May 22, 2019, Wednesday
The odometer read 75,355 when I drove away from my condo in Phoenix at 4:08 AM. The temperature 61 degrees. All hours in this essay are stated in Arizona sun time altho New Mexico is one hour ahead on Daylight Savings Time.
My brain did not want to wake up this morning. I was busy rushing around putting last minute things in the SUV and did not notice its recalcitrancy until I began driving. Things seemed foggy. Altho my reflexes were fast, concentration seemed difficult. About the time my brain decided to put itself on full power the sun came up right in front of the windshield and driving remained difficult. But I was glad to be out of the big city before the morning traffic rush hour.
At the beautiful Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) rest stop in the Salt River Canyon I took a ten minute nap and felt much refreshed. But the 40-45 mph winds in 50 degree weather at the Maverik gas station in Show Low, Arizona was a bit too refreshing.
The wind gusted up to 50 mph along US 60. I mulled this situation over and over. Would I be able to set up even the small two-man tent I had brought along for one-night stands? If rain wasn’t threatening would I be able to set my bedroll on the ground so that one wheel protected my torso from the wind? I would need to find large rocks to put on the windy side to keep bedroll and blankets from blowing away.
When I approached Pie Town, New Mexico at around 11:30 I was surprised to see there was a pie place open. The other one was closed; that place had already sold out of today’s home-made pies. I stopped at The Uncovered Wagon Café AKA The Gathering Place and went inside.
When getting out of the SUV and walking into the pie café I was wobbly on my feet. Apparently the worries about wind had festered deeper in my mind than I had realized and had brought on a heavy attack of road hypnosis-like symptoms.
Not only did this place sell pies all day they had breakfast and lunch/dinner menus. The restaurant was open 8 AM to 5 PM. All the pies were baked in small, round containers that held about 2 pieces worth of pie. I chose a blackberry pie. Neither the waitress/clerk or the owner would take my money before I ate the pie. The little pies were served cut in half so part could be taken home for later. It was piping hot fresh out of the oven. I ate the whole pie. $10.95 plus tax. The owner was interesting. He was dressed in bluejeans and black shirt and gun in holster. He wore a dark brown, almost black, cowboy hat inside the café, something a real cowboy would never have done, even during my early lifetime. But establishments no longer provide hat racks beside the doors.
Owner is on left behind counter.
Tables were trestle-style and held 8 to 10 people. I ended up having a two-hour stop here because an interesting couple soon sat down opposite me. Rani (Narni) and Bob (Pappy) Merz. They were residents of Washington state on their way cross country south to north. They had transported a small horse (Rani called it a pony) and a small covered cart to the Mexican border. There, Rani got out the information and maps she had collected off the Internet from bicycling groups and she started her back-country, good graveled roads, trek paralleling the Continental Divide up to the Canadian border. Bob drove the back-up camper in which they slept each night. Two nights ago when Flagstaff received two inches of snow the Merzes woke up to white ground wherever it was that they were in southern New Mexico. In fact, she and the pony were in rain and snow most of the day. She was prepared with rain gear plus an extra-heavy black plastic bag for her feet and boots and she stayed dry. She indicated the cold had been unexpected and unappreciated.
Rani and Chirpa.
Rani told me she had practiced for this trip by taking a gravel road 200-mile loop trip in Washington state last summer. Bob did not accompany her so she carried a tent and camped out. In this adventure the female is getting to have all the fun!
Rani gave me a business card:
Great Divide Extravaganza
travel.topicwise.com/doc/hitchedhiking2019 — a blog she is writing as she travels along
Rani had read about Pie Town and its home-made pies in some bicycling web sites. So she and the pony had trekked a short distance on pavement in order for the humans to enjoy this treat. The pony was 15 years old, out of an expected life span of 30 years. After they finished dinner and pie we three went outside and I took pictures. Then I got in my SUV and as I drove away I saw a sheriff’s car near the pony and cart and a sheriff talking to the Merzes. In this small town part of the state he had probably been told about the pony and cart that were in front of the café and had come to meet the trekkers.
