Canada 4, 17th June 2006.

Here's a photo I took a few days ago at Caprock Canyons State Park.

The next day was boring. As was yesterday afternoon. Fields of corn to the front of me , fields of corn to the right of me, fields of corn to the left of me. It was rather like the Beauce where I lived in France, but here the flat wheatlands just went on for ever.

There were a few huge cattle feeding stations to relieve the monotony.

1,000's and 1,000's of animals. They seemed content. They had plenty to eat. After all, that's the idea. A fat happy cow will make more money at market.

Eventually the scenery changed to a sort of desert scrub and I stopped for the night in a rest area. That was one good choice, it was an alternative route from Fort Sumner to Albuquerque and there was absolutely no traffic during the night. Consequently I slept well.

That was unlike last night in the rest area, a truck pulled in at 4 am and left his engine running and his lights on until he left about 6.30 am. Why do they do it? It's cool at night, they don't need to keep the air conditioning running and waking up everyone else.

I reached Albuquerque about midday and called by the visitor's centre. They suggested the turquoise museum. That didn't sound my style. I almost called at the rattlesnake museum but decided no. I looked at the Albuquerque museum but that was closed Mondays.

There were some statues. I liked this arrangement.

The sole reason I have come to Albuquerque is to visit the balloon museum, of course that's closed Monday's too. I was in front of the Atomic museum. The first US atomic bomb was tested at Trinity site, close by here. It was moderately interesting but really the subject of atomic bombs is one I would rather keep at the back of my mind.

I'd been emailing some friends of Colin Butter, he had suggested I call to see them while I was in Albuquerque. We arranged to meet for dinner Tuesday evening. Judith Wilder was in Washington DC but expected to be back in time. It's an 8 hour plane trip and I'll add she didn't come back especially to meet me........

I went to the Natural Science museum, that was nice, it was well done. I headed up to the Casino parking lot for the night and next day reached the balloon museum about opening time, 9 am. It was nicely done but I seemed to get round rather quick. So I started around again, this time pressing more buttons on the interactive displays. It was rather big on the contribution to ballooning by the city of Albuquerque, and by it's residents but I suppose that is to be expected. They said they were wanting more exhibits but needed more funds.

I got to thinking after I left. I would have expected to see more old balloon stuff, even modern era hot air ballooning old stuff, such as more early baskets and burners and worn out old fabric. I don't recall seeing any of the standard balloon instruments, altimeters, variometers, temperature instruments. Now maybe I'm biased, I love visiting small town American museums, jam packed full of all sorts of things that have been found in attics. The balloon things I've mentioned don't need funds, people are glad to clear out and donate to the museum! There were pins but few books, old prints or photos, flown covers or stickers. A massive concentration on quality with scant reference to quantity. There was no auditorium with films about inflating a balloon, films taken from a balloon in different parts of the world, films of landings, some quiet some not so. Give people some idea of the balloon experience. I noticed you were not permitted to take photos in the museum. I reckon that's daft. Why not? Surely they want photos to be sent around the world to encourage people to visit the real thing?

So here is a picture of the outside. Wow!

I called to see JD Huss, FAA inspector in Albuquerque, he was very helpful and sympathetic, but limited in what he could do. Micki had not phoned him as she had promised me she would, and it needs Micki herself to set the complaints procedure in action. I phoned Tony, Micki is spending most of her time in bed she is so upset and ill, and she won't see a doctor. That asshole of an inspector in Dallas has a lot to answer for. And FAA don't seem to have any procedures to allow when a client has been so wiped out by their actions that they are unable to start the proper complaint procedures.

Evening turned out better. I arrived early at the Schau home and took a shower. I have already mentioned showers are a touch cramped in my camper van, you have to crouch down, sitting on the toilet, to take a shower! I do have hot water though. And I have found out, later, that the central heating works.

The planned dinner with Judith, also Candace and Tom Schau, was Mexican, and good. Both Tom and Judith drive open top sports cars, I went with one and came back with the other. Nice. It's over 40 years since I've owned an open top car. Drove to Portugal in it for a friend's wedding. It's 46 years since I've owned a sports car, I had a souped up TR2, that was fun. Scared me to death the one time I got it going flat out. But back to the present. I parked in Tom's drive for the night. I guess I've made some more friends.

In the morning I left for Bandelier cliff dwellings taking the pretty mountain route via Jemez. I turned off into the National Forest for the night and was soon visited by a ranger, to check I was aware of the high fire risk. He was retired, returning on contract, we talked very pleasantly for about an hour on this and that.

Bandelier was OK, I prefer the similar sites such as Mesa Verde, but I enjoyed my walk. Here at Bandelier the canyon walls are soft rock, compressed lava ash, the Indians tunnelled into the rock and also built on the cliff face.

I stopped to look at the amazing view from the White Rock overview.

That's the Rio Grande.

Then I headed north, pulling off on a track to a National Forest to park up for the night.

Best regards

David Barker
On the road in the USA

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