Bellingrath Gardens, Alabama

Day 534

     Although Bellingrath Gardens, in Theodore, Alabama, is best known for it’s lush gardens, we went there in the evening to view it’s Christmas display which feature over 3 million lights with 1,000 set pieces in 13 themed scenes spaced around the estate.

     Originally this was the home of Walter and Bessie Bellingrath. Walter Bellingrath was one of the first Coca-Cola bottlers in the Southeast, and with his wealth built the estate garden and home.

     Tidbit of Information: The garden pathways are composed of flagstone that had been obtained from the old city sidewalks in Mobile, where they had been in place since arriving as ballast in sailing vessels. 

     We arrived just before sunset so that we could see some of the flowers. 

     As the sun set, the lights began to shine.

     They had some unique displays

     Ok, is the moon waning or waxing?

Battle Ship Park, Mobile, Alabama

Day 533

     Battle Ship Park is located on Mobile Bay in Mobile, Alabama, and hosts a tribute to those who served in WWII. It houses an aircraft museum, the Battleship USS Alabama, and the submarine USS Drum. We toured all.

     The USS battleship Alabama was launched February 16, 1942, therefore it was not at Pearl Harbor. The battleship was in 9 battles, 6 bombardments, and shot down 22 enemy airplanes. This was the sixth navy ship named for the State. 

     In all those encounters, it was never damaged from the enemy. However on February 21, 1944, during the Asiatic-Pacific Raids, one 5-inch gun mount accidentally fired into another mount killing 6 and wounding 11 men. 

     Some short people probably could not serve on this ship, as they couldn’t see over the deck. 

     Barbara thought she could have been a gunner.

     The Alabama carried a detachment of 75 marines. They were responsible for shipboard security, and manned the anti-aircraft guns. 

     Tidbit of Information: The marines wore a leather collar to guard against neck cuts, and hence the name “Leathernecks”.

     Like most submarines, the USS Drum was named after a fish. Drum is a large sea bass found off the North Atlantic coast.

     The USS Drum was built at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine, launched on May 12 , 1941 and commissioned on November 1, 1941. She did not arrive at Pearl Harbor from the East Coast until April 1, 1942. 

     The Drum had 10 Torpedo Tubes, 6 forward and 4 aft. When leaving port all 10 tubes were loaded and they carried 14 reloads for a total of 24 torpedoes. 

      The Drum was in 12 battles and sunk 15 Japanese ships. It is interesting to note that the crew claimed they sunk 27 ships. 

     Tidbit of Information: The United States had 254 submarines in WWII. 52 were lost during the war, with 3 by friendly fire and 2 by their own torpedoes. 

Mobile, Alabama

Day 529

     The city of Mobile, Alabama, gained its name from the Mobile tribe that the French colonists encountered living in the area. Spanish explorers were sailing into the area of Mobile Bay as early as 1500, with the bay being marked on early maps as the Bahía del Espíritu Santo (Bay of the Holy Spirit). Hernando de Soto explored the area of Mobile Bay and beyond in 1540, finding the area inhabited by indigenous Muscogee people. During this expedition his forces destroyed the fortified town of Mauvila, from which the name Mobile was later derived.

     The European settlement of Mobile began with French colonists, who in 1702 constructed a fort. It was founded by French Canadian brothers Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, to establish control over France’s Louisiana claims. These brothers founded many cities in this area (see day 316).

     In 1763, the Treaty of Paris was signed, ending the Seven Years’ War, which Britain won, defeating France. By this treaty, France ceded its territories east of the Mississippi River to Britain.  During the American Revolutionary War, West Florida and Mobile became a refuge for loyalists fleeing the other colonies. While the British were dealing with their rebellious colonists along the Atlantic coast, the Spanish entered the war in 1779 as an ally of France. They took the opportunity to order Bernardo de Galvez, Governor of Louisiana, on an expedition east to retake West Florida. He captured Mobile during the Battle of Fort Charlotte in 1780, as part of this campaign. The Spanish held Mobile as a part of Spanish West Florida until 1813, when it was seized by United States General James Wilkinson during the War of 1812.

     Went to the National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico. The interesting thing about this museum is that it is built to resemble a container ship, with each exhibit in a separate container.

