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My World through the Eyes of Another

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

I ♥ New Mexico: Silver City to the Very Large Array

February 17, 2012

As much as I try and savour each and every moment, it’s inevitable that over this long journey, individual sights, sounds and experiences are sometimes lost in the blur of daily motion and change. They queue up in days so jam packed with stimuli it can be hard to retain all the details. Memories clump together. The brain buffer’s full.

But then, generally when I least expect it, I stumble across a nook of the world that really stands out. Something seems to resonate. Perhaps it’s a sense of connection, a deeper appreciation of the lanscape. The people I meet. Shared interests and ideas. Or maybe it’s just the right time, when I’m looking to pause, rest and lay down some roots, as short term as they may be.

Silver City, set at the foot of the vast, unspoilt, impregnable wilderness of the Gila in southern New Mexico, feels like such a place. When I was last travelling through – as part of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route in 2009 – I managed to while away almost a week here, and it was with a definite reluctance that I continued on my way.

In fact, I’d barely arrived in Silver before I was pointed towards the residence known in local circles as the Bike House. Which is exactly what it was: a house crammed with all manner of bicycles. Leant against gates. Scratching wall paint. Hanging from rafters. Old and new, fancy and plain. All well used.

Of course, the Bike House was made up of a rich tapestry of other occupants too; a tide of people to-ing and fro-ing through unlocked doors, a larger-than-life collection of giant puppets, raucus chickens, as well as various other animals that came and went as they pleased… Its owner, Jamie, is well known for scooping up nomadic, long distance tourers and offering them a place to rest and recharge in his eclectic, rabbit’s warren of a houseshare. Coupled with a mellow downtown, all-year riding potential and an earthy, unpretentious New Mexican hipness, the whole Silver City experience earned it a spot amongst my favourite spots of the South West, and a highlight of the Great Divide.

So I was pleased that our long drive back back to Santa Fe from Big Bend State Park Ranch offered the chance to spend another night in the esoteric Bike House. True to its reputation, bikes were still sprawled out across the yard with well-practised abandon; old mtbs, a singlespeed 29er, an Extracycle, rusty Schwinns, a BMX or two… The door was still unlocked and the place as much as a shambles as I so warmly recalled. As we stood in the doorway and surveyed the scene, a cocophonic thump shook the house. Overhead, marching band practise was in full swing, with children and adults alike squeezed in amongst gaudy paper mache figurines. It was the genuine Bike House Experience.

It didn’t take more than a birthday ride around the sweet trails of Little Walnut and Gomez Peak to remind myself why I had felt such a connection here and what had brought me back. And although I didn’t have time to linger as long this time, I’d soon hatched a plan to abandon the car, and relive some of the Gila Wilderness…

Silver City is surrounded by prime riding, even in the midst of winter. I stripped down the Ogre of its bikepacking gear and set off with Nancy to explore the singletrack around Little Walnut. This was followed up with a ride around Boston Hill with tireless Jamie, and a dirt and gravel road outing with Andrew, Chris and Martin. There is little to beat local rides with enthusiastic bikers, and as a visitor, I always feel honoured to be invited into the fold to share these experiences.

My bed in the Bike (and Giant Puppet) House.

Gila Hike and Bike is surely one of my favourite bike shops, with its laid back, down to earth vibe. A demo Pugsley fatbike was available for a spin, which fit Nancy perfectly. I've always hankered after an 'Omniterra'. I just need to live in the kind of terrain that warrants one... Or maybe everywhere does...

My father's love of Westerns and frontier history must have rubbed off, for I find myself fascinated by Silver City and the surrounding area. Its past abounds with colourful characters. Like Lottie Deno - short for dinero, the Spanish for money - who owned a gambling hall in nearby Georgetown. Said to be well educated and impeccably dressed, she earned a fortune gambling in the rough, cash-flush pioneer towns of New Mexico. Billy the Kid's stepfather also had a restaurant there, and his early midsadventures are part of local legend.

The classic New Mexican backyard, complete with discarded junk, reinvented school bus and sawn-off trailer.

