Thursday, May 20, 2010

No mo' snow!

Spring Break Day 7 - Saturday, March 20, 2010
(Part 1 of 2)

So this is the scene that greeted me when I woke up Saturday morning...

Uh-oh. Should have remembered to bring those tire chains...

The storm that blew in late Friday dropped several inches of fluffy white powder, which continued to fall as I packed up on Saturday morning. I wasn't exactly snowbound, but I didn't have a whole lot of time to spare before it became a possibility.

Mom and the kids had planned to head back to Fort Worth, but ended up delaying their departure until Sunday. I had ideas of going northwest to Albuquerque to do some photography, but reports of weather-reported road closures caused me to think otherwise. I could have followed the snow east toward Lubbock or Amarillo... I bet I could have gotten some nice train photos in all that snow... but the idea of several hours of slow going on treacherous roads before I even reached the tracks seemed equally unappealing.

Remembering how much I enjoy a good photo shoot in El Paso, I decided to head south. The "partly cloudy" forecast sounded favorable, and El Paso would be my quickest route away from the snow.

snowy Ruidoso roads

The roads were snow-covered from Ruidoso down to Mescalero... and then as if by magic, the snow ended and the roads were clear. By Alamogordo, the clouds were moving off, and in El Paso? Nothing but clear skies. (At least for the first hour I was there. But that's another story...)

Sunrise over Hwy 54 - southbound near Orogrande, NM

Driving I-10 through El Paso (yes, that's snow on the front of my truck).

The snow was gone, the skies were sunny... all I needed was the trains. So I pulled up to a nice spot in Sunland Park near the base of Mt. Cristo Rey, and made an unfortunate discovery -- I'd landed right in the middle of a track window.

Instant buzzkill! The tie gang was getting into position to work the very stretch of track where I hoped to shoot eastbound trains.

Trains were still moving, but they were on the other main line (on a separate, less scenic right-of-way) and were mostly westbounds. By the time the eastbounds started running, the light was no good. It was starting to get cloudy, anyway. Seemed like a good time to do some sightseeing away from the tracks...

"God is Mexican" - a mural I first photographed five or six years ago is still on display near the Rio Grande in El Paso.

If there was ever a place that needed to heed this message, it's Ciudad Juarez, the city which boasted the world's highest murder rate in 2009, and has long been known as a center of violence. Viewed from beneath one of the international bridges, the mountainside message (translated to English) reads, "The Bible is the Truth. Read it."

Later, I stopped for lunch out in Sunland Park. The tacos were tasty; too bad I didn't have my taxes quite ready to file....

Notary service, tax filing, and tacos all under one roof!

By mid-afternoon, several trains were in the area. The tie gang continued to work on Main 2, but I caught several moves on Main 1 nearby. The sun even stayed out for a few of them.

Freights over the Rio Grande. An eastbound rolls into El Paso from New Mexico. Just south of here, the Rio Grande becomes the international border between the US and Mexico. The driver of the Dodge pickup was fishing.

We're not through yet... stay tuned for Part 2 from Saturday...


np: Waylon Jennings - "Are you ready for the country"

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

time running out...

Spring Break Day 6 - Friday, March 19, 2010

All vacations have to end eventually, and time was running out on ours. I had already returned our ski gear, and some nasty weather was moving in. Friday was spent around the house, alternating between jigsaw puzzle assembly and reconnaissance missions in the woods with M while the girls played video games.

Time was running out as I snapped this self portrait on my cell phone... on the plus side, I'd soon be back in 3G range, and would once again be able to email photos to my sweetie...

running through the woods with M...

Rain moved into the area in the late afternoon, and changed over to snow as the temperatures dropped. Would we be able to start home on Saturday? Stay tuned to find out...

Vacation was almost finished, but the next wave of snow was just starting...

Coming next: heading home via El Paso.


np: BaD Radio on KTCK 1310 AM "the Ticket"

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

chasin' in the basin

Spring Break Day 5 - Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lauren wasn't feeling well on Thursday morning, so we decided to take the day off from skiing. I knew of a few trains running nearby on the UP Carrizozo line between Tucumcari and El Paso. It was another day of great weather, so I decided to head for the Tularosa Basin to get some photos...

I've always enjoyed the landscape around Carrizozo. As you drive down from the mountains to the lower elevations, the pinon oaks give way to wide open prairies... dig those wide open vistas!

Above Nogal, NM

driving US 380 near Carrizozo

I missed the first train (they really move out there in the desert) and had to wait a couple hours until the next one showed up. I drove to Alamogordo, did some shopping, and then headed back to Carrizozo. That gave the light time to swing around to a more favorable angle. I'd lost interest in the Carrizozo line after the lower quadrant semaphore signals came down (geeze, has it really been 11 years?) but the line still offers some photo opportunities worth checking out.

UP 7349 leads a west/southbound stack train, south of Carrizozo.

Near Three Rivers, NM. Sierra Blanca, where we had skied the past two days, looms in the background.

Pacing north of Tularosa.

Approaching Tularosa, NM

It was an enjoyable chase on a line I haven't photographed in several years.

Also seen in southern New Mexico during our travels was the work of graffiti artist "Irot" / "Riot". Irot's trademark cyclops creature caught my eye on a number of abandoned buildings and structures. I'd first noticed them on Monday as we drove from El Paso to Ruidoso, so I made sure to return for a few flicks...

Riot / Ante in Alamogordo

Riot in Mescalero

Irot near Ruidoso

Vacation time was winding down, but we still had a day left... check back soon for more.


np: The Simpsons on dvd - Season 7, Disc 1

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Epic Ski - Day 2

Spring Break Day 4 - Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Another great day of skiing... a little warmer than the day before, and less crowded. Gotta love those spring days when you can shed the jacket and ski in short sleeves. I even broke out my favorite pair of shorts for a few hours in the afternoon.

