Day 968: Shiprock and Goosenecks

How you ever wondered how full-time RVers change their oil without a driveway or garage?  Of course you have:

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Trish should stop dong this, I’m really getting used to fantastic breakfasts:

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We hitched up and said goodbye to the Farmington Dunes OHV Area:

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We drove west and passed north of Shiprock.  I really wanted to fly to this massive volcanic plug, but it was too windy this morning so we settled for roadside photos:

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We continued west from New Mexico into Arizona, then north into Utah:

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We soon arrived at Goosenecks State Park, one of the best examples of an entrenched meander in the US.  We were last here in 2011:

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After paying to enter the park, we found a spot along the rim to camp:

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I went for a bike ride to explore the approach to the Moki Dugway, a one-lane gravel road that climbs the cliff face ahead::

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Along the way, I passed the turnoff for the Valley of the Gods:

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More warning signs:

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I rode until the pavement turned to gravel, then raced down the grade on the way back:

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Heading back to Goosenecks:

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Our open range neighbors:

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We really like our spot:

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View from the RV as sunset approaches:

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Good Shabbos from Goosenecks State Park!

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See the trip map for today’s drive and our current location.

Day 943: Flight South to Elephant Butte Lake Dam

I’ve been fighting a fever for the last couple days, which culminated with me waking up in the middle of the night with a fever of 101.6.  This morning, my temperature was normal, so I launched flight #99:

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I flew south towards the dam:

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The terrain became mountainous, so I stayed above the road as it would be my only landing option in the event of an engine failure:

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The Elephant Butte Lake Dam:

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Heading back:

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The landing:

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My fever returned after breakfast, and M is coming down with this illness as well, so we stayed home while Trish and B went into Truth or Consequences to do some shopping, do the laundry, refill the propane, and fill up my PPG fuel can:

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Day 942: Flying to Kettletop

Shabbos here at Elephant Butte Lake State Park was pleasant.  This morning, I got up early to get in a flight before the forecasted winds blow in later today:

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Launch of flight #98:

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I decided to fly out to Rattlesnake Island, seen here in the upper right corner of the photo:

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I circled and climbed to gain enough altitude to safely glide back to the mainland in case an engine failure occurred while making the crossing to the island:

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This should be high enough:

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Across we go:

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And back to the mainland:

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I flew the shoreline north:

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I flew along the Long Point peninsula:

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Across from the tip of Long Point is Kettletop.  I decided to fly over Kettletop, so again I circled to gain altitude for a safe crossing:

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Heading across:

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Kettletop on the left:

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Over Kettletop:

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Heading back:

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On my way back, I passed Carl, then Kirk and Ron flying together:

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Back home:

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When I came home, this was waiting for me.  M had stepped on this 3/4” long thorn while wading:

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M found this quartz crystal while digging around in the sand:

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This afternoon, the winds came up as expected.  M left his Crocs outside, and one of them was blown into the lake.  We watched it floating away:

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Day 940: Beach Fun at Elephant Butte Lake SP

This morning the weather was favorable for flying, so I set up for launch along with my Albuquerque flying friends Sue and Carl.  We last flew together at Salton Sea.  Kirk is here too but decided not to fly today.

Winds were light and variable, and at 4,600 feet of elevation I had a number of failed launches before managing to launch flight #97:

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Our RV is in the center, and Team Albuquerque is on the right:

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Lots of lakeshore to explore:

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Above the lake sits the town of Hot Springs Landing:

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After homeschool, the kids had a great time playing in the shallow water:

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We’re only a couple feet from the shoreline, so we feel like we’re houseboating:

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Kirk took the kids for a boat ride:

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M flew his drone:

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Good Shabbos from Elephant Butte Lake!