I arrived at Datil Well Campground site #6 at 1:25 PM. I erected the brand-new little two-man tent without difficulty, then I laid out the rainfly and reached for the two poles that go with it. I only found one pole. I had done a trial setup at a camp site last fall after I bought the tent. I don’t know how I managed to lose a pole.
The tent hung from its poles. In other words, the poles were a short distance above the tent. I realized that the rainfly would thus not be touching the top of the tent, even without its own poles, so I draped it over the tent and affixed the corners. Two projections remained, one for the door and one for the window on the opposite wall. The projections on the door side had loops for stakes, so I staked them down. The projections on the window side had cords to be staked down. Completed, the rainfly protected the tent just fine without the poles to hold the two projections rigid. With those rigid poles the rainfly would function as a runaway umbrella in strong winds. I may be glad I have lost a pole.
While setting up the tent my face kept bumping into stobs of dead branches. One cut a one-inch or so line along my left jaw line and another punched a shallow hole in my right forehead. Both spots bled in complaint.
I began putting gear in the tent. I could barely get my body under the rainfly. I walked around and took a good look. I had put the rainfly on backwards. I was in no mood to, or I lacked the energy to, redo the rainfly. The difficulty of getting bedding and body in and out of the tent today and tomorrow morning was a little irritating, but not as much as unattaching and reattching the rainfly would have been.
I set my chair and folding side tables in some shade and spent the remaining hours reading and working crossword puzzles. I was able to strip down to only a moderate-weight cotton long-sleeved shirt (and jeans and shoes and socks) for several hours in spite of the wind.
I chatted with a couple of campers who walked by. One was a 30s young woman. She and her husband sold their house five years ago and, with their two children (now grade-school ages), traveled the country in an RV. The husband, a landscape architect, is now home schooling parent. The woman, with a biochemistry degree, wrote inserts and other material for a company that produced new medical equipment. She did most of her work on her computer and sometimes on-line. At times she was required to be in person at conferences and she and her family would travel there. What a wonderful life!
May 23, Thursday
During the night the wind rustling the tent and swooshing thru treetops was a pleasant lullaby. The wind died completely a half hour before dawn just as I started breaking camp. But it soon picked back up. I had slept well but I didn’t have much energy when decamping. Then I remembered I was above 7,000 feet in altitude, having come up from around 1,100 feet elevation yesterday. The nearby town of Datil was at 7,379 feet elevation and the campground was a littler higher.
I drove away at 4:37 AM, temperature 46 degrees.
Driving across the San Augustine Plains there were places where heavily-loaded 4titude was broadsided by winds that pushed him towards the oncoming lane (two-lane paved highway). With my hands guiding the wheel 4titude was able to return to the center of the correct lane. Over and over. Winds may have been 70 mph or stronger.
I stopped at McDonald’s in Socorro for a breakfast “griddle” with bacon. Their breakfast griddle/biscuits are tasteless and almost inedible without the bacon. Just west of Fort Sumner I took a 25-minute rest and nap break. In Fort Sumner I bought two of Allsup’s Hatch Green Chili Burritos and ate them around 11:30 AM. I filled in calories for both meals with peanuts while driving.
On the High Plains east of Fort Sumner strong winds buffeted 4titude, rocking him a little but not pushing him off course. I began wondering if I would have to wait til tomorrow morning to set up the 6-man tent. The plains are usually calm for a short time before dawn, with the calm generally lasting til shortly after sunrise.
At 12:35 I arrived at site 14 in Oasis State Park, New Mexico. Agnes said the temperature was 90 degrees. The strong winds were not too bad so I contacted my daughter Terre. She came out from Portales and helped me set up Agnes, then went back to finish some computer stuff at the grocery store where she works. She was getting the work done today so she could get off early tomorrow.
I took a large bowl over to the water pump at the edge of my campsite. I held the bowl under the spout and lifted the pump handle up high. The water came out with extreme force and showered my legs and one arm. The coolness felt good.
Shortly before sundown I heard distant coyotes calling back and forth. Heard two doves calling each other. Some other birds were chirping. Saw and heard a raven. This is why I like tent camping.
