A CELEBRATION OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT IN ENTERPRISE, ALABAMA

A few weeks back, I ventured to Enterprise, Alabama and saw for myself a profound celebration of the human spirit. It seems that Enterprise, near Fort Rucker Military Base, has a love relationship with the boll weevil, a beetle that feeds on cotton buds and cotton flowers. As the story goes, it also seems that many years ago Enterprise depended on cotton crops for their economy. Cotton was grown successfully until somewhere around 1915 when the boll weevil first appeared in the town. This boll weevil devastated the cotton crops and put a damper on the economy for quite a while.

boll weevil painted on a wall in downtown Enterprise

But, because sometimes adversity is a catalyst for change, the people of Enterprise decided to try their hand at peanut farming in response to this crop devastation. Diversification of crops from cotton to peanuts lead to greater economic prosperity to the area, and in 1919 the people of the town erected a thirteen foot statue of a woman holding up a trophy with a boll weevil on top of it over her head in deference and in celebration to the creature that almost ruined the town’s economy.

The trophy confirms that the town had won the battle against this pest, and the pest was something for which to be thankful. The statue is a celebration of the human spirit and its triumph in times of adversity.

sign near the boll weevil statue monument

Throughout the town today, there are constant reminders of the boll weevil’s importance to the town. In fact, there are many whimsical statues of the boll weevil in front of various businesses.

boll weevil statue near the police station, courtesy of southeastsun.com

a boll weevil in the local art supply store window

mural in downtown Enterprise with peanuts and a boll weevil

As the story goes, peanuts became very important to the town from thereafter, and there are reminders of the importance of peanuts throughout the town and adjacent areas.

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Dothan Botanical Gardens

The can-do spirit of this tiny little town, this work-the-problem-to-find-a-solution mentality is inspiring today, one hundred years later.

Life is good; find a “work around” to whatever problem you encounter today and any other day; find a way. You CAN do it with the same mentality of those spirited and courageous folks in Enterprise, Alabama a century ago.

Life is good; carpe diem, friends……..

Journey to the “Center of the Earth” (Or ALMOST) in Canada….

The Tablelands in Gros Morne National Park in Canada, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been used as a training site for some NASA astronauts to train for missions to Mars and to the Moon. With the historic Dragon rocket launch yesterday at Kennedy Space Center in Florida with the first commercial space flight in history, launched with the first Americans on American soil in an American rocket in many years, I am thinking of my trip to this wonderful place a few years ago.

At this wonderful national park in Rocky Harbor, New Foundland, Canada, I walked along a section of orange rocks from the Earth’s Mantle, a layer of rock found normally deep beneath the Earth’s Crust that has been exposed to the surface of the Earth.

layers of the Earth diagram courtesy of Oregon State University

The Mantle is the layer just before the Earth’s outer core. How exciting it was to walk in the place where geologists proved the theory of Plate Tectonics, or the movement and collision of seven large “plates” (and several smaller “plates” of geological material), leading to the creation of geologic events such as earthquakes and volcanoes, as well as the many other processes that form, transform, and destroy rocks.

Most of the area at the Tablelands is made up of the rock peridotite, which is part of the Earth’s Mantle that was brought to the surface of the Earth by a large plate collision several hundreds of millions of years ago.

You may recognize the gem peridot, which is crystallized olivine. Olivine is the greenish area contained in the rock peridotite.

photo courtesy of gemkids.gia.edu

If you are a rock or geology lover, this is a great place to visit. I visited in September, which was cool but not too cold to hike. Click on the link below to find out the best way for you to get to the park:

https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/nl/grosmorne/visit/directions

If you are not a lover of geology, perhaps seeing fauna such as moose, woodland caribou, rock ptarmigan, arctic hare, boreal chickadee, Canada jay, or Newfoundland martins might interest you. If you’re not a big animal lover, perhaps some of the flora tucked in between the orange rock setting will interest you as well.

This place was an amazing place to visit, and I highly recommend it. In fact, two movies were even filmed at this park. If you recognize the setting, “Contact” (1997) with Jodie Foster and “Outlander” (2008) with Jim Caviezel were both filmed here.

Life is good. Travel as much as you can when the travel restrictions are lifted after the pandemic is under control. There is a whole wide world outside your window if you look for it.

Carpe diem, friends………………..

