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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Catching Up--Clovis to Belen to Gallup

March 7, 2013 5:07 PM MST  Room 206 Gallup, New Mexico

Oh, my goodness!  I cannot believe it has been four days since I've written to my travel buddies. Where did I leave off?  Ah, yes, I was typing furiously in the breakfast room in Clovis and when I signed off our next stop was to be Belen, NM and the home of our friends, Gloria and Bud. So, I shall pick up with our departure from Clovis at around 9:30 Monday morning, a bright, sunny, though very windy morning with temperature around 50 degrees. I am not convinced that the wind EVER lets up in New Mexico.

We headed over toward Belen on Rt 60, a road we've traveled many times before, but then again, there are not very many roads into or out of New Mexico that we haven't traveled at least once. Even though this is a familiar route, it was not until this trip that we discovered that the historical sign located a short distance outside Clovis is also located at the foot of Gloria's road, halfway across the State--or at least as far across as Albuquerque. So that is a very large area that is considered the same large plain--especially since we cross some mountains just outside Belen. It is still used for grazing and is now criss-crossed with railroads--we had fun racing several of them from time to time. As you can see, there isn't much else to do on these open plains. I love noticing things like the herd of Angus on one side of the road being looked at and probably mooed at by the lone Angus on the other side.  I actually didn't notice that until reviewing the pictures.  LOL

There are not many towns along this route and those that do exist are pretty much empty and the buildings totally demolished, although made of stone. One place that is a crossroads of , not only rail lines, but also several major routes--one going south to Carrizozo, another north to Santa Rosa, another headed southeast to Roswell and ours headed west--is Vaughn. There are about seven motels and several restaurants and a couple of gas stations--all but one gas station standing empty and windowless. Why, I wonder, when these roads are so well traveled. Perhaps cars are so much better these days it is easy to get to those other places to stay or eat. It is high on the top of a crest and the wind is so awful there that, when Bill got out of the car to put air in a tire that has been problematic for awhile, he was almost unable to close the door ----he needed to have a foot outside to get a good grasp and then almost couldn't get it back in to get the door totally closed. Just awful. For a large part of the trip over we fought a strong head wind and our mileage, which had been 34-35 mpg and at one point 37mpg in Texas, dropped down to 33 mpg. That may have been partially due to the lost pressure in the left rear tire also.

One of the major features on this highway is a series of three dry lake beds--I have always been fascinated by them and probably have more pix of them than I'll ever need. They are known as playas and apparently are common on these high plains in eastern New Mexico as well as those of West Texas. Don't remember noticing them anywhere else. Their formation and locations and sizes are kind of interesting. Bonneville Salt Flats,which I've never seen,except in movies, is apparently a super large playa. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dry_lake

About 40 miles away from Belen is the town of Mountainair. Bill and I like the little cantina in the early 20th C. Hotel Shaeffer but as we pulled up a lady, carrying a cardboard tray of what I thought might be fresh baked goods, told us they were closed. We decided to cruise a couple of the few streets to see if there might be another spot to grab a light lunch. Found a neat little cafe--Alpine Alley Coffee Shop. The couple who own it work side by side behind the counter--neat relationship--quips and tripping over each other. She is a fifty-ish thin woman with a long gray braid--high energy bouncing out of every pore. He is more laid back, manning the grill with casual stride and movement. The room is very cozy--as you walk in the space to your right has three couches arranged in a square with one open side and a large coffee table in front of them. There are scattered tables with magazines and books and newspapers, several open front cabinets with shelves of books. On the left there is a space with three small tables and chairs and more cabinets and shelves. In front of you is a counter with high backed wooden chairs. We sat there with another traveler who soon left. Miss Energy came over having grabbed a couple of menus and said sit anywhere--we're used to people just grabbing the menus from wherever. There was a doddering old lady also behind the counter--she seemed to be doing a good job of getting in the way and not knowing quite what is going on--though it didn't seem to be that she was slow but rather that Energy girl just had her addled. Indeed, I'd be exhausted if I worked with her. Some guy came it and said to granny--hi, I didn't know you were working here. Energy said, oh, she's been here for years. The guy said--learn something new every day. Energy relented and said no, she came in this am when breakfast business was very busy so I asked her to grab some orders and we'd treat her to breakfast when things slowed down. Oh, the guy said, okay--so we were both right.  LOL

