Monday, April 13, 2009

Exploring New Mexico

Nanc looking for the perfect rock.
Jim with hammer in hand.
Early tank used in the expedition against Pancho Villa.
The army was still using wagons.
The plane used in the Punitive Expedition was the Jenny built by Glenn Curtiss whose museum we toured in Hammondsport, NY. The car is like the one used by Pershing who was a horseman until this campaign.
The old train station is the home of the Columbus Historical Museum.

We have made a big change in our spring travel plans because of the weather. We were going to go to Santa Fe, Durango, Mesa Verde, and Four Corners on our way to the Grand Canyon but those areas are still getting S__W. So from Alamogordo, rather than heading north, we traveled west and are now at the Escapees Dream Catchers RV Park in Deming. Here we enjoyed an Easter potluck dinner with our follow travellers including, Ted and Lois, a couple we met last summer in Illinois. Even after only 20 months on the road we often run in to people we have met previously. From here we will be going to Benson, AZ for a few days and then we plan to travel to Apache Junction to see Sharon and Alan Frey, who we met in Rockport, TX. We have reservations for the Grand Canyon at the end of April (we hope the s__w is gone) and then will be going to Las Vegas where we will meet Mike and Sherri Sharp, friends from Wash, PA, who are flying there to start a western vacation. We also learned this week that my brother Rick and his wife Denise will be sailing to Alaska from Vancouver, BC in late July and we will have a chance to get together with them since we will be in the Northwest at that time. These are two of the great things about having a house on wheels, we can change plans based on how the wind blows (which it does a lot in the spring in the Southwest) and meet up with friends and family on the road.

While in Deming we visited Rockhound and Pancho Villa two unique New Mexico state parks. At Rockhound you are encouraged to not walk on the trails while collecting the 15 pounds of rocks each person is allowed take home. It was cool walking around with a hammer and smashing big rocks into little ones while looking for attractive stones. We think Nanc found a hollow egg but since I am a real good smasher we aren't sure. We did keep a couple of very small stones totaling about 2 ounces well within the fulltime RVer's weight limit. This is a great little park that gives nice views of the valley and the Florida (flo rita) Mountains.

Pancho Villa State Park in Columbus, NM may be the only place in America named for a person from a foreign country who attacked the United States. The visitors center has excellent displays of the March 9, 1916 raid by 485 of Villa's troops on Columbus while looking for food, arms and clothing. This was the only ground invasion on the US since the War of 1812. The US Army camp there had many more soldiers than the Mexicans believed and even though a couple of buildings were burned and 18 Americans, including eight civilians, were killed the rebels losses were 70 to 75 men because the US soldiers had modern machine guns. The real significance of the raid was the Army's expedition into Mexico that followed. The Punitive Expedition included the last use of cavalry forces and the first use of mechanical forces - tanks, trucks & planes - in combat. This paved the way for these modern machines of war being used in WW I. The expedition which went 500 miles into Mexico searching unsuccessfully for Villa was lead by General John "Black Jack" Pershing who within a few months of his return in 1917 was leading many of the same troops in Europe. Among the junior officers in the campaign were George Patton and Dwight Eisenhower who were generals in WW II. It was interesting seeing the pictures and displays that illustrated this turning point in history away from horses which armies had used for hundreds of years. There is also a a very good Columbus Historical Society Museum in the train station that shows what the town was like in 1916.

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