Friday, December 20, 2013

Hot Springs and The Thing!

Random Western Wanderings.

In This Episode: Hot Springs and The Thing!

The Noise- January 2014

The Outs

Ellen Jo Roberts

Greetings from Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, a dusty old town on the banks of the mighty Rio Grande.

Western New Mexico seems far away, no matter where you’re coming from. As one friend put it, it is the ideal place for felons to disappear forever because, like, who’s gonna look for them here? This road trip took us along hundreds of miles of two-lane blacktop, past never-ending forests of roadside yucca, through ghost towns and over corkscrewing mountain passes. Along the way we stayed at historic motels, wandered art districts, met interesting folks and made careful observation of the ways Arizona and New Mexico are similar and yet so very different.

After exiting I-40 at Holbrook we were the only car on the road most of the way to Glenwood. With Gila National Forest all around, the interesting ghost town of Mogollon to the northeast (home of the Winter Sun family’s Super Salve Company) and the San Francisco Hot Springs just south, Glenwood is a historic community with a small stretch of business butted up to a slow curve of Highway 180. The monsoon season hit the southwest big last summer. Arizona rains were relentless and in New Mexico it was no different. Glenwood’s main tourist attraction, The Catwalk National Recreation Trail, sustained heavy damages from flooding and remains closed until further notice. Named for an elevated pipeline frame, a relic of the mining era hugging the canyon walls above the Whitewater River canyon, the Catwalk was a popular trail, and its closure has impacted tourism in the immediate vicinity. 

We were the only guests checked into a strange old roadside motel. The furnace made sounds like a cat purring. The room was a wild cacophony of textures: wood paneling, rock walls, shag carpeting. Lots of different out-buildings and random artifacts littered the property, including assorted ice cream freezers and a vintage Schwinn Stingray. Stairs to the motel’s second floor had fallen away or been removed. The people in Glenwood were pleasant but I’d not say they were overly friendly. They regarded us as though we were French people on holiday rather than their neighbors from the state next door.

Heading south from Glenwood you soon pass the San Francisco River and the trailhead to its hot springs pools, also scoured by the summer floods but being rebuilt according to locals.

Further down 180, you meet up with the Gila River and a ridiculous number of towering yucca, saluting you from the hillsides like their California cousin, the Joshua Tree. Silver City arrives somewhat suddenly, a surprisingly big city in the otherwise lonely wilds of southwestern New Mexico. Born from a 19th century mining boom, Silver City is a perfect size town—large enough to offer some engaging culture and diversity but small enough to still be considered “charming”. It’s got the perfect blend of appealing features: bountiful art galleries, crazy mannequins and cool 20th century downtown architecture, all of it fringed with beautiful wilderness and just enough seediness to make it a “real” place.


Silver City’s Main Street is actually 65 feet below grade, sunken into a rocky wash now referred to as The Big Ditch. The town’s original dwellers foolishly chose this frequently flooded thoroughfare as their Main Street. The business owners kept rebuilding after each flood until the “big one” struck, in the summer of 1895. Now Main Street is better known as Big Ditch Park, where the lazy trickle of San Vincente Creek contentedly rolls over the rocks below.

From Silver City it’s a wild, winding drive on Highway 152 over the Mimbres Mountains, the Black Range and Emory Pass to arrive at our turnaround point on this random roadtrip, Truth or Consequences. The constant switchbacks and hairpin curves totaled less than 35 miles, but added 90 minutes to our drive time.

Dropping down into the valley below the pass, Kingston and Hillsboro are two historic mining communities, both part ghost town and part alive with Hillsboro being the more vigorous of the two.

By the time we pulled into Truth or Consequences, it was after dark and I was road weary from driving those relentless curves. We had reservations at a nifty lil’ restored motorcourt a few blocks from downtown. The owner of the motel was also a cranial-sacral specialist and she had an intense, hypnotic gaze I later found to be symptomatic of the city and similar to the New Age open-faced spiritualism conjured in Sedona. The people of Truth or Consequences are frequently involved in some sort of healing arts, no matter their day job, and their penetrating expressions seemed to be trying to bore right into my soul. Or, maybe they were alien visitors from another planet. Either way, fine with me. I’ve got nothing to hide.

Truth or Consequences (or “T or C” as called by the locals because the full name is such a mouthful), is a small city in Sierra County, built atop a deep reservoir of mineral hot springs that generate a flow of 2.5 million gallons per day. The Chiricahua Apaches deemed these hot springs sacred, calling them by the name “Place to Pray”. In the 1930s and 40s it was known as a health spa town, full of bathhouses and masseuses. The Rio Grande frames the edges of the town, gathering stream and steam from the hot springs as they join it upon exit from the assorted bathhouses.

The Hot Springs Historic District congregates close to the river. During its pre-World War II heyday there were more than 40 bathhouses in town, and a “21 Day Soak” regimen was touted to cure anything that ailed you.

Today a collection of ten active and open-for-business bathhouses dot the neighborhood. They range from expensive upscale to vintage downtrodden but all are piped with the same mineral-rich water ranging from 98-115º degrees Fahrenheit. The springs are not sulfury, so the volcanic smell familiar with hot springs in other regions is absent in these baths. Instead, 37 different minerals bubble up from the earth, including Lithium, a “natural mood balancer.” After a soak in these magical, slightly salty waters, we did feel younger, calmer, more limber. The public baths we visited were perched right at the edge of the Rio Grande. From our 104º soak, we watched the sun set over Turtleback Mountain in the distance and imagined the olden days, with early visitors camped in tents and slathered in mud to cure their rheumatism.

Advertised as the “City of Health” and “Health Capital of the Southwest” the name of this place was actually Hot Springs, New Mexico until 1950.  In 1949, Ralph Edwards of the radio (and later television) show “Truth or Consequences” announced a stunt to celebrate the show’s 10th anniversary. They wanted a town to volunteer to change its name, in exchange for publicity and exposure in connection with the very popular show. Many towns entered the contest, but Hot Springs was deemed the champ. The premise of the long-running (1940-1978) game show involved challenging contestants with impossible trivia questions. Failure to answer correctly before the buzzer rang meant the contestants must instead complete some wacky, humorous stunt. In addition to having a town in New Mexico take its name, Truth or Consequences was also notable for being the very first game show ever shown on television, in an early broadcast in 1941 when the medium was in its infancy. 

