Traveling the Turquoise Trail from Santa Fe to Albuquerque

Traveling the Turquoise Trail from Santa Fe to Albuquerque

The Turquoise Trail is an old mining trail, complete with “Antelope Crossing” signs on the road. Over 100 movies have been filmed on just two private ranches out here.  The area is so evocative of the ‘Ol West that you can just imagine shootouts and cattle rustlers and lawless men roaming these plains.

We pass by Madrid (pronounced MADrid) which is full of shops and art galleries, cafes, flea markets. Unfortunately, we didn’t stop, have to stay on schedule…boo hoo!  We pass signs advertising Wagyu cattle ranches, a type of Japanese beef, known for being highly marbled and supposedly healthier for you with more mono-saturated fats to saturated fat ratio.

Wanting to be sure to see some of Historic Rte. 66, we followed signs and headed to Albuquerque, at one-point traveling over an unpaved, bumpy section at 15 MPH.  Enough of that!  We found a tunnel that the Tin Can barely fit through to take us back to the freeway.  I had to jump out to check the clearance and snagged some broken pieces of brightly colored pottery laying on the ground under the tunnel. Scored a great souvenir!

Arrived at Holbrook AZ/Petrified Forest KOA by 3:30 pm. We were just in time to grab a cocktail and find the Kentucky Derby on the TV.  “Justify”, the winner, went on to win the Triple Crown. The heat of the desert encouraged us to unfurl the canopy and cook our meal of chicken, rice and veggies on the grill. We ate on the picnic tables outside to escape the heat of the RV. 

As the sun set, we explored the campground, taking photos at dusk and chatting with fellow campers, from young millennials to retirees.  We met a retired couple from Buenos Aires in a Swiss camper who are making a loop of the USA, crossing multiple borders and ending up in Key West.  They had ordered their camper from Europe and had it shipped to meet them when they first started out from Miami.

Santa Fe Plaza and Museums

Santa Fe Plaza and Museums

Today is our day to tour historic downtown Santa Fe so we stepped onto a city bus outside the RV Park for a 30-minute ride into the city.

Our first stop was the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, a lovely, intimate museum which was just the right size to give us a nice overview of the artist, her life and her work, who was so inspired by the landscape of New Mexico. O’Keefe was known as the first American modernist painter and her home, called “Ghost Ranch” in nearby Abiquiu, NM is now operated as a private retreat.

I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for. – Georgia O’Keefe

Then, on to the New Mexico History Museum, located in the Governor’s Palace.  The Museum was extensive and the experience was brought alive for us by an excellent tour guide who entertained and informed with amusing anecdotes. A good tour guide can really make history come alive! 

The connected Governor’s Palace was appealing but we were tired and instead of more history we wandered outside to the portico in front of the palace to view the jewelry being sold by the native American craftspeople.  Yikes, the beautiful turquoise jewelry is very expensive.  I’ll have to shop somewhere more budget-friendly.

The Santa Fe Plaza with its’ shaded fountains and welcoming benches was the perfect spot for a short rest, and we took pictures and people watched for a while.

Our next stop was the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, a marvelous cathedral surrounded by a beautiful shady park.  It was constructed under the auspices of Cardinal Jean Lamay, the real-life hero of Willa Cather’s 1927 novel “Death Comes for the Archbishop” and an influential figure in New Mexico’s history. Cather’s remarkable book tells the tale of two French Catholic priests as they attempt to bring Christianity to the southwest and their adventures visiting Indian pueblos and Mexican ranches. It’s an important work that helps to explain the history of the region and I’d highly recommend that anyone visiting Santa Fe read it ahead of time.

Great shopping abounds in the neighborhood surrounding the basilica, including a wonderful shoe store.  It was hard to pass by it, so I didn’t.

We found a trolley stop for the local tourist shuttle and journeyed on to San Miguel Chapel, one of the oldest churches in the Western hemisphere.  There is so much to see in Santa Fe, including the four museums, botanical garden and café on Museum Hill which we didn’t have the time or energy to visit. We will have to come back again to see them all.  