Day 939: The VLA, Bosque del Apache NWR, El Camino Real IHC

This morning I woke up before sunrise.  I wanted to take off from our dispersed camping location on BLM land to get an aerial view of the Very Large Array.  The lack of wind coupled with the thin air at over 7000’ of elevation here would require a great deal of running to launch, and a correspondingly high speed landing, so I decided not to risk equipment and limb:

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This high up, it’s pretty cold in the morning:

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Rather than go back out to the highway to get to the VLA, we decided to continue along the dirt road that led to our overnight camping location.  We had to open and close a number of cattle gates:

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We drove towards the VLA, which is composed of 27 radio antennas that ride on three railroad tracks.  The antennas are moved along the rails to place the array in one of four different configurations, each of which provides different detection characteristics, like changing the zoom on an optical lens.  This configuration shown here is comparatively compact, as the railway that defines each leg of the “Y” is 12 miles long.  Image courtesy NRAO:

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Each antenna lives on a mount next to the rails used to change the antenna positions in the array.  Image courtesy NRAO:

On the way to the VLA, we passed an antenna mount point used in a wider array configuration than the configuration currently in use.  A special locomotive drives under an antenna, lifts it up,and rolls out to the main rails.  The locomotive then lifts each of its corners at a time, rotating the lifted wheel assembly 90 degrees and then lowering the rotated wheel assembly onto the main rails.  Once all four locomotive wheel assemblies are rotated onto the main rails, the locomotive moves the antenna at a maximum speed of 2 MPH to the antenna’s updated mount point.  The process is then reversed to place the antenna on it’s updated mount point:

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The VLA rails on this one of the three legs of the “Y” extend into the distance in both directions:

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We at last arrived at the entrance to the VLA:

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The VLA is so sensitive that it could detect a cell phone signal emanating from Jupiter, so it’s understandable that local radio signals need to be kept to a minimum to avoid interference with ongoing observations.  Unlike optical observations, radio observations go on both day and night:

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We watched the site video, narrated by actress Jodi Foster, who starred in the movie Contact which was partially filmed here.  We also checked out the displays in the auditorium:

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A feedhorn like this is used by the VLA antennas to receive radio signals.  Each antenna contains many feedhorns which vary dramatically in size, each feedhorn’s size being proportional to the wavelength of the radio signal it is designed to receive:

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This model shows an antenna about to the moved by the special locomotive mentioned above:

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We went outside on the walking tour.  The first stop was this radio telescope we were able to aim and watch a meter on the telescope change based on how much radio “light” was received.  We discovered that the sun emits a good bit of radio signal:

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This exhibit showed the power of parabolic dishes to focus an incoming signal.  B and Trish could whisper into their dish and hear each other very clearly over this considerable distance:

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Dishes everywhere:

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Each dish is 82 feet wide and weighs 230 tons:

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Throughout our visit, the dishes moved in unison as they observed different points in space.  Dishes under repair did not move along with their operational counterparts:

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Our last stop was the antenna barn where the antennas are serviced.  The VLA uses 27 antennas for observation, but the array has 28 antennas so that one antenna can be in the barn while the rest are observing:

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The signal hits the main dish, bounces up to the secondary reflector mounted on the arms, then back down into the feedhorns clustered at the center of the dish:

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We drove east and south to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.  Probably the most famous wildlife refuge in the US, Bosque del Apache hosts Sandhill Cranes for the winter portion of their annual migration:

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Sadly, the cranes for the most part have departed, but we contented ourselves with a tour of the refuge’s cactus garden:

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The visitor center was quite well done:

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Like the NPS Junior Ranger program, Fish and Wildlife has a Junior Refuge Manager program at a few of the wildlife refuges.  The kids completed their workbooks and received their badges:

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Our last stop of the day was El Camino Real International Heritage Center, a New Mexico state historic site:

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The visitor center tells the story of the El Camino Real, a pathway of trade and colonization used for over 300 years. Juan de Oñate, whose own signature we saw carved at El Morro National Monument a few days ago, travelled this route in 1598 from Mexico in an effort to colonize what today is New Mexico:

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The visitor center was very well done:

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The kids completed their Junior Ranger workbooks and received their patches:

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We continued south to Elephant Butte Lake State Park, where for only $8 a night we will be camped beachside and doing some flying over the next few days.

See the trip map for today’s drive and our current location.