Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico

I’ve been reading about RVing in Mexico since I started researching the RV lifestyle and thinking it was something I wanted to do.  I thought about going  last year, but the timing wasn’t right.  This year the timing worked and I headed out with the Escapees Solos to the beautiful fishing village of Puerto Penasco in the State of Sonora.  This is part of the Sonoran Desert and it looks exactly like southern Arizona.

I arranged for Mexican insurance on the rig before I left. It was a 200 mile drive from Quartzsite to Why, Arizona where I gassed up and dropped off my car and other items that are not allowed in Mexico. The Why-Not gas station has storage facilities that cost $60 per month.  We camped at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument for the night and headed out at 9:30 in the morning.  It was only ten miles to the Lukeville border crossing.  It’s a very small border crossing and was an easy entry point. It must have been break time because no one even looked in our direction as eight RVs passed through the sentry point.  Then we caravanned to our destination. 

It was only 60 miles from the border to Puerto Penasco and the Concha Del Mar RV park. Concha Del Mar is a dirt/sand parking lot with dry camping for $56 per week or $300 for the month. It is beach front camping on the Sea of Cortez for those in the first row.  Unfortunately, the first row was filled, so I was in the second row and made friends with the front row people!  We arrived on Saturday, Jan 26th.  Those in the front row arrived the Wednesday before and got front row parking.  Note to self…come early next year! There are other RV Parks here and some with full hookups. I have 520 watts of solar and fairly large holding tanks, so I really don’t need hookups. 

Rigs on Beach
Camped on the Sea of Cortez
Rocky Point
Night view of Puerto Penasco from the campground

For those of you who are afraid of Mexico because of the BS you hear from 45 and Fox “News”, the reality is much different.  I’ve traveled to Mexico many times and have never felt the slightest bit uneasy.  I take a few simple precautions by not driving at night and not buying drugs!  That’s it!  I’m more afraid of going to work, church, movies, school, concerts and clubs in the US and getting shot than I am of getting harmed  in Mexico.  Guns are illegal in Mexico and except for the drug cartels, people don’t have guns. And don’t forget it is America’s insatiable appetite for drugs that fuel the cartels and violence in Mexico and Latin America. I suppose I should be grateful that some people are afraid to come to Mexico because this place is crawling with Americans seeking an inexpensive spot on the Sea and tons of fresh seafood. My only regret is that I cannot speak Spanish…except for what has remained of my ninth grade Spanish class at Wilson Junior High School in Detroit.  Thanks you Mr. Gonzales!

Let me tell you about how horrible Mexican people are…

I was looking for a tire value extender and went to several places with no luck.  Each place suggested another place to try.  I finally went to a truck tire store and struck out again.  The young man that worked there said, “follow me”. He was cute, so I did! 🙂  He walked me next-door to another store and translated for me, but still no luck.  He then took out his phone and called the only other place he thought might have one and still no luck.  Can you imagine an American store owner doing something like this? No, me neither.

Another horrible incident happened when I couldn’t remove the spikes that were holding my outdoor mat secure.  I got two out with my baby hammer, but the other two wouldn’t budge.  The local woman washing the rig next to me  saw I was struggling and came over to help.  She couldn’t do any better than I with that baby hammer.  “Uno momento”, she said.  She left and came back with a giant crowbar.  That sure did the job.  Muchos gracias, again!

We went to a small taco place for dinner and of course we wanted beer.  They didn’t have a license for beer or wine.  Instead of disappointing us, the owner hopped on a bicycle and went to the store and returned with beer for all!  Horrible Mexican!

Beer Delivery
Got the beer!

Are you getting the picture yet?  I sure hope so.   And as for the crisis on the border.  HA!  We do have an immigration problem and our immigration laws must be changed. To blame poor, desperate people for coming to the American border to seek asylum, because that is what our LAWs say to do, is stupid and inhumane.  Change the law so they can apply for asylum from their home countries and, then be accepted or rejected.  I could go on and on…but I’m sure you get the picture.

I grew up with Mexican people and I guess if you have personal experience with people you are less likely to prejudge them because of their ethnicity or religion. I’ve been to Mexico several times and  I find Mexican people to be kind, helpful, humble, polite, family-oriented people. It was no different on this trip.  In spite of the truly horrible things 45 says about Mexicans, they are still hospitable and welcome us to the “fun side of the wall”. 

 While in Mexico I had some work done on the rig. I had my decals removed and painted.  This way they will never fad or crack again.  I hated those cracked decals!  I also had the jack-knife sofa reupholstered in a neutral fabric replacing the God awful material they use in RVs.  My rig was in good shape except for those two things.  The price was about one-third of the US. The body work men did a professional, excellent job!  It cost $950 for my 33 foot rig. The sofa was $450, half the price of a new sofa. It looks fantastic and I know it will help when, or if, I sell the rig in the future. It’s a win-win in my book.  I get work done at a reasonable price and I help support the local economy.  I already have my list going for next year!

Peeling decals
Peeling decals
No decals
One day, three workers…all gone!
Paper and primer
Papered up and primed
Painted decals
Mucho better!  Looks like new.
Sofa
Beautiful reupholstered sofa

Two RV groups, the Solos and the WINS were there so there were plenty of people to hang with and go places.  Many bring cars, but I decided that for my first time I’d leave the car behind.  Next time, and yes, there will certainly be a next time, I’ll tow the car behind.  

Sunset happy hour
Happy hour on the Sea of Cortez

Once we got to Puerto Penasco, there seemed to be a pattern that developed.  See if you recognize it…

After arriving and getting set up it was time for lunch.  My friend, Owen, and I walked down the beach to a small restaurant and had fish tacos and of course, a cerveza! Unexpectedly, the first person we met was Persian!  Go figure.  His aunt owned the small restaurant and he worked as the bartender. 

The next day my next-door neighbor, Stewart, took Owen and I into town to the Malecon (the street along the sea). The main area is lined on both sides with vendors selling the same things…t-shirts, blankets, hats, etc.  There were several seafood markets too.  We went to the Three Boys and I purchased a pound of shrimp and 1.5 pounds of red snapper for $7.00!  We also stopped for a Margarita before heading back to camp.

The following night we went to Lucca’s, a chicken restaurant and I ordered a half chicken with rice and the best refried beans I have ever tasted.  Chicken and a bottle of water was $6.75! I was beginning to see a pattern…great food, inexpensive prices.  My kind of place!

We also visited the Tequila Factory and did a little day drinking. I learned about tequila and sampled several types.  I liked the darker tequila and purchased a bottle.  We continued the day drinking after returning to the rigs.  It was an early to bed for me!