Turning off onto FR150 for some sublime riding through the Gila, designated a protected wilderness area as early as 1924. It was early in the season to be riding at this high altitude, so I flagged down a weatherbeaten pickup truck to check road conditions ahead. The pony-tailed old timer who pulled over had clearly been enjoying a few beers after a hot afternoon's wood chopping. Lifting his dusty wraparound shades to reveal bloodshot eyes, he enthused about the Gila, suggesting a few good camping spots. 'Listen to the spirits, that's what I always too', he said, chuckling a thick, husky smoker's laugh.

Camping out in Geronimo's stomping ground, amongst skeletal cottonwoods. My soundtrack was the warbly call of coyotes, and a dozen wild horses snuffled their way over in the night, gathering inquisitively as I cooked up my dinner. Just that day before I'd seen a group of wild, snorting havelinas. Or rather smelt them first - they're also known as skunk pigs, for good reason.

Tree trunk, elephant hoof, or simply a good spot to lean a bike...

Chilly! That night, my water bottles froze solid, even inside the tarp. The downside of the palatial Megalite is that it's size doesn't encourage trapped air to stay warm. I sat and toasted myself in the first rays of sunlight, as they slipped across the plains towards the tent.

Technically, it's a little early in the season for this ride... A storm the month before had closed off a portion of the road to all but the hardiest vehicles, though a bicycle could still slither its way through.

I took an impressive tumble on this particularly icy stretch, bike and body sliding some ways down the hill with little grace but thankfully few bruises.

Once beyond Beaverhead Works station, conditions dried out once more. From this point, I detoured off the Great Divide Route, heading north east towards Albuquerque through Railroad Canyon.


Although I planned to tackled this 150 mile dirt road ride in a couple of days, I carried extra provisions and layers as I was unsure as to where I might end up. With my laptop on board too, it was a good chance to try out the Ogre with a set of borrowed panniers, and see how it handled with a more traditional touring setup.

Country Road 163. Or to put it more romantically, a ribbon of dirt, disappearing into the quintessential, soft haze of the New Mexican horizon.

Chicaning amongst ponderosa pines.

A forlorn post box marks a dirt track to who knows where...

The plains of San Angustin. Luckily, a tailwind helped propel along 60 miles of dirt road.

This herd of antellope ran alongside me for some time. A curious group, they slowed down and ambled around when I stopped down to take a photo, running with me once more when I started to ride again. Despite moments of loneliness and hardship on solo rides, it's during these fleeting moments that the penny really drops: these experiences are exactly why I'm here.

Happy to be on the road, loping across the desert.
Conditions were mainly good, with a few rough stretches of washboard and sand to contend with. 29er wheels seem to help with both of these, and I didn't begrudge the lack of suspension on my bike.

There are many wonderful names in this part of the world, harking back to mining days and the pioneer towns of yesteryear.

My destination was the equally wondrous Very Large Array. And very large it was. Built from 1975-1980, the VLA is a radio astronomy observatory that's been probing the deeper reaches of space for the last thirty years. The centre is at almost 7000ft in altitude and set in an empty patch of high desert far, far from any sizeable settlement.

It's made up of a collection of 27 enormous antennas. I stood in awe as the dishes all begun to rotate in unison, in a slow, elegant ballet, pointing up inquisitively into the sky. A series of railway tracks form a Y shape - each arm reaching 13 miles into the desert - that allows them to be positioned in various configurations. An accompanying film explained how the centre has been instrumental in our understanding of black holes, pointing out that our own galaxy lies within a whole sea of other galaxies. Amplified by the solitude of the empty, windswept plains of San Angustin, and it's enough to make you feel pretty small...

The free self-guided tour allows you to wander right up to one of the dishes. The stats: 25 metres in diameter and 209 metric tonnes in weight. If they look familiar, it might be because the VLA's been used in the movie Contact, with Jodie Foster.

Is there anyone out there? After sunset, I pushed on to Datil, clocking almost a 100 miles that day - far more than I'd usually accrue on dirt roads. With a storm scheduled to barrel in the following morning, I pitched my tent for the night, before hitching hiking north the next day. Thanks kindly to Art and Phyllis for breakfast and the ride!