All afternoon a massive cloud had been building to the east. At 8 PM it began throwing lightning around. Altho overhead and to the west lots of stars shone I closed my tent door against possible rain when I went to bed.
May 24, Friday
It did not rain last night. At 3 AM coyotes began yapping and actually howling. There was a small group off the southwest end of the campground that was answered by a lone coyote off the north end. The northern animal had a lovely, but short, howl. At 3:45 an owl hooted nearby. I arose with the birds in the early dawn at 4 AM.
Before sunrise, cattle began bawling and continued to do so for a couple hours. Dairy herds demanding breakfast. However, the cows sounded upset. Perhaps they were demanding to be milked. Maybe they were moaning not mooing.
The milk fed the Southwest Cheese Factory, a huge cheese operation that lies about halfway between Portales and Clovis. Coyotes joined in with the bawling cattle from time to time.
Low temperature this morning was 52 degrees.
My daughter is one of the 17,000 Friendly People.
I ran a few errands in Portales. Bought ground pork and ice. I cooked the meat and put it on the ice in an open heavy plastic container. Then I prepared biscuits. Terre arrived shortly after 12 noon while the biscuits were baking. When they were done I packed them away and Terre and I washed dishes. I washed, she dried, and I restowed the now-clean items into bins and SUV.
Terre drove us to the Eastern New Mexico University campus, one of New Mexico’s land-grand colleges. We toured the Blackwater Draw Archaeology-History Museum. We had learned last year that it is closed on Terre’s days off so she made it a point to get off early today while the museum was open. Even tho spring semester had ended and summer session would not begin for another week the museum was womanned and open. The girl at the desk seemed young enuf to be a student. She was very eager to tell us about the museum and to chat otherwise. Blackwater Draw was where the first Clovis Man was discovered. The site is a couple miles from Oasis State Park. The museum was small but interesting.
This life-sized saber-toothed tiger greets people as they enter the museum. Its paws are huge.
Then we stepped into the nearby geology museum but soon stepped back outside. There was some odiferous chemical in the air. It began giving Terre a headache. I feared worse repercussions on myself in a few hours.
The afternoon was hot, probably in the low 90s, so we stopped at the Farmers Grocery Store where Terre worked and shared a pint of ice cream. Back at camp I finished cooking a sloppy joe main dish. On the side we had biscuits with jelly. Our stomachs were pretty full.
The wind had become strong. After dish washing duty we decided to play a new game I had purchased at WalMart this morning, called Sequence. Because the game had a deck of cards we moved inside the tent to play. As we got acquainted with the game, Terre described the it as being a cross between Old Maid card game and Tic-Tac-Toe. We soon began to appreciate the Tic-Tac-Toe challenge aspect of the game.
Ever since a bout with heat exhaustion in the Grand Canyon when Terre was on a teenage backpack she’s had to limit her time in direct sunlight and in heat, even when wearing a hat on her head. Unfortunately, the tent was facing the west. I had Terre sit in a chair as far back in the tent as possible, I moved the table up against her, and I sat on the door side of the table. Sun pounded my back and neck and head. I sweated but did not mind because I like to feel summer heat. The memory keeps me going during the winter.
Terre’s fone rang and she answered it. I relaxed and looked at her, wondering who she was talking to. I noticed a pink spot (colloquially called “red”) above the bridge of her nose, a spot on each cheek, and a strip across her nares. The interior of the tent was hotter than the exterior. Terre is the special-order person at the store. After she promised to drop by the store first thing in the morning, on her day off, and order a special fertilizer, she hung up. I told her about her pink spots and that I had some ice in the SUV. I packed a quart-sized zippered plastic bag with a few handfuls of ice. Terre put a few cubes in her cup of drinking water then balanced the bag on top of her head. I did not have anything simple to tie it down with but she was very careful not to move her head.
After a couple more rounds Terre went home to water the grass. The same beautiful, frightening cloud had come up on the eastern horizon. I took a picture.
May 25, Saturday
About 3:50 AM a small group of coyotes began singing near the campground in the light of early dawn. Doves answered and soon other birds chirped in. When I arose shortly after 4 AM the temperature was 66 degrees and did not go lower. It was going to be a hot day. But then I went outside the tent, noticed that 4titude had a light layer of dew and that the sky was overcast. Maybe going to be a wet day. It was both.
