Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Traveling the High Road to Taos (While Discovering Northern NewMexico's Missions and Churches)

The High Road to Taos leads the intrepid traveler through many historic and deeply culturally Hispanic villages in Northern New Mexico.  Entering NM 503 from US 285/84, you meander through arid juniper and pinon spotted hills that spill directly into the village of Chimayó.  Chimayó appears lush with Cottonwoods and its desert grasses.  Here, a pilgrimage and heritage site, the Santuario de Chimayó is found.  The church was completed in 1816 on earth that is believed to possess curative powers.  Pilgrims make the journey to pray and experience the miraculous powers from the healing dirt from the floor of a side chapel.  As I entered the small main chapel, I sensed a positive, calm and meditative presence.  Some of the vistitors were meditating in alternative styles, and others deep in Christian prayer.  It was a beautiful experience that I wish to repeat on another trip to this peaceful space.  Nearby is the Capilla de Santo Nino de Atocha.  It was closed when I visited, so I didn't have a chance to see the papier mâché Christ Child at the altar that was offered by Don Severino Medina, a founder of the chapel.  I have included a photograph that I found from the chapel's website, as well as a Bulto of a pilgrim in the familiar folk art tradition.  In addition to weaving, the hamlet produces a variety of red and green chiles.  I bought red chile from the general store, El Portrero's (Vigil Store), which leaves a smooth, smoky richness on the palate.  The proprietors were friendly and were happy to share their knowledge of the area.  For lunch, I feasted on Chile Rellenos at the town favorite, Rancho de Chimayó Restaurant.  The Margarita menu looked inviting, but since I was going to be traveling on new roads through the mountains, I didn't partake.  The food was good, but didn't live up to the reviews I read across the web.  

 As I exited the Santuario, I turned right.  All roads seem to lead to NM 76.  Drivers beware.  Your Google directions may say take NM76N, but at this point,  NM 76 is heading west, and is marked as NM 76W.  Take the turn right toward Cordova to stay on the High Road.  Cordova stands at an elevation of about 8,400 feet.  I stopped at the scenic overlook, but didn't have time for the town.  I must return because my goal was to arrive at Chacon before dark, and it was already 3:00 p.m.  Night was falling at about 6:30.  I've read there is an old church in this woodworking town, and a couple of wood carver's shops to enjoy.

Next is Truchas.  Truchas, is the town that you run into where NM 76 takes a sharp left (that was not clearly marked--make sure you turn at the mural).  I ended up driving straight into town, but missed the church and other points of interest because I was trying figure out what happened to NM 76.  The road apparently dead ends on a dirt road, but I turned around before I reached it.  The town displays monochromatic wood framed and adobe buildings circa 1850.  Truchas is apparently so untouched, it was the site for the filming of the Milagro Beanfield War (an interesting movie, by the way).  I could not find the left turn, now a right turn, to stay on NM 76.  There are no signs going south, and perhaps I missed the one going north, but just make sure you turn at the mural.  I ended up driving all the way back to the Cordova overlook to turn around because some little jerk got on my bumper out of Truchas and wouldn't let up.  Oh, and there's nowhere to turnaround unless you want to get a headlong view of the valley. By-the-way, Truchas Peak, in the Sangre de Cristo range rises to well over 13,000 feet north of East of Truchas.  While not really visible in my fog then, my calmer memory of the mountain views were spectacular.  After a minor meltdown, and calls to my friends, I took a chance and turned at the mural.  Still no signs indicating you are on NM 76.  In fact, the only way I knew I was possibly heading in the right direction was because my friends mentioned Chamisal.  Driving through the Ponderosa forest in the Carson National Forest was not comforting until I reached the hamlet of Las Trampas.  Finally, I saw the junction sign for NM 75.  (Note to NM State Government:  If you promote a road as a scenic byway, at least put up some signs reassuring out-of-towners that they are on the right track.  There aren't a whole lot of people to stop and ask, cell phone service is non-existent, which means that GPS dependent on data signals don't work.  Please mark the turn-off, and at least one sign to indicate, "Yes, you have reconnected to NM 76," to gently lead us.  Note to Travelers:  If you don't want to feel like the Spanish missionary priests wandering through unknown territory  (pictured below), print out your directions!)  With all that said, I am eager to travel this road again, and really take my time to stop in these delightful hamlets.

