3/12/12 This post is being written while we are driving across west Texas – BORING!!!! Elaine is listening to an audio book while driving and I am on the computer. We are hoping to be in the San Antonio area sometime tomorrow or Wednesday. Haven’t been there for years, and it was so much fun and interesting the last time we were there.
We have been visiting lots of friends since we left Elaine’s relatives in Tucson. First we drove to Benson and stayed at the SKP park there. Kartchner Caverns are only about 20 miles from there so we made a reservation and went the next day. When these caverns were first opened up to the public as a state park in 1988, it was very difficult to get a reservation. Now it is fairly easy. The caverns were discovered in 1977 by some amateur cavers, and were kept a secret, even from the family that owned the land, because the 2 guys who found the caves didn’t want them ruined by the public or profiteers. After investigating the owner and learning that he was a former science teacher and conservationist, they knew that they could tell the owner (Kartchner), and they all then worked with the state to get the caves protected and properly prepared for low impact viewing by the public.
There is a very nice interpretive center, with exhibits, pictures and information about the cave and also the surrounding area. The grounds are nicely landscaped
and there is a small café for food, as well as picnic areas and also a couple of hiking trails. You can’t take anything into the cave, so taking pictures was out. Here is a picture of a picture in the info area which shows the very largest formation in the cave, called Kublai Khan.
An electric tram takes people to the entrance, and then you go through several sets of airlock doors so that the outside air can’t get into the cave to change the environment. It is about 72F and 99% humidity inside the cave. There are 2 tours; we toured the Big Room. The tour lasted 1 ¾ hours and cost $22.95. Our guide, a park ranger, was very informative and fun. Tours are limited to 20, and only 700 people a day can be accommodated.
After the tour, we were met by some RV friends, Warren and Carolyn Miller, who are volunteering at this state park for 6 weeks. There are 24 full hookup sites for volunteers in a nearby area, so we had Happy Hour in their 5th wheel.
The wind was starting to come up pretty forcefully, so it was nice to be inside. We spent several interesting hours with them “talking travel”, since they had recently returned from a trip to Indochina with Intrepid Travel, our favorite small group tour company. Luckily, they had a marvelous time, since we had recommended this company to them. It was a trip down memory lane to hear all about their adventures.
The next day we hunkered down in our RV because it was blowing so hard we didn’t want to set foot outside. Elaine was feeling a bit punk anyway, and I started doing the taxes. Dinner was at Mick & Ann Mielicke’s rig, and when we went out to get into the car to drive up there, the salad we were bringing just about was blown right out of the bowl! Ann had a delicious veggie dinner ready to bake
because we had previously discussed our latest evolution in eating – trying to get away from eating meat. Watching the movie “Forks Over Knives” has had a serious impact on us, and we are trying to stay healthy even as we slide swiftly towards our 70’s. The meal was delicious and we enjoyed catching up on all their news and plans. They are leaving for Africa in mid-April with Marilyn and Mike Harrison. Here is a picture of them at the table in their new 5th wheel, a Mobile Estates. Quite fancy, and with beautiful wood and a spacious layout.
The next day we drove east with the intention of stopping at the Chiricahua National Monument, an interesting geological wonder not far off the freeway between Benson and the state line. But it was still very cold and Elaine still wasn’t up to doing much. We also wanted to get to Las Cruces by the evening because we were staying at Stephanie and Paul Bernhagen’s and she had to leave the next day for a weekend book fair in Tucson. Good thing we were staying in their side yard where they have hookups because it got pretty cold that night and stayed that way until Sunday! Stephanie and Paul are always warm and welcoming and we enjoyed the evening with them.
Saturday and Sunday Elaine laid around on the couch and recovered, and I worked on taxes. Paul has a handyman business and is currently involved in setting up several solar systems for customers, so he was busy during the days an d then we fixed dinner for him each evening. It was a great chance to get to know him better.
Sunday we drove all of 38 miles south and set up at the WalMart in El Paso nearest to the home of one of our cruise buddies, Pene Demore. We got to know her and her husband, Ken in 2009 on the 46 day Around the Horn cruise. Unfortunately, Ken died on the ship just before the cruise ended in Los Angeles. Pene has been adjusting to her new and different life without him, and we have been on several more cruises with her in the last2 years. She is so much fun, and as soon as we called she drove right over to pick us up and also see our RV. Here she is sitting with Elaine in our rig.
First she took us to Jaxson’s, a nearby brew pub and restaurant and we had a light lunch, and a brew, of course. Then she gave us the $10 tour of El Paso. Here is a picture of me with her at one of the overlooks
And here is a view of downtown El Paso from the overlook.
On the cruises, one of our favorite things is to join our friends in the Concierge Lounge at 5PM and have drinks and appetizers and talk. This day we went to Pene’s house where she had wonderful appetizers, and we brought the California wine.
One of the interesting and delicious appetizers was local chilis which had been roasted and cleaned, then spread with honey, Greek yogurt, half a Kalamata olive, and a small slice of jalapeno pepper – yum.
Then Pene fixed a delicious dinner of spicy shrimp and grits, with salad and more wine, of course, served in her spacious dining room.
We were STUFFED by the end of the day, but what a great visit we all had. Pene has “found herself” in the aftermath of dealing with her grief, and is embracing life and her new self.
As we rocket through west Texas, we are making loose plans to spend some time visiting even more cruise and RV friends, while having more alone time at some of the beaches and state parks. But tomorrow night's goal is to be at the SKP park in Hondo, just outside San Antonio.