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Adventures in the Villa

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New Mexico

2021-07-26 – Heading to Missouri for the Oregon Trail caravan… Day 4 – Tucumcari, NM to Liberal, KS

The RV park in Tucumcari (a KOA) is mostly for overnight stays – it’s not exactly a vacation resort. By the time we poked our heads out of the Villa at about 9:00 am all the other RVs were gone… It’s a strange feeling, and an odd sight to see…

So we headed out at about 9:15 and we pointed the truck roughly Northeast. Today we will drive though portions of four states!

We soon left New Mexico and entered the Texas Panhandle. Lynda almost shot a photo of the Welcome to Texas sign…

Around 10:30 am we arrived the cute little town of Dalhart, TX, population 8,400. We have driven through many small towns on our various trips, and most of them are decrepit and derelict. Not Dalhart! It is a thriving town with many nice residential neighborhoods

It also has train tracks right through the center of town…

So we stopped and waited. And waited… Finally we pulled off the road and parked. There was a very nice Family Dollar store here, so we went in a bought a few trinket’s

Finally the train moved on. (It had been moving slowly, back and forth – adding or subtracting cars somewhere along the line…)

We continued on, and soon entered the panhandle of Oklahoma. We spent about 100 miles in Texas and about 50 miles in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma looks a lot like Texas around here…

And it looks a lot like this, too…

Yhe GPS on the dash was pretty accurate…

We see signs of civilization now and then…

We see these everywhere… Anyone know what the small yellow pipes are doing connecting with the yellow tower in the background?

We finally arrived in Kansas – our fourth State of the day… We turned off onto the old highway…

We found our RV park for the night…

This is on the outskirts of Liberal, Kansas, in the far southwest corner of the State. The park is Very primitive, but they have good 50 amp power hookups. We were set for the night. Did we mention it is HOT here? We quickly turned on both ACs and enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-07-25 – Heading to Missouri for the Oregon Trail caravan… Day 3 – Grants, NM to Tucumcari, NM

We awoke in the Villa in the early morning, we quickly readied ourselves to depart, and we pulled out of the alley onto Main Street. We stopped briefly for coffee and breakfast sandwiches, and we were on the freeway again. These cross country trips are quite utilitarian, and we don’t do much sight-seeing.

We had an uneventful trip. We had more rain – enough to wash off all the mud we picked up whilst parking in the alley behind the winery. We stopped for fuel, as we do each day. We also stopped at a Rest Stop to eat lunch in the Airstream, and to walk around a bit to get our exercise…

At a little before noon we arrived way too early to check-in to the KOA RV Park in Tucumcari.

But we spent some time walking and we were finally shown to a very nice parking spot…

We spent the afternoon relaxing and enjoying the AC – it’s 90 degrees here – the warmest day so far, but we anticipate our next two stops in Kansas will be hotter…

Dinner was our massive quantities of left-over pasta from Moscato on Friday evening. And some nice California Pinot Noir…Always good movies on TCM, and good books to read. I finally finished David Rockefeller’s “Memoir”, and I have started Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories”… Lynda is reading an eclectic mix of novels she picks up at used bookstores and thrift shops. We enjoyed a pleasant evening and an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-07-23 – Leaving Home, heading to Missouri for the Oregon Trail caravan… Day 1 – Redlands, CA to Camp Verde, AZ

We’re off again! This time we are going to retrace the path of the Oregon Trail, from Missouri to Oregon. To do this we must, again, drive through the California desert, drive through the Arizona desert, through the New Mexico desert, and on through a corner of the Texas desert, through a corner of the Oklahoma desert, then on into Kansas, and finally into Missouri. We will be retracing some of the same roads and places that we have been through before…

But first, here is an update of our grandchildren…

Roisin got to ride the big school bus to go off to beach and surf camp…

Ian visited The La Brea Tar Pits and stuck his finger into the tar…

George got a little dirty when he had a minor fall during a family hike…

Evelyn has found her calling as “Super Woman”…

They have enjoyed their summer, doing the many things that have been off limits over the past 15 months…

But back to out trip…

We had an uneventful day driving across California and Arizona…

Not the first time we have been in Arizona, but it is always fun to take a photo of the sign…

Arizona looks like this along this route…

We had a little rain, but nothing that delayed our trip. We headed north at Phoenix, and continuing to Camp Verde, located about one hour south of Sedona. Camp Verde is a sleepy little town that has the best restaurant in this part of Arizona. People drive the hour from Sedona because it is better than anything there…