     Unfortunately, Christmas is coming, and we must head home. We see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Technical Information:

Ponchatoula, Louisiana to Mobile Alabama: 139.1 miles

2 hours 59 minutes

11.5 MPG

Diesel: $2.44

New Orleans, Louisiana

Day 525

     Back to New Orleans to visit with relatives. We stayed again in Ponchatoula (see day 280).

     Went to the National WWII Museum. We started with a 4D presentation, Beyond All Boundaries. A breathtaking experience.

     The museum, consisting of 5 buildings, was divided into two sections, The European War, and the War in the Pacific. It covered all the battles of each. The museum was so expansive we did not have time to see two of the buildings dealing with the vehicles and planes used in the war, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) scientific advancements made in World War II.

Technical Stuff:

Duson, Louisiana to Ponchatoula, Lousiana: 116.8 miles

2 hours 22 minutes

12.3 MPG

Diesel: $2.40

Lake Martin’s Swamp, Louisiana

Day 524

Day 524 Lake Martin's Swamp LA7852_Fotor

     Lake Martin is one of Louisiana’s swamplands. I enjoy swamps, and so we took a swamp tour. This was done in a 16 person swamp boat that took us on a leisurely 2 hour tour. This swamp is situated between Breaux Bridge and Lafayette, Louisiana. It is composed of about 9500 acres. Lake Martin, also known as Lake La Pointe, was formed in 1952 by constructing a levee around the existing natural lake. The flooding of the surrounding area is what forms the swamp (an area of flooded, standing water).

Day 524 Lake Martin's Swamp LA7849_Fotor

We met the inhabitants of the swamp: Turtles

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Day 524 Lake Martin's Swamp LA7878_Fotor




Rayne, Louisiana

Day 523

     The city of Rayne has a lot to croak about!

      In a small town in the middle of Louisiana’s Cajun prairie, a stone’s throw from New Orleans, is a town called Rayne, where frogs have gained iconographic stature. Frogs and Rayne have a relatively long history that dates back to the 1880s, when a gourmet chef named Donat Pucheu started selling juicy, delectable bullfrogs to New Orleans restaurants. Word of Rayne’s frog delicacies spread like wildfire, and soon attracted the Weill Brothers from France, who started a lucrative business exporting frogs to restaurants. For years, world-renowned restaurants like Sardi’s in New York boasted of offering frog legs from Rayne, Louisiana. (Plagiarized from “The History of Rayne”, published by the town)

     The city of Rayne goes back to the 1800’s when the railroad came to town. The city was first called Pouppeville, but changed their name to honor the engineer who laid the tracks.

     We are in the heart of Acadia. The Acadians were run out of Nova Scotia and a lot of them went to Louisiana, so there is a heavy French heritage down here. Those decedents are now called Cajuns.


     Because of it’s frog heritage, there are frog statutes throughout the town:

     Rayne is also known for it’s murals:

     Many murals represent the business on who’s wall it is painted, and of course, feature frogs:

Duson, Louisiana

Day 522

     Originally known as “Duson Station”, the village of Duson was incorporated on December 16, 1909, named after the legendary Louisiana lawman, Curley Duson.

     Cornelius C. Duson was born August 31, 1846 in Opelousas, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana  He was the sheriff of St. Landry Parish, Louisiana from 1874 to 1888. In 1906, Curely Duson was appointed to the position of US Marshal for the Western District of Louisiana by President Theodore Roosevelt. He and his brother, William W. Duson, played a leading part in the development of southwestern Louisiana, including the town of Crowley, whereby an extensive area of almost worthless marsh lands has been transformed into the largest rice-producing section of the United States.

     We visited the town of Crowley which was born on January 4, 1887 with the construction of the town’s first building. By virtue of the town growing to 5,000 residents, it was officially declared a city on December 16, 1903. The town was named after Pat Crowley, an employee of the Southern Pacific Railroad, who was persuaded by the Duson brothers to lay a spur from the railroad to their town. 

     The city government of Crowley is located in the Crowley Motor Co. building. Built in 1920, this building was one of the first Ford Dealerships. With the introduction of the Ford Model T, Henry Ford built 1000 dealerships throughout the Country. He would ship his cars by railroad to these dealerships for sale. This is only 1 of 4 left of those 1000. 

