Welcome back and thanks for all the views and comments on last week’s post about Death Valley. This week I’m sharing a potpourri of things we did and people we saw that didn’t make it into one of my previous posts on the Southwest.
Let’s start off in Belton, Texas where we spent a few days stocking our trailer with supplies after the long drive from Wisconsin and visiting friends Steve and Sudie Foster. They are also uncle and aunt to our son-in-law, Daniel Foster. One day Steve and Sudie took us on a car ride to show us the area around Belton and check their cows. As Steve was driving through the pasture, we stopped to admire his very gentle Santa Gertrudis bull. The old boy was limping a little and Steve was concerned, wondering if the bull could do his job come breeding time! It was nice to experience the fine Texas hospitality but we had to move on.
When we laid over a few days in Carlsbad, New Mexico, we made the drive over to Lubbock, Texas to spend a few hours with Daniel’s grandmother, Bobbi Foster. She’s such a lovely lady with a lot of great stories of growing up and living in West Texas. We took her to lunch and she took us to the sod farm on the edge of Lubbock that she and her late husband ran for a number of years. The current owner came out of the shop when he saw us driving around the property. But everything was good when he found out that Mrs. Foster was our guide!
After saying farewell to Bobbi, we had enough daylight and time to stop by the Buddy Holly Center located in Lubbock. This museum and gallery takes visitors through the life of singer and songwriter Buddy Holly (born Charles Hardin Holley in 1936) to his tragic death in an airplane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa on February 3, 1959 (the day the music died). The Center is filled with Buddy memorabilia including items from his early days in Lubbock as well as when his music career was taking off such as his first guitar and amp. It’s a stop I recommend if you are a music fan and/or grew up listening to Buddy Holly songs. Besides that, Lubbock is beautiful town and home to Texas Tech University.
Meet Melissa, our volunteer guide on the sunset walk at the White Sands National Monument. As the sun was setting, we were the only ones left from the group that started out so we had a lovely chat with her and found out that one of her next National Park gigs is as the campground host at the Cottonwood campground in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota. We’ve been there many times over the years so offered her some advice on things to do and see in the area. We even hope to stop by the campground this summer to check in with her.
After leaving White Sands and Alamogordo, we decided to stop at the White Sands Missile Range Museum. Little did we know that we had to go through a background check before making the short walk on to the military base over to the museum. The museum was filled with all kinds of things related to munitions and rockets, if that’s your thing. For us the most interesting display inside the museum was a small room dedicated to the history of women ranchers in New Mexico. Outside there is a big display of missiles and rockets that were tested at White Sands that we found moderately interesting. This is not a stop we would recommend unless interested in rocket science (pun intended!) or waiting around for a background check!
As we wound our way through New Mexico, we stopped in Lac Cruces primarily to see our friend, David Kraenzel and his wife Marilyn. David lived with us a few months when he was finishing up his Ph.D. work at the University of Wisconsin. They showed us around the area and introduced us to some great Southwestern food. Besides that they allowed us to park our trailer in their yard for a couple of nights! It was good connecting with him again and meeting Marilyn for the first time.
In my post on Las Cruces, I wrote about this very friendly guy trimming trees at the Basilica of San Albino on the plaza of the nearby village of Mesilla. He called out to us wondering where we were from and invited us to see the inside of the Basilica. All this while continuing to do his job, he could have ignored us and all the other people that were on the Plaza that day but he was a self-appointed one man welcoming committee. A memorable moment indeed! Besides that he had a good hat!
We had similar experience when we encountered Saul at the Gila Cliffs Dwellings National Monument near Silver City, New Mexico. He made our climb up to the cliff dwellings so memorable by bringing the people and history alive for us through his stories and by his enthusiasm and energy.
Once in Arizona, we stopped in Willcox, Daniel’s former home, where he taught agriculture and was FFA advisor at the local high school. One of his friends, David Collins, took us on a tour of the ag department that he helped to build in the short four years he taught at Willcox. They are very proud of what was accomplished and how that continues to inspire kids to pursue careers in agriculture. Daniel’s mother painted the murals in hallway of the ag building.
While in Willcox, we made a day trip over to the tourist town of Tombstone, Arizona. Yes, it’s that Tombstone, the site of the famous Gunfight at the Ok Corral between the outlaws and Earp Brothers (Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan) as well as Doc Holliday. As a kid, I was fan of western movies so couldn’t resist the chance to see the reenactment of that famous shootout. Here’s a few photos from that fun, touristy experience.
Tombstone even had a store with my name on it, so couldn’t resist a photo!
And here’s a few photos of the characters we saw carousing around main street of Tombstone.
We enjoyed our stay in Tombstone and on a return visit plan to travel down the road to Bisbee that we hear is a fun place to visit. Our next stop was Tucson, where we not only took in some of the sites but had good visits with Madison friends, Pam and Mark Midbon who were spending a couple of months in the area as well as my second cousins, Sarah Drath and Mary Speidel, who I grew up with back in North Dakota. We also connected with a close friend of Daniel’s, Quint Molina who is on the faculty of University of Arizona. He took us on a walking tour of the campus where we saw the memorial to the USS Arizona as well as the McKale Center where Daniel’s favorite basketball team plays. It was a beautiful Arizona day on a beautiful college campus.
From Tucson, we made our way up the road to Casa Grande where we camped a few days near our Wisconsin friends, Laura and Tony Pafford. While in the area we visited the Casa Grande National Monument and our volunteer tour guide was from Fargo, North Dakota, where we once lived. We had a good chat with her and learned a lot from her about the Monument.
As we headed west to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Joshua Tree National Park, we made our back into Arizona to Kingman on our way north to Death Valley. At Kingman, we stopped off to visit friends, Dottie and Lou Sileo, formerly of Madison. And while in Kingman, we stopped for a bit in the downtown area to say that we drove at least a little on the famous Route 66. It’s on my bucket list to travel the whole road from Chicago to LA. If that doesn’t happen then I can at least say I was on it at some point in my life!
After a memorable stay in Death Valley and before heading back to Wisconsin, we stopped off in Fernley, Nevada (east of Reno) to see our niece Lacie and her kids, Logan, Junie and Jordy. Donna’s sister, Becki, happened to be there too! We got to accompany them to Logan’s Cub Scout banquet at the Peppermill in Reno. In the photo below the big and little kids are enjoying an interaction with the magician.
When Donna visits, the kids always want to make cookies with her, she’s a pro, baking at least 10 dozen cookies a week year round for the Habitat for Humanity. Everyone had a job in the making and they all took part in the eating!
It was a sad morning when we had to leave the Southwest behind and head home. This was our view the morning we left, the blue skies and clean, fresh air. What a wonderful trip!
One more post in this series, my final thoughts and reflections as well as some of our favorite stops along the Trail to the Southwest.
Til next week, travel safe.