Sunday, April 22, 2012

Birding at lower elevations

Today was Sraddha's birthday.  We had planned a reprise of last year's hike through the oak savanna to Fairy Falls near Spenceville, but my sprained ankle prevented us from hiking very far so we strolled up the road about a mile and back then drove down to Graylodge to see if we could spot the Owl's nest.  Success in this matter.  

Click on any of the photos to enlarge and see them better.

About half mile up the trail/road we spotted a pair of Western Bluebirds building a nest in an oak tree.
Western Blue Bird poking out of its nest
A few minutes later, when both bluebirds were out scavenging nest material, a woodpecker arrived with his lunch. 
Acorn Woodpecker with snack
"Hmm.  Nest huh?  This is one which I or my ancestors built.  So I am taking over!" he says.
Bluebird and woodpecker
"Now what do I do?" says the bluebird with nest material in its mouth.  "tough beans" says the woodie.  We didn't stay long enough to see the resolution.

I had hoped to see Lewis's woodpecker up where the road turns into a cow path.  That is where I saw them last year.  Nope.  not there and ankle hurting (remember I sprained it in Zion park a while back).

So we walked back down to the car.  Did I mention it was 90+ degrees out?  I was dragging when we arrived at trailhead.  Hauled the big lens, tripod and camera (30 lbs) on shoulder. (Memo to Kent: find a better way of carrying this gear next time).

We cooled off the car, re-hydrated and drove back down the road.  Finally spotted a Lewis's woodpecker in a tree.  Not the best light but he was still cute.
Lewis's Woodpecker
We headed down into the valley to Graylodge, a wonderful wildlife refuge north of Sierra Buttes to see if we could spot the Owl's nest.  Sraddha had been there last week and knew where it was.  Sure enough we saw it had at least one "Owlet" in it.  This is a little Great Horned Owl which hasn't yet learned to fly and was patiently waiting its parents for feeding.  It was huge but when we trained the scope and camera on it we could see its baby downy-like feathers.
Owlet with downy feathers in its nest high in an oak tree.

After viewing the "Owlet", we walked back to the car, pulled out our folding chairs and picnic dinner in the shade and ate.  We kept our scope and camera out and I got photos of Bullock's Orioles feeding on the grasses across the road.  Most of the photos were not very good due to interference with the reeds, weeds and grasses but I did get this photo.
Bullock's Oriole
Also saw a Kildeer sitting in the shade on the road and couldn't pass up the photo.

All in all, a lot of fun seeing all these interesting birds and celebrating her birthday.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tulips at Crystal Hermitage

We made it back in time for full tulip bloom.  Every April, the Crystal Hermitage gardens at Ananda Village opens it gates to the public for several weeks of garden viewing.  The upper gardens are open during week and both upper and back gardens open on first 2-3 weekends.  Sudden late spring storms delayed the flowers opening then the weather turned warm into the 80's which made this weekend the best viewing of all.  Over 400+ visitors here just today Saturday.

We spent the morning as volunteers greeting people and I cooked in kitchen serving up scones and quiche with coffee and ice tea.  This is such a wonderful way to connect with the greater community.

View of upper gardens from hermitage front porch
Ornamental Cherry tree in back garden
Another view of upper garden from front porch of Hermitage
Looking down from upper garden at Hermitage and Yuba River canyon

Monday, April 16, 2012

Home Sweet Home

After 2 months of traveling we are home!

Stayed last night in a KOA west of Lodi near the delta.  So this morning we drove around the delta area looking at various potential campgrounds for future use.  We were aghast that the nearby Brannon Island State Recreational Area is scheduled for closure July 1.   We hope it doesn't happen.

We found one possible RV park with a quiet vibration and one little gem in a county park.  We also discovered that the Hwy 12 exit on I-5 has a great place to refuel, add propane, dump waste and then head out.  It is only less than 3 hours drive (in RV) from home so we figure it will work for future trips.

We arrived home about 5 PM and were greeted with a tree limb across our garage roof.  Seems last weeks storm had its way with the tree but it appears that no damage occurred.  We will get a head start on next winters firewood.

Madrone tree fell on our garage roof.  Whew! Seems it hasn't damaged anything.
One of the big decisions we have to make is where to park Charli when we are home.  Last fall, we parked it down at the end of our road next to the Gaia house, thinking it could be developed into a good  parking space for other RV visitors to the Expanding Light retreat and Ananda Village.  