OF MAMMOTH CAVE AND A LITTLE PHILOSOPHY

JANUARY, 2017 AT MAMMOTH CAVE, KENTUCKY

I am always fascinated with the themes of perception and reality, ignorance and truth. In fact, when I was a young girl, I noticed some numbers adjacent to the inside door, close to the check out counter, in our local convenience store. These numbers were arranged in color-coded blocks, similar to those near the exit door at Lowes. I asked one of my parents about these brightly colored numbers, and one of my parents described that they were there to help identify the heights of any thieves that tried to steal from the store. The numbers represented the heights of the suspects, and the colors were designed to help the store clerk remember the numbers. Fascinating, especially to an older, inquisitive child. This really left an impression on me.

These numbers allowed me to see that everyone sees and remembers things differently. Our conception of reality is based on what we know or have seen, our personal biases, and our interpretations of what we’ve experienced. Fast forward to when I was young adult. Someone very dear to me and I went into a local field to fly a kite, believe it or not. College exams were over, and we were looking for a way to fly a kite as a way to unwind as I recall (based on my perception from many years ago, of course). We were laughing and joking, making a lot of noise, when out of the corner of our eye, we saw someone laying face down in the ground. Surely the person would have roused if asleep we thought. As we walked closer, we realized the person did not move at all, and the person’s calf was exposed and a bit mottled. We touched the person’s calf, seeking a pulse, when we realized the calf was cold. Stone cold. We looked at each other and came to the same realization at once. The person before us was dead. This was long before the days of the ubiquity of cell phones, so we RAN to call the police. Police arrived, and so did the local news reporters. I put my hood up, as it was cold in New England that day, the day we grew up, and I knew we would be there a while. More and more reporters arrived but were kept at a distance from the crime scene by the police while we gave our statements. The next day, reporters said a brother and his younger sister found the deceased person, likely due to the difference in heights between my companion and myself. Reporters said also that two young lovers were coming out from the woods that day, and nothing was further from the truth. Discrepancies upon discrepancies were reported to the public by the news media. We later learned that the poor deceased woman was an inmate from a local state hospital mental health ward and had ground privileges. The story that was told to the media by the police was that she fell asleep and died from exposure to the cold that day.

In Plato’s “Republic”, a story is told about a cave. In this “cave allegory” as it has been called by many people, there is a group of prisoners who have been chained since childhood in a cave such that they can face only one wall, and there is a fire burning behind them. As such, the fire casts numerous shadows in front of them, and they have come to accept that is what is real. This is the only stimulation these people have had in their dreary lives. The focus of their lives, in fact, are the shadows, which are the only things they have come to know.

One day, one of the prisoners escapes from the cave and makes his way out of the cave. Outside of the cave, he is shocked and afraid to learn that he sees numerous things he had no idea existed. He squints to see the sun, then focuses on the sights before him. He realizes there are other people outside the cave as well as real animals, too, and he delights in this knowledge. He returns eagerly to the cave, almost blind from the sun, and tries to explain to the others, with joy, about the world that exists beyond their little cave beyond the shadows. There is some suggestion in the story, too, that if the man tried to free the others from their confines, they would kill him, as they would rather remain in the cave with their eyesight healthy, just as it was.

So many of us live in a similar cave, surrounded by what we THINK is the truth, either metaphorically or in reality. Our versions of what we have come to know is based on our limited exposure and understanding to the events, people, places, and things around us. While some of us seek to see beyond the cave, despite the risks, others of us prefer to remain inside the cave among our own limited knowledge, perception, or ignorance. Of course, some of us prefer to live only sometimes in that cave, depending on the situation at hand. Sometimes we venture out of the cave, yet other times we are more content not to explore beyond our comfort zone. Human behavior and the motivations for such are fascinating.

On a separate note, I have never encountered a cave that I didn’t love. During this period of self-isolation, I am reminded of a few of my visits to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky during a moment of my own armchair travel. This cave is known as the longest cave system in the world and is over four hundred miles long. At time of this writing, the cave is currently closed due to the covid epidemic but is normally open 364 days a year, closing only on Christmas. Normal hours are from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM (Central Time) . Plan ahead before you go, as year round cave temperatures can be around 54 degrees Fahrenheit, so you likely might want a jacket. Reservations are strongly recommended, as cave tours often sell out in advance, but some self-guided walk up tickets are available at times. Ticket prices vary, depending on the tour you select, and there are many tour options to meet your needs. Some tours require passage through tight spots, and others do not. Other tours require long distances with hundreds of steps and steep inclines, yet others require limited steps through short distances. One way to experience something different might be the Violet City Lantern Tour, during which the only light for visitors is from lanterns. There is also an accessible tour for those with limited mobility as well.

