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Day 7 – Mar. 26th: Darth Vader and Tractor Bob

• CATEGORIES: FC150-FC170-M677, Features • TAGS: .

<– Day 6 – Mar. 25th: TinkerTown and the Turquoise Trail | OVERVIEW | Day 8 – Mar. 27th: Joe’s Jeeps –>


Gordon and Ellen stand in front of their CJ-3B Tractor Bob. A name thought up by their grandson, who is an avid reader of eWillys. Tractor Bob isn’t Mr. Reliable; apparently, on more than one occasion, a jaunt about Silver City in Tractor Bob meant a relaxing hitchhike home. Therefore, Ann and I thank Gordon and Ellen for taking a chance and driving Bob to meet us for dinner and a narrated walk around the wonderful town of Silver City.

Before I share Wednesday’s fun, let me comment on the La Quinta Inn in Las Cruces . . . On Tuesday night when we arrived at the La Quinta Inn in Las Cruces (did I mention the La Quinta Inn??), we were surprised to discover that when we got to our hotel room, it hadn’t been cleaned (pizza boxes piled on a table and the beds remained unmade). Now, while I knew I’d gotten a great price on the room using Priceline, I did have an expectation the room would be clean. So, I went back to the desk and asked for a different room.

The mortified desk clerk apologized and quickly gave us a new room. Off to the second room we went (just a few doors down from the first one). We unpacked, then I went into the bathroom, only to discover there were no tissues in the dispenser (I really don’t give a rip, but in this case it wasn’t a good sign) and there was melted ice in the ice bucket container from the previous guests, meaning this room hadn’t been cleaned/restocked very carefully. While we were too tired to complain, I did check out the bed to make sure the sheets were clean.

Wednesday morning at checkout, I explained our poor experience to the morning clerk. Like the evening clerk, the morning clerk was mortified. She promised to address the situation and told me I’d receive a coupon in my email to make up for the poor experience we’d had. When I checked my email I discovered that the La Quinta Inn felt our poor experience warranted a whole $5 discount. It’s fair to say I remain unimpressed. Did I mention that was the La Quinta Inn in Las Cruces???

However, we didn’t let our La Quinta Inn experience dampen our mood. Our goal for the day was to get to the White Sands Missile Range Museum and then head over to Silver City.


The Museum was a pleasant surprise. Even the price was reasonable (free). The museum is divided into two interior sections and an exterior missile park. We started with the main interior portion. One of the first exhibits we encountered was an original Darth Vader mask. Apparently, the guy who won the Oscar for the Star Wars’ (for you young folks I am referring to Star Wars Episode IV) sound effects obtained a variety of sounds from the missile range, so he managed to get the Darth Vader mask donated to the museum. Nice bit of trivia!

2014-03-26-missile-museum7Ann was very excited about all the missile stuff. She was particularly interested in the specifics of the device in this case. She hunched over this exhibit for several minutes, fascinated by it. She attempted to explain some part of it to me and did this with her hands.

2014-03-26-missile-museum6But, there was more than just missile history. There were other smaller exhibits. For example, there was a very small, but interesting exhibit on the Apache fight with the U.S. Soldiers during the 1880s. One of the soldiers involved in the fighting was very sympathetic about the Apache situation, noting the Apache had been lied to far too many times and had no choice but to fight, even likening them to the American Revolutionaries fighting for the right to their land. It was an interesting perspective from a small, but good exhibit.

Another small, but powerful exhibit was a series of paintings done by Benjamin Charles Steele, who survived the Bataan Death March and Japanese prison camp. He drew sketches while a POW, but they were destroyed. So, after the war, he got a degree in art and recreated the paintings. The paintings coupled with concise descriptions tell a powerful story of his (and many others) experience as a POW in the Pacific Theatre.


These paintings line the entire room.


It was hard to take a good photo of it due to the glass. This shows the burial detail to which Benjamin was assigned.

On a lighter note, there were several jeeps in photos in the museum. This one below is the best one and shows two jeeps, along with a V2 (I think … I didn’t look too close at that).


Once we were done with the interior exhibits we walked to a second building where a US Made V2 rocket (the one in the photo above???) rests. My wife almost touches the rocket in this photo . . . that is my story and I’m sticking to it.

2014-03-26-missile-museum2From the V2, we stepped outside to walk among retired missiles (and other stuff).


After the missile museum, we started our trek west toward Silver City, as we re-enterd Las Cruces, we spotted this small auto yard that had at least six Willys trucks and wagons. We didn’t slow down to inspect it too carefully.


To the right is an early truck. Behind that you can just make out a white wagon. Just to the right of the yellow sign is the rear of another white wagon.

