Archive for the ‘Behind the Scenes’ category

On Location at the New Mexico History Museum and Governor’s Palace

April 16th, 2010

Okay … I admit that I’m a big fan of former New Mexico Governor, Lew Wallace.  Not because I have any idea of what his accomplishments were as he served back in the 1800’s, but because of what he did in his spare time.  This is the Governor who decided he was also a writer and penned the epic “Ben Hur”, which many years later made it to the Big Screen starring everyone’s favorite gladiator and rebel, Charlton Heston!   Roman History has always intrigued me and it obviously did the same to Governor Wallace.

That’s why I feel a connection when I head to Santa Fe and a must stop visit to the Palace of the Governor’s.  There you’ll learn about Governor Wallace and our other forefathers who have occupied the Governor’s office inside the oldest capital building still in use on the North American Continent.  It’s a wonderful place to visit and I must admit that I catch myself wondering about Governor Wallace sitting in his candlelit office after sunset meticulously writing “Ben Hur.”  Did he really have a lot to do as governor, or did he have lots of free time?  How and where did he get his information to write while living in Santa Fe, which is more than a few miles from Italy and Israel!

Lots of those questions arise as we take a peek into how our former Chief Executives lived and worked.  It’s even possible to imagine Governor Bill Richardson sitting there pondering the fate of New Mexico in pretty primitive surroundings!  Do you think any of our 20th Century Governors, including Governor Bill Richardson, ever wondered over to the Palace to walk the halls and asks his predecessors for advice as many of our Presidents have indicated they do in the White House?  Any way you cut it, from the Native Americans sitting outside the front door selling their authentic jewelry and pottery to what you see inside the Palace of the Governors is a place you’ll want to visit time and again while in Santa Fe.

And just behind the Palace is New Mexico’s newest museum … The New Mexico History Museum … 3 ½ floors of everything you want to know about New Mexico from the earliest settlers (after the Native American’s) making their way up the El Camino Real (The Royal Road) from Mexico City … to the wild west and early railroad travel … to space travel in our future.

On Location at the New Mexico History Museum

On Location at the New Mexico History Museum

It’s all here and you’ll want to take in every inch of every floor.  See video (including some of our Travel Guide New Mexico video!) and other interactive displays that do much more than give you a glimpse of New Mexico … they walk you through hundreds of years of history and culture.  All in a way that will truly give you a feeling of what it was like then … and how it has evolved to now.  Just a wonderful place.  And being able to walk between the Palace of the Governor’s to the new New Mexico History Museum is a very special treasure that you won’t find in other states.

Behind the Scenes at the Chuck Jones Gallery

April 16th, 2010

I discovered while in Santa Fe that there are a lot of great art galleries.  You know it is the third (I think I’m right) largest art city in the country?  Yep, lots of art, sculptures, weavings and just about anything art.

On my most recent trip to Santa Fe I decided that I didn’t want just the norm in art galleries.  I wanted to visit a place that would really make me smile … even laugh … at what I saw.  And more than that I wanted to feel welcomed to do so and not think I would need to talk in hushed tones during my visit.

Where do you find a place like that?  Someplace that brings out the kid in all of us and takes us back to our childhood … or even gives us a chance to reminisce about “art forms” you’ll find today that give you reason to smile?

Well the answer is The Chuck Jones Gallery just off the Plaza downtown.  Chuck Jones?  You know … Wylie Coyote … Road Runner … Marvin the Martian … all of those folks.  You just look at the art and you can’t help but smile.  Okay … you can’t help but laugh!  And the folks in the gallery encourage you to do so all while telling you what inspired Chuck and the other artists represented there to create what they created.

Think … The Simpsons … and then buy one of the original artist drawn cells used in one of the famed TV episodes that are now over 20 years old!  I’ve always loved the Simpsons and believe it or not there are some cells from which I actually remember the episode and can nearly recite the words Bart and the others exclaimed.  Ah.h.h.h… to have one of those in my office!

On Location at the Chuck Jones Gallery

On Location at the Chuck Jones Gallery

Well, we had a ball filming and talking to the great staff there led by Michael Bundy.  And if you’re lucky you might be in the gallery when Craig Kausen, Chuck Jones’ grandson, is there.  Both Michael and Craig will regale you with stories of Chuck Jones.

I ended up purchasing pieces for each member of our staff as a Christmas present.  They are all so wonderful that it is nearly impossible to make the right selection but whatever selection you make, if my staff is any gauge, it will be the right one.  I can’t wait until the Grinch purchased for our home arrives!  Now, that is some Christmas present in a place where laughter and joy abound year round.  The Chuck Jones gallery in Santa Fe.  A different kind of gallery with a whole lot of memories for children of all ages!  You just gotta love it!

Travel Guide Rides the Rail Runner

April 16th, 2010

I’m hooked!  There just isn’t any other way to say it.  I am absolutely hooked on the New Mexico Rail Runner … a fabulous train ride from Belen, Los Lunas, Albuquerque and Bernalillo to Santa Fe … and back.

Once upon a time in my past I lived in Milwaukee and traveled almost weekly the 90 miles from downtown Milwaukee to downtown Chicago.  It took 90 minutes and certainly beat fighting the traffic.  I’d read a book, listen to music and just watch the scenery.

I’d forgotten all of that until I hopped on the New Mexico Rail Runner for a ride to Santa Fe.  It all came back to me.  Why drive when it is a whole lot cheaper to ride the rails?  Why drive and watch the road when you can ride and watch the scenery?  Why not just ride and read a book?  Talk about stress relief … the Rail Runner did all of that for me and a whole lot more!

