Goodbye Old Friend

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This morning I had a doctors appointment at 9:30, which was the same time the Space Shuttle Endeavor was due to fly over the Bay Area.

This made me very cranky. It’s so hard to get in to see this specialist, so I simply accepted my fate.

Today is one of the few days I’ve been grateful for the Bay Area’s marine layer. The fog delayed the takeoff and am I ever glad it did.

After finishing my appointment, I climbed up in the Jeep and listened close to the radio. I chose a course on southbound 101 hoping to catch a glimpse.

I turned off at the exit for my mid-peninsula place of employment, and on the radio they said “Endeavor has just left Oakland and is making it’s way to the Golden Gate.”

That meant I had maybe 15 minutes. I saw a few people milling around in a grassy public space so I turned quick into the parking lot, tugged the parking brake, and joined them.

“Do you think it will come by here?” I asked the older couple already there, setting up their camera gear.

The man who so profoundly resembled my dad talked me through his reasoning as to why where we were standing would be a good viewing spot. His logic was spot on.

I teared up a little. How cool it would have been to share this with my dad. He used to take me to all the air shows at Kirtland Air Force base as I grew up. It’s probably his fault I’ve always been fascinated by fighter jets and the Space Shuttle. He would have dug this flyby a lot.

As the time passed, more people started showing up, all asking the same thing “do you think this will be a good spot?”

Then suddenly, “There it is!!”

And there it was.

The plane carrying the shuttle moved so slow, seemingly impossible to stay aloft moving that slow, and at a pretty low flight deck too.

I tried to take photos but the haze was no photographer’s friend. So instead I put my camera down and just watched. As I said to a friend on FB, it was like a slow funeral procession for a much beloved icon.

I teared up a lot. I’m not even embarrassed to say it.

The shuttle was a big part of my growing up and for me its retirement is met with sadness and a bit of frustration at how, over time, NASA mishandled the program.

Onward to the next adventures, old friend!

Hey, you know what? The next step in space travel may just hit a little close to where I come from.

Here’s a few photos of today’s flyover from the local paper:



Two icons together, Endeavor and the Golden Gate Bridge




Endeavor and its fighter jet escort near one tower of the Bay Bridge





Images from SFGate.com



A Thousand Miles from Nowhere

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“But I have to tell you, when we were driving home, we were on some highway in Utah? That highway goes on forever! We were getting scared. The towns are like fifty miles apart!”

— my coworker talking about her family’s summer vacation to Bryce and Zion canyons in Utah.

So she said that and I laughed. A lot. Loudly.

She looked very offended. “It’s not funny, we were totally freaked out!”

Ah. That’s so cute. City kids. How utterly charming. I should know, I married one.

Speaking of the one I married, when we made the drive from Las Cruces to Albuquerque in the month of October a few years back, he was very adamant that we had to pack in quite a bit of water before we drove. Now, he’s not wrong. It’s just good thinking.

He also wanted blankets, flashlights and a first aid kit. We were venturing out into the desert and by god like the Boy Scout he used to be, we were going in prepared.

Again, nothing wrong with that. All very fair.

Except I used to drive that same 200 miles in the dead heat of August in a rickety old Mercury Bobcat with too many miles, not enough metal and every single little possession that I could cram inside. Well, everything except water, blankets and a flashlight.

I guess when you’re raised where towns are fifty miles (or a lot more) apart, these things don’t worry you.

Sure, one Thanksgiving I was driving back from Deming to Albuquerque and got caught in a really heavy snowstorm. So I got off the highway to a state road, put my Jeep in four wheel drive and drove slowly to the ranch home located at the bottom of Nogal Canyon. My friend’s folks live there and they took me in, gave me a hot meal and we played cards all night.

Once, south of El Paso, I got caught in a terrible rain and hail storm. So I pulled over to the side, listened to the radio and read a book.

Then there was the time I made the ride to Silver City in July and had to turn off the A/C and turn on the heater since my engine was starting to overheat as I climbed the hill in my very weak Dodge Shadow (now known as a Neon). I was a puddle of sweat by the time I got there, but it was nothing that a Route 44 from Sonic couldn’t cure.

Oddly enough, even on all the blisteringly hot days I hit the endless highways of New Mexico, I never broke down, never lost a tire, never had a reason to need a gallon of water and a blanket.

In February my best good friend drove me and my two godkids out to the Spaceport in Upham. We spent an hour or more on dirt roads with only cows to accompany us. I didn’t get worried. I didn’t get scared. What I did is feel calm. Really, really calm. Being where the eye can’t see another human (other than the people you chose to be with) is a very happy place for me.

So I apologized to my city friend. Then I advised she’s allowed to laugh at me when I slip off my nut over getting lost (again!) in San Francisco, and then I go the wrong way on that one section of California Ave while everyone honks and yells, and WHY IN THE $%^# can’t I make a left turn to get off Market Street!