A Visit to the Taos Pueblo

A Visit to the Taos Pueblo

We made the drive to Taos today to the Taos Pueblo, an otherworldly visit and experience at this UNESCO World Heritage site.

No cameras or cell phones were allowed, and this was strictly enforced.  A few of the Native Americans opened their homes with small shops in the front of their pueblo. We visited with them and purchased a few items like sage sticks and a bracelet.  Later in the day a Corn Dance would be held, and every once in a while, a few groups of residents came out onto the rooftops and called the community to the dance with chants and songs. Unfortunately, we were unable to stay for the dance, but we were told that it was definitely an event to enjoy given that it happens very infrequently.

Leaving the region, we took the “High Road to Taos” which was the longer, more scenic route back to Santa Fe. This memorable drive took us through the town of Taos, which was a lively, crowded tourist destination with trendy shops, galleries and upscale spas, bed and breakfasts, hotels and restaurants before continuing down the mountain. The “high road” took us past village after village of pueblos from multiple native American nations, with incredible, intimate views of their homes and stores and glimpses of their lifestyle.

After a long day, we were looking for a convenient place for dinner. El Coumal Café, a highly recommended spot, was literally three doors away from our RV park, just a short walk for two tired and hungry travelers.

El Coumal is a small local place serving hearty, delicious portions. Enjoyed with a couple of chilled Modelo Negros, this meal was a perfect topper to a wonderful day!

Tucumcari to Santa Fe, New Mexico

Tucumcari to Santa Fe, New Mexico

Images of the signage at Clines Corner, NM travel stop.
Clines Corner, NM

Gorgeous ride!  Beautiful blue skies!  Tiny, low-growing purple flowers covering the hillsides! 

It’s still very windy when we stopped at Clines Corner, a travel rest center who amusingly bills themselves as having the “world’s largest bathrooms.” After stretching our legs, we head out on Route 285 toward Santa Fe. The vistas change again as low-lying mountains came into view, and then higher ones emerge in the distance . . . what beautiful landscapes!

After a quick stop at the Santa Fe tourist center where we are delighted to find a parking spot right on the street in downtown (and check out the funky art installations) we make our way to Trailer Ranch RV Park. It’s a lovely, small RV park right on the bus route to all the attractions and we settle in for a few days.

Red Flag Warnings: Oklahoma to New Mexico

Red Flag Warnings: Oklahoma to New Mexico

Red flag warnings are posted all the way from Oklahoma through Texas.

High Winds, Possible Fires!

We drove from the campground in Tulsa towards Oklahoma City and over the Arkansas River. You can see the skyline of Tulsa to the right, a big and impressive skyline!  The landscape changes from farms to ranches in Oklahoma, the speed limit increases to 75 MPH and signs of drilling for oil are everywhere.

Now, heading into Texas through the Texas Panhandle we zoom past miles of wind farms and cattle ranches. We are heading out of Texas and toward New Mexico as quickly as possible, our only stop at a convenience/gas stop in Shamrock, Texas for gas and water and a tiny break.

We are outside Amarillo, Texas before we see any houses or signs that people live here, but continuing through Amarillo on Route 40, we see every chain restaurant or hotel known to man. There’s also those chains not as well known to us easterners like Hobby Lobby, SteinMart, World Market, Jimmy Johns, Chick Fil A, and even organizations like Oral Roberts University.

We passed a huge, smelly beef processing plant – Quality Beef – with an enormous number of cattle penned up really tightly together by the highway…. phew, what a stench!

Now, passing by scorched earth and we see the Vega Texas Fire and Rescue trucks trying to control a fire. Due to the high wind conditions the RV only got 5.95 mph.  A tough ride in these windy conditions.

As we crossed into New Mexico the landscape changed from the flat grasslands of Texas to a more rolling landscape of scrubby brush, much greener and prettier.