Another surprising way Truth or Consequences is first on the cutting edge: Commercial space travel. Spaceport America is a “gateway to space” and "the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport". Located 20 miles east of T or C in the Jornada Del Muerto desert basin, the Spaceport is now open and operational. Construction began in 2006 though the concept dates back to the early 1990s.  Several tenants call it home, but its keystone is certainly Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, the first commercial spaceline. Virgin Galactic has already succeeded at launching 20 space missions from this location, suborbital test expeditions to the outer reaches of the earth’s atmosphere, 60 miles sky high from sea level.

T or C is a weird town, but in a fun way. The people, with their warm sincerity and crazy soul-searching stares certainly make an impression. Just like Arizona, there is a great blend of cultures: Native American, Mexican, crusty old cowpokes, musicians, artists, hippies and transplants new and old.


The downtown shopping district is a cool scene of classic kitsch and dusty old western style. T or C’s main grocery store, Bullocks, probably hasn’t changed much since the 1980s and reminded me of the neighborhood grocery store of my childhood with its rubber entry mats prompting the entry and exit doors to open separately, its low ceilings and cluttered aisles. I knocked over an entire display of Pepto Bismal and no one batted an eye.

 New Mexico: Not Really New. Not Really Mexico”- t-shirt spotted in downtown T or C.

New Mexican towns never have as many trees as Arizona towns. I always feel a bit windswept and sun-parched in New Mexico. Though New Mexico is very much like Arizona, geologically and historically, I was vexed to discover there are people in The Land of Enchantment who do not consider themselves fans of their neighbor to the west. We have traveled to New Mexico often in the past year and a general, jovial camaraderie from fellow western folk is something we have savored. On this most recent visit I was stunned by a conversation with a particularly strident employee of a bathhouse.

“I am enjoying Truth or Consequences,” I said with a smile, all positivity and light, trying my hand at hypnotic expressions, “I’m a fan of towns of the west and this one is surprisingly artsy and very interesting.” Despite my warm fuzzies, she was instantly dismissive, frowning, saying T or C “lacks culture”, and then hit me with this sucker punch from behind her work desk:

“I’d NEVER go to Arizona.”
Because of our horrible governor and her politics. And how our horrible governor was influencing the behavior of their slightly less horrible governor. I felt all the air escape from my lungs. I don’t think she realized how insulting she was being. I’m no fan of Jan Brewer so to paint the entire state and all of its residents with the same brush you’d use on the governor seemed absurd to me. How could she not see the irony of her prejudice? Besides that, she really harshed my mellow after a nice mineral soak. I kept going on and on about it as we headed back to the motel, to the point Chad finally said, “I wish you’d NEVER even TALKED to that woman.”

On the ride back we continued in a loop, following a southern route, interstate quick, along I-10 back to Arizona. Hatch, New Mexico is well known as the Chile Capital of America, but did you know it’s also the Capital of Colossal Fiberglass Figures?

Along the interstate,  famous billboards tout the rapid approach of something called “The Thing”. “The THING! WHAT IS IT?”  Building to a crescendo with every passing mile, these roadside teases did their trick on me, “Oh, we’re stopping. At THE! THING! We must find out, WHAT! IS! IT?!”

The Thing is located near Willcox, right off the interstate. It’s a gas station, a fast food pit stop, a gift store. And it’s also a crazy, amazing, creepy collection of the American bizarre! For only $1.00 entry fee (75 cents for kids) you can stroll through three big steel sheds stocked full of insane artwork, machines and autos, questionable artifacts, dusty mannequins, rain damaged furniture and unintentionally humorous displays.  My favorite? A 19th century telephone in a glass case, sitting next to a 1950s rotary phone. The words above the two phones, “Ma Bell, My How Far You’ve Come!” (Ma Bell, you have no idea!)  As for “The Thing”? What was it? Well, I can’t say. Maybe a mummy, maybe a dummy. Chad thought it was an alien. I took no photos while strolling the collections at The Thing, because I believe every American should pay a visit and see for yourself. It’s only $1.00.

Traveling the west is always fun. There’s always such a crazy mix of wild and tame, modern and ancient, futuristic and historic, weird and wonderful. As great fans of sun-baked patinas, vintage neon, silly roadside attractions, dramatic landscapes and wide open roads, we will certainly celebrate more western wanderings on the horizon.

Ellen Jo Roberts lives in Clarkdale AZ with Chad, Floyd, Ivan, Ned and Hazel. Read all about it at


Monday, October 21, 2013

Internet Killed the Video Store

Internet Killed the Video Store
Ellen Jo Roberts
The Outs
The Noise
November 2013

Internet Killed the Video Store

The last video rental store in the Verde Valley is closing after 18 years.

As frequent customers of Cottonwood’s Planet Video, we were bummed. Sure, the “box” rentals outside the gas stations and drug stores will provide a steady stream of the new release hits, but what about less mainstream films? What about that vast middle of the store? The library of indies, television series, documentaries, and the 20th century comedies and thrillers? Now we’d never be able to catch up with the current season of Mad Men, and never even get our chance to begin Breaking Bad. Our TV set is sparsely equipped with bunny ears and network channels because we like our movies served supplementally and need no constant diet of them.
Being witness to both the dawn and demise of the video store age, I understand why its 30-year heyday is now going the way of the dodo bird and the dinosaur. Growing up in the 1980s, going to the video store was a big deal. My brother and I would spend an hour pouring over the titles trying to outdo each other’s choices of schlocko horror films and bad B-movies. With video stores gone we’ve got one less reason to leave the house. We see our friends in virtual neighborhoods and work from home offices. Folks go to school online now. Movies are streamed to devices, watched on laps or in the palms of hands. TV is watched on the internet and no one is ever limited by any network schedule ever. Times change, and as they do, an event like the closure of your community’s very last video store, will punctuate that change.

barry school 2001, chicago

In 1979 I was in first grade. My school underwent a renovation that year. All of the vintage wooden desks, bolted to the floor in rows of cast iron, were yanked out and left in a heap in the schoolyard. These well-worn desks, complete with ink-wells (which we’d never quite understood the use of), had been used by several generations of students since the school was built in the 1920s. The ceiling’s pendant lights were removed in favor of dropped foam-core and florescence. We were given independent, ergonomic desks with plastic seats in a variety of colors. Everyone was very excited about this change, as excited as we would be a few short years later when computers made their first appearance in the classroom. In 1979 I stood in the schoolyard looking at the mountain of old desks before they were carted off. Even at age 7, I knew this meant something huge. My Scorpio-rising sign gives me a deeply sentimental bent and I recognized we were standing at the beginning of a new age. We had one foot in the past and one foot in the future! And I was a part of both! Casting off the ink wells and the incandescent lights of our parents and grandparents. What would the future hold? Oh, sweet silly 7 year-old, you had no idea.
As the technological revolution speeds up ever more rapidly, devouring itself like a hungry black hole, I wonder what current cutting-edge things will someday end up in the schoolyard scrap heap. Most of them probably. There was a time, not long ago, when we didn’t have wristwatch smartphones and our cars didn’t park themselves. Here are some 20th century scraps, gone but fondly remembered…Let’s rewind shall we?