Day 523 Crowley LA7945_Fotor

     When the cars arrived, they were loaded on an elevator to be lifted to the upper floors. The elevator still works, and is now used as an introduction center for the museums. 

Day 523 Crowley LA7934_Fotor

     The City of Crowley purchased the building in 2000, restoration began in August 2006 and City Hall moved in. The building is also home to four museums, The Rice Interpretive Center, the History of Crowley, J.D.Miller Music Recording Studio and Ford Automotive Museums.

     Tidbit of information: In building the Model T, mountains of sawdust were produced daily at the factory. Looking for a way to recycle the huge amounts of sawdust, Ford in 1920 hit upon the idea of pressing it into small blocks called briquettes and converting them to charcoal which could then be burned for clean, smoke-free heat. His sideline business encouraged recreational use of his cars for picnic outings. E.G. Kingsford eventually bought the process and the familiar Kingsford charcoal has remained a staple of backyard barbecues to this day.

Technical Stuff:

Beaumont, Texas to Duson, Louisiana: 124.7 Miles

2 hours 25 minutes

10. 8 MPG

Diesel: $2.50

Beaumont, Texas

Day 519

Day 519 Beaumont TX 7788_Fotor

     The birth of the modern oil industry began on August 28, 1859 at Titusville, Pennsylvania.

     So, why is it called a “barrel of oil”? I am not going to tell you.

     Tidbit of Information: Until 1880, the United States remained virtually the only source for crude and refined petroleum throughout the world. 

     Henry Millard was born around 1796 in Stillwater, New York. He was an American businessman. He founded the city of Beaumont, Texas, in 1835 and fought in the Battle of San Jacinto the following year in 1836 during the Texas Revolution. The town was named Beaumont after Jefferson Beaumont, the brother-in-law of Henry Millard (now that is not very romantic). The town was incorporated December  16, 1838.

    Oil was discovered at nearby Spindletop, in the southern portion of Beaumont, Texas on January 10, 1901. Spindletop became the first major oil field in America and one of the largest in American history. Spindletop was the largest gusher the world had seen and catapulted Beaumont into an oil-fueled boomtown.

     Ok, I will tell you: Wooden whiskey and wine barrels were readily available to transport crude oil when oil was first pumped from wells. Although oil is now transported by pipelines and tankers, a barrel, corresponding to 42 gallons, is still the standard measure.

     Beaumont is also home to the Disney fire hydrant. Why here, no one seems to know. The fire hydrant was dedicated on March 9, 1999 to promote the re-release of the animated 101 Dalmatians to the TV market. 

Day 519 Beaumont TX 7756_Fotor

     The hydrant stands 24 feet tall, weighs 4,500 pounds, and can blast 1,500 gallons of water a minute. 

Technical Stuff:

Waco Texas to Beaumont, Texas: 285.2 miles

6 hours 1 minute

10.8 MPG

Diesel: $2.50

Dr Pepper, Waco, Texas

Day 518

Day 518 Dr Pepper Waco TX 7699_Fotor

     Barbara wanted to visit Magnolia Market. Something to do with a TV show. It was in an old grain mill. Not impressed. 

Day 518 Dr Pepper Waco TX 7694_Fotor

     I wanted to visit the Dr Pepper bottling plant and museum. You can see where our preferences lie.  

Day 518 Dr Pepper Waco TX 7711_Fotor

     On Day 259 I told you Coca-Cola was invented in 1886, but Dr Pepper says they were invented a year earlier. December 1, 1885, was the first time Dr Pepper was served. It was formulated by Brooklyn-born pharmacist Charles Alderton in Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store in Waco, Texas. 

     The drink was originally called a “Waco”. The owner of the drug store, Wade Morrison, named it Dr Pepper. The reason for that named has been lost to history. Notice, however, there is no period after Dr. (There is here, because it is the end of a sentence.)

     In the early days of the soft drink industry, the carbon dioxide gas used for making the “fizz” in the water was produced by pouring acid over marble dust (soda). Now, don’t you wish you didn’t know that? 