It’s all about where you’re from, I guess.



The view from Upham. It’s a happy place.


Photo by Karen Fayeth, copyright 2010, and subject to the Creative Commons license found in the far right hand column of this page.


Walking On The Moon

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Last weekend, toward the end of my visit to New Mexico, my best friend and I decided we needed to go somewhere without much in the way of civilization.

A break from the every day is good for the soul.

This year my friend had drawn out a tag to hunt Oryx, and about a month ago, she and her husband went out to the empty land around Upham, New Mexico as Oryx are plentiful there.

While she didn’t manage to get an Oryx this year, while hiking around, she witnessed a vista so amazing that she wanted to share it with me.

So we loaded up and went bouncing down dirt roads, me riding in the passenger seat. My job was to open and close gates so that we could make our way past ranches without much in the way of fences to contain their hungry cattle.

Since the truck we rode in sounds a lot like a feed truck, they’d come a galloping along to greet us. It was kind of hard to let down all of our bovine friends as we only had a fried chicken picnic to eat, and that’s not really cow food.

The land we saw as we bumped along was empty, otherworldly and beautiful.

My New Mexico readers will also know a bit about Upham as that is where the New Mexico Spaceport is being built with taxpayers money.

By taking publicly accessible roads, we were able to get pretty gosh darn close to the construction site.

Here’s what it looks like (click photo for larger size):



The Spaceport website has quite a few construction photos as well. I was struck by the fantastically long tarmac, pure concrete rumored to be almost two miles long and three feet deep. How the heck they got that much water out there to create that much cement is absolutely beyond me.

The actual location of the Spaceport is quite a ways off the highway, almost an hour in the truck, and it’s a good thing my friend was familiar with the area. I would have been quite lost.

After ooh’ing and aah’ing along with cussing and discussing the merits (or lack of) of the spaceport, we headed up a long and somewhat winding trail to get to a certain spot my friend had in mind.

That’s when the ooh’ing and aah’ing really began.

This photo does no justice to the almost 180 degree sweeping view from Anthony to Truth or Consequences. It was absolutely breathtaking.

Other than the guy who lives in the small ranch at the top of the rise, and some Oryx hunters, I don’t imagine a lot of people have gotten the chance to see this amazing view.

It made me proud to be a New Mexican. This is who I am. This is where I come from.



(click for larger size)




All photographs by Karen Fayeth and subject to the creative commons license as seen in the far right column of this page.


Mixed Emotions

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It’s probably time I chime in on the whole spaceport tax issue currently stirring up trouble in Doña Ana county. I’ve been reading all the news for the past weeks and thinking about it a lot. It’s hard to say where I come down on this one….

Much like the outcome of the voting….

Seems this is an “on the fence” issue when looking at voters as a whole. A lot of folks are vehemently against this new tax, and why not? Why should they, residents of a poverty state, pay more money in taxes so that one of the richest men in the world can live out some misplaced boyhood dream?

I’d like to think that this is a *good* idea for the State of New Mexico, bringing commercial space travel to the world, media attention to our fair state and dollars rolling in to our coffers. New Mexico has certainly always been on the forefront of space and research and I’d like to think that Sir Richard Branson has only the best ideas at heart for this project.

However, I just can’t buy into that.

Richard Branson is a controversial person, ranking on both the 100 Greatest Britons and the 100 Worst Britons lists. He is by all accounts an egomaniac and a cad but he is also a businessman, which by its very virtue means he is not looking out for the best interests of New Mexico on this venture, he’s looking out for the best interests of the bottom line. Which, as a businessperson myself, I’m not actually opposed to. But I am very clear in my own mind what this deal is all about.

In the end, if it’s not this venture it’s something else. New Mexico traditionalists (like me) are often very reluctant to see new growth in our state, especially growth that brings more people, more taxes and more headaches. This would fit the bill on all three counts.

I hate that the residents of the county have to pay for this in taxes, but as a now ten year resident of California, I’ve learned that usually that’s how things, big things like this, get done.

I honestly think that the group behind the spaceport has done a poor job of marketing this to the people who will actually foot the bill. I think with a little marketing spin, a little “what’s in it for me”, the tides could turn and voters might warm up to the cause.

In the end, the bill passed by a narrow margin. Progress marches on. I hope this whole venture will be worth it.

For the record…if I still lived in Las Cruces…I probably would have voted yes on the tax…

Despite my ongoing sadness at the loss of farm and ranchland in New Mexico and I know that development in Upham (which today is not much) and the area right at the spaceport means ranching families will sell out thus filling the pockets of the real estate elite (again)…but that’s another post for another day.

To think of the media attention this will bring to Hatch, that small town near Upham and situated right there on the road to the spaceport…

Wait! Does this mean the world will know our little secret about the most delectable foodstuff in the world?

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!