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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Journada del Meurto

Wednesday March 4, 2015 Comfort Inn Room 210 Gallup, New Mexico

It seems forever since I’ve written to describe our adventures. Last Saturday morning we rose, had breakfast and started our day by taking a short tour of the oldest part of Alamogordo. We had picked up a brochure at the museum the day before and decided to take the time to twist and turn through three blocks north south and four blocks east west to observe  the oldest houses left in town. All of them were built between 1904 and 1920. The brochure includes twelve dwellings but two of them are gone, one has been turned into a restaurant, another sits empty and forlorn and a third is for sale. The house with the long addition on one side was actually a hospital. All of them seem well preserved, though the one for sale has removed the lovely arched alcoves to the porch and squared them all off—it has lost a bit of character as a result.

The tour began and ended at a large market, on the brochure map listed as Van Winkles IGA but it is now a Lowes. Bill thought it was the building supply company but I’d seen the bakery listed on its fascia. I wanted to check to see if I could find the Mexican peanut candy I love—de la Rosa—and I did find two boxes. We also checked out the Spanish food aisle—we love to cook different types of food and this was so extensive it was hard to choose items. Bill picked up some garlic cubes, much like bouillon, I picked up a brown sugar pyramid. We also got a couple of boxes of gumbo mix—they were a dollar a box so said, what the heck. Got a couple of Zatarain mixes we don’t have at home. Not Spanish but Creole-Cajun, which we also love.  Unfortunately, we'd already gassed up near the motel,since the gas here was $1.98 a gallon. Oh, well, it would have been a savings of about 8 cents! Gas has never been a major expense on our trips, since our cars have always been very efficient and Douglas has not failed us in that regard. He gives us 37 miles to the gallon. We are happy.

And so we headed out of Alamogordo and headed 65 miles south toward Las Cruces—not for any special reason but that we haven’t been down that way in awhile and we like the area. As we passed Holloman we talked about the reduction of forces that has happened—about 800 families according to our cook at the motel, She said the operations have been consolidated and moved to Florida. Many empty houses in town. The German air force trains there , however, and their presence has increased. Barb and I just missed the Oktoberfest they put on each year at the end of September.

Then it was passed the water tank and three mounds that the White Sands brochure list as landmarks, which always makes me chuckle. Notice how the sands are overtaking the fence along the highway. They are moving toward Alamogordo about two inches a year. A dry lake that we’d explored more closely last year sparkled in the welcome sunshine.

We watched the San Andres’ sharp peaks moving ever closer to us as we drove South. Soon we were at the long sweeping approach to the San Augustine Pass, which is filled with communication towers now but fifteen years ago bristled with white windmills at every level.  Up and over and the Mesilla Valley and Las Cruces spread widely at our feet. Made a sweeping U-turn onto I 25 and headed north toward Albuquerque. Within a few miles, however, we left the highway in favor of the local roads going through the ancient pueblos along the lower Rio Grande.

We soon came to Fort Selden, the name of which sounded vaguely familiar to me. When I started to read the historical panels in the museum I realized that I’d heard of it while reading the biography of Gen. MacArthur—American Caesar. Obviously, he predated Obama! We watched a short video presentation in which we were informed that there were two contingents of soldiers assigned here—a Buffalo soldier infantry and a Calvary regiment, which I suppose was white. Interestingly but not surprisingly, there were maybe two pictures of Buffalo soldiers and they were taken in Montana. Actually most of the pictures were from other forts. We’ve been to Craig and Sumner before and they are in the same condition as this one—severely deteriorated. Apparently, once abandoned by the Army the doors, windows and roof materials were carried off by the local residents, leaving the soft adobe exposed to the weather and wind and it has rapidly returned to rubble. Still, it is interesting to imagine the company carrying out their duties in this dusty, remote outpost surrounded by the beautiful mountains.

A small village grew up outside the post offering all the entertainment a bunch of single young men might desire—not very different from some of the bases Barb and I passed in Nevada. Some things never change. Las Cruces lay 20 miles away but at times the guys spent time there. In each place gun fights and stabbings were not unusual and though the fort lay in Apache territory, it was noted that more deaths were the result of drunken brawls than Indian attack. In reading about the Post Surgeon I was struck by the description of bed bug and lice infestations, cholera, etc and the fact that these situations were the result of poor sanitation, diet . Could not help but think of the resurgence of these problems in our country and the fact that indifferent sanitation on the part of some people has reintroduced them. Loved a couple of the recipes but think I’ll forgo trying them. The poem One Room and a Kitchen made me think of my sister-in-law and whether this still holds true?  And how about those helmets and hats so reminiscent of German military gear right into the first World War—don’t usually associate them with our military. Maybe that’s why they’ve been changed?

