Category Archives: New Mexico

Flying Along the Front Range

Along the Front Range, Colorado; May 22 – June 4, 2019

Our trip the past few weeks along the Front Range of the Rockies was a homecoming of sorts for us, as Estes Park was our first big vacation to the mountains as a married couple…some 29 years ago.  Diana had been to Denver with her Girl Scout troop as a teenager and I was there as a 6-year old with my mom, dad, and my sister Judy.  Back then, Dad was the sales manager for Schwayder Brothers in Detroit at their metal chair facility.  You may know Schwayder by the name of their product line: Samsonite.

IMG_2169

Issac Schwayder (right) and his four sons. Jesse Schwayder, second from the right, was my dad’s boss.  The company slogan was “The Samsonite – Strong Enough to Stand On”.

At that time, Schwayder was consolidating their operations to their headquarters in Denver, so we were on a scouting mission to see if that would be our new home.  Mom and Dad chose to remain in Michigan, as the pull of family won out over the Rockies…thus forcing Dad to find a new employer.  As much as I love Colorado, I’m very glad they chose to stay in southeast Michigan.  🙂

As mentioned in our last post, we had to change plans to stay at lower altitudes.  That took us south out of Page through Flagstaff, east on I-40 to Albuquerque and then north.

IMG_2885 (2)

While in Albuquerque, we picked up some Oboz waterproof low hikers from REI for our trip to the UK in the fall.  These beauties were field tested by our friends Linda and Steven on their 500 mile walk across Spain on the Camino de Santiago.  Accomplishing that without blisters is a pretty good testimonial for Oboz, which is headquartered in Bozeman, Montana.  We then headed up towards Santa Fe, spending a couple of nights at the Black Mesa casino.  Again, we managed to hit a jackpot on the casino’s free play and walked out the door without spending a penny of our own.  We will take it!  We also paid a return visit to a little Venezuelan restaurant in Santa Fe called Santarepa Cafe.  We went out of our way to eat there again, as it is that good.  The owner is a sweet woman who comes to your table and genuinely inquires as to how you like your meal.

Scooting around the southern end of the Rockies, we headed up the east side and said farewell to New Mexico.

IMG_2601 (4)

In the process, our Colorado fifth wheel entered the State of Colorado for the first time!  We continued up to Colorado Springs to spend the better part of a week.  The first morning at the KOA, we noticed what we thought was an early riser playing music on his RV horn as he left the campground.  Nope…we were parked across from Fort Carson, which plays Revelry every morning at 6:30 AM and Taps at 10 PM.  We’re in the Army now!

Here is a spot I had visited with my family when I was a child; Garden of the Gods.  This land was given to the City of Colorado Springs by the children of late owner Charles Elliott Perkins in 1909 to use as a park.  The stipulation was that they could never charge an admission fee or allow ‘intoxicating liquors’, which they haven’t to this day.

IMG_2620 (2)

I distinctly remember Balance Rock as a 6 year old. 🙂

We also happened to be in town during the Air Force Academy graduation.  Our first tip-off to that was when we heard a jet approaching our car from behind, only to find out we had been buzzed by…

IMG_8245 (2)

…a B-2 Stealth bomber.  We also saw the Thunderbirds practicing. The next day was the graduation, so we set up our chairs in a field across I-25 from the academy.  When the cadets tossed their caps in the air, the Thunderbirds streaked across the field.

P1010847 (2)

There was a long delay after that first pass, and we noticed that there were no cars on the freeway.  Soon there was a procession of motorcycle police, followed by this:

IMG_0529 (2)

There goes the President!  Not too long after he had left, the show resumed.

P1010848 (2)

It sure is fun to see these planes…

P1010879 (2)

…especially with Pike’s Peak as a backdrop.

The other place Diana wanted to do visit was the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame, which is located in town.

IMG_2627 (2)

She really was hoping to meet Scott Hamilton.  It wasn’t meant to be, but she did get to see his gold medal from Sarajevo.  There was even someone there that I appreciated…

IMG_2629 (2)

Frank Zamboni!  Those twirlies would fall flat on their faces if it weren’t for the superior talent of us Zamboni drivers.  🙂  All kidding aside, we both really enjoyed the museum.

From Colorado Springs, we headed up to Denver to meet friends and family.

IMG_2633 (2)

First stop was to our college friend Kirsten’s house for a wonderful meal.  Here we are with her mom and her husband Mike.  It sure was great catching up with them.  Mike is an excellent cook!