Complete Lack of Rules

When I was a kid, there were far fewer safety rules and regulations. We all joke about it now, the rudimentary and ridiculous contraptions we risked life and limb on, sans helmets or air-bags. Safety regulations were almost nil, or in their infancy. It was like the Third World. Seatbelts? They were considered an “optional” feature on most autos until the 1970s. Like FM radio, or cordovan leather seat covers.Not only were tots not trussed into car-seats, my peers remember not even sitting in seats at all, instead driving around in lawn chairs in the back of their folks’ van, standing on the front seats or sitting in the back-back of station-wagons, no seats, no seat belts, inexplicably making peace signs at the drivers behind them. 
There was a time when most farms were not owned by corporations, when GMOs were a distant fantasy in some evil scientist’s lair, but this doesn’t mean our food was always safer. When my grandma asked me what I thought the initials of the "A & P" grocery chain stood for my completely serious response was "Additives and preservatives?" We were pumped full of chemicals. We blew "Super Elastic Bubble Plastic" toy bubbles made of toluene and other brain-melting ingredients. My friend Lisa grew up in the 1960s, “Our dentist gave us mercury in a bottle cap instead of a lollipop. We'd play with it until it disappeared.” So I’m not saying it’s better to have less rules. Teachers can’t spank their students anymore. Drunk driving, once a common behavior, has become an extremely serious violation with zero tolerance.
   Perhaps the biggest change to the rules involves cigarettes. Up until not very long ago, cigarettes were smoked everywhere, on airplanes, in restaurants, at the grocery store, by pregnant women. You could buy them from vending machines. My cousin remembers being able to buy cigarettes for my aunt at the corner store, “as long as I had a note signed by her.”


Leafing through a Rolling Stone magazine from 1990 I laugh at the wealth of “chat-line” ads in the back. This is how people met interesting strangers before the internet!  They called 1-900 numbers hoping for a chance to lucky! Or meet the loveboat of your dreams! For just 99¢ a minute.
Nowadays we know who is calling us the moment the phone rings. But there was a time the only way you could tell who was calling was to 1. Answer the phone, or 2. Let the answering machine pick it up to screen the call. "Caller ID", originally a special feature that cost extra bucks, changed that and now every call is identified as soon as it rings. Kids will never again know the clever joys of “crank calls”. The “Jerky Boys” could never happen today. We’ll also soon forget all about payphones. I relied on these until fairly recently when I realized there were none left .On the topic of cell phones, my friend Ellyn, born in 1969, is reminded of watching the 1993 film “Dazed and Confused” (set in 1976) with her 20 year old son, “He was very confused about the scene where the kids plan to meet up at the Moontower that night. He asked me, ‘How did you all know where to go and what time? How did you arrange for rides?’ Ha ha.”

I grew up in a bedroom that had yellow wallpaper. This was because there was a time people decorated their baby’s rooms in green, yellow or other gender-unspecific colors because no one knew in advance if the little tyke would be a boy or a girl. It was all a big surprise until it arrived, squealing and thrashing about in its birthday suit.

Home computers were once as big as washing machine, and as slow as molasses.

My friend and fellow Clarkdalian, Sarah, born in 1978, says, “I remember when Macs could only do, like, on one process at a time! I mean, if you had the computer trying to run something, and you switched to a different window, it sorta put the first action on hold. I swear. Macs were famous for being buggy, delicate machines, back in those days.”
School chum Sabrina recalls, “Computers loaded from a cassette tape in a cassette player, and made horrible screeching noises.”
In college in the early 1990s we still used reference books and microfiche for research. We pounded typewriters for term papers because only rich kids had “word-processors”. And before the internet, if you'd asked me if there was ever a chance of reconnecting with every single one of my school and summer camp friends, from kindergarten through college, I'd have laughed in your face. No way! Those people are long gone!


Besides the late great video store, other objects littering the scrap yard include the black & white television set, the drive-in movie and cassette tapes. Though they're still around and often times still work. Capturing special events for posterity began with a bright eye of light blinding everyone and burning us to film as the Super-8 camera made the rounds. It evolved to a big, clunky video machine on the shoulder which got progressively smaller and smaller until now someone just holds their phone up and next thing you know you’re on Youtube.

Movies and music have followed basically the same trajectory, recorded on analog materials like celluloid and plastic cassette tape before going digital on CD and DVD. Now the code is mainlined directly to devices, skipping the packaged good entirely. Sitting in a movie theater I am always amazed the tradition of sitting in the dark and eating popcorn with strangers still survives into the 21st century. 

There is still a smattering of drive-ins throughout the U.S., most of them labors of love with limited seasonal schedules. The only drive-in movie I ever went to I attended in my pajamas, ' cause I was only 3 years-old and my parents were expecting my brother and me to fall asleep. But I didn't. The film was a scary mess called "Bug" about atomic cockroaches that set a California town on a fiery path to disaster. Seeing this at age 3, in my jammies in the back of a big orange Chevy Suburban explains my lifelong penchant for silly movies.

Music recycles itself so concerts remain nearly the same, but the tickets and the t-shirts were once much cheaper. Up until about 10 years ago concert security used to confiscate your camera if you tried to bring one in. Today many spend the whole show watching the stage through their phone.

Atari's "Pong" was the first video game, circa 1972. Games have since become so sophisticated that their early forms seem like a different thing entirely, but in their 1980s dawn we played "Frogger", "Centipede", "Galaga", "Pole Position" and "Space Invaders" feeding quarters into machines at places called "arcades", often times adjacent to "roller rinks". P.S. There was a time every town had a roller rink. 

Donkey Kong!

Many of the classics, like albums on vinyl, Chuck Taylor sneakers, watching movies with strangers, seem to hang on. Other analog fashion like film photography and hot rod cars thrive on in small subcultures. Savor the era in which you live. Enjoy the sweet filth of newsprint on your fingers as you read this. You will always have one foot in the past and one foot in the future, and that is a magical thing indeed. 
Ellen Jo Roberts was born with her sun in Aries, moon in Libra, and rising sign in Scorpio. She remembers Han Solo telling Chewbacca to “Laugh it up, fuzzball” as one of the great cinematic joys of her childhood.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Enchanted with the Four Corners

Enchanted with the Four Corners
The Outs
The Noise
September 2013
by Ellen Jo Roberts

The Four Corners comes together neatly in a geometric fashion. You can put one hand in Utah, one hand in Colorado, one foot in Arizona and one foot in New Mexico and be in all four states at once like a crazy game of topographic Twister. Or, you can do like we did and cruise a big lazy loop around all of them one at a time.

