Foreign troops invade U.S. soil: Columbus, New Mexico

Looking back while moving forward – we are in a period of transition and we are unlikely to travel for a while.  Given the pandemic, that is probably a good thing. As I winnow out a bunch of old photographs, here is a look back.

Pancho Villa State Park, Columbus, NM

Many people might have an image of Pancho Villa as a bandit.  He saw himself as a revolutionary leading his Division of the North against Mexican President Venustiano Carranza.

Having lost a major battle in 1915, the 1500-man division was low on ammunition and other supplies.  Villa decided to stage a raid against Columbus, New Mexico, a town of about 300 Americans and around the same number of Mexicans who had fled from Villa.

Believing there were only about thirty U.S. soldiers present, Villa led a force of 600 men – he didn’t have ammunition for all – against the town on March 9, 1916.   Attacking around four in the morning, he caught the townspeople and soldiers asleep and set about burning and looting the town.

However, the US force, the Thirteenth Calvary Regiment, actually had 12 officers and 341 men. Although a large number of those troops were out on patrol, the ones in Columbus rallied.  They were well-armed and had a machine gun squad.  They were assisted by many of the town’s armed inhabitants.

The battle lasted about ninety minutes before Villa and his forces withdrew pursued into Mexico by the regiment’s Third Squadron until they too began to run low on ammunition.

Photo from the El Paso Museum of History

The U.S. responded by placing one hundred thousand soldiers on the border and sending a “Punitive Expedition” led by General John J. [Black Jack] Pershing into Mexico after Villa.  They sought him unsuccessfully for six months before returning to the U.S.

Many feel both General Pershing and President Wilson regarded the Expedition as a training exercise before the U.S. entry into World War I.

Wandering about southern New Mexico with our trailer in 2005, Alie and I decided to visit this little town.  It was a different era.  We were able to freely walk across the border into Las Palomas, Mexico [Villa’s base before the raid] and buy a ceramic parrot we still own.  But perhaps the highlight of the visit was a conversation with the son, age-78, of a rancher who was acquainted with Villa and rode with him as a boy.

Click on pictures to enlarge.

Date of our visit: 5 May 2005

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Darwin Ranch, Wyoming

Looking back while moving forward – we are in a period of transition and we are unlikely to travel for a while.  Given the pandemic, that is probably a good thing. As I winnow out a bunch of old photographs, here is a look back.

Tetons near Jackson Hole, Aug 84

When I looked some years ago, Darwin Ranch outside Jackson, Wyoming was up for sale.  But when I just looked it up, I see it still operating, probably with different owners than when we visited in 1984 and 1985.  Photos on “Trip Advisor,” however look much like the place I remember.

My comments here are just nostalgia, but if the place looks appealing to you, check out their website here.

I happened to be visiting then Wyoming Congressman Dick Cheney’s office when a staffer exclaimed “this looks like a really nice place to visit.”  He was looking at photos from Darwin Ranch which was protesting Forest Service plans to clear-cut the surrounding hills.  Alie and I both had rather high-pressure jobs at the time, and it seemed like the perfect place to “get away from it all.”

Although the ranch was close to Jackson, Wyoming, the road to it was so bad we were advised to charter a small plane from Red Baron [I kid you not] in Idaho Falls to fly in.  But when we landed in Jackson, there was no evidence of Red Baron.  We asked someone, and he replied “oh, he’ll be along soon.” Before long a young man dressed in a University of Hawaii sweat shirt with the sleeves torn off came up an introduced himself to us as our pilot.  He walked us out to a small plane which was packed in the back with clean sheets, avocados and mayonnaise.

The plane was too small to fly directly over the mountains, so we circled upwards gaining height and magnificent views of the Grand Teton Mountains.

After a short ride, we landed in a cow pasture which had the sagebrush cut back to form a runway.  No one else was there.  He off-loaded his supplies telling us he had to go back to pick up a family and that someone from the ranch would be out to get us.

We sat there in the field with nothing but a few cows.  I said “well, if necessary, we can wrap ourselves in the sheets and eat the avocados.  And we really are away from it all.”

I apologize for this poor quality image of Alie with sheets, avocados and mayonnaise.

A pick-up came to get us shortly after, and we sat on the tailgate enjoying tea and excellent cookies while we waited for the plane to come back.  When it arrived, the family of four on it lived about six blocks from us in Washington.  Other guests included former Senator John Kerry’s ex-wife and their two children.  But all together, there were only eighteen guests, and we really were away from it all.

