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New Mexico

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…

2019-03-17 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 5 – Las Cruces and Alamogordo, NM

This Sunday morning we started walking at 7:30 am in 35 degree temperatures.  There is a nice United Methodist church about 1/2 mile from here.  However we wonder at the wisdom of holding a church service at 8:00 am… It was a beautiful church, but only 50 people were in attendance. I was reassured that their later two services were better attended… ( a total of about 300+ people each Sunday…)

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While walking back to the Villa we passed the Railroad Museum.  We may need to return here in a day or two…

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We packed a lunch and pointed the truck towards Alamogordo… The road to Alamogordo is named the “Bataan March Memorial Highway”.  White Sands Missile range was closed today while they do an re-enactment of the Bataan Death March – without the disease, torture, bugs, humidity, starvation, and death… This is an annual event since 2002.  Hundreds of people (maybe thousands) were walking along the highway and on the roads in the missile range…

We continued on to Alamogordo, to the New Mexico Space History Museum, which includes the International Hall of Fame, along with a Planetarium…

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We walked around the outdoor exhibits…

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This is a memorial for the astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 fire and the two Space Shuttle crashes…

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They also have here the grave site of HAM, the first space chimp, who flew into space in 1961, and died in 1983…

Inside were four floors of exhibits of space exploration:  early astronomers, rockets, the cold war space race, all the manned space missions, and on and on… Some of it was esoteric technology and other exhibits were current events for us… Lots of hands-on exhibits for kids, too.

Also outside was an acceleration/deceleration track, where various devices were tested for both going fast and stopping from going fast.  I’m no mathematician (they said there would be no math in retirement…), but one rocket used on the track accelerated from 0 to mach 1.3 in 4.2 seconds.  I think that is even faster than a Tesla…

From the hill at the museum we could see the White Sands National Monument… It isn’t really clear in the photo, but these white sand dunes extend for 275 miles…

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White Sands National Monument was our next destination for the day… There are 150,000 acres of, well, white sand…

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I dressed as the invisible pedestrian.  You can almost see me in this photo…

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We returned to the Villa, had lovely happy hours and dinner…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

 

2019-03-16 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 4 – Las Cruces, NM

We rolled out of the Queen Mine RV Park at about 9:30.  Today we are heading to Las Cruces, NM.  We are traveling in southeast Arizona in some of the most remote areas we have ever seen…

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Some of the mountains are still covered in snow… There is also “snow” or the slushy remnants of hail, alongside the road…

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We stopped at a monument commemorating the surrender of Geronimo, the Apache chief, to the US Army in 1886.  He was the last Apache chief to surrender…

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New Mexico welcomed us!

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There was even more snow on the ground in New Mexico!

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We pulled into Sunny Acres RV Park in Las Cruces at about 3:30.  In, connected, and paid for…

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Happy Hours ensured… And an enjoyable time was had by all…

And, as is our custom on travel days, here are pictures of our great grandchildren…

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2018-10-11 – Camp Verde and Clarkdale – Day 54 – Verde Canyon Railroad and an Extraordinary Dinner at Moscato

We enjoyed a lovely day here in the Verde Valley…

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It was cool and rainy, but the forecast was for improved conditions…

We drove to the small town of Clarkdale, where we were to board the Verde Canyon Railroad for a 4 hour round trip into the Verde Canyon.  We easily found the Depot.  (Fake vigas noted…)

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We checked in and received our boarding passes… We were disappointed that the depot was not actually in the town of Clarkdale – it is in the valley below.

It was a short, 1/2 mile walk into the center of Clarkdale.  We quickly found the highly recommended Violette’s, a very good French pastry place housed in an old Caboose…

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We enjoyed a Croque Monsieur and Avocado Toast along with great coffee.  The rain had stopped and we checked out the town.

Several towns around here were dependent on mining and smelting copper, gold, and silver.  All the towns died in the early 1950s when the smelter closed and all the workers left.  In the town of Jerome the population went from 15,000 to 50 in a period of about 6 months.  A similar story, in various degrees, could be told for Cottonwood and Clarkdale.  Over time, Jerome reinvented itself as a arts and crafts center, and Cottonwood became a center for nightlife, with restaurants, wine tasting rooms, bars, and shops.