Mexican Hat, Utah "Cold Drinks Here"

The first stop on our tour was Santa Fe. It bills itself as The City Different and being a bit of an oddball myself I felt right at home there.
"Riding the No. 2 Bus to the Plaza and making new friends, eating tamales from food trucks and rolling like locals here in Santa Fe"- written on post cards to pals.
santa fe taco truck

My first trip through Santa Fe was 18 summers ago, a quick one-night stopover on our move out west from Illinois, caravanning in our two vehicles packed with all of our worldly possessions. We camped just outside of the ski area, around 8,000 feet. I was a cranky brat, my head splitting with altitude sickness. My late, great Volkswagen Superbeetle was also crippled by the high elevation until a friendly local helped me adjust the carburetor. That was my last visit to Santa Fe. 1995! It seemed crazy that we've lived within a day's drive all of these years and had never journeyed back. The town gave me an expensive and slightly sinister vibe during that single brief visit, bathed in the sunset glow of strange graffiti, "no vacancy" signs, dirty looks, tension between the Native Americans, Chicanos and Anglos.
santa fe ivan and floyd    
 Returning again for a clearer look, I see I was all wrong about Santa Fe.
The City Different is bursting with diverse culture, tolerance and a general jubilance. There is a strong emphasis on the value of art in this town. It's everywhere you look, and it's definitely its own currency. History is also a commodity to be protected and savored. Local food and beverage are world class. Health is also an important focus, though the city is not without its share of drunks and toothless vagabonds. Nestled in the heaving bosoms of the Jemez and Sangre de Christo mountains Santa Fe's high desert climate makes for a pleasant spirit in its dwellers. Walking the Plaza, always just one step ahead of being lost, finding my way through the historic side streets, buzzing on the energy percolating up through this blessed ground, a rare thought came to me.
"I could live here."
santa fe silver saddle motel courtyard

The Silver Saddle Motel sits along the busy Cerrillos Road, a main thoroughfare through town.  A vintage roadside adobe-style beauty built in 1953, the Silver Saddle was my first real introduction to the quirky Santa Fe style so emulated nationwide. The staff at the family-owned motel is delightfully eccentric and full of vivacity. The breakfast in the lobby each morning includes pastries, cereal, fruit, hard-boiled eggs and a good portion of socializing with other travelers. Beverages are served from a mismatched set of kitschy mid-century mugs. The gregarious front desk manager, charmingly draped in turquoise and decked in cool/nerdy eyeglasses, happened to mention her time in high school down to the south in Roswell. Famous actor/Wes Anderson pal Owen Wilson attended military school in Roswell, so I asked, "Did you know Owen Wilson?" "Yes," she laughed, "We actually were in the same graduating class together and in drama class together," and apparently they still maintain correspondence. Val Kilmer's autographed photo hangs nearby. Since he sold his long time Santa Fe home he likes to stay at the Silver Saddle, as it's "the real old skool Santa Fe."

new mexico between alburquerque and santa fe- turquoise trail, highway 14

Also called Highway 14 or The Turquoise Trail, Cerrillos Road is a scenic two laner connecting Santa Fe to Albuquerque, and an alternative to Interstate 25. Picturesque relics dot the road its entire length: the ruins of an old mining town called Golden, a crowded biker burg called Madrid, and small, historic Cerrillos, an occasional film set. Up until the 1938, Route 66 traveled through Santa Fe and the historic portion of it shares a similar sensibility to the Mother Road elsewhere with its classic neon, railroad-town feel.

santa fe san miguel mission 2

Santa Fe is the oldest capitol in the United States, and its ancient streets pre-date auto traffic by about 300 years, so the popular Plaza is generally crowded with cars and parking is tight. Another automobile note: Spendy Santa Fe is also the Porsche Capitol of the U.S.A. You can't cross the street without stepping in front of some German sports car. The Cerrillos Road No. 2 city bus stops just outside of the Silver Saddle. For $1.00 you can avoid driving and instead have some fun bilingual chats with the locals on public transportation. People in Santa Fe speak Spanish with great fluency; even the Anglo folk have nearly perfect accents. Our morning photo expeditions led us through all of the key historic sites like the San Miguel Mission, Loretto Chapel and its Miraculous Stairway, the Oldest House in the United States, the La Fonda Hotel, the Railyard and Canyon Road's famous row of art galleries. While buying postcards at the old 5 & 10 downtown one morning I managed to run into some random Arizona artist friend who had an on again/off again relationship with Northern New Mexico. "I knew I would catch up to you eventually," he said, exchanging his bike helmet for a giant velvet sombrero from high on a shelf. Santa Fe is chock full of such kismet.

santa fe lorreto chapel jesus

The area is notably drier than our home base in Arizona’s Verde Valley. The Santa Fe “River” was a shockingly puny trickle and serious fire dangers had closed the National Forest during our summer visit. The lack of agua is a possible deal-breaker in the "I could live here" game. Being river town folks, we were craving some riparian life by the time we packed up and headed on for our next destination: Dolores, Colorado and a camping cabin along its eponymous cool grey-green river. On the road north, we stopped to see Abiquiu, about an hour from Santa Fe. Abiquiu is the place that inspired artist Georgia O'Keefe the very most. She lived there from 1949 ‘til 1984 and  her home studio, "The Ghost Ranch", can be visited and an overnight stay can be arranged. The nearby Chama River snakes through red rock high desert and fragrant fields of sage. The geology of the area is at once familiar and completely foreign: rocks veined with strange geometry, alien formations and intense, saturated colors. I'd never seen anything like them before...except for, perhaps, in a painting by O'Keefe.
abiquiu, new mexico- chama river

Further north, in Aztec, NM, along the Animas River, the Aztec National Monument is a display of ancient dwellings and similar to Tuzigoot, much of it rebuilt by WPA crews in the 1930s.  Closer to the Colorado border, we are surprised by sight of a 20th century ruin, a lonely, abandoned structure along Highway 550 emblazoned with the name “Clarkdale”. It’s worth pulling a u-turn for a photo op, though later Google gives us no information about the building or why it wears the name of our Arizona home town.

clarkdale!.... new mexico?

