THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO “HMMMMM”: 1) Near Milan, New Mexico, we saw a sign that said “End Safety Zone”. Really? I was under the impression that safety is important at all times when operating a motor vehicle. 2) I forgot to include this one before. When you think about mountainous states, which ones come to mind? For me, the first would have been Colorado. After all, they have the mile high city (Denver) and Rocky Mountain National Park. Well, I would be right if the question was mean elevation…Colorado’s is 6,800′. BUT, the most mountainous state, meaning the one with the most, not the highest, mountains, is…NEVADA. There are more than 100 named mountain ranges in the state most often associated with the desert. Crazy, huh?
Because we had a long driving day ahead of us, we left around 7 AM on Monday, July 18. (Before hitting the road, I grabbed a couple of pics I’d missed of the flowers around our site. It really was beautiful.) First we jumped on I-40 east, then exited on NM-6 past Paraje. Then in Los Lunas, we hit I-25 south for a couple of exits and took NM-47 down to US-60 east. I typically don’t do too much work when we are on the road, because I like to see the landscape changes. That wasn’t the case on this day, though, because I had been having a computer issue. Many years ago, my father-in-law, Buddy, talked me into becoming a MAC person. He was right, I’ll never go back. One of the big pluses is fewer viruses and malware attempts for the iOS system. I read an article recently, though, saying it is changing. I’ve always kept security software just to be safe in protecting both personal and client information. Things had bogged down lately, though, like a Microsoft computer after a year of daily use. Well, not really that bad. Startup, which only happens every month or so and typically takes less than 20 seconds, was running 4-5 times that long, and things were generally very sluggish Thankfully, I have a backup computer. (Long story from a previous issue.) My solution was to migrate to that system and re-image the original one. While moving files is easy, getting the internet connections and cloud drives set back up can take a good bit of time. Of course, while that is going on, both writing and bookkeeping are getting backed up…AGAIN! (In all fairness, in over 8 years I’ve had two issues. I can’t even begin to remember all of the issues I had with my MS computers prior to the switch.) During this drive, I had my head in the computer almost all the way.
In Mountainair, New Mexico, we stopped at the Mustang Diner for lunch. They had sandwiches and burgers, but Mr. Wonderful (MW) and I both went for Mexican and were glad we did. They’ve got a Mexican grandmother working in that kitchen, for sure! Continuing east on US-60, we passed through Vaughn and saw the first herd of pronghorn we’d seen in weeks. Well, we did see a lone fellow a week or so ago, but this was quite a few. We also passed through the Estancia Basin, which is a closed basin between the Manzano Mountains and the Pedernal Hills. It was once the home of a large, 150-foot-deep lake. Today it has lots of salt ponds and lakes, of which Laguna del Perro is the largest. At Vaughn we caught US-54 north up to Santa Rosa, then continued north a few more miles to Santa Rosa Lake State Park.
TOTALLY UNRELATED BUT COOL SIDE NOTE: The other day my bro Mark Jones sent some pics of a new statue at the National Naval Aviation Museum at NAS Pensacola. It seems the MIGHTY PROWLER CREWS are getting some props! Woo Hoo!! He sent the pics below. MW was in VMAQ-2, which was later subdivided and his unit became VMAQ-1. Sadly, thanks to our ridiculous, politically correct climate, the patch shown for the former is an updated version. I guess the original was just too hard for some folks to take. I’ve provided it below, so stop reading now if you are easily offended. (Personally, I can’t see how “Death Jesters” is better.) The VMAQ-1 slogan “Tairngreacht Bas” means “death foretold”.
Tuesday started with a nice 40-minute walk around the park. Then I headed into town and parked myself at McDonalds to focus on my computer problem. I worked so long that the batteries ran down on the computer! A quick stop at the Love’s truck stop revealed a huge area with tables and plug-ins. Bonus! I spent a little more time working, then picked up the reason for the Love’s stop in the first place, fried chicken from Popeye’s to take care of a craving MW had been having.
Wednesday started with a nice, 2.7-mile hike on the Shoreline Trail. Despite the oppressive heat in the afternoons, it was not bad in the morning. It had to be early, though! We started at 5:30 AM, which is also the only time we’ve seen deer out and about. They aren’t stupid…it’s ridiculously hot in the daytime. We also saw tracks from either a giant dog or a wolf. The print was about 4″ by 4″…no kidding! The lake was extremely low due to a water release requested by the Bureau of Reclamation taking its surface from around 3,500 acres to approximately 227 acres. It was still beautiful in the sunrise, though. One other interesting thing that you wouldn’t see unless you hike in the woods: foxes and coyotes like to mark territory by pooping on rocks…in the middle of trails. We also saw a bit of bear poop, which surprised me. I’d show you a pics, but I’m not sure all of my readers care to look at poop. I find it fascinating, though.