Each day an almost full-grown juvenile cottontail inspected my camp, hoping I was dropping a few crumbs around. When he saw me he would hop into the shade of a tree where he believed I could not see him even though there were no branches or leaves hiding him. This morning as he hopped across the parking area where 4titude sat a scaled quail came walking across the other part of the parking spot. Cottontail saw the quail, stopped, and watched the bird with a wary, somewhat frightened look on its face. While still several yards from the picnic table where I was sitting the quail saw that I had not provided any food for him and he turned and walked away. Cottontail sniffed the air and decided he was not interested in my hot cocoa or my cold, canned baked beans and he hopped away. When I told Terre about the confrontation later she remarked that Cottontail was right to be wary because even small raptors were able to kill and carry away rabbits.
A pair of somewhat colorful birds often sat in the trees in my camp site and chirped at me. The male had bright yellow on the lower half of his breast. This morning, while hopping in the edge of the low plants at the edge of my camp site the birds gave me a good look at their tails. The outside of each tail was rimmed with a very thin strip of bright, glowing white. The yellow on the female was a lighter color. I looked for them in my bird field guide, a 1970s edition of the National Geographic Society’s Field Guide To The Birds Of North America. They were Western Kingbirds.
Terre arrived around 8:45 with the information that the zoo in Clovis would be open 9 AM to 4 PM today. There was a 30% chance of rain, but we decided to go to the zoo while the cloud cover would keep the sun off Terre and keep the temperature down a few degrees.
We got in my SUV. I put my foot on the brake, inserted the key and twisted it. 4titude only said “whirr-whirr.” I tried the operation several times but nothing more than the soft sound happened. I thought the battery had done the usual Phoenix heat thing of dying precipitously, without warning. To make a long story short, the next hour or so proved that all 4titude needed was a jump start and he made no more objections to working. He did not go ”whirr-whirr” again during the trip.
We drove to Hillcrest Park, parked near the entrance to the zoo, walked over to the entrance but it was closed. Permanently. The zoo’d had a major face lift and, in the process, the entrance had been moved to the east side of the zoo, the opposite side.
Mural on toilet house in Hillcrest Park.
Women’s toilet room.
4titude took us to a new parking lot and we parked right in front of the new entrance. About that time my smart fone said that there was now a thunderstorm watch out for Clovis. I paid the entrance fee and we began looking at animals. The zoo was small but had an interesting variety of exhibits.
Before we had walked very far my smart fone issued a stronger warning, “severe thunderstorm watch for Clovis.” We decided to see as much as we could before the clouds got serious. Pretty soon it began sprinkling lightly. After a while a light rainfall began. Still nothing to worry about nor to need raincoats for.
We had seen perhaps half the exhibits when the rain suddenly became heavy and contained a few pellets of hail. Terre studied the map in the brochure we’d gotten at the gate and began leading us down paths that the map indicated would take us to the entrance gate. We got there, but it was the locked, old entrance at the west end of the zoo. The rain had increased from heavy to very heavy.
There were two, small zoo pickups parked beside the old entrance building. A ranger stepped into one and a woman and about 3 children crowded into the passenger seat. I walked over and asked the driver if we could get a ride somehow. He suggested we stand under the awning at the old entrance and he would come back for us. So Terre and I got out of the rain. We were thoroughly soaked and felt somewhat cold but were not chilled. In fact, neither of us ever reached the shivering stage. That surprised me. The air temperature must have remained in the 70s even tho the raindrops were cold. The metal awning over us yelled at the touch of heavy raindrops and heavier, but small, hail stones.
The old office was still in use. After a few minutes a man came out. He said he could take us one at a time in the 4-cylinder pickup still parked near the awning. He drove the vehicle under the awning. I climbed in and asked him if my daughter could sit in my lap. He said she “could give it a try.” I helped Terre figure out where to put her feet and legs and she was able to shut the door. He radioed the other driver to tell him he was now ferrying us. When he got to the parking lot he paused beside 4titude and said we could stay in the pickup til the storm let up. I replied that we were already thoroughly soaked so we would get in our vehicle. We gave him our heartfelt thanks and waded thru an inch or so of water to get in 4titude.