Camp Verde looks like this… We are at about 3,200′ elevation…

We found the RV park. We are in, connected, and paid for…

So, after checking in to the RV park, we freshened up and headed to Moscato Italian Restaurant. We had a fabulous meal, with courses that were way too large – we brought home over half the food. (We drank all the wine…)

Next to our table was a group of six men, about our age, who were celebrating a birthday. They were having a great time, and on occasion we could hear someone mention their Airstream. Several times. We were not sure which man it was, so as we were leaving we stopped at their table and asked, “Which one owns an Airstream?” It turns out that four of them own Airstreams! They were all from Sedona, and, like I said, they drive the hour to Camp Verde to eat at Moscato. We had a fine discussion about Airstreams, diesel trucks, and the finer things of life, and we then left them to continue their celebrations.

We returned to The Villa. An enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-06-06 thru 2019-06-11 – Traveling West – Liberal, KS and then Home…

This morning we pulled out of the RV park in Liberal, KS, and pointed the Villa southwest.  In about three minutes we were in the far western part of the Oklahoma panhandle; about 90 minutes later we were in the far western part of the Texas panhandle; by noon we were in New Mexico…

These parts of Oklahoma and Texas look remarkably like Kansas…

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At one rest stop there were these nice little picnic shelters… Mid Century Modern!… Nice, but a little beat up…

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All day yesterday and all day today, until we entered New Mexico, we followed the railroad tracks.  About every ten miles we came to a small town dominated by these giant grain elevators or silos…

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The further we drove west the smaller and more distressed the towns were… Not being farming folk, we could not tell exactly what these facilities do, but we assume it is related to grain storage, food processing, feed production, or something like that…

By mid day we were at our campground in Tucumcari, NM.

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And, for the record, New Mexico does not look anything like Texas, Oklahoma, or Kansas:

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Happy Hours and a light supper ensued in the Villa; tomorrow we head towards Gallup, NM.

Friday morning dawned nice and cool, but the heat will be arriving soon.  We pointed the Villa west, towards Albuquerque and beyond…

The drive was uneventful, as expected…

New Mexico looks like this…

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At one rest stop we found this Scenic Historic Marker:

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We weren’t sure what it meant… east and west looked pretty much the same to us.  Yes, western New Mexico does has more hills.  We rose to almost 7,000′ elevation before dropping down to 5280′ elevation in Albuquerque…

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Then we went uphill again to 7,275′ elevation at the Continental Divide…

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We eventually arrived in Gallup, NM, at about 6,500′ elevation…

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The sky was beautiful, the sun was hot, but the winds made the 89 degree temperature bearable.  By early evening we were able to turn off the AC, and by sunrise tomorrow it is supposed to be 48 degrees…

Happy Hours and a light supper ensued in the Villa; tomorrow we head towards Kingman, AZ.

Saturday morning dawned nice and cool, but the heat will be arriving soon.  We pointed the Villa west, towards Winslow, Flagstaff, Williams, and Kingman…

The drive was uneventful, as expected…

Arizona looks like this…

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We drove for about six hours, taking time for rest stops, fuel, and lunch… We finally pulled into Kingman, AZ by mid-afternoon…

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Interesting note is that we stayed here almost exactly two years ago as our first stop after leaving Irvine on our 4 1/2 month trip, the day after Lynda retired…

Happy Hours and a light supper ensued in the Villa; tomorrow we head towards Palm Desert, CA.

Sunday morning dawned nice and cool, but the heat will be arriving soon.  We pointed the Villa west, towards the California border…

The drive was uneventful, as expected…

We crossed over the Colorado River…

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And we entered California!

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We were met by some attentive uniformed people who asked us where we’d been, and if we were bringing in any firewood…

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The California Desert looks like this…

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For those of you who insist on calling places like eastern Oregon a “desert”, please stop!  Rivers, grass with cattle grazing, and green leafy trees do not make a desert!  See photo above for what a desert looks like!