Dolores sits just below 7,000 feet in a mountain valley. It's an old railroad stop on the Rio Grande Southern Route, and home of the famous Galloping Goose No. 5, a crazy cool train contraption made from an old school bus mixed with a locomotive and painted silver. There are seven Geese total, all built in Ridgway in the 1930s and all still operational. The Galloping Goose was originally used to deliver mail between towns in the Southwestern Rockies. Goose No. 5 is parked outside its own museum in downtown Dolores, though on special occasions it goes journeying on the nearby Durango-Silverton and Cumbres and Toltec Railroads.

dolores galloping goose 2

  For a few nights we camped in a rustic cabin along the banks of the Dolores River. We spent every day hiking up on foot and floating down in rafts the rocky Dolores, and every night in a creaky old bed lulled to sleep by the river sounds as it hugged the edges of our rough hewn cabin home.
dolores river sunset

 The town is small, tidy and historic and claims a pretty decent brewery. Assorted Dolores River Brewery ales can be purchased in canned 4-paks at the local liquor store. Also worth a try: Escalante Ruins at the Canyon of the Ancients visitor center. A mile hike up a sloping paved trail leads to a hilltop ruin and remnants of an ancient kiva. From this vantage point you can also see that the Dolores is dammed. The adjoining reservoir covers an old lumber town long gone called McPhee that gave its name to the lake that drowned it.

dolores river camground river cabin #4 dolores river crawdads and the tools i used to capture them
  The most recent of stamps in our National Parks passport book was inked
at Hovenweep National Monument, a stop on our drive back home as we tallied time in each of the Four Corner states. Hovenweep is very remote, right on the Colorado/Utah border and about an hour from the closest town, Cortez, via the sparsely traveled Canyon of the Ancients route. What makes these ruins so impressive, in addition to their lovely canyonside perch, is that they were never rebuilt, or reinterpreted by WPA crews. Hovenweep is "stabilized" but original. Discovered in 1854 and protected by National Park status in 1923, these ancient towers and structures straddling two states are original to the 13th century.

utah colorado border hovenweep 3

Through Utah we continued, a dot on the map slowly meandering back to Arizona. We took a wrong turn out of Hovenweep and suddenly have no idea where we are. Lost in the scenic west, we drive along curving, rolling and very nameless roads. No shoulder, no pavement markings, no speed limit signs. No worry, either. Not yet. The day was far too magical. We knew everything would work out. A promising intersection appears, inspiring hopes of being back on a main road, back on route. The new highway is not marked either, except for two burros standing nearby, eagerly awaiting our arrival.
“Wow, that’s how you know you’re REALLY lost. When the only ones you can ask directions from are a couple of donkeys.”

We burst into laughter. This is somehow everything wonderful and lovely about the western roads we've just spent the week wandering. The sense of being lost but not being scared. The open skies, beautiful rocks and the sun-baked surprises every mile. The feeling we're just small pieces of something much grander and anything is possible. The sense of enchantment. Our eyes are wide open for the next bit of magic down the road.

lost in utah with only donkeys to ask directions from

For more information:

Ellen Jo Roberts lives in Clarkdale Arizona with Chad, Floyd, Ivan, Ned and Hazel.
Read all about it at

Sunday, August 11, 2013

What Would Billy Jack Do?

Originally published in February of 2007, “What Would Billy Jack Do?” was a sideways swipe at the “W” era Whitehouse, and a star struck tribute to a movie hero of mine, Tom Laughlin. 
Laughlin, perhaps better known as his 1970s movie character “Billy Jack”, celebrates his 80th birthday on August 10th. His newest project, “Death at the Box Office” is a marketing study on the formula for successfully marketing a film, and why so few motion pictures are able to hit the mark. He envisions one day “Billy Jack” will be re-made, starring Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, or Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, real life couples, just like he and his co-star Delores Taylor…

What Would Billy Jack Do?
The Outs
By Ellen Jo Roberts
February 2007

What the world needs now is more Billy Jack. Most people in this town have no idea who the heck he is, and I’m fixin’ to change that right now.  Billy Jack is a pacifist ass kicker, a Vietnam Vet Green Beret, judo-chopping, Wrangler-wearing, half-blood “injun.” He protects misfits, hippies, minorities and wild horses. He was the perfect counter-culture hero for the 1970s Vietnam era and he translates into the War on Terror era with ease.
Billy Jack will take off his cowboy boots and deliver a barefoot roundhouse kick to the face of some stupid prejudiced redneck in the park. And not only that — he will give complete warning prior to doing so, “calling his shot” as it were … “You know what I’m going to do? Just for the hell of it? I’m going to take this right foot, and I’m gonna whomp that side of your face,” and before said redneck barely begins to crack a snide smile, before he can start to laugh — WHAMMO! Down for the count! Using only the power of his personality he can convince a villain to drive his brand new Corvette into a lake. Sometimes Billy Jack just…goes…BERSERK!

 “Billy Jack” is a much beloved cult classic starring Tom Laughlin, who wrote, directed and produced the films. One of the first “blockbusters,” Billy Jack (1971) was second in what is commonly called the “Billy Jack series” which began with the introduction of the character in 1967’s California biker gang extravaganza Born Losers, and continued with The Trial of Billy Jack (1974) and Billy Jack Goes to Washington (1977).

For many in Hollywood, Tom Laughlin is considered one of the original “independent film makers” and when I mention this to him, he graciously includes John Cassavetes and Roger Corman.
 “What factors contributed to your decision to write and produce your own films?” I asked, as he talked to me on speaker-phone from his California home.
“Well, that’s why I came to Hollywood — I desperately wanted to change things. My whole life has been this desire to make things better and to change things … and by accident I got into the drama stuff.”
A bishop named Fulton J. Sheen had a weekly show every Tuesday night on national television from 1951-1957, and Mr. Laughlin said he “just stood in front of a blackboard and talked. He didn’t preach religion but he preached that ‘Life is Worth Living’ and he was more popular than any show, period, at the time. The world stopped to watch it.”

Mr. Laughlin hitchhiked to NYC from his hometown of Milwaukee, Wis. to meet Mr. Sheen, who recommended TV and movies as an excellent medium for reaching a wider audience. A studio actor at first, Mr. Laughlin became a director by chance, when he was called upon to fill in for an unreliable director.  “I started directing there and I realized it wasn’t that hard.”  He and wife, Delores Taylor then began raising money and working towards producing their own films.