After that, it was back into town to take care of the laundry at Mi Casa Laundromat, which was older but clean. The place was empty for most of the time, but as I was finishing up, an interesting fellow came in. He traveled all the time with his job and frequented laundromats, too. What does he do? He blows up windmills! Seriously!! Apparently those giant, half-million-dollar machines can’t always be repaired. When that happens, his crew comes in and places charges at the base and near the middle and brings them down. Sometimes the wind energy company puts another up in its place, but other times another one is not wanted/needed. In that case, they also remove the concrete and everything associated with the windmill and sod the area. Within a month or so, you’d never even be able to tell it was there!! He showed me some pics of them taking them down and before and afters of some complete removals. It was pretty darned cool.
After finishing up the chore, I headed over to Subway in the Pilot Travel Center where I had lunch and worked for several hours. At one point a couple of women with three teenage girls sat down next to me. We ended up talking, and they were road-tripping across country from Illinois and were having a blast. We ended up talking about traveling, and sharing our experiences. They asked a lot of questions about where TheJonesPath has taken us and what it’s like to give up the house for the tiny space. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to them. I don’t get to talk to a group of women often on the road. Ladies, if you checked out the blog…welcome!
Santa Rosa Lake State Park is very beautiful. It is located about 8 miles or so from the town of Santa Rosa where there are shopping and dining options. It was a very quiet place with the only noise being the rare airplane passing over. Typically this park centers around water activities including boating, fishing, swimming, and all kinds of water sports. (As stated above, though, during our visit the water level was VERY low, so there wasn’t much boating going on.) Amenities include a boat ramp, education programs, picnic tables and pavilion, miles of hiking/horseback riding trails, playground, wildlife viewing blinds, and a dump station. Lodging options include a group camping facility, 17 primitive sites, 15 30-amp water & electric sites, and 11 50-amp water & electric sites, 52 developed sites with water nearby. The campground is divided into two loops of well-spaced sites. There was one bathhouse located between the loops, and vault toilets, too. The facilities were clean and well-kept. Both Verizon and AT&T had adequate coverage, but there was no over-the-air tv to speak of. Unless the lake is up, this would not be a destination park for those looking for excitement. We certainly enjoyed the beauty and peace, though, and would definitely return. For this visit in July 2022, we paid $54.00 for 3 nights.
Thursday I was up early writing, which I’ve neglected since the computer issue began. About 8 AM, we hit the road heading away from our final destination for the day, but towards a stop that linked with a previous visit stop in Texas. We took US-84 down south through mostly flat cattle ranches/farms. At Fort Sumner, we turned east on US-60, then south on NM-272, which is also called Billy the Kid Road. A few more miles got us to the purported grave of Billy the Kid. It is possible that Billy’s body is buried in this little town in New Mexico. It is also possible, maybe even probable, that his body is in a grave in Hico, Texas. There are some definite inconsistencies in the Pat Garrett shooting story, which I’ve already covered in We’re Outta Here! Brushy Bill, Alpacas, and a Winging. Short of some heretofore unknown piece of evidence, we will never know the truth. Billy’s original, wooden cross marker was replaced later with a tombstone. Just like the Kid himself, that piece of granite fled more than once. In 1951 it disappeared for 26 years before being found in Granbury, Texas. In 1981 it ran off again (with help, of course) and was recovered in Huntington Beach, California four days later. Now it is all locked up to discourage further roamings. The plot includes two of his friends, Tom O’Folliard and Charlie Bowdre who rode with him during the Lincoln County War. There were a couple of other interesting stones, too.
What I never talked about, though, was who Billy the Kid actually was and what he did. There’s not a lot known about his early days, but the most probable birth name was Henry McCarty born in 1859 in New York City. His mother and stepfather relocated to New Mexico in the early 1870s, and his mother died of tuberculosis when he was 14. His stepfather left him to the care of foster homes and boarding houses, and it didn’t take long for him to get in with the wrong crowd and trouble. In 1875 he was arrested for stealing clothing, a minor crime, but his escape from jail compounded the issue. He fled and began the life of cowboy, gambler, and hoodlum. He killed his first man in a dispute in a saloon in Arizona in 1877, which is around the time he adopted the name, “William H. Bonney”. Still only 18 years old, though, others started calling him “Billy the Kid”. His rocket to infamy came during the “Lincoln County War” (an entire story unto itself), when he rode with “The Regulators”. By the time that was over, he was known as a skilled gunman. He was also wanted for the murder of Sheriff William Brady, a man who aligned himself with men working to keep a monopoly on dry goods and cattle in the county using any means necessary. Billy was later convicted of the murder, but once again, escaped before the noose could be set. Although many people think he robbed banks, trains, or stagecoaches, his actual thievery was limited to livestock. He was involved in at least 9 killings, some of which were definitely murder. With a legend as big as his, it’s hard to believe he was only 21 years old when he was supposedly shot by Pat Garrett in Fort Sumner, New Mexico.