Although the rain was still pouring in heavy sheets, I turned the windshield wipers on high and headed for dinner. I put “Cotton Patch” in Clovis, New Mexico into 4titude’s Navigator and took off according to her directions. At the first intersection I noticed that a small pickup coming from our right turned onto the street we were on and drove the direction we had just come from. Then I noticed that a vehicle a block away on our left turned and did not drive down the street I was preparing to turn onto. I paused a moment and looked. Water was over what curbs there may have been. I told Terre that my mechanic had told me I could drive in water that came as high as the bottoms of my dimmer lights if I drove slowly so that waves of water would not be lifted high and get in the air intake valves that were somewhere above the height of the tops of the head lights. My problem would always be the force of any stream I was trying to cross, rather than the depth of the water. The water in the flooded street appeared to be only a couple inches deep and did not have much force. The wind seemed to be pushing the water rather than its flowing on its own. So I drove slowly up the street. 4titude handled as tho he were on dry pavement. Neither the strong wind nor rain fazed him. I am continually amazed at the power of this vehicle. It has so much, much more power than my 1983 and 1999 4-cylinder Nissan pickups had. I have been told that this 2014 6-cylinder Toyota 4Runner of mine has more power than the 2010 8-cylinder Toyota 4Runners. I believe it.
At The Cotton Patch we took another soaking as we dashed the few steps to get under the awning across the front of the restaurant. Stepping into the restaurant was disappointing. The air was very few degrees warmer than outside. At least fresh rain was no longer resoaking us. I told the waitress we wanted a table in the warmest part of the restaurant. She led us to a booth away from the front door and told us that the rest of the seating areas were under air conditioner vents. We put our dripping bodies on the waterproof benches and order dinner, followed by dessert, a Root Beer Chocolate Cake with a very sweet chocolate sauce icing. Ice cream on the side.
Our clothes did not begin to dry off but we did not begin shivering. We enjoyed our meals. Especially as we watched the sun begin shining out the windows.
The water-bearer gave me the password for the free WiFi. The waitress explained that the reason I could not access their WiFi was because their Internet system was down and their TVs were not working. I wanted to check the weather forecast for the next several days. I have the cheapest Verizon plan available and it has limited data points because I rarely use data points. With the free WiFi I would not have been charged data points to check anything on the Internet. So I did not get weather report.
I turned on the heater in the SUV and we and our clothes began to warm up. We had to drive thru some deepish water on our return to my camp site. Approaching Oasis State Park the scent from dairy cow leavings was strong from the soaking.
We were still pretty wet. The wind was rather strong so back at camp we arranged the table and chairs inside the tent again to play Sequence. Terre sat deep in the tent and was in the shade for most of the afternoon. My back was right at the door and soon the sun began drying me off. After a couple hours the sun reached Terre and she had to begin dousing her head with water to keep her internal body temperature within limits. The sun dried all my clothes except the waistband to my jeans, probably because of the leather belt around my waist. After a while I realized that sweat was replacing rainwater in my waistband. The high temperature at camp today was in the mid 80s.
After about five rounds of Sequence I suggested to Terre that we both drive into Portales and cool off by sharing a pint of ice cream. At the Farmers Grocery Store chose a non-dairy coconut milk brand and sat down in a booth. The little plastic spoons from the delicatessen could not make a dent in the iced dessert. They had worked all right in the regular ice cream fresh from the freezer yesterday. I went out to 4titude and retrieved two stainless steel spoons. With them we were able to gouge out bites, but the dessert stayed extra firm all the way to the final bite.
May 26, Sunday
There had been strong winds much of the night, strong enuf to keep pushing the side of the tent over my face. Coyotes sang off and on during the night, many more times than usual.
Temperature was 66 degrees at 4 AM and remained there for several hours. The sky became totally overcast.