February 2nd was the Seafood Bowl at Shrimp Plaza in the middle of town.  Shrimp is a big deal in Puerto Penasco!  The state of Sonora closed 2018 with the production of 70,000 tons of shrimp, the largest harvest in all of Mexico.  The Seafood Bowl is always the day before the Super Bowl.  It seemed to be held for the gringos in this small seaport town.  We were treated to wonderful food, local arts and crafts, American music, local dancers and drinks of all kind.  It was a fun way to spend the afternoon.

Shrimp plaza
Shrimp Plaza

Super Bowl is also a big deal here and the local businesses cater to the Americans again.  Most of the Solos headed to the New Mexican Restaurant to watch the game, eat and drink. This is where I was introduced to Mr. Don Julio.  I’ll say no more…

There was a VFW  and they provided surf and turf dinner for Valentine’s Day.  It was delicious and cost $10!!

At the campground many vendors provide tortillas, asparagus, empanadas, shrimp, tamales, etc. most every day.  Some of it is even still warm when they arrive.  I definitely didn’t go hungry. Shrimp and asparagus are two of my favorite foods, so I was a happy camper! 

See the pattern yet? We ate out quite a bit.  The food was so delicious and very reasonably priced.

The experience of Rving in Northern Baha was wonderful.  If I had more time I would have ventured further south with new friends I met in Puerto Penasco.  I’ll have to save that for next year.  The only downside was the weather.  It wasn’t as warm as I expected.  But it was still warmer than most other places in the US, except maybe for southern Florida.

Horse
Unexpected!
Booger picker
Not the Tequila I purchased!

I followed a fellow Solo back to the border crossing in Lukeville.  It took me a grand total of about five minutes to get through border control.  I do have a Global Entry card issued by the government.  This deems me a “trusted traveler”.  The border officer entered my card in the computer, handed it back to me and said, “Have a nice day.”  The dog just looked at me as I drove through.  Needless to say, there was no crisis or “invasion” at this border crossing.  I heard the same report from other Solos that entered at different border control points. 

Mexico, I’ll see you next winter.  And I’m bringing lots of friends!  I picked up my car in Why and spent one night at the casino campground there and then headed to Tucson to meet up with a couple of friends. 

Until next time…   

Sunset and boat
Sunset on the Sea of Cortez

 

Benson, Casa Grande, Lake Havasu and Quartzsite, Arizona

Benson

Benson, Arizona is home to my favorite Escapee’s Park. I’ve been there several times.  I was there for Christmas and participated in the Christmas potluck, and what could have been a bummer day of being alone, was a great time.  Their tradition is to have a “Leftover Day” the day after Christmas, so it turned out to be a double Christmas dinner! I made a double batch of southwest spinach dip and everyone raved about it.  My secret ingredient is a splash of white balsamic vinegar. I guess it’s not a secret anymore!  LOL

After Christmas, I drove north to Casa Grande to another Escapee’s Park and met up with a couple friends.  My plan was to join the Xscapers in Quartzsite for New Year’s Eve, but the weather was so cold and rainy I decided to stay in Casa Grande for New Year’s Eve.  I was happy I did.  There was a potluck and DJ and a little dancing.  It was fun and I was happy to spend NYE with friends.  Then it was on to Lake Havasu for the Xscaper’s Annual Bash.

Owen and I NYE
My friend, Ownie and I at NYE’s party.

I parked at the Lake Havasu Elk’s Lodge for a few days before the Bash began. Then I drove to Las Vegas to pick up Ralph.  He flew in from Oregon to join us (Mick and Deb) for the Bash and then the big Quartzsite rally.  The Elk’s Lodge has a lot of parking sites and serves food almost every day. It was a short drive to the Rodeo Grounds for dry camping at the Xscapers Annual Bash. The Xscapers are the “younger” full time RVers, but us older, fun-loving full timers have invaded the group. This was the second annual Bash and there were 300 rigs in attendance. 

motorhomes and sunset
Sunset over a sea of rigs for Xscaper’s Annual Bash

All I can say is the Bash was a blast! We found our party people!  Here’s just a sample of the activities…Margarita throw down, Bloody Mary buffet, mac and cheese contest, pot luck, guacamole contest, Xscapers Olympics, off-roading, hiking and live music every night! There were presentations on topics like boondocking, batteries, traveling to Alaska and more. The final party was the best of all.  It was an actual Rave.  This was our first Rave and it reminded me of the old disco clubs.  The Rave was a surprise and began with the Rave Rover driving through the crowd to Get Out the Way.  We danced our butts off.  It was so much fun and I was sore the next day from dancing so much. We all agreed that we would be back next year!  Here’s a short video of the Rave Rover, complete with music and 10 speakers!

 

More Neon fun
Neon Night
Neon party 1
More Neon Fun
Neon Fun
Ralph and I
Photo Booth Fun
Photo Booth Craziness.  Mick, Deb, Me, Ralph

While in Lake Havasu, Busses by the Bridge was in full swing.  It’s an event where VW busses from around the country converge.  There were busses as far as the eye could see.  It was a sight to behold.  I was only able to get a few photos, and none were great due to the crowded conditions.  

VWnGreen
VW Camper
trailerboat
Trailer Boat – The top is a boat and can be removed.
Interior VW
My kind of camper…bar accessible from outside!
Lake Havasu Lighthouse
Lake Havasu Lighthouse

After the Bash, it was time to head south to Quartzsite and the fun continued.  Another friend, Lynn joined us and we parked on the fringe of the Solos.  

We were lucky enough to catch the full moon and eclipse.  I was able to get my new camera to work properly and  take some decent photos of the moon.  Deb and I set up our tripods at night, (in the cold), and waited for the clouds to part.  The finally did and we snapped some great photos.  Later in the week we went over to Boomerville for a night of rock videos and dancing.  The Boomers motto is, “Boomers just wanna have fun!”, and they sure do! 

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Deb, Lynn and Me – Not exactly the usual desert attire.

 

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Full moon shot by me!
Moon Eclipse
Partial eclipse when the clouds parted.

I was planning to drive the rig into Mexico for camping on the Sea of Cortez and wanted to go with a group.  I decided to go with the Solos and we left on January 25 to drive to Organ Pipe National Park to spend one night and then continue to Puerto Penasco the next day. And with that my next adventure began!

I’ll cover all those details in the next blog post.

 

 

 

Socorro, Truth or Consequences, Las Cruces, Deming, Silver City, New Mexico

Socorro

Socorro is only an hour drive from Albuquerque and the attraction for me was the Bosque de Apache.  I stayed at the Escondida Lake Campground.  This campground is owned by the County and had hookups and a nice view of the lake.  It also had a welcoming committee of ducks and cats! 

welcoming committee
The welcoming committee
park cats
The local rodent patrol

The Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is located near Socorro. It was founded in 1939 and is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is a favorite spot to watch the migration of the Sandhill cranes in the fall.  There are many other species of birds and ducks too.  Photographers flock (pun intended) to the Refuge to capture the magnificent sight of the birds flying in to the refuge at sunset and leaving at dawn.  I chose sunset (no surprise there!). I sure looked like an amateur with my camera equipment compared to all the other photographers. I did the best I could.  Here are a few of my best photos.

sandhill cranesmore cranescranes tooaway they go

photogs
Photographers lining the shore waiting…

After the sun set I headed to the Owl Café for the best Green Chili Cheeseburger I had thus far.  It was delicious!  Yelp had it right again!