After stopping briefly in Las Trampas, I continued through Chamisal and turned right onto NM 75 through the lush meadows of the outskirts of Penasco and Vadito. When you hit the junction of NM 518, you turn left (north) for Taos.  (This is clearly marked). You'll find the San Francisco de Asis Mission in Ranchos de Taos, 4 miles from the Taos center.  In Taos proper, you'll see Our Lady of Guadalupe church, and on the Pueblo, of course, you'll find the San Geronimo Mission.  The present San Geronimo Mission structure on the Taos Pueblo was constructed after the original church's destruction during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.  Later U.S. Soldiers destroyed the second structure after a revolt against the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (The one that made New Mexico a state). The final structure built in 1850 still stands. The remains of the second structure still stands on the pueblo.  Santa Fe has a number of interesting churches, but I included the Santuario de Guadalupe, and the the San Miguel Mission because of their dates of construction and adobe architecture.

My journey, however, led me to go south on NM 518 through the Carson National Forest winding through deeper meadows of Trés Ritos, and the Sipapu Ski resort.  The Rio Pueblo runs alongside the road, and explains the heavily forested mountains and expanse of lush meadows throughout the valley.  Cattle come down from up the mountain onto the road to graze in the lush green valley, so beware of large leaping sides of beef onto the road!  Remember, cattle have the right-of-way!

The road climbs high above Angostura, and finally descends into the Chacon-Holman area. Northern New Mexico is fascinating.  It's relative isolation has left many of the hamlets virtually untouched.  I found two beautiful churches in Chacon and Cleveland, respectively, that are worth noting.  The caretakers of the Capilla de San Antonio, formerly, San Antonio de Padua in Chacon added bell tower in later years.  I gleaned this from an old book on Northern New Mexico churches.  The adobe churches need periodic maintenance, so it appears that when tastes changed, so did the structure.  San Antonio Church in Cleveland is an adobe structure with beautiful wood-working in front.  

Read your history to get an understanding of the mission system in the Southwest, particularly, New Mexico, and visit these wonderful villages on the High Road.  Mission churches abound throughout New Mexico.  I have and will share more photos in other posts. 

The High Road is the slower route to Taos or Las Vegas, but so well worth the drive.  

See my photos at www.highdesertlotus.net
©2013--Helen Moore Photography 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

El Paso

The Pass.  
I went to El Paso for two weeks for work this past September.  I welcomed the opportunity because of its proximity to my lovely, New Mexico. I must say, I really enjoyed being in this historic town, and found the people refreshingly friendly.

If you love authentic Mexican food, this is your place.  The food is so very different from New Mexican, and light years away from Tex Mex.  There are so many great, inexpensive restaurants, just do an online search.  The three that stand out for me were:  Moe's, very simple and unpretentious.  Food comes alive on your palate. Closes early because it is in an desolate industrial area.  Cuauhtemoc Cafe on Montana.  Spanish is spoken first, good hearty portions for little money.  I felt the healthiest eating here.  Andale.  I am forced to believe flashy, chain-appearing restaurant is authentic because nearly everyone there was of Mexican, Hispanic descent.  The first time I ate there, the shrimp enchiladas were amazing.  The margaritas, to die for.  My second trip, not so much.  Like my beloved Tex Mex resto, Border Cafe, it has its off-days.  This is what I'm told about Andale.  Hit or miss.  Vegetarians be aware, (I learned the hard way) that most of the authentic restos use lard to fry their tortillas.  I did not know it until my next to the last day there.  It all caught up with me right before my flight.   I also ate at a lovely Tapas restaurant, La Tabla.  It is downtown in the gentrified district of Union Plaza.  Very cool place where Oscar took amazing care of me.  Tender succulent octopus, great salad.  Cool, funky atmosphere, and I was there on a Tuesday!  My other fave is Crave Kitchen. Wow--amazing pancakes and coffee.  Mmm, Mmm, good.