I began the day’s diary typing. Cottontail hopped slowly across the entrance of my tent. It saw me sitting at my computer at the table in the tent and hopped away faster. A sparrow hopped close enuf to see there was no food for it at my camp site, then flew away. I had been typing my diary in the mornings because in the evenings the strong winds were blowing around dust and fine sand that could infiltrate and destroy my computer.
Typing finished, I sat outside and ate breakfast. Then drank a third cup of hot cocoa and watched a pair of sparrows bring twigs to finish building a nest in an elm tree beside the picnic table. In return, the birds sat on branches between deliveries and watched me.
Breezes awoke and brought off-and-on light mist. I went back inside the tent. When the mist no longer was in the air I spent an hour or more walking the campground road and identifying wild flowers. I wrote down ten that I identified and took pictures of eight more that I had never met before. I wouldn’t know til I put the fotos on my computer at home whether or not the pictures were sharp enuf to use for identifying the plants.
I drove to town and refilled three water jugs. When I was back at camp I simmered the rest of the ground pork I had cooked Friday. Simmered it in a taco-like sauce. Buttered remaining biscuits from Friday. Dinner from fresh ingredients tasted good.
Most of the afternoon there were clouds around on all horizons but blue sky above this area. While I was washing, drying, and putting away dishes the winds became very strong and Agnes rattled a lot.
I tackled 4titude’s windshield and windows, inside and out, removing pollution from inside and yesterday’s dust and raindrop messes from the outside. By the time I finished a wall of water interspersed with virga was approaching from the west. The air temperature suddenly dropped. The ground wind, very strong, was hitting Agnes from the east. Then harassment of Agnes decreased altho wind gusts remained annoyingly strong.
At 6:30 I began writing these notes. I had just survived the far outer edge of a tornado for the second time in my camping life. I was sitting in the tent reading a book to keep my mind off the surrounding storms. I heard a whirring sound outside the left side of my tent. Less than a minute later the whole front of the tent lifted and tried to roll over. The other edges began lifting, also. The tent had come completely loose from its moorings. I pushed the large patio table off me and worked my way frontwards. The rim around the bottom of the door hit me in the chest. The worst thing was that I had a basin of water sitting on the floor near the door. It turned over and the large puddle got part of the floor and some gear wet.
I waded thru the puddle, got my feet in my shoes, stepped out and grabbed one corner tent pole because the tent was trying to blow away into sage and yucca and prickly pear cactus (with beautiful yellow blossoms today) and other prickly things that would have poked many holes and shreds in Agnes. All of a sudden the tent took off, about a foot off the ground, pulled me to the ground, and drug me several feet. It lodged against a small berm. That, plus the weight of my body, stopped onward movement but the wind was still exceptionally strong. It seemed to be going at 100+ mph and I was determined not to let go. In my mind I thought of pictures of people and cartoons in which something similar was happening. I wondered if I could hang onto the tent long as long as the wind would blow.
I let go of the pole with my right hand and fished around in the belt holster and popped my smart fone out. I tried to call Terre but the connection would not go thru. No wonder, there was a ferocious cloud over us all. I then tapped a text message and sent it. In about a minute the text did manage to get gone.
At that moment four neighbors came to help. And, also at that moment, the wind diminished spectacularly and in the calm came rain and a few pieces of hail. I pulled some heavy items out of Agnes, then the neighbors helped me move her to firmer ground. They held her down while I hammered stakes into her holding loops. She seemed unhurt. My bedroll and the top layers of the camping foam under it were dry. On me, the wettest thing was my bluejeans.
I thanked the neighbors and finished putting the gear that had ejected out of the tent back inside. Just as I finished, Terre and Jim drove up. I told them what had happened. Jim suggested that a small microburst had hit my campsite. I later found out that none of the RVs had felt the extraordinarily strong wind.
Tomorrow was Terre’s day off. She was already planning to spend it with me watching movies on my laptop and playing Sequence, and going to a restaurant for dinner. We would still do at least the last two, between spreading gear out to dry after the picnic table and 4titude’s hood dried off.