Anyway, we ordered two pastrami on rye--no cheese--only mustard. Energy called us purists--indeed, I was a bit apprehensive at how pure the result would be. Well, wonders of wonders--the pastrami was STEAMED--yes!--not grilled or fried as I've gotten it in Vt --groan. It was piled high, the mustard was flavorful and the rye delicious. Who'da guessed??? When Energy told granny two p's on rye that did it--she was totally confused and retired.  LOL  I asked for sweet tea and Energy opened the cooler and with a flourish and bow pointed out the selection of bottled tea or said I could have fresh made. Opted for that--a carafe with hot water and tea bag--a huge glass of ice cubes--and the sweetener of my choice--blue, pink, yellow ( packets), we don't discriminate around here--and I chose honey, which came in a warm squeeze bottle so it flowed nice and golden into the amber tea. Delicious.  A neat place--we will return. Two high school boys came in for lunch so I asked how big the school is--the senior class has 15. There are three schools in town and from K-12 there are about 500 kids, they are bussed from the small villages in the area as well as the townies. Reminded me of Chelsea. I could sub in such a place and love it, I think.

Then it was off once more through the rich red clayish rocks of the pass into the valley spreading in front of us and the Manzano Mountains off in front and then through a smaller pass and they move to our left and right. Here route 47 takes off sharply to the right and we go with it. We pass through the Terre Grande, a huge swath of the valley that is for sale--5 acre house sites sitting beneath these mountains that make the train running at its base look like a toy model.  Through the years the number of house have grown and someday I'm sure the whole area will be developed. 47 takes us right into town and like locals we navigate through it to Sunrise Bluffs and our destination for the next two nights.

Gloria is a fabulous cook and after much chattering and getting caught up on all the news of the past year it was time for hamburgers from the grill served on her wonderful homemade rolls--there is not a hamburger bun in the world that can compare. We had macaroni-tuna salad and various additions such as tomato and onion etc with which to dress the hamburgers. Delicious. We watched the news and chattered some more, had a delicious cream pound cake confection with fresh raspberries and whipped cream and by 930 we all went to bed. We wanted to be rested for the next day's excursion to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in Socorro. A favorite place of the four of us--so Gloria and Bud usually wait at this time of year for our arrival to head down for a visit.

For some reason I did not sleep as well as usual. Have no idea why--the room is the one we always stay in, the bed was incredibly comfortable and I opened the blinds a sliver so it wasn't too dark. I went out like a light when I went to bed but woke up around 230 and never got back to sleep until 5. I was worried since we'd agreed to get up at 7 and be on the road by 8. It is about an hour to an hour and a half down to Socorro and the earlier one gets to the refuge the more animals you are likely to see. Haven't a clue how my body did it but I woke up at 7 on the dot. Dressed and out to another great meal--OJ, coffee and the moistest banana chocolate chip muffins one could want.

Last year, Bud took us over to the Bernardo Management Area but they were in the process of redoing the roads etc and it was closed. So we started there. It is a really nice area also but most of the cranes have already left and so we saw one little group and nothing else. On we went to the Bosque, which is in San Antonio along the Rio Grande River. Neither is like their namesakes in Texas but I like the New Mexico version better. It always amuses me to think that this is the town in which Conrad Hilton grew up and the place in which he rented rooms out of his parents home in his youth. I've often wondered what Paris Hilton would make of the origins of the money that she so freely used to become a mean nothing celebrity.

