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Kicks on 66, Days 9-11: Relaxation and Return

July 6-8, 2014

Day 9 Map (click map for slideshow)


The day after our climactic day hike and flamenco performance, Wendy and I took it easy in Santa Fe. We had an unappealing breakfast at the Flying Star Cafe in the Railyard and walked to the plaza. A stop along the way at the Hilton let me shoot a nice piece of corridor artwork. At the plaza we indulged in cookies and a shake at the Häagen-Dazs. Then we found a place to sit at the plaza amidst beautiful blooms. Wendy tipped a beautiful busker who was playing “Yesterday” and “Blackbird” on a guitar.

I’d considered finally walking along the famous Canyon Road and its galleries, which I’ve never seen, but it was a Sunday, and I figured they might be shut. So I saved that for a future trip and instead walked with Wendy along the northeastern part of the Paseo de Peralta, an old street which encircles downtown. I liked seeing some of the old buildings. It was a sign of the times that the grand old Scottish Rite Temple was up for sale; its 1901 Moorish Revival look doesn’t blend too well with its surroundings, but it is a striking building. Declining membership means the local chapter lacks the cash flow to maintain it.

Name your price for this unusual temple

Across the street from the temple are the beautiful grounds of the Santiago E. Campos U.S. Courthouse. The building was started in 1850 and intended as the territorial capitol, but insufficient funding meant it would not be completed until 1886, by which time a new capitol was under construction. It has beautiful stone walls, and the grounds have lovely tall trees and a nice grass lawn.

Courthouse lawn

Out in front of City Hall we passed the statue of St. Francis and his often-petted prairie dog. The saint appears in various places about the city, which was originally called La Villa Real de la Santa Fé de San Francisco de Asís (The Royal City of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi).

We passed a VW Westfalia camper, something my father would appreciate, on our way back to our casita. My head ached, so I went out for a stroll around the block, finding a statue at the adjacent hotel of a Hopi maiden sporting immense squashblossom whorls. Princess Leia had nothing on her!

Dinner was a delicious pizza at the adjacent Café Café, followed by us relaxing on our patio for our final evening in Santa Fe.

Day 10 Map

The tenth day began with a wonderful early lunch at Tia Sophia’s downtown. I had beef tacos with Spanish rice, and Wendy loved the tender chicken in her green chile chicken enchiladas. She reported the tamales were good and spicy, if a bit grainy. We enjoyed sopaipillas and honey, bemoaning the fact that we would be leaving behind the wonderful food of New Mexico. Wendy posed for me in a downtown walkway, our last shot in Santa Fe.

Princess the Camry took us southeast to the old Cline’s Corners tourist stop off I-40. The most notable thing was a tremendous collection of horns on a wall. After refreshing ourselves, we headed due east on I-40 back to Amarillo. We pulled off in Santa Rosa to see its famous Blue Hole, an 80-foot-deep pool of 61-degree water which had attracted a number of swimmers. Wendy noted how clear the outflow was.

The Blue Hole at Santa Rosa

Just past Santa Rosa, the interstate divides the ghost town of Cuervo; Wendy thought it must be a fake ghost town or movie set, considering the oddity of driving through it on an interstate. But Cuervo is quite real, as are other ghost towns like Endee, Bard, and San Jon. We were puzzled by the names, but they made sense when we found out Endee got its name from the old ND ranch and Bard was probably a ranch name as well: the Bar-D, which reminds me of the chuckwagon show I saw in Durango back in 2011.

We had dinner at the yummy Blue Sky Burgers in Amarillo. Our evening entertainment was Errol Morris’s memorable documentary The Thin Blue Linewhich saved a man from death row.

Day 11 Map

The final day of our trip was a long drive back to Oklahoma City to have dinner with my folks and then onward back home to Bartlesville.

We began with a great breakfast near our hotel in Amarillo at Ye Olde Pancake Station. Before we left Texas, we pulled off I-40 to take old Route 66 through Shamrock to drive by the restored U Drop Inn, which frankly is the best-looking thing in town. Shamrock, like so many other towns along old Route 66, has been bypassed by the interstate and suffered mightily for it.

U Drop Inn at Shamrock, Texas

The sun was setting as we drove up US 75 to Bartlesville, glad to be returning home, but also wishing that we could spend more time having Kicks on Route 66.

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Posted by on July 21, 2014 in photos, travel


Kicks on 66, Day 8: Climbing Kitchen Mesa at Ghost Ranch

July 5, 2014

The eighth day of our big summer vacation was the climax. Or should I coin the term “climbmax” since we ascended Kitchen Mesa at Ghost Ranch?

Day 8 Map (click map for slideshow)

My first hikes at Ghost Ranch in June 2012 were stunning, and I outlined the history of the property in that post from two years back. I loved both the Chimney Rock and the Box Canyon trails, but did not have time to try the third major trail, which leads up to the top of Kitchen Mesa. A year later, I took Wendy out to the ranch, and our hike in Box Canyon was her favorite out of all of the different hikes during our first year of dating. So it was obvious that we had to go out to Ghost Ranch this time to hike together up Kitchen Mesa, the rounded and candy-striped mesa looming over the main buildings.

Hikes with Wendy at Ghost Ranch

We knew the hike would be challenging for us, since we are acclimated to an elevation of 700 feet above sea level, and this four-hour hike through hot desert terrain would climb from 6,500 to 7,100 feet. That included a 15-foot scramble up a cleft in the mesa to reach the top, and the uneven terrain meant we actually had a total ascent of over 1,200 feet.

So we got around early to hit highway 84 north for the 63 mile drive up to Ghost Ranch. We stopped along the way in Española for breakfast at a McDonald’s. We reached the ranch by 9:00 a.m. and checked in, paying the minimal day use fee. A friendly docent warned us about the cleft we would have to navigate to reach the mesa top and provided directions to the trailhead, which is adjacent to the trailhead for the Box Canyon hike we did last year. This time we avoided the long roadside trudge from the Welcome Center to the trailheads by driving around to park at them.