Okay, the people.  Met lots of transplants, but all very cool and interesting.  Okay, if I had to judge a people by their driving, I'd say run.  Driving on I-10 is a speedy, tailgatey, not letting you over--over my dead body experience.  Other than that, these Texans were lovely.  And, I say this coming from Boston.  Everyone had a smile and warm hello, where ever I went.

I stayed on the East Side, which to some is not the place to be, but I liked it.  I was right next to I-10, the airport, and work.  Lots of restaurants, of the chain variety, and lots of strip malls.  The West Side is where most of my colleagues live, and it's nice.  Some of the Kern Place and Stanton photos represent the architecture and nice, bucolic neighborhoods.  But, that's all I saw.  While the East Side is a little grittier, I didn't see a lot of run down areas, but it's hard to venture out every night after work.

I didn't do the Trans Mountain highway because of lack of time; I couldn't do the aerial tramway because it didn't open until noon on Saturday, and my flight was at two, but I did see Rim Road, and got a great look at the Franklin Mountains from New Mexico and the Texas side when I went to the State Line.  Does anyone know who wrote on these mountains? What it says/means? And, who put up the star and the cross?   No one I talked to seemed to know.

Okay, I saved the best for last.  Juarez.  Well, I was told don't go there.  If I found myself on the road to Juarez, turn around, block traffic, do anything but cross the border.  I took heed.  I drove the border highway, but that's it.  Bleak, bland, brown fence that apparently is easily scaled with a rope ladder, and dozens of Border Patrol agents keeping watch.  I do love the Border Patrol, but thought the fence, a bridge too far.  Oh, I almost forgot, I went to the Border Patrol Museum.  Very cool place. No matter where you fall on the immigration issue, those agents risk their lives on a daily basis, and deserve a bit of gratitude from all of us.  
One complaint that I'm sure most will agree.  How is it, being in the cradle of the Southwest, home to the cowboy, that most of the "authentic" and famous boot lines are all made in China or India?  I'm talking about Justin Boots, Tony Lama, etc.  I refuse to buy western gear that was made in China.  I went to the Saddle Blanket to pick up some trinkets, but most were made in India and China.  I bought my cowboy hat from Cowtown, and it was made in the US, but wow, how did we get here?  Unbelievable.  I didn't go into Rocket Buster Boots, but they appear to be authentic, handmade right here in the good old US of A.  Quite pricey, though.  

Well, I have another post on some history of El Paso in the Mission Trail blog.  

Thursday, October 3, 2013

T or C?

Truth or Consequences.  This town is just off Interstate 25, almost exactly half-way between Las Cruces and Socorro.  It would probably be by-passed if not for Elephant Butte and its own hot springs.  Honestly, I'm not sure if most of the restaurants and its few shops were closed because of the town's flooding, or that the town is permanently sleepy.

I went for the hot spring spa experience.  I stayed at Sierra Grande Lodge, where a free soak is included with each day of your stay.  I planned the perfect spa weekend--soak, deep tissue massage, dinner, soak, relaxing sleep.  I accomplished everything except the relaxing sleep.  I was assigned to a first floor room, but it does not appear to matter what floor you stay on at this place, according to Trip Advisor.  Anyway, at 3:00 a.m., some unknown employee started making noises.  Dishes were clanking, carts were rolling down uncarpeted hallways, and what sounded like endless ice scooping finally sent me over the edge.  Clad in my bathrobe, I went out to inquire, WTF?  In a clueless manner, the woman offered to close off a door.  No other staff were around, so I was forced to insist that she stop the noise because by then, it was 4:00 in the morning!  Out of sheer exhaustion, I fell asleep again until I heard the noise again at 6:00.  Long story, short, the lodge discounted my room by 50%, but lack of sleep impacted the rest of my weekend.  Because of that, I wouldn't recommend staying here--oh, and the the breakfast was abysmal.  To be the most expensive lodging in town, it does not live up to its serenely photographed website.