Day 518 Dr Pepper Waco TX 7744_Fotor

     William Painter invented the bottle crown in 1892. He was a Baltimore machinist who also invented the cap (crown) puller and the machine to fill and cap the bottles. This made all bottles uniform, making the system a success.  

Day 518 Dr Pepper Waco TX 7731_Fotor

     We attended a demonstration of smell and taste testing, which demonstrated without smell, you cannot taste. 

Day 518 Dr Pepper Waco TX 7752_Fotor


Dinosaurs in Waco, Texas

Day 517

Day 517 Dinosaurs Waco TX 7654_Fotor

     In 1978, two men were exploring a dry creek bed in Waco, Texas, looking for arrowheads, when they came across a bone sticking out of the ground. They took the bone to Baylor University here in Waco, where it was identified as a leg bone belonging to a Mammoth.

Day 517 Dinosaurs Waco TX 7651_Fotor

     A mammoth is any species of the extinct pre-historic elephant, equipped with long, curved tusks and, in the northern species, a covering of long hair. They lived from 5 million to 2 million years ago in Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America.

Day 517 Dinosaurs Waco TX 7638_Fotor

     A team from the University began excavating the sight and found 23 mammoths, the largest nursery heard (adults and juveniles) in the United States. Some were removed for study. A dig shelter was constructed over the remaining. That structure ultimately became a permanent building opened to the public in 2009.

Day 517 Dinosaurs Waco TX 7641_Fotor

The Texas Rangers, Waco, Texas

Day 516

Day 516 Texas Rangers Waco TX 7671_Fotor

     The Texas Rangers were formed in the area now called Waco, Texas, in 1823 when Stephen F. Austin employed ten men to act as rangers to protect 600 to 700 settlers who arrived in Texas following the Mexican War of Independence.

     The land was Mexican, inhabited by Anglos, and controlled by Indians. Ultimately, the Rangers were responsible for nudging the Indians out. 

     The Texas Ranger museum, here in Waco, pays tribute to the Rangers, tracing their history and accomplishments (as well as their disgraces). It is well done. 

     Who was that masked man?Day 516 Texas Rangers Waco TX 7675_Fotor    

     He’s the Lone Ranger!.

     Yes, they had a room devoted to that hero of yesteryear. Although he was fiction, that masked man did a lot to promote the Texas Rangers. 

     Kemo Sabe was first introduced to the public on January 30, 1933 as a program on WXYZ radio broadcasting from Detroit, Michigan.  In the 1949-1957 TV series, he was portrayed by actor Clayton Moore. 

     See you later,  Hi-yo, Silver! Away!

Waco, Texas

Day 515

Day 515 Waco TX 7607_Fotor

     After setting up camp in Waco, Texas, Barbara thought she saw FBI agents surrounding the compound. 

     Finding a campground is a crapshoot. We choose a campground that is on our destination route and about 200 miles from our previous camp. At our last campground, in Abilene, Texas, we were right on Interstate 20, with loud traffic 24/7. I think we would be further from traffic on the median strip. 

     Today, we are camping on Lake Waco. This facility is run by Department of the Army’s Corps of Engineers. We are on a peninsula of the lake, with water on both sides. Being the end of the season, there are only a few other RV’s in the park.

Day 515 Waco TX 7621_Fotor

     With Barbara’s old age pass, we are paying the same for 3 nights here as we paid for 1 night in Abilene. 

Day 515 Waco TX 7612_Fotor

     The city of Waco was formed in 1849 after pushing out the Indians of the same name. 

Technical Stuff:

Abilene, Texas to Waco, Texas: 233.2 miles

4 hours 45 minutes

11.9 MPG

Diesel: $2.49

Abilene, Texas

Day 512

Day 512 Abilene TX 7602_Fotor

     Abilene Texas was established  by cattlemen as a stock shipping point on the Texas and Pacific Railway in 1881. The city was named after Abilene, Kansas, the original endpoint for the Chisholm Trail. Those cattlemen weren’t very imaginative.

     This area of Texas was once inhabited by the Jumano Indians, who were pushed out by the more hostile Apache Indians, who were pushed out in 1724 by the even more hostile Comanche Indians.

