Thursday, August 18, 2016

Dog Days of Summer, Bike Camping and Photography at New Mexico

Picture of tent for bike camping in New Mexico
New Mexico monsoon weather provided rainbows, cooler temps and fun bike camping.

Picture of woman working with chicken wire in New Mexico
Sis working at Granny B's in New Mexico
"Woe be the person who only writes about the bad things that have happened to them".  I forget who that quote was from but was in reference to warning folks who like to journal about documenting and focusing on the challenges or troubles in their lives.  That having been said I want to run down the list of occurrences during my effort to go bike touring this summer, for posterity of course.

Going back to early July I had gotten the "green light" to pack my touring bike and pedal out as soon as I was ready.  With our family owned business it can sometimes be difficult to schedule a weekend bike camping trip let alone a few weeks long bike tour.  So, with bike packed and ready I began to settle into the mindset of stove cooked meals, snacks and sleeping in my tent, which for me is sort of a meditative state of fun, adventurous acceptance.  Then came the news that the sixteen year old girl I live with had convinced her mom that it was ok for her long distance eighteen year old boyfriend to come stay the night for three nights.  What?!?!  Oh no, no with the plan that he would somehow sleep in the house while the sixteen year old slept in bed with her mom.  After more than five years of sleeping with Lisa (the mom) I know how soundly she sleeps by drowning out all other noise with her snoring.  Nope, that sleeping situation wouldn't do.

So, the boyfriend was going to get a three to four hour bus ride here when his mom decided that wasn't safe enough.  Consequently I was notified at the last minute, just as I was getting ready to leave that Lisa would be driving six to seven hours round trip to go pick up said boyfriend for their little sleep over.

Picture of Pacific Domes solar powered bike repair workshop tent
Kid was relegated to the dome
I immediately set about cleaning up the neglected dome workshop for the kid to sleep in and generously purchased a fifteen dollar fan for the warm humid evenings here.  I don't understand how that decision(s) were made, if there was some sort of brainwashing of the gals I live with by the fire juggling stage act of a boyfriend (that's his trip) as I know that if she were dating one of the boys from our cooking campout classes over the past five years the boy would know he'd be sleeping outside in a tent or dome without question.

Ok, so with the kid's nice cozy converted dog bed in place complete with light and fan after all what else would he need I retreated to my garage shop to keep an eye on things  : )  Of course it turned out to be a slumber party as the seventeen year old sister had to have a friend spend the night and that's when all the fun began.  Oh sure they were having a good time so me and Lisa (mom) went to bed.  Lisa passed out around eleven pm like I figured she would.  At around four am I found the romeo and juliet wanna be's making out on the couch in the living room, of course I did and of course they were.  Out to the dome with your hormones junior!  For two nights that followed I stayed awake in the workshop making sure he was in the dome before two am.  The rest of his stay was rather uneventful and I had an opportunity to vent some of my frustrations to Lisa about her decision to allow what I considered to be nonsense as it had radically effected my vacation plans which were all but set in motion.  "You didn't have to stay and do all that, you chose to".  Hmm, yeah that's a bullshit answer.  Next!

With my window of opportunity for a bike tour narrowing as Lisa was catching a plane to Phoenix to deal with some serious family matters concerning her mother's health and wellbeing we were wondering what we would do about a puppy sitter as there wouldn't be anyone here to look after the dog.  Then more interesting news from one of the teenage girls.  The seventeen year old decided it would be a good idea for her and her girlfriend to house sit for a week as practice for being potential roommates at college.  Oh joy, better keep an eye on them before I go.  Day one was basically like this:  "Hey Jeff, when are you leaving?"  Uh oh.  "Oh, I"m just finishing up some packing and making some calls", as I was actually talking on the phone at the moment she asked.  "Just pretend I'm not here while I'm busy trying to get stuff together to leave".  As I looked around I noticed the dog needed both food and water.  "Ok, we're going to the beach" she said.