Truth or Consequences

The next stop was only about 60 miles south to Truth or Consequences (TorC). T or C, where the water is hot and the people are cool! The former name of this small town was Hot Springs.  And, as you would guess, there are hot springs in the area. When I learned about them, I promptly made a reservation at Riverbend Hot Springs.  Riverbend overlooks the Rio Grande River and offer group and private soaking tubs.  I enjoyed my visit there very much. I also attended a play by the local theatre group. It was all about the small town of T or C.  Hot Springs changed it’s name to Truth or Consequences because they thought if they did, the television show would film in their small town.  However, the show was never filmed there. 

riverbendme soaking

I camped at Elephant Butte Lake State Park and attended the Christmas Luminaria. The Luminaria Beachwalk features 3000 luminaria lining paths on the beach leading to community-sponsored campsites with posole, chile, cocoa, cookies, s’mores, and music.  I was able to hang out with a group of people that I met in Albuquerque and had wonderful time. 

elephant butte lake
Elephant Butte Lake – very low water level

Las Cruces

My next stop was Las Cruces near the bottom of the state.  Las Cruces is a small college town and was a good place to stay and visit White Sands National Monument.  White Sands is about 40 miles east of Las Cruces and is in the northern Chihuahuan Desert. It’s known for its dramatic landscape of rare white gypsum sand dunes. It is the largest gypsum dune in the world. The sands of White Sands National Monument are formed from gypsum, a soft mineral often left behind when water bodies evaporate. Thick layers of gypsum settled onto an old sea floor. About 70 million years ago, the Rocky Mountains began to form, and a broad area—including the giant gypsum field—rose.

Trails through the dunes include the raised Interdune Boardwalk and the Dune Life Nature Trail, dotted with interpretive exhibits on wildlife and other features. I hiked both trails and had them mostly to myself. It was an awesome experience.  Dunes Drive is a looped road from the White Sands Visitor Center to the dune field. Driving the Dunes Drive is like driving through snow.

White Sands was established as a national monument in 1933. Today, its location between several military bases means the monument is sometimes closed due to missile tests. You should check before making the trek.

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White Sands NM
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Sand or Snow? Hard to tell!
White Sands 2
White Sand as far as you can see
White Sands
Amazing anything can grow.

 Deming

It was short drive west to Deming where I only stayed a couple days in order to visit Rockhound State Park and Silver City. I stayed at an Escapee Park (Dream Catcher). Rockhound State Park is a great place to stay if you are a rock hound! It is named for the abundance of minerals in the area, and visitors can search for quartz crystals, geodes, jasper, perlite, and many other minerals right there in the park.  I hiked one mile around the park and thinking my rock hound friend, Lynn should be here with me. It has a very nice campground with hookups and if I’m ever here in the future I will stay at this park.

 

 

I also drove 60 miles north to Silver City to check it out.  It’s where cowboy meets hippie and a very cool little town.  It’s at around 6000 feet so I didn’t think I’d want to bring the rig up and stay awhile because it would be too cold.  But I changed my mind and moved to the Elks Lodge there.  It had full hookups so I had electricity to run both my small electric heaters, 24 hours a day.  Silver City was a good place from which to visit City of Rocks State Park and the Gila Cliff Dwellings.

Silver City

As suggested by its name, Silver City began as a mining town at the height of the prospecting boom in the 1800s and has survived a long Wild West history that hosted such notorious notables as Billy the Kid and “Dangerous Dan” Tucker. Evidence of its even earlier history can be seen at the nearby Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, where ancient homes of the Mongollon Pueblo still stand.

Silver City is a collection of local art galleries, restaurants, shops, a museum and Big Ditch Park.  Big Ditch Park was originally Main St., but a series of flash floods in the 1890’s and 1900’s dropped the street about 55 feet. This is not a river, but water runs in the Big Ditch all year round. They had to relocate Main Street on higher ground. 

The 66 mile drive to the Gila Cliff Dwellings takes you through the beautiful scenery of the Gila National Forest. The Monument consists of 553 acres and contains the remains of a Mimbres Culture community in various locations, two of which are most prominent. The people made use of natural caves to build interlinked dwellings within five cliff alcoves above Cliff Dweller Canyon. The TJ Ruins are located on a bluff overlooking the Gila River. The Mogollon Peoples are believed to have inhabited the region from between 1275 and into the early 14th century. These cliff dwellings are unique in that you can climb up and walk through the alcoves.  I had a private tour from a ranger and she was very informed on the dwellings and the people who called them home.

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Gila Cliff Dwellings
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Gila Cliff Dwellings
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Gila Cliff Dwellings
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Room with a view
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Gila Cliff Dwellings

 

 The selection of restaurants in Silver City was a real treat.  There was even a local brewery.  I had no problem spending a week in this interesting city. But alas, the weather was turning very cold so I headed to Benson, Arizona back to the Saguaro Escapees Park. 

little toad creed beer
Local Brewery with Delicious Food
pasole
New Mexico Pozole

 Till next time…

 

 

 

 

 

Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta had been on my bucket list since I heard about it several years ago.  I finally made it and I’m so happy I did. 

After Mike flew home, Sandy and I went to the Balloon Fiesta and parked with the Escapee’s Boomers group in the RV parking area along with 50 other rigs.  Jesse and Cheryl, and John and Darius, friends from Sacramento, also  parked with the Boomers. The Boomers have attended the Fiesta for many years and they provide crew for the balloon pilots.  I signed up to crew despite the fact it required getting up at 4:30 am for the morning flights.

My first chance to crew was for Albuquerque Aloft.  This is an event the balloon pilots conduct for the elementary schools in Albuquerque.  The pilots take their balloons to the school grounds and the children go up in the inflated, tethered to the ground, balloons.  I have never seen so much joy in one place as I did that morning.  The students also learn about the physics of ballooning.  After the students all went up, the pilot asked me if I wanted to go and I said yes!  After all, the balloon was tethered to the ground and I felt safe.  It was a surprise to me that you don’t feel like you’re rising and you don’t feel any wind because you are moving with the wind. You don’t feel anything!   It was pretty exciting. I was told that if you crew with a pilot, you do well and they like you, they often invite you to go up at some point. 

School Sunrise
Catching Sunrise at Albuquerque
School Up and Away
Fun up in the balloon
School packing up
Packing 10 lbs of crap in a five lb bag!