Our hike

As we headed out, our target was directly ahead, backlit by the morning sun. We climbed to a hillside which offered a panoramic view north across the greenery of the Rito Del Yeso arroyo. To the right was the mesa below which one will find the ranch’s Camposanto area, which we had seen the previous year along our Box Canyon hike.

Panorama of Camposanto area

Dinosaur Quarry

We crossed over into the ranch’s dinosaur quarry in the red siltstones and mudstones laid down 205 million years ago in the Late Triassic Period, the beginning of the Age of Dinosaurs. Back then this area was about 1800 miles farther southeast of its present location, putting it near the planet’s equator. 95% of the fossils found were of the small carnivorous dinosaur, Coelophysis. It was 6-10 feet long and weighed 50-100 pounds.

Panorama of the dinosaur quarry

Helpful signage explained the layer cake we saw in the rocks around us. The grey layer atop the cliffs is the Todilto Formation of saline sediments deposited by an inland sea in the late Middle Jurassic Period. The orange and yellow cliffs below it are sand dunes of the Entrada Formation, laid down in the Middle Jurassic about 160 million years ago. The rosy-colored mudstones and siltstones of the cliff base are the Chinle Formation deposited about 205 to 230 million years ago. It was in that period that hundreds of Coelophysis were buried, probably in a flash flood.

Another sign explained that David Baldwin discovered bones in 1881 and mailed them to paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope, who had been through the area earlier and named the fossils Coelophysis bauri. Coelophysis means “hollow form” and refers to the lightly constructed bones, while the rest of the name honors Georg Baur, a German morphologist. In 1947 a field crew discovered a dense bonebed of hundreds of skeletons in the area and excavated large blocks of rock, each containing numerous whole and partial skeletons. In 1981, a century after the initial find, the blocks were collected by various institutions.

It was while Wendy and I were crossing a dirt ridge in the quarry, breathing heavily in the thin and hot air, that a petite tanned mother with two children merrily scampered by. They would go up to the top and be on their way back down even as we low-landers were still slowly ascending the mesa. Rather than being discouraged at our relative difficulty, I took heart that if they could make it up there, then we surely could!

Wendy by a big chunk out of the mesa

A Slow Climb Towards the Cleft

We passed the narrow tip of the northern edge of the mesa as we continued to climb the valley to the east of it. We passed interesting rocks. A rather intimidating chunk of the mesa had fallen away and rolled down, squashing a tree beneath it. The impact with the tree had cleaved off a massive wedge from the chunk of rock.

Spying a narrow vertical slot in the mesa, I teased Wendy by saying we would be scrambling up through it. Of course we could have never managed that. We passed a crude natural amphitheater in the side of the mesa, which reminded me of a much smaller yet similar rockfall at Osage Hills near Bartlesville and the immense Echo Amphitheater near Ghost Ranch.

We steadily climbed in the heat, taking breaks in which Wendy teasingly made some pointed comments about my idea of fun. The beautiful views kept us going. We steadily climbed a ridge of dirt and rock toward the mesa top and suddenly spied the mother and her children clambering down the side toward us. They must have just exited the cleft.

Beautiful views

The Cleft

Their appearance made it easier to spot the way up, but the ranch does have a series of green-painted coffee cans all along the trail to provide guidance. Soon we reached the 15-foot-high chimney cleft we had to climb. Wendy had me pause to pose, and then we made the ascent. It wasn’t as terrible as I had feared, although we did have to go slowly and use all four limbs.

The Cleft

Mesa Top Overlooks

We followed the trail across the mesa top and reached the first overlook. Venturing out there provided a stunning view southwest across the Piedra Lumbre. To the north of the Cerro Pedernal mesa, which Georgia O’Keefe was so fond of painting, was a storm cloud spilling rain onto the desert. I hurried over to the edge to shoot a panorama, with the greenery around the Ghost Ranch buildings far below to my right. Farther to my right I could see the eroding layers of the mesa, with the grey saline sediments on top and the compressed orange and yellow sand dunes below that.

Overlooking the Piedra Lumbre

Selfie atop Kitchen Mesa

We celebrated with a selfie before following the trail northward along the mesa top to where a small grey promontory of sediment marked the second overlook.

I ventured out to shoot another panorama but found the view a ways back, which included the overlook platform, to be just as interesting. Wendy posed at the overlook for me, and then I posed nearby for her before we headed on toward the tip of the mesa.

Second overlook

The surface changed to the grey saline sediment. Being surrounded by that surface seemed unearthly and strange; Wendy described it as a lunar surface. She was fascinated by the white rocks with black veins and the mica glittering in the sun. A lizard scuttled by, and the final overlook we enjoyed provided a sweeping view of the ranch buildings below and the green vegetation along the course of the Rito del Yeso creek.

Ghost Ranch Panorama from Kitchen Mesa

Back Down We Go

The rain was approaching; it was time to head back. We traced our way back across the mesa top to the cleft and carefully descended. We were glad to be headed downslope in the heat, passing cholla cactus blooms. Wendy had frozen water in our bottles back at the hotel, a great idea which provided us with cool water throughout the hike. As we passed the huge chunk of rock beside the trail we’d seen earlier, with shattered wood beneath it, I speculated about which cleft in the side of the cliff it had come from.

Returning to the trailhead

As we walked, we were bracketed by storms. Dark clouds to the east produced a few flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder, while approaching from the west was the rain storm. Up on top of the mesa, where I could get cell phone reception, I’d checked the NOAA Radar US app and knew the storm to the east was moving away, but the one from the west would eventually arrive over Ghost Ranch.

Nearby storm

We returned to our car, and raindrops began spattering down as we cleaned up and drove back over to the Welcome Center for restrooms and ice cream. A tour was leaving, taking folks to the settings of various paintings by Georgia O’Keefe to compare what they would see with what she captured on canvas. We should take that tour some summer. As we neared the end of today’s trail, I spied the top of Chimney Rock jutting up above the countryside. Although I hiked over to it in 2012, Wendy has not been on that trail.