There was very little organized entertainment, so when a beaver dam threatened to wash out the road, we all went up on a hill to watch them blow it up.  The beavers built it back over night, so we went out again the next day.  The beavers built it back, and we went home. 😜

Click on photos to enlarge.

Dates of our visits: one week each in August 1984 and August 1985

I don’t think you can fly into Jackson anymore but rather go into nearby Jackson Hole.

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Looking back to Cancun

Looking back while moving forward – we are in a period of transition; we bought a new home in Ohio; we still live in Florida; and we are unlikely to travel for a while. Given the pandemic, that is probably a good thing.  As I winnow out a bunch of old photographs, here is a look back.

As we said in the “about” information, Alie and I have always liked to travel more than most people.  But our international travel was usually restricted to business and even when working, we tended to visit “off the beaten path” places.  An exception was a week thirty years ago when we went to Cancun on the east coast of Mexico.  Looking back, I’m glad we did it then.

We are not “beach people” but we did spend a couple days on the beach.  Thong bikinis were a new thing then.  I recall people calmly looking ahead as a couple wearing very revealing thongs walked by.  I also recall heads snapping to the side almost like dominoes following the couple as they moved on.

We took a couple of excursion trips to the Mayan cities Chichén Itzá and Tulúm.  Alie, who studied Latin American History in college, was particularly thrilled.  I remember being surprised at the size of Chichén Itzá and the beauty of Tulúm.  The buildings were given modern names; at the time, we did not know what the Mayans called them.

Recently, someone told me the sites were overrun by cruise passengers and vendors.

Cock fighting and bull fighting were both legal in Mexico.  I don’t approve of either.  But recalling Hemingway and others, I felt I should try to see their point of view.  So we went to a bullfight.  Several bulls were to be fought, but just one was my first and last.  To me, they were not only harming the bull, they were torturing it.

Not every experience is good, but I am very grateful we had the opportunity.

I think that patch of skin is my back, not my butt. 😊

Dates of our visit: second week of January 1990.

Click on photos to enlarge.

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Around and round we go: carousels on our travels.

The Shell Factory, a North Fort Myers, Florida tourist attraction, restored a 1927 carousel that was moved from St. Augustine.  The twenty horses were sandblasted and repainted before being installed on new floorboards. Little is known about the original history of the ride, but before it was found in the basement of a Manistique, Michigan museum, it operated in the Fort Wayne Zoo in Indiana and in Wisconsin Dells.

Even though not a particularly big or historic carousel, we had to take a look.  We are not carousel aficionados, but I always enjoy them both for their folk art and the pleasure they bring to children.

Here are some of the ones we found in our travels.

Click on photos to enlarge.

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The Edison Festival of Lights Grand Parade

Thomas Edison was one of the original “snowbirds” spending his winters in Florida.  He traveled by boat to the small town of Fort Myers, population 349, in 1885 looking for a place to spend the winter.  He built a home and spent winters there from 1886 until his death in 1931.

His home, and the adjoining cottage owned by his friend and protege, Henry Ford, are now open to the public.

In honor of Mr. Edison, Fort Myers has celebrated the Edison Festival of Light for the last 82 years.  The festival culminates in the Grand Parade, the largest nighttime lighted parade in the Southeast.  Crowd estimates went as high as two hundred thousand people.

The local chapter of the American Red Cross has participated in the parade for the last twelve years.  I really like small town parades and have written about them here.

Nationally, the American Red Cross installed over a million smoke alarms in low-income homes and estimates that over nine hundred people were warned by some of those alarms in fires last year.  Locally, we have installed 550 alarms already this year.

Our local chapter has built floats for the last twelve years.  The theme this year was “smoke alarms save lives.”  It featured a dragon blowing smoke on a fire alarm while music such as “Hot Hot Hot” went out over loud speakers.

Float building is entirely a volunteer effort and is paid for by money raised by those volunteers, not money donated to the Red Cross.  But perhaps as a result, our dragon clearly was made by a committee.  The wings didn’t exactly match the body which didn’t exactly match the head.  The wings flapped [sometimes too much in the wind], the head turned from side to side, and the dragon breathed smoke.  It was fun.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Date of the Grand Parade: 15 February 2020

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Eidfjord: the fjord and the village.