Some links:

Gila Hike and Bike – most excellent bikes, and most excellent service.

Very Large Array – be wide-eyed like Jodie Foster.

This article was written by a cyclist riding the Contenental Divide Trail in my part of New Mexico. I am placing the article here to show all what the area I live in looks like and to show people that it is possible to ride a bike just about anywhere you can imagine going. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

TAHOEKARIN 3/13/2012 11:13AM

    Let me know when you are up to doing this. I want to go. Bad. I miss the West!

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JUNEPA 3/11/2012 2:50PM

    such a cool article and photos
I thought initially that it was your adventure while on spring break
are there really antelop in New Mexico?

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LINDAKAY228 3/7/2012 10:39AM

    Some of the article and pics remind so much of a favorite movie of mine Ride the Divide. ALthough I'm not a biker I've watched it several times and its saved on my DVR. I only wish they had shown more of the CD trail down this way. You've probably seen it but if not it's about a small group of racers following the CD trail from Canada to Antelope Wells entrance into Mexico. There is a lot of talk in there too about the isolation at times that some had difficulty handling and either did quit or almost quit.
I loved the pictures and the article. Because I'm not a bike rider, I'd never hear of the bike house here but sounds awesome.
My favorite colorful character from around Silver City's past is Millie and her houses and girls. Even though she ran houses to please the gentlemen and many think that is aweful there are so many many stories of things her and her girls did for people in the community, like putting kids through college and during mine strikes before free lunches her girls made lunches for the kids who had no food to take for a lunch at school. I did meet her a few times in the early 70's when she was much older and her and her husband brought their vehicle into a auto repair shop I worked at during that time. But never really talked to her much. I did read the book about her though.
Lots of beauty and colorful history here. ALthough I don't ride the trails around here that you talk about I hike all of them and love being out there.
Have a great day.

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BILL60 3/7/2012 8:21AM

    Great reading. Great adventures!!

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    I was getting envious of your experience, until I hit the last paragraph. Thanks for sharing the article - what a terrific tour of our beautiful state!

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President's Day Duathlon, White Sands

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The duathlon took place on the 18th. I left for Las Cruces on Friday and it was not a great start. It was snowing in Silver and had been for 11 hours. The snow was not sticking but I sure was hoping that the weather would improve as I went South.

Outside of Las Cruces the air was calm, pretty cool and dry! These pictures show the Organ Mountains and they were being assaulted by the storm blowing through.

I stayed in the dorm with my daughter. It was a zoo and the room mates were definitely loud but I guess college students will be college students. We went to Olive Garden for dinner, a favorite of Raelyn. I enjoy the never-ending salad and the steak medallions and pasta alfredo with spinach I had was good too. We went to the mall and walked just long enough for my hips to start hurting. (x-rayed last week, Tuesday appt. to see what the problem is). We then drove to Caliche's where she had a small sandbox with a gummy worm and I chose a chocolate milkshake.

A couple of red box movies later we were back to the room and stretched out watching movies with the volume turned up to eathshattering so we could hear the movies over the rap music and partying. The room mates decided to go out and I was thrilled. Unfortunately they returned at three and were less than quiet. I arose at five and made all the noise I possibly could while dressing and gathering my gear. Raelyn, bless her, slept through all of it.

I arrived at the base on White Sands at 6am, got through check in and proceeded to rack my bike and head to the warmth of the gym. It was quite nippy outside...enough so that my knees felt like going on strike. I picked up my packet and upon reading, I almost started bawling. The 2 mile run was changed to a 7K...or 4 miles! I almost panicked. If you have never suffered through being ahead in a race and then slowly watching everyone pass you by, or if you have ever been dead last and upon getting to the bike, not a soul is in sight, then you have not experienced two of my least favorite happenings, both of which are a normal part of my racing experiences. The last time a competed in this race I was definitely last off the run (I can't run), and made a huge effort on the bike to catch up and eventually win. However the last time was a 2 mile run.

