minnesota in late June I made a hurried two-day 1500 mile journey back to Truth or Consequences. Didn't see much, but Kansas was green, Texas gold  at sunset. Billowy clouds welcomed me at the New Mexico border. It was hot.

In TorC dropped off my friend Jeff at his house, took a few days to gear up and pack, and on June 24 left at dawn to meet Jennifer in Las Vegas, NM -- but not before stopping at Walmart to pick up an hydraulic jack. During the trip to Minnesota the bus developed an unpleasant clunking sound from underneath. I needed to do some looking.

The Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas NM
Las Vegas NM is overshadowed by its Nevada cousin and namesake. But it is an interesting town with a bloody wild-west shoot-em-up heritage second to none. The town is still fighting -- against gas and oil and fracking. Last week the county commissioners moved forward with a bill to make exploration and drilling here prohibitively expensive -- until they can get a total ban.
It is a rural way of life. They want to keep it that way.
I met up with my camping buddy and we set up camp at Storrie Lake, a state park just outside Las Vegas, open and rolling with, sadly, blood thirsty mosquitoes.One the last night a humongous storm broke. The bus sounded like it was in a fire-fight. For an hour hail the size of moth balls pelted and soaked the park. From there it was on the way farther north to Coyote Creek.

Jennifer at Coyote Creek
Coyote Creek is a very small campground. It used to be bigger, that is to say it had more camping sites but some were washed out in a flood and have not been reopened. We were lucky to find a small site nestled among trees on a busy Fourth of July weekend.

The weather pattern here is the same every day. Cool nights give way to cool and clear mornings. The sun rises over a mountain to the east and floods the camp with icy white light. The four or four hours of sun charge my batteries. The billowy dark clouds begin to mass.

Billowy clouds begin to mass
In the afternoon it usually rains and the clears just before dusk.

Fortunately the cool temperatures put little demand on my refrigerator.

While still a Storrie Lake I jacked up the bus. I found a bad right front wheel bearing. Sometimes I think I carry too many spare parts, but this time I was glad to be able to make the repair.

On Friday it is off to Taos for a weekend Taos Pueblo Pow-Wow. That should be fun!

Early today a truck pulled into the park and stocked the creek with rainbow trout. It is difficult to describe the simple beauty. I'll let one photo of the creek at morning speak.

Oh, and this little fellow came out of the earth at lunch to say hello.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Well Here I am in Minnesota

Well here I am in Minnesota, the state with more than 10,000 lakes and at least 10 billion-trillion mosquitoes.  The bus did well pulling two 12-hour stints to go 1700 miles.

Why am I here? Part of the reason is the photo below. The Minnesota United FC soccer team. Not to see the game. That was  played on the road Saturday against Tampa Bay, but to be here for the celebration. You see, that handsome looking dude on the right is my son, Nicholas Rogers, president of Minnesota United, affectionately known as the Loons after Minnesota's state bird. He has been working hard these past two years to make the Loons a success, on the field and at the box office and concession stand.

By playing Tampa Bay to a 3-3 draw, the Loons finished the spring season on the North American Soccer League with 20 points, one ahead of New York, and took the championship.

Minnesota United celebrates after winning the NASL spring championship
But there were other reasons to make the trek &ndash a second son, Daniel, also lives in the Twin Cities. He is inolved with SunEdison, a solar power company, and is trying to put together a $100 million solar project here.

Excuse me for bragging just a little but here are Daniel and Nicholas, left and right.

Seeing my sons was not the only reason for the trek north. I drove with a friend, George "Jeff" Loftus, also from Truth or Consequences, who also has family in Minneapolis -- two brothers and a sister. And a cabin on Lake Mille Lacs, a prize 132,000-acre body of fresh water scarcely 40 deep at the most. It is Minnesota's premier fishing lake, so I am told, and a lake the creates its own weather — storms for above the shallow lake and come racing into shore spawning typhoon-like water tornadoes.  But for most of the while, and while we were there, it was peaceful, save for the bugs that come out at night in blankets.

Two views of Lake Mille Lacs — by day and at sunset.

I was told there is a small hotel on told there is a small hotel accessible by boat on the small island visible in the photo.

We spent a delightful day and night at the cabin, grilling burgers and watching the sun set. Jeff stayed behind while I returned to spend time with my sons.

What one becomes aware of when one does a trip like this is how great and vast is the country.

We left the rolling desert hills of southern New Mexico, scooted through bustling Albuquerque, into the high mountains around Santa Fe and then to Denver, turned right and headed east on I-76 to Omaha. On the way we  camped at a small state prk, Lake Jackson, in Colorado, and on the second day, by driving until almost two in the morning, reached camp at Lake Benton in Minnesota.

Miles roll by outside — towns and cities and farms and vast stretches of almost nothing. The bus engine hums and the little refrigerator purrs in our self-contained travel unit.

Yet the stars that shine down on all this are timeless and all the same.


Saturday, May 3, 2014

I Love a Parade

From my vantage post two blocks away from Broadway, I made my way in bright sunlight and took a seat at curbside just before the 10:30 parade started. Every year the tiny town of Truth or Consequences celebrates its heritage as the only city in North America and perhaps in the world to be named after a quiz show.

In 1950 quiz show host Ralph Edwards challenged cities of North America to change their names to Truth Or Consequences, and he would honor the first to do so by broadcasting his show from the show's new namesake. The little town of Hot Springs, New Mexico, accepted the challenge.

