Where Is Datil And Why Go There?

Very Large Array, Datil, New Mexico, El Morro NM, elk

Panorama Of The Very Large Array

Just a quick entry before we get too far behind and fall off the blog wagon again. Datil, NM isn’t near anything you’d know. It is 60-70 miles west of Albuquerque on US 60. We came here to stay at the Datil Wells BLM CG for the amazing price (senior rate) of $2.50/night. Even full price is only $5. Now it is dry camping but most of the sites are large and private. There is water available and vault toilets. Because of the volume of RV use the stay limit is 7 days in 28 rather than the usual 14 days. There are no reservations. We used our generators early AM and in the evening but kept the residential refrigerator going with the new solar panel during the day.


Our reason for coming was to see The Very Large Array nearby and visit El Morro NM which was more of a drive than we expected. We would come back here again just to relax as there are some great trails to explore. The area was a major cattle drive route with wells placed every 10-15 miles to keep the animals watered, hence the name Datil Wells. The Spaniards were the first to call it Datil as they thought the fruit of the local yucca looked like dates. The second ocean to ocean highway came through here during the early days of auto touring. Interesting history kiosks and a small visitor center describe local history. This is ranch country however when the locals need to quench their thirst the local gas station also sells “white lightening” (apparently legal here) as Steve overheard a customer ask openly. Never know what you’ll find on the road!


Backside Of Telescope Dish

The Very Large Array is a set of 27 huge radio telescopes used for researching the galaxy and far beyond. The dishes are 92′ across (think 2 school buses wide) and dwarf a person standing alongside. Most pictures you see are of the dishes arranged close together in what is called the A position but they can be spread up to 13 miles apart in the D configuration. The closer they are the more general the information gathered and the further they are, the more detailed the information. When we visited the dishes were in a mid point formation. There are films in the visitor center detailing the array and the discoveries made, how the dishes are moved on rails and maintenance required. After our visit we put the movie “Contact” with Jodie Foster on our Netflix list as it was filmed here

Tracks Used To Move VLA Dishes

Tracks Used To Move VLA Dishes



El Morro As A Landmark

Another day we drove a backroads route to El Morro NM. This rock formation seems to arise out of no where and served as a landmark for travelers from native Americans, Spanish conquistadors and priests to pioneers. It also was a known source of safe water in this dry land. Many left their mark and the rock is covered with petroglyphs, drawings and names. We’d hoped to also visit El Malpais NM but time got away from us. On the way back we had a National Geographic moment as we came upon a herd of elk. To our left were about 20 elk and one bull. To our right were about 50 cows and one very handsome bull with a huge rack. He knew he was in his prime. He bugled and pranced. It was too dark for photos so we just parked by the side of the road and enjoyed the scene. Now that’s one busy guy!

Time to move along. Next stop Durango.

Cool Cool Water

Cool Cool Water

Shadow On The Rock Is It The Pause That Refreshes?

Shadow On The Rock Is It The Pause That Refreshes?

El Morro Petroglyph

El Morro Petroglyph

Military and Religious Carvings

Military and Religious Carvings

A Pioneer Makes His Mark

A Pioneer Makes His Mark

Food And Fun From Albuquerque To Phoenix

Following the cancellation of the farewell mass ascension due to high winds we headed to a Diners, Drive-ins and Dives restaurant called Cecilia’s Cafe in the historic district of Albuquerque. We’d recently seen this aired on the show and had planned to eat breakfast there. The burritos are HUGE! Steve had his with red chile while I chose green. The red chile was too hot for him to finish the whole thing. So be forewarned. The green chile was great and just right for me. 

Cecilia's Cafe, Albuquerque

A Great Local Eatery In Albuquerque

Diners Drive-ins and Dives

Interior View













I Can’t Believe I Ate The Whole Thing!

Just outside of Albuquerque is Petroglyph National Monument so we enjoyed a clear if windy afternoon there walking one of several trails with beautiful petroglyphs from the Ancestral Puebloan era (formerly referred to as Anazasi). Little did we know at that time we’d see many more wonderful petroglyphs at Petrified Forest NP.

New Mexico, Albuquerque, petroglyph

An Old Version Of Kilroy Was Here?


Mouse Meets Dachshund?

Folk Art Ancestral Puebloan Style

Folk Art Ancestral Puebloan Style

Then on to a quick visit at Sandia Peak. I’d taken the tram to the top of the mountain and eaten at the restaurant on a previous visit. This was the first time I’d driven up to the Visitor Center. It was a bit windy and hazy but still a lovely view. On our way home we chose, of course, another bumpy dirt road instead of the smooth paved road we took up. Still it was not as bad as Utah!

