Week 15-  Dec 5-11 Week: Guns and Butter

Our church adventure for this week was a large church near our RV park in Tucson.  It was another good educational experience for the kids in several ways.  First, we were definitely the minority, the congregation mostly being made up of Latinos and blacks.  Some of the choruses were even in Spanish, thankfully with translation included.  The kids had not been to a charismatic church before, so we had a good discussion that evening about the differences between that style and our own. 

We left directly from the church to head to New Mexico.  Travel days in the RV are usually enjoyed by all as traveling is really quite comfortable.  Brenda and I have especially enjoyed the different changes in landscape we have seen go by as we motor down the road.  By evening, we made it to Las Cruces just as the day was fading.

On a trip like this there are days when you can’t seem to get on your game.  Monday was one of these.  An unusual storm had gone through during the night (incredible how we can bring rain to deserts… we’ll have to figure out how to charge for our services…) and behind it left high winds for the day.  We had planned to go to the White Sands area, but kind of wasted the day waiting to see what the weather would do, and trying in vain to contact my cousin in El Paso.  We finally stopped at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch History museum at the end of the day and then did a little Christmas shopping.  (It will be tough preparing for that aspect of Christmas this year, being together as much as we are.) 

The winds slowed and Tuesday was a great day to drive to the 40x100 mile Tularosa basin area, north of Las Cruces.  The White Sands Missile Range actually closes down the cross-basin highway during certain tests, but the only test for the day was early morning.  There was high security to enter the base to get to the visitor center.  Nate and I especially enjoyed the technology.  As a process engineer who does a lot of testing, I was fascinated with the different types of tests and measurements the WSMR can provide when a client is developing a new armament.  For the testing of equipment performance, they can simulate any environment on earth, including the environment near a thermonuclear blast. 

We continued on into the basin to the White Sands National Monument.  After driving through fifty miles of scrub land, we all of a sudden came upon the 750 square mile area of snow-white dunes.  The junior ranger program was excellent in teaching where the sand comes from, how the dunes form and move, and included a bonus on the architecture of the Works Progress Administration-built adobe visitor center.  After science class was over, the kids tried dune sledding and we all hiked the dunes until sunset. 

Wednesday was another driving day to get us to the Permian Basin in the panhandle region of Texas.  This is the area richest in oil and it was fitting that we found our first fuel below $2.00 a gallon since Montana in September!!  Gasoline at $1.73 and diesel at $1.85 was a thrill to fuel guzzlers like us, and a welcome sight for the budget.  How our driving landscapes change-  a week ago it was saguaro cacti dotting the countryside, this week it was rod-suckers, those dunking bird-like pumping units that draw up the oil. 

Thursday was our day to explore this area of Texas.  The Petroleum museum in Midland was an excellent introduction into oil geology, exploration, and production.  We also visited the Museum of the Presidency in nearby Odessa.  The hall of presidents was especially educational as it had a concise summary exhibit of each president’s accomplishments and the corresponding history from Washington through Bush.  The kids were singing their Chapel Hill presidential memory song as we jumped from one president to the next.  One of the Bush’s homes (where George W. lived when he was two) has recently been moved to the property outside of the museum.  We were all impressed with its modesty as we toured through it. 

As we are now on a set timetable, Friday was another travel day.  We plan to leave Harvey in the Dallas area on Tuesday, December 14 for a three day trip back to Minnesota for Christmas so we had to keep moving.  From Midland area, we made it to Abilene in time to visit the new Texas Frontier Museum. It is a fabulous high-tech museum.  True stories of different frontier folks from the one hundred year settlement period between 1780 and 1880 are told by actors who appear as three dimensional holograms in the exhibits.  Stories are always such a memorable way to learn. 

As we headed to the Dallas-Fort Worth area on Saturday we started reviewing the first half of our family adventure.  It was interesting to hear what one thought was a lowlight was actually a highlight to another.  We counted up the places we’ve hung our hats and the total is forty different stops, eight of them with friends or family and the rest in RV parks along the way.  With the perspective of hindsight, we all are finishing the western loop on a high note.  Combined with the anticipation of Christmas, family, and friends, everyone has been quite happy!