We’ve passed through Roswell, NM and now we’re in the very big state of Texas. Out the window are vast empty spaces with nothing but windmills and oil drills. If it weren’t for those windmills and oil drills, it would appear that Texas is largely uninhabited with the exception of a small, dusty town every 20 miles or so.

After visiting the Alien Museum in Roswell and the big emptiness of Texas, it occurs to me that there’s a lot of space on and around this earth. But I don’t have any of it..well, at least not much of it.

RV living requires a careful management of a small amount of living space so that we’re not buried up to our elbows in possessions. In fact, space is the biggest thing you have little of. It is possible to cram far more into an RV than we have, but then it would be unsafe to drive. Weight is also an important consideration, but the most important reason to reduce our possessions is that this house moves at speeds up to 75 mph, depending on the part of the country we’re in. So things fly around if they’re not secured inside something or strapped down.

With that in mind, there are several rules we try to follow which make it easier to keep the space we have uncluttered.

 

1. Every piece of furniture should have two or more purposes. There are only a few exceptions to this rule, but those exceptions are lightweight or fold up. All furniture must be seat belted or strapped down.

Inside RV
In front, the ottoman that turns into a bed. Above that is my magnetic spice rack. My apron isn't just there for show; it holds the dish soap bottle and other handy items. The only basket i kept (boohoo!) is the one that holds bread. It hangs under the counter so that it doesn't slide.

 

2. Hang things up. We have hooks all over the place so that our items stay put and stay out of the way.

hanging storage inside RV

Utensils hang above the stove and even the teapot has to hang up when not in use. We kept a few decorative items and use magnets to keep them in place.

 

3. No items can be left on counter tops. For obvious reasons, it can be dangerous to leave items sitting around on the stove, counters, or even the floor. The only exception is the cat and dog bowls. They have rubber on the bottom and don't slide even when provoked. If we put the cat food on the floor, the dog will eat it.

Inside RV
Pablo likes to look at himself in the mirror. Above his food are our only drinking cups.
 

4. Everything has a place. This sounds harder than it really is. We don't have individual places for each item, rather, we have places for the categories of items--off-season clothes, electronics, tools, kitchen items, etc.

Storage inside RV
Above our little washing machine are the rag rack and our only dish cabinet. This holds everything but pans and cups. Pans go in the oven and the grill sits nicely on top of the stove under the stove cover. Dirty whites are put in the washer; colors go into the laundry bag next to the washer. The laundry bag is also secured to a hook in the wall.

Gussy in dogseat
Gussy's place is always right next to Mommy.

 

5. The cat has priority when it comes to sitting and lounging. This has no practical reason. We just love him. But, however we place his cat trees and platforms, he will find a plastic bucket, shoe tray, or sink to lay in. We give him comfy places anyway, and sometimes he uses them.

Pablo inside RV
Before we open the slide-out, we always make sure we know where Pablo is.

Pablo under dashboard
Under the dashboard is where it's warm.

Pablo on seat
Leather is nice!

Pablo sleeping
Traveling is hard work!

Ed sledding at White SandsOn our way to Roswell, we stopped at White Sands, NM. On the satellite map, it’s a big white blob, and that’s exactly what it looks like close up. The sand is very nearly white and it looks a lot like snow. This is the only national monument I know of where you’re encouraged to muss it up. The visitor center has sleds so you can play on the sandy hills.

The sand is soft and tiny, so it is more comfortable than sledding on snow. We slid down the hills very slowly even though they were steep. We arrived when a storm was approaching, so it was warm, windy, and cloudy. This was a good thing since it's usually burning hot on the sands. Apparently, most tourists visit during the hottest parts of the year, so we were almost completely alone.

The only difficult part was getting up to the top of the hill, especially while carrying the sled. We decided that one of us would climb and then the person at the bottom would throw the sled up to the top like a frisbee. That worked really well until the wind caught it and it flew along the ground for about a quarter mile. It’s a good thing we have a teenager to chase runaway frisbees.

We brought Pablo out, thinking he would love the sand. He hated it and was anxious to get back into the RV. The rest of us, including Gussy, had a great time. Pablo invented his own fun later.

There goes the frisbee-sled.

There goes the frisbee-sled!

 

Gussy at White Sands

Gus-Gus turns into a puppy whenever his feet touch sand. When there's no water in sight, he's even happier.

 

 

Pablo sitting in the sled

Pablo had no use for the sand, but he claimed the sled as soon as we were ready to return it.

I've noticed I've repeatedly been making references to my childhood in these blog posts.

When I was little I liked to draw a lot.  My father brought home used printout paper from work and I would turn the pages over and draw on the blank sides.  There was a lot of paper, and I kept up with the supply pretty well as I created heaps of drawings.  I liked to draw houses, and animals, and trees, and cars.  I drew people too, but they didn't hold my interest as long so I never got very good at drawing people.

