Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Road trip! Santa Fe & Taos...

We decided to leave the rig and take a couple of days and visit Santa Fe, Taos and even do the Enchanted Circle" loop that took us around Wheeler Peak.  We watched the weather, and found a "break" in the rain, and went for it!  We lucked out, a couple of beautiful, sunny clear days...lucky us!

First up, was Santa Fe.  Jack and I had been here before, but many years ago, so we decided to "start fresh" and get a visitor's map!  We began at the State Capitol building.  One of my goals, since we've been traveling, is to check out the various state's capitols.  I find them fascinating...how different they each are.  Anyway, that done, we ventured on to the Plaza, because that is where "everything" stems out from.  Just as we remembered it, there were the Native Americans selling their art at the Palace of the Governors, the beautiful Cathedral Basilica of St Francis of Assisi, Chili Peppers at the Plaza, and of course all the wonderful shops! 
State Capitol Building, Santa Fe NM
Native Americans selling their art at the Palace of the Governors,  Santa Fe NM
 Cathedral Basilica of St Francis of Assisi,  Santa Fe NM

This time we did discovered a few more new places though, like the Oldest House in Santa Fe (1646) and the Oldest Church (1610), along with the lovely Canyon Road.  Canyon Road started out to be a residential neighborhood with houses built in the Pueblo Revival style, over time artists were drawn to its beauty and began to create a subculture of artist-run studios and galleries and now, almost all of the buildings are used as such.  With my love of "doors and windows" I was in heaven with my camera!  What a lovely couple of blocks! 

 Oldest House (1646), Santa Fe NM
 San Miguel Church (Oldest Church 1610), Santa Fe NM
Along Canyon Rd, Santa Fe NM

Our next adventure took us to Taos.  This was a town that I had visited with one of my son's and his family about nine years ago and had always wanted to come back to with Jack.  My memories of it were so fond and full of beauty, I could hardly wait and I was excited that we were going to be spending the night in a lovely B&B as well.  How special!

You know the old saying "you never can go home again"?  Hmm, I think I know what that means now...Taos just wasn't the same.  Not as colorful or as vibrant as I remembered it, or maybe that it's that it's nine years later...I don't know.  We walked around the Plaza, around the shops, saw some of the same things, missed a couple that were no longer there.  We drove over to see the San Francisco de Asis Church which is beautiful, inside and out.  You are not "allowed" to take pictures of the inside, so I didn't, but I found a couple on the Internet, so I will show them to you you because the alter (painted on wood) is really beautiful (the pictures don't do them justice tho). 

 San Francisco de Asis Church (c1772), Taos NM
 Inside, San Francisco de Asis Church (c1772), Taos NM
 Inside, San Francisco de Asis Church (c1772), Taos NM

Our B&B (Inn on the Rio) was lovely, and Jules was a gracious hostess.  She and her friends painted all around the doorways and windows inside and out - made it so charming! 

 Inn on the Rio B&B, Taos NM

The next morning we drove out to see the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge which is 650' above the gorge!  What a great sight.  It was a beautiful sunny day, so the view was spectacular.  We walked out to the middle of the bridge and got some great pictures.  Fun stop! 

 Rio Grande Gorge Bridge (650' above the river), Taos NM
 Rio Grande Gorge, Taos NM

From there we spent the rest of morning driving what is called the "Enchanted Circle Byway".  It's a loop around Wheeler Peak that connects the small towns of Questa, Red River, Eagle Nest and Angel Fire.  Just prior to starting the loop, we did a short drive out towards Taos Ski Valley on I-150 that was a really beautiful "oops" because it followed the Rio Hondo River all along the side of the road.   Back on the loop, it was very scenic and it only took a few hours then we were on our way back "home" again. 

All in all, a lovely road trip!

...kicking back in New Mexico,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Looking at the skies over New Mexico

Hot Air Balloons and Albuquerque are almost synonymous, since you can't hardly think of one without thinking of the other.  After all, balloons have been flying over the skies of Albuquerque every October for over 40 years now, and the people just love it. 

How and why did it all get started?  Well, those questions, and the whole "ballooning history" is all told in the wonderful Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum in Albuquerque.  They take you back in time to the very beginning of ballooning, where the very first balloons went up (with a duck, a sheep and a rooster) in France.  Through the war years, on into the space age.  And how did Albuquerque end up with a balloon festival back in 1972?  Well, it began as a highlight of a 50th birthday celebration for KOB Radio.  The radio station manager, Dick McKee, asked Sid Cutter, owner of Cutter Aviation and the first person to own a hot air balloon in New Mexico, if KOB could use his new balloon as part of the celebration. The two began discussing ballooning, along with conversation and help from Oscar Kratz, and McKee asked what the largest gathering of hot air balloons to date had been. ”19 balloons in England”, Cutter replied. Kratz asked “Can we get 19 here?” Cutter said he would try. He got commitments from 21 pilots, but bad weather kept some of them from arriving in time for the festivities. The first fiesta ended up as a gathering of 13 balloons on April 8, 1972, sponsored by KOB. The first event was located in the parking lot of the Coronado Center Shopping Mall with 20,000 spectators and with balloonists from all over. McKee, Cutter, and Kratz are the three men who had originally started the balloon races.