As we approached the entrance to the refuge loop we came upon a fairly large flock of some sort of geese---snow?  who have not yet headed North. Smart cookies--the blizzards up there would not be conducive to a happy early Spring. We came upon a great blue heron when first entering the south loop--he/she struck a super model pose for its glamour shot. We continued slowly along the deserted gravel loop road --saw small birds and many ducks of various types, including mallards. I love the guys who stand on their heads in the water--they are so comical. As we came around the far loop where Bud and Gloria have frequently seen large groups of deer we were amazed to see two PIGs crossing the road.  This was a first for all three of us. Last year the surprise was posters all over the place warning about Mountain Lions--the posters were gone this year. Now we found pigs and as we moved in for a closer shot we discovered we'd found a whole group of pigs, including one little baby pig. It was fun to see them race across a clearing to get from one area of brush to another. I was amazed to see that the adults ran ahead and left the little guy to fend for himself--no wonder there was only one. I looked up feral hogs, wild pigs and, what I thought these are, peccaries on the Internet.  It would appear that feral hogs are causing the same destruction in NM as they are in Georgia and the Northeast but they are peccaries--collared peccaries to be exact. http://www.picsearch.com/Collared-Peccary-pictures.html

As we continued round the loop to what is known as the farmland--large fields that are often planted with corn and are filled with cranes until the northward migration that starts in Feb--we entered the area that is most populated with hawks.

There was also a small group of mule deer, one of which had some really strange dark marks on its flank--close ups look as though they are wounds that are healing. Did this animal have a run in with one of those mountain lions and manage to escape?

Gloria and Bud had just picked up their new to them Chrysler Town and Country. They have three small grand-daughters and so, when they are visiting and want to go anywhere it has meant the use of two cars. This way they can all ride together. It rides like a dream, is roomy and the way the seats are arranged it is so much easier for the four of us to chat and comment on our surroundings. I love it and I know they are quite happy with it, too. Our excursion was the break-in trip. In "downtown" San Antonio there is a fairly well -known and critically acclaimed restaurant, the Owl. They are closed on Sunday and Monday and in all the years we've gone to the Bosque we've managed to be there when the Owl was closed. This time we hit it right--so we all agreed the time was now to try it out.

Bud ordered a chili cheeseburger and we were all amused at his attempts to pick it up and get a bite out of it. Gloria and I had straight cheeseburgers and Bill had Mexican chili--NOT Tex-Mex. The food was delicious and we all agreed, this is a place we'll come back to on our next visit to the Bosque, a place of serenity and beauty that we all love at any time of year.

Got back home around 130 and Gloria and I decided to take naps while Bill and Bud went over to the Moose Lodge to chat with the guys. Around 4, Gloria and I went into the scrap room and played on the computers, she showed me Mrs Brown's Boys in Utube--an hilarious British comedy. We had planned on meatloaf for dinner but after our beefy lunch we changed the menu to spaghetti and salad. That is one of our favorite meals served at Chez ComstockHill. She could serve that to us any time we visit. I've copied her sauce and salad preps ever since our first visit. It is just simply scrumptious and very easy. We then decided to give the Netflix exclusive House of Cards with Kevin Spacey a try and all decided it is a good show and we'll watch the remaining episodes. Once more we retired at 930 but I turned on TV in our room and watched the Charlie Rose interview of Sandra Day O'Connor and another with a Muslim professor at Oxford--I forget his name. I am quite fond of Rose--not confrontational but not soft in his questions. He takes more of a conversational approach which means he is batting ideas back and forth rather than grilling his guests. So came an end to our visit with our New Hampshire transplant friends. Only breakfast left and then we would continue our trek west.