However, as we further investigated the costs, it seems that we might be better off saving some of this cost by parking Charli next to our garage.  If we widen the side about 3-4 feet with a retaining wall, we could have enough room to extend the slides when needed.  Everything would be nearby.

But could it work?  We needed proof of concept.  Can we back Charli down the hill and past the corner of the garage. Last October we could not have done this due to inexperience but we have been on the road for 3 of the past 5 months and Sraddha has developed a real good sense if directing me as I drive.  I had scoped it out in March when back for work and it seemed it would work.

 We trimmed some tree branches sticking out into the driveway and gave it a go.  After about 20 minutes of back and forth and additional tree limb trimming, we did it.  With room to open the bedroom slide.  So now, we will seriously explore widening the area.  

Stay tuned.

Proof of concept - We shoehorned in Charli next to Garage!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tehachapi - Rain and snow.

Up this morning early and the sky had cleared out. Rained most of night so ground got a good soaking. Wind still strong and temps cold.

We headed out. 3 miles back to interstate at Yermo where we knew w could find a "decent" gas price for the desert. Filled up and headed west. Fire at was for snow and high winds on tehachapi pass. Sraddha drive over the desert as the winds really threw us around. Some tricky cross winds. Hit us as we circled around Mojave town. The windmills were doing a brisk business.

We stopped at Kramer junction where 395 and 58 cross to ask some eastbound truck drivers about pass conditions. Everyone said the winds were a factor but roads passable with no ice which was our biggest concerne since the temp in the Internet said 32 degrees. Anything above freezing was fine with us. The alternative route through Tejon Pass I-5 was a lot longer and had fog issues.

She pulled over just past Mojave and I hopped into the drivers seat. Started up the grade and found some snow. Fortunately we had waited a whole before heading out so temps were warming up a bit.

We passed Monolith cement factory. (see pic below) and through tehachapi. Beautiful snow covered hills greeted us and the roads, while wet, proved not icy.

As we descended Tehachapi pass and the famous tehachapi loop we saw 6 trains in process of climbing grade. Sraddha grabbed the iPhone camera and got a pic of one of them.

Snow turned to rain and rain dried out as we entered Bakersfield. We drove over to buttonwillow for our favorite salvadoran restaurant and also gassed up. Back in the Valley again.

As I write this fr the passenger seat, we are almost to our Lodi campground destination. Only 100 miles from he. We will relax by the delta tonight and enjoy one more night on the road. Tomorrow we will stop en route to do some shopping and be home leisurely by late afternoon.

More blog posts forthcoming to catch up on some missed spots. Charlie the RV will get a new home after being on the road 5 months. She will be close by and we will begin to consider next adventure.

Approaching Mojave Town.  Snow in the Tehachapi pass area.  Windmills busy.
Monolith Cement Plant near Tehachapi
Eastbound Train near Tehachapi Loop

Saturday, April 14, 2012

It Does Rain in Mojave Desert

Departed Zion this morning with sunshine but we knew that was about to change. An unseasonably cold hard storm that directed us to head south over Mojave instead of North through Nevada.

We bucked 30-40 mph headwinds much of the way on I-15. We turned south to go around Vegas through lake mead recreation area but didn't escape the winds.

As we drove past the Nevada/CA border, the winds picked up.  We were in the slow truck lane with flashers turned on indicating less than 35 mph.  Over the pass we go and the rain began.  It continued off and on, mostly on until we reached our destination for the night near Yermo (just east of Barstow).  Calico Ghost Town is a county park in San Bernadino County 3 miles north of interstate in a sheltered canyon.  Having stayed there last November, we figured it would offer respite from the 40+mph gusting winds.  We had called earlier in the morning to reserve a space only to discover when we arrived that it was double booked!  Uh oh.  What to do?

 The rain had termporarily subsided.  We pulled into an unoccupied space (was reserved) and sought out the onsite park ranger.  Meanwhile we discovered we had parked in the middle of a bunch of people here for off roading activities.  They had their souped up jeeps and OHV's and engines running and gunning.  Quite the chaotic atmosphere in stark contrast to our last visit in November.