Good as his word Edwards came here. Not once but every spring for half century. He started the Fiesta celebration, riding a big stallion as Grand Marshall leading the parade and kicking off a weekend of festivities.  The tradition endures.

Parade Honor Guard
It is a little bit like a laid back Southwest Mardi Gras parade. Is unclear what is and is not permitted. Seemingly most anything. Fire trucks are in great array. And floats.

About nine years a group of citizens seized the theme of that year's Fiesta, Space, in honor of Spaceport America built nearby, and donned colanders as helmets with weird things woven into them to guard  of against alien mind control.

The group has thrived and expanded and numbers today almost 40.  They march at the parade wearing their headpiece adornments.

A Colander Head in TorC
Colander Heads are to Truth or Consequence's Fiesta parade as Cheese Heads are to the Packers.

This year, after some debate, the chosen theme of the 2104 Fiesta was, hmm, Fiesta.

Party on, dudes.

It comes at a good time. For some reason, perhaps global climate change, it has been a cold and long and drawn out winter. Oh, sure, there is usually plenty of sun in the sunny Southwest but until yesterday night timely temperatures were staying stubbornly stuck in the low 40s. Today was different. The sun did its job and warmed things up.

In the Happy Belly Deli on Broadway crowds gathered and breakfasted outdoors. Women wore formal attire and cowboy outfits. Anything goes in TorC and usually does.

Miss Fiesta, her court and her honor guard
Meanwhile the lazy Rio Grande is making a comeback.

After several years of lower and lower water levels, it now snakes by south of the city a peaceful haven for waterfowl, fish and fishermen.

How this came about with so much drought no one seems to know but everyone is quite happy.
The Shriners' float, colorful as always

What has all this to do with busing? Maybe not much. But that will be changing soon. With the warmer weather I plan in a few weeks to begin a leisurely northern journey to Minnesota and spend much of the rest of the summer in state parks, her in New Mexico and elsewhere.

Busing is more than anything a state of mind.  It is parades, rivers, seeing things and meeting people. Camping and saying hello and goodbye to friends and acquaintances met along the way.

Moonrise over the Rio Grande

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Time to Start Blogging Again

This is a post about posting, about intent more than content. 

When I began this blog almost three years ago it followed on the heels of the death of Bus Companion, and much of it was written in the months that followed. Living in the bus was an experience I had enjoyed and wanted to share. 

The last year-and-a-half has seen very little travel. I tried my hand at living a more stationary life in a house back east for a while but was drawn back to the bus. I returned last fall to the Southwest.   

Yet I almost stopped traveling. I rooted myself this past winter in an RV park in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Except for living in a bus my life became more and more every day like that of other lives around me -- house dwellers and RVers alike. There  was little reason then to write about so mundane an existence. Life in a Volkswagen Bus  wasn't much different than any other life, it seemed

That is changing and will I think continue to change. The world is changing. The U.S. is changing. And if my travels on rolling Michelins are fewer, the travels of my mind are greater.

It seems we are headed if not into a great abyss at least toward a critical change point in history. 

Mankind in the last one hundred years has created a great and complex system that houses, feeds and clothes 7 billion+ people. Only a small fraction of that population today can sustain itself outside of the system.

If and when it falters as it surely must -- for no system built on growth on a planet with finite resources can indefinitely sustain itself -- all chaos will ensue. Some must be prepared and ready for what will follow.

I came across a writer a few days ago puzzled by the failure of so many to think critically about the complex issues facing us. Why, he ponders, at a time when critical thinking is most needed do we barricade ourselves behind closed minds? 

He calls such obstinate non-think  Arrogant Ignorance -- holding to beliefs and opinions without questioning them and reinforcing our ignorance by repeating the arguments that support our views. 

One of the reasons for arrogant ignorance, he suggests, is our comfort. We defend where we stand when we have achieved a place in the system. We stop thinking. We become like horses wearing blinders so as not to be spooked by what is going on around us.

There is a price to pay for such near-sightedness. The unexamined life, as Socrates observed, is not worth living. It is not fulfilling. The dreams of youth are locked away, and we live soon forgotten lives.

We seek comfort. We seek security -- from want, fear, sickness, loneliness and death. Real life offers no security. Only joy.

Seeking such security makes cowards of  all.

Life is and should be its own reward. But one has to wake to enjoy it. And that's where the examined life comes in, waking to the  power and beauty, before we fall into our final sleep.

These blog pages will now be renewed with stories along life's mental as well as as concrete highway. The bus is where I wake up mornings to see the sun rising over Turtleback mountain, to the cooing of hundreds of doves -- palomas -- to the flowing of the Rio Grande, to strange characters, men and women, who come and go in my life carrying their thoughts and dreams and puzzling in wonder.

The examined life only gets richer day by day by day.

Welcome to Part 2:  Life Beyond the Volkswagen Bus

Friday, November 15, 2013

Bosque del Apache

I went to Bosque del Apache yesterday, the 57,000-acre wildlife bird sanctuary near Socorro, NM, to watch the migratory birds roosting there lift off from the water at sunrise to feed.  They are there in large numbers from November to December. More than 40,000 birds including as many as 17,000 sandhill cranes, ducks, geese and more stop here in the flood planes of the Rio Grande in autumn to rest and feed on their southward migration. They come from as far as Alaska and travel as far south as Mexico. On a frosty November morning with the sun taking its veiled time to rise from behind mountains and clouds they are a sight to behold. More later.  For now, photos.  (Click to enlarge.)