February 2012


This morning Jared, the HIS maintenance chief asked us to build a few more screens (we had already built 74 of them as he had previously requested). We were not able to build as many additional screens as he wanted though, because we ran out of the corner pieces. While we did that, Warran and his crew cleaned the shop so that we could leave it in better shape than we found it, and Shaun took the boys and a few girls to move some brick piles.

When we finished with all that, we loaded the screens into the vans and went around installing them.

Saralyn at the Administration building

Saralyn at the Administration building


Ana at the admin building

Ana at the admin building


David at one of the staff houses

David at one of the staff houses


Then at 2:00pm we all piled into the vans and drove to the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. Unfortunately, the plan was not well laid. Our first stop was at the visitor’s center, and we got a little too absorbed there. Emmanuelina had a bit of fun though:
Ow! A dinosaur is biting my hand!

Ow! A dinosaur is biting my hand!


The kids all bought stuff, and I bought a few things for the ones who couldn’t afford anything. We met some rangers and volunteers, and they gave the kids some activity booklets. If they filled them out, they could be sworn in as Junior Rangers. That comes with a patch that they can sew onto their Pathfinder sashes, so they were all in, except for Cody and Jane. I guess they think they’re too old for that, but don’t tell them that Melissa (one of the staff) did the activities too.

We needed to tour the grounds of the visitor’s center to complete the activities – one of which was to see if you could put your arms around one of the petrified trees. Cody was the only one who pulled it off.

Mr Long Arms

Mr Long Arms


When they turned in their work it was carefully checked, and then they were sworn in as Junior Rangers.
Junior Rangers

Junior Rangers

Only then did I start to do the time-math. Dinner was at 5:30, and HIS was 40 minutes away. There was just no way we were going to be able to see much more. The upside is that by not entering the park, we avoided paying the $10/van entrance fee. But of course, it would have been worth it.

Shaun and his van left a bit before the rest of us, and they stopped at a gift store between the Petrified Forest and Holbrook. David bought a petrified wood chess set, and was exceedingly pleased with his purchase.

We made it back to HIS in time for dinner. Before I could sit down to eat, Dr. Janet Claymore-Ross (the principal) and Barbara Willis (the development director) presented us with a pottery tile.
Central NH Flames Pathfinder Club/HIS/Feb 23-Mar 1, 2012
I must confess that it was a bit of an emotional moment for me, even though I knew they were going to present this to us (they asked me for our official name before we set out from New Hampshire so they could give the information to the pottery shop). This has been a fantastic trip. Everyone in our group has loved working here, and we have grown to love the kids who attend HIS as well as the staff.

After we finished supper (another excellent meal), Barbara Willis took some of us over to the pottery shop, while the rest went to the gym for Rec Night. I bought three items of pottery, one of which is a surprise gift for my lovely bride (she knows I bought her some pottery, but she doesn’t know what it is). The other two were made by two students here at the school. I asked if I could take their pictures holding their creations, and Barbara started making calls. In short order, both girls were there ready for a picture. 🙂


I bought the turtle for Beth.

Tomorrow after breakfast we will load the vans and set out for the airport. Hopefully we will make it home, and our rides will make it to the airport. New Hampshire is getting some snow tonight. Va told me on the phone tonight that we already have two inches on the ground, and the snow will continue until tomorrow evening (when we are scheduled to land in Manchester). The forecast is for about a foot of snow.

Finally, snow!

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We woke up to about a centimeter of snow this morning.

Connor headed to breakfast


It was gone by lunchtime, but a lot of people here seemed pretty excited about it. Snow is not unknown here, but I guess it’s not terribly common either. I think the kids in our group learned a little more about the Desert Southwest – yes, it does snow here.

We ate breakfast and then got right to work on the bikes and window screens. At 11:00, it was time to teach the Adventurer Awards. I rounded up the kids who were going to teach Elephants and Owls, and we made it there right when we were supposed to. Except one kid was straggling, and I had to leave the classroom to track him down. When we got back, I found out that we could not teach the Owl Award. Owls are a taboo among the Navajo!