Back on the road, we hit US-60 west back to Vaughn, where we made the mistake of stopping for lunch at the Penny’s Diner. I won’t go into detail here, but if you want to read a true rant, check out my review (7/21/22) on Yelp. Suffice to say, it was terrible, and I didn’t even get to eat! We walked across the street to Lalos Cash & Carry, where I planned to get a snack to hold me over until supper. They had some hot food, so I picked up a brat and some potato wedges, and we hit the road. The brat was okay, then I went for the wedges. NOPE. While I was fixing the brat, she gave me chicken strips instead. Ugh! They weren’t terrible, but seriously, can’t a person just get what they’re supposed to??!! We continued northwest on US-285 up to US-66 west, then hit NM-14 up to our next site. Most of the afternoon scenery was completely flat, open grassland with the occasional butte or mountain in the distance. As we approached Cedar Crest, we were back in wooded, mountainous terrain.
When we arrived at the Turquoise Trail Campground, the lady told us that someone had done some “rearranging”, and we would now be at a 30-amp. WHAT?? We made this reservation 4 MONTHS AGO!! We can definitely make do with that, but how does someone decide that another person is more important and should get the site we reserved? And without even contacting us? What if we couldn’t do 30-amp in 100-degree heat? I was prepared to ask her those questions when she finished leading us to the site, but she came back and said to wait while she checked out two 50-amp sites that were empty, but shouldn’t be. Hmmmm. She came back a few minutes later and led us to one of those. I guess someone in that office needs some retraining on their system. All’s well that ends well, right? What a day! We got Petunia set up, then I ran out to the Triangle Grocery to grab a few things. Our nephew Alex arrived a few minutes after I returned, and we headed out to Trail Rider Pizza (excellent) for supper and catching up. After a sucky day, it was a nice evening.
Friday we hung around the park for most of the day while Alex was out flying his Huey. (Well, technically it belongs to the Air Force, but I figure it’s yours while your butt’s in the pilot’s seat, right?) It gave me an opportunity to continue the catch-up game. After work, Alex picked us up and took us to the Fork and Fig in Albuquerque for supper. It was pretty warm outside, but amazingly, the temp was higher INSIDE. We opted for the patio where they had a misting system. With that and the breeze, it turned out to be very nice, but our butts were wet from sitting down in damp seats. Their website says “No freezer, no fryer — just fresh!!” I had the Bauru, MW tried the Purkey, Alex had the Lamb, and we all had the Brussel Sprouts side. Everything was EXCELLENT! Apparently lots of folks agree, because the place was fairly full when we arrived and more so when we left. Check it out if you are in the area.
Saturday started with MW and me hiking about 3.7 miles in the Cibola National Forest. Once again, I was gasping for breath constantly. The coolest thing…a Rufous Hummingbird landed on a branch near us. He sat there for quite a while as I adjusted to get a pic. The most uncool thing…a couple of guys hiking behind us with one loudly telling the other about something to do with a lawyer. You know, listening to people yacking is the reason everyone goes for a hike in the woods.
After getting cleaned up back at the campground, we headed to meet Alex. He and MW were going to have a guys morning, so I left them at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History for a tour.
MW said they did a good job of depicting the history of nuclear energy and gave equal billing to weapons, energy, and medicine. There was an inside and outside area, and all of the aircraft exhibited were capable of carrying nuclear weapons. One of the coolest things in the place was a recreation of the Manhattan Project lab. It was pretty cool to realize that those guys did all of that with antiquated equipment, slide rules, and chalkboards. He recommends it for anyone interested in the subject matter…or just looking at cool airplanes.
While the boys were doing that, I went down the road to Chick-fil-A and parked myself to get some work done. Not long after arriving, an old guy came in with his grandson. They sat a couple of tables down from me and right beside the table where the employees took their breaks. The man then started questioning the employees about science stuff. “How many miles is it around the earth at the equator?” “What is the difference between baking soda and baking powder?” One employee who spoke broken English stuck his face in his phone and did his best to ignore the guy, who was acting like they were in a class he was teaching. The other employee played along, but she was clearly looking for an opportunity to exit. You know they were just thinking “Only a 15-minute break, and I get stuck with this condescending jerk.” At one point he switched to quotes, hitting up Shakespeare, Lord Acton, and then the famous line from Walter Scott’s Marmion…”Oh! what a tangled web we weave when we first practice to deceive!” Except that’s incorrect. To make the kids feel better, I seriously thought about correcting him. (I don’t remember many quotes, but that one I know because it was one that my Dad liked.) However, then his focus would shift to me, and I wouldn’t get any work done. I decided the kids would have to extricate themselves from the situation on their own.
