Wednesday, September 22, 2010

New Mexico Travelogue for September 2010

Hot air balloons over Elephant Butte, NM

Wow, have I been busy. I left town when I saw the calendar pages empty of appointments and meetings only to return home to face numerous appointments and meetings. I did have a good trip though, and I’d like to tell you a little about it. I left on a drizzly Wednesday morning two weeks ago.

Harlan County Kansas. Many communities had Veterans Memorial gardens. I didn't photograph every one of them, but I did stop at quite a few and offered my tobacco.

This trip was a motorcycle trip. I loaded everything I thought I would need for ten days, as that’s how long I thought I’d probably be gone. Turned out to be nine, but very well could have been more. The weather was great, the bike ran great and I wasn’t tiring at all of riding to get to where I was going or of riding the area that I deemed to be my destination.

El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. The royal road. This trail is said to start in Vera Cruz, Mexico and continue through New Mexico and North into Kansas. It was used in the late 1500's, long before the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock.

Here are some logistics for those of you that wonder about such things. My bike is equipped with a computer and keeps track of all these numbers. At the end of the day or the trip, I can press a few buttons and see my progress. I traveled a shade under 3200 miles at an average speed of 58 miles per hour. I got 49.5 miles per gallon average and had the bike in operation for 53 hours and 52 minutes. I did 355 miles per day, on average, but I know some days I was creeping up on 600 and others only putting in 200. I topped off at 115 miles per hour at one point, I think that was in Eastern Colorado on a long stretch of straight highway with no cops in sight.

My 2008 Triumph Tiger sits loaded and ready to travel somewhere in New Mexico. I received a few compliments on my bike. The blaze orange might have something to do with that.

Where did I go, you ask? Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico. I know, that’s a curious name. The reason for the name can be found by clicking on this article. The town used to be called Hot Springs, New Mexico, and that’s the big draw for me. A chance to sit in the hot pools and relax. They are all over town as T or C, as it’s called, resides right on top of numerous springs. The weekend I was there, they had their annual art crawl. Galleries and shops were open in the evening with specials and displays of artwork and other wares. I bought necklaces for the little Grands and a few beads that struck my fancy.

A small church in a small town near Taos, NM

I’ve mentioned these hot springs before. This isn’t my first trip there. In fact, I’ve been going there for years, as well as other destinations in New Mexico. Why New Mexico? I discovered a few places, like these hot springs, years ago when I lived in Grand Junction, Colorado and wandered down there with a friend. I went back and explored often and still return there at least once every year. That started in the early 1990’s. This year, I’ve already been down there twice and have plans to spend part of November and December there. I did extensively ride the mountainous area around Taos and rode the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway.

Road flowers along New Mexico Highway 1 South of the Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Refuge

On the last trip I took in June, I broke my camera. I purchased a new Nikon and took that with me. I had these grand ideas that I was going to stop and take pictures all along the journey. I did take a few photos, but I found it hard to stop as often as I wanted to. You see, when riding a motorcycle and wearing riding gear, it’s hard to practically totally undress and pull out a camera, focus and shoot a picture, and get dressed again to continue riding. Not to mention the idea that there isn’t always a safe place to pull off the road.
By riding gear, I mean the leather gloves, the helmet and goggles, unzip the riding jacket, unzip the pocket where I put the camera, turn on the camera, focus and take pictures, return the camera back into its pocket, zip that pocket up, zip and button the jacket, replace the goggles and helmet and put the gloves back on. And if I do stop and take pictures, then I see another great photo opportunity ten minutes ahead, I have to do it all over again. I had grand ideas, I just didn’t want to be getting off and on the bike so often. I was enjopying the riding way too much.

Near the Colorado/New Mexico border on a bright sunny morning in September.

So, I only have a few photos to share, but I did see a lot of beautiful scenery. I love the high desert with the mountain vistas in the distance. Down in the Southern reaches of New Mexico, the hills are barren of trees and greenery. They all look sort of gray. Their shapes and images change as I ride closer to them as they can be seen from a long range. Many of the photos I took had the memes I subscribe to in mind. Shadow Shot Sunday was prominent as I seem to have been out and about in the early morning sun quite a bit.

Can someone identify this beautiful cactus? Looks like some kind of Yucca. I loved the black tips of the fronds.

Besides looking at the landscape and marveling at The Creator’s wonders, I had to eat. New Mexican green chile peppers are in harvest right now and I had no problem finding plenty of places that were selling meals made with them. My favorite is Chile Verde, or green chile. It’s used like a sauce and covers everything. The main question in New Mexico when you order food is, “Red or green?”
The peppers are picked green, but if left to ripen, they turn a beautiful crimson red. They are preserved in many ways. Fresh green chiles are roasted, the delicate skin removed and used to make the chile verde. These are also used for chile rellenos. In more modern times, the fresh peppers are grilled and put on hamburgers. I’ve even had a blue plate special, you know, sliced roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans on the side, served with green chiles over the beef. It was unusual, but very good.

A great tasting Breakfast Burrito at the Rockin' Y in Tucumcari, NM

Chile verde recipes vary from cook to cook, similar to Italian spaghetti gravy. Every kitchen cook had a Grandmother that did it a certain way and passed her “way” down to the next generation. I love to order the green over my huevos rancheros, breakfast burritos, chile rellenos, enchiladas and even have asked for a small bowl on the side! The red is good too, and made from the same peppers, just ones that were allowed to ripen on the vine longer. They also come in different varieties and each might have a different heat scale. The hotter the better for my tastes.