The only thing missing was the extra layer of sunscreen. They'd be sorry about that later...

Another great day on the slopes. This must have been the first run of the day; they still had their jackets on...

It's still hard for me to believe sometimes that L knows how to do this... and she gets better every year...

Good times!

M's birthday usually coincides with the Spring Break holidays, so he's become accustomed to celebrating it in New Mexico. After a "Pasta Mania" dinner at Alto Lakes, we returned to our lodgings to open presents.

Celebrating M's 9th birthday

The piece de resistance: the Lego Imperial Flagship. It would take us most of the rest of our week in New Mexico to assemble this monstrosity. M wouldn't have it any other way...

Up next: a day in the Tularosa Valley.


np: Split Lip Rayfield - "Used to call me baby"

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Epic Ski - Day 1

Spring Break Day 3 - Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The sunny skies and excellent snow definitely brought out the crowds... Ski Apache employees told us this was the busiest day they had seen in 10 years. The lift lines would be long, but it was a great day for skiing...

getting close... mile 10 of the 12-mile drive

Beautiful day

MV had never skied before; she did great and didn't even take a lesson.

stoked about skiing!

One of many rewards for the adventurous skier at Ski Apache: a view of the Tularosa Basin including White Sands National Monument.

Jesus Rocks (and he says hello)

Stay tuned for Epic Ski - Day 2...


np: Matthew Sweet - "Sick of Myself"

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Sunday, May 09, 2010

Head for the mountains

Spring Break Day 2 - Monday, March 15, 2010

The skies were mostly cloudy when M and I woke up on Monday morning -- a bit of an anomaly for El Paso. After a bit of sightseeing, we were ready to head toward Ruidoso.

Driving Paisano Blvd along the Rio Grande. The border fence in El Paso seems larger and more imposing every time I see it.

I-25 north in Las Cruces

US 70 East near White Sands Missile Range

US 70 East between Tularosa and Mescalero, NM

El Nino wasn't finished with New Mexico yet; we drove through some snow flurries on our way into Ruidoso, arriving in the early afternoon. Mom arrived a couple hours later with L and L's friend MV. We decided to stop by the ski shop to pick up our gear for the following day...

Ready to ski - L and MV

a buck near the Alto Lakes golf course

For dinner, we decided to go to Casa Blanca, Ruidoso's premiere Mexican restaurant. The kids might have disagreed, but I thought the experience was worth every second of the 90 minutes we waited for our table.

waiting for a table - M and Mom at Casa Blanca

One unhappy discovery I made early on was that Ruidoso hasn't landed on the map of AT&T's 3G coverage. I'd be able to communicate with Miss L back in Texas via phone and text, but those photo attachments would have to wait until we returned to civilization...

Coming next: hitting the slopes with L and MV.


np: "Commando" on Cinemax

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Monday, May 03, 2010

West Texas holiday

Spring Break - Day 1: Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spring Break began on Monday, March 15; the kids and Mom and I had planned to spend the week in New Mexico. Among other things, we were really looking forward to the excellent conditions at Ski Apache. El Nino weather cycles tend to produce large accumulations of snow in New Mexico's Sacramento Mountains, and this year was no exception. Southern New Mexico hadn't seen snow like this for five years!

M and I left Whiskeytown on Sunday the 14th; L and her friend MV would depart the following day with Mom, who had just returned from another trip. I hoped to be in position to do some photography around Van Horn by late afternoon / early evening, so we only stopped a handful of times as we drove west...

We were still in Fort Worth when we made our first stop to grab a shot of UP's "Western Pacific Heritage" locomotive...

Ghost sign at Trent, TX

West Texas windmills - an eastbound stack train passes an imposing backdrop near Roscoe

My friend Chris just happened to be dispatching the UP Toyah desk on 2nd shift that day; we enjoyed hearing him on the radio, especially when one of the train crews mentioned the presence of a "photographer driving a silver Toyota" over the radio to Chris. I'm sure it was pure coincidence that we were able to catch up to a couple of westbound trains in time to get some great shots.

One of the day's photographic highlights - a westbound approaching Kent, TX

West Texas road trip icon - the legendary Diesel Fried Chicken sign in Van Horn.

a quick self portrait at Allamore...

Pacing the UP 7828 west of Van Horn

M shot a movie with his new Ipod (an early birthday present from K) as we paced the westbound toward Sierra Blanca

Sunset at McNary - the end of an enjoyable day

We had dinner in Fort Hancock, where M got to know the local Border Patrol agents and State Troopers. An hour later, we checked into an El Paso motel to begin resting up after our long day. On Monday, we'd head for the mountains...


Tim Barry postscript

A few more reflections on the Tim Barry show...

It was interesting to step inside the Prophet Bar (which I thought I had never been to before) and realize it was the old Gypsy Tea Room, a venue in which I've enjoyed performances ranging from Hagfish to the Old 97s. It seemed appropriate that Barry, whose music I feel a strong connection to, would perform on the very same stage has which hosted some of my other favorite acts.

We would have enjoyed visiting some more with Tim after the show, but Miss L and I both had to work the next day. Besides, Tim had quite a drive ahead of him. His tour schedule designated the day after his Dallas show as a "driving day"; he had a thousand miles of Interstate highway to travel before a Thursday night show in Phoenix. With a schedule like that, there just might be another song or two waiting to be written.

A review of his Phoenix show is available here: It sounded very similar to the show we saw, with the exception of the multi-colored mohawks in the crowd.


np: BaD Radio on KTCK 1310 AM "The Ticket"

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