Sandia Peak, national forest

Fall Color At Sandia Peak

New Mexico, Albuquerque

On A Clear (?) Day….



















Tent Rocks National Monument, BLM, Cochiti Pueblo

View From Scenic Drive At Tent Rocks NM

All to soon it was our last day in the Albuquerque area and we hadn’t visited Tent Rocks National Monument only five miles away. If like us you thought all national monuments are under the National Park Service, you are wrong. Since 2000 there have been several new national monuments created. Since these lands were already managed by other federal agencies (BLM, National Forest Service or even NOAA) they remained under their control. Tent Rocks NM is on the Cochiti Pueblo lands and managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The name is derived from the rock formations created by erosion of softer sandstone under a cap of harder rock. What else can they do with rock? You’ll see. There was also a short but beautiful slot canyon we hiked through.

The Tent Rocks

The Tent Rocks

Hiking Among The Tent Rocks And Tepees

Hiking Among The Tent Rocks And Tepees











slot canyon

Entering The Slot Canyon

Beautiful Sandstone Formations

Beautiful Sandstone Formations











Looks Good In Black And White Too!

Looks Good In Black And White Too!

Originally we’d planned to drive straight from Albuquerque to Phoenix but we changed plans to meet Steve’s nephew and wife who were on their way back from Sedona. We arranged to meet them in Las Cruces, NM where we stayed at Motel Walmart. This time we were the only RV there.

Our stop in Phoenix was primarily for errands, scheduled trailer maintenance and minor repairs. We stayed at McDowell Mountain County Park which was beautiful. We’d hoped to return after our volunteer job was finished in January. By the time we tried to make reservations everything near Phoenix was booked. Arizona is like Florida in the winter. Without reservations, you get what you get. So returning to Phoenix for a longer stay is on the “when we come back” list. We had gorgeous sunsets and a beautiful drive into the Superstition mountains and along the Apache Trail east of Phoenix. Phoenix is like Salt Lake City where east of the city is beautiful and west of the city is, well flat and not so pretty. However we did get to try two Diner, Drive-ins and Dives eateries. The first was a New York style deli called De Falco’s Italian Deli in Scottsdale. Steve found a sausage he loved and said he hadn’t had anything this good since leaving New York. We bought some to take home plus some gourmet goodies like jalepeno flavored avocado oil. The other place was Joe’s Farm Grill in Gilbert, Arizona. This is a working urban farm owned by the same family since the 1950s. Now it is an organic farm and the old homestead is the restaurant. It is a fast food type restaurant then you sit outside to eat. Both had great food.

With both the DreamChaser and ourselves cleaned up and stocked up we head northeast to Petrified Forest NP where we will stay until the end of January 2015.

rainbow, sunset

Arizona Rainbow

sunset, cactus, Phoenix

Sunset and Cactus












restaurant, Phoenix, Diners Drive-ins and Dives

Joe’s Farm Grill

A Week In O’Keeffe Country

Sorry for the delay in posting but our Jet Pack we use for internet died and we had to get a new one. On a good note we want to say thanks again to everyone who follows us or has stumbled onto our blog. We have now hit 25,000 views! That was a goal we’d set for 2014. With your help we made it. Where will we be on the total views for 2015? You’ll have to check in and see.

We now start on our way up and down US 50 through Colorado and then turn south into New Mexico. Our last day at Curecanti was a rainy one but high in the mountains it came down as snow covering the peaks. It was magical! The DreamChaser climbed it’s highest point at Monarch Pass, reaching 11,200 feet. The decent was “interesting” as we negotiated a ten mile 7-8% grade.  At one point Steve said “The transmission temperature is getting hot. I’m going to pull over and let it cool down.” That gave us a chance to get out and snap a picture or two. I only had my iPhone which handled the contrasty situation OK but not great. We continued on without incident.

Colorado, US 50, Monarch Pass

The View At Monarch Pass

Before long we reached flatter ground. Soon we found ourselves out of the woods and into the desert. The Chama Wild and Scenic River, Santa Fe National Forest and Carson National Forest along with beautiful rock formations make the northern New Mexico landscape appealing. We arrived at our campground on Abiquiu Lake. This is a Corps of Engineers park and a beautiful place to stay. With our Interagency Pass it was also very inexpensive. In fact for the next two weeks we’d be in Corps parks and our total cost was less than $150. In the summer you have to reserve an electric site way ahead. This time of year there were still vacancies. There is a beautiful view of the Pedernal from the campground. This was Georgia O’Keeffe’s favorite mountain. She is quoted as saying “Maybe if I paint it often enough someday God will give it to me.”