The next year Albuquerque hosted the first World Hot-Air Balloon Championships in February and the fiesta became an international event.  In 1975 Albuquerque was looking at hosting the World Championships again, but the event was scheduled for October. So the fiesta was moved to correspond with the championships.  The Balloon Fiesta grew each year for decades, and today it is the largest balloon gathering in the world.  The number of registered balloons reached a peak of 1,019 in 2000, prompting the Balloon Fiesta Board to limit the number to 600 starting in 2009, citing a desire for “quality over quantity”.  Spectators can reach over 100,000 on any given day.  A number of years ago, Jack and I were just passing through, and lucked out, that it just happened to be on "the day" of the fiesta.  We stopped for gas and saw cars pulled over everywhere with people looking up...so we did too!  Wow, what a beautiful sight!  The sky was full of every kind of balloon as far as you could see!  It was spectacular!  See...it pays to look to the sky!

 Le Reveillon, Blanchard's Balloon, Graf Zepplin & Le Martial Balloons
 "The Balloon Goes to War"
 Aeronauts Before Astronauts, The Strato-Lab
 Specialty Balloons

Another sky, about a hour and half outside of Albuquerque, gives you a whole other experience.  This sky is quiet, filled with stars, and away from city lights.  It affords the "best view" for the 27 Very Large Array Telescopes run by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Socorro New Mexico.  Do you remember the movie "Contact" with Jodie Foster back in 1996?  This is that place!  One very big difference tho...they are not for listening...they are for seeing.  Simply put, "regular" telescopes can see a small portion of the galaxy, VLA, using radio waves, lining up together, can see a very large portion of the galaxy.  Thus, they have been able to discover areas of the galaxy (black holes, gas & dust clouds that optical telescopes cannot see into).  Because they use radio waves, they are not limited to night vision either, they are "on" 24 hours a day.  Since it first began watching the skies back in 1976, the VLA has observed nearly 43,000 different cosmic objects. 

Each of the 27 antennas in the array weighs over 230 tons, is 82 feet across and over 90 feet high.  They are on 82 miles of railroad tracks in a "Y" shape.  Most of their staff are in the town of Socorro, a core of 50 staff members, including 24 hour security, are kept busy on-site in the desert by the VLA's diverse needs.  The views from each of the 27 active antennas in the array are sent down fiber optic cables to a supercomputer.  The supercomputer mathematically merges the 27 views, uniting the array into a single, powerful telescope.  The merged observations of the VLA have the qualities of a giant telescope with an eye 22 miles across!  Now, that's really seeing some sky!

...kicking back in New Mexico,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Peaks and Valleys around Albuquerque New Mexico

We've been spending the last two weeks exploring the area around Albuquerque New Mexico, checking out some of it's "Peaks and Valleys".  

The "Peaks", was the Sandia Peak at 10,378 feet, via the Aerial Tram!  What a great 15 minute ride it was too.  One of the smoothest we've ever been on, and we've had the pleasure of taking several over the years (they say it's the longest in the world, at 2.7 miles).  We lucked out and had a beautiful clear sunny day, even at the top it wasn't bad, and only had small patches of snow left here and there.  They had wonderful decks laid out all around giving you great views of the city below.  The High Finance turned out to be a lovely restaurant with large windows and a great menu providing a nice lunch stop for us before we made our way back down.  Sure beat hiking all the way for these two old codgers!

We did manage to get a mild hike in though when we went to see the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.  "Kasha-Katuwe" means "white cliffs" in the traditional Keresan language of the Cochiti pueblo.  Even though the elevation of national monument ranges from 5570 feet to 6760 feet, you still feel like you are walking along a "valley" of sand.  The cone-shaped tent rock formations are the products of volcanic eruptions that occurred 6-7 million years ago and left pumice, ash and tuff deposits over 1000 feet thick.  Jack and I thought they looked like a giant child had played in the wet sand and hand made wet, dribbled "cones" (like he had as a child at the beach).  They looked so "soft" from a distance, but when you got up close, they felt like someone had "preserved" them with spray glue, they were that hard.  Fascinating.  We hiked up to what they called the "Cave Loop" trail, that, in my opinion, turned out to be not much more than a big hole in the rock, but one person's "cave" is another's "hole" I guess.  I thought it would be bigger, is all.  Oh well...nice hike tho...

...kicking back in New Mexico,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

Monday, May 4, 2015

New Mexico's Ancient Ruins...

One thing New Mexico has a lot of, is ancient ruins...They really do a great job of preserving them and reconstructing them as much as possible.  One such area is the Aztec Ruins National Monument outside of Farmington on I 550.  It's a 900 year old ancestral Pueblo Great House of over 400 masonry rooms.  They did an outstanding job in reconstructing the Great Kiva, showing you how huge it must have been!  It always amazes me how well things were made, from clothing to houses, all done by hand with simple stone & wooden tools.  Plus, they had to spend their days catching and preparing their meals and caring for their families...when did they have time to sleep? 

