Thursday, May 25, 2017

Santa Fe, New Mexico

We had a good four days in Santa Fe and are now making the run across the panhandle of Texas via I-40, enroute to Muskogee, OK to see dear friends from when we managed Three Forks Harbor on the Arkansas River there from 2008 to the end of 2010.  It's a long, long run with nothing but prairie grass, a few mesas, wind turbines (about 60 miles worth), and one large town, Amarillo, TX.  We found a Mom-and-Pop RV park and diesel fuel at the same spot in Alanreed, TX, population 28, literally.  According to the owners of the park - "more dogs than people here."  We have driven all day, it's 99 degrees outside, the wind is blowing 21 mph, we just got hooked up, and the power just went out everywhere, not just here at the RV park.  It's too late to find anywhere else to go, and we are thankful to have a generator so we can stay cool, cook dinner and heat water with propane, and know that the power company is working on the problem down the road from here.  And, back to the last 4 days.

We are seeing more windmills than ever, I assume running pumps to supply water to cattle.

Enroute to Santa Fe, there was a huge volcanic eruption in the past and the lava flows are very clear.

Another letter on the mountains.  Can't remember the name of the town, so we decided it is probably for "McManus."

The green along the Rio Grande and any other water is very distinct compared to everything else, rocks and dirt.  This area is approaching Albuquerque.

Santa Fe has preserved it's original charm in the historic district, most everything is adobe architecture, they have a plaza (another car show/music the day we were there), local vendors sell their goods throughout the town, narrow streets, and the Santa Fe River runs through town ("river" is a stretch for sure).  Art galleries are everywhere.

Rhonda and I are not into "art" as in paintings and drawings, especially the contemporary stuff, so that eliminated much of the Santa Fe downtown for us.  The main attraction is the "Loretto Chapel Miraculous Stairway," built in 1873.  Here's the story:

The architect of the chapel died suddenly and it was only after much of the chapel was constructed that the builders realized it was lacking any type of stairway to the choir loft. Due to the chapel's small size, a standard staircase would have been too large. Historians have also noted that earlier churches of the period had ladders rather than stairs to the choir loft, but the Sisters did not feel comfortable with that prospect because of the long habits that they wore.

The Sisters of Loretto relate the story as follows: Needing a way to get up to the choir loft, the nuns prayed for St. Joseph's intercession for nine straight days. On the day after their novena ended a shabby-looking stranger appeared at their door. He told the nuns he would build them a staircase but that he needed total privacy and locked himself in the chapel for three months. He used a small number of primitive tools including a square, a saw and some warm water and constructed a spiral staircase entirely of non-native wood. The identity of the carpenter is not known for as soon as the staircase was finally finished he was gone. Many witnesses, upon seeing the staircase, feel it was constructed by St. Joseph himself, as a miraculous occurrence.

The resulting staircase is an impressive work of carpentry. It ascends twenty feet, making two complete revolutions up to the choir loft without the use of nails or apparent center support. It has been surmised that the central spiral of the staircase is narrow enough to serve as a central beam. Nonetheless there was no attachment unto any wall or pole in the original stairway, although in 1887—10 years after it was built—a railing was added and the outer spiral was fastened to an adjacent pillar.  Instead of metal nails, the staircase was constructed using dowels or wooden pegs.  There is one picture in the church showing the entire stairway full of people, so it was clearly very sturdy.

Motorcycle stuff.  The #4 motorcycle ride in the area is a 365-mile circuitous route around Santa Fe and Albuquerque.  I rode about 260 miles of that, 50 to 60 degrees outside.

Another volcanic eruption in this area, except this one collapsed afterwards and resulted in a very fertile valley.  This is only half of the valley.

Part of the route is through Los Alamos and there are strict procedures in place for travelers through the national laboratory area there. Rhonda had sent me a text earlier not to get stopped by the police, since I had left without my driver's license and seem to be developing a history with the law in TX and NM. Of course, ID checks were in progress and the texted picture she had sent of my license did not cut it! No ID, no drive through the laboratory area.  The guard provided me with alternate instructions and got me back on my way to scenic Highway 4, through the Jemez Springs area. I pronounced it Jehmehz  and was quickly corrected - "Yamis."  At least I again avoided a ticket.  My favorite stop along the "Yamis" trail below.                            

At "Yamis" Springs there is a natural hot sulphur spring along the highway.  These 2 young ladies let me take their picture.  One was walking with a cane and I think was there for any possible medicinal effects of the springs. 