But Clarkdale?  Still waiting for something to happen.  There was Violette’s, of course, and The 10/12 Lounge, a retro cocktail lounge.  But the prime business block stands empty and for sale.  Very sad.  What this town needs is a reason for people to come and hang out here…

It was time to return to the Depot to catch the train… There were about 400 people sitting at tables, drinking coffee, shopping in the gift shops… WAIT!

Why is the Depot down in this valley, and not in the town of Clarkdale?  This is exactly what the town needs!  They could put the Depot in the town, then provide a way to get the people down to the train – a shuttle, an escalator, maybe a zip-line?  It seems the town is missing a great opportunity…

Anyway, we found our car and found our seats.  Appetizers and light snacks are provided, and a cash bar is available for beverages.  The cars and chairs were very comfortable.  If you wanted a better view of the scenery, an outdoor viewing car is adjacent to the parlor car…

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Soon we were underway.  We rode 2 hours up the Verde Canyon, along the Verde River, with great views of… Red Rocks!

There was a guide who told us what we were seeing, pointing out interesting sights and telling us a little history of the area…

The first thing we see is the Slag Heap.  This covers 40 acres.  Slag is the waste from the smelting operations, and it was just dumped into a pile… Slag is hot molten rock… it glowed red when it was placed.  As it cooled it became this giant mountain of solid rock… It rises over 100 feet above the train, and it fills the valley below…

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Above you can see the metal form work used to prevent the molten slag from covering the train tracks…

Our guide reported that someone has recently paid 6 million dollars for the slag heap, and they have set up a plant nearby to extract the small amounts of copper, silver, and gold from the slag that were too difficult to get out 60 years ago… They are about to begin operations…

So we continued into the canyon… Beautiful sights all around…

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It was a lovely ride – very comfortable, very informative…

We returned to the Villa, and enjoyed a beautiful rainbow and sunset…

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As I told you, last night we went to a fine Italian restaurant in the town of Camp Verde.  We were so impressed with the food and the ambiance that we decided to return tonight.  However, instead of ordering off the menu, we simply asked the chef to make us something special.  We also specified that the portions be very small, and while I think he was a little embarrassed by how little food they gave us, it was still more than we could eat…

Paul was our server, again, and he seemed to enjoy this meal as much as we did… We began with an appetizer of Crimini mushrooms stuffed with Italian sausage , cured meats, and aged provolone cheese, with a red wine sauce… Next came a seafood pasta, which consisted of a giant Langostino atop red-wine infused house made pasta.  Finally we had a beef roulade, stuffed with shrimp and aged cheese, and topped with a red wine sauce and a splash of 40 year old balsamic, all served over a base of potato.  Pictures don’t do this food justice, so you will have to imagine…

For dessert we had something that was a combination of a cream puff and an Italian donut – creamed filled crispy pastry, caramel sauce, and a beautiful plate decorated with chocolate and something red…

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As we stumbled back to the Villa we were happily satiated.

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-10-10 – Day 53 – Camp Verde and Sedona

We left Gallup at 8:00 am.  It was 36 degrees outside… We stopped briefly for a mid-morning snack.  We are driving west along the 40 through northern Arizona…

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At Winslow we turned south on tiny highway 89; the sign said, “No services next 51 miles”… They weren’t kidding:

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We turned west again and soon arrived at Camp Verde, site of Historic Fort Verde (1865).  Camp Verde is a working class town, a few miles south of Sedona.

We parked and set up at a very nice RV Park, then we drove to Sedona.  Sedona seems like they took Santa Fe and dropped it into the middle of Bryce Canyon…

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Sedona, like Santa Fe, consists of hotels and shopping areas aimed directly at tourists:  gift shops, art galleries, spas, restaurants, and bars.  Compared to Santa Fe, it has a little less Indian culture and a lot more spiritual culture…

Being tourists, we found a nice restaurant.  Lynda ordered a small margarita…

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I was still pondering the menu and the Yelp ratings…

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We had a nice, but small and simple lunch, then walked through the shops amongst the other tourists.  I was surprised by the number of families in town; I would have expected more well dressed ladies of a certain age (with tiny yippie dogs) and their equally well dressed male companions…

We returned to the Villa.  Internet service was bad, so I had to hang out at the office to get anything done.  We walked around the RV park.  It is very nice, mostly seasonal and long term visitors.  There were six other Airstreams in the park… Oh! Wait! We just noticed a brand new Airstream Atlas!  Make that seven other Airstreams in the park…

At dinner time we sought out all the fine dining options in the area.  There was one.