Ranger Rod called someone to try to track down the problem but all the offices were closed.  He indicated that the D section was available first come first served.  While it had electricity only, it was rocky.  It was getting colder and windier by the minute. I couldn't walk very well due to sprained ankle so we unhooked Mr. Toad and drove off in search of one of these sights suitable for our needs.  Although we can dry camp with no problem, having electrical is handy.  We had water and had drained the waste tanks.  This turned out (as most do) as a blessing because the D section is up in back in a quiet area.  Well, as quiet as the wind would allow.  We scored a sweet location that was pretty level,  easy back-in and setup and voila!.  We cooked up some dinner, watched a little recorded TV. (Diners, Drives, & Drive-ins) and then retired for the night.  The wind howled and swirled above us and the rain pelted us most of the night.

It does rain in the Mojave.  and it gets cold too.  We are now ready to head for the valley.

Looking west at Yermon.  That's Charli and Mr. Toad.  It rained all night
Ominous Clouds in west.  It began to rain as I limped back from snapping this photo

Friday, April 13, 2012

Hiking Zion National Park

One of the busiest parks. Shuttle system in effect April 1. I caught a bad cold and was not my normally energetic self so we did no hard hikes. Stayed extra night due to storms so we had 2 full days in park. Went up to Zion loge late both mornings for brunch then walked some of the easy trails in the valley. More like dawdled most of the time.

I also rested and slept in middle of day and we had to repair the slide out (see previous blog post) so our walks were limited. Still it was just the best place to R&R.

The family from hell (next door first night) was replaced by a very quiet couple on each side with rental RV's. Sweet! We have observed many many smaller rental RV units driving around. Mostly European couples from listening to them speak Apparently they rent from places in Las Vegas and drive around to all the national parks.

Great way to do it!

Yesterday, while I was resting, Sraddha headed up into park for a long stroll. I was to join her after 3pm and we would the go on up to Narrows. She calls me from canyon stop about 3 and we plan to meet there around 3:45. I was to drive keep into visitors center and catch shuttle. I

When I discovered park full I turned around raced back to camp, left jeep in motel lot and scurried to catch the town shuttle into the park. I scurried a little carelessly and, for the first time in many, many years, tripped and twisted my ankle real good. Ouch. Got up and limped to the shuttle. Wasn't hurting too bad. Figured it was mild sprain, not broken so kept going.

Arrived at canyon junction early, found Sraddha and we walked up to Pome creek bridge (see pics) which is where highway 9 crosses over on its eastbound journey through tunnel to the other side and Bryce Canyon park.

We poked around underneath Pine creek bridge and walked back to shuttle then road up to end and walked up the 1mile riverside walk. Ankle hurting pretty good now. Ok though as long as I stay on flat surface.

The walk was worth the effort as I captured the late afternoon light reflected off the running waters of the Virgin river. See the iPhone pic below.

The light was incredible all over the park as we returned to shuttle and road back to visitor center.

Due to my ankle, I had elected not to haul big camera. Just iPhone. Which was kinda fun since time was limited. I have to say it is handy in these situations and a lot faster when posting to blog. Will continue to use it more for blog posts.

Looking up Narrows of Virgin River
Pine Creek Bridge looking east up into Canyon
Valley of the Patriarchs with some waterfall in distance (center)
Poking around under Pine Creek bridge looking Westward back to main canyon

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Oh no!! The Slide out broke in open position!

We arrived in our RV camp just outside of Zion National Park gates and scored a spot next to the Virgin River.  First we had to unhook Mr. Toad (no additional name yet) from Charli and found it to be quite difficult on a grade or when they are not parked straight so we walked around the camp to find a level spot.  We should have realized then and there that level spot means different things to different people.

We pulled head into our spot on a hot gusty day.  Had just driven 250 miles from GC through northern Arizona over some beautiful roads in windy conditions and were tired and over heated.  Narrow spot.  How are we going to store Mr. Toad and open the slides?  Pull forward, nope,  move left? nope, move right? nope.  ok, back to pulling as far forward almost touching the BBQ grill which we weren't going to use anyway.  Ok?  lower the automatic levelers.  ALL the way in front and still not level.  Hmm.  ok, almost level.  Let's try sliding out the front slide. 

YIKE!  About 6 inches out I noticed the back end going out fine but the faster and farther than the front end.  In fact, the front end isn't moving at all!  Uh, oh.  Retract.  Back end moves but front doesn't.  Now what do we do?  Ok stop.  retract levelers.  try again.  Nope.  Hmm.  Can I move the RV?  Start engine and yes, it moves.  Good news and bad news.  Meanwhile Sraddha looks at another spot 2 doors upriver and she walks 1/4 mile back to office to check availability.  She comes back and says we can move and it appears a little more level.