And the rest is history.  I didn't see her again for a couple days.  The house sitting potential room mates didn't return until two am as I observed concerned parents briefly pull into our driveway and leave some time around midnight.  Consequently the girls were grounded "indefinitely" and I was home alone with the dog and some lost bike touring plans.  Then mom called with the suggestion of packing the car with the dog and coming for a visit to Carlsbad, New Mexico.  Anyone who's ever been to Carlsbad, New Mexico knows that it isn't much of a consolation prize.  However, I thought I could drive on up to Cloudcroft do some bike packing with the dog and have a good ol' time.  Then in a moment of clarity I asked "Mom do you need me to bring some tools to help work on the property there?"  She assured me that wasn't the case, so I packed the car with two tents, one for me and Lisa to sleep in (REI Quarterdome 2) as she was going to drive her newly acquired car from Arizona back to Texas and planned to stay a night at my mom's place in New Mexico.  For me and the dog I packed the Alps Mountaineering Lynx 1 tent.  As it turned out I would be very glad I brought two tents.  My sister and her two kids are living with mom in New Mexico so there isn't much room in the house for guests which is partly the reason for the tents.

Then out of nowhere my sciatic nerve pain flared up.  Since hurriedly moving a dozen or so fifty pound sacks of compost I was able to keep the pain manageable with stretching exercises but it had become too painful to drive a long distance in this case nine or ten hours drive time.  Information regarding how I handled sciatic symptoms can be found here.  After a couple days of stretching, pain relievers for inflammation and tens electro therapy I was finally ready to leave.  However, when I went to start the van which was parked in our single car width driveway blocking the XB it wouldn't start.  After working late into the night and finally jump starting it the jumper cables caught on fire and melted into smoldering lump of foul smelling rubber and plastic.  Next thing I knew me and the dog were driving to New Mexico.

Picture of dog getting road wind from car window
When the air conditioning quit working he didn't mind at all.

After a couple hours on the road the fan motor for the air conditioning of the little old '04 Scion XB quit working.  Temperatures were a bit over a hundred so I stopped to give puppy water but I think his wind blown cotton mouth is what made him more thirsty than the heat.

We arrived in Carlsbad, New Mexico just minutes and Lisa and her sixteen year old daughter in their fancy new car.  While driving Lisa received a very disturbing phone call from one of her aunts concerning Lisa's mother's care which had Lisa stressed out, angry and upset.  Then I was informed that after two months of telling her sixteen year old daughter that no, she could not go to Disney Land with the boyfriend she had somehow convinced her mom to say yes.  Of course, on both counts.  After everyone settled down me, Lisa and puppy cuddled into the REI Quarterdome tent and puppy jumped up to charge at something smashing into the "no see um" mesh fabric which caused stress tears around the bottom of the tent fabric.  I repaired the tears the following day with gorilla tape which actually worked really good but later I would learn that those repairs wouldn't matter.

After bidding a fond farewell to Lisa and her naughty kid I looked around the property and realized I wouldn't be going to Cloudcroft any time soon.  Eight years of neglected pruning of the pecan trees, a collapsed chicken coop with chicken wire strangling a desert willow, mowing, trimming basically all the regular maintenance of having a semi rural horticultural atmosphere.  So, yeah there was a lot of work to do.

I chatted a bit with mom and walked around the property discussing some of what would be nice for me to do while I was there.  I was happy to be of assistance, of course, I love my family and they obviously needed some help keeping up with some of the work required to maintain such a large piece of property with a shade house and a couple other out buildings.  So as we casually strolled about chatting and giggling at some of the family shenanigans that's when it happened, we smelled gas, called the gas company and sure enough they were at the house shutting off the gas in fifteen minutes or less.  It's an old house from the forties and consequently not much of the existing gas lines and fittings were up to current code standards.