We also visited Diana’s cousin Abby, her husband Josh and daughter Tara.

IMG_2168 (2)

We forgot to get a photo, so Abby let me use this one.  Abby is Diana’s cousin Jerry’s daughter.  We loved getting to spend the afternoon with them in their beautiful home, especially the sidewalk chalk drawings that greeted us, along with Tara jumping for joy at the front door upon our arrival.  🙂

We also visited a place we long wanted to pay our respects at; the Columbine Memorial.

IMG_2642 (2)

Located in a Littleton city park adjacent to the school, this beautiful remembrance moved us.

IMG_2643 (2)

Since the thirteen students and staff were killed at this school in 1999, over 140 more have died in our learning institutions.  As the husband of a teacher, I worried about this constantly…as I knew the innocent students’ safety was first and foremost to Diana.  If you can, take the time to visit here.  There are moving tributes to each of the victims, along with snippets of thoughts from the survivors.

From Denver, we moved up to Fort Collins for a couple of days.  That was our lower altitude base to revisit Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park.  Our last time there was 1990, and we were driving a regular cab Ford Ranger pickup pulling a very heavy Steury pop-up camper.  The number one hit on the radio that trip was Shenandoah’s Next to You, Next to Me.  One verse stood out in my memory:

“If the Good Lord’s willin’ when we’re old and gray
The kids are grown up and moved away
We’ll be rocking’ here side by side
With the BBQ chicken and the TV guide”

Fire up the grill, sweetie and I’ll grab the rockers.  🙂

This go around our mission was to see Bighorn sheep, something we hadn’t seen since our last time there.

P1010987 (2)

Mission accomplished!  We actually saw several of them.

P1020016 (2)

We also saw plenty of elk.  This guy was happy to show off his velvety new rack.

Our special treat was when we drove up Trail Ridge Road towards the Alpine Visitor Center.

P1010940 (2)

We got to Rainbow Curve, 10,500 feet up, and the road was closed due to snow at the top.  They were allowing visitors to walk up as far as they wanted, so we took advantage of it.

P1010950 (2)

It was an absolutely amazing treat.  We went up a half mile or so…over 11,000 feet, before returning.  Although out of breath, we did just fine!  Everyone was having a great time…

P1010955 (2)

…including this young pair.  I’ll bet the road being closed made their day.  🙂

Well, that wraps up our flight along the Front Range!  Next up, we head north to South Dakota to help some friends with a little project.  More on that in our next Saturday morning post.  Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Enchanted Surprises in New Mexico

If there is one way we can summarize our past week in New Mexico, it would have to be that it was full of surprises.  From the time we arrived in Santa Fe to the day we slid out of the state on US-60, the Land of Enchantment did its best to do just that.

We set up camp in Santa Fe at an old KOA that is now called Rancheros de Santa Fe Campground.  It was an unremarkable place, other than the fact that the camp scene from Every Which Way But Loose was filmed there.  That, and our first enchanted surprise…

IMG_2196 (2)

What the heck!  Just to let y’all know, this is the first snow that has fallen on the exploRVistas entourage since early in 2015.  We did see previously fallen snow in Oregon, but the temperatures were much warmer.  So rather than hunker down…

IMG_0670 (2)

…we chose to embrace it by heading above 10,000 feet to Ski Santa Fe.  🙂

IMG_2200 (2)

Here’s Diana after an exhilarating run down the Double Black Diamond slope.

IMG_0676 (2)

It was a tremendous place to spend a morning, indeed.

We found the city of Sante Fe to be charming.  The town’s pueblo architecture envelops visitors with a sense of warmth.

IMG_2204 (2)

Our NARM membership from the Foosaner Art Museum in Florida gained us free admission into the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

IMG_2202 (3)

If there is anything that speaks to southwestern art, it is this talented artist’s work.

IMG_7952 (2) (2)

Images of New Mexico are the first thing that come to our minds when hearing her name.  With that being said, our next enchanted surprise came during this visit.  We had no idea that a vast portion of her career had been spent in none other than…

IMG_2201 (2)

…New York City!  She loved it there, as do we.

Santa Fe also has a couple of well known churches.

IMG_0687 (2)

One is the Cathedral of St Francis.  We were surprised to find out that this was once the seat of an archdiocese that covered the entire southwest, all the way up to (and including) Denver.

IMG_2241 (3)

And this is the famous miraculous staircase in the Loretto Chapel.  Our surprise here was not the staircase, but where the Sisters of Loretto came from.  You see, there was only one other place we had ever seen this name:  Loretto, Kentucky…home of Makers Mark bourbon.  Indeed, that is the area these pioneer women came from!