Many of the materials that they used, much of the wood and even some of stones, were brought from many miles away (some as far as 50 miles) because they wanted specific kinds.  They used them in doorways, as roofing material, ladders, special T shaped doorways, etc.  They have lasted these 900 plus years.  They also used, in certain areas only, rows of "green" bricks.  No one knows why though. 

The day we visited, it happened to be "Earth Day" (who knew?  We never pay attention to the calendar) so admission was not only free, but there were all kinds of activities going on, including the local tribe doing dancing demonstrations for us! 

It was a beautiful day, filled with lots of sunshine and fun.  A great day to tread through the past...

 The Great Kiva
 Inside the Great Kiva
 Two bands of green sandstone run along a West Ruin wall. Their purpose is a mystery
Dancers performing for Earth Day

A couple of days later, after we had a chance to settle into our campground in Bernalillo, we took a drive through Jemez Valley and ran across another stone ruins, Jemez State Monument, San Jose de los Jemez.  These ruins of a 500 year old Indian village and the San José de los Jemez church dating to 1621. The village of Giusewa was built in the narrow San Diego Canyon by the ancestors of the present-day people of Jemez (Walatowa) Pueblo. The name Giusewa refers to the natural springs in the area. 

In the 17th century, the Spanish established a Catholic mission at the village. The mission was short-lived, and, in time, the people abandoned the site and moved to the current location of Jemez Pueblo. The massive stonewalls were constructed about the same time the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. The heritage center contains exhibitions that tell the story of the site through the words of the Jemez people. They are still in the process of building the trail & monument, so don't charge (but accept a donation) a fee. 

The Nave is really impressive because it is so tall!  They give you a booklet that shows you what it would have looked like (amazing).  Again, such an undertaking to build something so big, in the middle of nowhere, out of mud and stone and wood...by hand.  I admire the dedication these people had. 

 Jack in front of the church
 Inside the church
 Side view, showing the Bell Tower
Priest's quarters

...kicking back in New Mexico,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/ 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Back on the road again!

Did you miss us?  We've been on a kind of a hiatus.  At least it seems that way...  We certainly hadn't been traveling!

I had to have some surgery done to my right shoulder...so flew off to our "home base" of Tacoma Washington where most of my family lives.  My days were filled with lots of Dr. appointments, labs, squeezed in family visits, then the surgery, more appointments until I was finally able to fly back to San Diego where Jack had been staying for the three weeks.  While I was "keeping busy" in Washington, he was helping a friend in Valley Center California build a second story deck onto his home.  Two old codgers tearing down a nearly falling down 35+ year old wood deck, about 8' wide by 40' long, replacing it with a new one to be made with steel and cement!  Phew!  Quite a job, but they got it about 90% done (all but the re bar put in and cement poured) by the time Jack had to pick me up at the airport.

Between the pain of the surgery and the pain of the building project...we both needed some R&R, so we spent a week at our favorite spot in San Diego, Mission Bay RV, to visit with some friends and family before heading out to meet up with friends in Utah.  A week is never enough time to catch up with our friends and family in San Diego, but we had long ago set up the date to meet up with friends in Utah and show them Bryce Canyon.  Before I found out I had to have surgery, we had planned on spending the entire month in San Diego together.  Jack working on the deck while I tootled around visiting.  You know what they say about "best laid plans...".

Anyway, all that was to explain why it's been so long since I've written!  Now...we are back on the road again...and glad of it!  Yea!  First stop, Bryce Canyon Utah!  Now, this is not the first time we've been there, but this time it was different...this time it had snow!  Well, only a little...but it looks different when it's sprinkled with it!  And this time, it was with friends...friends who had never been to Utah, who had never seen Utah's beautiful colors, or incredible forms.  Until you've seen them for yourself, in person, you just can't imagine the majesty.  It's almost overwhelming.  It's really fun to watch one's face light up when they see it for the first time.  I never get tired of looking at the beauty of the canyons myself.

The three "amigos" Marie, Deloris, & Judy

Bryce Canyon Utah
We spent a wonderful week in Utah with our friends, eating, drinking, laughing, catching up, making plans for future camping trips together.  When we left there, we took the Markagunt High Plateau Scenic Byway, towards Lake Powell.  What a beautiful route!  It had snowed while we were in Parowin the week before, but a few days of sunshine had cleared the road, so we were in luck.

Cedar Breaks
Navajo Lake

We were able to stop at a scenic pull-over to see Lake Powell from up above.  A beautiful spot to really see the lake and it's surroundings.  It really showed how much the drought has lowered it, like all the areas in the west.  That hasn't seem to stop people from camping here though, as we were only able to get a site for one night, so couldn't spend any time getting close to the lake like we had wanted to.  Guess we will just have to come back!

Traveling on towards New Mexico (our destination) through Arizona,  sure offered more beautiful sights along the way...

Shipwreck Rock, Utah

And, of course, one has to stop at the "Four Corners Monument"!

...On the road in New Mexico,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/