The first similar experience was in 1990 or 1991 on a Fort Worth Sierra Club Chapter work trip along a northern portion of the Buffalo River in Arkansas. We were helping build a trail alongside the river. The day we arrived we were ferried across the river, which was running a bit high due to a week of continuous rain, and we made camp in a small meadow on the bank of the river. The meadow was perhaps 15 feet above the top of the running water. On the second day it began raining part of each day.
The night after the third or fourth day a strong storm came thru. I was sleeping in an orange nylon tent with an extra-large white rainfly over it. Terre will remember that tent but maybe not the rainfly. The foot end of the tent bent in the wind til it was almost lying on my body; the front end would have extended outwards. A fine mist filtered thru the two layers of waterproof nylon. Enuf mist to get things wet. That took a very, very strong wind. Then there was a period of calm. Then the strong wind came back but from the opposite direction. It blew the back end of the tent almost down on my head and body and pushed the front end outwards. As I recall, a few tents blew down.
The Forest Service ranger who was directing our trail work and was camped with us radioed headquarters. He was told the john boat was in use and was a day away from us. He told headquarters that the river had risen several feet and was not far below the edge of the meadow. Our ranger was also told that a tornado had touched down quite a ways upriver and had damaged a bridge. We seemed to have been visited by the edge of the storm, probably by a much milder tornado.
A few hours later the john boat appeared and ferried us and our gear, two at a time, back across the river. It was still raining lightly so the administrator had arranged for snacks and drinks under a pavilion. After everyone was safely across the administrator provided transportation to get us back to our vehicles. I think we had originally carried our backpacks from vehicles to river’s edge.
After I returned to Fort Worth I sent the administrator a letter of thanks. He wrote back, stating that the third day after we were rescued the river rose over the bank and flooded the meadow where we had been camped. I believe that was to have been our last day at camp.
Returning to Oasis State Park. The light thumps of water dripping off an elm tree onto Agnes and the evening cooing of doves and chirping of birds was comforting. But I needed to somehow sop up excess adrenalin so I could sleep tonight. As the last rays of the day’s sun filtered thru below the western edge of the huge cloud it lit wildflowers in the plains outside my tent door.
Only the plastic outer cover of a library book I had brought got wet and it would be easily dried off. One of my personal paperback mystery books did not fare so well.
I was pleased I did not lose my summer cabin. Agnes was an old friend.
Because Agnes and I came out unscathed this was an adventure that is fun to remember.
May 27, Sunday
No sore muscles. No new bruises. I put my wet socks and jeans back on. My fone buzzed and told me the high today was expected to be 87 degrees. There was not a cloud in the sky but there was a thin, cloudy layer of fog lying on the plains just past my tent site. The fog burned off during dawn, before the sun was anywhere near arising.
During an exercise walk this morning I saw a Bullock’s Oriole, now called Northern Oriole, Icterus galbula. That was exciting. The bird had an orange belly with some orange going up his neck and onto his face. He probably had some extra orange because it was courting season. I could not see the rest of his markings.
The short rain that came directly after the microburst yesterday put muddy streaks on 4titude’s clean windows. I washed and dried them again before hanging bedding on the doors to dry. Then I set all gear out to dry in the sun and/or wind.
Terre arrived mid morning and we hung the inside tarp over a soft bush. Had to weight it down because breezes were strong. We played Sequence on the picnic table til the wind became so strong it started to blow the board away. So we put the tarp back on Agnes’ floor and restocked the tent. I hammered some loose stakes back in place.
Agnes in the wind.
We set up Sequence on a table in the tent and played til early afternoon. The right side of the tent began collapsing all the way into the tent. Luckily, the table was on the left side of the tent. The poles bent over almost to right angles. We began checking and reworking the stakes every ten minutes or so. The wind was pushing in the side of the tent and the tent was temporarily collapsing in spite of being well-staked down. The wind seemed to be averaging 40 to 50 miles per hour with gusts to 60 or 70 mph.
During one of our checks Terre showed me a six-inch rip in the rain fly. That had been the whirring noise I heard just before the front of the tent lifted up in my face. When I decamped the next morning I found a second tear, a smaller one.