So we shall certainly return to enjoy the hospitality of the Presbyterians who make these wonders accessible to all. I close this remembrance of our visit with a shot of cholla blooms in front of the distinctive flat top of Cerro Pedernal. Georgia O’Keefe painted that mesa many times:

It’s my private mountain. It belongs to me. God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it.

In a way, she got that wish; Georgia’s ashes were taken to the top of Cerro Pedernal and scattered there.

Cerro Pedernal beyond the cholla blooms

Tower on the former capitol

Capitols of Santa Fe

Tired but happy, we returned to Santa Fe and relaxed before heading out for an early dinner. Wendy clearly wanted more of those “best tamales EVER” at Tomasita’s, and we found it was already crowded at 4:15 p.m. The food was great, and we enjoyed people-watching. To walk off our dinner, we ventured over to see the state capitol.

We’d passed through the original capitol of these lands, the old Palace of the Governors on the plaza, a few days earlier. And we had repeatedly passed the “Bataan Building”, with its distinctive tower, on our way to and from the plaza. It opened in 1900 as a cheap replacement for an expensive territorial capitol, which had burned after only a few years of use. The simple three-story box with a modest silver dome grew over the years, and the dome was replaced by the 105-foot tower in 1950. But in 1966 a very different capitol building superseded it, and the old capitol became the Bataan Memorial Building, named to honor members of the 200th Coast Artillery that served bravely – and met a tragic fate – during the infamous battle and subsequent “Death March” of 1942, in the Philippines.

Wendy with the roses

We were curious to see the adjacent replacement capitol, which is quite inconspicuous. As we negotiated the sidewalks to reach it, Wendy discovered another small rose garden, this one nestled amidst the government buildings. She was impressed by the height of several of the bushes. I was more interested in the panels on the nearby Education Building, which had figures in extreme poses.

The grounds of the capitol itself have been described as, “a lush 6.5-acre garden boasting more than 100 varieties of plants, including roses, plums, almonds, nectarines, Russian olive trees, and sequoias.” But the areas we saw appeared neglected and unappealing. We came across Michael A. Naranjo’s Emergence sculpture, which I am not fond of; it makes me think of a game with a hula hoop. We also saw Doug Hyde’s Buffalo Dancer, which was squat and somewhat comic to me.

Having fun with the boys

I was equally cranky about the new state capitol, a three-story roundhouse which is unique among state capitols and hopefully will stay that way. Wendy, however, was in a playful mood. Inspired by our plan to see flamenco dancing that evening, Wendy stuck a rose in her hair and posed by Glenna Goodacre’s sculpture of two boys playing tug of war with three girls.


When planning this vacation, I had considered a performance of Carmen at the Santa Fe Opera. But the tickets were quite pricey, and a long four-act Italian opera hardly seemed in the southwest spirit of our trip. So I was happy to see a listing for Entreflamenco‘s performance in the Maria Benitez Cabaret Theatre at The Lodge at Santa Fe. I had never seen flamenco dancing except on video, and was hoping for an enjoyable evening. Wendy was interested yet skeptical. As it turned out, the performance was riveting, and we were so close to the action that we could see every detail, even the sweat flinging and feathers flying off the incredible dancers.

The stars of the show were Antonio Granjero and Estefania Ramirez. Wendy described Antonio as, “a macho Fred Astaire on crack” with his incredible speed and dramatic gestures and poses. He presented as cocky, powerful, and intense. His performance with Estefania began in an embrace, with graceful movements and then a walk apart on the stage to begin their foot-stomping and elaborate separate dances, to finally end in another embrace. His solo finale included incredibly fast and precise foot tapping and much more. Wendy wrote, “He worked like hell and then swaggered to the foot of the stage, nodded to the audience, and said ‘Hey’, followed by huge applause.”

Estefania Ramirez was incredibly intense, with a slight grin only fleetingly crossing her focused face. One dance was in a white dress with red fringe and Wendy aptly described her performance as, “Sassy, intense, very sexy, and confident.” In her guajira performance, she flicked a fan open and closed and back and forth with incredible precision, a very long skirt flipping and swinging. I could barely imagine someone even walking in such a dress, let alone dancing so energetically. Eventually two other female dances joined in, their movements precisely matching her lead.

There were altogether three other female dancers besides Estefania. A blonde resembled Scarlett Johansson, another dancer was slightly reminiscent of Frida Kahlo, and the third was very Indian in appearance and a bit less sheltered in her expressions. All four female dancers danced together near the start of the show, dressed in wonder-bread-like dresses with bright colorful fringed shawls.

Each of the dancers took his or her performance very seriously, and occasionally we spotted some modern moves in the mix. The experience was intense and emotional, with us sitting in the very front, only a couple of feet from the edge of the stage. Wendy said she could smell the sweat as they performed their intricate high-intensity dances with perfect timing and the flicking of precise gestures. She commented, “Our sweat from the hike at Ghost Ranch was nothing compared to the amount pouring off the dancers.” It was not at all off-putting, but made the experience all the more intense to see, up close, how hard they pushed their bodies in their demanding art.

Syncopated clapping by fellow performers accentuated the beat, and we enjoyed the emotional singing by Roberto Lorente and Francisco Orozco “Yiyi”, who also played the drums. Jose Vega Jurado and Alex Jordan were the fine guitarists. It was a delightful evening we shall never forget, and if you are ever in Santa Fe, you should see Entreflamenco in that cabaret. Sit up front!

This fun-filled day was the climax of our trip; we would spend the next day relaxing as we recovered. One more post will close out this travelogue along Route 66.

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Posted by on July 20, 2014 in day hike, photos, travel, video


Kicks on 66, Day 7: Independent in Santa Fe

July 4, 2014

Our Independence Day was spent in Santa Fe, filling our senses with sights, sounds, and tastes.