     The Spanish had been in this area since 1530, looking for the 7 cities of gold, which, obviously, they did not find. In the early 1800’s the Spanish government encouraged non-Spanish settlers to come to this region to create a buffer against the constant Comanche raids. Early Texas organizers, like Stephen F. Austin, were given large land grants which they used to offer free land as an enticement for Americans from the east and European Immigrants to come settle.

     The area was vast and lacked an organized government, resulting in conflict between new settlers and people loyal to the Spanish government, in addition to the Indian conflict. To help protect the settlers, Stephen F. Austin formed the Texas Rangers. These conflicts ultimately let to the Texas war for independence from Mexico in 1836.

     We went to the Texas Frontier Museum were we were guided by holograms (called Spirit Guides) through the museum.

Day 512 Abilene TX 7587_Fotor

     This Comanche Chief’s shield was found buried with him. It contains 3 women’s scalps. 

Day 512 Abilene TX 7574_Fotor

     Do you recognize this stagecoach?

 Day 512 Abilene TX 7583_Fotor

     It was used in the movies Hombre, Three Amigos, The Cherokee Kid, and the TV show Little House on the Prairie.

     Times were tough then. When you finally came to a town, you might use their community toothbrush.

 Day 512 Abilene TX 7585_Fotor

Technical Stuff:

Lubbock, Texas to Abilene, Texas: 176.0 miles

3 hours 31 minutes

11.8 MPG (we are going south, so it is all downhill)

Diesel: $2.40

Windmill Museum, Lubbock, Texas

Day 511

     The West could not have been settled without windmills. They provided water for the frontier town, farms, and cattle ranches. Most train stops had a windmill to pump the water to towers that they needed for their boilers. The American Wind Power Center has on display these windmills from the last 200 years.

     If you remember day 181 we visited the Kregel Windmill Co. in Nebraska City, Nebraska. I was under the impression there were only a handful of Windmill production companies, but today I saw over 200 different brand windmills on display.

     Even Sears Roebuck & Co. sold their branded windmill through their catalog in 1896.

      On day 114, when we were in Holland, Michigan, we observed their grist windmill. The museum here had on display numerous millstones, including the stones used by the Hershey Chocolate Company in Pennsylvania, which they used to grind the coco beans into chocolate.

     We learned that mill stones work in pairs. The beadstone is stationary and the runner stone rotated above it, hung on a vertical spindle. The milling faces of the stones are given deep furrows and groves that help break up the grain. Over time, these furrows wore down with use and had to constantly be recut, a process known as “dressing the stone”. (Of course you realize that as the stone wears down, it gets mixed into the grain, which you then eat).

      This would be a bedstone. The iron band around the circumference prevents the stone from shattering in operation. 

     This stone was imported from England before the Revolution. It is a runner stone, which you can tell by the cutouts where the spindle from the shaft of the windmill would fit. 

     The museum also housed a huge train exhibit. Not only did the trains run on a platform that ran the entire length of the building, 

but they also ran along the side walls of the building on a double track support that is 13 feet above the floor.

     To get the trains to that height required a spiral helix. The trains run along a track that is set around a 15 foot spiral structure that makes 10 loops around to get to the inside wall.

     This modern windmill is actually in use providing all the power of the museum. 

     It is the Vestas Model V47, a wind machine for generating electricity. The machine generates 1 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year. The museum uses half that and sells the rest to the grid. It is 164 feet tall and weighs 97,000 pounds. Each fiberglass blade is 77 feet long. You can purchase one for just under a million dollars, volume discounts are available. 

Lubbock Airfield, Texas

Day 510

     The Silent Wings Museum is located on Lubbock Airfield in Lubbock, Texas. It is in tribute and remembrance of the gliders used in World War II. During the war nine preliminary military glider pilot training fields operated in Texas, with one of those sites here at Lubbock Municipal Airport. This museum opened in October, 2002.

     The primary glider used by the Army was built by the WACO Aircraft Co. of Troy, Ohio. It was designated as a cargo assault glider, with a designation of CG-4A. The glider could carry troops, or equipment, including a jeep, bulldozer, or a small tank. It’s primary purpose was to glide silently behind enemy lines to bring or supply troops. 