I also crewed for Miss Bell, a special shape balloon.  It was a GIANT Liberty Bell!  The weather did not cooperate so Miss Bell never flew and I didn’t get a chance to fly either. 

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Miss Bell, too big to fly in weather conditions

One morning I didn’t crew and slept in a little only to be awakened loud sounds right over my rig.  I recognized the sound of the giant propane burners, which meant there was a balloon right over my rig.  I threw on some clothes and ran outside.  The wind direction blew the balloons over the RV parking area and they were landing amongst the parked RVs! It was quite a site!

RLVA0992
Balloons landing in the RV park
Baloon in RV park
What goes up, must come down…no matter where!

The Balloon Fiesta is a visual feast for the eyes.  So many balloons and colors!  Balloon pilots come from around the world to participate in the Fiesta.  My favorites were the  “glows” and the special shapes.  A normal shaped balloon is like flying a eight story building.  The special shapes are even bigger! Here’s a few photos to give you an idea of what I saw at the Fiesta.

Pretty in Pink
Pretty in Pink – Top of a balloon
Beautiful colors
Up, Up and Away!
Special Shapes
Special Shapes
Sunrise
Catching Sunrise
Pig
Inflation…Thanks C Snow for the great photo!
Yoda Glow
Yoda Glowing
Night glow
Night Glow
Van Gough getting inflated
Van Gogh getting inflated
Van Gough Final
Some people thought Van Gogh was Walter White from Breaking Bad.  LOL!

The motto for the Boomers is, “Boomers just wanna have fun!”, and that’s exactly what we all did!  I loved spending 12 days with old friends, new friends and the awesome experience the balloons provided. Getting up at o-dark-hundred every morning was totally worth it!  If I ever find myself near Albuquerque in October, I will definitely attend again.

Boomers Group
Boomers just want to have fun…and they do!
Sandy and Me
We had a great time at the Fiesta.  Photo taken at the Balloon Museum

After the Fiesta I moved the rig to the Albuquerque Elks Lodge.  I wanted to see more of the city and be near an airport so I could conveniently fly to Oregon to visit friends and then to Norfolk, VA to be with family for Thanksgiving.  The Lodge is only a couple miles from Sunport (ABQ).  This made it very convenient to fly to Oregon and Virginia.

I flew to Medford, Oregon  and visited Ralph, Malia and Mary Jo and Mike.  It was beautiful Fall weather and the trees were bursting with color.  Ralph relocated from Sacrament to Cave Junction, Oregon last year.  He bought a house on a private lot in a very small town. Ralph had a nice surprise for me when I arrived.  He prepared my favorite childhood meal of chicken, peas and mashed potatoes.  It was great!   Malia and I took in the Fall colors in Lithia Park in Ashland.  Ashland is a favorite of mine.  It is known for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  It has a beautiful outdoor theatre in which to see Shakespeare plays.  It also has a few other theatres that have a variety of non-Shakespeare plays.   Ralph’s good friends Bill and Chris live in Eagle Point, just outside of Medford and came over for dinner.  And of course there was a drive to the ocean on a beautiful, sunny day.  I had a great visit!

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Favorite childhood meal…chicken, peas and mashed potatoes
bill et el
Friends Bill and Chris on the deck for dinner
lithia park
Fall in Lithia Park in Ashland
malia
My favorite tree hugger, Malia Lane
me in cave
This is as far as you’ll see me go into a cave!  Cave Junction, Oregon
ralph at ocean
Ralph contemplating rock hopping
ocean
A magnificent day on the Oregon Coast

After my return from Oregon I had a couple weeks before flying to Norfolk, VA for Thanksgiving with family.  My nephew Kevin and his family moved from Yuma, AZ back to Yorktown, VA.  I will surely miss them when I get back to the Southern Arizona desert.

Then it was time to fly to Norfolk for Thanksgiving.  I flew in and most of the Florida contingent drove 12 hours from Port St. Lucie.  We rented an AirBnB condo.  My first AirBnB and is wasn’t a great experience. But it did let us spend quality time together over the holiday.  It was all fun and games until I got the creeping crud from the kids.  We all had a great time and I’m glad I went.  Over the years I haven’t been able to spend many holidays with my family.  Now that I’m semi-retired and have flexibility I can spend more time with the family.  

the gang
The gang out for dinner
kids at the park
The “kids” at the park
grandma theresa
Grandma Theresa and Ashtyn.  I don’t think Ashtyn liked the cold!
you looking at me
You looking at me???
boots
Mama boots, baby boots

During the time between fly out trips I took in the sites around Albuquerque.  I visited Old Town, the Bio Park, Nob Hill, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and the Dragon Lights Festival.

Old Town Albuquerque is reminiscent of town plazas in Mexico…duhh…oh yeah…it was Mexico.  I picked up a new cowgirl hat and had a delicious lunch.

Me at Bio Park
Like my new hat?

The Elks Lodge is on the border of the Nob Hill neighborhood and is the location of the University of New Mexico campus.  Great restaurants, bars and shops with which to weil away the hours!

The Bio Park is located along the Rio Grande River near downtown Albuquerque.  It consists of a Zoo, a Botanic Garden, Aquarium and Tingley Beach. I visited the Botanic Garden and the Aquarium.

Vineyard sign
Didn’t know this…did you?
Tile Flower Wall
Tile wall at Botanic Gardens
fall pond
Fall at the Botanic Garden

New Mexico is home to 19 Indian Pueblos.  The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center was founded in 1976 by the 19 Pueblos  to preserve the Pueblo cultures and educate visitors about the Pueblo way of life.  Puebloans believe that from the beginning they were given knowledge that would guide their existence.  This knowledge centered on core values of love, respect, faith, understanding, spirituality, balance, peace, and empathy. They believe they are given gifts from Mother Earth and Father Sky and they are the designated caretakers of these gifts. I absolutely love this!  The Center if full of history, art, artifacts and painted murals.  I was surprised to see contemporary  art too. Here’s a couple of my favorites.

Native ArtNative Humor 1

Once I returned to Albuquerque I attended the Dragon Lights Festival produced by a company from San Francisco. It is a display of large- than-life lantern displays.  Each lantern is handcrafted by a team of artisans from Zigong, China.  The lanterns are silk covered wire sculptures lit from within.  They were beautiful!    

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Dragon Lights
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Dragon Lights
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Dragon Lights

In early December it was getting much too cold for me.  One morning there was actually snow on the ground!  Albuquerque is the same elevation as Denver.  In fact, the lowest altitude in New Mexico is 2800 feet, with most of the state much higher.  Therefore, it’s not the best place to be in the winter if you’re chasing 70 degrees like I’m supposed to be! I enjoyed my time in Albuquerque very much and it was time to go.   So I packed up the wagon and headed south on I25! 

And I now know how to spell Albuquerque!

Next stop Socorro, New Mexico.