With the yard tore up and workers crawling under the house over the next couple of days the atmosphere was getting stressful.  Afterall the more leaks they found the more the bill was adding up, my step dad Fred and mom began bickering about things if simply to vent their own frustrations at each other which I must say they have become experts at.  They have a method of not really hurting one another's feelings and seem to truly love each other as much as that can be described.  So, if that weren't enough my mom received a phone call that her brother, my uncle was in intensive care.  We thought about him all that evening and the next day he had passed.  Yep, no shit!  At this point I don't remember when exactly me and Fred decided to change out the fan motor in the car but somewhere along the way of all the chaotic profusion of emotional turmoil we decided to work on the fucking car!  Whatever, that's about the time we all decided we could all work hard to handle the situation and challenges being hurled at us with a few drinks in between sessions.  After all, Jeff, that's me was supposed to be on vacation!!!

Picture of mountain bike for touring amidst work scene at New Mexico property
Fortunately, despite all the negative comments and hooplah, a photographer's perspective always seems to help.

I began to settle in to a mode of acceptance and went about strategizing a work plan considering what tools were available and what needed attention.  We turned the sprinklers on to find that my tent stake had
Picture of repaired sprinkler line and tent while bike camping
Duct tape and hose clamp repair
punctured a hole in a sprinkler line, so had that to the repair list.  Then Lisa called from home exceedingly upset that her juice bar business partner who shared in the lease at our store's location was quitting!  What?!

Yep, she had an enlightening one week new age mumbo jumbo upheaval that taught her to work less, play more and find more "free time".  Hmm, ok while I was supposed to be on vacation!  Yay!  Wow, what a party, huh?  It was actually a bit more dragged out than that, the gal simply quit showing up for work, laid off the staff and wouldn't share with anyone why or what she was doing.  Well, later we found out the aforementioned information.  A highlight of the time spent working at Granny B's (as mom is affectionately known as) was visiting with my sixteen year old niece and two year old nephew.  After lawn mower and weed eater wouldn't start due to having sat with old gas in them thus lacquering the carburetors making them difficult to run I sat down, hot, tired and a wee bit dejected.  That's when my sweet niece offered to mow the lawn with a push mower, that a girl.

Picture of kid helping with chores in New Mexico
That's the most real help a teenage girl had offered all summer and I spent a good portion of the summer with plenty of teenage girls mucking about the house.

During this time when my niece would ride her bike to run their one year old black lab she kept encountering a yellow lab that would follow her home and then wouldn't leave.  My sister and niece returned the dog home several times where it was simply tied up and left on the front porch.  This futile exercise of returning the dog to its' owner had "Roo" (stray yellow lab dog) sleeping outside my tent even with thunder, rain and lightning I found him curled up outside my little one person tent.

He's a sweet dog and all but after he tore the side of the three hundred dollar REI Quarterdome 2 person tent beyond repair I began to reconsider how good of a dog he really was.

Picture of stray yellow lab dog with ripped tent in background
Naughty pup who knows it

I didn't get too upset about the tent incident as I had mentioned before I brought a second tent as backup.  Besides that, I was on a roll with plenty of motivation and good vibes toward getting work done on the property.  The gas leak was all but wrapped up and there was a sense of relief that we were on the back side of the turmoil.

Just about the time we were getting a sigh of relief my sister informs me that our dad and his wife will be arriving in town from North Carolina in a couple days.  You gotta be shitting me! is all I could say.  Mom was still grieving the loss of her brother and the idea of her having to visit with her ex husband just seemed absurd.  But as they say everything happens for a reason and perhaps it was all for the best.  Of course that's how it turned out but when you're going through it it doesn't seem that way sometimes.  Most importantly though we had each other and it all actually seemed a bit trivial with the passing of our uncle.