Day 7 Map (click map for slideshow)

Skies above the former capitol

Lunch at the Blue Corn Cafe

We began with a walk up Cerrillos Road and Galisteo Street past the former state capitol, which was capped by a beautiful sky. Lunch was at the Blue Corn Cafe near the plaza, ascending a lovely flight of stairs to the architecturally interesting cafe up on the second floor. I had yummy blue corn tacos while Wendy enjoyed a honey chipotle chicken sandwich.

Car Show at the Plaza

We then ventured over to the plaza, where the annual pancake breakfast was wrapping up, but the Santa Fe Vintage Car Club was having a show, with cars lined up on both sides of Lincoln Avenue. A couple of muscle cars had skeletons in the driver seats, making for skeletal muscle cars (a joke for anatomy teachers). I took a shot of a classic Mustang convertible. I snapped an old Austin Healey sports car, since my father owned one when I was very young. In the plaza there was music with street performers and art booths; I especially liked the intarsia or wood inlay pictures by Adrian Martinez.

Plaza Art Museum

Last year our stay in Santa Fe was too brief to take Wendy through the small yet wonderful New Mexico Museum of Art. I made sure we visited that, as I love its architecture. It is a Pueblo Revival building, and it influenced the eventual Historical Zoning Ordinance, which mandated the use of the Pueblo style or Territorial Revival style on all new buildings in central Santa Fe. We relaxed in the courtyard, which is my favorite spot in Santa Fe, before viewing the galleries. Many of the paintings reminded Wendy of the style of El Greco and Van Gogh.

Courtyard of the New Mexico Museum of Art

International Folk Art

Peruvian Village

We then walked back to our hotel, passing a fun wall mural along the way. Princess the Camry transported us up Museum Hill to the Museum of International Folk Art. I was lucky enough to see it in 2010 during the annual International Folk Art Market, and knew that Wendy would be fascinated by the intricate pieces in the museum’s Girard collection, which I saw in 2011.

We were greeted at the entrance by an American Indian with a beautifully resonant voice; he clearly was radio-trained. The Girard collection was our first stop, with us picking up the requisite guide book at the entry to identify the pieces on display (yes, I failed to look up that pictured piece). Wendy was prowling for beadwork to photograph and share with my mother, who makes lovely bookmarks with tiny number 11 beads. Wendy found an airy floral grave ornament made for a child’s grave in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, with strands of beads wound around a latticework. She also located a group of beadwork dolls, of various sizes, from New Mexico and Arizona in our country as well as from Africa’s Cameroon, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Swaziland, and Ghana.

We saw a Peruvian Village display I recalled from my previous visit, and a large Tree of Life from Mexico. I also remembered the impressive Polish szopkas from Krakow, covered in bright foil and used as a miniature puppet theater at Christmas. A large and cleverly arranged display of angels and devils represented the Christian Heaven and Hell. We also admired an extensive harbor scene with villages from Mexico, Italy, and the Orient.

Harbor Scene

I plopped down on a bench to rest my back. As I gazed across the displays opposite me, I had to laugh at the one which caught my eye, a sexy piece of urban African art which Alexander Girard found on the island of Gorée, near Dakar, Senegal. I liked the title he gave it, Once Upon a Time There Were Two Twin Sisters. Make up your own story from there!

Porto Rico Maracatu Nation Queen costume from Brazil

We then toured a temporary exhibit of costumes from Brazil. The story behind the Porto Rico Maracatu Nation Queen costume was a bit chilling; the carnival clubs in Recife, Pernambuco trace back to the early 1800s when plantation owners organized their African slaves into “nations” by tribal origins. As part of the Christmas season entertainment, these groups performed dance pageants for the plantation, dressed as members of the Portuguese royal court and dancing to African drumming in polyrhythms called maracatus. That’s a dark history behind a lively and beautiful custom.

There was also an African lancer, called caboclos de lança, representing warriors possessed by Amerindian or African spirits. The performers dance, drop to the ground, and sometimes duel with each other while wearing large cowbells on their backs. A carnival bear costume was another matter entirely, tracing back to Italian gypsies who arrived in northeastern Brazil to work in the sugar mills. Some brought with them trained bears who performed in small traveling circuses, but the bears did not last long in the tropical climate, prompting people to create costumes for dancing bears along with Italian trainers and a hunter. Another exhibit had a variety of colorful Japanese kites.

Milner Plaza

Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer

Kachina sculpture

Back outside on Milner Plaza, with gorgeous clouds overhead, were large tents being erected for the International Folk Art Market. Each was adorned on the underside with a different style of hanging decorations. Craig Dan Goseyun’s Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer remains the dominant sculpture on the plaza, dwarfing me when I posed beside and in front of it. But nearby in the Doris and Arnold Roland Sculpture Garden was a kachina figure with interesting blocky, planar cuts and a beautiful robe and headdress.

Railyard Rose Garden

We stopped at a K-Mart for supplies and had dinner at The Pantry, the decades-old establishment where I had breakfast back in 2011. We both indulged in turkey, with me having an open faced turkey dinner and Wendy eating a turkey sandwich.

Roses of Santa Fe

As we drove back to our casita, Wendy the rose enthusiast spotted a rose garden in the Railyard Park. We had to stop, of course, and she scampered about, admiring and identifying the bushes. There were red blooms, pink and yellow ones, tight pink clusters, and some pink and yellow blooms with oodles of petals. She was in heaven and said she could spend a happy day tending the bushes.

But we had a big adventure coming up: a challenging hike at Ghost Ranch and an evening with a close-up view of incredible flamenco dancing. Our Kicks on 66 trip would reach its climax on Day 8.

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Posted by on July 19, 2014 in art, photos, travel


Kicks on 66, Day 6: The Little River of Beans

July 3, 2014

Day 6 of our Kicks on 66 vacation was spent away from any of the various routes of the Mother Road, to the northwest of Santa Fe along the El Rio de los Frijoles in Bandelier National Monument and nearby overlooks of the Rio Grande.