 

Raton, Las Vegas and Santa Fe, New Mexico

Raton

Raton was my first stop in New Mexico located at the top of Raton Pass on the border with Colorado.  I stayed at the funky Summerlan RV Park for a few days over Labor Day week.  My only outing was to the Capulin Volcano National Monument and it was well worth the 35 miles drive to get there. This area is where the southern tip of the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains meet.

Capulin Volcano National Monument is a well-preserved, relatively young (58,000 to 62,000 years old), symmetrical cinder cone. It rises steeply from the surrounding grassland plains to an elevation of 8,182 feet above sea level. The irregular rim of the crater is about a mile in circumference and the crater about 400 feet deep.

Capulin Volcano

Capulin Volcano is one of the outstanding landmarks located in the northeast corner of New Mexico, where the rolling grasslands meet the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (the southern part of the Rocky Mountains). Capulin Volcano’s highest point provides unobstructed, panoramic views of the volcanic field, distant snow-capped mountains, and portions of five states (New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and Colorado).

You can hike down into the center of the cinder cone and you can hike along the upper ridge.

Well worth visiting.

Inside the cone
Inside the Cone
Great Plains
Where the Southern Rockies end and the Great Plains begin

Las Vegas

Moving south on I-25, my next stop was Las Vegas (the original). Las Vegas is in an ecotone, an intersection the Southern Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains. The history is unique and diverse. There are over 900 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, more than any other municipality in the USA. It is also a place for film!  It is the original film center of the west.  It started in 1913 with Romaine Fielding’s The Golden God and most recently the TV series Longmire. Others you may recognize are House of Cards, True Grit, Wild Hogs, No Country for Old Men, The Longest Yard, All the Pretty Horses and Easy Rider.

The film industry likes the area because Las Vegas offers the complete package of unique settings that cannot be found together anywhere else in the state. To the west are breathtaking mountains and to the east, grassy plains; two lakes within minutes of town; a castle sits in the hills; a historic drive-in theatre; and architecture that ranges from Queen Anne to Pueblo Revival.

Las Vegas Historical and Rough Rider Museum is a small museum downtown  and is worth a visit to learn more about the area. 

It’s been almost 40 years since I sat and watched a thunder and lightning show.  I’ve had the opportunity to do it several times in Colorado and now New Mexico. Summer is monsoon season.  Who knew?  NOT ME! Everything is green and the wild flowers are still blooming.  What a show these storms put on! And afterward one storm there was a  full double-rainbow.  

There are many interesting sites to visit from Las Vegas.  I was able to fit in Fort Union, Pecos National Historical Park, and Victory Ranch Alpacas.

Fort Union

When the Mexican-American War ended, the US acquired the New Mexico Territory.  Fort Union was established to guard American interests in the Southwest.  Positioned where the Santa Fe Trail’s two main branches met, Fort Union protected the trail and its travelers, supplied the US Army, and aided in subduing American Indians who fought the Anglos for invading THEIR homeland. 

Fort Union was the biggest fort west of the Mississippi River. The fort was also used to defend the US during the Civil War.  The Confederates came west with the mission to acquire gold in Colorado and California.  In 1861 the Confederates marched into the New Mexico Territory and claimed all land south of the 34th parallel for the Confederacy.  Then they claimed Albuquerque.  The Union forces defeated the Confederate troops at the battle of Glorieta Pass near Santa Fe, ending the Confederate invasion of New Mexico. I toured the ruins of Fort Union, sat quietly to take in the past, and try to understand what life was like when the fort was in full swing.

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Fort Union Ruins
Fort Union Remains
Fort Union Ruins
Fort Union Wall
Fort Union Ruins

While driving along the road to Fort Union, you can see tracks and ruts from the Santa Fe Trail. The Santa Fe Trail was a 19th century transportation route through central North American that connected Independence, Missouri with Santa Fe, New Mexico.  It was a vital commercial “highway” until the introduction of the Railroad to Santa Fe in 1880.  Santa Fe was near the end of the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, the trade route from Mexico City. It followed the original Indian trading routes.  The road route is commemorated today by the National Park Service as the Santa Fe National Historic Trail. The trail runs the entire length of Kansas, the southeast corner of Colorado and northern New Mexico.

Santa Fe Trail Ruts
Ruts from Old Santa Fe Trail
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Old Santa Fe Trail

Pecos National Historical Park

Pecos National Historical Park was originally a state monument established in 1935, then it was made Pecos National Monument in 1965, and greatly enlarged and renamed in 1990. The park encompasses thousands of acres of landscape with historical elements from prehistoric archaeological ruins to 19th-century ranches, to a battlefield of the American Civil War. Its largest single feature is Pecos Pueblo, a Native American community abandoned in historic times. There is an easy trail that winds through the pueblo.  Nice short walk and interesting history.

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Pecos Pueblo Ruins
Pecos Pueblo
Pecos Pueblo Ruins

Victory Ranch Alpacas

Victory Ranch Alpacas and Store is nestled on 1,000 acres in the lush Mora Valley not far from Las Vegas. The Weisner family, from Chicago, started the ranch in 1991 and were pioneers in the alpaca world, traveling the country and winning numerous awards for fleece, conformation, and performance. They offer tours and you can feed the alpacas.  The animals are a little intimidating to me due to their size.  They were looking me straight in the eyes!  This was the second time I’d been around alpacas and I got spit on both times!  It’s startling, but doesn’t cause much damage.  You just have to brush yourself off after it dries.   They had many beautiful and expense alpaca wool items for sale.  I have little need for cold weather clothing so I didn’t purchase anything.

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Victory Ranch Alpacas
Alpaca and me
Me feeding an Alpaca
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A conversation with the tour guy

Santa Fe

My next stop was Santa Fe and the Los Suenos de Santa Fe RV park. This RV park is located on the south side of Santa Fe and is close to everything!  I’ve been to Santa Fe a couple of times, but just for the day.  I call these “drive-bys”.  You cannot get a real feel for a place until you spend some time there.  I was in Santa Fe for nearly three weeks and this time soaked up this wonderful place.

Santa Fe is all about art, culture and food.  There is the Railyards Art District, Canyon Road and hundreds of art galleries and public art.  If you look on Trip Advisor, under Things to Do in Santa Fe, it is overwhelming.  I started there and made a long list of things I wanted to do in the three weeks.  Needless to say, it was a very busy three weeks.  My Michigan/Florida friends Mike and Sandy joined me the last week in Santa Fe and Sandy joined me at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.

Outdoor Art
Public Art

There is a wonderful Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings located in the Railyard District. I availed myself of many items, including mustard, fresh quiche and bread, and fresh roasted green chilies. The Boxcar Restaurant is in the area and has great food and my all-time favorite, a frozen Jack Daniel and Coke.