We also did a couple of hikes while we were based in Santa Fe.

IMG_2227 (2)

Our first was in Petroglyphs National Monument near Albuquerque.   We ventured into Rinconada Canyon to see what it had to offer.

IMG_2215 (2)

No this isn’t graffiti, in a modern sense of the word. The carvings into the rocks were left by early native people and also by Spanish sheep herders in the area.  The images were a ways off the roped-off trail, and I unfortunately had failed to charge my new camera’s battery the night before.  This trail and my iPhone did not work well together.  Thankfully, we had arranged our hikes in the order we did, as our next day was outstanding!  When Ingrid from Live Laugh RV heard we were in the area, she recommended we visit one of her favorite places, Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.

IMG_0699 (2)

With a fully charged battery at our disposal, we gave the new camera a workout!

IMG_0706 (2)

What an amazing place.  We loved the combination of desert and tall Ponderosa pine trees.

IMG_0736 (2)

The ‘tent’ rocks that give the monument its name look like they are from another planet.

IMG_0717 (2)

Nothing better than squeezing through a slot canyon!

IMG_0759 (2)

The desert environment was full of life.

IMG_0746 (2)

The view from the top was simply breathtaking.  Thank you Ingrid!!!

Next up, we moved south to San Antonio, New Mexico.  Our focus there was to visit Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.  We first became aware of this place while reading Life Unscripted, as Peter and his wife Peg volunteered here.  Our driving force to visit here was when fellow blogger, the late Lynne Braden, left a legacy gift to the refuge after her terminal cancer diagnosis. This was the first place she volunteered after her retirement and she fell in love with it.

IMG_0862 (2) (1)

This is her photo that became the cover art for the latest Festival of the Cranes.  To our surprise, we were fortunate to be able to purchase the last remaining copy of the festival poster.  We will indeed treasure this.  Lynne was a sweet person who never lost her million dollar smile, despite the cancer she was forced to face.  She chose to view it as a gift.  Peruse through her blog, Winnie Views, by following the link.

IMG_0808 (2)

Touring the refuge, it was easy to see why Peter, Peg, and Lynne loved this place.

IMG_0803 (7)

What a variety of wildlife!

IMG_0856 (2)

Some just seemed to pose for the camera…

IMG_0776 (2)

…while others were more interested in fishing.

IMG_0782 (4)

Some were just out for an evening stroll.

The biggest surprise in this little blip of a town was a small parcel of land on the southern edge of the village.

IMG_2263 (2)

Pretty unremarkable, right?  Well, what you are looking at is the birth of one of the world’s largest hotel chains to which I owe a fair amount of my career.  That building to the right was the old post office.  Across the street from it was a little mercantile/rooming house, run by a person named…

IMG_0821 (2)

…Conrad Hilton.  It all began here.  And wile the building may be gone,…

IMG_2259 (2)

…the long wooden bar he worked behind at his dad’s place can be found just up the road at the Owl Bar, where it was moved to many years ago.  It amazes us at the history that can be uncovered in the small towns of this world.  🙂

Last up was a place we had wanted to see for a long time.

IMG_0867 (2)

The Very Large Array Radio Telescope.  These dishes span out in a “Y” pattern, 13 miles in each direction.

IMG_0879 (2)

Twenty-seven dishes work in unison to gather radio waves from distant galaxies to form images that aren’t visible to us though our eyes.  The dishes can be moved along railroad tracks to form different images.  The science behind this is WAY over our heads, but the massive nature of the project is amazing to look at.  While we were there, the dishes all moved in unison several times, eventually pointing straight up.  While we knew this facility was here, it was quite a surprise to crest the mountain pass west of Magdalena and see these antennas spread out before us.

We had a wonderful visit to New Mexico this time around.  The land of Enchantment revealed a bevy of surprises and a trove of memories we won’t soon forget.

Next up: Arizona!  Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

 

 

Glistening White Sands in a Mysterious Basin

After we navigated our way through El Paso, we saw a big yellow sign up ahead…New Mexico!  Diana had been there as a youngster, but I had never set foot in its boundaries.  Officially, it was my 49th state, and it was our 48th as a couple. (Neither of us have been to Hawaii, and Arizona was in our youths.)

I got out of the truck and stomped my feet in a happy dance! It was good to be there!

The branches of the ocotillo cactus were clelbrating along with us!