Ana and Natasha teaching an Adventurer Award

Natasha preparing to teach the Owls Award


That caused a bit of a scramble. I called Chris to see if she and Jane could get here quickly. She scrambled. Then I stepped out so I could go to the dorm and retrieve the insignia, and saw Shaun. He was in the queue to teach Sharks, and he was right there. The clock was ticking, and we only had an hour to teach the awards. I asked him to jump in, and he did. First he fetched his laptop from his room (right across the street from the classroom) and he began the slideshow/lecture portion. I called Chris back to tell her to resume her previous operations. It was good Shaun showed up when he did, because Chris and Jane were about to go to the girls’ dorm to fetch their materials and it would have been at least another 10 minutes.

But the scrambling was still not over. I had to track down Shaun’s craft supplies as well as his daughter who was also teaching. That took a little bit of time, and they didn’t get their supplies until 11:30. They didn’t manage to finish the crafts, but I’m sure they will soon.

At least Elephants went OK, except that Emma tried to pull up a video of elephants on her phone – and the first one to come up featured two elephants mating). Oops!

Then we had lunch. After we ate, we had a surprise for the kids. They have horses here, and arrangements were made for our kids to ride one of them at 1:30. So before we left the cafeteria,we told the kids we’d announce a surprise in 15 minutes. That 15 minutes was filled with incorrect guesses. At 1:15 we called them together, and Melissa told them, “At 1:30 we are going down to the barn.” Squeals of delight. Then I chimed in, “To clean out the stalls!” Groans! Every single one of them thought I was serious. Melissa let them in on my cruel little joke, and the squeals of delight returned. We headed down to the barn.

Beth riding on "Nano."

Beth riding on "Nano."


Two of the girls had never ridden a horse before.
Saralyn's first horse ride

Saralyn's first horse ride


Look at that smile!
Emmanuelina's forst horse ride

Emmanuelina's forst horse ride


Emmanuelina had never even touched a horse until yesterday. She enjoyed her ride very much. Technically, she’s not one of the kids since she’s 20 years old. She is serving as the counselor of the Companion group this year, and is just a delightful beam of sunshine.

Even I took a turn.

Karen Littell took this shot

Note the tether - I am not an experienced horseman


Horseback riding lasted about an hour, and then we got back to work. We finished making all the needed window screens, and we will install them tomorrow.
Melissa splining a screen

Melissa splining a screen


Warran and his crew have pretty much finished all the bikes now too. They were not able to fix this one (and one other). I think they could probably score some bucks if they sold this one on E-Bay.
1950's Model

1950's Model


Warran was then given a new task – periodic maintenance of some of HIS’s vehicles. Connor pitched in.
Checking the tire pressure

Checking the tire pressure

Tomorrow we will install the screens, and Jared the maintenance chief will find us another assignment.

With our work done for the day, we headed to the cafeteria for supper. I might add that I have enjoyed every single meal I have been served here. The kitchen staff is top-shelf.

One of the Navajo kids came up to us at supper time and asked if they would get to learn about owls. We told him we were sorry, but we couldn’t. If one of those kids went home with a patch featuring an owl, it almost certainly would have resulted in a beating. We asked him about the taboo, and he told us that it was related to “skin-walkers.”

I looked it up on Wikipedia.

Skin-walking is a form of shape-shifting (like werewolves), and people who are thought to practice it are considered the ultimate in evil humanity. I guess it’s their equivalent of Hitler. You can read about it at Wikipedia and know as much about it as I do.

And now… shower and bed. Tomorrow is another big day.

Today was our first full work day here at Holbrook Indian School, and that felt pretty good. Warran led about half the kids on operation repair seventy-four bicycles, and I led the rest on operation make window screens.

Making screens

Making screens


Removing an old screen from a frame

Removing an old screen from a frame


Emma got pretty good at this

Emma got pretty good at this

On the way to breakfast, we saw this strange bird up in a tree. It looks kind of crow-like, but it didn’t sound like a crow. I don’t think I could describe its song other than to say that it was a lot more mellifluous and pleasant than the crow’s “caw caw caw.” If anyone knows what this is, I’d love to hear about it.

Not a crow (I think)

Not a crow (I think)


After breakfast we got to work. Not a lot to say about that other than that the kids learned how to make and repair window screens, and they got better and better at it as the day wore on. Warran and company knocked out several bikes (I don’t know how many, but it was a lot), and my crew knocked out 53 window screens.