Ok, so we carefully back out of space, and move over 2 doors to the other space with the slide still extended.  We level it and it is better but not perfect.  Did I mention we were over heated yet? (body temp only).  We can live with this.  The firdge still works and the bedroom slides out fine.  What to do with "broken slide"? Ah Ha!  when we bought Charli the RV dealer threw in a 1 yr subscription to "Priority Care" an emergency road care service.  We had internet and cell service (not always the case on this trip) so I dialed up the phone number and eventually got a technician on the phone.  We diagnosed the problem which turned out to be a broken pin underneath the front slide.  Sigh. 

 "Can you manually pull in the slide", she asked?  

"How do I do that?" I answered.  

"It might say in the owner's manual", she replied.  

Zounds what a brilliant idea I thought.  We didn't get an owner's manual which the RV dealer promised us so we bugged the Tiffin Manufacturer who finally sent us one.  It arrived while I was visiting home for some work so I cleverly put it in my return luggage.  Open to page 8-4 and there it told me how to manually do it.  Except I was really tired and hot and we could live with the slide partially open today.  So she calmly said she would research someone to come out tomorrow if I preferred (they pay travel costs and I pay labor to repair) or I could do it myself.  The instructions were complicated.  Something about dismantling switches and sensors, etc, so I said, sure,  send someone out.  She said she would call back in the morning with someone who could come out.  "OK" I said.  

Meanwhile, the heat and wind were taking their toll.  The good news is that we remained even minded and cheerful and never got upset with the situation or each other.  We decided to table the whole thing until the next day.  Oh, yes, the water hose leaked a little and we had no extra seal.  We can live with this until the next day also.  However, the kicker was the neighbors with 4 kids from hell, who ran around and yelled and talked until 10:30 that night.  I almost said something but they finally quieted down.  We were both overheated so we decided to go to swimming pool to cool off.  We wanted to go into the river but the bank was too steep and long (good news when it floods though). 

We changed into swim suits and walked the 1/4 mile to the pool.  BRR!.  85 degrees air temp.  about 55 degrees water temp. Turns out they had just filled the swimming pool the day before we arrived.  We both dipped in for a few seconds.  It was ccccoooolllldddd, but did the trick of lowering body temps a bit.  Went back to RV and turned on the AC as interior temp was 91 and climbing.  Normally we don't like to run the AC but it was nice to have this day to both cool off and to filter out noise from the neighbors 12 feet away. 

Next morning we discuss our options. Can we manually retract the slide ourselves thereby saving a bunch of money?  Fortified with 2 cups of tea, I hauled out the manual and re-read the section.  Hmm.  this doesn't look that hard.  Let's crawl underneath and have a look-see.  Yep the bolt shear pin was missing on front end.  Where did it go?  drop off or break?  But I did have a wrench to twist the square rod to move the gear to bring it in. Would it break something if I did this?  Was there a sensor i needed to disengage or would the electric motor jam? I decide to risk it.  Turn turn.  It's moving!  A few more turns of the wrench and it was all the way in!  Woo Hoo! I get a call from RV repair guy about 30 minutes away who can't come out until next day to retract it for us.  and then I can drive it back to his place for repair.  Happily, I told him we got it retracted ourselves and made arrangements to drive it down to St George (one hour one way) next day to be repaired.  Whew.  End of tunnel in site.'

We drive up to the park and take shuttle up the Zion Lodge for breakfast, proud that we got the slide manually retracted. We took a walk because I wasn't feeling that good.  Not bad but just not tip-top-hike-up-a-steep-elevation-just-a-mild-stroll-good.  It had cooled down to low 60's and began to rain with wind so we hopped on shuttle back to visitor center and headed back to RV.  During breakfast we had decided to see if we could fix it ourselves.  We needed a new bolt and locknut.  Sraddha went back to our original spot (recently vacated earlier in morning) and found the old bolt!  Good news.  Now we just need a locknut so she drives down to Hurricane to Ace hardware store and gets one.  She also bought some extra washers for the water hose.  I remained home to rest.

Well, if you are still reading, we got back underneath and with a lot of effort, jiggling and turning, were able to put the bolt back through the rods connecting to the motor, tighten down the new locknut and extend the slide to full position!  Victory!  I called back the RV repair guy to tell him we would not be making a trip to St. George.  

We are staying here a couple more days.  That is another story.

Our view out the front window of Charli encamped just outside Zion Park
Breakfast view from Zion Lodge!  Is there a better breakfast place?  Veggie omelet good too!
Storm clouds incoming north of our camp!