Once we left this depot we were well on truly on that portion of the Camino Real—or Royal Road—that was designated the Journado del Meurtas—the journey of the dead. I’ve not seen anything this arid anywhere in our travels. Even the deserts of California and Nevada have some moisture in places. Here the Rio Grande is totally dry, the irrigation canals are as well. We know that water is regulated here and that the river goes below ground in many places but how the water becomes available for the fields and nut trees is a mystery to us. We passed only one fenced area with cows and they were truly emaciated. It is impossible to imagine the people travelling this road on foot or wagon—going from Mexico City to Santa Fe. Many must have died without water. No wonder they were so grateful to reach El Moro near Grants.

We  passed through Hatch again. Years ago we arrived and everything but a MacDonald's was closed but all the roadside markets had long bunches of red and green chilies hanging from the porch rafters almost to the ground. The air was so redolent with the smell of hot peppers, our noses ran and our eyes burned a bit. Soon we reached one of the dams on the Rio Grande and the Caballo Reservoir with Caballo Mountains on the opposite shore. On we went through the sand hills into Truth or Consequences named after a TV show!!!

Tired we once more got onto I 25 which was never far away from us. Bill and I had miscommunicated in the morning. I’d told him there was a Comfort Inn in TorC but when he didn’t tell me to make a reservation I assumed he wanted to push on to Socorro. When we stopped at the traffic light in front of the motel, I didn’t say anything, nor did he. As a result we were quite tired by the time we reached Socorro. He then said that when I hadn’t commented on the motel, he assumed I wanted to push on to Socorro. God, after almost 30 years you’d think we’d do a better job of knowing what the other one wanted. Oh, well, he went out to K-Bob’s for dinner and I happily ate my Wedge Salad I’d been carrying around for days and which was now frozen. Finished up the pate and some crackers with it and retired to bed to read. Since there really was nothing on TV, we both went to sleep by 9. Not very usual for me but I went out like a light.

Being in Socorro we could not depart without a trip to the Bosque. Once more up in the dark, breakfast and down to the Refuge. As we were approaching the railroad crossing I saw a freight train headed our way. I hoped we’d get to the crossing before the red lights started flashing for it was one of those that go on forever and we’d be later than I wanted to be to view the wildlife. Fortunately, he was far enough off that we made it across in plenty of time.

We usually head to the south loop first and come around the long way to the exit but since the fellow had seen the cats on the north loop earlier last week we headed out the north loop—where we came upon a huge group of javelina—boars, sows and young. They run away and are really funny to watch, their legs are so short in comparison to the body. Although they supposedly have a vile odor due to scent glands, we’ve not been able to detect it from the car. We watched them awhile and continued on down the road, once they’d all vanished into the brush or at a distance down the path. When we turned back along the same road, they had regathered in the road and along its edge. One little family of three ran right along in front of us before finally getting brave enough to cross over and join the others. Despite their number the only sounds we heard were the singing voices of the redwing blackbirds.

We then continued along our regular path and were greeted by what I’ve come to call our “ hello heron”. It is always along this stretch of road at the canal—I look for it every visit and it is never far from one spot on the canal. As we turned at the far south we came upon one lone javelina boar at the area where we’d first seen them several years ago. In the far fields there were still some snow geese and Canada geese but their numbers were fewer than a week ago—so the northern migration has begun in earnest. Lying in the grass we spotted four or five of the does we’d seen before but their buck was not visible. They did seen to be looking into the brush that was too thick for us to see though well, so perhaps he was near at hand.

As we continued along the Eastern side as usual we played our game of who can spot the hawk first—almost every tree along this path seems to have a hawk surveying the fields. As a matter of fact, we disturbed a rather large one alongside the road who’d had a successful hunt. In great irritation he picked up his prey, flew across the canal and settled in with his back to us to continue dining. When we stopped to watch, he picked it up once more and flew far in the distance where we pesky humans wouldn’t stare at him as he ate.

At the eastern end of the northern loop are the farm fields which had been filled with geese and cranes only a few days ago—maybe a week—today there were a few of both geese and only one crane. Will it try going it alone to the north, will it find some of the cranes that are farther up along the River toward Albuquerque or will he hang out until next Fall’s fly-in? I don’t want to think that he might be a mountain lion’s breakfast or dinner. Then we came to the “ good-bye heron” another who is always at this same area. Today, however, we had a special treat. As we started toward the exit, the most adorable small hawk flew up from the roadside. About the size of a robin, it kept flying up and down from the ground to the post holding the stop sign. He was much more fidgety than the big hawks so we kept our distance and I tried to get a decent shot of him—through the windshield, turning the car and through my window and then through Bill’s—both of them open. The last shot was the best I could get.

Then it was back to the motel to pack and head up to Belen to visit Bud and Gloria, our friends who moved here from New Hampshire. We once more took the roads along the river and through the little farm communities with their little churches in each one. Arrived around 12:30 and immediately went into catch up mode. A friend of Gloria’s from Indianapolis is house-sitting next door so she dropped some cheese and crackers off for us to nibble on around 2, but since I’d eaten a fair share of ginger snaps and coffee and Bill had a few beers and Bud and Gloria some soda, we decided to forgo them—after all, Gloria, as usual had prepared a feast which would be ready at 4.