     America was a slow starter in using gliders, even though Germany was using them successfully to invade it’s neighboring countries before the US got into the War. This glider was not used until 1943 during the invasion of Sicily. The result of this late start was lots of casualties, with 38% of all the gliders launched crashing. 

     The museum had the above restored CG-4A on display.

Lubbock, Texas

Day 508

     Lubbock County was founded in 1876. It was named after Thomas Saltus Lubbock, former Texas Ranger and brother of Francis Lubbock, governor of Texas during the Civil War. The Town was formed in 1884, merged with another town in 1890 and was incorporated on March 16, 1909 when the first railroad train arrived. The town’s most famous citizen was singer Buddy Holly. He was born Charles Hardin Holley on September 7, 1936 but was known as “Buddy”. When he began recording records, the record company spelled his last name wrong. 

     We went to the Buddy Holly Center. Not very impressive. Evidently they are afraid if you take pictures and post them no one will come to the museum, therefore photography not allowed. They did have on display the glasses he was wearing when the plane crashed. They probably should have wiped the blood off. 

     Buddy was only a star for 18 months before he died in the plane crash. I wonder if he would be so famous if he lived and people got tired of his music and then he died? 

Technical Stuff:

Carlsbad, New Mexico to Lubbock, Texas: 181.3 miles

3 hours 51 minutes

7.6 MPG (high winds)

Diesel: $2.60

Carlsbad, New Mexico

Day 505

Day 505 Carlsbad NM 7277_Fotor

     Carlsbad is located in the Chihuahuan Desert on the Pecos River at an elevation of 3,295 feet. We came to hike the Carlsbad Caverns which is located eighteen miles southwest of the city, within the Guadalupe Mountains

     In 1866, Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving drove vast herds of cattle along the Pecos River and set up “cow camps” in what is present day Carlsbad. 

     In 1881, Charles B. Eddy came to the area, and developed the Eddy-Bissell Cattle Company.  In 1884 the Eddy brothers and Bissell broke ground on the Halagueno Ranch. The cattleman recognized the value of diverting water from the Pecos River to the grazing lands on their Halagueno Ranch, which included the town of Eddy (guess whom it was named after). In 1899, the town of Eddy decided to change the name to Carlsbad, after the famous European health resort, Karlsbad, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), as both towns had identical, mineral rich, springs. Many of those residents settled here.

     James Larkin White was born July 11, 1882. He worked as a cowboy on a ranch not far from the town of Eddy. One day while riding his horse through the Chihuahuan Desert looking for stray cattle, he saw a plume of bats rising from the desert hills. Investigation led to the discovery of what today is called Carlsbad Caverns.

     This is the entrance to the cave discovered by Jim White. The drop to the cave is equivalent to an 80 story skyscraper.

Day 505 Carlsbad NM 7294_Fotor

     He began giving cave tours and made this wire ladder to descend the first part to where he could climb down. When the cave became a National Monument in 1923, Jim became a Ranger and continued to give cave tours.

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     He also built this stairway from the entrance.

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     They say this is the largest cave in the United States (don’t they all say that?) and that all of it has not be explored.

Day 505 Carlsbad NM 7317_Fotor

    When we got to the bottom, which took us an hour and fifteen minutes, we entered the vast chambers of the cave.

     The cave formations vary depending on how the water flows and dissolves the minerals, redepositing them as the water drips and evaporates.

     Stalactites, which are formations growing from the ceiling

 Day 505 Carlsbad NM 7416_Fotoru

      Stalagmites, which form from the ground up

Day 505 Carlsbad NM 7416_Fotor

     columns, when they meet

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     This is a view of the cave from the outside

Day 505 Carlsbad NM 7435_Fotor

     and from the inside

 Day 505 Carlsbad NM 7329_Fotor

     It took us about 4 hours to explore the cave.

Technical Stuff:

Las Cruces, New Mexico to Carlsbad, New Mexico 203.5 miles

4 hours 25 minutes

9.2 MPG

Diesel: $2.53

Alamogordo, New Mexico

Day 503

     The city of Alamogordo was founded in June 1898, when the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad extended the railway to the town. We came here because it is the home to the World’s largest Pistachio. This is one really big nut. 

