April 14, 2016


“It’s better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times.”  Anonymous

Carol writes:  On our initial swing through New Mexico last November, we had spent several days along Route 66 in central New Mexico.  Belatedly, at one of our stops, we had heard very high praise from fellow campers about their visit to a Native American village at Acoma Pueblo.  We made a mental note that on our next pass through New Mexico we would make an effort to head up that way.

This time around we stopped for three days in Albuquerque.  The Old Town section of any city is usually pretty entertaining, so we took an afternoon to see what 300-year-old Albuquerque had to offer.

The shops were colorful,

and the very old adobe church of San Felipe de Neri, anchoring one corner of the city square, was in the classic style of many of the mission churches we have visited this past year.

The next day was another spectacular sunny day… time to get down to the real reason for our stay in Albuquerque—a visit to the highly praised Acoma Pueblo. 


Several natural giant sandstone monoliths dotted the last several miles of the approach along the valley floor.

As we got closer, we were amazed when we realized that the structures atop the largest and most dominant bluff were the pueblo houses of Sky City!

After a short stop in the Cultural Center, we hopped aboard a tour bus for the short ride up to the top of the bluff.

What greeted us atop this 367-ft sandstone bluff was an incredible city of Native American pueblo-style homes that comprised part of Acoma Pueblo.  Sky City is considered the oldest continuously inhabited city in North America, and some of these homes appeared very old indeed.

Other homes had more modern exteriors that frankly seemed a little out of place.  However, the historic character of the village was nicely preserved and, in keeping with ancient traditions, even the more updated homes had no running water, no electricity, and no plumbing.

Artistically symbolic and beautiful ladders led to kiva areas and second-story homes.

A handful of communal domed bread ovens constructed out of stone dotted the village.  As we walked through this fascinating pueblo city, our guide Brandon enthusiastically greeted every vendor and resident he met in his native Keresan language.  It was obvious that the residents of this ancient city were an extremely close-knit community, strongly bound to one another through observance of tribal celebrations in addition to their ancient tradition of pottery making.

I was struck by the rocky, uneven surfaces of the walkways/streets between the houses.  This unique village atop a stony mesa has remained much the same throughout the thousand years that this village has been inhabited.

The crown jewel of this city in the sky was San Esteban del Rey Mission Church, which was constructed by the Acoma people under the guidance of Franciscan missionaries 400 years ago.  To this day, the religious practice of the Acoma Pueblo people is predominantly Catholicism mixed in with centuries-old spiritual traditions that date back to their Ancient Puebloan ancestors that once inhabited the Four Corners area at Chaco Canyon.

No interior pictures of the church or the nearby cemetery were permitted.  However, this very old black and white photo from the Internet has nicely captured what we saw—a hard-packed dirt floor, no pews, simple decorative drawings on the wall, and an eerie open-air confessional along the right wall.  I felt we had stepped back 400 years in time…

What a marvelous experience we had atop the sandstone bluff of Sky City at Acoma Pueblo!


When our daughter, who lives in New Mexico, proposed that we meet up in Santa Fe for a long weekend, we eagerly accepted!  It was an excellent idea to have family time in the Santa Fe Plaza,
grab a few meals, and do a little shopping together.  I was also fortunate to get to spend a mother-daughter spa day at the locally renowned Ten Thousand Waves spa.

Internet photo

Spa day with my daughter was indeed outstanding in this Japanese-themed  relaxing spa built into the surrounding hills above Santa Fe.  Somehow, it seems the older I get, a soak in an outdoor heated pool, followed by a head and neck massage with heated oils, a full body therapeutic massage, and an oxygen facial treatment are just what I need.

Santa Fe has a well-deserved reputation for its art scene.  The mingling of world-class art galleries and historic Santa Fe homes makes a stroll down Canyon Road an eye-popping pleasure. 

Totally by accident, I discovered a feature on my camera that enabled me to convert my photographs to an artistic painting mode.  So, I had a little fun with some of the galleries…

The flowering trees in Santa Fe were at their peak, which only enhanced the appeal of this most beautiful capital city.  Kudos to our lovely daughter for suggesting we spend our precious family time together in Santa Fe!


Just below Raton Pass we spent our last few days in New Mexico at a campground on the grounds of NRA Whittington Center.  

Reminiscent of the Burma-Shave signs along the highways of my youth, the entrance to the NRA facility was lined with signs promoting various gunmakers.

This modern facility of over 33,000 acres in the foothills of the Sangre de Christo Mountains was a gun lover’s delight with 18 separate shooting ranges in a most deserted part of New Mexico.

The hard-core gun culture is not something either of us would say we identify with, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t willing to take a look… especially when they have an excellent campground 

in a remote area of New Mexico, with wildlife all around and killer views in every direction. 

