Archive | May, 2012

Gila Cliff Dwellings: Cave living at its finest

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

If Bandelier National Monument introduced us to New Mexico apartment living circa 1300, Gila Cliff Dwellings showed us the McMansions of the era. Compared to the cramped cubbyholes of Bandelier, the Gila residences are huge – more than large enough to accommodate groups of people standing upright. In all, the ancient Mogollon people constructed 46 stone masonry rooms in five large caves.

The site’s remote location, deep in the Gila wilderness and a two hour drive from the nearest town, Silver City, has helped prevent the theft and vandalism that has plagued similar historic sites. The deep cave structures, and dry climate, have also protected the Cliff Dwellings; preserving, for example, wood beams that were originally cut in 1275.

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Touring the Gila Cliff Dwellings requires a fairly easy one mile round trip hike, with a modest 200 foot elevation gain. Expect to spend about an hour exploring the area. We have it on good authority that the longish drive to reach Gila is enhanced with a high performance rental car.

Upon Further Reflection

We lead pretty good lives, so there isn’t much to lament. In fact, I often think that if a Genie were to appear offering me the chance to magically change anything in my past, I’d have to politely decline the invitation (politely, because it’s never a good idea to piss-off an all-powerful Genie).

After all, everything in my past leads to this present, which I happen to think is pretty great. If I made different choices along the way, I wouldn’t be where I am today. And who’s to say that would be better? I happen to think it probably wouldn’t be.

None of that, however, prevented me from gritting my teeth in regret at having traded in our old Audi as I tried to navigate our Jeep through the crazy winding roads that took us from Silver City, NM, to Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.

Every hand-over-hand turn screamed for an automobile with tighter cornering and better downshifting ability. I knew I was overtaxing the Jeep’s abilities when I started to smell burning breaks. With great sadness, I had to ease back on the throttle.

Meantime, our iPod random shuffle kept selecting classical music, making the entire episode feel like a Lexus commercial. I’d like to think the iPod missed our old car too. More likely, it was just mocking me.

Blogging from Space

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Launch

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Launch. Credit Chris Thompson

Over a year ago we toured the departure hub for all manned U.S. space flight. I have to admit, I found our visit to the Kennedy Space Center depressing. It reminded me how little our space program had achieved since the Apollo mission ended. Over the succeeding four decades we went from walking on the moon to, well, nothing.

It can be said that our original manned space program was born on May 25, 1961, when JFK announced to a joint session of Congress his intention to land a man on the moon. It’s fitting then that exactly 51 years later, on May 25, 2012, the U.S. space program was reborn. Not by NASA, but by a private company only ten years old.

For me, this Friday’s docking of Space Exploration Technologies’ (SpaceX) Dragon craft with the International Space Station represents the most exciting thing to happen since at least the first shuttle flight – and perhaps before. It’s exciting not because of the technical accomplishment. Docking with the space station isn’t new. It is exciting because of how it was done.

SpaceX is the first private company to ever deliver cargo to the orbital station. Only four governments have accomplished that feat. But shipping goods isn’t the company’s end goal. Its reusable Dragon capsule is eventually intended to ferry people too.

According to space station flight engineer Don Pettit, who got to float around inside Dragon for a time,

“There’s not enough room in here to hold a barn dance, but for transportation of crew up and down through Earth’s atmosphere and into space, which is a rather short period of time, there’s plenty of room in here for the envisioned crew.”

That crew may get to ride Dragon as early as 2014.

What we just witnessed is the dawn of commercial spacefaring.

And like the commercialization of seafaring and aviation before, leisure craft eventually follow. We never had a shot at blasting off on a government owned space shuttle. But with private companies at the helm, it is only a matter of time. Whether on Richard Branson’s sub-orbital Virgin Galactic or on a Dragon “X” orbital craft, I now firmly believe that EverywhereOnce will one day blog from space.

How exciting is that?

El Paso Mission Trail

A nine-mile corridor through present day El Paso, Texas, connects two historic missions and a presidio chapel.

Ysleta Mission

Ysleta Mission, El Paso, TX

Built in 1862, Ysleta is the oldest continuously operated parish in Texas

Read More…

More Marfa

Vintage RV Park Sign

The cool vintage sign that welcomed us to the Tumble In RV Park in Marfa, TX.

I originally planned on only posting this photo to our Facebook Page but then decided it would be a fine addition for here as well.

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