Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Real petrified wood and fake teepees

Just a quick update tonight, because it is late and I am tired. Besides, Louise has already beat me to it, with photos and video below.

We are at one of the cheesy souvenir and rock shops that flank the south entrance to Petrified Forest National Park (map). This one has a campground, with perhaps two dozen "sites," six of which even have electricity. Camping here is free -- an effort, I assume, to drum up business. If you use the electricity, it's $10 (we are in a no-hookup spot). From the looks of the "campground," it was intended to be a revenue adjunct to the shop, but I am guessing it never made any money. The other drum-up-business scheme here seems to involve a half dozen beater cars scattered throughout the parking lot, so the place looks like it always has customers. Tomorrow, we will stroll into the shop and perhaps buy a postcard.

After leaving our pleasant spot along the Rio Bonito this morning, we soon came to the small town of Capitan, which bills itself as the birthplace of Smokey the Bear. While Smokey originated as the now famous cartoon bear in 1944, a black bear cub orphaned in a forest fire in the nearby Lincoln National Forest six years later was given that name by a ranger, and soon became the real-life Smokey, who went on to live 26 more years at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.. We stopped at the small museum dedicated to both the icon and its incarnation in town.

From there, US380 brought us to the Rio Grande valley. After crossing the river, we made our way into Socorro, where we picked up US60 west, which brought us over the great divide. Toward the western edge of the state, on the plains of San Agustin at nearly 7,000' elevation, we encountered the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Large Array. Naturally, we had to stop in at the visitor center and take the short self-guided walking tour. This marks the third astronomical observatory that Odyssey has visited (along with the MacDonald observatory in Texas, and the Lick Observatory in California). At this one, I think Odyssey developed a case of dish envy. I won't post much more about it, since Louise will be posting some photos and maybe some video, and you can click the link above to go to their site.

Crossing into Arizona has thrown our biological clocks for a loop -- we just barely entered the Mountain Time Zone and have been adjusting ourselves to Mountain Daylight Time for only a day. Arizona, however, does not observe Daylight Savings Time, and thus we adjusted our clocks back yet another hour this evening. The clock says it's 11:30, but my body thinks it's 1:30 in the morning. I'm hoping I'll be back in synch by sometime tomorrow evening...

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