Day 6 Map (click map for slideshow)

Our patio

We had breakfast at the Santa Fe Motel and Inn, where we were staying. They have traditional rooms but also reworked three historic district adobe houses into casitas. Those feature thick adobe walls, several with private fenced or walled patios, heavy hand-hewn vigas adorning the ceilings, and traditional terracotta tile floors. Our casita was part of the Salazar House, and during our stay we enjoyed sitting out on the front patio, relishing the cool air. Santa Fe’s elevation means it is often much cooler than most of New Mexico, as shown on temperature maps.

Many people grasp that the Rockies in Colorado will be cooler in the summer, but don’t realize that the Sangre de Cristo mountains extend south into New Mexico, so Santa Fe’s elevation is 7,200 feet, and average highs in June and July are only in the mid-80s Fahrenheit, with average lows in the low to mid 50s. The air is dry despite the July and August monsoon rain; during our stay there were small showers almost every evening, but the humidity never felt high. Back home in Oklahoma, Bartlesville at 700 feet would typically have highs in the upper 90s, lows in the mid-to-high 60s, and much more humidity. So Santa Fe is a relief, albeit not as cool as other places I have fled to in summer such as Gunnison, Colorado or the Pacific Northwest.

Bandelier National Monument

We got up earlier than is our norm for vacations so that we could hike at Bandelier National Monument in the morning; it was about a 40 minute drive to White Rock. There we would have to wait for one of the shuttle buses which in the summer transports visitors to and from the monument every half hour. The parking at the monument has been limited since the Los Conchas fire wiped out the bridges over the Frijoles Creek three years ago.

Adolph Bandlier

Adolph Bandlier

I am dirty, ragged, and sunburnt, but of best cheer. My life’s work has at last begun.

-Adolph Bandelier

The monument is named after self-taught anthropologist Adolph F.A. Bandelier (hence the spelling variation from the bandolier ammunition strap). He came to New Mexico in 1880 and lived and worked among different American Indian groups, visiting 166 archaeological sites in the area in his first 18 months. In 1880 men from Cochiti Pueblo guided him to their ancestral homes in Frijoles Canyon. He made it the setting of his novel The Delight Makers, which depicted pueblo life in pre-Spanish times. He left New Mexico in 1892 for studies in South America.

Edgar Lee Hewett

Dr. Edgar Lee Hewett, a prominent southwestern archaeologist, directed several expeditions in Frijoles Canyon in the early 1900s and was instrumental in having the monument established in 1916. He is the man who persuaded Maria Martinez to pursue creating black-on-black pottery.

Evelyn Frey and her infant son came to Bandelier in 1925

In 1907 a private lodge was built, and in 1925 George and Evelyn Frey took it over. There were no roads into the canyon until the 1930s; the early lodge was reached by mules. In the 1930s the CCC built a road along with trails, a visitor center, and a new lodge. The Freys divorced, but Evelyn Frey remained at Bandelier and ran the new lodge until it closed in 1976; she lived on at Bandelier until her death in 1988.

Previous Visit to Bandelier

Three years ago I first visited the monument. In the wake of the Los Conchas fire, the trails in Frijoles Canyon were closed. I was, however, able to hike the Tyuonyi Overlook Trail to get a glimpse of the ruins I would see close-up this time around. I also walked the ruins at the separate Tsankawi area. Looking back, I actually liked those trails, with their tremendous vistas, more than the main loop Wendy and I took on this trip.

Main Loop

Features along the main loop trail

But the 1.5 mile hike we took on the re-opened main loop did allow us to see Tyuonyi close up and visit cliff houses stretched along the north side of Frijoles canyon. The shuttle bus was nearly full, and when we finally arrived at the visitor center we paid a few bucks to keep a guide book about the trail and were careful to visit the only working restroom facilities in the canyon before setting out.

The north face of Frijoles Canyon was riddled with small caves and pockets. In the bottom center of that view, we could see hikers climbing a ladder into one of them above us; I used my superzoom camera to see what was going on.

Wendy and I passed a large kiva, one of the partially subterranean round rooms which originally had a wood and earth roof with rooftop ladder entry. Some were decorated inside with images, and rectangular holes in the floor may have been foot drums or used for storage or for sprouting seedlings. This large kiva was separate from three regular-sized ones we would see later on in the ruins of Tyuonyi.

Cliff dwellings

The trail leads right through those ruins, concentric rings of small rooms around a central court which housed about 100 people amidst 400 rooms on a few levels. Construction of it began over 600 years ago. You get a better sense of the place from up on the cliffs, which were occupied contemporaneously. Up there the Indians carved rooms out of the volcanic tuff, often building a stone room in front. You can spot the holes for wooden supports.

The tuff is ash flow from the eruption of the Valles Caldera volcano 1.5 million years ago. It toughens as it weathers, and the consequent hard outside and soft inside made it ideal for cliff dwellings. The tiny cave rooms usually have a blackened ceiling to help toughen the tuff.

The last phase of Indian settlement here was the construction of Tyuonyi and adjacent cliff dwellings. The Indians began to practice agriculture around 1200 CE with fields of corn, squash, and beans grown mostly up on the mesas but also down in the canyon. They left this area in the late 1400s, moving on to pueblos along the Rio Grande, some of which are still occupied.

Tsuonyi and Cliff Dwellings

Climbing up for a look

The paved trail ascended to the cliff face where we could visit some of the caves, winding along the cliffside with short stairs to help us reach the undulating dwellings along the cliff face. The trail was busy as folks paused to explore reconstructions.

More cliff dwellings were ahead, constructed at the base of a prominent cliff. We were coming to Long House, where the Indians built dwellings against the rock face so that they could be several stories tall. The trail led beside this 800-foot stretch of adjoining multi-storied stone homes and hand-carved caves for back rooms.

Below us we could see flood damage from Frijoles Creek, which now roars with mud from the monument lands since 75% of the canyon burned in the 2011 Las Conchas fire. Fire is nothing new to the area, with fires in 1977 and 1996 together burning 40% of the park.

