April 13-25 - New Mexico
On the day after Easter, we started a three-day drive from Casa Grande AZ to Albuquerque NM. Our destination was The Rally - an annual gathering of RV folks put on by the Good Sam people and related organizations. In keeping with our desire to avoid tiring drives, we made overnight stops in Camp Verde AZ and Gallup NM before arriving at our Albuquerque encampment - the launching area used by the annual Albquerque Balloon Fiesta. We joined about 3,800 other RVs - an impressive bunch of motorhomes and trailers.
We'd spent almost a week in Albuquerque in 2006, so it was going to be interesting to see if they'd ever finished all those road construction projects. They mostly have. And we'd been to last year's rally in Perry GA, so we knew what to expect on that front. We spent time in the exhibit halls shopping for stuff we needed and some that we didn't know we needed. We went to a few seminars, and we toured a whole lot of new motorhomes. Every evening, there was entertainment, hampered somewhat by being presented in a large tent with questionable sound, uncomfortable seats and no heat (the temperatures were generally in the 40s and it snowed at least once). But we did see and sort of hear the likes of Neil Sedaka, Rita Coolidge and 3/4 of the original Osmond Brothers . . . . and one night, 11 Elvises (Elvi?) in a group named "LaLa and the Hubcaps" doing 60's rock. Maybe the best entertainment was a "Balloon Glow" - seven hot air balloons were inflated adjacent to our encampment, and when it got dark, the flames from the balloon burners made them glow. Most impressive. It was just a sample of what could be experienced at the Balloon Fiesta in October, when upwards of 600 balloons do the same thing. We'll just have to come back for that one of these years.
When the rally broke up on the 21st, we moved 65 miles northeast to Santa Fe, where we spent four days decompressing and exploring. Santa Fe is an interesting city. Almost every building is constructed in the Mission Pueblo style. The city celebrates it's Native American and Mexican heritage, accumulated over the 400 years since the city was founded in 1610. About 60 miles from Santa Fe, along the Rio Grande River near Los Alamos, is the Bandelier National Monument, a remarkable preservation of hundreds of ancient cliff dwellings and pueblos. This is probably the most extensive cliff dwelling settlement we've yet seen. And as we were heading back to Santa Fe, we saw several more cliff dwellings along the highway, outside the park. Spectacular place.
Santa Fe has two special old Catholic churches. The Cathedral Basilica of St Francis of Assisi is the most spectacular, although much of the grandeur was hidden behind scaffolding, as the building is being renovated and restored. The other one is the Loretto Chapel, shown here, built as the chapel for the Loretto Convent. The interesting thing about the chapel is the "Miraculous Stairway" from the chapel up to the choir loft. It's a neat spiral staircase. The legend is that the chapel was built without any staircase to the choir loft, and the sisters didn't want to climb the ladders that were usually used in those days. So they prayed a lot, and one day a shabby man with a tool bag appeared at the door and said he was there to build a staircase. He asked to not be disturbed, so the sisters left him alone in the chapel for 3 months. One morning, the chapel door was open, the man was gone, and the marvelous spiral staircase was in place, apparently defying gravity. Surely it was a miracle. Although the staircase is a remarkable piece of work, truth is that it was built in France and shipped over, and then installed by a carpenter hired by the nuns. But the legend was a much better story than the reality, so it thrived.
Interesting factoid: Arguably the best known railroad in the country, the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe didn't originally go to Santa Fe - the main line went about 17 miles south of the city. It wasn't until several years after the main line was completed that the Santa Fe built a branch line into the city of Santa Fe. But Santa Fe was the western terminus of the Santa Fe Trail, and a lot of westward bound settlers passed through here on their way to a new life, including a lot during the depression-era migrations along Route 66, which passed through Santa Fe.
The more time we spend in some areas, the more it becomes evident that we should spend a lot more time there. Albuquerque and Santa Fe are places we should visit more. We really want to come to the Balloon Fiesta, and it would also be neat to visit the Ghost Ranch north of Santa Fe. It's a 21,000 acre retreat and conference center of the Presbyterian Church USA, but it's also where Georgia O'Keefe did a lot of her work and a major place for digging up dinosaur fossils. And then there's the whole Los Alamos thing - we drove through the town, but didn't have time to go to any of the museums that chronicle the development there of the nuclear weapons that ended WW-II. But we did have lunch at a McDonalds near the intersection of Oppenheimer and Trinity Drives.
On Saturday, April 25 we headed north toward Colorado and a long-overdue visit with Wes & Vendy Lockard in Estes Park.
The slideshow for our two weeks in New Mexico contains almost 100 images. Click here to see the pictures.