Abiquiu Lake, Corps of Engineers campground,

Abiquiu Lake

Pedernal, Georgia O'Keeffe, art, New Mexico

View Of The Pedernal










In 2008 before Steve came into my life, I’d visited Santa Fe with friends. We’d driven up to Abiquiu to see where Georgia O’Keeffe had lived. We learned you could tour her home through the O’Keeffe Museum but weren’t able to fit it in on that trip. I put it on the “someday” list. This week is “someday”. We choose the regular tour which costs $35 as the curator led tour for that week was already full. We were fortunate to have as our guide a retired fine arts professor who was also a painter. He said he’d been doing tours for only a month but you’d have thought he’d done it for years. He’d certainly done his homework. The tour did talk about her art but centered more on giving you insights into O’Keeffe as a person. Our guide talked about how she’d found the run down building belonging to the Catholic Church and how it took her ten years to convince the Church to sell it, the restoration and design of the home, her relationship with the community and the healthy lifestyle she followed. O’Keeffe lived to be 96. Many of the people who work on the estate today are grandsons and granddaughters of people who worked there when she was alive. Steve and I both loved the story about her relationship with her gardener. O’Keeffe collected rocks from many areas in the southwest and displayed them on her living room window sill. Of course being an artist she had them arranged aesthetically. Without ever speaking about it to each other occasionally the gardener would move a few rocks. O’Keeffe would spot the change and move them back. This went on for years. Neither of them ever acknowledged the game. Unfortunately no photos are allowed on tour. The photos used here are from the O’Keeffe Museum website.

Abiquiu O'Keeffe Home

O’Keeffe Home Living Room Looking Onto Garden

Studio Annex

Studio Annex

Courtyard Of O'Keeffe Home

Courtyard Of O’Keeffe Home

We spent time exploring the Ghost Ranch, a large workshop and conference center now owned by the Presbyterian Church. When O’Keeffe lived there it was a private ranch where she stayed and painted prior to obtaining the Abiquiu house. Today they hold self improvement, art and literature, paleontology and other workshops. They also rent rooms and cabins and have hiking trails and two museums on the property. We took a hike, visited the museums and enjoyed the gorgeous New Mexico fall weather. Toward the front of the property there is a log home. Does it look familiar? This was left on the property after being built for the set of “City Slickers”, the classic Billy Crystal movie. And yes, the sky was really that blue!

Ghost Ranch, New Mexico

Hiking At Ghost Ranch

A River Runs Through It

A River Runs Through It











movie prop, wagon

A Wagon From The Movies

A Tree Grows In New Mexico

A Tree Grows In New Mexico

movie, City Slickers, Billy Crystal

Cabin Used In “City Slickers”

At the suggestion of our campground host we took a drive to Echo Amphitheater in Carson National Forest and then to a monastery along Forest Road 151 in the Santa Fe National Forest. In other parts of the country these would be prominent sites. Here they compete with so many other beautiful sites that they are hidden gems. Echo Amphitheater true to its name creates a voice Echo, echo echo… The drive out FR 151 was amazing as we passed rock formations that looked like hobbit houses, the Chama River and at the end of the road the beautiful  Christ In The Desert Monastery of the Benedictine order that just celebrated fifty years in this location. Georgia O’Keeffee came here often to paint. The monastery was designed by renowned architect and woodworker George Nakashima. When I lived in the Washington, DC area I took a day trip with the Smithsonian to Nakashima’s home and workshop in Pennsylvania. The monastery uses solar power as the only source of electricity. The monastery runs the only monastic brewery in the US, the Abbey Brewing Company. In 2006 a five part television series, The Monastery, was made for TLC about five laymen living and following the monastic life for forty days. It is a place of total peace and serenity. While we were there no services were being offered but if you are lucky you might hear the monks performing Gregorian chants. Amazon offers a CD of the chants but we were not able to locate the TLC program.

New Mexico, Echo amphitheater

Inside echo Amphitheater

Rt. 151, scenic drive

The “Hobbit” Houses

Chama River, scenic drive

Chama Wild And Scenic River

church, landscape

Christ In The Desert Monastery

Monastery Gate

Monastery Gate











church, Christ In The Desert

Inside The Monastery Chapel

Another day we headed over to Bandelier National Monument. If you can get in before 9am you can drive right to the Visitor Center.  After that you must park in the satellite lot and take a shuttle to the park. This is because the parking in the park is so limited. We got ourselves up and going. The drive up the canyon is worth the trip all by itself. We arrived just in time to take a special tour given by volunteers telling about the work the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps).  Until the CCC built the current road the monument was very difficult to access and had low visitation. We didn’t know at that time we’d be giving similar information about the CCC at Petrified Forest National Park. Following the tour we walked the trail through the cliff dwellings and posed for a picture.