Color drawing of camper and house in the trees
The month I turned four I drew this picture of a house in the trees with smoke coming out of the chimney.  I told my mother the vehicle next to it was a camper.  I was apparently intrigued with campers.

Line drawing of car camper and house
Here's another scene I drew the same month.  My father had a 1966 VW Beetle for over 30 years.  I seemed to like tall houses.

Color drawing of a tall camper
So why not a tall camper?  Here's one I drew the following month.

A "living car" with curtained windows and driver
Over time I became particularly enamored with homes on wheels.  I called them "living cars."  Here's one with a long-necked person, perhaps the driver, sitting on top

A child''s drawing of a city on a large wheeled platform
Creativity has no limits.  If you can have a house on wheels, why not a whole city?

Scrapbook photos of airplanes and a class-c motorhome
By the time I was about eight years old I still hadn't lost interest in the camper idea.  I put together a scrapbook using cut-out pictures of animals and other things I was interested in, such as airplanes.  There were RVs in there too.

1970s Volkswagen camper van caption Home is Where Your Bus Is
I really liked this pop-up camper van.  I even came up with names for the kids enjoying their hideaway spot inside

our campsite at Sea Rim State Park with surrounding structures
Here's our living car parked at Sea Rim State Park.  The boardwalk connects the campground with the ocean, and provides an elevated view of the surroundings.

Huge oil refineries in the distant background

Oil rigs dot the horizon at sea and oil refineries on land (pictured above, distant background) remind us we're in Texas.

State stickers mark the states we''ve traveled through so far
We're now more than halfway across the country

Ladder next to motorhome with clothes hanging on it
A ladder makes a usable makeshift drying rack in the Texas sun

A boardwalk trail across the wetland with sunset in background
The Gambusia Nature Trail is entirely across water, all 3/4 mile.  But be careful...

Sign says don''t get near the alligators
Better take this sign seriously

Jaden and I enjoyed wading into the ocean here.  The water is so warm you could stand in it all day.  We watched pelicans swooping for fish along the crests of the waves.  I stepped on something hard that turned out to be a hermit crab.  We let him crawl around on the beach for a minute or two before returning him to the waves.

Right now we're sitting in the RV with the windows open to let the evening breeze blow through.  It's much cooler now, and the winds are working on blowing in some more thunderstorms, according the weather report.  We'll have the hatches all battened down before bedtime.  Life is but a dream...

Next stop:  Baton Rouge

I think New Mexico just went up several notches on my list of favorite states.  You see, I'm a space fanatic, and besides maybe Florida and Texas, it seems that New Mexico has more to do with space than any other state.

Robert Goddard, the father of modern rocketry, tested his early designs not far from Roswell.  I didn't know that before.  What I did know is that "Spaceport America" is being constructed near Truth or Consequences in New Mexico.  One of these days it may be the first place paying tourists go to hitch a ride into space.

Three large motorhomes flank ours at Eastern Arizona rest stop

Humpty Dumpty doesn't look so monstrous when surrounded by large expensive motorhomes at a New Mexico rest stop.  The one on the left was towing a jeep which was itself towing a trailer!

We had to traverse a 7,500 foot summit on our way into Roswell.

A colorful mural in a parking lot in Roswell depicts aliens

One of several murals in central Roswell depicting a colorful alien scene

Jaden and I checked out the Roswell UFO museum.  I don't believe in aliens of course but I've been curious about what might be behind these kinds of incidents.  Are they government secrets or something else?

Roswell UFO museum

International UFO Museum and Research Center

I typically get overwhelmed whenever visiting a museum because I feel impelled to try to fully absorb every exhibit.  At this one I actually did look at all the exhibits, and I actually got the feeling that the exhibits only scratched the surface of the subject.  Which is fine since the admission fee is only $5.

Inside the entrance of the Roswell UFO museum

The ceiling in the UFO museum resembles a flying saucer, complete with flashing lights

One of the two main walls is devoted to the "Roswell incident" and the other covers UFO sightings in general.  To me one of the most interesting contrasts is the way the government handles Area 51, which clearly hides government secrets, and the way it has dealt with the Roswell incident, which may or may not involve actual government secrets.

The government tried for years to deny the existence of "Area 51". But in recent times they have gradually revealed general information about its existence and purpose.  Contrast that to the multiple "cover stories" that continue to change regarding the "Roswell incident", despite many years having elapsed and little reason for a change in official story after so many years.  It almost seems as if they are doing it to keep people's minds curious rather than otherwise.  I'll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions about why that might be....

First stories of strange crash landing in Roswell

More recent official explanations of the Roswell incident

The official story is, the Roswell incident involved a weather balloon, no wait, a nuclear testing balloon.  Actually it was a crash dummy drop test.  Wait, what?