We camped at Tucumcari KOA with of view of Tucumcari Mountain behind us and woke to some bright yellow American finches on our waterspout and two Guinea Fowls strolling the grounds.  The staff at the KOA cooked us a delicious breakfast before we left the next morning.

New Mexico calls itself “The Land of Enchantment” and I can feel the vibes in the air. I ask the young staffer at the KOA how he’s doing as I pass by him on my walk-around in the park.  “Freaking awesome” is his reply.

Yup, that seems to sum it up . . .  New Mexico, I like you already!

Oklahoma and the Cherokee Casino

Oklahoma and the Cherokee Casino

We drove all day today, through Missouri into Oklahoma trying to make up a day for an extra day we plan in Santa Fe. Parts of Missouri are beautiful but it is the land of millions of billboards. Tonight, we’ll stay at the Tulsa NE/Cherokee Casino/Will Rogers Downs KOA campground.

Apparently, Will Rogers was a native son of this area and is buried nearby.  He was a huge star in the 1920’s and 30’s and beyond.  “Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects” and “I’m not a member of an organized party, I’m a Democrat” were two of his famous witticisms that seem especially apt nowadays.

Tonight’s dinner was at the bar at the Casino run by the Cherokees. The staff was very nice there, but like most casinos I’ve visited the clientele was very sad-looking, very old, handicapped, obese, unhealthy looking, most of them were heavy smokers.  We had a great conversation with the pretty, young Cherokee bartender. She wants to travel and have her young son experience the benefits of traveling across the country and the world.

It was fascinating to be parked right next to the racetrack. We were able to watch the horses working out on the track the next morning, although we had missed the last race of the previous evening.

Hailing from Massachusetts, where there are some of the toughest gun laws in the nation, it was also a little startling to see the “No Weapons” signs posted on the door to the KOA campground. It would never had occurred to me that a campground catering to families would have to post a sign barring weapons from their property.

It’s very, very windy here with low humidity, very dry.

All throughout the night we heard sounds of small animals underneath the RV. When we woke we found chipmunk-like holes in the ground around us. Were they prairie dogs? Who knows?  We’d welcome any comments from those who are more knowledgeable than us.

Ohio to Stanton, Missouri

Ohio to Stanton, Missouri

Time to leave Ohio and we have a new plan. We’ll try to drive as far as possible the next few days in order to arrive in Santa Fe a day earlier.

Indiana rolls by looking much like Ohio – flat as far as the eye can see. Farms and huge factory complexes like Ford and GM dominate the landscape. Surprisingly, few fields are planted or even turned over, just the dried-up stalks of last years’ harvest sticking up out of the ground. This year’s long cold spring has delayed planting.

Missouri is much greener, more signs of spring. Pink and light green buds are bursting forth on the trees and shrubby roadside growth. We see signs for Hannibal Missouri, the birthplace of Mark Twain.  Oh, I long for more time to stop and visit!

One Pot Meals

We knew we wanted to eat healthy but well during this trip, and we obviously have a small kitchen in our 24′ motor home, so how to accomplish this?  One additional factor was ease of preparation. Who wants to spend a lot of time cooking and cleaning up after a day of sightseeing or driving?

Our solution was to cook as many one pot meals and to prepare ahead by freezing some of our favorites from home and taking them along.

Tonight’s easy, delicious meal was Veggie Chili with Chicken Sausages:

  • Defrost home-made (frozen for traveling) veggie chili in the microwave
  • Brown chicken sausages in large cast iron skillet
  • Add chili into the skillet, simmer to correct doneness
  • With a small salad and some crusty bread, it’s easy, filling and delicious!

 

Hauling steel in a dump bucket

Hauling steel in a dump bucket

I’m riding the truck with Matt this morning and we’re hauling scrap metal to Butler Indiana. He operates a MACK 18 wheel “dump bucket” for B & K Trucking of Delphos, and he’s taking me on his regular route.  We are crossing the farmlands of Ohio, and I can see huge mega-farms, smaller local farms and even smaller Amish farms with their paddocks of draft horses as we head toward Indiana.

