Monday, July 29, 2013

The First Vietnam Veterans Memorial

In 1960s, Dr. Victor and Jeanne Westphall bought the 800 acre Val Verde ranch in the Moreno Valley, New Mexico with the idea of building a resort. On May 22, 1968, their son, Lt. Victor David Westphall and 13 others were ambushed and killed in Vietnam. Jeanne suggested they build a chapel to honor their son and the others. Doc did most of the work himself. All but five acres of the ranch were sold to finance the project.

Completed in 1971, the chapel was a very futuristic looking. Even today it is quite unique, offering a place of healing and remembering for all who enter.

After gaining support from American Disabled Verterans (DAV), Doc and the DAV approached the State of New Mexico to take over the operation and maintenance of the chapel. The State built an educational center and gift shop, while being careful to not over-shadow nor take away from the healing message of the chapel.

It is now the only state park in New Mexico to not charge admission nor close; evenings, weekends or holidays.

To all of those who served our country in the turbulent 1960s and 70's, these images of the memorial are for you.

Sitting on a hill overlooking Moreno Valley, Jeanne Westphall selected a soothing site for the chapel.

From a bench on the grounds, a view across the valley.

Entering the memorial grounds, the view is relaxing and calming.

Offering cool refugee for all who enter.

The first reminder of war. At the peak, there were over 500,000 service men and women in Vietnam. 58,000 were killed.

This particular Huey served as a smokeship, earning the name "Viking Surprise". Shot up while rescuing the crews of 13 downed helicopters in one mission, it was rebuilt on the USNS Corpus Christi where 135 bullet holes were discovered.

Walking to the chapel, one sees the wide valley below.

Inside, the chapel is simple, offering a healing remembrance of friends and family members lost, as well as for those who returned.

For those of us who are old enough to remember, who can forget the yellow ribbons tied to trees in every town, village and neighborhood across our country.

A peaceful walk to the visitor center.

Once inside, photos from veterans who choose to share their memories of Vietnam...

Making friends with the villagers...

Drinking water from a nearby stream...

Lt. Victor David Westphall III.

In the library is a book aptly titled, "10,000 Days of Thunder"

Every May on Memorial Day, hundreds upon hundreds of bikers and riders gather to remember family and friends who did not return from Vietnam.

If you are ever in northern New Mexico riding Route 64, stop at the memorial to remember. So that we shall never forget them.

During construction, Doc arrived one morning to find a note scrawled on a piece of plywood. It said "Why did you lock the doors when I needed to come in?" Since then, the doors have never been locked.

Nite Da'mit,

Nite all.


p.s. David is buried at the National Cemetery in Santa Fe. Both Doc and Jeanne Westphall are buried here on the memorial grounds.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Repairs on Da'mit

Today we rested and did some repairs to Da'mit's farkles.

First we retightened the windshield mounts. It wasn't about to fall off, but the constant squeaking was driving me nuts. Even ear plugs could not keep that irritating sound out. Used some self-tapping screws to tighten the mount.

Then we removed the luggage rack that was mounted on the sidecar fender. Will need it in a minute.

Now for the job that I could not do until I had access to a drill, was to replace the rack that the waterproof camera case was mounted on with the one I just removed the sidecar fender. This was not so easy as the case is wired for recharging batteries for the iPad, iPhone, and camera. Had to loosen the seat to gain access to the fuseblock in order to release the wires for the charging system.

This is the waterproof Pelican camera case mounted behind the driver's seat.

Here you can see the rack mount under the case.

Two of the legs of the old rack broke from the constant Alaska road vibrations. For weeks now I have been strapping the case down for if I lost it, this blog would die an untimely death.

On the broken rack, one weld broke. On the other leg, the metal itself tore loose.

The repair went well, Everything is back together and working again.

Was asked what camera am I using and how am I posting from the road.

Right now, only have one camera with me, an Olympus XZ-1 point-n-shoot. Is kept in the tank bag where I can quickly pull it out when needed.

For writing and posting, am using an iPad 32gig with a ZAGG keyboard, when closed it completely encases the iPad to protect it. The photos are downloaded to the iPad from the camera memory card with that white square adapter you see lying next to the pencil. Can crop and enlarge photos with the iPad program. The blogging software is Blogsy and Blogspot is the site where the blog is hosted.

