June 29, 2019
by David Ryan

Wandering to a Gallina Tower

Taking advantage of a very cool day for late June, the dogs and I decided to wander to a very remote parcel of BLM land (public land) north of Cuba, New Mexico, in the heart of what was once home to the “Gallina Culture.”

The Gallina were an isolated people living in very remote and rugged fortified locations north and west of the Jemez Mountains. Some of their fortifications resemble towers. The Gallina were more or less contemporaneous with the nearby Ancestral Puebloan cultures of Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde. They disappeared almost 750 years ago.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that their disappearance was not pretty. Many if not most Gallina sites show signs of extreme violence. Some group, for some reason or another, had it in for the Gallina, and they either killed, chased, or scared them out of the region. It is unknown if the Gallina died out or were assimilated into another group.

The BLM parcel that we intended to visit has several Gallina sites including a tower. I had been there before, but it has probably been 15 years since my last visit.

After two hours of driving we finally reached our destination. Unfortunately, the road providing the easiest access to the BLM land had a locked gate and was posted with No Trespassing signs. Luckily we were able to find a nearby oil well pad that was not posted with No Trespassing signs. So we parked the car and started walking.

If you are an outdoor explorer, it is helpful to know your state’s rules on trespass. In New Mexico, fences, gates, and the like must be posted with No Trespassing signs to enforce laws prohibiting trespass on your land. If a location is not posted, it is legal for you to park your car and start walking. With that being said, it is always best to keep your expeditions as close to or on public land for as much as possible.

Because we were starting from an unfamiliar direction we had to pass through some rough and wooded country to reach our goal. If you’re interested in exploring an area without an established path or road, a good tip is to find a cow path or game trail heading in the general direction as your destination. You may have to dodge some branches along the way, but you’ll at least be following a route that takes advantage of the land’s natural folds and contours.

That trace of a path going off to the right is an elk run and is the easiest way to navigate through the woods.

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May 18, 2019
by David Ryan

Wandering on a Road Trip to the Odessa Meteor Crater

Earlier this week Petey and I took advantage of some unusually cool weather for May to drive southeast to check out the meteor crater near Odessa, Texas. Although not nearly as dramatic as Meteor Crater in Arizona, the Odessa crater is the second largest meteor crater in the country!  I had seen the crater some time ago and thought a revisit would be a good excuse to check out the oil-rich Permian Basin.

The drive from Albuquerque includes a 90-plus mile stretch on U.S. Highway 285 (between Vaughn and Roswell) without any services what so ever. There is nothing that resembles a commercial enterprise and only other one paved road along the way. Except for a handful of ranches, a few scattered junipers, and some antelope, it is empty.

And then all of a sudden between mile markers 184 and 183 we saw on the horizon two ranchers on opposite sides of the very wide road arguing. Whoa! I immediately hit the brakes just in case  one of them decided to run across to the road to finish the fight.

From a further distance, my first reaction was that those were real people.

But then I noticed that they weren’t moving, and when I got closer I could see that they were two very large and very realistic full-color cutout profiles facing each other. One on each side of the road. Continue Reading →

April 15, 2019
by David Ryan

Wandering Around El Paso on a Streetcar

Long before automobiles took over our streets, urban dwellers got around by streetcar or on foot. By the end of the 1960s most American cities had surrendered to the automobile and converted what remained of their streetcar lines to buses. By 1970 the list of U.S. cities with streetcars was down to eight: San Francisco, New Orleans, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Newark, Boston, and El Paso, Texas. Most of the remaining streetcar lines had stretches of private right-of-way and were an integral component of their city’s mass transit network.

El Paso’s streetcar line ran exclusively on the street. It survived because it provided an efficient connection between Ciudad Juarez in Mexico and downtown El Paso, Texas. It was the only international streetcar line in the world and was never converted to buses because the transit company’s franchise charter with Juarez only called for streetcars.

Unfortunately, from the point of view of Juarez merchants, the service was too efficient as it made it too easy for Juarez residents to shop in downtown El Paso. In 1973, at the merchants urging, the Juarez city government shut the line down on their side of the Rio Grande river. With that, the line soon shut down on both sides of the Rio Grande and the streetcars were taken to a desert storage facility.

El Paso’s distinction of having the only International streetcar line was never forgotten and many people talked about reviving the service. One of those was Peter Svarzbein, an El Paso resident studying art in New York City. For his Master’s Degree art project, he combined public, visual, and performance art to create an advertising campaign complete with  posters, videos, murals, and even a mascot/spokesperson making guest appearances to encourage you to take the completely fictitious “El Paso Transnational Trolley” across the border. Campaign slogans included, “Let Us Take You Home on Either Side of the Border” and “Here to Make the Border Safe Again.”

Here’s one of Peter’s posters!

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