     Pistachioland is owned and operated by the McGinn Family and is home to 12,300 trees and 6,000 wine producing grapevines. The original trees were planted in 1980 and the first nuts were harvested in 1984.

     The World’s Largest Pistachio monument is 30 feet tall and was built as a tribute to the Farm’s founder, Tom McGinn, in 2008, whose vision was to grow pistachios in the New Mexico desert.

     This ole cowboy, Pappy, sits on the front porch and tells you a story about the farm. 

White Sands Missile Range

Day 502

     In the early fall of 1944, as a result of America’s accelerated missile program, it became evident that a land range somewhere in the United States would be required so missiles could be test fired and recovered after flight for further study. These studies would provide data to aid in the development of future missiles for military application.

     A group of specially selected officers, including Lt. Col. Harold R. Turner, and civilians representing the War Department and the Corps of Engineers visited all sites designated as “possible.” One area, in the Tularosa Basin of southern New Mexico, fit the bill.  On July 9, 1945, the White Sands Proving Ground was established for testing German and American long range rockets. Just seven days later, the first atomic bomb test, code named Trinity was exploded at Trinity Site, near the north boundary of the range.

     Lt. Col. Harold R. Turner was the first commander of White Sands Proving Ground. Turner had the task of getting the proving ground ready to test rockets. There were no buildings, potable water or transport facilities in the area. Not only was there nothing at the site, it was still called “that place in the desert.” Turner is credited with naming it White Sands Proving Ground so personnel would have a mailing address. After the war ended Turner was informed 300 railroad carloads of captured German V-2 components were in Las Cruces. He was told to get the Proving Ground ready to fire them. The first 28 V-2s were fired during his tenure.

         After World War II, White Sands Missile Range became home to some of the German scientists who turned themselves over to the military, including Werner Von Braun, who were instrumental in the conception and development of the V-2 rocket. The range is managed by the U.S. Army, however all branches of the military services and NASA, as well as civilian scientist use these facilities.

     On display in the museum was the WAC Corporal, a sounding rocket. A sounding rocket, sometimes called a research rocket, is an instrument-carrying rocket designed to take measurements and perform scientific experiments during its sub-orbital flight. On May 22, 1946 this became the first U.S. designed rocket to reach the edge of space. This would be the first man-made object to leave the Earth’s atmosphere and  marked the beginning of America’s missile program. 

      Outside the museum is a missile park displaying a variety of missiles and rockets tested at White Sands.

Remember “duck and cover”?

Dripping Springs, New Mexico

Day 501

     We hiked the Organ Mountains, about 20 miles east of Las Cruces and Mesilla to view the Dripping Springs. 

     It was near this spring, in the 1870s, that Colonel Eugene Van Patten chose to build his Van Patten’s Mountain Camp resort and, later, that Doctor Nathan Boyd would decide to establish a tuberculosis sanatorium.

     Eugene Van Patten was born in Rome, New York on November 10, 1839. He attended West Point for two years. He came to the El Paso and southern New Mexico region with three brothers, at the behest of their uncle, John Butterfield, to work for the Butterfield Stagecoach Overland Mail Company.  He was a confederate officer during the Civil War, although born a Yankee. 
     Among many other enterprises, he acquired considerable land holdings, and drawn by the lure of Dripping Springs in the 1870’s, the enterprising Van Patten began construction of his resort, a two-story 14-room hotel with dining and recreational facilities. Not much is left of it now. 

      Nearby, he built a livery, where guests could stable horses and mules and park coaches and wagons.

     The Hotel guest had an impressive view of Las Cruces from atop the mountain.

     Some three decades after he built his resort, Van Patten rented nearby land to Nathan Boyd, a doctor and international entrepreneur. Dr. Nathan Boyd charted his own course in history—an adventurer in his own right. Born in Illinois, he studied medicine in San Francisco. He lived in Philadelphia.

     Sometime after his wife contracted tuberculosis, Boyd moved his family to Las Cruces and took up residence at Dripping Springs, placing his faith in the conventional wisdom that the high dry climate of the location would relieve her disease.