Yesterday, up around 8---packed everything up, Bill loaded it in the car, got dressed and a nice repeat breakfast with Gloria and Bud. Bud wanted to get down to the glass shop before it closed since we'd discovered a chip in the Chrysler's windshield. We didn't notice it until we'd been driving awhile and i cannot believe that they would have missed it when looking over the car before purchase. It was a fair sized chip. I suspect we got it in the first refuge or on the Interstate headed to the Bosque. We in the meantime found that just sitting the left rear tire had gone from 34 psi to 21psi. So our first stop was Craig Tires, after hugs good-bye and promises to call to let them know whether or not to strip the beds--that's our joke--Gloria doesn't strip the beds until we are east of Albuquerque and we know we aren't stopping on the way home. The young man found a piece of metal--a rod like thing--so he was able to remove it and plug the hole. Thank goodness--we are driving with our studs and we surely did not want to buy four new tires, which we'd have had to do if we lost one studded tire and we're pretty sure we wouldn't have gotten snows in New Mexico--at least not this part without ordering them.  The guy didn't charge us and Bill was going to drive off without giving the kid a tip!!!!! Are you kidding me--it would have been the hour's minimum labor at home at who knows what an hour!  God!

Off we went out route 6 to the interstate with snow-covered Mt Taylor over in Grants leading us on. Left the Interstate around Grants and headed down to El Malpais---the land around an extinct volcano filled with hollow hardened lava tubes. Louis L'Amour said this is dangerous land, the tubes can collapse as you ride over them and the sharp lava will cut the legs of the horses. From there we continued to El Morro. We've been this way before several years ago, but I had chosen not to take the hike out to the inscriptions on the base of Morro and Bill decided he wanted me to walk it this time --that I would be glad to have seen it and that I could manage the mile hike if I took it slowly enough.  How right he was--the pool making this an oasis in a desert area is still there( with a very mouthy crow protecting it). It has been used by Indians, Spanish explorers, pioneers, the Calvary etc and members of each of these groups has left historical graffiti on the walls of this rock. Much like my visits to European cathedrals I found myself awed by the fact that I was standing in the footsteps of people who had gone before me so long ago. Each had a story that we'll never know except in the context of the groups with which they traveled West and yet they were just like us. So amazing and I laugh that signs tell us we cannot add our names to the wall, not that I want to, but today it is defacement, then it was making notations that became history.

As we left the multicolored pinnacles loomed on our right side. We are beginning to reach the part of the country that I love--the strange and colorful formations that wind, rain and small particles of sand as well as rushing water has carved from the earth. Soon we arrived in Gallup for the night and headed over to Applebee's for steak dinner. Saw on the weather channel that we are in for rain and snow in the Mesa Verde-Four Corners-Monument Valley that we planned to explore. It should be cleared out by Sunday-Monday. So out came the maps. We decided with the shopping I wanted to do in Gallup and the distance to Mesa Verde that we would be better to head back south to Truth or Consequences for awhile and then return north to explore those areas.  Watched Night and Day and then the Americans and so to sleep.

Signed up for another night in Gallup and this morning slept in until 9.  Read the paper leisurely and had breakfast. Headed over to Perry Null's where I started my coral jewelry with a bracelet that fits into the curves of my turquoise one, and a pair of earrings that are not petit point or needlepoint. Karen was surprised but I told her I wanted the coral collection to be different than the turquoise. I did buy a pair of earrings with both stones--they dangle like chandeliers since my original turquoise are posts. They are small so that they don't compete with my squash blossom necklace when I wear it. But I wanted something more noticeable when I'm only wearing the bracelet.  Having finished that we returned to the room and I did bookkeeping, spoke to Betsy who is doing alot of subbing and otherwise lounged around. Ate some delicious tuna-macaroni salad that the chef at Chez ComstockHill had packed up for me and read a bit. Tomorrow we'll head south and see if we can find some hot springs to soak in. So friends, we've caught you up on our adventure. For now, if you'd like, you may listen to a few of our favorite songs about New Mexico
http://archive.org/details/dmead2005-07-09     play New Mexico from the list on the right

and my especial favorite---http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCw5DJoinI8

Until tomorrow--good night all  KandB

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