I had considered staying to visit with my dad who I haven't spoken with for a couple years but felt the need to return home to help Lisa with all the changes going on at her store.  After getting everything buttoned up and packed I was asked if I would take the dog home with me, since the dog I had arrived with rode home with Lisa and her daughter.  I knew my dog would be a bit intolerant of another dog at our house but after a while would relax and accept him as a buddy. So I decided that my dog needed some more socializing and that I would bring the dog home for him.  He's been put in charge of disciplining the year old stray pup and so far so good.  Besides we could use a bit more "boy energy" (as Lisa calls it) around the house.  After driving with my dog "Sachs" on the right to New Mexico I brought "Roo" the other dog back home with me.  So, the Dog Days of Summer this hot August in New Mexico has come to an end while back home in Texas more changes are sure to come with Lisa being a hopefully happy owner of a newly designed Juice Bar.

Picture of two different dogs riding in car

Considering all the seemingly nonsensical nonsense on the part of certain parties behaviors I didn't really ever lose my temper or burst out in anger.  After all I was taught how to get even and I did already, now it's time to plan another cooler weather bike tour.  : )
Hope everyone has or had an awesome summer, kids start school here next week, oh goody.

Picture of dog owner holding his two dogs playfully

Adding an update to this post for several reasons.  We are joyfully celebrating Lisa's birthday while also honoring her recent acquisition of the juice bar (more about that later).  Another update, no we are not buying a juice bar, whatever I'm actually very glad.  Of a more serious nature is that I received a call from my mom yesterday afternoon that my sister had gone camping "somewhere" and was to be considered missing if nobody had heard from her for twenty four hours since the time she had said she would be home.  As avid campers, backpackers, hikers, bike enthusiasts already know whether expert or novice you always let folks know where you plan to go and some sort of scheduling.  It's only the very naive, immature and negligent that fail to communicate with those who care about them, consequently creating what could have otherwise been an easily avoided stress induced worrying.  As my niece said her "level of anxiety was over the top".  This is the second time one of the gals I care about went missing for awhile without calling or making an effort to check in.  If technology provides solutions to anything it offers easy methods to communicate and avoid such needless worry and concern.  There's no excuse for paying for a phone and not using it in the most practical manner for which it is designed.
There, this has been a direct response to a friend who asked if I was adding content to my personal photography blog and felt disappointed when apparently expecting there to be some sort of juicy drama content which I suppose some folks associate with "personal".   Stuff happens in everyone's life often contributing to the idea that life is somehow hard.  I just hope that everyone touched or effected by some if not all of the events that took place of the past several weeks are realizing how easy it is to make life easier for themselves and those they care about.  That's how we move forward.

Here's my contribution to the bike photography portion of this blog which helped to maintain a positive can do attitude by what I consider to be a method of appreciation for the simple beauty of the place and location. Fortunately the folks responsible for the unfortunate mishap of spreading undo stress and concern are alright.

Picture of mountain bike and barn doors at New Mexico
Before we started working I created some New Mexico desert theme pics for inspiration

Picture of desert weathered antique bike and car in New Mexico
Antique Hiawatha cruiser, made notes for repairs as the odd shape of frame wouldn't fit on the Saris bike rack.
Picture of mountain bike next to home made outdoor pallet table
Not some of my best work but the gals sure appreciated the outdoor pallet potting table
Picture of Hudson car and owner in New Mexico
Fred, "not your average old guy" an old school automotive guru with his classic Hudson sedan.

Picture of little boy kicking it at dinner table
Another highlight of the trip was "kicking it" with my two year old nephew Rowan and his fondness for my Contigo Travel Mug.

Picture of New Mexico property owner with garden scene
And of course a pic of the one and only Granny B assessing all that occurs on her property.  That's how we found the fricken gas leak. 
Picture of agave texture at New Mexico
Never noticed the textured pattern of agave until I photographed it.
Picture of mountain bike on path with Pecos River Flume, Carlsbad, New Mexico
Pecos River Flume, hundred twenty years old is oldest structure in Carlsbad, New Mexico
Picture of weathered wall textures and chair in New Mexico
Weathered textures of the well pump house..

Picture of southwestern colored style chair in New Mexico
What a cool, colorful chair, such a southwestern feel.