Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Roadboy's New Mexico

Labor Day Weekend in New Mexico

I happen to love the land and people of New Mexico.  So the chance to spend a few days exploring a few of its treasures was welcome.

The trip began with a drive from Phoenix through Arizona's mining towns of Superior, Globe and Miami to Las Cruces NM. The trip was timed to allow for a dinner in the wonderful little town of Mesilla. The history of Mesilla predates the Gadsden Purchase giving it the distinction of once being part of Mexico. Billy the Kid frequented the bars in Mesilla and Mesilla in 1881 is where he was eventually tried and sentenced to hang.

Today Mesilla's plaza is framed by the lovely Basilica of San Albino and a series of restaurants and homes. The largest of the homes is now the sumptuous Double Eagle Restaurant. Besides good food the Double Eagle is home to the teenaged ghosts Inez and Armando (two lovers killed in a rage in Armando's bedroom by his mother.) His mother then fled to Mexico. 

Basilica of San Albino
Mesilla, NM

Inez' Chair

Over the years the two matching chairs in the Armando's bedroom (the Ghost Room) were repeatedly reupholstered. And although almost no one ever sits in them, the chairs almost immediately begin to show wear in the armrests, back and cushion. Staff and visitors repeatedly report hearing voices, feeling cold air blow from a bricked in window, seeing lights switched on and off and an occasional glass slide across a table.  

The Double Eagle "Ghost Room" 
(Viewed From a Mirror Reflection)

My dinner at the Double Eagle included a wonderful brisket taco, cheese enchilada and big chile relleno. The dinner was a perfect end to the day.

Saturday morning we set out for the 3-1/2 hour drive via El Paso to Carlsbad Caverns. The highlight of the mornings drive was the view of El Capitan and Guadalupe Peak (at 8,749' Guadalupe Peak is the highest point in Texas).

El Capitan

Upon arrival at Carlsbad Caverns we decided to enter using the natural cave entry. 

My last visit to the Caves was when I was about 8 years old. In those days nearly every visitor had to enter the cave using the elevators from the visitor center. I remember getting on an the elevator, then descending endlessly. And then, when the doors opened, we were in a huge modern cafeteria (that just happened to be in a cave). Years later I remember hearing how they now allowed guided tours to use the natural entry to visitors. 

Today anyone in decent shape can enter the cave from the natural entry. Just be aware there is a 1-1/4 mile of switchbacks and you will descend 749'. 

The natural entry eases you into the increasingly cool and dark world of the cave. Then you join the elevator visitors all gawking at the sights of the "Big Room" self-guided tour. All in all the visit (even for a jaded 58 year old guy) was as wonderful as I remember as a kid.

The Bat Flight Amphitheater And Natural Cave Entry 

Descending Into Carlsbad

Once in the cave the scenery changes constantly, from the "Boneyard" to "Fairyland" to the "Bottomless Pit". There are huge stalactites and stalagmites all housed in the Big Room (that encompasses the equivalent of 14 football fields). 

The Boneyard

Views Into A Grotto

Take care in planning the logistics of a visit to Carlsbad Caverns. The lack of lodging in the vicinity and in nearby Carlsbad allows the local Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express to extract nearly $300 / Nt. 

The crazy rates have not gone unnoticed (there were three very large hotels under construction in Carlsbad).

The Only Close-By Motel to the Caverns 
Has Been Closed For Some Time 

Knowing the local hotel situation we had anticipated making a long drive to Santa Fe after our cave tour. We arrived at our Santa Fe hotel about 10:00 pm. 

After breakfast Sunday morning we made a quick trip into Santa Fe to view the Loretto Chapel and once again puzzle over its amazing staircase.

At the time Loretto was built only men sang in church choirs. So choir lofts were accessed by ladders (saving precious pew space). When the Loretto sisters realized their chapel failed to include a stairway they prayed that somehow a remedy would emerge.  

Strangely enough an old carpenter soon appeared who agreed to build a staircase. Once complete he disappeared as quickly as he appeared. He built the stairs out of a species of wood no one had ever seen before and somehow got the double helix affair to actually support itself. Engineers and architects to this day cannot agree how the stairs (without internal steel) support themselves.

The Original Stairs 
(Prior to the Addition of Handrails)

The Stairs Today

After the visit to the chapel we made the obligatory visit to the Plaza, dipping into the Luchese Boot store. While I am certainly not in the market for a pair of $3,000 boots, I enjoy the rich smell of fine leather. 

Lunch was taken in the Creperie in the La Fonda Hotel. Cash Only.

After that we drove north to the shrine and Sanctuary at Chimayo. This little church has become a magnet for those seeking healing. Pilgrims first pray, then scoop up some dirt from the side chapel (to apply to afflicted areas). There are hundreds of abandoned crutches and seemingly every tree has a message inscribed beseeching health and safety.

The Sanctuary at Chimayo

The Garden Walls Chimayo

The Creek and Garden Walls

An Offering 
Garden Walls

After visiting Chimayo we were off to Albuquerque for a last dinner of various green chile entrees. Then it was off to bed.

Monday (Labor Day) was spent on the drive back home. Along the way we diverted off of I-40 into the El Milpais National Monument. El Milpais was filled with lava fields, sandstone cliffs and the huge La Ventana Natural Arch.

La Ventana Arch

El Milpais Sandstone Cliffs

A perfect Labor Day weekend in The Land of Enchantment. An au revoir to summer 2014.

Roadboy's Travel © 2014

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