Bandelier, national monument, scenic drive

Driving To Bandelier NM

Along The road To Bandelier

Along The road To Bandelier









Frijoles Canyon Scene

Frijoles Canyon Scene

CCC, Civilian Conservation Corps

CCC Buildings At Bandelier

rock formations

Tree In The Rock





















Walking Amongst The Ruins

Walking Amongst The Ruins

Posing In A Cliff Dwelling

Posing In A Cliff Dwelling











On our way back we decided to go through Los Alamos and see the Bradbury Museum which tells the story of the Manhattan Project and current studies at the laboratory. It was strange to go through a security check point to enter a city. The museum was very interesting even though we were pushed for time.

atom bomb, Manhattan Project, Bradbury Museum

Display At Bradbury Museum About The Manhattan Project

Delivery Of The Nuclear Capsule For The Trinity Device

Delivery Of The Nuclear Capsule For The Trinity Device











Trintinite Formed From Heat Of Nuclear Blast





Our week went very quickly. Now we make a short move down to Albuquerque for an event we’d been anxiously anticipating for several months.

A Reminder Of Ancient Civilization In The Southeast

Our third and final site was Ocmulgee (pronounced Oak-mull-gee, like the hard G in geese) National Monument in Macon, GA. If you go be sure to visit the Visitor’s Center and museum first. The grounds have four large earthen mounds and surrounding natural area. The emerging wetland area surrounding Ocmulgee is the result of severe flooding in 1994. The walk is about 2 miles or the mounds can be reached by car. With our boats on top of the truck we couldn’t fit through the 8′ limit of the railroad tunnel. We needed to work off some of those holiday calories anyway.

Great Temple Mound, Ocmulgee

View Of Macon From Top Of Great Temple Mound

A Brief Overview Of Macon Plateau Inhabitants:  

(Information is obtained from the Ocmulgee National Monument website  http://www.nps.gov/ocmu/index.htm)

9,000-8,000 BC – Ice Age inhabitants adapt as large, cold weather mammals disappear in a warming climate.

8,000-1,000 BC – Hunter/gatherers develop the atlatyl (spear thrower) and woodworking tools.

2,500 BC – The first pottery is developed on the Georgia/South Carolina coast and gradually moves inland to central Georgia.

1,000 BC-900 AD – Pottery becomes decorative as well as utilitarian with scenes depicting farming activities. Semi-permanent villages are built by the Woodland Indians. Ceremonial and funeral mounds appear.

900-1150 AD – Early Mississippian Indians arrive and bring a different type of pottery to the area. They build large earthen centers to serve as council chambers, funeral mounds and ceremonial centers. Farming becomes the primary source of food. Woodland and Mississippian peoples mingle.

1150-1350 AD – The Macon Plateau inhabitants move downstream on the Ocmulgee river to establish new towns. Old Ocmulgee area is left uninhabited. The reason is prolonged drought which was also the cause for disappearance of the Anasazi in the Southwest.  Evidence of this culture is seen in other mounds as far south and west as Alabama, Illinois and Oklahoma.

1350-1650 AD – The Lamar Culture develops chiefdoms with small stockaded  towns and central mounds

1540 AD – Hernando DeSoto arrives and writes of well developed societies with log homes and mounds. DeSoto’s expedition seizes food supplies and leaves unknown diseases in its wake. Native people are decimated.

1565 AD – The Spanish establish the first permanent settlement at St. Augustine. Priests and soldiers travel the rivers establishing other towns and begin missionizing the Indians.

1670 AD – The British establish Charles Town (now Charleston) and initiate trade with the Indians over Spanish objection

1690 AD – The British establish a settlement at Ochese Creek (site of Ocmulgee NM) and Indians from the Chattahoochee River area move here to trade with the British. They acquire guns from the British and horses from the Spanish. The name Creek Indians is used by the british instead of individual village names.

1704 AD – Col. John Moore from Charleston takes a band of 50 white men and 1,000 Indians to Florida where they devastate the Apalachee Missions. The Spanish are driven back to St. Augustine. The surviving northern Floridians are incorporated into the Creek population and develop into the Seminole.

1715 AD – The Yamassee War erupts due to fur trade irregularities between Indians and British and because of the British selling Indians as slaves to work on Caribbean sugar plantations.

1733 AD – The Georgia colony is established on land given to Ogelthorpe by the Creeks. It serves as a buffer between Charleston and Spanish Florida.