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Roasting Chilis

Santa Fe has the Margarita Trail and I hopped right on board with that one.  It wasn’t  the usual trail I find myself enjoying.  This trail takes you to many restaurants and bars where you sample margaritas, all freshly make and unique.  I’ve never been a fan of the typical margarita.  I have to say, this trail has changed my mind.  It was a good way to visit several great restaurants and bars around town.  I sampled the delicious margaritas at the Cowgirl BBQ, the Ortiz bar at the historic Hilton Hotel, the Santa Fe Bar and Grill, the Shed and the La Fonda hotel.  Five margaritas and you get a t-shirt!  I claimed mine at the Visitor Information Center.

Margarita Trail
One stop on the Margarita Trail

The Santa Fe Plaza is the center of the downtown area with many stores and galleries.  Very near the plaza is the San Miguel Chapel, the Loreto Chapel and St Francis of Assisi Church, all very beautiful, old churches built when the Spanish “invaded” the area.

The Museums

I visited the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum first.  The museum opened in 1997.    The collection is the largest permanent collection of O’Keeffe’s work in the world. Subjects range from the artist’s innovative abstractions to her iconic large-format flower, skull, and landscape paintings to paintings of architectural forms and rocks, shells, and trees. Georgia was known as the mother of American Modernism. She spent her golden years in Abiquiú, about 53 miles north of Santa Fe. Georgia was a woman ahead of her time and her story is interesting and too long for this blog post.  If you want to learn more about Georgia, click here.

Georgia
Georgia O’Keeffe

The New Mexico Museum of Art is located on the Plaza and is worth a visit.  I attended a talk on Native American Textiles and learned their textiles are produced as the weavers are praying and offering gratitude for the bounties the earth provides them.  Many of their prayers are for water. They also talked about the “politics” of native textiles.  Very educational.

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New Mexico Museum of Art Courtyard
Textile Talk
Native Textile Talk

Museum Hill is an area where several museums and the Botanical Garden is located. I visited the Museum of International Folk Art, Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, and the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art.

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Museum of International Folk Art
Bead art
Museum of International Folk Art
Folk Art
Museum of International Folk Art
Botanical Gargen
Botanical Garden
Sikoras
Sandy, Mike and me
Wheelwright Art
Wheelwright Museum of American Indian

Bandelier National Monument

My friends, Mike and Sandy, from Michigan/Florida flew to join me in Santa Fe for a week. We enjoyed a few museums, restaurants, and just hanging out at the campground. We also drove up to Bandelier National Monument. Bandelier is located near Los Alamos, New Mexico. The monument preserves the homes and territory of the Ancestral Puebloans of a later era in the Southwest. Most of the pueblo structures date to two eras, dating between 1150 and 1600 AD.  Bandelier is unique in that you can actually walk in the ruin and even climb into some of the caves. Mike and I walked the trail and on the way back, Mike accidently fell and drove a small stick into the palm of his hand.  We ended up in the Emergency Clinic to have the stick was removed.  He was so lucky there was no nerve or muscle damage.  Mike flew back to Michigan and Sandy stayed to attend the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta with me.  

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Bandelier National Monument
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Bandelier National Monument
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Mike at Bandelier

The Round House

Santa Fe is the state capital of New Mexico and is called the “Roundhouse”, because it is indeed a round building.  I have visited many state capitals and none have looked like the Roundhouse.  It is a fairly modern capital building and an art museum.  There is no charge to enter and you can wander around the building freely.  I squeezed in a visit the last day I was in Santa Fe and I’m happy I did.  Here’s a small sample.

The Round House
Capital Roundhouse
Inside the Round House
Capital Roundhouse
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Fabric Art at the Capital
Capital Fiber Art
Fabric Art at the Capital

 

Dale Ball Trail System

I was able to get a little hiking in before heading to Albuquerque.  The Dale Ball Trail system is a 22 mile network of trails in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Located a short distance from downtown Santa Fe, it is the quickest way to get from the city into the mountains. It offers great opportunities for beginners and advanced hikers alike, along with great views of both the surrounding wilderness and back towards the city. The trail features a unique numbered sign system at each trail junction to provide easy navigation, as well as connecting to other local trails. It was a great trail system where you couldn’t get lost even if you tried!

Me on Trail
Dale Ball Trail
Dale Ball Train View
View of Santa Fe from the Dale Ball Trail

I absolutely loved Santa Fe and it is another place where I found myself saying, “I could live here!”

Santa Fe Sunset
Santa Fe Sunset

Next stop Albuquerque for a bucket list item – the International Balloon Fiesta!

 

 

 

Summer in Colorado Part II: Boulder, Colorado Springs and Walsenburg

Boulder

There aren’t many places I’ve visited where I’ve said, “I could live here!”  Boulder is one.  However, Boulder real estate is offered at California prices.  Boulder was the perfect place to park and hang out with my niece, Theresa, from Florida. 

I parked at the Elks Lodge in north Boulder (known as NoBo).  It’s in a very nice neighborhood surrounded by open space and the Lodge had a pool! 

Boulder is a college town, so therefore it has all the wonderful things a college town has to offer…good entertainment, shops, museums, and great restaurants.  I ended up staying in Boulder for five weeks, but during that time I flew to Florida to visit my family.

Theresa and I visited Rocky Mountain National Park, but it was a rainy and foggy day.  I was so disappointed because that the only day Theresa had to visit the park.  She never did get to use her new hiking boots.  I did go back to visit the park after I returned from Florida and the weather was perfect.

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RMNP Rain and Fog for Theresa and I

Theresa is a huge Broncos fan and took a tour of the Stadium in Denver. We stopped by the LODO area downtown to have lunch and walk around.

Theresa and I drove up to Boulder Falls and just a short walk took us to the base of the falls.

We also went to Red Rock Amphitheater to see Killer Queen. As you might think…they play Queen songs and the lead singer looked exactly like Freddy Mercury and they sounded great.  Unfortunately, it rained throughout most of the concert. It was still a really good time. Red Rock Amphitheater was deemed the best music venue in the United States and it was really beautiful!

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Killer Queen Concert at Red Rock Amphitheater

Theresa and I flew to Florida together and I visited family for a couple weeks.  There are two new family members.  Theresa is a grandmother!  Her daughter, Arianna had a baby girl, Ashtyn, and my nephew Michael and his wife Lauren had a baby girl, Eloise.  It was Eloise’s first birthday. It was a wonderful visit and I honestly had a hard time leaving.

 

After returning to Boulder, I had a few more things to check off my list before heading south.

Of course, I had to visit the famous Pearl Street.  It’s a very popular area for shops, galleries and great restaurants.

I spent a day in Denver to visit the Museum of Nature and Science.  What a wonderful museum.  The Dead Sea Scrolls were the visiting exhibit. In addition, the Imax theatre was showing a documentary on Bethlehem.  I’ve always wanted to visit the Holy Land, not because I’m religious, but because of the amazing history of the region.  I’d like to visit Egypt too. I wish I had done it years ago before the turmoil we have now. It was a wonderful and educational day. I ended the day with dinner at Fish and Beer in the artsy, fartsy section of Denver called RiNo (River North Art District).  The food was delish!

