October 19 – 21, 2020, November 2 – 13, 2020
We returned home from Buellton on Sunday and the very next day drove to Henderson to spend three nights at Kim and Marty’s place along with Jessica, Kris and little Gemma. With one exception, we’d stay close to the house spending quality time together as a family unit and enjoy watching Baby G discover how much fun spending time in a pool can be.
Our one outing was to return to the River Mountain Loop to see if cooler temperatures and riding in the reverse direction would enable us to erase the memory of our failed attempt of a few months earlier. We met Ken at the trailhead and took off counterclockwise, quickly arriving at the Three Sisters and blasting down their steep slopes.
It continues to amaze me that when riding a familiar route backwards how much unalike the ride is, often completely different than riding it in the opposite direction. And this was the case that day, hitting the switchbacks after the Sisters and bottoming out at the lake, and then beginning the dreaded nine-mile climb which turned out to be nothing to worry about at all, half of it at an easy one to two percent grade and the last at four percent.
We topped out near Railroad Pass and stopped briefly to let a Nevada Southern Railroad Excursion Train cross the path,
passed a line of rail-bikes awaiting a load of peddlers and then hammered the last couple of miles of slight descent at 25 miles per hour back to the trailhead.
From there we returned to the house and time for more conversation, good food, a number of adult beverages, and watching Gemma enjoy her first encounter with a swimming pool.
Back at home for the rest of the week Jessica, Kris and Gemma arrived for one more week as we prepared for our planned two-week jaunt through some western states. We left on Monday for Tucson to split our long drive to Alamogordo into two days. Our lodging for the night was at the Best Western InnSuites Tucson on the eastern side of town at the very reasonable rate of $66.10 a night. We would find, likely due to Covid, that rates at the hotels we’d stay in were we uniformly less than usual.
We’d contacted Mike, my old friend from Venice High School, who we spent a full day with last year when we did the bike tour out of Tucson (https://3jmann.com/2019/11/19/arizona-sunsets-bike-tour-part-one/) and as luck would have it, he and his wife Bonnie said they would join us for dinner and suggested Blanco, not too far from the Best Western.
We were seated outside on the large patio and soon thereafter ordered drinks, a Smashed Watermelon Rita for Joanna and the house Dodges Cadillac Rita for me. These were quite good and complimented the “Esquites” Mexican Street Corn (cilantro, lime, and cotija cheese) appetizer we started with.
As is often the case we split the Grilled Mahi Tacos with avocado, cabbage, baja sauce, pico de gallo which were served with rice and black beans. It was a very good choice, the fish cooked just right, the tacos themselves not overloaded with the ingredients that so often overwhelm the meat. Our conversation was lively as it was the night before election day and we reflected on our thoughts about the outcome, now so close after we’d discussed it a year ago.
Finished with the meal, we settled up at $75 including tip and walked around to the other side of the mall for a dessert at Frost Gelato La Encantada, where a Medio serving (two scoops) was the perfect finish to a long day’s drive that ended with full of good food, great conversation, and an ice cream treat that one might consider actually healthy. Well, maybe healthier than the two Cadillac Margarita’s I had at dinner.
With a relatively short drive (five hours) the next day to Alamogordo, we didn’t dawdle in Tucson as it meant we could have time in the afternoon to do a little bit of sightseeing once we arrived. Our lodging for the next two nights would be at the Alamogordo / White Sands KOA, where we had booked a one room camping cabin for the budget friendly rate of $35 a night.
After getting set up in camp (the cabin comes with a comfortable full-size bed, a bunk bed, air conditioning, heating and electricity) we set out for downtown and a stop in at the Shroud Exhibit and Museum, which Joanna had discovered online. Although closed for the day, one of the docents agreed to meet us there for a session with the shroud.
The museum is full of information about the Shroud of Turin, offered in a multitude of different media styles. The main attraction is s full-sized, backlit picture of the shroud, as well as a 3D experience featuring the only VP8 interactive image analyzer in the country (which allows guests to be able to actually interact with a previously inaccessible analog computer).
We watched a short video about the shroud and the research that had gone into it, and then received more information from the docent. Along with the replica shroud, there are also photographs from a conference that occurred in Albuquerque in 1977, which lead to the creation of the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP). The team journeyed to Turin, Italy in 1978 and for five days analyzed the shroud around the clock at the royal palace adjoining Turin Cathedral, some scientists sleeping while others worked study the shroud in more detail.
STURP team members continued their research after access to the shroud and published their results in scientific journals and proceedings and issued a final report in 1981, which stated:
“We can conclude for now that the Shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man. It is not the product of an artist. The blood stains are composed of hemoglobin and also give a positive test for serum albumin. The image is an ongoing mystery and until further chemical studies are made, perhaps by this group of scientists, or perhaps by some scientists in the future, the problem remains unsolved.”
It is important to note though that Joe Nickell of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry has pointed out that “STURP’s leaders served on the executive council of the Holy Shroud Guild, which is devoted to the “cause” of the reputed relic, casting some doubt on the unbiased nature of the final report.
It was a fascinating stop, one of those places rarely heard about and yet totally worth the time we gave it. Hungry by now, we returned to the main drag through town to stop in at Hi-D-Ho, an old school drive-in for a not so very healthy but entirely delicious meal.
I ordered a burger and coke while Joanna the Red Enchiladas plate and a shake. Instead of eating in the car we sat at a table on the covered patio, a good thing as the portion sizes made it difficult to corral our food. Joanna would end up with so much left over she’d snack on it for the next couple of days.
It felt good to be somewhere new, a place that would soon grow on us, beguiling us with its simple charms and arresting landscape, much like Albuquerque and Las Vegas, a desert town bracketed by a range of mountains. We’d sleep comfortably in our cabin, make coffee in the morning and prepare for a day of new adventures. It was almost like normal.
Nevada Southern Railroad: https://nevadasouthern.com/
Frost Gelato: https://www.frostgelato.com/location/la-encantada/
Alamogordo / White Sands KOA: https://koa.com/campgrounds/alamogordo/
Shroud Exhibit and Museum: http://shroudnm.com/
VP8 interactive image analyzer: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VP8_Image_Analyzer
Shroud of Turin Research Project: https://www.shroudofturin.com/sturp.html