We set up base camp in Las Cruces on Wednesday, as we wanted to see White Sands National Monument the following day.  

Wednesday evening, we did a little exploring. This is the town square in neighboring Mesilla, where the Gadsden Purchase was signed in the 1850’s.  That transaction was when the U.S. bought southern New Mexico and Arizona from Mexico, mostly so a southern transcontinental railroad route could more easily be established. As a result, the land that Tucson, Bisbee and Yuma sit on are part of the United States.

This building, now called the Billy the Kid Gift Shop, was once the Capitol of New Mexico and Arizona.  It was also where the famous outlaw was found guilty and sentenced to hang in 1881.  He escaped from the jail and was killed later that year.

The temperatures had been steadily rising as we journeyed west, so we knew we needed to get out to White Sands early on Thursday.  Having spent plenty of time on the sand at Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan, we were expecting White Sands to be a lot warmer than it was. 

The majority of the morning was actually a bit chilly!  

We drove the loop road and got out at several stops to climb up on top of the hills to get a better view.

The dunes seemed to go on forever!  This area is so vast, it can easily be seen by astronauts from space.  This national monument sits in a large basin that is bordered by mountain ranges to the east and west.

Despite the barren appearance of the landscape, signs of life were everywhere.  The sand…actually gypsum…was cool to the touch.

The roadway through the dunes was hard packed sand and was well maintained.  As we drove around, Diana read the park literature to me that explained the proximity of the monument to the nearby White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base.  Occasionally, unexploded bombs land in the monument, so there are warnings not to pick anything up.  Also, they advise that GPS devices will occasionally be blocked, as well as US-70 being closed for missile testing a few times a week.  Several times, the lady in our Garmin would announce “Lost Satellite Reception”…even though we has an unobstructed view of the sky in all directions.  In addition to that, we kept hearing an occasional boom.  There definitely was some strange things happening out there.  

After visiting the monument, we drove north to Alamogordo to see what was there.  We weren’t very impressed with the town, so we headed back southwest.  We tried to catch a glimpse of the landing strip at Holloman AFB where the Space Shuttle Columbia landed once, even taking a dirt road along the perimeter of the base.  No luck on that one.  The Garmin continued to announce that the satellite reception had been lost….and we heard more booms.  Heading back down US-70 towards Las Cruces, we spotted a sign for a missile museum at White Sands Missile Range.  With all the strange goings on, our curiosity got the best of us…so we headed towards the base. Yes, I realize that we had our fill of plane, ship, and automobile museums on this trip…but this was missiles!

Getting on the base was easier said than done.  We were subject to a security clearance check in a building before we reached the gate, then our vehicle was going to get a good going over.  We chose to leave the vehicle parked outside the gate and walk in.  It was nice to know that we passed the security clearance!

The display area consists of two museum buildings and an outdoor display area.  We started out in the main museum building, which we found to be fascinating.

This is a WAC Corporal rocket.  One of these launched from White Sands in the 1940’s and was the first manmade object to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.

I found this map interesting.  It showed the locations of the Nike missile sites that formed the Ring of Steel around important locations during the Cold War.  I never knew that Detroit and Chicago actually had missiles, nor did I know that the U.S. left so many major cities unprotected. I did know my hometown had a lot of Russian missiles aimed at it though!  So in an odd sort of way, I found this display comforting.

Remember these drills?

The other building at the museum houses a restored V2 rocket.

This is one of the rockets the U.S. captured from Nazi Germany at the end of WWII.  The scientists who developed them, including Werner von Braun, surrendered to the U.S. and were brought to White Sands to assist with our missile program. The knowledge we gained from the Germans and these rockets allowed us to become the superpower we are today.

From there, we toured the outdoor display area.

Remember the Patriot missiles from the Gulf War?  Here is a great example of one.

This is a Fat Man bomb casing…the same as the one that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan.

And a Nike Missile…the type that protected our cities in the Cold War.

While the display was sobering, it was indeed ‘the real deal‘.  None of it was sugar-coated, therefore we found it to be immensely interesting.  As we were walking around the displays, we heard more booms.  This is an active base and the testing goes on with regularity. We can only hope that it will keep us out of harms way.

We only lightly touched on New Mexico, and we will be sure to see more of it in the future.  Stay tuned as we continue to head west!

———-

Search and shop our exploRVistas Amazon link here!
———-

explorRVistas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon .com. Shopping through our link does not add anything to your cost, but it does help support this blog. Thank you for shopping through exploRVistas!