Eidfjord, as noted last week is both the name of a village and a fjord, a branch of the Hardangerfjord, the third longest fjord in the world.  The Hardangerfjord is 111 miles long. The Folgefonna glacier, one of the largest in Norway, is located along fjord.

Fjords are found mainly in Norway, Chile, New Zealand, Canada, Greenland, and the U.S. state of Alaska.

Fjords were created as the glaciers slowly retreated at the end of the ice ages.  Fjords can be thousands of meters deep. Fjords are usually deepest further inland, where the glacial ice was thickest and heaviest.

I was interested to read that some fjords have coral reefs. I always thought of coral reefs as a tropical thing, but some of the largest are found at the bottom of Norwegian fjords.  Others are found in New Zealand. These coral are adapted to total darkness and live under high pressure. Few other life forms can live in such a cold, dark habitat.

Both Norway and Alaska and Washington in the U.S. have skerries, small-rocky islands: they are basically left-over bits after the glaciers retreated. Most of the Scandinavian coastline is cut into thousands of these  jagged bits of coastline.  Ålesund is on seven such islands.

After our visit to Hotel Fossli, posted last week, we had a little bit of time to wander around Eidfjord.  The small village, is easy to see.

We first walked along the water and were amused to see tree trunks covered with crocheted decorations.  Our immediate reaction: even the trees need sweaters in Norway.

We chatted with an older woman sitting on a bench by the path.  She said the people of the community work on the coverings during the winter and put them on in the spring.  Because the wool is heavy and the knitting very loose, she said it only takes about a month to produce one.

Subsequently, we wandered into the “downtown” where their city hall was located.  I enjoyed seeing what I call “public art” on display.  A few pieces were realistic, but most were more imaginative.

Behind the offices was a Tesla charging station.  I was surprised to see it in such a small village, but I imagine it makes sense with the Sysen Dam so close by.

Another waterfall along the Eidfjord: Compare the width to the houses.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Date of our visit: 7 September 2019

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Another day, another waterfall, and the power of one


Eidjfjord, Norway  is a small village [950 people in 2014] at the end of a fjord with the same name which in turn is part of the Hardangerfjord.

From Eidfjord, we took old national road 7 first completed in 1916 through the  Måbødallen valley to Fossli.  A 16th century track had gone part way and in 1780s was replaced with a pack trail, still in existence with 1500 stone steps.  The 1916 road was steep, had three tunnels, three bridges and five hairpin turns.  A new road in 1986 added four tunnels and eliminated some of the hairpin turns.

Mist from Vøringsfossen waterfall

Unfortunately, Ola Garen did not live to see the 1916 road.  Garen purchased Fossli, a high mountain pasture, in 1879.  At the time, there was only the pack trail up the valley and over the mountain.  Despite this and over the protests of friends and advice of others, Garen decided to build a hotel in Fossli at the top of the Vøringsfossen.

Vøringsfossen may be the best known waterfall in Norway.  It plunges 182 meters [600 feet]  down from the Hardangervidda Plateau, the biggest high mountain plateau in Northern Europe, to the Måbødallen valley below.  A trail was marked out through the valley to the bottom of the water fall in 1872.

To build his hotel, Garen had to build his own road.  Equipment and materials had to come up this “road.”  Short planks could be hauled up by mules, but longer boards had to be carried by men.

The hotel was finished 14 August 1891.  It attracted 66 quests its first summer and soon became a favorite.  Edvard Grieg composed his “Opus 66” while there in 1896.  The piano he worked on is still in the lobby. [I don’t know how the piano got there.]  Garen died in 1915 at age 59, before a real road was completed.  But his family still runs the latest version of the Fossli Hotel which was extended in 1936 and 1957.

After tea and cakes in the Fossli Hotel dining room and and a walk looking at the waterfall, we continued on to the Sysen Dam.  The dam is a little over a half mile long and holds about 127 billion cubic feet of water.  It collects water by a “roof gutter principle,” a collection of natural river basins as well as man-made conduits tunneled through rock feeding the lake. The most important of these can be controlled remotely by valves regulating the amount of water coming to a hydroelectric plant which supplies power for over three hundred thousand people.

Some have said there are 1190 fjords in Norway, but I doubt anyone has counted the waterfalls.  This was our fourth visit, we have been to a dozen Norwegian ports including those close to the sea, and I am sure we never had a day that we did not see a waterfall.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Date of our visit:  7 September 2019

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