It’s best to check the website below to plan your visit and to check on the status of any changes to park operations:

https://www.nps.gov/maca/index.htm

Find your way out of the cave a little from time to time….live life well and experience life as fully as you can.

Life is good; carpe diem, friends………………………

THE BLESSING OF AN INSPIRATION AND OF A FRIEND

Wall mural and bike photo taken in Amsterdam, the “cycling capital of the world”

I have an amazing friend who lives in another part of the world. He has a certain “joie de vivre” that I can’t possibly explain. I have been fortunate to have had the chance to break bread with him and share a laugh or two over a short period of time. When he smiles, the world smiles with him. My friend recently went on a bike ride while going for a short get away while he was seriously ill and feeling very tired. He was equally tired of all his body has been through with his illness, yet he managed to find joy that day. An explorer and a traveler, my friend adjusted to his status at the time, adapted to what he could do, and revised his conception of adventure during this week end. A picture of him riding his bike that day is one of my favorite pictures of him, as it captures his essence somehow. This friend makes me smile again and again. The world is a better place, in part, because of him. The world is also a funnier place, too, because of him. He knows how to live well, and I admire that in him. He enjoys the love of his beautiful family, great food, travel to exotic places, and reading. One of his favorite songs is “Oh What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong, and it has always been one of my favorite songs, too. My friend is an inspiration to many people, including me. I will keep this photo of him etched in my mind and heart forever, feeling fortunate to have had the good fortune of spending time with him, even if a short time.

my strong and funny friend

Today, thinking of my friend, I decided to get on my bike, as I used to really enjoy riding my bike and haven’t done that in a while . Seems like it’s been a long while since I went for a bike ride in the neighborhood. Too long. Can’t believe I haven’t thought of this earlier as I try to find something new or re-connect with something that I used to do as often as I can during this pandemic and self-isolation. It seems pretty easy to social distance on a bike.

“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.”

-John F. Kennedy

(photo taken in Amsterdam)

Perhaps I’ll go for a little longer bike ride tomorrow. Perhaps the next day will be even longer. Maybe later in the week I will put the bike on the bike rack on the car to go for an even longer ride. No time like the present. Makes me think of a reply I once heard when I asked someone what time it was. The reply was simple; the person said “the time is now.”

“It is the unknown around the corner which turns my wheels.”

-Heinz Stucke

(photo taken in Zaanse Schans in the Netherlands)

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

-Albert Einstein

Life is good. Find something you used to love doing and haven’t done in a while today. Live fully, live life well, and enjoy the moment, using some inspiration as your guide if you have one.

Carpe diem, friends………………………….

ARMCHAIR TRAVELS TO CARLSBAD CAVERNS, THE ORIGINAL BAT CAVE, IN NEW MEXICO

ID 115255539 © Martin Schneiter | Dreamstime

I love a cave, any cave. There is something magical about a cave. It almost feels as though I am in a mermaid’s grotto whenever I see the beautiful stalagtites and stalagmite formations around me. I find it fascinating, too, that most caves remain a fairly constant temperature year round, no matter where there are located.

Caves transport us instantly to another time where it feels as though time elapsed photography happens before our eyes, as these beautiful cave formations happened drip by drip over many many years.

Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico is a beautiful example of a cave in all its glory. This area was surrounded by water approximately two hundred and fifty million years ago, and then most of the water in the area dried up. What was left behind is a bed of limestone now. Minerals have flowed over the limestone and collect to make the magical formations we see inside the cave.

