Archive for April, 2012

Albuquerque Museum of Natural History

It’s raining when we wake up our first morning in Albuquerque, so we head down into the old section of town and tour the only museum that’s open on Monday, the wonderful Museum of Natural History.  It wasn’t on our lists of things to do and see here, but it kept us busy and interested for the better part of the day, with a lovely lunch in their cafe.

We fall asleep to the lulling sound of rain on the roof.  Sometime during the night, it stops. When we wake up in the morning, in silence, it’s all white outside.  We’re blanketed with snow.  We cozy in (after another great continental breakfast) and watch the snow build to four inches on our side view mirror.

April 3, 2012, Albuquerque, New Mexico

This will not prevent us from, later in the afternoon, when the snow is beginning to melt away, heading to a restaurant Dick has found, the  Monte Carlo Steakhouse.  I read the review/description before we head there and they’re proud of their meat and potato reputation, i.e. no vegetables. And lo, and behold – when we’re seated in a cozy booth, there’s a plaque behind us, with a joke about people who’ve asked for vegetables here.  And, Dick,  oblivious to it all, asks, in the middle of his order, if they have any vegetables he can substitute or order on the side. There’s no picture for that, although I wish there was. ; )

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The First Smoke Plumes, near Lincoln, New Mexico, April 1, 2012

As we leave Lincoln and Billy the Kid behind, we see plumes of smoke on the horizon.  The winds are really picking up.  I find it a bit scary to head forward on a road that leads towards fire, with basically no roads leading off in any other directions.  It boils down to making a decision to go forward or turn around.  My poor iPhone doesn’t even want to vote in this game. WAZE has quit altogether.   We keep going. We finally see dark, burned-out areas, and then around a corner, live, red, blazing fire.  There are fire-trucks there, with firemen fighting the fire and more trucks turning in front of us. And more emergency vehicles with sirens, lights on coming down the road.  We forego a gorgeous Bureau of Land Management campground site a little bit further down the road, because of the winds and the unknown danger and drive a few hours longer, in the dark, to the safety of the American RV Park, where this is no haunting, blowing, natural beauty, but a nice safe site on the outskirts of Albuquerque – with a lovely continental breakfast in the morning. ; )

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Lincoln State Monument

The national press once dubbed Lincoln, “the most dangerous town in America”.   It definitely feels like stepping  into a time capsule, this dusty, Old West Village,  more a street, really, where the Lincoln County Wars (1878-81) waged over two dry-goods stores. Yep, a war over two stores in the same town.   The establishment store didn’t take kindly to a new-comer who tried to set up shop across the street.  People took sides and the bullets flew.  Today, it’s an open-air museum, and we walk up and down the main street, where the historic buildings house exhibits.  Even Billy the Kid got involved, throwing his lot in with the newcomer,  and we tour the jail where he was imprisoned and escaped, killing two guards.  He’s going to wind up being hunted down and killed for this.

Town Jail, that housed for awhile, Billy the Kid

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But, it’s all fun!  We pull into Roswell and eat our Lenten fish sandwiches at a McDonald’s that’s shaped like a UFO. It’s getting dark so we head to Bottomless Lake State Park while we can see to find our campsite.  The sun’s just setting and it’s lovely and peaceful here.

We’re off the next morning to the International UFO Museum and Research Center.  I was surprised at how ordinary a town Roswell seems to be, aside from the alien-themed gift shops, light posts and McDonald’s, and how ordinary the people who populate the museum are.  I’ve got to admit, I thought I’d be surrounded by at least a few crazies.  Most people seem like us (haha, how did that eliminate the crazies), visiting the area, curious and having a good time. We try to spend as much time as possible in the museum, reading all the material and affadavits we can, and maybe eke out an hour and a half.  It’s all about a 1947 alleged UFO crash on a nearby ranch, and the subsequent government cover-up.  The museum also covers crop circles, Area 51, and personal abductions.

We do a little grocery shopping, and find a church for Saturday night Mass. Dick and I always stand out like sore thumbs in the churches along this trip, we’re not black or hispanic.  But we’re always made to feel welcome. And we feel like we’re part of a universal church, with such rich differences. We make the trip back to Bottomless Lake State Park right before dark again.

View from Campsite at Bottomless Lake State Park

Bottomless Lake State Park

Back to Bottomless Lake State Park

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Entrance Into Carlsbad Caverns

Both Dick and  I didn’t see how a cave we’ve been reading about since we were kids (good grief, make that 45-50 years ago!) could possibly live up to its reputation. Carlsbad Caverns is as great today as the iconic images we remember.  We choose to forego the elevators and follow “The Natural Entrance Route, for visitors with plenty of time and in good physical condition.”  It’s a mile- long walk that follows the traditional explorers’ route, descends over 750 feet into the earth (the equivalent of a 70 story building) and our jaws drop at every turn.  THE SIZE!!!  It’s almost impossible to take in- and even more impossible to photograph, even with my beloved iPhone 4s. The wonderful thing about this cavern is that people are encouraged to whisper – and we’re in darkness, only illuminated enough to be able to walk on steep slopes and view some of the outstanding sights.  So, it’s eery and surreal and absolutely breath-taking.  Ultimately we wind up at the Big Room, where the elevators bring most people.  It takes about an hour and a half to tour. My camera can’t capture it, but I’ll post some for the memories they’ll evoke. I’ve struggled to get some pictures into this format unsuccessfully, so will toss a few into the next post.

Entering Carlsbad Caverns

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George W. Bush Childhood Home

The Bush home is an ordinary little house in an ordinary small-town neighborhood in Midland, TX, so it’s remarkable that it was home to two future Presidents, two Governors and a First Lady.  We’re given a private tour , since there’s no one else here at the moment, a school bus having, thankfully, pulled out a few minutes before. It’s like walking into the 50’s and our own childhoods. So many familiar things, especially in young George’s bedroom – Dick kept exclaiming, “I had this!  I had one of those!”    The Bush family had their share of happiness and sorrow in this house, the birth of Jeb, followed by the death of little Robin from leukemia, and then the birth of their fourth child, Neil.  I have such renewed respect and admiration for Barbara Bush.  Her life can’t have been easy but she seemed to persevere with so much courage, grace and humor.

Barbara Bush's Kitchen in Midland



George Bush Boyhood Bedroom

We spend the night in Monahans Sandhills State Park, surrounded by an unusual and rather surreal landscape. See our silhouette, below.

Campsite at Monahans Sandhills State Park

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