     About 1910, Dr. Boyd turned his attention to the construction of the sanatorium, building a wood-frame kitchen, dining hall, a caretaker’s house, a guest house and “ephemeral,” or short-term, patient housing. Given his medical education and his wife’s condition, he clearly understood the horror of tuberculosis, or “consumption,” as the highly contagious disease was often called. 

     By 1916,Van Patten, now an aging man, turned Dripping Springs over to Boyd.

     As a sanatorium, however, it would begin to fail during the 1920s, when high dry air and tranquility began to give way to new vaccines and treatments as a more effective means for dealing with the disease.

     Although we were warned about rattlesnakes before we began our hike, we did not encounter any, however, we did come across this tarantula.

White Sands Desert, New Mexico

Day 500

     It is hard to believe that today is the 500th day we have been traveling in the Sphinx. We have slept in 25 of the 50 states.

     White sand dunes covering 275 square miles in the Tularosa Basin in the Chihauhuan Desert in southern New Mexico, is where we are today. The sand is gypsum (the stuff Plaster of Paris is made), and this is the largest gypsum dune field in the world. The gypsum sand is much finer than the sand in Ocean City, and stays cool, even in the blazing sun. They say the astronauts can see this dune field from space. 

     A favorite pastime of the locals is “sledding” on the dunes. 

     Not to be outdone, Barbara tried it.

     Let’s face it, there is no stopping this grandmother.

Mesilla, New Mexico

Day 499

     A small group of citizens of Las Cruces were unhappy at being part of the United States as a result of the Mexican American War and decided to move south of the new border. They settled in Mesilla which was incorporated in 1848 and was an established colony by 1850. However, they were under constant attack by the Apache Indians. By 1851, the attacks caused the United States to take action to protect its people just to the north of the border, so they built Fort Fillmore and claimed the whole valley as part of the United States, while Mexico also claimed this area. The dispute was resolved by the Gadsden Purchase, which is a 29,670-square-mile region of present-day southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico that the United States purchased via a treaty signed on December 30, 1853, by James Gadsden, U.S. ambassador to Mexico. Soldiers raised the U.S. flag on the Plaza of Mesilla on November 16, 1854. This would be the last major territorial acquisition within the contiguous United States. 

     We stood in the Plaza where this event took place. Today was the New Mexico Pecan Festival. Of course, we bought pecan pies, and various pecan snacks. 

     Cura Ramon Ortiz was a priest appointed by the Government of Mexico to assist Mexican citizens who wanted to resettle in Mexican territory after seizure of part of Mexico by the United States. The settlers soon established a central plaza which included a primitive Catholic Church on the south side of the plaza and named San Albino. The church is named for St. Aubin who was born in 469 in Brittany, France, and performed many miracles there. In 1856, the primitive structure was replaced on the north side of the plaza by a traditional Mexican church, a fortress style providing protection from raids. The present day church was built on the same site in 1908 in the Romanesque style. Of course, Barbara wanted to tour the Church, which we did. 

     The Government building, on the east side of the plaza, built in 1850, at one time housed the Capitol of Arizona and New Mexico. Later it was the Courthouse where Billy the Kid was tried and sentenced to hang. Obviously that didn’t happen as he escaped and was ultimately killed by Pat Garrett. It is now a gift shop. 

     We ate lunch at La Posta.  The La Posta Compound was originally constructed in the 1840’s. Sam Bean and his brother Roy Bean, operated a freight and passenger service line to Pinos Altos, New Mexico, from this building in the 1850’s.  After the Civil War, The La Posta Compound became an important stop on the Butterfield Stagecoach Line. It became a restaurant in 1930. 

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Day 498

     The area of Las Cruces, New Mexico, was inhabited by the Mescalero Apache when Juan de Oñate claimed all territory north of the Rio Grande for New Spain in 1598. They governed the land until September 28, 1821, when the first Mexican Empire claimed ownership. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 established the United States as owner of this territory, and Las Cruces was founded in 1849 when the US Army laid out the town plans.

     We are here to visit with friends who moved here from Maryland. 

Technical Stuff:

Rosewell, NM to Las Cruces, NM: 190.7 miles

4 hours 21 minutes

9.1 MPG

Diesel $2.62