Just before lunch, we sent some of the crew to the grade 1-4 classroom. Two helped with math, and after that, three other Pathfinders presented the Whales and the Reptiles Adventurer Awards. I hear that it went well. Then it was time to lunch, and our Adventurer instructors ate with their students.

Then more bikes and more screens. Cody and Connor are building what could most easily be described as a Frankenstein bike. Inexplicably, they are convinced that a 12 inch rear wheel on a 26 inch bike is the ultimate thing.

Frankenbike

Frankenbike


Of course, the pedals have to go subterranian with this new configuration, so they are swapping out the crank for a much smaller one. They are debating extending the fork too. This doesn’t bother me since they have fixed so many bikes already. And maybe it will be a cool bike (though tenth gear will feel a lot like second with such a small rear wheel – I don’t want to think about what first gear will be like).

After dinner, I took Beth, Cody, and Trevor into Holbrook and we found a geocache. Now I can check off Arizona. It was after dark when we finally got to ground zero, but we managed to find it in spite of that (or rather, Cody found it). I traded my flashlight for a geocoin which I will release in New Hampshire when we get back home.

We also did laundry tonight (as planned). I am pretty tired, and frankly, pretty surprised that I managed to write an entire post without dozinnnnng… ZZZZZ.

This morning we got the crew up pretty early for a 7:00am breakfast. Their instructions were to come to breakfast ready to get in the vans so we could drive to the Grand Canyon. And that’s exactly what they did.

Coral brought the lunch-makin’s she picked up for us on Thursday, and as soon as we were done eating, we made PB&J sandwiches and assembled our lunches. Then we got in the vans and drove 3 and a half hours to the Canyon.

What a place. The pictures I took are completely inadequate (and would be still even if I didn’t have dust and/or condensation on my camera’s sensor). The Canyon exceeds my skill as a photographer by a long shot. But I will share a few shots anyhow.

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When we were done taking in the canyon, Warran gave the kids a cactus tour. He, Melissa, and a few of the more tired kids had hung back during the last bit of hiking/canyon viewing, and he found several species of cacti being cultivated right there at the visitors center. Any die-hard Pathfinder will know that earning the Cacti Honor requires identification and either a photo or a sketch of five different cacti species. So we knocked that out then and there.

Then we set out for Flagstaff. The consensus was that we needed to eat some authentic Mexican cuisine while we were in the area, and since I couldn’t find a Taco Bell (ha ha!) we asked one of the park rangers for a recommendation. He came through in spades, but didn’t give us a whole lot to go on: “There’s a really good place near the Target store in Flagstaff.”

I got out the GPS and punched in “Navigate to, point of interest, in city Flagstaff, Retail Stores, Target” followed by “Navigate to, point of interest, near destination, restaurant.” That listed a Wendy’s, Chili’s, and a “Casa Bonita.” I figured that was it, so off we went.

We found the Target, but didn’t see the restaurant right away. I needed to pick up some innertubes and tire patches for our bike repair project, and the kids were out of van-snacks. So in we went. I didn’t find the tubes or patches, but we did find the chips. Meanwhile Shaun went exploring and found that the restaurant was right across the street, but it was named “Plaza Bonita” rather than “Casa Bonita.”

When we walked in, I requested a table for 22. That would be 18 of our group (Chris stayed behind), plus four from Karen Littell’s. They found us a room and set us up. The kids were really tired when we left the Canyon, but they perked up at the restaurant. The food was good, and the service was pretty great! While we waited for the check, Shaun went out again, this time looking for a Walmart to buy the needed innertubes & patches. He found them, so we’re good to go tomorrow.

Then it was back on the road again. We arrived on campus a little after 10:00pm. I think some people might sleep well tonight.

The Pathfinders presented the church service here at Holbrook yesterday morning, and that went pretty well. We did the same newscast/video that we did last week, and I did record it with my camera. Unfortunately, the result was pretty horrible, so I will not post it anywhere.

Then we had lunch, and after that, we piled into the vans and drove down to Heber to see the ponderosa pines. My strategy for this was to have Warran choose a destination and for him to drive the lead vehicle. We all just followed him.