The individual Athena that was first off the run was 11 minutes and 14 seconds ahead of me. I jumped on my bike and I had a blistering bike time. The ride was an out and back. Out is downhill mostly and there was a headwind. Back is slightly up hill and at least the wind had ceased to blow much. I passed several people and saw a couple of coyotes up 10 feet away and waiting to cross the road. Beautiful!

I came around the final corner still closing on the leader. The last little part of the bike to the finish is a little steeper hill then the rest of the rise in the race. I got within about 15 feet before the eventual winner crossed the line. I am not making any excuses, I just needed another 200 yards and I would have won. I made up 11 minutes and 7 seconds of the lead...just could not quite make up those last 7 seconds! Oh well, being the first loser (second place) is better than never having got off the couch! Besides, the season is just starting and perhaps the hip problem won't be something to least I am hoping.

I have a new phone with a new camera and it is a tough camera because it took this picture of me and did not break. The last picture shows the Organ Mountains on the opposite side of Las Cruces and the skim of snow that made for a brisk morning run (walk) and bike ride.

Here's hoping that your weekend was as fun and productive as mine. Keep up the good work!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

LINDAKAY228 2/23/2012 9:16AM

    Congratulation on how much time you made up on the bike! You rock!!! I'll be at White sands in a month for the Bataan Death March Memorial. Last year we had 45 mph winds to battle but not the year before. I'm so hoping that the winds aren't there this time.
Have a great day!

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    WOW!!! You must be the best biker in the whole wide world!! emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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TRI_TODAY 2/20/2012 10:41PM

    Wow! Congrats on the strong finish! I never scoff at 2nd place. Would it be nice to finish 1st? Sure. But you know what? 7 seconds is a matter of so many factors. When you're that close, it just means the other person was 1st on that day. It's the "Any Given Sunday" rule. On any given day, you have the chance to be the best. Be happy that you were the best you were capable of being under the circumstances you were given. Keep rocking those races! I'm so proud of you!!!

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BILL60 2/20/2012 8:56AM

    Well done. Hope the hip problem is an easy solve. Hang tough!!

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ROOBEARZ 2/19/2012 10:14PM

    Awesome - you are one tough cycler!! I hope someday, I can accomplish some of the stuff you do!!!

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GOHUSKERS2 2/19/2012 5:46PM

    Wow....Pat, the night in the dorm sounded harder than the races! LOL I would have bailed I'm afraid. But you had a nice time with your daughter and that counts for lots!!! Beautiful country. It's been years since I've been in New Mexico. I think you did awesome!!! Hey, you made it through the hardest part, got on your bike and did an awesome job of finishing. Maybe the winner didn't have the same obstacles to overcome, so in my book, YOU WERE THE WINNER AND ARE A WINNER!!! ALWAYS. Good for you. You are always an inspiration to me. Good picture of the winner by the way!!!
emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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Shattered...Plateau that is!

Monday, January 23, 2012

I was determined not to gain weight over the holidays. I have not lost any weight in several months, like 9 months!

Begging, pleading, and exercising has not really helped.

But recently I have really started cycling hard. Every morning at the gym, I lift, cycle and run and suddenly, along with a tweak or two in the diet...
Yes, you guessed it! I have lost 11 pounds since the 23 of December to the 23 of January!
I am tickled pink! Follow me, I dare you to! LOL

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ROOBEARZ 2/5/2012 12:05AM

    Congrats on the weight loss!! I like the way you switched it up!!

Thanks for visiting my page & checking in on me. Things are going well - hit my 1 year on 1/11/12 - feeling like an entirely different person - it's pretty wild.

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    You are emoticon! emoticon

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SM-ARTGIRL 1/24/2012 10:47PM

    OMG!!!! That is sensational!!
Congratulations!R>Just shows, persistence pays off Big Time!
emoticon emoticon

Comment edited on: 1/24/2012 10:48:27 PM

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K8NJKSMOM 1/24/2012 4:24PM

    Awesome! Congratulations! A super way to start off the new year!

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LINDAKAY228 1/24/2012 10:20AM


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REGABA 1/24/2012 7:03AM

    emoticon emoticon

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JUNEPA 1/23/2012 11:34PM

    awesome, way to go

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W5VEOTX 1/23/2012 8:21PM

    Great - keep it up!