The original cave was discovered by accident by a teenager named Jim White in 1898. He was riding his horse and saw many bats flying up from what appeared nowhere. He rode his horse closer and found a big hole into the ground. He left and brought a friend back with him, and they crawled through the caves with a torch and a ball of string to find their way back, according to the legend. Visitors can explore the cave through this natural opening (a 1.25 mile extremely steep trail which takes about an hour and is not recommended for those guests with heart or respiratory conditions) or take a seven hundred and fifty foot elevator to get to the bottom of the cave into the “Big Room” through the visitor’s center to walk along a 1.25 mile relatively flat trail, which takes about an hour and a half to walk. The Big Room is the only area accessible to guests in wheelchairs, and this trail can be bumpy. It is best for guests in wheelchairs to have help from another guest accordingly. Also, only guests with mobility issues are permitted to have a cane or walking stick in the caves, and the cane or walking stick must have a soft tip on the end.

Guests who enter through the visitor’s center have the option to visit a shorter .6 mile trail instead, which takes about forty-five minutes to walk. Apart from these “explore at your own pace options”, thrill seekers can go on a tour with a ranger into other, less explored, areas of the cave with reservations, as availability for these tours is very limited. Children under four are not allowed on any ranger-guided tours. Make sure you check the website ahead of time for any required footwear and other restrictions before you go. On these tours below, special equipment is normally provided by the park.

  • The Left Hand Tunnel Tour is a moderately difficult two hour candle lit tour
  • King’s Palace Tour – 1.5 hour tour requires walking up a steep hill where rangers frequently black out the lights for a few minutes in the cave
  • The Lower Cave Tour is a three hour tour, accessible by descending down sixty feet of ladders and a knotted rope that you need to hang onto as you descend backwards into the cave at some point (this tour is definitely NOT for everyone)
  • For adventure seekers, the four hour Hall of the White Giant tour might be for you if you are not afraid of confined spaces or heights, as in some parts you need to crawl through some tight openings, along with ladder climbings and free climbs as well. Minimum age for this tour is twelve, but anyone under sixteen must be accompanied by an adult.
  • The Slaughter Canyon Cave Tour is a five and a half tour into places without any electricity into narrow, uneven, and slippery areas.

In my opinion, the best time to visit Carlsbad Caverns is in August through September, where you can see baby Brazilian Free-Tailed bats fly out of and into the caves, along with adult bats, during pre-dawn or evening flights. The bats sometimes fly up to twenty-five miles an hour and are an impressive site. There is a ranger program that provides education about these fascinating creatures at Carlsbad near the “Natural Entrance” to the cave in the amphitheater. Make sure you check the website before going to Carlsbad during the Covid pandemic, however, to verify hours of operation, tour offerings, status, etc..

bats flying out of the cave at Carlsbad Caverns: source: NPS

Speaking of bats, there is currently a huge concern with the bats at Carlsbad developing a disease called “White Nose Syndrome”, which has spread from the northeastern to central United States. This disease is caused by a fungus that causes the bats to wake up more frequently during their hibernation and to use up their fat reserves too quickly for the hibernating season, causing them to die. Visitors to Carlsbad Caverns, like many other caves in the US, will be asked to scrub their shoes on a special mat if they have visited other caves recently in order to help stop the spread of this bat disease, which is not contagious to humans.

POOL OF WATER IN CARLSBAD CAVERNS, NEW MEXICO ID 23317928 © Alexey Stiop | Dreamstime
beautiful cave formations
impressive crystals
more cave formations

Although Carlsbad Caverns is currently closed because of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, it is normally open during the following hours:

  • 8:00 am to 7:00 pm daily – Summer Hours
  • 8:00 am to 5:30 pm daily – Non-summer Hours
huge stalagmite
popcorn ceiling formations

If you are looking for a good old road trip to an interesting destination once the pandemic is better and our travel restrictions have lifted, you might want to consider traveling to Carlsbad Caverns. There seems to be something for almost everyone here. “Holy stalagtites, Batman, ” said Robin!

Life is good; plan a road trip like no other in anticipation of when you can travel in the near future.

Carpe diem, friends………

BACK ON THE ROAD AGAIN WITH A TRAVEL SOLUTION DURING THE PANDEMIC AND ENJOYING THIS MOMENT RIGHT BEFORE US

With “Safer In Place” restrictions lifting in Florida, “Teen Traveler”, my daughter, and I hit the road for the first time in many weeks for one of our day trips here in Florida. We are still self-isolating but decided we could go on a road trip IF we are not near other people. We thought we would try a trip to one of the eighty Florida State Parks that have re-opened on May 4.