The white spot is a reflection from the overhead light. Dr. Pepper Diet is the drink of choice. Dr Pepper was born and bred in Waco, Texas. It was impossible to find in Canada too. Had to drink diet Pepsi......... oh how we suffer to be on the road!!!!!!! lol

Back to Da'mit. The rain clouds are moving in so time to cover her up.

Typical in the mountains is to get afternoon showers. The weather channel forecasted rain all day, but was sunny and nice, until about mid-afternoon. Then it started to cloud up. Just like yesterday.

The clouds came in from the east. Taos is 25 miles east on the other side of that ridge. Angel Fire sits in an alpine valley at 8500 feet. The highest point in the ski area here is 10,500 ft.

There are four major ski resorts in New Mexico; Taos, Angel Fire, Red River and Ruidoso. Then there are Santa Fe, Sipapu, Sandia(?) ski areas. There might be other small ski spots too, not sure.

Taos is known for ski-apres, Red River for college-aged skiing-drinking, Ruidoso is in the southern Rockies, but one has drive back and forth from town to the slopes, no lodging there. Angel Fire is a family oriented ski destination. Many church groups in Oklahoma and Texas bring the youth groups here for skiing. Lots of places to stay and eat within walking distance of the slopes. And it is quiet. The town shuts down early each night.

Looking north across Angel Fire and Moreno Valley toward Mount Wheeler, the tallest mountain in New Mexico at 13,000+ feet. We are too far south in the rockies for there still to be snow on the peaks. Angel Fire, Red River and Taos are scattered around the base of Mt Wheeler.

That concludes today's chores. Tomorrow we check the engine valves and change the oil. To do that, we have to ride to Taos to buy oil. The only auto parts store up here only had a house brand 20w50. Not good enough for my baby.

Nite Da'mit, stay dry,

Nite all.


Moab Hot Footing - Chama Cold Footing

On the road in Utah by 6:30, we watch the sun rise in the east. Decided to see what all the excitement is with Moab country.
As we turn toward Moab, the earth erupts with shapes and colors not seen before on this ride. The rising sun dances across the hills and plateaus.
First highlighting them, then giving them color.
Depending on the angle of the sun, is how intense the colors are. At time I wish I had a wider angle lens on the camera. But then I would need a 360 degree lens to capture all of the natural beauty around us.

A canyon for travel - road, train and timeless rock walls reflecting the earth's development eons ago.

Not to be out done, the wind has taken its turn in shaping the landscape.

Wilson's Bridge

An old log cabin awaits for someone to take its picture. The stories it could tell of freezing nights and blistering days.

Da'mit wonders why I pose her next to old buildings and equipment. I ask if she wants to pose next to modern equipment too. "Yes" she replies.

Here is Da'mit posing with a "modern" aeroplane.

Little did she notice that both tires are flat, the weeds are uncut, in other words, this plane won't fly. Dirty trick to play on the mule that has carried me so far.

The temperatures soared into the 90's in Utah, then began cooling off in Colorado but by then we were racing through Cortez and Durango to stay ahead of developing thunder storms. We could see the dark clouds gathering on the highest peaks first, then enveloping the lower ones.

We never had a chance, it won. Finally caught us in New Mexico.

By Chama, New Mexico, the cold wind and heavy rain was all around us. There was no direction we could go and not get wet. Now is as good a time as any to try the rain gear. Once dressed. we rode on. The camera stayed safely packed away in a dry spot.

Climbing up over Brazos Bluff into the Carson National Forest, the temperatures dropped. Cold rain was pelting us as we climbed and climbed. As in the song, Maybelline, the rain was doing my engine good, Da'mit actually enjoyed the cool front, began running stronger. Urals don't like hot hot weather. Saps their energy.

By Tres Piedras we were out of the rain, but still cool. There were no gas stations so I dumped the auxilary two and half gallons of gas in Da'mit. Crossing the high plains of northern New Mexico, we reached Taos in time to refill our gas supply, and get a hot bowl of chili at Wendy's.

The last twenty-five miles takes us back into the high country. Expecting more rain, we re-suited. We finally arrive at our destination - Angel Fire. AF is a winter ski resort with a mountain biking center in the summers.