Above the top row of roof holes are petroglyphs, and a pictograph was found covered in plaster on the back wall of a second-story room.

Long House

Trail beside Frijoles Creek

We left the ruins behind and crossed Frijoles creek on a makeshift bridge. I turned back for a look at the cliffs before we hit the beautiful, and thankfully cooler, creekside trail. We opted not to take the side trail to Alcove House but instead turned back toward the Visitor Center.

We saw more flood damage and caves up in the cliffs to the north. Back at the visitor center, we could see more cliff dwellings behind it. We’d enjoyed our hike, but were hot and hungry. So we boarded the next shuttle. Once it dropped us off back at White Rock, we went to The Bandelier Grill. We wanted a break from southwest food, so Wendy had lasagna, and I had a French Dip, but they had mixed green chiles into it. You can’t get all of the southwest out of the food after all.

Overlook Park

Our next stop was Overlook Park in White Rock for a sweeping panorama of the Rio Grande as it wound its way from north to south. A nearby gully had some nice distant waterfalls, and Wendy and I posed for a selfie.

Rio Grande

Anderson Overlook

Next we wound our way to the overlook on the Senator Clinton P. Anderson scenic route to Los Alamos. You can catch a glimpse of the Rio Grande from there.

Anderson Overlook

Car Trouble

Check Engine

The dreaded check engine light

My 2001 Camry’s CHECK ENGINE light came on as we descended towards Santa Fe. A week or so earlier it came on back home and prompted a thermostat replacement. The temperature gauge wasn’t complaining, however, so we drove into town. I dropped Wendy off at our casita and drove to an Autozone to have the engine error code read. It was low flow on the exhaust gas recirculation. The car seemed to be driving fine, but I took it by the local Toyota dealer to find out how serious the problem might be. They were very kind, noting that with Independence Day and the weekend they wouldn’t be able to fix the problem for several days at best. The lead mechanic told me to just drive the old girl for the rest of the trip and on home to have her fixed there.

Clouds over the Santa Fe plaza

Disastrous Dinner

I returned to our casita, and Wendy and I relaxed before walking over to the Plaza to search for dinner. The place was eerily deserted, with tents set up for a big Independence Day pancake feast the following morning. In desperation I made the poor choice of eating at The Palace Restaurant, which turned out to be a former brothel. The menu was odd, and we decided to try several tapas appetizers, but none of them were to our liking.

We were glad to escape the red rooms of the Palace for a cool walk around the plaza. Some cookies and chocolate from the Häagen-Dazs cleansed our palates as the clouds built overhead. We returned to our casita, planning to spend Independence Day seeing a car show at the plaza and visiting area museums.

Click here for a slideshow from this dayhike

Day 6 of Kicks on 66 >

< Day 5 of Kicks on 66

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Posted by on July 15, 2014 in day hike, photos, travel


Kicks on 66, Day 5: Kicking Around Albuquerque

July 2, 2014

We spent most of our fifth day directly along old Route 66 in Albuquerque before heading northeast in the afternoon to Santa Fe, with a stop at the ruins of the Kuaua Pueblo in Bernalillo along the way.

Stephen Hawking wrote that he limited himself to only one equation in his bestseller A Brief History of Time, since he was warned that each equation he included would halve book sales. (The physics teacher in me wonders if you can guess which equation he included, and also whispers, “So the number of equations is inversely proportional to book sales.”) I hope something similar doesn’t apply to maps in blog posts, because this post has several, since a sense of place is important to me in this travelogue.

Day 5 Map (click map for slideshow)

A Day Along Route 66

Much of this day was spent along Central Avenue, the path of old Route 66 through Albuquerque from 1937 until the highway was decommissioned in 1985. But Central’s history dates back to the 1700s or earlier, when it was a dusty trail that evolved into the city’s major east-west street, which then was called Railroad Avenue. Back in the days before tuberculosis was driven back by antibiotics, some sufferers came to Albuquerque for the dry air, and in 1908 the Presbyterian Sanitorium was built. Although Railroad Avenue had been renamed Central Avenue by then, it came to be called TB Avenue locally. With TB brought under control, the sanitorium’s future was in doubt by the 1950s, but it evolved into the Presbyterian Hospital Center, the largest acute care center in the state and sits at the junction of Central and I-25 between downtown and the University of New Mexico.

Kicking around Albuquerque

Before 1937 there was a big kink in Route 66 which diverted it, travelling east to west, from Santa Rosa up to Santa Fe before returning to Albuquerque. That kink is why we can say we spent almost the entire vacation along Route 66, even though in 1937 the kink was straightened out and The Mother Road began to skip Santa Fe, cutting 107 miles off its length. That era brought many travelers along Central Avenue, and the typical motor courts, restaurants, and curio shops to serve them.

Route 66 once went through Santa Fe

Route 66 once went through Santa Fe

Several motor courts are still hanging in there, and we noticed them the day before when we drove several miles east of the Frontier Restaurant, looking for groceries and extending our search to enjoy more of the old route. Today we’d walk a bit along Central before lunch, then head a few miles east to the university district for lunch, then back west a few miles to the oldest part of Albuquerque.

Districts we saw during our stay

I imagine her asleep inside the Telephone Museum

Downtown District

Our day began in the downtown district on the streets around Hotel Andaluz. We intended to walk over a block or so to the Telephone Museum of New Mexico to satisfy my geeky curiosity. The museum says it is only open from 10 until 2 on Wednesdays and Fridays, so this Wednesday morning was our shot! But, sadly, it was shuttered. Perhaps the reconstruction of the street was to blame, but I like to think there is only one docent, an old grandmotherly switchboard operator, who has fallen asleep inside. If only she had posted her telephone number outside, we could have called and roused her.