 “We did invent the mega-multiple blitzkrieg breakout film method of distributing pictures,” continues Mr. Laughlin, “which actually changed the motion picture forever. Back then you just opened in one major theater in downtown of each city … and then you went wide. So you only opened with 50 maybe 75 prints in all, across the country … Our market research showed us that people didn’t give a damn if you hadn’t opened in New York yet, or they didn’t care in New York if you opened first in Montana.
“So we went ahead and mortgaged our home, everything we had, and we said we were going to open up 1200 prints on the same day, instead of 60. Variety and everyone called us ‘nuts’…of course we did over $30 million dollars in the first month with tickets selling for 75¢, 50¢ … and not 20 films in the history of the cinema had done that in their entire lifetime. So that changed everything. That made it possible to have the $100 million, $200, $300, $400 million movie.”

Born Losers was a big drive-in hit, featuring tawdry sex, bizarro bikers, funny nicknames, Jane Russell, a dead sea lion, weird sunglasses, girls in bikinis, and the ever-ready, ever-steady Billy Jack who avenges the rape of several teen girls by planting a bullet square between the eyes of the goofy biker gang ringleader.
“The villains in your films are excellent because they are so complex. They are not 100% evil — they all have some weakness or flaw that adds very much to the film,” I say.
“Well, we felt it was essential. We are all screwed up in one way or another, some more than others,” says Mr. Laughlin with a soft chuckle. I cannot believe I am on the phone with Billy Jack! Somebody pinch me!

 Billy Jack has been the biggest commercial hit in the series thus far, and I hold it close to my heart due to the regional filming locations — Prescott in particular, as well as various spots throughout Yavapai County. In the film, Billy Jack lives in Montezuma Castle (!) while watching over the misfit kids of the much-maligned hippy “Freedom School” run by Jean (played by Delores Taylor).
The uptight townsfolk don’t dig the weirdos of the school, and the kids don’t fancy the townsfolk much either, but bottom line is: they are all just threatened by what they don’t understand. Some wonderfully weird dialogue makes this film eminently quotable.

Billy Jack is totally sexy and cool as he single-handedly whomps a dozen rednecks surrounding him outside the Prescott Courthouse (just before someone clocks him in the back of the head). In every film, Billy shows his vulnerability by nearly ending up dead, confirming that while the villains are not 100% evil, neither is he 100% invincible. Billy Jack is just a man.  “Damn your pacifism!” shouts one fired-up hippy chick.

Today at age 75, after surviving cancer and two unsuccessful presidential bids (as a Democrat in 1992 and as a Republican in 2004) Tom Laughlin is working on the long-anticipated 5th film in the series, Billy Jack’s Moral Revolution.
“You’ll like the next one,” says Mr. Laughlin, “It’s going to be even more explosive, more powerful.”  The new film will take on such topics as the war in Iraq, political corruption, and the difference between sex and eros.  “It’s a profound difference which very few people know,” Mr. Laughlin mentions with dismay, “Thirty percent of 13 year old girls give oral sex once a week and 20% of them are ‘cutters,’ do you know what that is?”  Mr. Laughlin wants to help educate young people to get their “real power” and not just be “masturbation tools.”

With some intense views on American politics, he calls the current government “the most evil regime” in US history. His website,, reads like a Dr. Bronner soap bottle, chock full of words, theories and strategy, with mini-videos of Mr. Laughlin talking about current topics, new movies, viable exit plans for Iraq, and how we can remove our dependency on oil.

Tom Laughlin calls the situation in Iraq far worse than Vietnam ever was.
“The number one rule of war is to know thy enemy. Well, the lack of knowledge, the ignorance of the entire peninsula — not only Vietnam, but Thailand, Cambodia — was so profound, they had no idea what they were doing,” declares Mr. Laughlin. “After 12 years, the net result was 3 million people died in that war … but the number of service people that served in that period, that serviced that war, was 8,750,000.  And that culture was extremely easy to understand, though we didn’t understand it at all.”
Mr. Laughlin explains that because there are so many more different cultures and factions in the Middle East, subdivided into hundreds of different tribes, it is far more complex than the Vietnam conflict was, as far us understanding the native people. “These tribal cultures have been fighting each other for 3,000 years. And there are ties to Iraq from Muslim communities all around the world — which we did not have in Vietnam.”

Mr. Laughlin blames the escalation of the war on Bush’s “mental disintegration.”
“He’s panicked and he’s unraveling … he’s delusional, he’s got a messianic complex.”  When I ask him if he believes Bush will be impeached, he answers in typical Billy Jack steady fashion, “If we have anything to say about it, he will.”

Mr. Laughlin has no love lost for the “cowardly Democrats” either, “who didn’t win the election, they backed into the election by being against the war — people wanted the war ended — 80% of the people want it over. They backed into it and now they are waffling.”
In addition to educating people via his website and his new film, Mr. Laughlin plans to organize a large movement of people against the war, including a citizen commission on Iraq “and the stuff that will come out will just absolutely blow your mind … We’re looking for a million people across this country to rise up and say ‘F--k you guys, No more deaths.’”
Did he just say the F word? Damn! The dude is still kicking ass. Billy Jack is rolling up his sleeves and pulling off his boots. He is about to start up with the roundhouse kicks and judo chops again.
For more information on how you can participate in Billy Jack’s Moral Revolution visit

Ellen Jo Roberts kicks ass and takes names, but leaves her shoes on.  She’s really excited she talked to Billy Jack. Read more about her life with the hippie misfits in Clarkdale AZ at

Monday, July 1, 2013

That Summer Camp Feeling

Originally printed in June 2007:
That Summer Camp Feeling
June 2007
The Outs
The Noise

Ellen Jo Roberts

Tower Hill Camp, Sawyer, MI, 1984

I got my first kiss at summer camp. Mid-June, a heavy all-day rain that had continued into the night. It was the summer of the “17 year cicadas” their newly emerged pupating bodies littering the earth and hiking up the bark of trees. I was new on staff that summer, a Chicago girl, an all-worldly, cross-legged 18. The giddy, goofy pre-teen girls in my cabin quizzed and teased me mercilessly. They had decided that all of the boy counselors were hot for me. One in particular bravely made his move, a tall dark Sagittarius, a freckle faced identical twin. He appeared at my cabin door that night, while I was off brushing my teeth. When I returned and could hear his voice quizzing the girls as to my whereabouts, and being the bashful late bloomer that I was, nervous but feigning a sense of “cool mystery”, I decided to sit outside in the rain, on a window ledge. The rain drops coming off the roof made lines across the thighs of my jeans. I looked up when I heard him open the door. “There’s just something irresistible about you, an aura or something”, he said.

south haven - private beach

Recently a friend of mine described his delightful new romance with the expression, “that summer camp feeling”, and I knew right what he meant, instantly. Away from home, long days, star-filled nights, the perfect, intense butterfly-filled romance. Dreamy, fragrant, abbreviated like the short life of a mayfly. Every June I always get that summer camp feeling. During college I was a counselor at an arts camp in southwestern Michigan. It was a camp I’d been to as an adolescent camper, so it was a heady experience to return in a position of authority. People from Michigan always describe where they’re from by holding up the palm of their hand and pointing to a spot. Because Michigan looks like a hand.

