PANCHO VILLA STATE PARK

March 9, 2012

We are staying at Pancho Villa State Park. Its comfortable and quiet here. We hunkered down from a terrible wind storm that had Highway 10 closed, and wind gusts up to 75 miles per hour. We stayed in and felt like someone was banging on a tin can as the motor home did a bit of rock and roll, the wind blasting away.  Yesterday was clear and crisp and we walked the park. The park is very distinctive considering that it was the first airbase in the United States, Camp Furlong, and it is also the site of Pancho Villa’s attack on Columbus,New Mexico. Villa’s scouts counted 30 soldiers before his attack, but they were wrong and the attack met 350 American soldiers with a brand new  weapon, a machine gun.Villa was quickly dispatched.

We walked to the top of this hill where a placque displays the battle of how Villa’s men attacked the base. And, of course he attacked the town as well, intending to take over Columbus.

The Citizens fought Villa and their account is in a nearby Museum and the old Custom House visible from the top of the hill. We visited here in January of 2010 and the Museum is really well done as well as a private museum in town that has a replica of Villa’s death mask and many first hand accounts from the citizens who lived there.

In the intervening years, Columbus has made a big effort to honor the long years of friendship with its nearby Mexican neighbors, and Mexican officials from Chihuahua have cooperated with Columbus on the Museum and come here once a year to celebrate Camp Furlong Days, a parade and festivities that we will attend tomorrow.  The attack was 96 years ago.

Two adobe buildings from Camp Furlong’s headquarters are preserved on the site.

And the remains of a grease rack used to maintain vehicles here. It is humorous that the grease and petrol had to be packed in from the train station by mule teams.

When we visited in 2010, we crossed into Mexico and had delicious dinner in Las Palomas with fun friends and strolling musicians. With dismay, I noticed a sign at the park warning us that the most dangerous border crossings today are from Columbus, New Mexico, Fort Hix and Fabens, Texas. What a shame that the drug cartels have practically halted what was once a delightful place to visit. While it won’t stop the celebration being held here tomorrow, there has been, and still is, a lot of controversy about naming the park for Pancho Villa. You can click the two links below and read how people feel about it.
http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-03-09-1Apanchovilla09_CV_N.htm
http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/letters/2011-03-14-letters14_ST_N.htm

I prefer friendship to hostilities and agree with those who remember that America isn’t innocent of wrong doing and we should all move on.

Interestingly, the park water tank raises consciousness of the water crisis we will someday face and says:  You are drinking ice age water….

…what will you drink next year?

Hmmm!  Good question.

I got up this morning and opened the door of the motor home only to have the wind whip it out of hand and slam it against the side. Whew! Headed for the spa, and came home feeling like I was about to be blown over. We did the wash before we left Soledad Canyon and the washroom doors kept blowing open and slamming closed in the wind. Once on the road, in the distance we could see sand blowing everywhere.

It was loud and bumpy and we knew we were hearing noises we’d never heard before. A woman frantically waved at us, then a second person right behind that vehicle was trying to tell us something. Jim stopped and did a walk around and the back spare wheel attachment with the bike rack was blowing open and slamming closed. Jim fixed it and on we went.

The wind was fierce and the dirt in the air got worse along with it. As we approached Mojave, there was a detour; several overpasses were closed down. We still didn’t connect it to the wind, wicked as it was. The next thing you know, a horrendous sound gave us to know something unwelcome had happened. It was the awning.

It blew open. Against the pressure of the wind, Jim struggled to get both sides even, the lock un-engaged and the awning rolled back in place.He got some rope pieces and tied the support bars. It was up, and I continually watched it from the window and watched the wind passing through two inch gaps between he layers of the rolled awning. The raising strap kept beating a tattoo against he side, then the roof and back to the side.Then we saw our first 18 wheeler over on its side about 200 feet behind us.

In less than a quarter mile, we passed two more 18 wheelers over. We began to understand that this storm was nothing to fool around with. Jim slowed from 45 to 40 miles per hour.

People headed for off ramps or an overpass were blocked and parked on the side of the road. The CHP had closed several of them in the area hit hardest by the wind.  Probably after this guy went over.

I could see that his airbag had deployed. He was on an overpass.

Jim slowed to 35 miles per hour.

As we approached Tehachapi, pass there were caution signs for campers and high trucks. At every pull out were motor homes, and campers, and trucks and cars stopped, waiting out the storm.

We debated about stopping, but at a low rate of speed, we crawled along.

People who felt they were unwieldy with trailers, motorcycles, and odd loads pulled out to wait. We couldn’t find a place to pull over, after debating, without obstructing the road, so we soldiered on.

Finally, down on the other side of Tehachapi, a huge storm cloud looked about to dump some rain, but didn’t.

The wind abated, the sun came out and it was just as suddenly over. We pulled into the Amtrak station in Bakersfield, I picked up my ticket for tomorrow morning at 7:15 a.m. Going home.
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