And let me tell you, the girl did not stint—she NEVER does. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, steamed carrots, cranberry chutney, green bean casserole ( brought by Jane, she of the cheese and crackers), gravy and home-made rolls. When we finished eating, it was not only the turkey that had been stuffed. Bill did the carving, much to Bud’s joy and the two of them did the cleaning up while we ladies sat in the living room chatting and relaxing. Jane left when Downton Abbey was coming on, since she doesn’t follow it, Bill went in to read, since he doesn’t either and Bud, Gloria and I enjoyed the two hour finale and chatted about it throughout and when it was over. We are so devastated that we have to wait til  January 2016 for the next season!!!! i suggested that we rent our houses and go over to England to see it, since they screen the seasons earlier than we do.

By the time it was over we all had room for dessert, which Jane missed out on. Chocolate cream pie with whipped cream. Somewhere along the line, I also got the recipe for that delicious chutney and promised to send Gloria the recipe I have for the cranberry-pear pie I have.

Monday started out with pancakes and ham for breakfast. Juice and coffee to wash it all down. Then we got ready and headed up to Albuquerque to see Unbroken. It was senior day at the movies so we only paid $1.00 each. They charged us $2.30 per couple much to Bud and Gloria’s dismay—have they raised the price or have they started charging tax/  LOL But, despite being perplexed we all agreed even $1.15 is quite a bargain for a first run movie. Afterwards, we went out for Chinese food. The Egg flower or egg drop soup is filled with egg white and is quite pretty but since I don’t like eggs, I ordered Won Ton as did Bill. He had Moo Goo Gai Pan (the Gai is chicken—private joke) and I had beef with vegetables. Big portions of excellent food. Bud and Gloria each had a spicy shrimp dish if I recall correctly. All in all a delightful day, especially since Bill and I haven’t had Chinese in a long while. The movie was good, though there really wasn’t much of a plot, but the tribulations this fellow suffered, first lost at sea and in a raft for over 40 days with two of his buddies and then the brutality of the Japanese when they were ‘ rescued” by them were excruciating. The fact that he didn’t go mad is amazing. Bill and I did find the neat haircuts and grooming of the prisoners amusing and I was particularly impressed by the quality of the American uniforms that only faded but did not shred nor tatter through the years of confinement and abuse. The only time the prisoners were ever even dirty was when they worked to coal mine. And even having become emaciated, the uniforms still fit the guys perfectly. In fairness though, these distracting thoughts came while driving to Gallup today, the situations while watching the movie were so riveting. Finished the day with some TV and new Fox program I haven’t seen before, a cop show, that at first I didn’t care for, but the second episode was much better. Now, I have to add it to my favorite shows!

Yesterday morning we lingered over coffee,juice and Gloria’s fabulous cinnamon buns—my God this girl can cook. I don’t know why the two of them aren’t 700 pounds apiece!  I know I must gain 25 pounds every time I visit them. Even if you restrain yourself from seconds, a near impossibility, it is important to resign yourself to discomfit in your pants for at least a week. I AM NOT complaining, mind you.As if eating while there is not bad enough, you always leave with leftovers. When Barb and I came in the Fall, we had homemade rolls and brownies for almost a week to munch on—and they would have been gone sooner but we tried to make them last. Neither Gloria nor I can remember what dinner was on that visit but I remember the rolls and brownies. This time we took cinnamon rolls and I took a turkey wing and neck which I ate for dinner last night.

Anyway, having refused rolls and turkey, since we had no room in the cooler for the latter and were worried the former would spoil since we have other bread with us , we headed out around 10:30 for Gallup. Out through Las Lunas over Route 6 with the train running alongside in the opposite direction and Mt Taylor snow covered in the distance. Onto I 40 with stop at the rest area at Acoma. How I hate the THREE roundabouts that got placed on a road area less than a mile long. Must have employed lots of Acoma at a good salary from the State. Confusing and irritating. The Rest area must also have cost a pretty penny and provided some jobs. I’ve never seen anyone picnicking there but the tables and grills are very nicely set up. Back onto 40 through the beautiful red mesas into Gallup by 1o’clock so went to Applebees for lunch.

Decided to stay in for dinner and early to bed—but I actually stayed up to watch TV till 10. Woke up really tired this morning so we decided to stay another night. Going to Perry Null’s tomorrow and then over to Window Rock. Today just a lazy read and TV day and readjustment to smaller meals and the road. Probably sounds crazy but it is nice to just take a break from everything before getting back into the routine.

There you have it—all caught up once more. Bill went out to get nickels and explore the grocery store while I blogged. Came back with several cans of Mexican fruit juice, a couple of grapefruits and descriptions of some chorizo that is available. Will have to check that out tomorrow before we leave town. No freezer in this refrigerator so have to hope the freezer packs stay at least slushy.

Looking forward to my Perry fix tomorrow and moving farther West into Arizona. Will be in touch again soon. Hope all is well with you all. A very happy birthday to Sally, whose birthday was yesterday. Did you do something fun?  Sure hope so! Until next time, so long from the Traveling Two Peas

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