Each June fellow counselors would pile onto the basket-weave vinyl seats of my aged rusty VW bug and we’d make the long, sticky, un-air-conditioned drive over the Chicago Skyway, on the toll road skirting the Indiana shores of Lake Michigan and up the coast into the cool pines of Tower Hill Camp. If I were pointing at my hand now I’d be touching the hard side heel, the part you’d use to karate chop someone.

My cabin was inexplicably called “The Swamp”, and was located in an area called “The Pines”, high in the forest, a fair hike from the rest of the communal buildings of the camp. I had lived in this place as a camper and a counselor both. Watching the 1979 Bill Murray film “Meatballs” had inspired me to come back. “THE SWAMP” was scrawled in faded red paint above the door, and the ceiling rafters were carved full of ancient graffiti. As a camper I’d lie awake at night reading the scratched names and dates and rude phrases from my top bunk.
Tower Hill dated from the 1930s or ‘40s and bordered on a state park and the lake. The camp had several large halls where we met up for arts & crafts, dance, drama, music, meals, sing-a-longs. In addition to the older girls in “the Pines”, there were the “A-Frames” where the younger kids resided, and the barracks on the far end where the junior high boys lived. A trail weaved in and out of Chicagoans’ summer cabins, and side roads, to follow a wooded creek that reached the beach in long winding curve, finally emptying into Lake Michigan.  The skies were clear and the lake cold. Michigan side always is in the summer.

Great Lakes, 12x12

The campers were full of enthusiasm and glee, though dealing with pre-teens figuring out social structure was not without the assorted “issues” and “dramas” to untangle. Overall the challenges were not so difficult after the first few nights away from home. Evenings were full of dog-eared ghost stories and gales of laughter. A symphony of flashlights bouncing off of the darkness. That summer camp feeling is fleeting magic. Camp ends and it’s back to the city, back to reality and the fanciful days and nights of camp soon grow faint. The fling with the twin didn’t pan out much beyond the end of camp, though we did make a valiant effort to prolong that dreamy feeling. I think I lost sleep over him maybe one night of that summer, maybe thought I loved him for about a minute, while clutching his forgotten sweatshirt to my face and breathing it in.  His bird-like kisses and fakey romantic gaze began to grate on me. We had no chemistry, something was a bit off. I always thought it was the absence of the carefree summer camp setting, but years later he finally came out of the closet, and now lives in Santa Barbara with his boyfriend. (My brother finds this hilarious, of course, and uses it as an example of how I, by my sheer heinousness, converted someone to homosexuality). My last sight of the twin that year was as my headlights washed over him in someone’s wintry driveway. He accused me of loving my Volkswagen more than I ever loved him. Turns out he was right. 

 I had a new boyfriend every year at camp. Everyone did. That bunkhouse boogie was like a square dance. The next boyfriend killed me. Not in a Jason Voorhees- Friday the 13th Summer Camp fashion, but instead a long lingering heartbreak that took me a good year to shake.

“He was the boy who broke my heart the hardest,
” –journal entry.

“The hippies love each other” said the girls in my cabin.

Marty was an absolute freak, an adorable doe-eyed wildman in crazy hats and insane boots, pookah shell necklaces, cradling his boom box and singing along with REM. At Tower Hill he was a superstar- he was DJ for the dance- he was always everyone’s favorite counselor. The kids all loved him because he was “on” all the time, funny and rude, he’d do anything for a laugh, even if it meant hurting feelings or being absolutely gross.

His theme song was Herman’s Hermit’s “I’m Hen-ery the 8th I am”—it was his calling card, he led rousing renditions of it that echoed throughout Tower Hill. . He called himself Jesus Christ and shouted at random passersby on the road. Chaos. Capricorn, skinny, too skinny, tall, with full lips and a great kiss, he spent the rest of the summer trying to get me to lay down with him on the beach, in the forest, in my car, on his bed. I played hard to get.
Goodie Two Shoes.

old fotobooth photo- summer 1992

The summer camp feeling lingered on after camp a bit-- he plied me with romantic mix-cassettes and lengthy phone calls but in the end he just lived too far away. I got a flat tire on some farm road with my dog and had to sleep in his garage. We played Marco Polo in the lake, ate Key Lime Pie at a late night suburban Denny’s. He later dumped me at that very same Denny’s, in front of all of his friends and some gothy new girl he was already grooming to be his new summer romance. He sorta shrugged it off like it was all casual and hey, that’s life. That’s what broke my heart the hardest --too inexperienced to have any perspective or know any better. Now it makes me laugh to think I got in such a lather over that goofy ass weirdo. The following year and a few girlfriends later he became a father. He was a 16 year old son now, maybe causing his own summer camp mischief, maybe breaking some hearts just like his dad did back in the day. Hey Marty, if you’re out there, Happy Father’s Day, 8th Ol’ man called Hennery, Hennery the 8th I yam, I yam. H-E-N-R-Y.

It’s time for summer camp again, and wouldn’t you know it every year it comes to mind, though I am a many-years married girl, many years living 2,000 miles away, I still think of it every June. The anticipation of packing up the car and driving around the lake, the ghost stories and sing-alongs, and the thrill of first kisses. The 17 year cicadas are back  this summer. Incredible really. How do they know when the 17 years are up?  It must be a feeling they just cannot shake.

madd camp memory


Ellen Jo Roberts lives in Clarkdale AZ. with Bike Daddy Chad and some famous pets. Read all about it at For a few Michigan summers back in the 1990s she was the coolest camp counselor the Swamp ever had.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Floyd Goes Global!

Floyd Goes Global!

In March of 2013 I was contacted by Jane Zhao, a representative of a popular Chinese Magazine, "Outdoors". They'd found my Floyd travel photos via Flickr and wanted to enlist me to write a story and send images for an upcoming special issue.

In May 2013, the article went to print and Jane sent me the pdf.
Just to make sure it wasn't complete bunk, I plugged the story into a free translation website to see if it was really the one I'd sent them.
Here is the story, loosely and hilariously translated back into English, more or less.

(My original story is here too, at bottom, to help decipher the stranger aspects of the "translation"!)
outdoor exploration -special "travel with pets" issue- page 1

SPECIAL ISSUE special report

Mini travel companions
Traveling with a Chihuahua Ellen Jo Roberts wrote Ellen Arizona travel enthusiasts, The owner of three dogs and four cats, pets Travel was her way of life. Freud The Chihuahua weighs five pounds, their footprints Two States, all 13 States, with dozens of Flights flight experience, travel For ten years.

