Category Archives: Down to Earth

Vacations are for fun….

luggageA couple of days before Christmas I left for my annual trip to Quartzsite, AZ and Blythe, CA, along the way I planned to stop for six days at Deming, NM to visit my friends Ed and Judy. When I started my vacation, there were two powerful storms working their way across the country, so for over half of the trip I was in high winds, driving rain and more rain. Since I anticipated some holiday traffic, I was on the road around 3 AM each morning sharing the road with the long distance trucks.

On the end of my second day of travel, I had gotten on the road an extra hour earlier that morning because of the time zone change. I should mention here that I try to keep my day on east coast time as long as I can as a way to avoid that jet lag feeling. I made my connection on the outskirts of Dallas for the route 20 bypass to the west side of Fort Worth, the weather was not nice, the rain at times was forcing slowdowns as visibility dropped to less than fifty feet, accidents were many. It’s an extra long days drive from Fort Worth to Deming and I made a gas stop just outside of Fort Worth, I was almost at the end of a long days drive and I wanted to stop for the night with a full tank of gas so I would not have to stop in the morning. Because there was trouble with the gas pumps at the Flying J, everyone had to pay inside and the lines were long.

As I was waiting on-line, I passed the time talking with a couple and their two teenagers, since they were traveling east and I was traveling west, we swapped highway driving conditions. When one of them asked where I would stop for the night, I told them I would drive for at least another couple of hours or so. They suggested that I get off the road as soon as I could after passing Fort Worth as there had been a major gas strike down south and the gas companies were booking all the rooms they could for the drilling teams, and the rooms at the motels in Big Spring were full with rates through the roof. From there down to Van Horn most motels were already full, and if there were open rooms, be prepared to pay over a hundred dollars for a night.

As route 20 turned south, just pass Fort Worth, it started snowing, great big quarter sized flakes. Ten minutes later, I was stopped on the highway, an accident ahead somewhere I guessed., the snow was no longer those pretty big, white, fluffy flakes, but had turned into a heavy, driving sleet/snow combination that rendered the tail lights of the car stopped eight foot ahead of me, just a weak, dim, red glow. I got on my cell phone and called Judy to find out the conditions at Deming. Judy told me that it was sunny and about 65 degrees, when I told her where I was and the conditions I was in, she tuned in the weather on her TV and told me I would probably be in clear skies in another twenty or thirty minutes. Traffic started moving then and I told her I would see her tomorrow.  Ten minutes later, I was in bright sun, not a cloud in the sky, I think this was the first I had seen the sun since leaving home in New Jersey. I stopped for the night at Sweetwater, Texas. It was not even four yet, but I did not want to go all the way to Big Spring and not find a room for the night, I had only traveled 869 miles since leaving Tennessee that morning. 

The next day’s driving, was a walk in the park, no wind, plenty of sun, with just an occasional few little puffy white clouds. I recalled this part of the drive from a couple of years ago, driving 300 miles through the desert in zero visibility dust storms, then into a heavy thunderstorm and snow in El Paso. I arrived at Ed and Judy’s in the early afternoon, the 600 miles that day went without a glitch.

To be continued….

Hunting Agate

Once again it is time for my annual trip out west, this year I will not be heading straight out to California and Arizona, but will stop and visit my friends Ed & Judy in Deming New Mexico. While there I will spend several days out in the desert hunting agate with Judy as my guide. This agate occurs on BLM land. As stated on their web page the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) may best be described as a small agency with a big mission: To sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. It administers more public land – over 245 million surface acres – than any other Federal agency in the United States. Most of this land is located in the 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also manages 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation.

Although there is much agate occurring in seams and nodules under the ground, we will only be able to hunt for the pieces which appear on the surface as float. (The meaning of the word Float as used in mining comes from Float copper or Float gold, fine particles of metallic copper or of gold suspended in water. Over time it has come to also mean any loose mineral pieces that are uncovered by wind and rain and are moved around by the elements.) We will also be restricted as to where we will be able to hunt, as this area contains many surface (placer) claims. The BLM heavily regulates the use of the land in this area and depending on where you go there may be restrictions on area access and amounts of what can be taken per day and in a given year, we try to keep up with local BLM regulations to avoid problems.

Agate is a microcrystalline variety of silica, chiefly chalcedony, characterized by its fineness of grain and brightness of color. Although agates may be found in various kinds of rock, they are classically associated with volcanic rocks and can be common in certain metamorphic rocks. It was given its name by Theophrastus, a Greek philosopher and naturalist, who discovered the stone along the shore line of the river Achates sometime between the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. Colorful agates and other chalcedonies were obtained over 3,000 years ago from the Achates River, now called Dirillo, in Sicily.

Most agates occur in areas that were of volcanic origin, in cavities that were thrown forth or ancient lavas. These agates have a banded structure, successive layers being approximately parallel to the sides of the cavity. During crystallization, the colored bands are not disturbed. Varieties of agate are characterized by peculiarities in the shape and color of the bands, which are seen in sections cut at right angles to the layers. Although agate comes in many colors aand forms, most of the agate we will collect, will be black, red, or brownish in color and may show banding with white. Agate forms when gas bubbles trapped in solidifying lava become filled with alkali and silica-bearing waters, which coagulate into a gel. The alkali attacks the iron in the surrounding lava, and bands of the resulting iron hydroxide are created in the gel, which loses water and crystallizes, leaving the bands intact. Many agates, when cut in cross-section, reveal striking forms.

Agate is the Mystical birth stone for September. It is also the birth stone for the Zodiac sign of Gemini. Agate is the accepted gemstone for the 12th and 14th wedding anniversaries. Lore and metaphysical beliefs about agate are, it is believed to discern truth, accept circumstances, and is a powerful emotional healer. Legend says that Agate improves memory and concentration, increases stamina and encourages honesty. Agate is said to be particularly beneficial to people born under the sign of Gemini as it helps them to remain calm and focused. It is also believed to prevent insomnia and insure pleasant dreams, to enhance personal courage and protect one against danger. Agate provides a calming influence, improves perception, concentration and helps to develop and increase one’s analytical talents.