Saturday, December 3, 2011

On the way to Pietown

When the agony of sameness and solitude crush down on me, a drive with my Sweet Man is just the ticket to raise my spirits. He is, as he loves to say to others as a compliment, a scholar and a gentleman. after 40 years he certainly knows what it takes to rescue me from myself.

I will say that I am the one who imposes my hermit like condition, especially this time of year. While I love people, I have to reserve the right to hold myself from the partakers of the fa la la la la during this time because of the "oh so mixed messages" oozing from their pores. If I am left to create my own reality and surroundings then I am fine, but even that is weighed down by exposure to wrong "holiday spirit". I have come to the conclusion (albeit self analyzed and approved) that like Ry, I need a controlled environment to thrive.

So there you have my dilemma. I want to be alone but I want to be entertained and educated with some bits of information befitting my trivial pursuit brain. So to surprise and thrill me, we headed for Pietown which is to the southwest of Albuquerque located in Catron County. Very rancher, cowboy, country, rustic, primitive, flash back to a different era, kinda place.

Knowing that we had a really big storm heading this way coming from the west would have been a reason not to travel for normal folks but..........that is one thing that no one has ever accused the SM and I of being. He loves to drive. He was raised in the Colorado Springs/Denver area and knows how to drive during inclement winter weather and besides, he could see me raveling at the edges and was less afraid of the storm than my stormy mood as of late. So Dr. Sweet Man and I left early for a "drive".

I haven't processed any of the photos of what we saw, sorry. I'll get them on here soon. And I fear with all the good new stuff I have whirling about inside my very small capacity orb that I need to make this a multi post anyway. So, I'll just tell you about drive itself, the wildlife viewed, then a VSS (very special sight) and by then you'll be tired of my ride and I will too.

The sky certainly foretold the weather event to come, even early in the morning. We drove south on I25 into the storm. I am always amazed at the colors of the landscape in this area of NM no matter what the season, but in the late autumn/early winter right after the fields are cleared of whatever their bounty given was, the patchwork of golds, dry green, camel, black from the burn offs, reds, burgundy and rich brown are so deep and inviting. There are so many natural grasses, wheat like weeds and corn fields that feed the wildlife particularly the wild fowl that flight across this area on their way to their winter homes. We did in fact see flights of geese and ducks in their wonderful V's making their way to some place warmer. We also were touched by the color of the light that was produced from the storm and the moisture in the air. A very distinct grey blue sharpened all of the colors of the landscape and made the few shafts of sunlight actually spotlight areas along the way almost surreal. One of my favorite bloggers place was highlighted by some of these early morning shafts of light as we traveled down to Socorro where we took a westerly turn on NM60 to Magdalena and on to Pietown.

Vast expanses of land exist between Socorro and Magdalena. It is so open and must be very good cattle country because we saw a huge number of white faced black and brown (hereford) cattle. We joked that they looked like they knew exactly what was "fixing" to happen because they were all purposefully lined up, traveling away from the oncoming storm. Smarter than the humans traveling into the storm. Very lonely drive until we hit the mountains and then it was eery almost. The peaks were not all that high in relationship to the road and you could without binoculars see the pine treetops covered with frost. Looked like when I go out my back door and my grass has frost on it. Not like the mountains in Burque which are 6000 feet up from the city and 11,000 ft in height. I can see that there is white on our mountain tops but I can't recognize snow from frost. This was fascinating. Then I read the elevation map and we were at almost 8000 and the mountains were only 9500. So there ya go. Frost at 1500 ft.

And we never made it to Pietown. We got as far as Datil and turned back. Just a feeling that we had. No point in pushing if you don't feel like it is the right thing to do. It wasn't just the weather, it was one of those "don't do it" kinda feelings that both SM and I experienced at the same moment. And we have learned that to not heed a warning is like spitting into the wind, nothing good comes back atcha.

So we turned around and took advantage of found time to literally stop at the at the VLA which is located on the Plains of San Agustin, 50 miles west of Soccoro, NM, on route 60. We had driven past the Very Large Array a few times and always said we would stop "someday" and that was yesterday. Wowee, wow, wow. So much information and alot of it felt like I was trying to understand a foreign language. But oh my goodness it is unbelievable the amount of information that the radio astronomy antenna telescopes gather. I mistakenly thought that VLA was connected to SETI, I guess because of the Jody Foster film, but that is not the case. I also thought that the telescopes moved slowly, that too is not the case. Those suckers are fast....for as big as they are. Each antenna weighs 230 tons and move on a railroad track system. The array can span 22 miles. We saw the antenna move from pointing westerly when we passed on our way to Datil which is about 15 miles to the west and on our return to the VLA they antenna were pointing to the east. So 30 miles at 70 miles per less than 30 minutes they had completely faced the opposite direction. Considering that each of these monsters dishes is 25 meters in diameter.....that's fast.