Our destination is a large steel processing plant where flat roll sheet products are manufactured. It’s an incredibly large and complex operation and our delivery and our 18-wheeler is just a tiny little speck in a bigger and very busy picture. Not only do we deliver 58 bundles of sheet metal, we also pick up 24 tons of slag, a by-product of the recycling process. The slag is destined for a homeowner who’ll use it as a base layer for a new driveway.

On the way we pass scores of hydro-electric windmills, just fields of them.  These farmers have harnessed wind power to run their operations. On route, I have the chance to chat with Matt and find out lots of info about the jobs in the area, the standard of living, his thoughts on trucking as a profession, and why the residents here voted for Trump in 2016. “He promised to bring back manufacturing jobs” was Matt’s take on it. (Trump won Ohio with 51% of the vote. Obama had won Ohio by 3%).

I also learned the quick facts on the difference between the Amish and the Mennonites both of whom live in the area.  The simplest (and somewhat tongue in cheek) explanation is that the Mennonites would drive their car to Walmart while the Amish would drive their horse and buggy there.

A Google search later tells me that “Ohio is home to the largest concentration of Amish in North America”.

Matt says that there’s a bit of conflict between the local contractors and the Amish businessmen who can put up barns for a lot cheaper than the union carpenters. Things are always more complicated than it seems to a casual observer or visitor to a region. It helps to have a local explain it to you.

All in all, today is turning out to be just the eye-opening experience I hope to have on this trip.

Hanging out in the heartland: Delphos, Ohio

Hanging out in the heartland: Delphos, Ohio

We’ve arrived in Delphos, Ohio to visit my step-son (Steve’s son) Matt, who moved out here eight years ago for college and never came home.  He recently purchased an old brick farmhouse on the original Lincoln Highway, one of the earliest transcontinental roadways built in 1912 to accommodate the increasing interest in auto travel.

We can’t wait to see his first real estate purchase and find out all about his plans for the property. We’ll be staying for four days, enough time to roll up our sleeves and give him a hand with some moving in projects, as well as meet his friends and see heart of Ohio.

Delphos is a town of 7,100 located in northwestern Ohio, about 14 miles from Lima, with the self-proclaimed moniker of “America’s Friendliest City”.

It became a major port on the Miami and Erie Canal in the 1850’s, and was the transfer point for multiple railroad lines.  Delphos eventually  became known as a major manufacturing community, spurred by the presence of the railroads and the establishment of the original, historic Lincoln Highway which runs through the town.

It seems as if we have a farmer in the family!  Matt has already started up his menagerie of farm animals with chickens who produce eggs on a regular basis.  Next up are pigs, cows, and we can just imagine that a horse is in the future.

Although the old farmhouse needs lots of work, the lovely plot of land and the vistas of cornfields as far as the eye can see allow the possibilities to shine through!

 

 

Driving the ‘ol Tin Can

Driving the ‘ol Tin Can

Heading out early we spent the day crossing Pennsylvania and heading to Ohio, and I got my first chance to drive the ‘ol tin can during this trip.  My two hours behind the wheel were a pretty good experience for me. Although I had driven this RV before, a 24′ Thor Elite motor home,  it was a little of a challenge when it started to rain, and I had to jockey to keep up with the massive long-haul tractor trailers, giant FedEx tandem trucks, car trailers, and just about every type of truck you can imagine traveling on Rte. 80W/Pennsylvania Turnpike.

We’re heading just south of Cleveland to stay for the night. Tomorrow, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and a peak at lake Erie!

“It’s a fast paced life here on the road” from “America Moves by Truck” by Jack Kapanka, our song of the day.

 

Chicken sausages are really good on a rainy night!

  • Sear in olive oil in a small Le Creuset
  • Turn heat down,  then add finely chopped onions, green peppers and tomatoes (I used all of the veggies that were starting to go bad).
  • Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Serve in rolls, with good mustard and cold beer!  NO grease! Pretty quick and easy.