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    emoticon emoticon emoticon

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BEYOURBEST1 1/23/2012 12:26PM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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LilPat3: Where and What...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Yes, I purposely skipped any swimming pictures because I have gone months now without swimming. The college pool has been closed since May of last year and the city pool has been closed since August and won't open until the very end of May or the first of June.
Since I have been unable to swim I really started hitting the weights and I have seen some definite results. My biceps have increased by an inch and my chest has increased by 4 inches, (NOT that part of my chest)! I have not really lost any weight until these last three weeks.

I have basically quit worrying about "how" my body looks and I spend a great deal of time relishing "how" my clothes fit instead. Several things I have learned, one being that the more I cycle the larger my thighs get. My legs might look like a linebacker's, but I am happy with them. I have come to accept that I can't run but I have increased greatly the time and the distance that I can race-walk, and I am happy with that. I still have good days and bad days with my knees but if something hurts a little I don't automatically panic, and I am happy with that!

Fox Field, pictured above is my running area and my gym for my P.E. classes I teach. It certainly has NOT been an easy year at school. I no longer have the drive to be a teacher. In fact I drag myself out of bed to go to my job everyday. I hate it! Yes, education is broke in a lot of ways. Yes, some things can be fixed. My biggest complaint is that students never have to accept responsibility for their actions! Parents cover for them pushing all the blame onto teachers. Students don't want to be at school, don't want to learn, and seem to take the "make me" attitude overboard!
I now need three classes to apply to go to school to be an Orthopaedic Physician Assistant! I have spent all my free time taking classes, observing and working with a physical therapist and next week I start a shadowing program at an Orthopaedic office with a group of outstanding doctors. My motto (or one of them) is: If you don't like something, change it! Currently I am working on it.

I truly live breathe and eat cycling. My massage therapist is a retired professional cyclist. She has started riding again. For her 60th birthday we did the Desert Springs Physical Therapy Gila Monster Challenge. It was the first time this race had happened and it includes one of the toughest stages of the Tour of the Gila. We had a blast. I completed the Tour de Safford as well, and might have been in the top three had I not had a flat in the first three miles. I am looking forward to several cycling events this year, the first being the Santa Fe Century in a couple of months. I also plan on doing the citizen part of the Tour of the Gila. I might get a triathlon of two done once the city pool opens.
This summer? Cycling, classes, shadowing--not necessarily in that order, are all in order. I average at least 300 cardio minutes a day currently and I plan on keeping this a constant. I have lost seven pounds in the last three week. I feel great, I am told I look great (please don't ask me if I agree), and then just for my personality--I AM GREAT! Just ask me--at least that is the attitude I try to adopt. I know it is not always so! LOL

Real Cowboys Show No Fear--I am trying to adopt the same attitude in the midst of a major career change!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SM-ARTGIRL 1/24/2012 11:14PM

    Way to go! Lol I showed my 7 yo the hilarious cat pics & espec the invisible bike!
I love how you are working smart to transition from the school system.
I lost interest in uni teaching about 4 years back, & walked away. I am now looking into early early childhood education training (0-7 yo) ...
Loving your body attitude! So positive with your strong thighs!

Comment edited on: 1/24/2012 11:18:55 PM

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JULIETTECAKE 1/22/2012 8:32PM

    At first I wanted to say that you are so lucky to be doing what you love. But then, there is no luck involved, just lots of hard work doing an amazing variety of things that make you happy. Whoever gets to work with you as an Orthopedic Physician Assistant will be fortunate.

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JUST_TRI_IT 1/18/2012 11:13PM

    Wow you are packing the fun in!!! Love it :) twould be fun to meet up for one of these events... Hey have you done the Seattle to Portland ride??? Join me!

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JUNEPA 1/18/2012 9:54PM

    Love your positive blog, way to go !!!

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DUSTYGIRL25 1/18/2012 4:54PM

    emoticon emoticon

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GOHUSKERS2 1/18/2012 2:04PM

    Great blog my friend and good pictures of you. Love the jokes especially duz mu butt look this bis....LOL

Too bad no pool is open...would make it complete. Have a good day Pat.