We moved on to Palm Desert, where they have succeeded in making the desert green:

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We spent the afternoon and evening with like-minded friends, sharing happy hours and dinner.  Early Monday morning we drove the final hour…

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We arrived home in Redlands; an enjoyable time was had by all…

Tally:

Miles driven: 8,379

Days traveling and camping on our own:  40 days

Days on the Cajun Country Caravan:  16 days

Days on the Springtime in Kentucky Caravan:  22 days

Total days living in the Villa: 78 days

Total number of Airstreams seen along the road:  211

Number of nights in the Villa over the past 24 months:  375 days  (51%)

And one last photo of our girls…

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2019-06-05 – Traveling West – Wichita and Liberal, KS

This morning we pulled out of the RV park and pulled the Villa into central Wichita.  We are heading to another Frank Lloyd Wright house – the Allen house…

You remember the neighborhood of nice houses I posted yesterday as we walked near the French bistro where we had dinner.  The Allen house is in the same neighborhood, a few blocks over…

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We pulled up in front of the house and parked along the curb…

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The Allen House is a Prairie Style home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1915-1916 for former Kansas Governor Henry Justin Allen and his wife, Elsie.  Construction was complete in 1918.

It was one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s last Prairie Houses.  The design influence of the prairie and Japanese architecture (FLlW was working on the Imperial Palace Hotel in Japan at the time) is apparent on both the exterior and interior.

Also included in the forward-thinking house were such modern conveniences as a central vacuuming unit, an alarm system and gas fireplace logs.  Another innovation was the first firewall in a residential home.  The bricks are considered “Chicago Common Bricks”; the bricks actually are comprised of five different colors.

(An interesting side note here is that in 1916 Wright started designing the Hollyhock House in Hollywood, where I am a docent.   It was mostly completed in 1921.  Hollyhock House is definitely NOT a Prairie style house; Hollyhock House is definitely FLlW’s first non-Prairie style house…)

Anyway, the house is about 4,000 sq. ft., and it cost $30,000 to build, including Wright-designed furniture and full landscaping.  This seems like a very low price for such a fine house.

(Unfortunately, interior photos were not allowed…)

The porte cochere.  Where is the front door?  It’s around the corner to the right…

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That man is at the front door…

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The door itself is VERY crooked.  There is about a three inch settlement of the foundation near here…

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These repetitive windows are in the Living Room…

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These spherical planters are made from concrete using crushed oyster shells in lieu of gravel and sand… They are over 100 years old and there are no cracks…

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This is the rear of the house.  This parking lot was originally a kitchen garden and a cutting garden of red roses…

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This projection is oddly not symmetrical – it really bothers me…

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The classic feature of all Prairie houses is their horizontality.  This is reinforced by mortar joints, a plynth row of limestone, and a water-table of limestone…

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The square motif is repeated in light fixtures throughout the house…

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The kitchen windows feature “pie-cooling” iron grates…

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The ice goes here for the large kitchen ice box…

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Beautiful planters…

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Many of the house’s eaves contain these hidden rain gutters…

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The built-in downspouts for the hidden gutters;  also note the security alarm…

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The terrace and courtyard was used for entertaining as often as two-three times per week…

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The tea house beyond…

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We had a great tour.  I only caught the docent in one error – she was talking about how Wright had invented the casement window for the Hollyhock House, and then used it again here.  Really?  The casement window was “invented” thousands of years ago… Wright used them almost exclusively in his houses; in fact, what he did say was, “If they had not already been invented I would have invented them…”.  Also, the Hollyhock House was designed and built AFTER the Allen house…

So we drove off, pulling the Villa; Allen house was our last “tourist” stop.  From now on we are streaking straight home…

We left Wichita on Hwy 54, heading southwest, towards New Mexico…

Kansas looks like this:

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And this:

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Hwy 54 parallels the railroad tracks, build in the late 19th century as the prairie lands were homesteaded…

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They grow dandelions big around here…

img_9229 We stopped in Liberal, KS, at about 5:00 pm, at a very basic campground.  We were tired.  Happy Hours and a light supper ensued, an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-03-22 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 10 – Traveling to Fredericksburg, TX

We left Carlsbad KOA in the dark, at about 5:30 am.  The road south into Carlsbad was very busy, with a continuous line of pickup trucks, people going to work in the oil fields.  We stopped in Carlsbad at the local Starbucks for our morning coffee (Vente Flat White, Decaf, Extra Shot, Breve…) and we continued south on Hwy 285 out of town.  This is where the drive got interesting.

Hwy 285 goes through thousands of acres of oil and gas fields.  It is barely paved – maybe semi-paved.  It is under construction all the way to Texas.  It was raining and the road is dirty, with loose sand, gravel, and asphalt being thrown up everywhere.  And there was a solid line of trucks in both directions: large trucks carrying gravel, sand, water, and fracking chemicals; medium size trucks, outfitted with welders, generators, pumps, cranes, and the like; and pickup trucks, carrying the happy merry workers to their jobs.