Luckily, I had pre-booked a soak at the Riverbend Hot Springs.  While I didn't see the rooms, I am certain that I would have gotten a nice rest there.  It's a cheery, friendly spa where an emphasis on a restful experience shines through.  I was told that the rooms were recently renovated, and the private soaking rooms were great.  Soaking while overlooking the Rio Grande and mountains was a blissful experience that salvaged an otherwise annoying experience.

I was left with the impression that this is a town where a lot of old hippies and drifters have come to settle.  However, when I read the town's "things to do" book, it is presented itself much differently.  The flooding must have been a factor.  Don't get me wrong, everyone was nice, pleasant, and friendly. Not much shopping or cafe-sitting, though. (My exploration was limited to the main downtown area).

For dinner, I dined at BellaLuca Italian restaurant, that was very good.  For breakfast, I ended up going out to the Passion Cafe for a very tasty breakfast sandwich and great coffee.  Saturday night was the town's Art Walk evening, so I was able to visit a few galleries, where I was warmly welcomed.

To clarify, T or C was a bit more lively than my experience in Silver.  I was in town for about 24 hours, and I think that was about right for this particular weekend.  Even if my experience had been better at Sierra Lodge, I would probably still be left with the same impressions.  Perhaps the previous day's flooding played a role in a lot of businesses being shut, and if I'm ever again in the area, I would stop in again for a weekend.
With all that said, do go to Tor C to enjoy a fabulous soak.  There are several spas to choose from, so if you have the time, spa hop.  Riverbend gets high praises from me, and if you have the heart, drive up to to the dam at Elephant Butte!!

All photos and content are the property of © Helen Moore 2014

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Jack Johnson vs Jim Flynn (An Update to What Happened in This Vegas, Shouldn't Necessarily Stay There!)

Loving my African-American History in New Mexico book!  I have learned so much and I'm only half-way done.

Well, Las Vegas, Nevada is/was truly a copy cat of the true, original Las Vegas.  In addition to being the adult playground for just about every western outlaw, Las Vegas, New Mexico held Marquee prize fights!  Guess who fought there?  Stumped?  The inimitable, Jack Johnson.  Jack Johnson was probably the greatest heavy weight boxer, ever, and he was African American.  The fight took place on July 4, 1912, and his opponent was Jim Flynn.  The fight was scheduled for 45 rounds!  I don't know much about prize fighting, but that seems ridiculous compared with today's 15 round maximum.

Apparently, America couldn't handle a black man being the heavy weight champion, so they pitted several men known as a "White Hope" to unseat him.  Remember the James Earl Jones movie?  It was loosely based on Jack Johnson.  What's important here is that Jack Johnson trained and lived in the area for a time, and he won the match in the 9th round.  Mr. Johnson was written about extensively in the New Mexican press, and his share of the proceeds was $31,000, today's equivalent of approximately $750,000.  Wow.  Race relations in New Mexico seemed to have been at an even keel during this fight era, but the press wasn't always so kind.  Great history for a town no one knows about! Here's the fight!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

What Happened in this Vegas Shouldn't Necessarily Stay There!

I've been to Las Vegas in Nevada, the Disney for adults, and now I've been to the original.  Me, I prefer the original, Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Like an oak aged wine, the unmuted notes of an old western town prominently rested on the palate, playfully mingled with 21st century modernity.  The deeper notes presented in Victorian and Queen Ann architecture, that finished with Craftsman, Post-Modern and Contemporary styles of the university that awakened my senses to see more of this unsung, historic town.

Las Vegas.  Once, I asked someone was Las Vegas worth taking the trip, and was told, "Don't bother."  I didn't.  Even though my ignoring this town didn't settle well, a year later, I was fortunate enough to be passing through.  I found a gem in the high plains!

Las Vegas is situated east of Santa Fe at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and at the edge of the Great Plains.  The town was likely named for its geography and geology. The original Spanish name, Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de las Vegas Grandes, translates to Our Lady of the Sorrows of the Great Meadows.  Thus, the region sits in a large meadow.  In 1835, the Spanish settlers applied for a land grant from Mexico, and with this land cession, a town was born.  