I would have enjoyed getting to know more of the local residents of Roswell who very much do not resemble aliens, but other than eating at a Denny's and fueling up at a gas station, we mostly just did the alien-loving tourist thing.  Fortunately it only took a couple hours, even with my very careful examination of the museum exhibits, and we were on our way.  My impressions of the locals: The restaurants we checked out were all very busy (it was a rainy Saturday) and the hostess at Denny's was very attentive while our waitress was not.  The lady at the gas station was also very attentive and had a steady stream of Hispanic customers whom she spoke to in Spanish.  (It is, after all, New Mexico.) It seems fairly average for a town of around 50,000 people.  Rather unlike the town portrayed in the TV show Roswell which we used to enjoy watching (at least the first couple seasons).

The Roswell Space Center - not a UFO museum

Follow the alien footsteps to... a tourist trap!  The signage leads one to believe they'll find some kind of educational experience, but they just sell alien-themed stuff there.

I mentioned the heat in my last two posts.  Our last two days were noteworthy for the lack thereof.  Big rainstorms swept into the Southwest on Friday night and the spectacular nighttime lightning displays were accompanied by rain and much cooler temperatures.  Thursday our low temperature was 63, which corresponds to the high temperature yesterday.  We actually ran our furnace yesterday morning since the temperatures were in the high 30's.

Alien face on fence outside Wal-Mart

Guess which Wal-Mart this is?

We had another first during our overnight stay in Roswell.  We parked at Wal-Mart, both that night and the next one in Lubbock.  Wal-Mart has a corporate policy of encouraging RV overnight parking, but many localities have prohibitions that prevent this from happening.  None of the Portland Wal-Marts allow overnight parking, possibly due to the prevalence of homeless RV dwellers.  However New Mexico has very few stores with prohibitions.  In fact some stores offer free Wi-Fi specifically in areas where the RVs are parked.  An appealing proposition for people like us.

Along the way we've had a few minor mechanical malfunctions but I won't cover those right now.

Jaden smiles as she eats her "chicken fingers"

Happiness is opening a box of Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers.

Central Kingdom Hall in Lubbock

Where the Lubbock Central Congregation meets

We arrived at the Kingdom Hall in Lubbock by 9 am hoping to join the Sagewood congregation in field service.  I wondered if anyone would show up with the strong winds and unseasonably cold temperatures.  No one did.  While we were waiting, though, we got to meet some of the friends who were arriving for the 10 am meeting.  The first brother I met is in the Spanish congregation.  I'm quite familiar with the friendly and hospitable manner of the Spanish Witnesses in Portland.  When they arrive at meeting they shake the hands of everyone they see, and they do the same before they leave.  On coming into the Hall we had the same experience and at first thought we were at a Spanish meeting.  We soon realized that those in the English congregation in Lubbock do the same thing!  We could get used to this.  Cultures are different in different places, but I think the hospitable, welcoming nature of the Texans, both English and Spanish, is worthy of our imitation.

Our goal was to meet the Chinese group in the Sagewood congregation.  Most of them were out of town, but there were a few still there.  The meeting program was a video feed from Taiwan, but we still had a great experience.

Man riding a horse through flowers

Monday was devoted to traversing the great state of Texas (most of it at least).  There's a Chinese saying, 走马观花, that can well describe my experience with Texas at this point:  It means to look at flowers while riding a horse.  Just as a horseback rider can't get a good look at the flowers he's racing past, I can't say I've really seen Texas.  But we did spend quite a bit of our drive on Texas Route 6 which passes through a lot of small towns.  We also zipped through Houston.  So I've got a lot of mental images to recall when I think of Texas.  The part I most treasure is the part I value the most about every trip I take, which is meeting the local Witnesses.  The friends in Lubbock left a very good impression on me.  I imagine our experiences in the next congregation we visit in the South will be similar.  There's a reason God considers these people the precious things of the nations.

We spent less time in Waco than we did in Roswell, so I don't have much to say about it.  Maybe Julie will mention something in her next post.  I did spend some time thinking about the mental image of Waco I had before visiting, which was connected with the turbulent events nearby that happened in 1993.  I find it interesting that the local officials in the city of Waco have no desire to memorialize the events that became synonymous with their town in the minds of most U.S. residents.  Fortunately the lives of ordinary Waco citizens are as distant from those events as the lives of Roswell residents have nothing to do with space aliens.

Upon arriving in Texas we learned that tornadoes had done massive damage in the Northeast part of the state. Sadly, several people died and many others lost their homes.  We were fortunate to have missed the area entirely but it was a good reminder of the tenuous nature of life in the present world.

As I write this we've overshot Galveston and are headed for Sea Rim State Park near the McFaddin Wildlife Refuge.  Julie found an RV park here she wanted to stay at, and it's right along the same coast as Galveston.