We toured the visitors center, decided we have to bring the grands to see all of this. And that was before we used the facilities and saw the crowning achievement of science nerd types everywhere. In the bathrooms the tiles, which are fashioned after Mexican tiles are the VLA, galaxy M38 and star clusters depicted. I didn't have my camera and could have kicked myself for not documenting the quirkiness and sense of whimsy that was on the walls. Tee hee. Sweet Man came out chuckling and said...hey did you see????? We giggled all the way back to the highway.

And next time, I'll share about the wildlife we saw. Some of the biggest thrills right on the VLA land.


  1. Oh I just love the names of the towns round your way - Pietown, fabulous :oD

    Anywho, love the look of the VLA place. I remember going on a school trip to Jodrell Bank, where they have one of those huge dishes (and a whole load of other crap) and that was awesome, I can't imagine what a whole array of them would be like! Glad they had nerdy loos though, one can never underestimate the power of a nerdy loo... ;o)

  2. Even without photos, your descriptions are vivid enough to imagine the frosted mountains, the looming sky, the cattle turning away from the coming storm. The VLA sounds so incredible, I can't even imagine seeing them in person. And it is an absolute MUST, that the next time you go there, to take pix of the bathrooms, for pete's sake. MUST! Glad you and SM turned back. I had a funny feeling when I first started reading your post!! Weird! Happy Trails! Looking forward to next episode! P.S. I have been staving off the "miseries of the Season" caused by parts of the population who seem to think they rule all of us. It's a pain, but best ignored as much as possible.

  3. Sounds like a wonderful trip. Your Sweet Man is very sweet indeed.

  4. That's quite an adventure...not sure what the VLA is...never heard of it, but sounds interesting...might have to make a trip west to check it out, eh?..

  5. Awesome! Did you know that Bernard is from Datil? :) :) :)

    Ellsworth is from Magdalena... :) :) :)

    The VLA is awesome... I visited with my Dad a few years back... way cool.

    And honestly... I didn't know you and I shared the hermit like condition gene. xo

  6. My friend, even though you didn't have photos, I could see everything you described! Amazing! What a little adventure you had! I don't know anything about the area where you live! I find this all so interesting! I am glad you listened to the warning! It's always a reason, when they come! Big Hugs ;o)

  7. I also love the names but truthfully I am grateful that you are safe and sound. I await the photos on their arrival. Peace, Mary Helen

  8. Your adventures are why Denny and I continue to travel--you just never know what you'll find around the next bend.

    Looking forward to the pictures, and now I have a new area to add to our list of places to explore! Great post.

  9. I agree, your descriptions are almost as good a photos. That VLA is almost other worldly in appearance and the speed??? goodness.
    Glad you made it with out bad weather. I too find a ride to somewhere new clears my mind and mood.

  10. You don't have to convince me that you live in a wonderful place...sooo jealous!! LOL Wow, I haven't been to the array since my little ones were, well, little...and what a landscape!!

    My SM wants to take me this weekend up your way, but I'm being a bit stubborn...can't tell him for sure since I have these friggin' ristras I have to finish and send out, but if so, will let you know...we can have an evening of talk and rants. As for that controlled environment, I'm in that same boat with you and Ry...I like being in my happy place...don't friggin' move me unless I get hungry!! LOL

    Have a good one and not looking forward to the storm coming our way...oy!! Let's see how well El Paso Electric handles this one...pinchis!!

    Loves ya bunches,

  11. What an absolutely magical trip. Your beautiful descriptions are so clear that my mind formed the pictures without actual photos. I really admire your ability to always do that. You can make me feel, hear and see with only your words. Wishing you a beautiful week.

  12. I'm so glad you're trip perked you up! That VLA is amazing. The bathroom tile thing reminded me of the Newseum in DC - in the bathrooms they have on the tiles funny headlines, I walked around the bathroom reading them and cracking up :-) Have a great week, sweet Oma!


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