After the guys finished up their tour, we headed over to the Sawmill Market for lunch and a walkabout. Billed as New Mexico’s first “food hall”, the place was like a giant food court, but with less common, more delicious options and some other booths mixed in. Our first stop was at Paxton’s to pick up drinks. (They scanned your Drivers License and had a two drink maximum for everyone.) Then we wandered around to get a feel for options. MW and I ended up with Ham Bread from Cacho’s Bistro, a Venezuelan place. Alex wandered off and came back with some tasty-looking Mexican. There are tables and bars to sit at throughout the place and upstairs, too. I really enjoyed the atmosphere. Before leaving, I checked out a couple of non-food vendors, then we walked the block or so over to Old Town Albuquerque. By that time, IT WAS HOT! Despite that, I enjoyed looking in various stores, some touristy and others artsy. We also checked out San Filipe de Neri on the Old Town Plaza. It is the oldest church and one of the oldest buildings in Albuquerque. Built in 1793 during the Spanish colonial period, this Catholic Church is on the Register of Historic Places and has remained in continuous use for almost 220 years. Wow! Even more impressive, the congregation has actually served the community since 1706. Let that sink in.
Sunday started with a visit to Alex’s place of worship, Citizen Church in Albuquerque. The music was much more modern than we are used to, with a concert atmosphere including lights, loud speakers, and fog, for the opening. Everyone was very welcoming, and MW and I both loved the message and the pastor’s delivery. They certainly know how to pull in the young crowd, but they are all going to suffer from tinnitus when they are our age. I’d definitely go again, but I’d take earplugs. LOL. After a very informative message, we headed over to Owl Cafe for breakfast. It received six thumbs up, and Alex said he would definitely be stopping back by for one of the delicious-sounding milk shakes. We said goodbye for a bit after that. It was chore day for the nephew, plus he had to go to the base, so MW and I checked out the Skecher’s outlet and went over to Target for a few things. We noticed a few differences as we headed into the Target in Albuquerque. First, there were two security company cars parked conspicuously right out front. Then, we came upon an armed guard just inside the entrance door. I stopped and commented that I’d never seen a guard at Target, and she said they were there any time the store was open. Albuquerque’s homeless and drug problems make stores like that a target (no pun intended) for thieves. No kidding. We roamed around picking up our items and noticed that things like laundry soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and many other items were locked up behind plexiglass doors. In those areas, there was an employee posted with a key to get items for you. It was just crazy! As we were checking out, I spoke to the cashier who said the criminals had just become so brazen about it and got very belligerent. Since the security company started working there, the thefts have decreased, and employees felt much more safe. She also said that Albuquerque and some locations in Louisiana have had to resort to private security. Wow!
Back at the campground, we worked in a little Sunday afternoon nap. I don’t nap often, but occasionally it is just the right thing to do. Later we caught back up with Alex and headed over to a BASEBALL GAME! It has been more than 3 years since we attended a game, and we have both missed it. Plus, it’s the first time we’ve ever been to a game with Alex when he wasn’t playing. We told him we expected color commentary, and turns out, he’s pretty good at it, Uecker voice and all! LOL We watched the Albuquerque Isotopes take on the Sugar Land Space Cowboys from Texas. They have a great stadium with good turnout and food options. After the home team thoroughly trounced the visitors, we thanked Alex for playing tour guide, said our final goodbyes, and headed back to Petunia.
Turquoise Trail Campground and RV Park is a fairly small, private park about 20 minutes northeast of and consistently at least 10 degrees cooler than Albuquerque, New Mexico. In the summer, that is reason enough to head there when in the area! Located in Cedar Crest in the Sandia Mountains, there is shopping and dining within 5 minutes if you don’t want to go to the big city. The park doesn’t have a lot of extras, but there are swings for kids, a gift shop, and every site has a grill and picnic table. (Some of the latter are in sad shape, though.) Lodging options include 3 cabins, 31 tent sites with water nearby, and 56 RV sites, some full hookup and some just electric (50- and/or 30-amp) and water. There was good cell coverage for both AT&T and Verizon, but no over-the-air tv despite the proximity to Albuquerque. The change in type of site from what we reserved 4 months ago at our arrival gave us cause for pause, but as I said above, they fixed that. While it is definitely not a destination campground, it is not a bad place to stay to see Albuquerque. There is also a lot of hiking available in the nearby Cibola National Forest, too. We would stay again if in the area. Oh, almost forgot, there is a small prairie dog village near the entrance. For this stay in July 2022, we paid $148.80 for 4 nights.
Another week gone. Seems like they are flying by! Next up…Sand Dunes, a Trains, and a Castle. See you on the path!
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