KiMo Theatre Entrance

So we had to content ourselves with examining the exterior of the KiMo Theatre, a Pueblo Deco movie house constructed in 1927 and designed by Carl Boller and George Williamson. The name was coined by Isleta Pueblo Governor Pablo Abeita, who won a prize of $50 for the name, a combination of two Tiwa words meaning “mountain lion” but liberally interpreted as “king of its kind”. Interestingly, the K should be soft, not hard, so it should be pronounced “him-o”.

Like so many inner city theaters, the place fell into ruin by the 1970s and was slated for demolition, but the city saved and restored it. Wendy and I enthused about the wonderful entrance, with every surface decorated. There was splendid tile work on the floor and walls, nice wall imagery, creative overhead plaster work, and custom doors inviting one in. This is the sort of attention to detail that really sells: don’t you just want to yank those doors open and peek inside? I wish a movie had been showing at the KiMo during our brief stay in Albuquerque so we could have seen the interior in person.

University District

Wendy LOVED these enchiladas

Joe Falkner admitted he was jealous we got to follow his advice to eat at the Frontier Restaurant, and followed up with a recommendation for El Patio de Albuquerque, which is situated in an old house about a block away from the Frontier near the university in the Nob Hill neighborhood. Once again we were glad we followed his recommendation.

David Sandoval, a retired engineer and Vietnam War-era Marine, opened El Patio almost 40 years ago after living in Hollywood. His goal was simple: create a restaurant focused on local cuisine but with an environment that could remain edgy and cool so the place could transcend generations and withstand changes to the neighborhood. David is around 70 years old now, and his restaurant continues to thrive. I enjoyed my tacos and my sopapilla was great, while Wendy says her green chile chicken enchiladas were the best EVER. She stopped to take a photo after a few bites, so I believe her.

Old Town

Virgin de Guadalupe

After lunch we drove back along Central Avenue, past the Hotel Andaluz, to Old Town. My father took me here over 20 years ago, and, at the time, I was not very impressed. My impression was that it was hot, dusty, and old with lots of shops and little else. Well, it was hot on this visit with mostly shops, but it wasn’t dusty, and a nearby museum was modestly entertaining. Let’s face it, Albuquerque is no Santa Fe in regards to the historic district. But it was a worthwhile stop, especially since I made my big art purchase of the summer while I was there.

In 1706 a group of Spanish families settled in the spot, not far from the Rio Grande, organizing their new town in the traditional Spanish colonial way, with a central plaza anchored by a church. So it is reminiscent of the historic district of Santa Fe, with a plaza and gazebo, old church, shops, and nearby museums. Santa Fe’s plaza dates back to 1610 and boasts the Saint Francis Cathedral, which I’ve admired on previous visits to Santa Fe and was built between 1869 and 1886 on the site of an old adobe church. So Albuquerque’s adobe San Felipe de Neri church, which was built in 1793 after the original church collapsed in a rainy summer, is older and less pretentious. The interior is far less ornate than the Santa Fe cathedral. Outside the Santa Fe cathedral is a striking statue of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, while Albuquerque’s church has the nearby remnant of a cottonwood tree into which a parishioner carved the image of the Virgin de Guadalupe back in 1970.

Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdés

At the north end of Old Town is an equestrian statue of Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdés, who founded Albuquerque. The Christian Cross stirrups were a bit much, I must say.

Wendy and I strolled the shops, but I did not expect to buy anything. I have two expensive framed photographs in my living room from previous visits to Santa Fe, both the work of the very talented Amadeus Leitner. They are both of New Mexican scenery: one is a gorgeous, painterly take on Shiprock and the other a large panorama from Chimney Rock at Ghost Ranch. I wasn’t looking for another large photograph for this trip; in fact, I wasn’t even thinking about purchasing another art work. Until we passed Gallery 8.

Pillow Vase

In the display window was a pillow vase the staff said was by Diane Aragon of the Acoma Pueblo. I’m no fan of pottery, despite enjoying learning about Maria Martinez a day earlier, but was intrigued by this vase’s overall shape, partially serrated opening, the handle hole filled by a suspended spinnable carved ball (which is a distinguishing characteristic of her work), and most of all by the shading of the airbrushed glaze across the incised carving of an eagle kachina dancer, contrasting with the smooth but richly colored reverse. Diane and her husband Wilbert “Junior” Aragon are both full-bloods of my age, with Wilbert coming from the Acoma pueblo.

My daily reminder of this trip

I tried to be casual as I strolled about the shop, conversing with the very friendly and helpful staff. But I couldn’t help returning to that particular pillow vase, knowing it would look splendid on the mantle above my fireplace, next to my glass “Roots and Wings” sculpture. I asked for Wendy’s preference between two different pillow vases, and she favored the same one I did, which is signed “Orion Aragon, Laguna Pueblo N.M.” That sealed the deal, and soon it was being carefully boxed up for me. It is now adorning my mantle as the third beautiful reminder of New Mexico which I see every day.

Albuquerque Museum of Art & History

Not at all true to life

After dropping off my bundle in the car, we walked over to the Albuquerque Museum of Art & History. Well, it is a little light on both counts, compared to what is on offer up in Santa Fe. Wendy and I were both surprised at the number of visitors roaming about, given the rather limited galleries. A Christo exhibit did not impress either of us at all, since his work is almost entirely large-scale, temporary landscape works.  Another gallery had an exhibit about Vivian Vance, famous for playing Ethel Mertz, Lucille Ball’s sidekick on TV. Vivian was born near where I now live, up in Cherryvale, Kansas. She became interested in drama at the Independence, KS high school and rebelliously moved to Albuquerque to become an actress, including performing at the KiMo Theatre we had passed by earlier that day. Vivian’s youngest sister was sitting in the gallery talking to patrons, but I didn’t take the time to ask her about Vivian’s infamous feud with co-star Bill Frawley.

The outdoor sculpture garden was a bust. The only exterior works I liked weren’t in that garden: The Dancer, 1989 by Michael Naranjo, the beautiful stone used for the museum walls, and a decorated entryway into Old Town. But inside the museum’s galleries there were some paintings we liked.