In 2003, Freud in central Arizona Valley Ranch was born.
The first time I saw it, It is a skinny little dog babies, and its brother Sisters huddled together inside a cardboard box.
At that time, FLOPink Floyd and the brothers and sisters nails and sold at a local horse feedStore, quietly waiting for someone to buy them out.
Accidentally glimpses on the side "selling a Chihuahua" this ad Immediately after comes a 180 degree turn around and went straight into the home Shop. Then, we are proud to welcome the first official adoption Dog: Chihuahua in a handsome, lively. Although Then my family and has a number of other "members", butFreud always come first. Although size Petite,Is it personality the most. Due to the Petite, so travel with it is very convenient. Every time we holiday adventure, whether short or long,Floyd will be included in the travel plan. With pets Holiday made the journey more enjoyable, but it is also accompanied by more Difficulties. We plan travel destinations at all times consider the dog 's. Whether motel, campgroundOr hikes were accepted and became the pet
The dog. When selecting a flight, to book in advance in order to Fellow pet set aside special locations-usually you can reset The portable suitcase under the seat.
10 journey, from the West Coast to the East Coast, from the most Deep valleys to the highest peak, have left a Freud Footprint. It slept in a cabin, slept on the ship,Slept in the tent, spend the farmhouse, lived in rice Shop. Of course, never slept less in our lap, countNot clear it has on our legs how sleepy were hit.It visited small towns also visited the large city. In the 66th,Road and highway has left his story, 1th. It Had entered the Atlantic, Pacific, and Mexico Bay, kesitehai And the Great Lakes. It several times along the Mississippi River. It United States extreme South-Florida from Key West Miami 160 kilometers away. As typical of Mexico, and Floyd visited it "South of the border", visited the province of Sonora. And if With the typical American, Floyd, Washington, DC,Get a picture before the White House. Travel with Freud andFor many years, we have come to feel one thing: no matter where And as long as we're together, Floyd, right at home.
Warm no matter how difficult the road, how climate and evil Worse, how hard the journey, as long as we're together, Florida Lloyd is like playing happy. Whenever we prevail Travel Pack is always quietly from time to time found it Myself curled up in my suitcase, or lying in my On a pile of clothes, as if saying: "don't you leave meGo. ”
Floyd is so lovely that it appears always Caused a lot of people knees. But they do not know, Freud Real is a fierce little guy. "Furious five pounds Meat, "this is my alias for it. If there is a stranger When it get too close, it will be upset. First the nose Slight wrinkling, looming soon thereafter revealing its tip The tooth. If a stranger talking continued, Freud would open Started screaming, and then full attack! But and are familiar with When they were together, it changes back to the loyalty charm small Love. And with another dog, it's like a foreign Ambassador, other dogs is like spending time with it. And Freud's many years of experience tells me: no matter In what city, people see cute little Chihuahua Will smile and say hello to it. Floyd is now living in Arizona, accompany it There are other pet friend, Ivan, a Boston dog; Keeley Hazell, a mixed Chihuahua; Ned, a lively House cat. If the foot is not so much small thing, without it Brings the various "surprises", not those out all Yes ... ... Our lives may be able to lighten up. But If that were true, home will be much better than now Joy. Perhaps one day in the future, Freud would pass across the The sea, appears in the familiar small-town streets



The REAL story, original English version:

Greetings from Floyd Street

Travels with a Chihuahua

By Ellen Jo Roberts


Dozens of airplane trips.

13 states.

Two countries.

Ten years.

5 pounds of Chihuahua.


Floyd was born on a ranch in Arizona’s central Verde Valley in 2003. He was a tiny puppy when I first met him, in a cardboard box with his siblings. They were for sale at a local horse tack and feed store. After seeing a roadside sign that read, “Chihuahuas for sale” I pulled a quick u-turn and headed back to have a look. Soon we were proud owners of a handsome and feisty Chihuahua, our first dog as adults. Others have since added on to our “pack”, but Floyd was the first. Despite his tiny physical size, his personality is the largest.


His small stature makes him an easy traveling partner and we have included him in our adventures both near and far. Traveling with pets makes adventures more enjoyable but also more difficult. We must plan locations that are pet-friendly. Motels, campsites, hiking trails all must allow dogs. Airplane flights must be booked well in advance with special additional reservations in place for the pets who join us, in carry-on travel cases stashed under our seats.


In his 10 years, Floyd has traveled from coast to coast, from deepest valley to highest mountains.

He’s slept in cabins, boats, tents, private homes and historic hotels. And on our laps. Lots of lap naps.

He’s been to ghost towns and mansions. He’s cruised storied roads like Route 66 and Highway 1.

Floyd’s set foot in the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, the Sea of Cortez and the Great Lakes. He’s also crossed the Mississippi River numerous times. He’s been to the Southernmost Point of the United States, in Key West Florida, 100 miles from Miami.

Like any proper Mexican, he’s visited his homeland south-of-the-border, touring the state of Sonora.

Like any proper American, he’s had his photo taken in front of the White House in Washington D.C.

One thing we’ve realized in all of our years of traveling with Floyd is that no matter where we go, he is home as long as he is with us. No matter how different the landscape or the temperature, or the duration of the expedition, he is game for any location as long as we together. As we’re packing for a trip I often times find him curled up in my suitcase, nestled among my clothes as if to say, “You’re not leaving without me.”

Floyd is so cute he always attracts a crowd of admirers. Unfortunately for them, he is a vicious little brute.

“Five Pounds of Fury” is what we call him. If strangers try to approach him too closely, he gets angry. He starts with a slight wrinkling of the nose, then the faint hint of fang. If the approach continues, he begins to growl and soon it is a full-fledged attack.With those he knows and loves, he is a devoted and charming little fellow. He’s also a great ambassador with other dogs, all of whom love him instantly.

Another thing I’ve learned in our years traveling with Floyd: No matter the city, people will always smile at a tiny Chihuahua walking past.

Floyd lives in Arizona with a few other pet pals: Ivan, a Boston Terrier, Hazel, a Chihuahua-Mix, and Ned, a frisky housecat. Our lives would probably be easier without all these animals underfoot, pestering us for treats and getting their fur on everything… But it would certainly be quite a deal less amusing.

Perhaps some day Floyd will take his show overseas and perhaps you will see him strolling the streets of your town.

 As always, for more Floyd travel fun, visit....