They told me I could walk about a mile and there were large pools of the same springs.  I took the picture, got back on my bike and moved on to the highlight of the ride in Madrid - "Maggie's Main Street Diner" from the movie, "Wild Hogs."  It was only about 14 miles from our RV park so I called Rhonda to meet me there for dinner. "Maggie's" was built for the movie, was never really a diner, and is now a gift shop with lots of movie memorabilia available.

Note the parking lot was almost empty when we first got there but just as we were leaving, about 20 bikers riding from California to Chicago pulled up for souvenirs and photos.  It was a gaggle but it worked out. Rhonda told them she was leaving in the big truck so they would have plenty of room.

We had dinner at "The Hollar" which was outstanding or I was starving, probably both.  And that brings up a very common thing in the Santa Fe area - everyone has a dog, in many cases multiple dogs.  Apparently they are very special.  They sit at the table if they want......

..........have their own menu......

.........and use the bathroom about anywhere they please.  No picture, you're welcome.

So, the "Wild Hogs" thing was cool - that's a favorite motorcycle movie for many bikers.  Back at the RV, Rhonda discovered a rabbit hanging around the RV.  Seems to be a lot of those in the area.

Not to be outdone by dogs and rabbits, we had noticed some disturbing signs in the RV the last couple of days. A miniature animal of some sort was leaving very small droppings on the floor in the kitchen area of our RV.  We suspicioned a mouse, so we put out two of the tented traps that use a sticky surface to catch mice.  Within minutes a little grey mouse was jumping on the tents and moving them around having a great time while Rhonda watched. (I had gone to bed.) Finally, Rhonda untented the traps and put them in a corner and went to bed. About 1:30 she heard movement, got up, and saw our little guy stuck to the trap. She made me get up, and we tried to decide how to dispose of this live mouse. I finally scooped it up, trap and all, with the dustpan and tossed it outside. This morning the trap was there but no mouse. I sure hope it decided to visit someone else and not come back to us. No picture, you're welcome again!

And not to be outdone by all of the art in the Santa Fe area, our RV park has its own contemporary "artist."  There are probably about about 20 or 30 of these "creative designs" throughout the park and IMHO "art" is a stretch for these.  You decide, here are three examples

A very popular area north of Santa Fe is the town of Taos (pronounced like house with a T), kind of a yuppie snow skiing area of New Mexico.  We overheard one young lady telling another that, "Taos is a great place to live if you can figure out a way to make a living here."  We toured the town, got a milkshake, and headed for the landscape scenery.  We have crossed the Rio Grande several times on this trip and previously posted the picture of an almost-dried-up river along the border.  Taos is almost in Colorado and the river is running wide open up there.  The Rio Grande Gorge west of Taos is a popular scenic spot.

We found a dirt road that takes you right down through the gorge above so you can get up close and personal, The river is running pretty fast.

Also out on the west side of town are "Earthship Houses" billed as energy efficient, water efficient, everything efficient. You only get to go in the "office house" unless you book a tour weeks in advance. They are very "different" and Rhonda said the inside of the office smelled like the reptile house at a zoo, probably from the used water being recycled to grow the food in the hallway along the windows. You decide for yourself but there is an entire development with these houses.

But the real beauty of Taos is the scenery, especially the snow-capped mountains.

And speaking of snow and all things cool - the power is back on and all is well again.  Shower time, sleep, friends in Muskogee tomorrow and for the Memorial Day weekend.  We hope you enjoy yours as well and especially appreciate and honor those who gave their lives while serving this great country.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Alamagordo, New Mexico - Great Stop!

We left Big Bend for the central and eastern sections of New Mexico - a new state for us!  We have seen some surprising creatures on the trip, a couple of which we could not get the camera out soon enough to photograph.  There was a wild boar that crossed the road in front of us in Big Bend, but the neatest one so far was a big horn sheep (with the fully-developed horns) with two lambs as we left Alpine, both very similar to the picture below.  They were right beside us on the edge of the road.

On the way to Alamogordo, we spotted a Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) "kite balloon," also a bit unusual I would think.  It is a Customs and Border Protection effort to monitor the illegal immigrant and drug traffic from as high as 15,000 feet. This one was about 3,000 feet high in the area between Big Bend and El Paso, with our camera zoomed in a lot.

Most of the small towns along the route are along the Rio Grande and several have the first letter of the town marked in the hills behind the town.  There is lots to remember when you see so much but we think this one was for the town of Valentine, TX. There is usually about 1/2 mile of "green" along the river.  Everthing else is rock and dirt.