By the time the United States declared war on Mexico in 1846, the town had swelled to 1,500 people (mostly Spanish settlers).  The Santa Fe Trail was in regular use, and the town boomed.  In 1879, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroads steamed into Las Vegas.  By then, Las Vegas had become the largest city between Independence, Missouri, and San Francisco.  For a time, between 1888 and 1979 there were two Las Vegases, East and West.  West encompassed the Old Town and Plaza, and East Las Vegas was the "New Town," where the railroads landed.  East coast influences reflected in attitude, politics, food, and architectural styles.  Apparently resistance fomented into the town's division.  It's probably fair to say that this was the beginning of the East Coast-West Coast rivalry.  Later, the town declined with newer railroad lines, the Great Depression, and advent of the motorized car.  

In its heyday, the late 1800's, Las Vegas was the place to be--if you were an outlaw. Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Doc Holliday and his girl, Big Nose Kate, and Wyatt Earp (some say law man, others say outlaw), and other desperadoes and outcasts either passed through or called it home for a while.  One wonders what was the allure for these rough-shod outlaws?  Maybe New Mexico has always been the Land of Enchantment! What's more, I learned that Las Vegas was rougher, tougher and more notorious than Dodge City!  This is a history that we never learned in school.  Why wasn't this rich history glamorized in Saturday morning Westerns? Or, in the Time-Life western books that my grandfather used to subscribe?  Why did Dodge, Tombstone, Amarillo & Deadwood become so famous?  (I don't know, but I plan to ask people the next time I visit).  Apparently, crime was so bad that the "Vigilantes" took out an ad in the local newspaper, exhorting outlaws to ride out, or face execution.  The outlaws took heed and broke camp, only to be replaced by cattle rustlers, the comparative white collar criminal of day.  Finally, in the late 1870s, the people of Las Vegas finally got their wish of taking back their community.  It seems to have taken.  I haven't checked crime statistics, but I felt safe there.
Well, I gave you a condensed Anglo-Internet history to say this.  This town is cool!  You can almost close your eyes in that town square and see the way it was when Doc Holliday was challenging men to gunfights in the street.  The Victorian and Italianate architecture is beautiful.  The Old Town looks recently tuck-pointed, and everything was calm, and just, well done.  Granted, I spent about an hour and a half in this town, but I loved it.  It was more lively than Silver, and shops and restaurants were open!  (That's a plus for any traveler).  We stopped at an old drug store and soda shop,that is now the new drug store and ice cream shop.  It was very cute, with lots of Coca Cola memorabilia, and an old pharmacy medicine cabinet with old medicine boxes and bottles, some that I recognized from my childhood.
When I return to the area this fall, I really want to take some time to see the town, maybe even stay at the Palace Hotel that was just gorgeous, inside and out.  I bought lots o' silver there (not 925, but the silver used by the Diné and the Zuni) in the hotel's lobby.  Everything was on sale and the artistry was beautiful.

I want to stroll around some of the neighborhoods of Craftsman homes and see the Highlands University Campus, which looks ultra modern in this throw back town.  People seemed friendly enough.  There was just enough going on to get a sense of how people live there. So, if you're looking at a guidebook, and wondering if it's worth the trip, it is.  I believe a New Mexican told me to skip it, so happy I got there!

Even though the town was in sharp decline, it didn't go bust, like so many other towns after the boom.  While I like ghost towns, I'd much rather visit a living, vibrant one.  I With 13,000 people, I know I only scratched the surface.  I love the small town feel and vibe.  So, how much do you know about Las Vegas, New Mexico?  If you just Google Las Vegas, you only get that city in the desert.  I am amazed that people think I hopped over to Nevada when I say I went to Las Vegas.  The next reaction is, "humph." They're probably thinking that it's not like the Vegas I know. Perhaps, the good people of Las Vegas, New Mexico like it that way.  Did they coin the phrase, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?"  Do Vegans (not the vegetarians) want their long and rich history known only to the few who want to know it?  I think that what happened here should be told in our children's textbooks, and not left here for a precious few to discover.  