I did make another trip up to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and this time the weather cooperated.  I had visited the park when I was 19 years old.  I remember it being beautiful, but I hadn’t seen places like Yellowstone, Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon, etc.  In comparison, RMNP is not that spectacular, but beautiful nonetheless.  The one thing that was unique was hiking on the tundra at over 11,400 feet. It was slow going, but I made it! The main road through the park is Trail Ridge Road and is the highest highway in the US.

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RMNP Hiking the tundra
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RMNP – The Top of the World!
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RMNP – Tundra at 11,400 feet

The Rocky Mountains form one of the world’s longest ranges, stretching almost unbroken from Alaska to south of the border.  RMNP preserves a small but important section of the Rockies. The altitude is so high the growing season is only six weeks long. I have loved spending time in the Rockies this summer.

Colorado Springs

My next stop was Colorado Springs.  Ralph and I visited the Springs a few years ago.  I decided to stop halfway to the Great Sand Dunes and see a few of the sites I missed the first time around.

I was parked at the Elk’s Lodge and it was only a couple miles from the Garden of the Gods so I decided to revisit.  It is a beautiful red rock area and a good place to hike.

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Garden of the Gods
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Garden of the Gods – Kissing Camels

I drove the 30 miles to see the Calhan Paint Mines. According to Wikipedia, the Calhan Paint Mines is “a unique blending of geological, archaeological, historical and ecological resources”. What makes it unique is the grassland and geological formations of hoodoos, colored clay and sandstone-capped spires. Archaeological evidence, such as arrow heads and stone dart tips, has found that there was prehistoric and historic occupation by Native American peoples as early as about 9,000 years ago. The clay was used in prehistoric and historic times to create and paint pottery and as paint for ceremonial purposes.

Paint Mines

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The small town of Manitou Springs is just a few miles west of the Springs.  While I visited Manitou I toured the Miramont Castle.  The castle was built in 1915 as a personal residence for Father Jean Baptiste Francolon and his mother. The castle changed hands eleven times before the Manitou Springs Historical Society purchased the building in 1976 and saved it from condemnation. It is a beautiful building to tour and acts as a museum on this history of Manitou Springs. Manitou Springs is also where you can get the cog train up to the top of Pike’s Peak.

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Miramont Castle

Walsenburg

I have a love affair with sand dunes.  Therefore, I could not pass up the Great Sand Dunes National Park about 60 miles west of Walsenburg.  I parked at       Lathrup Lake State Park just off I25.  It was a really nice state park with electric and water hookups.  The sites have a lot of privacy. It was only the camp host and me for most of my stay.  Nice and quiet.

It was a beautiful drive to the Great Sand Dunes and the weather was nearly perfect.  I understand it can be very windy through the area.  The Dunes are nestled against the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and are North America’s tallest dunes.  The dunes formed by eroded mountains, then shattered by freezing and thawing, and tumbled by streams and winds. I did not hike to the top of the dunes.  It takes a couple hours to hike to the highest dune and I didn’t arrive until 4:00 pm.  I wanted to get there when the light was right to photograph the dunes. I’m so happy I took the time to visit.  I will also visit the White Sand Dunes Park in New Mexico.

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Highway of Legends and San Luis Valley

In the late 1800s, while much of the state mined gold and silver, the southeast region mined coal. Linked with this region are many legends and folklore. Such as the lost gold vein with nuggets so big, one nugget could provide enough wealth to live for a year. There is also the story of George Simpson who saved Trinidad from an attack from the Ute Indians by distracting them with taunts. You can explore these legends by traveling the Highway of Legends byway. Beginning in Trinidad, you can follow the Cucharas River, traveling through Cokedale, Cuchara, La Veta, and end in Walsenburg.  The byway is usually open all year and is 82 miles long. From the byway, you can see views of the Spanish Peaks as you travel through the San Isabel National Forest. The Sandstone walls of Stonewall also decorate the area, giving a Spanish appearance. The dikes of the Spanish Peaks protrude from the sandstone walls. Here, the ancient legend of the Devil’s Stairs was born. Long ago, the Devil came out from hell to survey the world, choosing the Cuchara Velley as his entrance. He would climb the steps and sit on the twin mountains (Spanish Peaks), plotting how to make it his. God learned of this, and noticing the beauty of the mountains and valley, took it as his own. He forbade the Devil to ever enter the area again, but the Devil’s steps still stand. It was a beautiful drive and I kept thinking what a great motorcycle ride it would be.

 

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Stonewall

Ludlow Massacre Monument

Being the Union supporter that I am, when I heard about the Ludlow Massacre I was very interested.  The massacre  emanated out of a labor conflict. According to  Wikipedia, the Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel and Iron Company guards attacked a tent colony of 1,200 hapless striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado, on April 20, 1914, with the National Guard using machine guns to fire into the colony. About two dozen people, including miners’ wives and children, were killed. The chief owner of the mine, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., was widely criticized for having orchestrated the massacre.

The massacre, the seminal event in the Colorado Coal Wars, resulted in the deaths of an estimated 25 people, although accounts vary. Ludlow was the deadliest single incident in the southern Colorado Coal Strike, which lasted from September 1913 through December 1914. The strike was organized by the miners against coal mining companies in Colorado. The miners striked because of the dangerous, deplorable, working conditions.  They were paid In “company money” and could only spend it at company stores.

In retaliation for the massacre at Ludlow, the miners armed themselves and attacked dozens of anti-union establishments over the next ten days, destroying property and engaging in several skirmishes with the Colorado National Guard along a 40-mile front from Trinidad to Walsenburg. An estimated total of 69 to 199 deaths occurred during the entire strike. It was described it as the “deadliest strike in the history of the United States”, and it is commonly referred to as the Colorado Coalfield War.

The Ludlow Massacre was a watershed moment in American labor relations. Historian Howard Zinn described this as “the culminating act of perhaps the most violent struggle between corporate power and laboring men in American history”. Congress responded to public outrage by directing the House Committee on Mines and Mining to investigate the events. Its report, published in 1915, was influential in promoting child labor laws and an eight-hour workday.

Ludlow Massacre Monument
Ludlow Massacre Monument
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Historic Photo After the Burn

My time in Walsenburg was short but packed full of great activities.

My summer in Colorado came to an end.  I have to say I think Colorado is my favorite state thus far.  I love the Rocky Mountains and the way Colorado appreciates and preserves their history.  And, people in Colorado really love the outdoors.  I hope to come back some day in the future.

Now it’s time to move south to New Mexico and a bucket list item for me; the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.  I’ve been trying to get there for three years and I’m going to make it this year!