Here we will rest and perform maintenance/repairs on Da'mit over the next several days. At 8500' elevation, I will not be moving very fast up here.

Nite Da'mit,

Nite all.

p.s. awoke to 55 degree dry sunny day. Ain't life grand!


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Utah is HOT

After the long ride yesterday, we got a late start today. Not on the road until 7 am. We thpought the last of the loneliest road was behind us,. We were wrong.

Today the sun was out in full force. Temps went over 100 today. No rain though.

Spotted an orchard of turbines in the wind farm.....

none of them were turning. Too hot to work?
Crossing another high pass, we spotted an unusual ranch gate.
They specialize in antler art, lamps, etc. Must be a lot of elk in this area in order to find that many sheds.
We didn't see any animals today. Well one, but not sure what it is.....
What do you think it looks like?
Finally we cross into Utah, see our first salt lake...

Da'mit thinks Americans are silly. She doesn't understand why some one would throw a good pair of shoes up into a tree. I didn't have an answer for her. She said there must be a lot of Americans walking around barefooted.

The tree of shoes..... near Hinckley, Utah.

Crossing Utah we saw some spectacular scenery, full of color... HOT colors, not watercolors for sure.

Some trees have dried up waiting for rain.

Reaching Green River, UT, we were exhausted from the heat. Da'mit was suffering from the heat too, not running smoothly by the end of the day. In the mornings, she is fine, but by hot afternoon, she wilts. Might be gasoline vaporizing in the carbs from the heat.

Every so often, all day long, we stopped to re-wet scarfs, shirt and helmet liner. Even hot water will cool you when it evaporates on the skin. Plus we drank lots of water.

Tomorrow we turn south to Moab. Have never seen that part of our country. They tell us it is fantastic.

The forecast is for rain. If it is as hot tomorrow as it was today, rain might be a welcome respite.

Nite Da'mit, but she can't hear, is sound asleep.

Nite all.


Riding the Loneliest Highway

Was worried about crossing Nevada when the temperatures are hitting 100 plus. So loaded Da'mit with extra water and gas. Up at 3:30, on the road by 4 am. Will try to get in as many miles as possible before the heat gets to us.

Finally out of California, past Reno and Fallon, we roll east on Rt 50. Off in the distance we see a large white mound. Da'mit thinks it is sugar. Wants to go check it out.

Half mile off the pavement we bog down in soft sand. The aggressive knobby tire on Da'mit just digs deeper. When you can't go any further forward in soft deep sand, you are usually in deep enough that you can't back up either. Unless you have two wheel drive and reverse. Double shift and we back out of a sinking situation. No one is around to help pull or push us today.

After we get out of the soft stuff, we leave the mini-sahara behind.

Back on pavement, Da'mit gets this pensive look on her.

I turn to look at what she sees..... the loneliest highway awaits us.....
Route 59 crossing Nevada claims to be the Loneliest Highway. Must be the tourist season as we saw traffic most of the day. The extra gas and water did come in handy though... several times. When crossing the desert at Ural speed.
Da'mit's good fortune would carry us through another day. The temperatures stayed in the eighties and lower all day. Was not the scorcher we anticipated.
By the time we reached Eureka, thunder clouds, rain storms and lighting were circling on the horizons.

After taking the opera house photo, a Deputy approached asking which way we were heading. Answered "East". He said the rain was really heavy that way. Be careful.

Pulled out all my serious rain gear. Now fully wrapped, on we rode.

Thunder and lighting in full force off to the left The GPS indicates the road goes that way.

Storm clouds dumping rain off to the right and moving in our direction. Dark ominous clouds blacken the mountains and pass directly in front of us.

Every time we thought, "Okay, this is it. We are going to get soaked." We would reach the edge of the storm, and the rain would move off. The roads were wet, with water running off. But we never got rained on. Not complaining mind you... just observing that Da'mit's good fortune was in full strength today. First escaping the sand trap, then no sweltering heat and now missing all the thunderstorms.... Too bad they won't let Da'mit into a casino. We could be millionaires with her luck.

So tonight I showed Da'mit my appreciation by replacing her burnt fog lamp, cleaned her air filter and repaired a stone chip in her headlight lens.

Was another interesting day... saw a part of the US that we had never been in before.

And the adventure continues... tomorrow Utah.

Nite Da'mit,

Nite all.