Hiking in the Grand Canyon

Well we didn't really hike into the canyon. Technically it was around the canyon rim.  We hiked about 7 miles over 2 days and biked another 10.  

I think the GC has most visitors per year of any park.  They are so well organized.  We camped in the campground with mostly tents, like dry camping but we were totally self contained.  Couldn't run the generator in our section but we know, from experience, that we can go 3 days on house batteries if we conserve and use LED lights, etc so were fine.  The shuttles just take you everywhere and then we walked and walked.  The Trail of Time was real cool showing all the geological eras from 2 billion years ago.  Each step was a year to give you a feel for the enormity of the whole process.

Everyone has seens lots of pics of the GC which are better,  these are all shot with my iPhone.  The good colored ones were with the HCR (High Dynamic Range) app that analyzes the light, takes two pics and blends them together.  The one of us was shot with the normal iphone camera app in mid day and so was bleached out a bit.

near sunset at Hopi Point
Another Angle
Can you figure out which camera took this picture? (hint- made by the fruit company)
We finally found someone to snap our photo.  That is an Ananda Velo hat I am wearing
Sublime and Awe Inspiring!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

We officially name our motor home

Since the beginning last September of this travel blog, I have referred to our motor home as "the RV" or "our RV" or "the motorhome", etc. No real name, just a description. I had asked Sraddha to think about a name and nothing appeared.

Recently I started calling the RV "Charlie", thinking it was cute to say "Travels with Charlie". Now Sraddha like Sanskrit names as is known in Ananda Village where Sanskrit nomenclature is found everywhere and many people have spiritual names of sanskrit origin. However we just didn't seem to come up with one fr the RV, hence "Charlie".

This morning, as we drove eaat away from The Grand Canyon through. Navajo country en route to Zion, Sraddha hit upon the name: "Charming Highway Lila" or "Charli" for short! (Lila means "play of God" in Sanskrit). So now we have our AKC registered name and our nickname. "Charli"

By the way, Charli is a she.

Now we are still working on a durable name for the jeep. Mr. Toad doesn't quite cut the mustard. Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Grand canyon ho

Departing early
Record time for departure 7:30 AM on Easter. Well. It quite but close because we did depart earlier from Texas.

Easy trip. Only 120 miles today The sun at our back side we see a herd of antelope off to the east. Quick get the camera. Oops, in the car. Out I go. Get the zoom lens. They are gone. Hmm. Maybe not. Sraddha hops into the driver seat and me riding shotgun with camera. We drive slowly on meridian over the rise and there they are. Not as good a sun angle but still I take the photo.

North to Ashfork
The Chino valley is se elevation as Prescott so easy driving. Wonder if chino pants were invented here ;) Dry here but some agriculture with fruit trees, green houses. Land still waking up here from winter. We see the cliffs of the Rim in the north of us. Funk we climb up over it. Prescott valley at 5000 ft. Canyon village is closer to 7000 ft.

Prescott Arizona

2 adults, no pets, no kids, like it quiet.  "Oh, you are the ideal RV couple"  said the lady who checked us into the Point of Rocks RV park in NE Prescott.  Wow, really?  Yup!!  Easy to handle.  no fuss, (well as long as its quiet) and no critters running around destroying things.  Ha Ha.

After a beautiful drive over hills (7000 ft) and valleys (3000 ft), we settled into this spot in the granite dells of Prescott where we could roam around the big boulders and listen mostly to the birds instead of the road.  

When I lived here back in 1970 while attending Prescott College, the sleepy town size was about 13,000 and county 39,000 residents.  lovely area.  College was out by the Dells so we would go hiking and bouldering all the time.  Now the town has blown up 3 times the size and the county has almost a quarter of a million residents.  Woah!  still the Dells are preserved and fun to walk around in.  Wish we had more time.  

We did drive over to Jerome and Cottonwood to explore a little.  Jerome was an abandoned mining town turned tourist town and Cottonwood same but where all the workers live who work in Jerome.  We saw the Verde Valley Railroad and walked along the verde river a little.  Too hot.  We headed back over the hill to Prescott and its cooler temps due to higher elevation. 

Now off to Grand Canyon this morning.  

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Desert Oasis

En route north from Tucson we drove through the copper mining country east of Phoenix featuring many huge open pit copper mines.  Our destination was the Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park in Superior, Arizona.  A desert oasis built back in the 20's by one of the copper barons, it features plants native, not only to this area but man similar deserts existing in South Africa, Argentina, Australia.  Interesting to see so many similarities in cactus, and other plants.