1778 AD – During the Revolutionary War most Creeks tried to stay neutral but a Scottish-Creek chief Alexander McGillivray leads them into an alliance with the British.

Early 1800s – The Creeks cede all but a small area (Ocmulgee NM) to the US for development of a fort and a federal road from DC to New Orleans. Tecumseh, a Shawnee, makes an attempt to unify Indian nations. Tribes become divided between those loyal to the U.S. government and those who follow Tecumseh known as “Red Sticks”. During the War of 1812 the division increases and raids by “Red Sticks” increase. In 1826 the last of Creek lands are ceded to the U. S. Government.

1836 -1837 AD – Creek War of 1836 ends with 2,500 Indians marched through Alabama to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Over the next 18 mos. another 14,000 Indians are removed from the East over a 1200 mile route with only what they could carry.

1840-1874 AD – The Old Ocmulgee Fields (now Ocmulgee NM) were developed by logging, brick manufacturing and a fertilizer factory. A railroad line was built and cut into the Lesser Temple Mound. A second railroad line was built in 1874 that destroyed much of the Funeral Mound.

1933- present  – Dirt to be used as fill dirt for Main Street in Macon was taken from a mound. Motorcycle riders use the mounds for off road riding, Citizens realize the impending loss of a significant historical site and seek help from the Smithsonian. In 1936 President Roosevelt signs legislation creating Ocmulgee National Monument. In 2009 a new Visitors Center was built and the museum now houses over 2,000 artifacts.

Ocmulgee National Monument

Swamp Land Surrounding Ocmulgee

There is a reconstructed ceremonial hut over the original floor in the first mound along the boardwalk. The floor has been carbon dated to 1015 AD. Look carefully at the pictures below and you will see depressions in the soil that were seats for the council members. Each seat rises a bit higher than the previous one until the center where the chief sat. The shape before him is the Ocmulgee eagle. They are the mound builders. These mounds were ceremonial except for the funeral mound where they buried the nobility. The mounds were built by carrying baskets of dirt on their backs. Now try to do the math for the Great Temple Mound at 200′ by 300′ and 9 stories tall!  Look at the picture of the Great Temple Mound. Can you see 2 small black specs on top on the right side? These are two people standing on top of the mound. That should give you some perspective of size. Today you can climb a stairway to stand on top of the Great temple mound and see the Macon skyline in the distance. The Lamar section of the park is accessible only on Ranger led excursions so we were not able to see it this visit. If you are interested in visiting Ocmulgee you might want to go to the Ocmulgee Indian Demonstration to be held over September 20-21, 2013. Macon offers many other interesting sights but we just didn’t have time this trip. OK,OK so we’ll say “When we come back.”

Ocmulgee, Georgia

Inside Ocmulgee Ceremonial Lodge

Ocmulgee eagle, Georgia

Chief’s Seat In Ceremonial Lodge With Ocmulgee Eagle

Indian mound, Georgia

Great Temple Mound of Ocmulgee

Ocmulgee, American Indian, georgia

First Ocmulgee Mound With Ceremonial Hut

On the way home we stopped at Lane Orchards for some Indian River grapefruit and Honeybell oranges. We normally ordered Honeybells from Florida each January. They are the juiciest oranges you’ll ever eat. We thought we’d miss them now that we’re on the road so finding them avaiable in Georgia was a pleasant surprise. They have a very short season so this was just luck on our part.We also bought a few gourmet items in the Lane store. Another local product you should try if in the area is Stiplings sausage. We tried both the bulk and cased types, plain and smoked, hot, medium and jalepeno with cheese. All were excellent.

With this being our last night at the park we went out to dinner at what we thought was just a local place. We can’t call it a hidden gem except perhaps to us. The Daphne Lodge looks like a house cum restaurant  at first. We walked in and it was a pleasant two room facility with swing music playing in the background. We sat down to look at the menu. On the front was a history of Daphne Lodge. Although the current restaurant has been a family business since 1952, the original Daphne was a dance pavilion at the turn of the century in the park that preceded Georgia Veterans Memorial Park. An excursion train used to bring people out from Cordele for picnics and a dance. Today’s restaurant has been in Southern Living as one of the top ten restaurants serving catfish and appeared on the cover of their Sea and Stream cookbook. Other feature articles have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I had the catfish. The portion was huge so there were definitely leftovers. Yipeee! I had quail which tasted good but all the little bones made it a real pain in the a…. to eat. The food lived up to the reviews. If you’re in the area do try it.

Daphne Lodge in Cordele, GA

Daphne Lodge in Cordele, GA