These histories seem to be limited to those intrepid New Mexico travelers who go off the beaten path to experience an alternative experience.  But now, how many of us can travel so freely to learn our history?  So, if you travel to Las Vegas, New Mexico, talk about the history, what you've seen and experienced, and see how long it takes for someone to ask which casino you stayed.  Take a poll, ask if anyone knows where the other Las Vegas is. 

If anyone can suggest some good historical narratives or books on this area, please share.  I would love to read a full history that includes more than just the stereotypical references to the Indian population in the area.  I would love to read about Indian contributions to the area, female contributions, and the African-American contribution.  I found that much of the Internet history is sort of biased when it refers to Indian bands by tribal their names.  When segments of history are dissected and removed to perpetuate certain stereotypes that play on and reinforce ignorance, it is offensive.  These names are almost used pejoratively.  The names I mean are Comanche and Apache. If we're honest, we might recognize what images are conjured. In some instances, these names and half truths are used to instigate a sense of righteousness that justifies the current power structure.  For example, in one history, I read that the Old Town Square had only two entrances for fortification against Apache attacks.  What are we left with from that statement?  Attacks were so numerous and deadly, that the town had to mobilize and build a fort.  What's the flip side of that history?  We don't know because it wasn't told.  Was this an oversight, or just unimportant?  With all of the Buffalo Soldiers who were sent to fight the Indians and protect the towns' settlers, there wasn't one guy who moved in?  Luckily, I'm reading a book on the Buffalo Soldiers, and I just ordered a book on African Americans in New Mexico, so I may be updating this post with some information that I glean about their contributions to this area.

I know I'm off on a tangent, and am aware that history is written by the victors, but it's a little off-putting and offensive to still not read the truth.  I was at a memorial where someone talked about the decedent's quest and search for the truth.  In the 21st century, you would think that these truths can be told now.  Apparently not.

So, my deliberate exclusion of the native Indian from the brief  history was a choice not to fan the flame of iniquity, especially, and in light of the new Lone Ranger film that so dishonors the Indian on so many levels.  Indians were integral to the fabric of the Southwest, especially New Mexico. So, I choose to leave it at that. For now. 

The wild west is fun, right?  It's fun to imagine this lawless time in America.  I suppose it's all relative, right? In a hundred years, people will be reading about the gangs of this century and wonder how people survived such violent surroundings.   I wonder what ever happened to those Time-Life Old West books that I so avidly read and re-read?  Well, now I can say that I've been to the Old West, and stood in the lobby of Vegas' most famous hotel. I'm sure if those walls could talk.... they would say, "What happens in Vegas..."

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Silver City

I am a few days behind, in fact, I already left Silver City and New Mexico. Unfortunately, I've already returned from my glorious vacation.  Well, this cute little town made me feel the old West.  It looks like what you'd imagine in some old spaghetti western.  The high sidewalks reminded me of the boardwalks that once kept boots out of the hot sand.  The main drag's buildings stand across a wide avenue in a defiant stance that conjures images of a Mexican stand off.  Or, I could easily imagine a duel in front of the Palace Hotel instead of the low riders zooming past.

The shops and most restaurants were closed when I arrived, as it was Monday and Memorial Day.  It was like a ghost town, but it was awesome to just walk around and enjoy the silence.  The sun was warm, and the air was dry.  I did not know what an impact this sleepy town would have, but I felt at peace there.  I met some interesting and insightful people just walking down it's desolate streets.

Silver, as the locals call it, has an interesting vibe.  There is an activist spirit that is infused in every day speech that I don't find where I live.  It's more than social consciousness; it's deeper and more passionate.  It seemed real.  I think it may have roots in the harshness of the earth that one here confronts daily.  You are almost forced to stand for something in this part of New Mexico.