Star Road and White Sun

Wendy liked Landscape – Velarde, New Mexico by Victor HigginsSanta Fe by B.J.O. Nordfeldt, and Painting #231 by Ed Garman. I liked OU graduate John Fincher‘s “Revlon painting” of The Burning of Albuquerque with its very bold colors and unsettling plant in the foreground, creating a sense of tension. The coloration, clarity, and context of Ernest L. Blumenschein’Star Road and White Sun made it a standout, with the younger Taos Pueblo Indian Star Road, in his non-traditional attire, seeming to eclipse the older White Sun, who introduced peyote to the pueblo in 1907. Blumenschein sold this and other “top notchers” to Albuquerque High School for less than a tenth of their value back in the 1940s to support the school’s principal and his efforts to create an art center.

The standout painting, however, full of modern and classic imagery and iconoclasm, was in the corridor of the museum. Patrick McGrath Muñiz filled his 2010 Disneyfication of a Hero with religious, artistic, and pop culture references. Part of his thinking is how we miss some of the iconography in old paintings due to cultural amnesia, so which references in his painting were known in the past and which will be recalled in the future? Wendy and I had a ball finding different references, from Bart Simpson to Bugs Bunny, from Teletubbies to the Death Star. There are references to the Pharos of Alexandria, the destruction of native cultures by imperial Spain, and there’s a cupid with a gun and a video game controller, his bottom obscured not by the traditional ribbon but by unrolling toilet paper. There is much more to see, and this is one painting worth viewing in your web browser at full resolution so you can tell that even the frame is actually painted symbolic figures.

Disneyfication of a Hero

“Disneyfication of a Hero” is one of my largest paintings at the moment. In this piece I have represented various mythic and historical characters in an anachronistic narrative. As the title suggests the painting is about cultural transformation. The term “disneyfication” implies a process by which an object, character, place, artwork or piece of literature is stripped from its original context and meaning and repackaged in a sanitized Disney-like version ready for mass consumption. The central figure is a representation of the classical hero Hercules. As the rat magician rises above a TV screen making a commanding gesture, our hero holds a hair wax removal cream on his left hand. Inspired in Renaissance tradition I created a composition that reflects on a procession of “trumps.” Just like in the Tarot cards and in many pagan and Christian festivities every character is followed by one of a higher rank or position. Behind the hero I have painted allegorical figures that represent Time, Conquest, Childhood, Promised Land, Fame, Fortune and Death. These allegorical figures are accompanied by small Disney-like characters and other consumer culture related icons. The group is about to encounter a fortunetelling gypsy sitting with three Tarot cards. On the background there are other parallel stories taking place. Diego De Landa, a 16th century Spanish archbishop burned countless Mayan scriptures, erasing Pre-Columbian history in the name of Christianity. When placed in the same painting the narratives connect with new meaning. The burning and destruction of books, of history in the past doesn’t seem so distant from our contemporary consumer oriented corporate evangelists.
-Patrick McGrath Muñiz

Kuaua Pueblo

It was time to head to Santa Fe up along I-25, although first we stopped by the Golden Crown Panaderia in downtown Albuquerque to get baked goods. We got “Blue Corn” biscochitos, New Mexico wedding cookies, a lemon empanada, and other treats.

We stopped along I-25 at Bernalillo to visit the Coronado Historic Site, which is more important for its ruins of the Kuaua Pueblo than because Coronado once camped near there. I had planned to use the Culture Passes I purchased in advance, but we arrived so late they just waved us in for free, urging us to look around while we still could.

The pueblo was inhabited by Tiwa-speaking farmers from about 1325 CE to about 1550 CE. Kuaua is a Tiwa word that means “evergreen”, and the Rio Grande and great views of the Sandia Mountains are found on the eastern edge of the site. There are low reconstructed walls from the 1930s showing the layout of the pueblo. It was warm: Wendy’s notes say, “Kivas, heat, murals, heat, Rio Grande, heat.”

Rio Grande and the Sandia Mountains at Kuaua Pueblo

The greatest discovery at Kuaua were murals, painted as frescoes over a period of about 75 years in the 15th Century. They were found in kivas and are some of the best examples of Pre-Columbian art ever found in North America. An eager intern led us through a display of them, cautioning us that we could not use flash. Sadly we were too late to climb down into a reconstructed kiva on the grounds where they display what the murals might have looked like centuries ago. The intern described what archaeologists once thought some images represented – ideas which have since been revised. That is a mark of good science: questioning and refining what you think.

Our casita in Santa Fe

Cool Santa Fe

We arrived in Santa Fe around dinnertime and checked into our casita where we would stay five nights. It was within easy walking distance of the plaza and only one block from the Railyard. We were tired and ready to eat, so we strolled through the cool air over to Tomasita’s at the Railyard. We were both giddy from the cool air after the heat of Kuaua Pueblo and being stuck for awhile in a traffic jam on I-25.

At Tomasita’s I had the same thing I had eaten there previously: blue corn chicken enchiladas. Wendy had tamales, which she proclaimed as the best EVER (today was the day for great food!), and she loved the green chile sauce. We had more delicious sopapillas to boot. There is a great story online from Georgia Maryol about how she met Tomasita and took the plunge in 1974 to run a cafe which they built the business into the thriving spot is it today.

We walked to the plaza, feeling the cool air and seeing clouds building to the northeast; the sky was like a painting. Low-riders were rumbling by the plaza, passing the shop windows of curios and artworks. A group was performing at the gazebo, and we listened and relaxed until droplets of rain warned us to return to our casita. We passed the old state capitol, beautifully lit under a swelling sky. A light shower descended, with Wendy using an umbrella and me charging along in my Tilley hat, arriving a bit wet but very happy at our little shelter.

The old capitol on a beautiful night

The next day we’d venture out to Bandelier National Monument to hike along Frijoles Creek, which was closed by the Los Conchas fire when I first tried to hike there three years previously.

Click here for a slideshow from this day

< Day 4 of Kicks on 66

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Posted by on July 13, 2014 in art, photos, travel


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