The bees and other insects were having a hey day with all the buds and flowers.  We walked the grounds for several hours and here are a few photos.  then we headed further north up into the cooler forested country of northern Arizona staying the night in a little quiet park near Payson.
Mr. Bumble Bee (about 1.5 inches long)  with gold wings

Oasis waterfall

Single Poppy

Largest Cactus Flower I,ve ever seen- 6 inches

Butterfly in Agave


Another Bee

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mr Toad and the Dump

Up early this morning. Break camp and pout by 8AM. There ate advantages to
RV over tent camping. Takes about 15 minutes to get going. Of course last night we spent 30 minutes putting away the outdoor mats and chairs etc, which we set up for extended stays.

RV at dump ready to hook up
At the RV dump station ready to dump and hookup
First order of business is to hit the dump station on the way out. When camped we take showers, wash dishes use the potty for liquid wastes so draining is something we need to do every 5-7 days depending on our usage. We rinse out the hoses We had spent 5 nights at Catalina so everything ok now. See picture.

Wow,  I just lost half the blog post.  thank you google.  no way to revert back and I accidentally deleted it.  sigh.

Lessee, where was I?  Not sure so will wing it.  As you can see by photos we are poised at RV dump station.  As I release the black and grey fluids, Sraddha is also connecting up Mr. Toad to the back of the RV.  Takes about 10 minutes.

Our toad hookup.  takes only 10 minutes to connect and disconnect

The hose from the waste tanks is held down by a rock as we wouldn't want any spillage.  There is a water hose to wash things down if needed.  It is also used to rinse out the effluent hose after release.  Oh, yes, in case you wanted to know,  I wear those disposable surgical gloves that we buy at Costco.  Works great!

Dump hose out to relieve fluids. Easy Peasy!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Trains, Planes and Automobiles...(and a ferry)!

We are in Arizona at present and I behind in posting. Was speaking today with a good friend who reads this blog and he mentioned that, while all the photos are wonderful he was wondering where were the trains?  I reflected on this and realized I haven't posted any train shots either of real trains or of model trains during this trip.  Mostly because I haven't been photographing trains on this trip.

I have driven 2/3 the way across USA in motorhome,  thousands of miles in the jeep, flown in airplanes from Corpus Christi through Dallas to Sacramento and back.  Not one train pic.  My main excuse is that most of the time I was driving when the big trains passed by but really it hasn't been a focus.

Until we reached Houston which was the major reason to visit the area, well, possible birds along the beach areas, but you already knew that.

Morning Fog at Bolivar Ferry Terminal
Anyway, I met up early one morning with a friend, Rich, who lives in the Houston area.  I departed the RV about 6 AM in deep dark coastal fog.  About 35 minute drive to the Bolivar ferry which connects with Galveston.  30 minute ferry ride and I snapped this photo as we departed the dock.  Morning fog and the lights made it very eery.

UP Hump yard
We met on south side of Houston near his home and as we drove north to the railroad area, the sun burned off the haze.  We toured an engine maintenance facility and headed up to the main hump yard where inbound freight cars are sorted or classified into trains bound for new destinations.  4 engines were moving a string of cars over the back end. One was a plug with no cab.  Of interest is there is no engineer riding on train.  They copy model railroaders and run it remote control from the tower.

Mainline North South.  This train headed south
The track underneath is actually a north-south track running up Atlanta and south into Mexico.  This intersection used to be a bottleneck back in the 90's during the merger of the Union Pacific RR with the Southern Pacific RR.  Then more track was laid to smooth out interchange of trains and cars.  We saw about 4-5 trains per hour going through this area in all directions.  What a busy intersection.

Next step was a model railroad where we spent the afternoon running tiny trains.  Gordon Briggs has built a beautiful model of the old ATSF, or Santa Fe line between Los Angeles and Chicago.  His era is 1953 where the passenger train was king and trucks and airplanes were still mostly localized.  His scenery is very close model to the real thing in northern Arizona and Midwest.  I spent the afternoon running trains in his Winslow, Arizona yard while mainline trains zoomed by.  What fun.  Below are a couple photos I shot with iPhone and here is a link to a 4 minute video I posted on You Tube

Long day but fun.  Got my railroad fix for the trip.
Santa Fe Freights
El Capitan Eastbound across Arizona