In the early afternoon Terre drove us to McDonald’s for Big Macs with bacon. The locally-owned restaurants all close on Mondays. Then we went to the store where she works, Farmer’s Country Store, and ate Freanna honey yoghurt. Delicious. It is made in Clovis, New Mexico in an old Danish style and has recently begun being distributed to other states.
Back at camp the wind was still as strong. We reworked loose stakes, then played Sequence and checked the stakes every two rounds.
Terre left at about 5:30. Around 6 PM coyotes sang to the departing sun.
Shortly before sunset the wind died quickly to a light breeze. Agnes stood back upright and the tent, itself, looked none the worse for wear.
The high temperature today was 75 or 78.
Sunset to the east.
May 28, Tuesday
During the night there was a light breeze that never stopped.
I drove away from camp site at Oasis at 5:20 AM. Temperature 52 degrees. I backtracked into Portales and had breakfast at McDonald’s.
Long, slim, heavy clouds with virga trailed above me. I was heartened by seeing lots of blue sky in the west, the direction I was going. A strong wind was blowing.
I took a couple of ten-minute naps. One was at Fort Sumner and the other was somewhere between Vaughn and Willard. I had not found a substitute for caffeine that I no longer imbibed due to problems it had been causing me.
Between Vaughn and Willard, closer to Willard, I saw flags flying on a tall pole in front of a lone house beside the highway. The American flag was at the top and a confederate flag was just below. Not good.
I arrived at site 13 at Datil Well NRA campground at 1:20 (AZ time). Temperature 64 degrees. Light breeze with gusty winds.
View at site 13.
While walking the campground road I saw a cottontail. Saw the lower back and tail of a large raptor as it flew into trees. Birds are rare here. I don’t know why.
Even tho clouds were getting thick, the camp host said the 5 PM (NM DST) weather person reported that there wouldn’t be any rain here tonight. The Weather Channel on my smart fone agreed that there would be no rain tonight at Datil Well NRA. It said the low tomorrow morning would be 38 degrees.
So I did not put up a tent. I chose a spot that was not on sand and laid out the camping foam. I arranged the bedroll and two heavy blankets on top, then set three large rocks on the edge of the blankets on one side of my bed.
With trepidation, I saw virga around and overhead in late afternoon.
Neighbor standing right beside my bedroll.
May 29, Wednesday
Stars had filled the sky when I went to bed last night. It was fun to study stars briefly when I awoke to turn over (taking careful management of bedroll and blankets). Shortly after midnight half of the stars were obliterated. Large clouds continued to move across the sky. The moon rose at three AM and dawn rose just before 4 AM.
When I tried to put the first armload of bedding in the SUV the doors would not respond to key clicker. I used the key itself. Did not happen again this day. Perhaps my arthritic fingers were too stiff in the morning cold and could not depress the clicker button correctly.
I drove away at 4:22. Agnes said the temperature was 43 degrees in the piñon forest in the campground, but a quarter mile away on US 60 the temperature was 39 degrees.
On US 60 about nine miles from the campground I almost ran into an elk. All of a sudden in the dim light of early dawn I saw a set of brown hindquarters with skinny legs a few yards in front of 4titude. I hit the brakes just as the elk turned its head to look at me. Elk and companions skedaddled very quickly. 4titude came to a stop about one foot before the place where hindquarters had been standing.
I came out from under the clouds somewhere in the vicinity of the NM/AZ border. I ate breakfast at McDonald’s in Springerville, Arizona.
In the ponderosa pine forest just south of Showlow, Arizona, I saw several mule deer grazing in the wide ditch beside the highway. Compared to the very brown elk they looked gray.
At Globe I took a ten-minute nap. Even tho I was not far from home my eyelids did not want to stay open.
When I arrived at the QT gas station about a mile beyond my condo it was 12:40 noon. Temperature was around 84 degrees. After quenching 4titude’s hunger I dropped by the local McDonald’s and had a Double Big Mac with Bacon and dropped by Sprouts Farmers Market and purchased a pint of “So Delicious” brand of coconut milk ice cream alternative. Ate it all as soon as I got home, before unpacking 4titude.
Odometer 76,777. Total trip distance driven was 1,422 miles.
I unintentionally lost a pound during this trip!