We drove for about a half hour on I-10 when we began seeing signs for a trading post. It was obviously a tourist trap, but that made it all the more fun. So, we stopped. Here’s the sign that welcomed us:


It’s a big sign. the runner’s shorts seem to be missing.


This is one of the murals on the front of the trading post. Looks like this place is a fun time. That’s a happy cowboy!

Despite an occasional stop for a photo that had to be taken, we finally made it to meet with Gordon and see his jeeps. Gordon has read eWillys for several years. He used to live in Boise and had jeeped some of the same trails I explored in Lost Biscuit when I lived there (here’s one example).

When he moved to New Mexico, he decided he wanted to have a Willys again. Of course, one wasn’t enough. He kept finding deals on projects. Pretty soon, he had quite a few jeeps, mostly FCs. Perhaps the coolest FC is an FC with under 10,000 miles that was owned by NASA.


This runs. It had a strange aluminum utility box (see below). Ann was quite proud of this photo, which shows both the Jeep and the NASA insignias.


Custom aluminum bed built by or for NASA that was on the FC.


This is the partially complete new bed.

Here are a few of the other FCs:


The chassis is good, but the cab isn’t. However, he has another cab that is good with a chassis that isn’t.


This is a dually that came with two windshields. They are in the wooden box.


This is a FC-170 with a frame shortened by a previous owner. Its wheelbase is now about halfway between a FC-150 and an FC-170.


Here Gordon and I are discussing world peace and recent politics … yeah, right. We are talking jeeps.

Gordon also has these two jeeps for sale:



After Gordon completed our tour, it was time to head to a hotel that Gordon arranged for us in Silver City. However, on our way to the hotel, we spied a peculiar jeep:

2014-03-26-silvercity-funky1 2014-03-26-silvercity-funky2

In downtown Silver City, we arrived at the Murray Hotel, an art deco themed hotel originally built in 1938. Unlike our experience at the La Quinta Inn the previous night, the Murray Hotel clerk was wonderful, even providing me with a history of the hotel as she checked me into it. When we got to our room, it was great, a nice blend of old and new. And clean, too. Not a pizza box in sight!


The lobby interior!


Our room. It’s clean, quiet and at least one of us is sleeping fitfully in the bed. The other will soon end this long post and join her.

Just before dinner, Gordon and Ellen arrived in their CJ-3B and took us out for some excellent Mexican food. Then they gave us a tour of old main street, which disappeared during a torrent in the late 1800s, replaced by a 55 foot gully. Shops along main street had to start using their back doors to keep in business. The gully still runs heavily with water during the rainy season. The streets become rivers as well, however the sidewalks are so high off the street (in some cases nearly three feet) that the stores appear to stay dry.

Many thanks to Gordon and Ellen for their hospitality and warmth. If you ever have a chance to visit Silver City, it’s a neat small town with an artsy feel to it. And, if you get a chance, try out the Murray Hotel.

Tomorrow we head to Phoenix via Globe and Mesa, where we’ll see Joe, Joel, and the progress on the GPW 🙂

<– Day 6 – Mar. 25th: TinkerTown and the Turquoise Trail | OVERVIEW | Day 8 – Mar. 27th: Joe’s Jeeps –>


3 Comments on “Day 7 – Mar. 26th: Darth Vader and Tractor Bob

  1. Bob

    My parents had a similar experience with Motel 6 years ago in that someone had wet the bed and apparently the hotel staff did not change the sheets, but just remade the bed. My mom said “it’s a good thing they leave the light on for ya” so you can see the pee in the bed. They got 3 or 4 nights free after a very well worded letter of complaint.

  2. Joe in Mesa

    We can’t wait to see you and Ann, Dave. Safe travels 🙂
    Let me know when you’re getting close, or an ETA. I don’t want to be running an errand and miss you.

  3. mom

    Well, something intrigued me about Silver City. I decided to take a tour via Google maps. I kinda got lost, imagine getting lost using Google maps. It can be done. I started down Hudson St narrowly missing some parked cars on my right. Not sure if I was driving or walking–perhaps floating on air. Saw some interesting buildings and then I passed the Dairy Queen (yea). I will have to keep that in mind. Found myself turning onto Silver City Blvd and on the wrong side of a traffic island. Harrowing to say the least. I had a couple of head on crashes going down the Blvd. Man, traffic is bad on that street. Found the hospital, thought about checking for any life threatening injuries from the head ons. I really wanted to see where the water rushed down the middle of the city. I floated out of town and looked down. Noticed a trail of trees and decided to take a closer look. This must be it. Back down to street level. Aha, as I travel down the street, I see a high curb thanks to an open parking space. I “walk” to the corner and I see 3 steps up to the side walk. I bet your friendly tourist guide didn’t mention that. Just leave it to mom to give you “the full meal deal”. Now my curiosity is satisfied and I wonder how I am going to end this saga. I will just go away,

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