It’s a funny phenomena that some places, the red is very hot and the green is mild, and the opposite is true at others. I have found that more often, the green is hotter. Sometimes I ask.
Besides seek out and destroy green chile, I generally rode the motorcycle, returning to roads that I knew and finding new ones. Once I got to Truth Or Consequences, I’d end each day with a soak at Riverbend Hot Springs Resort. Some mornings I took a dip before staring my day. Much time was spent at the local Black Cat Coffee Shop and Bookstore. I also found a few places to have an afternoon coffee break o my way down and back in Socorro at the Manzaneres Street Coffee Shop, a place I’ve been to numerous times, and in Oakley, Kansas.

Neat, clean, park-at-the-door convenience, all for $30-$40 per night.

I did take camping gear, but never opened the bag I kept it in. I stayed at a motel every night. I had thought of wandering West into Arizona to visit my brother and meet another blogger who lives near where he lives, but I didn't opt to go that way and instead, made this a high plains drifter tour and traveled the grassy expanses of Eastern Colorado and New Mexico. Many people pass through this part of our country and complain that there is nothing there. I found plenty of things to look at and spurred many a thought, like, "Where do these people go to get groceries?"

Yours truly in Hatch, NM

You might remember a few months ago, I posted a story about Sparky's restaurant in Hatch. He was having trouble with his signs. The city council wanted him to remove a larger than life pink pig. He was allowed to keep his signs and added this new one. I engaged another traveler to snap my picture at one of my favorite places. By the way, I had the green chile cheeseburger and it was great!

Wish I had more interesting stories to tell. I did have a few good conversations with waiters and locals in the dives where I stopped to eat, and I also stayed at some interesting small town mom and pop motels, but other than ride, eat and look at scenery, I didn’t do much. This trip was a head clearing experience for me. The wind will do that, especially if that’s what you’re seeking. The only thing wrong is that once I got back, kissed the bride and hugged the Grandkids, I was ready to take off again. I’m planning my next escape right now.



Mel said...

Ohhhh.....and trains! They have trains! I know cuz I got a video of one--and I just read about the one near/in Taos.

Yup--what a pain to take photos if it's all that rigamaroll first. We'll have to develop a different system. :-/

Oh, but what great photos you got when you did stop the bike to bother.
And yup--I miss not taking that journey this year. *sigh* Ah well, I'll just smile and make it vicariously through you. (for the moment!)

I think I'd thoroughly enjoy the enchanted circle route--as long as stopping the Jeep and wandering about is allowed.

115, huh? :-D

Carol Gee said...

Joe, you just can't keep a true vagabond down, huh? I loved the trip . . . and the pics. For a guy that didn't take many photos you got a good crop. I concur about the treasures available in the "empty" high plains. Glad you got to do coffee faves, too. Namaste and Peace.

english inukshuk said...

oh I love the hot air balloons!! and the mountain shot. . .

. . .don't know anything about yuccas or cacti, but I tried googling it for you - came up with one site that said black tips are a result of over-watering (I don't think this is the case, do you?!) and another one that said some rabbits in NM have black-tipped ears (I don't think this helps either, does it!)


thanks for sharing your trip with us

Coffee Messiah said...

Always nice to read what you've been up to!

BTW, Thanks for waiting around for us. Was nice to finally meet you, although we didn't have much time. Great coffee and it was nice to meet Jim too!

Pad Thai was a bummer. Guess we needed to tell them we wanted a real Thai experience, instead of the midwest, bland one ; (
No spices at all.

Otherwise, finally got back and maybe next time we can meet Barb too?


Coffee Messiah said...

PS: Sorry, I meant your friend Steve (not Jim).

Old age ya know ; (

Billie Greenwood said...

I absolutely loved this travelogue! Isn't New Mexico the best? Your memories are a trip for the rest of us. Thanks so much, Joe!

rebecca said...

this wind, the open armed skies, all the head clearing a road warrior for peace could ask for.

you have inspired me...
and incited great hunger
for everything verde!!!!!

off to the kitchen.

welcome home....

EG CameraGirl said...

Fun shots of your trip. I would have liked for you to take MORE but hey! Now you can go BACK. :)

susan said...

It was the same with us when it came to picture taking on our trip across the northern states and through eastern Canada. You just can't stop the car (or back up) on highways to get the perfect shots and every gas station may be unique but not necessarily photogenic.

Your stories and pictures are always such a treat, Spadoman. I can understand why these journeys are so important to you. I've done major drives a couple of times in my life and have always been glad of the experience that can't be duplicated in any other way than being there.

Stephanie said...

Sounds like a great trip! When I do bike (bicycle) rides I have a little camera that I can whip out of my pocket and takes pics as I ride...I know I know certainly NOT an option for a motorcycle...just saying.

I love how you share the little details, the conversations the wonderful stops etc. Really gives us a sense of the trip.

I'm head to NM in a week to Abiqueue north of Santa Fe for my Ghost Ranch retreat.

wonder where you're going next...

Spadoman said...

Thanks so much for passing through here, and thanbks for the comments too! I appreciate it.
I just want to know why no one said anything about me as a green chile pepper!!!????

Peace to all, and thank you very much.