We chose Boot Hill RV Resort as our home for 3 days.  Everything there is "boot" oriented.

Pretty flowers "to Boot."

The White Sands National Monument is the BIG DEAL here.  Here's the short version as I remember it.  About 325 square miles of gypsum "sand" (the basic ingredient for sheetrock and plaster of Paris), none like it anywhere else in the world.  The area is surrounded by 2 mountain ranges and everything that comes down from the hills stays there.  The hills are full of gypsum, when it rains the gypsum washes down into the basin, when the rainwater evaporates the gypsum forms crystals, the wind breaks down the crystals, and the smaller pieces continue to beat each other up into very fine "sand," much like the process of sea shells turning into sand at the beach.  This is also where the first nuclear weapon, Trinity, was tested by the United States in the White Sands Missile Range in 1945.

Things are a little quieter there now.  The National Monument area has a visitors center and paved roads out into the sands which feed into sand roads for the public to experience the sands up close and personal.  One favorite thing to do is to slide down the dunes.

Large areas are carved out of the dunes that can accommodate busloads of visitors at a time.  Restrooms and dune-shaped picnic shelters are provided throughout the park. We never did find the ocean that we normally expect to go with all of this sand!

 The sand is not hot at all on the surface, it gets very cool only an inch or so down, and it doesn't stick to you, white sand as far as you can see.  Note the blue skies as well.  We have had perfect weather this entire trip except for two days of rain in Mobile.  Daytime temperatures have mostly been 60 to 80 and the nights 45 to 60.

And the dunes are fun even without the sleds.

Another reason we chose Alamogordo is because the #1 rated motorcycle ride in New Mexico is close by in the Lincoln National Forest.  So, I took about a 145-mile ride while Rhonda ventured off on her own to the Three Rivers Petroglyphs Site.  There are twenty thousand petroglyphs found in this area. 

 Rhonda had to hike about a mile to see them. It was advertised as an easy hike, but the info forgot to mention it was uphill through lots of rocks. The Park Ranger instructed her to be careful and watch for snakes.  Instead of snakes, she found rabbits.

And a few samples of the petroglyphs.  Some are obvious - a lizard.

The written guide to the petroglyphs said this one is a counting of corn or population.  I don't get it.

Not so obvious??????  Well, maybe the snake.

I have found to be a pretty reliable judge of the best rides in each state. They have chosen "The Road To Timberon" as #1 for New Mexico.  It's not very long, about 60 miles and not very difficult, but the scenery is beautiful.  This general area here is what everyone calls "high desert" around 4500 feet elevation, mostly rock and dirt, but the ride is in Lincoln National Forest, around 8650 feet, and is mostly a forest of pine and fir trees.  Timberon was planned to be an oasis in the mountains and lots of money was invested toward that end.  The last half of the highway road in particular may be the smoothest I have ever ridden - literally like riding on air it was so smooth.  But the oasis never took off and at Timberon you run into a dead end dirt road and have to turn around and ride it again.  Jerry, Jim, and Mike - have we ever done that before??? Ha!  This is one of the few straightaways on the road.  Not so many steep turns/switchbacks, but you hardly ever are not in a curve.

The view from 8650 feet.  That's White Sands in the distance.

There's a really neat town in the middle of the route called Cloudcroft.  The ride back down to Alamogordo is a non-stop 8-degree descent of about 4500 feet.  Another White Sands view below about half-way down.  Note the landscape returns to high desert.

And our final tourist attraction was a pistachio farm - really interesting.  A few facts - about half of the world's pistachios are grown in Iran.  About 90% of the pistachios in the USA are grown in California.  80% of the shells crack open on their own since the fruit grows faster than the shell. There are male and female trees.  We are standing under a male tree below.  They individually produce enough pollen for eighteen females and are spaced accordingly throughout the farm

And the female, a smaller tree, but bearing the seed (nut).

They had combinations of pistachio-anything you could imagine. Instead of just roasted and salted, there were chocolate covered, red chile, green chile, atomic, and on and on.  We had lots of samples! They make their own pistachio cookies but their pistachio ice cream was courtesy of Blue Bell.  We also had our own personal tour of the farm on the pistachio mobile.  

And the largest pistachio statue ever.

I'll close with that.  We are enjoying New Mexico, currently spending four days in Santa Fe.  More on Santa Fe later, thanks for joining us.