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LINDAKAY228 1/18/2012 12:14PM

    You always stay so busy! It's so unusual for me to read people's blogs here and think to myself "I know the orthopeds" you're going to be at and I know the physical therapist (I think if it's the same one you referred me to last year) and I just came back from running from my house up to Fox Field and some laps around it then the mile back to my house from there. Everyone else is so much further away from me. It's so much fun when I can identify.
The only pool left I guess is the ones in the Wellness center but there hours are so limited, it's open when they are so laps are very difficult without running into kids or people just chatting in the pool, and the water's too warm for that type of workout LOL! You need to win the lottery and build your own indoor pool in your back yard so you can use it whenever you want regardless of the weather!
I would not have the patience to be a teacher! I am seeing enough difficulties with 2 of my grandkids, one who is almost 12 and one who just turned 13. It's a fight every day for my daughters to get these kids to school. And kids fight back so much more than when I was a kid and would never have dared to fight back with my parents the way they do. When I supervised employees, I saw it carried so much into a total lack of work ethic so often.
Guess I'd better get off my soap box now. Have a great day!

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    You sound busy & happy.

I am so glad to be your friend, because you certainly are GREAT! emoticon emoticon

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Busy Week, Shopping and Weather

Thursday, December 22, 2011

This week has been a whirlwind of activity. I got to bake some with my daughter, we went to Las Cruces and I got new glasses, we wrapped presents, and we went to visit my mother in the Alzheimers ward.

Seeing my mom was not as stressful as it often is. She was having a good day and actually cracked some jokes. I only bawled once and my daughter managed not to get upset at all. My mom thinks she owns the place and works there as well. She believes she brings people to the place because they got something out of the air that makes them a little "nutty". Alzheimers just sucks! Mom opened her gifts, lots of new clothes and we treked back home just before the snow started in earnest.

The weather has been somewhat unsettled with blizzards in half the state and rain/snow mixes elsewhere. The following are some pictures of neat clouds, a little snow, some sun, I love New Mexico. If you don't like the weather, cross the street or wait five minutes cuz it will change. Enjoy the pictures and may each and everyone of you have a wonderful holiday season.

Spanky will play football inside regardless of the weather outside!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

LINDAKAY228 12/23/2011 10:29AM

    Spanky is so adorable! Lots of snow outside this morning with more predicted. I haven't even finished my Christmas shopping because one of my daughters had to have emergency surgery on her lung last week and she was in Memorial Hospital in Las Cruces for 8 days and got out Tuesday. Although I was down there all week I was spending all my time at the hospital and by the time I left to go to a hotel I was too exhausted to think of shopping. So here it is, the day before Christmas eve, snowing, and still shopping and wrapping to do! But I'll get it all done. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas and get to do some things you want over your Christmas break. Course a bike ride is most likely out of the picture today LOL!

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STLCARDSFANS05 12/23/2011 9:33AM

    spanky is adorable.

been down the alz road twice. it does nothing but suck. try to find the humor in it and roll with her crazy stories. that's all you've got. put yourself in her world while you are with her. try not to get wrapped up in the woman that she was or how sad it is. you will make yourself miserable. that woman is gone. grieve her and enjoy the new one while you can. i wish there was another way, but until they find a cure for this cruel monster it is the most sane way to get thru it

merry christmas

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BILL60 12/23/2011 9:19AM

    So sorry to hear about your Mom. Hang in there and enjoy a great Holiday Season.

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GOHUSKERS2 12/22/2011 11:20PM

    Ah Pat, I'm so sorry that your Mom has Alhzeimers. So hard on you and your family. But you still have time to be with her no matter what and that is worth alot. The stoke my Mom had before she died left her thinking I was Connie, and when we realized she was blinded by the stroke it almost killed me. I sat with her for 17 days, and the rest is history, so I have a small idea of how you feel. The dog is darling and the pictures are beautiful. Have a great time with your family this Christmas.

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SWEETSOUNDS11 12/22/2011 11:06PM

    You do indeed sound busy and those are some stressful situations. Thanks for sharing the pics...especially your precious fur baby at play!

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