Along the way, we came across a brush fire.

Brush Fire

Brush Fire


It had just started. A Sheriff was there, and the fire trucks were on the way. By the time we came back that way again, they had managed to put it out.

Warran found a place for us to park where there were trails through the ponderosas, so we pulled over and went for a hike. There was snow on the ground here and there, so the kids had a couple of snowball fights. In the desert. Cody made a snow angel:

Cody's Snow Angel

Cody's Snow Angel

We also saw a lot of animal tracks – mostly from a large dog, but also from some elk. The trail formed a loop which was nice. It’s always better to not have to turn around and see the same scenery.

Hiking through the Ponderosa

Hiking through the Ponderosa


We wanted to go farther down the road after that hike, but we were low on gas. So we headed back to HIS.

Since we were all together, we thought it would be a good idea to get a group photo. Here we are in front of the admin building at HIS.

Central NH Flames Pathfinder Club

Central NH Flames Pathfinder Club

Just after the sun went down, the three boys in our group and I looked for Mercury.

Sunset at HIS

Sunset at HIS


Venus, Jupiter, and a fresh crescent moon were easy to find, but we had to wait for it to get dark enough to find Mercury. We did find it, but I didn’t try to take a photo.

Saturday night is skate night at HIS, so we went to the gym for that. They have plenty of skates, so our kids got to skate with the HIS kids. They seemed to enjoy one another’s company. It was interesting to see how at first they stayed in their own groups, but eventually began to interact with one another. They made up some sort of game involving skates, a ball, and the basketball hoop. Pretty sure that would break every bone in my body!

Skating

Skating


Skateball

Skateball


On the way back to the dorms I dragged the kids behind the gym where we had a very good view to the south, and I showed them Canopus. Yup! It’s a star! I’m sure they all think I’m insane for getting so excited about seeing one particular star. I can’t explain it myself except to say that I am a complete and utter nerd. But now they can say they’ve seen a star never visible in New Hampshire.

I’m not really trying to make a political comment here, but this morning when we woke up at the hotel in Albuquerque, there was a hawk camped out having some breakfast.

Hawk vs Dove

Hawk vs Dove


I have no idea what kind of hawk this is, or what kind of pigeon he’s got there, but he was determined to chow down on it. He worked it over right there for several minutes until he drew a crowd. Then he’d relocate, but not very far away. I wish I had time to watch him eat the whole thing, but we needed to hit the road.

Shaun, Warran, and I took the shuttle back to the airport and picked up our vans. That took forever, as they kept trying to hit us with fees we were not interested in paying. We finally did get them, and drove back to the hotel to herd our flock through breakfast and loading everything up. It took an eternity. I don’t know what time we left Albuquerque, but our ETA had suddenly shifted by 2.5 hours. We had intended to have lunch at Holbrook Indian School, but I think lunch is over by 2:30. So we stopped at a Dairy Queen and ate there. I phoned ahead to HIS to let them know we were running late and to not make extra food on our account. We still have to pay them for it of course, because they already bought the food.

And we did arrive at about 2:30. Robbie and Coral (a retired couple who drove out here ahead of us) met us at a Denny’s near I-40 and piloted us in the rest of the way.

We got a quick orientation, unloaded our luggage, and then got to work! First order of business was to load a bunch of broken bicycles onto a trailer.

Loading the bikes

Loading the bikes


While Warran oversaw that operation, Jared (HIS’s maintenance chief) asked for two or three strong guys to come with him to unload some windows. David, my oldest male Pathfinder, and I went to help him do that.

Windows are heavy.

We caught up with the bikes as they were being moved from the storage area to the workshop. It’s a nice shop. I had not yet had a chance to unload my tools (I brought about 60 pounds of them), and when I saw the shop… I’m not sure I want to get them out. They have plenty of tools. And since tools look like tools, it would be very easy for me to not know which ones were mine, and which ones were theirs. I have pretty much concluded that I will leave most of my tools in their bag in the van.

I will bring out a few specialty bike tools I brought though. And also the specialty window screen making tools. The bike tools are unique enough that I will recognize them, and I bought the screening tools just for this job – so I’ll leave them here.

The kids dug right in to the bike repair task.