Road into the park

We decided that we would pack all our water, snacks and everything we needed so that we could stay out of the stores and continue to self-isolate. We had a problem to solve, however. My proper upbringing normally leads me away from discussing things of this nature, but we had to think about what we would do once “nature calls, ” as we didn’t want to expose ourselves to people who might have Covid-19, even those without any symptoms by using the restrooms. We also did not want to give anyone Covid-19 in case we are also one of the asymptomatic carriers. “Teen Traveler” and I decided we could solve this problem and decided we would make our own “portable facility”. We turned to the net to see what others have come up with and built this from the supplies we had on hand.

The only modification I have to add to other models we have seen on the net right now is to put a large plastic garbage bag (13 gallon kitchen bags work well) OVER the pool noodle, as this pool noodle would be difficult to clean. So, one garbage bag UNDER the pool noodle, secured at the rim and one garbage bag OVER the noodle, too. Contact me if you want directions how to make this “portable facility”, but the picture is self-explanatory. I will also add that it it a good idea to place some disposable diapers or santitary napkins on the bottom of the garbage bag inside to absorb any effluvium prior to discarding this bag in the garbage after use. With a solution like this, we don’t have to stay cooped up inside any longer.

That being said, we decided we would be able to travel ANYWHERE now on a road trip. “Teen Traveler” and I always come up with a travel theme song to start our road trip. Today, it was “Life Is A Highway”. We also play a little travel game together to break up the time while we are driving, so she enjoys the journey. One of us comes up with a word, and then we both try to think of songs that have lyrics or titles that include that word. That way, I get exposed to “Teen Traveler’s” musical tastes, and she gets to hear some of the older music she might not get a chance to listen to from me otherwise. Music is such an important part of her life right now, and I need to listen to her music if I am to remain as an important part of her life as well.

I saw this heart-shaped plant on the side of the road driving slowly to the entrance of the park, and it reminded me of the indescribable love and bond between a mother and daughter on the week end of Mother’s Day

We laugh, we bargain, and we enjoy the moments together while we have them. Today was a gift for me to be with my daughter, as time flies so very quickly. Before I know it, she will be off to college, but I have today. Someone once told me not to even think about the day that “Teen Traveler” will move out to college but to concentrate on this moment right now. Such sage advice.

We did not want to journey very far from home for our first outing in a long time while still maintaining social distancing. We took our masks, and we decided to travel to Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park to see some ruins of an old sugar mill, here in the “real” Florida, as the state park system advertises.

Bulow Plantation Ruins State Park is located in Volusia County, Florida, approximately five miles north of Ormond Beach, on the Eastern side of Florida. It is easy to find with signs on Route 95 at exit 270.

The park is open again, and there are self-pay envelopes at the entrance. The fee is four dollars per car, but bikers and hikers pay only two dollars. Take the envelope and retain a portion to hang from your rear view mirror. There is no one at the entrance, so it is very easy to continue to self-isolate here.

Bulow Plantation was the largest plantation in East Florida and was started in 1821 by Major Charles Bulow to cultivate indigo, cotton, rice, and sugar cane and eventually housed a sugar mill. Unfortunately the place was destroyed during the Seminole War in 1836.

The sugar mill on the property site was constructed of coquina, a limestone that consists of shells and shell fragments.

In addition to viewing the old sugar mill, visitors can rent canoes on the property (during non-pandemic times) and hike. There is a 6.8 mile trail that leads to Bulow Creek State Park, where visitors can see an oak tree, the Fairchild Oak, that is over six hundred years old. The land that houses Bulow Creek State Park at one time contained eleven plantations, each with their own stories to tell.

six hundred year old Fairfield Oak at Bulow Creek State Park (credit: Florida Parks)

Hiking is beautiful in these parts, with flat wooded trails and beautiful trees and plants.

Paddling along the river would be beautiful once the canoe rental restrictions due to the pandemic are lifted.

“Life’s like a road that you travel on
When there’s one day here and the next day gone
Sometimes you bend, sometimes you stand
Sometimes you turn your back to the wind
There’s a world outside every darkened door
Where blues won’t haunt you anymore….

“…..There ain’t no load that I can’t hold
A road so rough this I know
I’ll be there when the light comes in
Tell ’em we’re survivors
Life is a highway
Well, I want to ride it all night long….”

-“Life is A Highway” by Tom Cochrane

Life is good; find a way to get out of the house during this pandemic and live a little. Living a little with someone you love is even better.