Till the next time…

Summer in Colorado – Part I

Gunnison, and Buena Vista

 Western Colorado is a great place to spend the summer.  The western slope of the Rocky Mountains has elevation and slightly cooler weather than the flatlands and of course, stunning beauty!  The western slope has an abundance of small, quaint, small towns, usually with their history in mining. 

It was only a 65 mile drive from Montrose to Gunnison over Monarch Pass. Gunnison’s altitude is 7,703 and is located at the bottom of several valleys.  Due to its location, cold air settles in the valley at night.  In the summer, the nights are nice and cool, but in the winter, it is one of the coldest places in the U.S. with an average temperature of -8 degrees in January.  The record low is -60 degrees!

I stayed at the Tall Texan RV Park and was lucky to get a site facing a pond.  I took advantage of some of the delicious restaurants.  For a small town in the mountains, the selection of good restaurants was surprising.  I also visited the Pioneer Museum.  It is one of the best small town museums I’ve been to thus far. It consists of a dozen buildings full of exhibits containing everything from toys to railroad cars. It left me feeling old!  I recognized several items that I grew up with and had used at one time or another.

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I remember doing laundry with this washer.
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A real poodle skirt!
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Telecommunications charm bracelet
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How would you like to get a permanent using this???

While in Gunnison, I visited Crested Butte several times.  Crested Butte is my favorite town in Colorado.  It is at 8,885 feet with a population of 1,500 and an outdoor person’s paradise.  It is known for skiing, mountain biking, hiking, watersports and is designated the Wildflower Capital of the Colorado. Crested Butte is famous for both its history and architectural character.  In 1974 the entire town was designated a National Historic District. The town has its roots in mining and has preserved its historical buildings and feel.  Before the miners arrived in the 1870s, Ute Indians used the area, and the surrounding Elk Mountains, as summer hunting grounds. Of course, the miners pushed them out. As I learn more about our history and what our white ancestors did to the Native Americans, it literally makes me sick and tearful.  That’s the curse of being an Empath. It was all about money and greed and still is!  It’s a disgrace!

As luck would have it, I was there for the Wildflower Festival.  I took the Historic Garden Tour and an Art Journal class from Judith Kassel-Mamet.  I never heard of art journaling, but it was art and I like to journal, so….I signed up. It was a four-hour class with eight students.  The four hours just flew by!  Art journaling combines mixed media art and writing in one small journal.  This is perfect for traveling!

Just a few miles north of Crested Butte is the very small town of Gothic, home of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL).  RMBL is a high-altitude biological field station founded in 1928 on the site of an abandoned mining town. Research areas include ecology of the region, climate change, pollination biology and study of the yellow-bellied marmot. Over 1500 scientific publications are based on the work from the laboratory.

While in Crested Butte I also drove up to Irwin Lake where the wild flowers were in peak bloom.  I took the hike around the lake and it was a perfect day! There are 67 types of wildflowers in the area!

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Irwin Lake
running horses
Crested Butte View
More yellow flowers
Crested Butte yellow wild flowers

I also took a ride up to Taylor Reservoir and continued up a dirt road to the small mining town of Tincup.  Tincup is a big ATV destination.

I fell in love with Crested Butte and hated to leave.  Next time I visit the area I will stay in Crested Butte and spend a lot more time there.

Buena Vista

Next stop was Buena Vista (83 miles) where I stayed at the KOA. Buena Vista (BV) is the gateway to the Arkansas River Recreation Area and white water rafting. I chose Buena Vista because it was half way between Salida and Leadville, two towns I wanted to explore.

Buena Vista is Spanish for beautiful view. It’s located on U.S. Route 24 that runs from Clarkston, Michigan to its intersection with Interstate 70 in Colorado and continues to Buena Vista.  Many of the existing buildings date back to the 1880s.

First thing I did was visit the Jumpin’ Good Goat Dairy.  It was fun and delicious!  There was a brand new kid, only one day old.  The goat cheese they produce was mild and delicious.

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Time to eat!
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A guard Llama to keep the goats safe
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One day old kid
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Time for kid to eat

I explored the Chalk Cliffs and St Elmo, an old mining town about 20 miles west of BV.  St Elmo is an abandoned mining town with many buildings still standing and under restoration.  Colorado does a great job of preserving their history. There are a few people living in St. Elmo and it has a gift and antique store.

Old doors of St. Elmo

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Do you know what these are?

The Chalk Cliffs are located near Mt Princeton (one of the 14,000 ft mountains in the area). The cliffs are not actually made of chalk.  They are kaolinite, a soft rock produced by hot springs percolating through cracks in the mountain.  However, it sure looks like white chalk. 

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Chalk Cliffs

I checked out a few boondocking sites for future reference.  It was too hot for me to boondock because I needed electricity to run the air conditioning.  While searching out the spots I ran Tunnel drive.  It was pretty cool, but I don’t know if my RV would fit through the tunnels.

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Tunnel Road
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A cool moose

Salida

Salida is a very cute small town south of BV. Salida’s collection of more than 100 buildings in the downtown historic district results in the city being listed in the National Register of Historic.  It is also home to one of the first Creative Districts in Colorado and attracts artists and creatives of all kinds with natural scenery, summer and winter activities and a large tourist trade. In Salida’s Creative District, there are around 50 galleries. I walked around town, had lunch and took a walk in Riverside Park.

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A cute house in Salida.  I’ll take it!

Leadville

About 35 miles north of Buena Vista is the small, mining town of Leadville. Leadville was once known as the wickedest city in the United States.  In the early days, it was known for saloons, bawdy houses, theaters, and just about every kind of entertainment and depravity that a prosperous mining camp could offer.  Nowadays, it is a tourist town at an elevation of 10,152 feet with a population of about 3,000. In the 19 century, Leadville was the second most populous city in Colorado, after Denver.  It is the highest incorporated city in the United States.

Leadville lies near the headwaters of the Arkansas River in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. The Arkansas River is 1,469 miles long and flows through Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Leadville was settled in 1859 when placer gold was discovered during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush. But, soon placer gold ran out.  The early miners had noted that mining for placer gold was hampered by heavy black sand and it was soon discovered that black sand was the lead mineral cerussite, which has a high silver content.

Leadville has done an excellent job on restoring and preserving the buildings.  There is a great walking tour on Harrison Avenue, which is the main street through town. There are 38 historical buildings on the walking tour.  I took a private tour of the Healy House and Dexter Cabin. 

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Healy House
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A traveling food cabinet

I also went to the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum.  The museum has over 1,000 minerals, crystals and gems from around the world.  California was well represented with gold exhibits. 

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Michigan Cooper
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Minerals under black light

Both were well worth the time and money.

I only had one day in Leadville and left wishing I had more.  Next visit to the area, I will stay in Leadville and spend a lot more time soaking it in.

Stay tuned for part II of my summer in Colorado.