The ride to Silver from Santa Fe was so intense.  It's a long ride, six hours to be exact.  I didn't appreciate the beauty driving to Silver, but on the way back to Northern New Mexico, I found the drive to be gorgeous, and the desert allure that first drew me to this state flashed like neon.  At first glance, as you whizz by at 75  or 80 mph, the straight open road appears to just rip through flat valleys.  But, once you glance to your right or left, the vast valleys expose jagged, majestic black mountain vistas.  The terrain just off the four lane highway is dry, dusty and  monochromatic. The drought-ravaged earth reveals the scorch of the sun as dust devils spring and dance in the distance.  The transportation signs reminding us that you can be consumed by a dust storm or enveloped by floods appear every few miles.   My favorite is, "Dust storms may exist."  (And so may the Easter bunny!  What does this mean?  Don't get me wrong, I found these signs necessary, but somewhat amusing having been in a dust storm in Arizona, where these warnings were few and far between).  If you are the uninitiated, you might believe you are in a place that is ripe for disaster at any moment, but not even the robust wind currents and wind gusts that moved my car into the next lane did not make me waiver!  I pressed on for the new experience---that stark desert had once again enchanted.  I digress.

When nature challenges you, and is in your face like the high desert, you have to rethink your priorities.  I was perpetually thirsty, but knew that a bottled drink was a 7-11 away.  We all take these modern conveniences for granted, and expect them to be there.  Always.  But here, I could reflect and appreciate the realities of the environmental catastrophe that awaits my eastern city, and many other places, if we don't recognize the effects of our footprint on the environment.  It's no anomaly that the east coast has been plagued with catastrophic tropical storms, hurricanes and blizzards.  It's neither commonplace that the tornadoes of the Midwest are ripping through and leveling towns on an almost weekly basis.  Nor is it acceptable that drought occurs in an already water-starved climate.   The drought is as palpable as the poverty in the small hamlets that dot either side of I-25.  What was encouraging was that I did not witness despair.  Even when I visited Zuni Pueblo last year, one of the poorest pueblos in New Mexico, despair was not in the forefront of its people's psyche.  There is beauty in the cleansing ritual of the desert--the scorching sun, and the dry, dry air.

I found beauty in the positive attitudes of the people I met.  From my waiter at Shevek Restaurant (a slow food and green restaurant) to Upasatti, a spiritual brother whose quest to be present in the moment gave me much food for thought.  Just be.  Just do it.  Be mindful.  The anti-nuke activist turned solar electrician had a lot to share in a span of 10 minutes, about herself, the earth, Silver and its politics.  In Silver, there was beauty in the free exercise of one's right to protest and fight for one's own ideals.  On May 25th there was a protest of over 1,000,000  people worldwide and over 100 people in Silver that received no major media coverage.  Why? Presumably because they took on chemical giant, Monsanto over genetically modified food and the requirement for GMO labeling.  Even if you Google it, there is little information.  The Occupy movement is is not dead in New Mexico.  The activist spirit is strong in Silver in contrast to a more spiritual vibe in Santa Fe.

Under the artsy veneer in Silver you find a strong activist spirit present.  The people I met were ready to engage in real conversations about real and pressing issues.  Even though I missed the big blues festival by a day, and most everything was closed the day I arrived, this near ghost town left me wanting to look beneath the covers of this sleepy enclave in southwest corner of New Mexico.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

I'm Here and Loving it!

Okay, Las Cuates, not so good this time.  I don't know if they closed the one I usually go to, but my GPS brought me to the one on Lomas...ok, but no cigar!  It is freaking hot here, but I love it! The car thermometer registered 94 degrees!  

Ok, a word to the wise, if you travel to the high desert, drink plenty of water.  I am parched and congested.  I now understand dry mouth.  But what did I do?  I had two glasses of Cava at my favorite tapas restaurant, La Boca in Santa Fe.  This place is wonderful.  So many interesting and delicious tapas.  I've tasted the real thing in Spain, and this is very close!  I was taken care of by Tristan at the bar, who was very personable and attentive.  I chatted with a couple of people at the bar, which made the whole dining alone dinner experience bearable.  

After dinner, I walked around the square and heard three female mariachis singing beautiful old traditional songs.  I did't last long last night...jet lag and the high desert has exhausted me this trip.  When you travel to nearly 7200 feet from sea level, you feel it.  Stay hydrated!  (I also find it helpful to use saline solution in my nostrils and sesame oil).  As I walked around Santa Fe, I could feel my mouth and lips drying out, and a slight shortness of breath.  After I returned to my room, I crashed.  My advice, don't consume alcohol and get rest!