It was still dark.  Looking off to the horizon on all sides were fires, burning off the excess natural gas from the oil wells; it is not economically feasible to capture the gas because we have such a glut of natural gas in the country, and until recently the export of natural gas was prohibited.

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After about 100 miles of this most unusual landscape and traffic and dirt and rain we arrived at Pecos, TX.  The town is totally dead.  Apparently all these busy, well-paid workers don’t live here – they stay in trailers and motels during the week and go home (wherever that may be) on weekends.  It is always sad to see these dead towns (they are everywhere…) but it is the natural cycle…

There were a few interesting things to see in the dead town…

Public art:

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Historic buildings:

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Gunfighter’s grave:

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Abandoned train station:

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Main Street; we never found out why these cars were here – perhaps this is a carpool parking area…

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I went into the only active store on Main Street, a hardware store, and asked if there was a local diner we could go to for breakfast.  They recommended a delightful little place, located in an abandoned Sonic building.  It has only been open for about two months, and was a purely local place.  I mentioned that they were not on Yelp.  I don’t think they knew what Yelp was… The food was real and quite good.  However the parking lot was so empty that people just parked free-style…

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After our late breakfast we continued into Texas – due to the road construction there was no sign welcoming us…  This is Texas:

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The first thing to happen to us in Texas is that we took a rock to the Airstream, which blew a hole in the rock guard.  Maybe we need to put a protective cover over the rock guard.

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About 10 minutes later we took a rock to the truck windshield – another big ding.

We traveled east on the 10, and after a few hours we turned off the 10 and headed into Texas Hill Country…

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We arrived in Fredericksburg in mid afternoon and set up at Fredericksburg RV park – a very nice place… As you can see, the Airstream is filthy!

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We walked into town (about 3/4 mile) for an early dinner.  Along the way we passed this hotel, with these flags; we always enjoy the Texas State flag, bragging of Texas’ one star Yelp rating…

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The History of Fredericksburg, Texas, dates back to its founding in 1846.  It was named after Prince Frederick of Prussia.  Fredericksburg is also notable as the home of “Texas German”, a dialect spoken by the first generations of German settlers who initially refused to learn English.  The emigration was in part the liberal, educated Germans fleeing the social, political and economic conditions that later resulted in the Revolution of 1848, and in part lots of working-class Germans.  

The town was laid out by surveyor Herman Wilke.  On April 23, 1846, the first wagon train of settlers left New Braunfels, encountering friendly Delaware Indians en route, and arrived at the Fredericksburg site on May 8, 1846.  The first colonists immediately set about to plant a garden and build a storehouse out of logs, and a stockade and a blockhouse.  The town continued to thrive for over 100 years as a center of this German farming community.

Fredericksburg in the 21st Century is in a state of flux. As each generation of descendants of the original settlers dies away, or moves to new horizons, the authenticity of the rural German farm culture of the Texas Hill Country communities also dies away.  It is gradually blending with the customs of newcomers and being replaced by tourist-oriented concepts of both German heritage and the Texas cowboy culture. 

Downtown Fredericksburg today is one giant restaurant, wine-tasting and tourist trinket store district.  It was great!  We had a lovely dinner and bottle of wine at Cultures…

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We returned to the Villa and turned in early – it had been a long day…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-03-21 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 9 – Carlsbad Caverns

Today we visited Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and, in particular, the Carlsbad Caverns…

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Carlsbad Caverns National Park is in the Guadalupe Mountains of southeastern New Mexico.   Approximately two thirds of the park has been set aside as a wilderness area, helping to ensure no future changes will be made to the habitat.  The primary attraction of the park are the Carlsbad Caverns.

We arrived at about 10:00 am and checked out the visitor center.  Then we headed to the “natural entrance” of the caverns… Along the way we saw these buildings; the stone buildings were built by park employees in the 1920s, and the stucco buildings were built by the CCC in 1940…

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Carlsbad Cavern includes a large limestone chamber, named simply the Big Room, which is almost 4,000 feet long, 625 feet wide, and 255 feet high at its highest point.  The Big Room is the fifth largest chamber in North America and the twenty-eighth largest in the world.  There are other rooms and chambers which require special ranger-guided tours.  We chose the self-guided tour, since we didn’t want to crawl through small tunnels…  Visitors to the Big  Room can hike down on their own via the “natural entrance” or take an elevator from the visitor center.  We, of course, walked in – about 1 1/2 miles long of winding, steep paths descending about 750′ underground.