Carpe diem, friends………….live life fully and live life well.

LESSONS LEARNED FROM A BUTTERFLY AND A TRIP TO FAIRFIELD TROPICAL BOTANICAL GARDEN IN MIAMI

Gulf Fritilary butterfly

Butterflies have always given me reason to pause what I was doing in order to enjoy their beauty. They are such symbols for endurance, change, hope, and life, and their graceful flight is such a sight. We would do well to keep them in mind as we endure our current global pandemic situation.

One of the most beautiful butterflies I have ever seen was at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami, which is normally open from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM daily but has been closed recently because of the pandemic. However, on May 6, the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden will open for limited times during the day and will offer guests two-hour visits in order to keep the numbers of guests low at any given time for social distancing. They have a butterfly conservatory that houses such amazing butterflies. The Morpho butterfly, a bright big blue butterfly with wingspan of about five to eight inches, normally lives in South America, Mexico and Central America and is one of the largest butterflies in the world. It was here that I saw my first Morpho butterfly, and I marveled at its size and beauty.

Blue colored butterflies are said to be symbolic of healing, joy and happiness and are also seen by some rain forest natives as a “wish granters.” At Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, one can see the butterflies up close, and it is magical when they land on your shoulder unexpectedly. Legend has it when a butterfly follows you around, it means you have something in your life that you need to address. If it lands on you, legend tells us it may mean we will undergo some type of wonderful transformation or growth in our lives, some big change might happen, or something new or refreshing might happen in our lives. Some people even think that a Guardian Angel might be sending you a message or a deceased love one might be making their presence known to you when a butterfly lands on you. I’m not sure about the validity of those legends, but it surely is a peaceful and unexpected moment, filled with joy, whenever a butterfly lands on me. It is more likely, though, that the butterfly lands on you for salt from your skin, scientists tell us.

tranquility on the grounds at Fairfield Tropical Botanic Garden

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is a wonderful place to see butterflies, as butterflies are released into the wild twice a day, an extraordinary experience. Beyond the butterflies, you can take a forty-five minute narrated tram ride around the eighty-three acre gardens to see some beautiful plants and trees.

narrated tram ride (credit:Fairfield)

This time of year the Brunfelsia, the Tahitian Gardenia, the Fried Egg Tree, Frangipani Vine, Siam Rose Ginger (in the Tropical Plant Conservatory and Rare Plant House), and many other beautiful flowers are blooming there. This is a great place to take a book, find a quiet spot, and read a little while or sketch in a sketchbook. Of course, simply meandering about the property is a great way to spend some time there, too.

fried egg tree (credit:Fairfield)

rainbow colored eucalyptus tree

closeup of rainbow colored eucalyptus bark (credit:Fairfield)

On a recent trip to a National Park, I picked up a bookmark about butterflies that caught my eye. This bookmark called “Advice From a Butterfly” (By YourTrueNature.com and written by Ilan Shamir) reads……

“Let your true colors show

Take yourself lightly

Look for the sweetness in life

Take time to smell the flowers

Catch a breeze

Treat yourself like a monarch.”

Life is good; “take yourself lightly and look for the sweetness in life”. Think about the butterfly and the healing, joy, and happiness it represents when you think of our future after the pandemic. I hope a butterfly lands on your shoulder soon, if for no reason other than for the magic moment it brings.

Carpe Diem, friends……………get out there and live life well.

ROLLING THROUGH ROSWELL, NEW MEXICO

While driving through New Mexico a few years back, we just HAD to stop in Roswell, New Mexico for a laugh or two and certainly a few great photo ops. Roswell is the fifth largest city in New Mexico, and the city really got on the map in the 1940s when a military balloon crashed in a nearby area. Residents were convinced that this was a UFO, but the military maintained that it was a weather balloon. Conspiracy theories were created and gained interest, especially in the 1970s, when some conspiracy theorists suggested that an alien was onboard the alleged UFO.

I’m not sure of the validity of any of these claims, but it sure seemed like a fun place to visit. I would suggest only driving through the place, as the alien/UFO area is pretty seedy at the present time. However, many things on this stretch of road, route 285 or Main Street, leading through the city have alien-themed photo ops. Even the McDonalds is saucer-shaped.