For a travel day, it was uneventful and lovely toward the end.  I didn't take any pictures, but just to give you a sense of what I had for dinner...I enjoye a roasted beet salad with summer greens, goat cheese sprinkled with pepitas, and a slightly spicy drizzle, gambas al ajillo (shrimp with garlic), and a beautiful rosado Cava.  Mmm.  I love la Boca!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Preparing for New Mexico

Hi All,  

I'm heading to the ABQ!  I really wanted to do the Breaking Bad tour, but maybe next time!  How many of you were mildly annoyed by the mid-season break, and now we find out that it won't resume until August!  That show is great and it's so cool how it's supporting character, New Mexico, is so understated.  It subtly enchants us as it does in real life.  

I'm planning a pretty active trip. Las Cruces. Silver City, Santa Fe, Deming, Chacon, and of course a few hours in the ABQ to sample good food from Las Cuates.  I know some people don't like it because it is a a semi-chain restaurant, but their Chile Relleno has been delicious every time I've tried it.  I'm open to suggestions for your favorite New Mexican fare.   I'll eat more locally as I go, bit now it's tradition to start my NM adventure at Las Cuates.  

I'm going to ride into the Gila with an Apache interpreter, ride with friends, hike, shop, cafe sit and hang out with the locals.    I'll attempt to do an audio diary, and if I can, will blog and post photos from my IPad.  Check back, and please do comment!  

The focus is sharing travel stories, but we can talk about our personal journeys through life.  You don't always have to buy a ticket to travel.  So if you can't do your own travel, travel vicariously through me!  I promise it will be fun!

Until the next post from the ABQ.  Ciao!


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Why Do We Travel?

Why do we travel for pleasure?  Let's face it, the actual activity of traveling to a destination can be loathsome, especially at the airport.  Even after all that stress in the airport, we stuff ourselves into tiny seats, next to people we probably would never talk to or want to, for the next two, three, six hours or more, breathing the same recycled air!  We eat all the wrong foods when we are traveling to our destinations, and usually arrive exhausted.  Only to hear, "How was your flight?"  People mean well, but don't you want to just say, "What do you think?"  In reality, people only want to hear, "It was fine." or "Good."

But we've arrived at our destinations, and we can relax!  Can't we?  Oh no, you've got to arrange your transfers from the airport or rent a car.  More fun, and we're now maybe six or seven hours into it.  

We get the car and we're on our way.  With all the technology out there, you could land almost anywhere in the United States, and be gently guided by our GPS to our hotels or bed and breakfast.  

Now the stress is melting away...  

With all that stress, I still say why do we do it?  Because we love to experience new things!  We want to learn about different cultures, see different architecture and observe and experience just a little bit how the locals live.  We want to meet new people!  We want to visit iconic places, not always just to say we did, but more to satisfy that craving to see what others have created and enjoyed.  Other times, we go just to get away from our ho hum lives of work and family.  

Are you a solo traveler? Or do you like to drag the family along?  I once met a French woman who was married with children, but preferred to take at least one vacation solo. (No, she didn't have a secret lover).   She said she came back refreshed and rejuvenated. (Really, she didn't!)  I didn't much understand that at the time, but once you've had a few bad travel partners, you always want to fly solo.  Depending on where you go, you meet so many nice people, you're really not alone that much, especially if they can meet you for dinner.

I've traveled all over Europe and Canada, recently returned from Costa Rica, and have fallen head over heels in love with our American Southwest.  I have traveled extensively across these United States, but am stalled in the environs of the ABQ!  It's hard to move on when there's so much to see!

Why do you travel?  What's your favorite destination?  What's your favorite travel activity?  Whose your favorite travel buddy?  Feel free to share some photo's of your favorite places to go.  

High Desert Lotus

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Welcome to My First Ever Blog Post!

What to write, what to write...Here's some travel advice.  Never set up a blog after two glasses of champagne!