What I especially admired about our campground on this NRA facility was the lack of many rules, which on second thought wasn’t very surprising...  As far as I could discover, the only rule I saw concerned quiet hours.

In fact, with very few campers, it was quiet here all day long, and we were able to catch up on chores and even enjoy a bit of down-time after our somewhat hectic social life the past few weeks.  The only sounds we heard in camp were very faint pops of gunfire coming from a nearby range, evidence that on these lands the Second Amendment is alive and well!  As they say at NRA Whittington Center:

“Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.”  Mark Twain



“The universe is a pretty big place.  If it’s just us, seems like an awful waste of space.”  Carl Sagan, “Contact”

Carol writes:  As the calendar page flipped over to April, we were looking forward to spending four days camping in New Mexico at the Kiva RV Park and Horse Hotel

with our Las Cruces friends Barb and Jim. 

Yes, this small family-run campground, along a very deserted stretch of I-25 south of Albuquerque, offers horse lovers a place to board their horses while they camp.

Photo courtesy of Barb

The entire campground was filled with chirping sounds of hundreds of black birds throughout the trees bordering each campsite. 


We arrived a day ahead of Barb and Jim, so we decided to take a drive to the central grasslands east of the interstate to visit the Abó Ruins site of the Salinas Pueblo Missions. 

Over 300 years ago, a community of pueblo Indians lived at Abó where they had developed an agricultural society. With the arrival of Spanish explorers in the late 1500s, and soon followed by the arrival of Franciscan priests from Spain, the Anasazi religious culture began to disappear as a result of massive conversions to Catholicism.

The remains of a 17th century multistory mission church integrated into the remains of a pueblo-dweller community,

including its kiva, was well represented at Abó.  

This snapshot of archeological remains in the Salinas Valley perfectly illustrated a unique time in early New Mexico history when a cultural mix occurred between the pueblo dwellers and the late 16th century Spanish Christian explorers.


A visit to the Very Large Array, the world’s most powerful radio astronomy observatory, had been on our bucket list for quite a long time.  Since the  Kiva Horse Motel was only 70 miles away, and we had gloriously clear blue New Mexico skies, we jumped at the opportunity.

This radio astronomy observatory consists of 27 giant dish antennas that are aimed day and night out into the universe surrounding our planet for the purpose of collecting radio waves traveling through the vastness of space.

These magnificent brilliant-white dishes are 82 feet in diameter and, depending on the study, are arranged in various configurations by means of movement on a transporter along railroad tracks.

The radio data from each telescope is combined and the numbers crunched by a state-of-the-art supercomputer to create a better image.
This mind-boggling observatory was an incredibly beautiful sight to behold in its chosen location in a vast rural desert with miles and miles of flat space surrounded by mountains in the distance.  The entire telescope array actually rotated simultaneously several times while we were there, and once nearly completed a revolution!  One can only wonder what source of invisible radio waves from outer space had grabbed its attention...

The talented scientists who work at the VLA are on the cutting edge of advancing our knowledge of the universe, from its creation in the ancient past to what may lie in the future.  It doesn’t get more profound than that…


Many months earlier in our travels at White Sands Missile Range we had learned that Trinity Site, ground zero for the detonation of the first atomic bomb in July 1945, was open to the public only two days a year—the first Saturdays in April and October.  Since we had planned to arrive in Colorado Springs in mid-April, the Trinity Site schedule coincided nicely with ours.  Barb and Jim had been to Trinity Site once before, but they were game to share a weekend of camping with us at the Horse Motel.  So, we broke out the cards, the marbles and our custom-made Carbles board and had several great games together.

While Barb stayed back at camp to sit with the pups, Jim accompanied us early Saturday morning as we headed out to Trinity Site.

Our first destination was to the McDonald Ranch House,

a modest stucco home with a tin roof where many of the scientists who designed the atomic bomb lived and worked.  The master bedroom was turned into a clean room for assembly of the bomb core.

The other rooms were poignant in their simplicity.

This thick-walled cement tank served double duty as a water reservoir and also as a swimming pool for much-needed relaxation.

Ground zero at Trinity Site was marked by a simple stone obelisk made out of lava rocks.

This display of “trinitite” (a light green glass-like substance formed out of grains of sand that have been fused by the intense heat of the blast) showed just how powerful the plutonium explosion was.

During his time at sea with the Navy, Al recalled solemn visits to Japanese memorial sites in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Al’s sea days had also taken him to the island of Tinian in the Marianas, the launching point for delivery of both atomic bombs.  Somehow the journey seemed complete with our visit to McDonald Ranch House where the bomb was assembled and, finally, to ground zero where nuclear bomb possibilities were born and... in the wrong hands... have been a threat to human existence ever since. 

“Two things are infinite:  the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”  Albert Einstein