Even the lamp posts on the streets had alien-themed lights. This is the ultimate kitschy place and a hoot to roll through.

One place that was an interesting, albeit short, stop was the International UFO Museum and Research Center, where there were many displays about the history of the alien hype.

Display at the International UFO Museum and Research Center

By far my favorite place in Roswell is the Alien Zone shop, however. For just a few dollars, you can go into this seedy (and frankly dirty) little place where you can take funny pictures with “aliens.” This place is priceless in my opinion for kitschy photo ops. Granted I wanted to go back to the hotel to take a shower after posing with some of these old props that could have used a good cleaning, it was worth the laughter thereafter.

There are several “scenes” where you can walk into and take pictures. Some of the scenes are better than others but definitely worth a few dollars (if you have some hand sanitizer).

Traveling through New Mexico, you just have to roll through Roswell for a few laughs if nothing else. It is out of this world.

Life is good; find somewhere kitschy to take photos and laugh thereafter, LONG after.

Carpe diem, friends…………………….

WHITE SANDS NATIONAL PARK IN NEW MEXICO

A few years back I remembered reading about a place where one can actually go “sledding” down a hill of white sand. Longing to teach my Florida child, “Teen Traveler” a bit about another kind of sledding, I couldn’t wait to go there. We planned a trip to New Mexico to see this incredible place of large dunes. I learned this white sand isn’t really sand at all but really is gypsum, a mineral that covers about two hundred and seventy-five square miles of desert in New Mexico. Gypsum is used for many things, I learned. It can be used as plaster in surgical casts, as an additive in many foods (ice cream and tofu among others), for brewing beer and mead, for creating drywall, wallboard, plasterboard, for binding tennis court clay, as molds for dental impression plasters, as a hardening agent in Portland cement, in chalk, in hair products and even in some toothpastes.

White Sands National Park, known as the world’s largest gypsum dunefield, is located approximately fifteen miles southwest of Alamagordo. Some time during World War II, the military started using this place for scientific research and missile testing in the area. Missile tests are still conducted near here from time to time. The dunes are sixty feet high in some spots and are breathtaking to see. The bright blue sky against the whitish dunes is remarkable, almost other worldly.

There are picnic areas and limited back country camping allowed in some spots here. At the visitor center, you can purchase a round saucer-type plastic sled along with some wax to coat the bottom of the sled to make it easier to slide down the dunes. You may also bring your own plastic sled from home, as this is allowed. Round saucer-type sleds seem to work best, though. Sledding is lots of fun here, and so is climbing back up to the top of the dunes afterwards. Although currently closed because of the covid pandemic, normally the visitor center is open 364 days a year (closed on Christmas). The visitor contains a gift shop with snacks and drinks, too, along with rest rooms. There is no water available on the dune fields, so plan ahead. It can get very hot out there.

Life is good. Go out and have some fun all over again. Sledding for both children and adults is a blast.

Carpe diem, friends………………

KASHA-KATUWE TENT ROCKS IN NEW MEXICO

I am well on my way to finishing one of my “bucket list” items, to visit all fifty states during my lifetime. To date, I have visited thirty-eight states so far. That means only TWELVE states remaining to visit.

Not too long ago, we visited New Mexico because we had never been there. I was especially interested in visiting Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument because I love geologic formations. Located about forty miles from Santa Fe, New Mexico, in north central New Mexico, these breathtaking rock formations were formed by volcanic activity six to seven million years ago. The landscape here is breathtaking with its pointed cones, or hoodoos, of pumice, ash and tuff.

Stunning pinkish and gray stripes on the hoodoos are the result of layers of volcanic material that were deposited there.

If you are ambitious, you can hike three hundred feet to get to the top of the mesa for a spectacular view (of COURSE we did it).

Hours of operation are between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., with the last entry at 4:00 PM. Entrance fees are $5.00 for groups of up to eight people. While there are restrooms on site, it is important to bring your own canteen or water bottle, as there is no drinking water available there.

The hoodoos of the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument in New Mexico were worth the trip in my opinion. These pointed hoodoos were like nothing I’ve ever seen before and took my breath away.

Life is good. Try to find something that takes your breath away today and make a plan for the time when you can travel again. Armchair travel to places I’ve been or to places I want to go keeps me sane while living life through a lens and self-isolating during this pandemic.

Carpe diem, friends…………………