I had been wandering all over the western states, those west of the Mississippi River, every chance I got during the 1990’s. I had a job, but I had a lot of time off. I worked out of the Teamster Union hall, a seniority list, and when my name came up, I worked. The jobs lasted from one week to four months, depending on the filming schedule, and I was at my leisure between calls.
Working on a motion picture production crew was that way, sporadic. Those in Hollyweird work all the time though. I worked out there one year, 1997. I was visiting and I got a hold of a guy I worked with in Minneapolis a year or two before. He was in the position of transportation coordinator and did the hiring for the transportation department on films. When I called him, he happen to need a driver for a week or so to finish a project. He asked me if I wanted to work and I accepted.
I would travel out to New Mexico a lot, especially in the Winter or the fringe Fall and Spring times when the weather up North was cold. I found a haven in New Mexico way back in 1991 while just being on the road. I wanted to see Santa Fe, so I headed that way, then went even further South and explored. I found places to my liking and even rented a place for a while in Silver City. The town of Deming has also been my destination and Truth Or Consequences caught my attention by the name of the place itself.
I used to have a jeep to drive around in the mountains. This was fun!
Truth Or Consequences, or T or C, as it’s called, sits on the Rio Grande River close to Elephant Butte Lake, an Army Corp of Engineers dam affair. Three small hamlets make up the area. T or C is in the center with Elephant Butte North and Williamsburg South, all kind of one after the other with borders touching. Elephant Butte being the town right up close to the lake. When drought conditions hit the area, the level of the lake dropped dramatically.
With the lake level down, boaters had a hard time finding enough water to have the recreation opportunities they had enjoyed in the past. Low water meant rocks were uncovered or just below the surface. The boats would lose lower units and experience breeches in their hulls. It became dangerous to boat there and downright expensive as well.
A shot of Elephant Butte Lake showing how the water level has dropped from drought conditions.
The area emptied out and left campgrounds, RV parks, off season storage lots, restaurants, motels, lodges and the general economy of Elephant Butte in disarray. For Elephant Butte, this happened years ago, long before the current economic crunch. Nearby T or C had more stability, but did rely on Elephant Butte and the influx or tourists to the area. When I happened on to T or C, prices were down. There were two local diners in town that catered to the oldsters who chose that place to retire or the snowbirds from up north that came to escape the Winter. They would have early morning breakfast specials and advertise them on their windows.
Bacon, Ham or Sausage
6 a.m. To 9 a.m., Monday thru Friday
I saw them get to $1.99 one season.
T or C used to be called Hot Springs, New Mexico up until 1950 or so. Ralph Edwards, Originator and host of a radio show by the name of Truth Or Consequences, had such wide appeal, he offered a contest to change the name of the town from Hot Springs to T or C. The town voted and the resolution to change the name passed. Here’s the story from the T or C chamber of commerce.
The therapeutic mineral water flows under the town. People who had land above these natural hot springs tapped into them and made small pools for tourists and the health conscious to use for bathing. The minerals in the water are said to be healing. Here is an article that tells about one of the resort spas and the mineral/chemical make up of the water at T or C. It’s called Hay-Yo-Kay Hot Springs and Spa.
My 1984 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser station wagon. I used this vehicle a lot to travel to New Mexico. She sits here near the Mimbres Valley, East of Silver City, NM.
My first visit to T or C was to Hay-Yo-Kay. You’d go in, purchase an hour of time, rent a towel if needed, and went into a privately enclosed room and soaked in a large pool. The water circulated naturally, bubbling up from the ground. It drained through a stand pipe and kept a constant water level. This spa has other services like massage.
A couple of other places offer hot spring pools. One is coupled with a motel. You can rent a room and use the mineral springs at your leisure 24/7. Some have kitchenettes. We rented one of these for a week one year. I had hauled my motorcycle down there and did some winter riding in the desert. Sweet!
Yours truly, relaxing in front of a store/workshop I rented in Silver City.
I also have spent a lot of time in Silver City, NM. Just over the Black Range from T or C. I had a storefront I rented there with a small sleeping area and toilet facilities. Rent was cheap back then. In the early 2000's, the town got on the map as an Artist Community, and prices shot up through the roof!
One of the roads I discovered is a trail used in centuries past called Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. Roughly translated, this was the Royal Road of the interior land. It was also called Jornada del muerto, or single days journey of the dead man. It is a one hundred mile long stretch with no water. Read about this trail Here and Here.
The Rio Grande River was too difficult to follow, especially for livestock and wooden carts. Huge canyons led from eastern and western mountains, creating gigantic ridges to climb and descend, one after another. This overland route was basically level and straight, but dangerous because there was little to no water.
Parts of this trail are a local road. I loved riding on this road and stopping to see things along the way. Old abandoned ranches and side roads that went to the East as far as the government would allow. The White Sands Missile Base is East of the Rio Grande. The public is not allowed to enter this property for obvious and not so obvious reasons.
Other places of note in the area is the City of Rocks State Park, Faywood Hot Springs and the town of Hatch.
City of Rocks is a unique field of rocks, big rocks, 25 to 50 feet tall and maybe 30 to 40 feet around at the base. These jut up from the ground. The land around the rocks is flat. We camped there once and promised to bring the Grand kids there some time in our lives.
A view from the inside of the Gila Cliff Dwellings North of Silver City, NM
Faywood Hot Springs is also unique in that it is just there, in the middle of a flat expanse of high desert. The vision of the owner was to have this space age looking spa resort. Towers were built to hold the mineral water that flowed from the ground. Pools and changing houses had been built, but no further construction. The place is for sale now. I’d buy it in a heartbeat if I had the coin. Check this place out
Hatch, NM, sits along Interstate 25 about 40 miles North of Las Cruces, NM It is a farming community with the major crop being New Mexican green chile peppers. I love these things. Chile rellenos and Chile verde are my favorites. The Annual Chile Festival is over Labor day weekend every year. The whole reason I wrote this post is because I want to go to the festival but cannot make the trip this year. I have been there in the past and would love to return one of these years.
The same time the chile festival was going on in Hatch, up in the mountains, the Black Range, to the west, is Hillsboro. The small town of Hillsboro used to host an apple festival the same weekend. So when you eat the chiles and spend time in the heat of the desert, you could wander up to Hillsboro at 5200 feet and cool off while eating dessert made with Gala apples. Too bad this event has ended. Read why Here.
Anyway, a little travelogue. Last time I spent time in New Mexico was Winter of 2006-2007. In 2007-2008 I was on The Longest Walk and although I did get to New Mexico, I didn’t go to any of my favorite haunts, sit in any of the luscious hot springs, smoke cigars and drink good coffee. We’ll see what this year might offer. I’d like to get down there and spend a little time. In years past, I’d get down there for a week and maybe make two or even three trips over the course of the Winter. Later, I’d spend months there in an RV or renting a cottage. I’d be satisfied with a week or so this year. I’ll put it on the wish list.