We went to Moscato, a fine Italian place in Camp Verde, about four miles from the RV park…

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We arrived early and we walked a bit in the town, such as it is…

We found a liquor store that carried all the essentials…

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We’re not in California any more…

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The restaurant was VERY nice – it soon became our favorite restaurant in Camp Verde…

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The food and service were great.  The room is beautiful.  They also have a lovely outdoor patio, but it was a bit cool for that.  There were several large parties and families celebrating something or other…

We made a reservation again for tomorrow night…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-10-09 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 52 – Caravan is over; we head for home…

We watched the balloons fly one last time… We walked on the field amidst the chaos…

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It’s always fun to see the special shaped balloons – later in the week they will have a special competition just for them…

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This is Bill Lee, the pilot who organized our balloon rides last week in Gallup.  His balloon is the official balloon for the State of New Mexico… We tried to talk to him, but I think he was preoccupied…

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So we walked on…

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After a few minutes we looked back and Bill Lee was aloft…

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Once all the balloons had ascended we walked back to the Villa, hitched up, and left our happy campground full of Airstreams…

Our destination today is Gallup, NM, back to USA RV Park, which we left less than one week ago… We are spending one night, to dump the tanks, take showers, and get re-oriented again for our trip home…

We stopped briefly to stretch our legs, and then traveled on…

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We crossed the Continental Divide (7275′ elevation) at about 11:00 am.  It was 44 degrees outside… And then the rain began.  It was not heavy, and it did not hinder our trip…

There is not a lot going on out here in western New Mexico…

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But soon we were settled in to our site at USA RV Park, just west of Gallup, NM.

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This evening we had planned to walk the 1/2 mile and eat at Virgies, a Gallup institution.  Literally seconds before we left the Airstream it started to rain in a giant downpour.  It didn’t last long, but we didn’t want to get caught in another such downpour… Also, the highway was too wet, in our opinion, to walk…

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We called Uber and 9 minutes later we were at Virgies:

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By the time dinner was over we were able to walk back to the Villa…

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

Oh!  Here’s Evelyn:

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2018-10-08 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 51 – Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

It rained all night and it was cold… But this morning the winds were gentle and the balloons flew.  But it was an unusual flight…

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The balloons lifted off and drifted away from the Airstreams, towards the northwest.  Then the balloons dropped down, close to the ground, where a southern wind blew them south, then southeast; then the balloons ascended and caught the north winds again and the balloons came back over the launch field again.  This isn’t exactly the “Albuquerque Box” that they talk about, but it was close…

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And then they were gone…

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After the balloons were done, we headed to Costco to pick up a few supplies for our trip home…

This afternoon was our “final banquet” for the caravan.  These are normally held in the evening, but since there are 900,000 people visiting Albuquerque this week going out to a restaurant for dinner is not an option… So 2:00 pm it is.

The banquet was at El Pinto, a great New Mexican restaurant.  We were in a nice, spacious room, and we had a nice buffet lunch of all things Mexican, with a New Mexican twist… There were the usual speeches, toasts, blame for the innocent and accolades for the uninvolved…

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A slide show was presented that recapped our trip, and a few hokey songs were sung.  Well-deserved praises were said for our leaders, and we all vowed to keep in touch…

We returned to the Villa and had a simple (no food) Happy Hour.  But then it got too cold for these Californians, so we were turned in early…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-10-07 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 50 – Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

It was windy this morning, so the balloons could not fly.

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We walked around a bit and relaxed all morning, then at 1:00 we re-visited the Turquoise Museum…

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We had been here when we first started the caravan, and we learned what to look for when shopping for turquoise.  Since then we have been lied to by every jewelry store and trading post and gift shop in the Four Corners States… We had a nice chat with the owners…

On our way back to the Villa we stopped at a local New Mexico winery…

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We enjoyed a nice, casual tasting, chatting with a couple visiting from Virginia…  We bought a few bottles to augment our supply for our trip home…

This evening was Happy Hours again, but it was really too cold to sit outside, so we had three other couples join us inside the Villa…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

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