The entrance today is quite impressive, but easy to use…

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But in the olden days things were different.  The original explorers who discovered the cave had to climb down rude home-made rope ladders.  The first visitors to the new National Park in 1923 were lowered in a mine bucket down 700 feet into the ground.  Finally, by the late 1920s, park employees had built wooden stairways.  You walked down to get in, you walked up to get out… Finally, in the 1930s, the stairs were replaced by paved ramps, and the first elevators were added…

At this “natural entrance” there is a small amphitheater.  Starting in April and continuing through the summer people come at sundown to sit and watch the thousands or millions of bats ascend up out of the bat cave via the natural entrance in search of airborne bugs and insects.  Apparently it is quite a sight, although, it being March and all, we didn’t see the bats.  We could smell the bat quano, though…

So we walked through the natural entrance, walked the 1 1/2 miles down to The Big Room, and around the Big Room, seeing the sights.  Photos don’t show the scale or the depth of these spaces, but they are very impressive.  We mostly saw “decorations”, what the parks people call the stalactites, the stalagmites, columns, draperies, straw tubes, and on and on…

Pictures don’t capture the size of the space, but this diagram shows one area – the Liberty Dome above and the “Bottomless Pit” below…

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The caverns are dramatically lit, and the “decorations” are stunning…

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After 3 1/2 hours underground we were quite done in.  So we opted to take the elevator back to the surface…

We drove back through the town of Carlsbad, fueled up the truck, and returned to the Villa.  We snacked and had Happy Hours and a light supper.  Tomorrow we leave early for our travel into Texas to Fredericksburg…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-03-19 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 7 – Mesilla and Las Cruces, NM

Another easy day.  We did some chores around the Villa, then at 10:15 we walked the 1/3 mile to the Las Cruces Railroad Museum.

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It was a simple, low key, and fun place.  Lots of history, from when the first train came to town in 1881 until the last train stopped here in 1988.  Also we learned the interesting story about how Las Cruces won the Railroaid stop over the much bigger (then) town of Mesilla… It seems the railroad wrote to both towns asking about the possibility of locating the train station in their town.  Las Cruces boosters got on board, secretly bought up all the land they could, then offered the railroad the land for everything they needed.  Mesilla never responded, and seemed surprised when the railroad went to Las Cruces.  Today Mesilla is a tiny suburb, absorbed into the city limits of Las Cruces, which became a major crossroads in Southern New Mexico.  So, now: Have you ever heard of Mesilla?

Adjacent to the railroad station/museum is a caboose:

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The caboose was put in service in the 1890s, and retired in 1960.  In 1969 a local Las Cruces family purchased it for $50 as one of 300 cabooses offered for sale.  They cleaned it up, added a kitchen and a shower, and lived in it while they were building their ranch house just outside of town.  It stayed in the family until 2010 when it was donated to the Railroad Museum… And here it sits…

We walked back to the Villa, then we drove to Mesilla.  Remember Mesilla?  They have a very nice original town plaza surrounded by shoppes and restaurants.  The town church is relatively new, replacing the original church built in 1852.

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One of the shoppes is in the old courthouse where Billy the Kid was tried and convicted of murder and sentenced to death by hanging…

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Of course, while en route to his hanging Billy the Kid escaped, killing his two guards.  After running for two months, he was finally shot to death in Fort Sumner, NM, by Pat Garrett.  (Fun fact:  In my early days as an architect, I worked in an office with another architect who claimed he was a descendant of Pat Garrett…)

The plaza and surrounding shoppes are nice…

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The above building claims to be the oldest brick building in New Mexico, built in 1860 from bricks manufactured on site…  The building didn’t have an auspicious start – one by one the first three owners were murdered right here…

We decided on Josephine’s Cafe for lunch… lighter fare than generally available around here… And EXCELLENT Sangria!

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After lunch we fueled up the truck and returned to the Villa.  More chores were done and a leisurely evening ensured…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-03-18 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 6 – Hatch and Las Cruces, NM

Another leisurely day… We drove about 35 miles north of here to visit the town of Hatch, NM… of chili fame.

The town takes its famous Hatch chili seriously, as evidenced by the names of the local businesses…

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We strolled the town, looked into all the shoppes, and finally settled on the Valley Cafe for lunch.  Very spicy and flavorful, but not up to our standards for Mexican food… Maybe we’re spoiled…

We returned to the Villa and had a leisurely evening…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

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