Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Socorro & Elephant Butte Lake State Park, NM

September 16

In the late afternoon of the 15th we drove to Socorro along I-25. Stayed the night in the Escondida Lake Park Campground owned by the County. It was just us and the caretaker. The facilities were OK; maintenance was minimal. A decent place to spend one night. In the morning we went into Socorro to see the Old San Miguel Mission. Founded in 1598. One of the oldest Catholic Churches in the US. The Mission was established along El Camino Real; the original route from Old Mexico to Santa Fe and beyond.
Later we drove the back roads to the Elephant Butte Lake State Park. We picked a site at the tip of a small peninsula jutting into the lake. Among the most beautiful campsites we can recall. The lake/reservoir was formed by the damming of the Rio Grande River.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Santa Rosa to the NM State Fair

September 13

Today we decided to take the back roads from Santa Rosa to Albuquerque. No more Interstate Highways. Took NM 54 south to Vaughn, Encino, Willard and finally Mountainair. Vaughn had a truck stop and a few small stores. Encino & Willard had 45 mph speed limits. That was the only way you knew you were there. Mountainair is a decent sized small town. The highways we drove paralleled the railroad tracks almost the entire way. Must have seen a dozen or more very long trains. Most carried containers. We guessed they came from one of the West Coast ports. Took a picture of an abandoned farm complex. The sign on the barn talked about beans but we couldn’t imagine beans being grown in such an arid area. All we saw were cattle ranches. Perhaps many years ago? Stopped at the Laguna Del Perro. This was the area that until about 1900, was the sole source of salt for most of Mexico. It's a series of lakes that dry out frequently. When they dry, the salt is dug. See the attached photo. We had lunch in Mountainair at the The Ancient Ones Restaurant. The place was packed with locals; always a good sign. We both had Mexican food. A very good lunch. After lunch we toured the Salinas Pueblo Missions Museum operated by the National Park Service. Saw a movie about the Salinas Valley pueblo ruins. Later on we toured the Quarai site.(See the attached photo) The story tells of the original inhabitation of the area by the pueblo Indians then the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadores then the ultimate destruction of the Indian culture. It seems every time early Europeans explorers of the Americas encountered the native peoples, the native cultures were destroyed. Passing through Oklahoma we drove near Seminole and Cherokee Indian Reservations. The result of the Indian tribes being relocated to what was called Indian Territory. As time went by, Indian Territory grew progressively smaller as more & more settlers moved West and needed the land for agricultural purposes. All along today’s roads we saw some of the very old barbed wire fences. They used sticks they collected here & there for the fence posts as opposed to the more modern round wood posts or metal posts. At the end of the day we stayed at the Manzano Mountain State Park campground. Unlike the other two State Parks we camped at, this place is almost full.

September 14

Took the scenic road into Albuquerque. Passed very small towns & large ranches. A lot of the land was part of the old Spanish land grants. Now & then you would see a sign saying, “Entering xxx Land Grant”. Most of the towns had small Catholic churches. Some dating back to the 1800’s. did grocery shopping then went to Old Town and walked around for a few hours. After that we went to Tingley Beach. Read the news paper, walked around the lakes and enjoyed a pretty day. When we woke up this morning, it was 51*. Stayed the night at the Isleta Casino. Decided to eat dinner in the camper rather than overeating at their buffet. Saving the calories for some great Indian fry bread.

September 15

Went to the New Mexico State Fair. Turned out to be Senior Appreciation day. $2.00 admission vs the regular rate of $9.00. Very, very enjoyable. Saw the following attractions: The NM Country Store (Bought some Bar-B-q sauce and Green Chili seasoning), Creative Arts Building (Everything on display is for sale), Indian Village (A lot of the people were in native dress. Others wore shirts with the name of their tribe), A 60,000 square foot “Shopper’s haven” (Full of more junk for sale than you can possibly imagine. Every “magic” kitchen tool; slicers, dicers, ginzu knives, you name it, hot tubs, vacuum cleaners, magic dust collecting towels, on & on. Really entertaining.), Villa Hispana (Enjoyed the Mexican dance band & contest), several art galleries (Again. Everything is for sale), the dairy farmers barn , the goat raisers barn (Watched women convert raw wool into yarn, dye it with natural die, then weave it into rugs. Amazing. It’s no wonder a quality Indian rug sells for thousands of dollars. Carol really liked the baby goats. They were cute. Only $75 could buy a quality goat.). We ate our way through the Indian Village. Fry bread tacos, chili, & Navajo cake. The main food court was as you would expect. Corn dogs, popcorn, turkey legs, etc. One booth really stood out. They were selling deep fried Moon Pies. It’s hard to imagine a more unhealthy food. Out visit to the fair has been the hi-light of the trip so far. We’re going to two other fairs later this month. Over the years, we’ve learned to seek out these festivals. You can learn so much about the area you’re visiting.