Digging In

Digging In


We really had more kids than work, but the ones who were adept at mechanical things self-sorted from those who are less adept. I will leave those kids under Warran’s supervision, and the rest will make screens. Hopefully, that will work out OK.

While most of us were working on the bikes, Beth was at the cafeteria helping out there. She helped serve dinner.

Serving up some corn chips

Serving up some corn chips


The woman on the left there is Eunie Banuag. She is the one who I’ve been emailing for several months to set this trip up. She has been a real blessing to us, and has been tremendously helpful. Unfortunately, she goes on vacation Sunday, so we will see her for only a little while.

One of the things I wanted to do while here was to observe Canopus. That is the second brightest start (not counting the sun). We cannot see this one from New Hampshire, as it’s in the southern hemisphere. But I knew we would be able to see while we were here. It pops up above the horizon by about 3 degrees during the last week of February. If you are far enough south (we are) and have clear skies (we do here) with little light pollution (very little here), and a clear view to the south (it’s flat for 50 miles here), then you should be able to see Canopus during the last week of February and into the beginning of March (which is… now!) And I did manage to glimpse it tonight. I will take the kids out to see it tomorrow, and maybe I will set up to take a photo. I have never attempted to photograph a star before, so this could be a complete fiasco.

We will see!

Tomorrow we get to present the sermon during the church service here. The regular pastor is leading the choir elsewhere and asked us if we’d be willing to do this for them. Of course we are! We will present the video/newscast that we presented at our own church last week. We set up the projector and affiliated equipment tonight and ran through it once. It should work out OK.

After that we will do some desert sight-seeing. I will take several photos, and they will all have some annoying dots on them. I can’t figure out where they’re coming from, but every blue-sky picture I took today had them. I cleaned the lens as best I could, but it seems to not change anything. Here’s what I’m seeing:

Dots ruining my photos

Dots ruining my photos


Any advice in addressing this issue will be eagerly read and attempted.

What a long day! I set out for Holbrook, Arizona with 18 other Pathfinders (including staff and chaperones), and we made it as far as Albuquerque. That’s OK though, since that was the plan. In the morning we will pick up three minivans and drive to Holbrook. But tonight, we’re sleeping in a hotel near ABQ.

Here are four of my girls at the airport in Manchester watching our plane roll in.

Watching the Plane Roll In

Watching the Plane Roll In

I like to turn on the GPS when I’m on the plane. It can receive the signal from the satellite if you’re near a window. Unfortunately, I had an aisle seat (I prefer a window, but we had several kids with us who had never flown in their living memory). I handed the GPS to Beth so it would lock on, and when it did, she handed it back. Once it locks, it tries pretty hard to keep locked, and I was able to capture this image:

Speed and altitude

Speed and altitude

Our first leg landed us at Midway in Chicago, and we had a three hour layover. I took a group photo:

At Midway

At Midway


Then we ate some supper, and after that, I decided I wanted some exercise. We walked up and down the concourse several times. The kids loved the moving sidewalks. We fell into the naughty habit of racing on them (nothing to do for three hours means we find ways to get into mischief). I ran along side the moving sidewalk, and raced some of the kids who were ON the moving sidewalk (giving them an advantage). I was able to beat Beth this way, but only managed a tie against Ennosen. Then my better judgment took over, and we resorted to just riding the sidewalks back and forth without running.

I did get pictures of our misbehavior. Here, Ana is racing Beth as Ennosen watches. Ana is winning, but there was a person standing on the sidewalk (the nerve!) and Beth couldn’t get around her. You can’t see her because Ennosen is blocking the view.

Ana racing the sidewalk

Ana racing the sidewalk

I don’t know what people thought when they saw a grown man running flat out in the airport laughing, but I didn’t really care. All I could think about though, was OJ Simpson advertising for Hertz rental cars.

Finally, we got on the second plane and flew into Albuquerque. We chose a hotel that a) was cheap, and b) had a shuttle from the airport. What we neglected to consider was that their shuttle would only haul six of us at a time, and we had a group of 19. Yeah, that’s 4 trips, and each one was about 20 minutes (round-trip). The mathematically astute among you will note that it took over an hour to get us all to the hotel.

And now I am tired. That will teach me to sprint through airports.

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