When you get off the train in Santa Fe you are just a couple minutes walk to the Plaza.  Or you can hop one of the shuttles that will drop you off just about anywhere you want to go downtown and the surrounding area.  Off to Buffalo Thunder or Taos?  The Rail Runner connects in Santa Fe with shuttles to those place and a few more as well.  (Check with your final destination for a timetable.)

On this trip you’ll pass through Reservation land that you can’t see from I-25, which means you’ll see part of New Mexico that you wouldn’t see otherwise.  And all of this takes just about 90 minutes from Albuquerque to Santa Fe …and the same time back.  Yes, that’s a little more time than it takes to drive. But the ride is oh so relaxing!

Take the Rail Runner up to Santa Fe …or down to Albuquerque … for dinner and more.  It might be just the ticket for you.  It was for me and, now that I’m hooked, the Rail Runner will be my first choice for transportation to Santa Fe … and back.

If you’re heading to Santa Fe from the Southern part of the state … or coming down to Albuquerque from the North, think about parking and riding the Rail Runner.  In Albuquerque the train stops in two locations downtown … the primary stop is at the main train station at Central and 2nd.  Just a quick walk to anywhere down town.  I think even Wylie Coyote and the Road Runner would approve.  It’s clear that I do!

Gone Fishing in Elephant Butte

March 1st, 2010

I have to admit … I’ve lived here permanently eight years and had never gone to Elephant Butte.  Fishing has never been at the top of my priority list but that all changed with the introduction to Frank Vilorio, ace fishing guide and someone you would want to share a brew with after a great day on the water.

Frank has been a guide on Elephant Butte Lake for years and he knows every nook and cranny of the lake.  I found this out right away when he put down the anchor in a little cove and said it was time to catch the bait we would use that day.  Catch bait?  Now there’s something I hadn’t heard of before … I thought you bought the bait in a store!  Nope, Frank says you have to use live fish to catch fish.  He was right!

Off we went and before long we were hauling in White Bass and looking for the elusive big Striper Bass.  Jordan and Heather from Wyoming were along with us and Jordan showed us the “biggest” fish in the lake … about three inches long.  But the second bite was one much bigger and the kind that would fit nicely into a campfire cook stove.  We, of course, caught and released.

We were all enjoying the pristine New Mexico day – lots of sunshine and beautiful surroundings – when Heather snagged a Striper!  This one was at least 15 pounds and gave Heather a nice fight before landing this “baby” in the boat.  After everyone got to take a look this great fish was also returned to its native habitat.

Frank had us on the lake for about six hours and we could have stayed longer had we not had more filming to do for Travel Guide New Mexico.  But he was quick to invite us back and we’ll take him up on that offer.

If you want to see some of the trophy fish that Frank has engineered for his charter participants check out his website and www.stripersnewmexico.com.  Now these are some fish!

Thanks, Frank, for a great day at Elephant Butte.  To see more click on our Elephant Butte video.  And remember … Elephant Butte is New Mexico’s largest lake.  In addition to fishing the boating and camping are terrific!  Enjoy …

Northern New Mexico at its Best – Taos!

February 27th, 2010

What can you say about Taos, New Mexico? It’s one of those magical places you’ll want to return to time and time again. I’ve been there many times and can’t get enough of the place.  The year round weather is just wonderful.  Not too hot in the summer nor too cold in the winter.  The history is rich … the galleries phenomenal … and I don’t think I’ve been to many places as small as Taos that have such an exceptional number of great restaurants.  I’m a lover of Graham’s Grille just off the plaza and the Texas BBQ  and Trading Post just south of town.  There are far too many to mention here so you’ll want to stay awhile and try them all.

On our latest trip we had a ball.   Stayed at the Hampton Inn and Dana and Raymond made us feel right at home.  They have a great breakfast buffet that is included with your room and it’s not unusual to see noted local artist, Richard Alan Nichols,  painting in the lobby or to hear the incredible flute music of Frederick Aragon (appearing live) helping you dream a little over morning coffee.

el-monte-sagradoWe packed a great deal into this adventure taking in a variety of art galleries downtown, visiting the Kit Carson museum to learn a little of Taos history and spent an incredible day at the El Monte Sagrado hotel and spa.  Now this is one place that you need to spend some time.  The spa is like none I’ve ever seen and on my next trip I’ve been invited to stay at the hotel and after seeing the rooms and suites I may just be enticed to move in permanently!    The El Monte is one of those “comfort food” type places where you could easily spend a few days and never leave the grounds.  Pampering here is second nature to the entire staff and you’ll want for nothing!   This is a world class destination in a world class town.  And … while doing some filming on the restaurant patio I ran into Dennis Hopper of “Crash” TV fame (Okay … let’s not forget “Easy Rider!”) taking a break from filming and  having a casual meal by himself.  He is quite an accomplished artist himself and told me that Taos is rapidly becoming “home” for him.  He just loves New Mexico and is quite the good will ambassador for our state and Taos.

But Taos is more than just downtown.  We headed up toward Taos Mountain and on the way took a balloon ride with Ed Smith of the Pueblo Balloon Company.  Now this wasn’t just a hot air balloon ride … this was a ride DOWN through the Rio Grande Gorge. Ed is a great guy and has lots of stories to share about the early days of Taos that he shares on the ride to his launch site.  After the ride we took a walk across the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge … one of the tallest in the country.  Spectacular!  And…it’s a long way down!

taos-ski-valley-winterThe Village of Taos Ski Valley and the Ski Valley itself are filled with fun places to visit and things to do.  I think most people are of the opinion that Taos is a place to go in the winter to ski.  I’d spend a week or so there in the summer.   The Taos Music Festival had its inaugural run this year and was a huge success.  Outdoors with the mountains and valley in the background.  Blankets and picnic baskets spread on the ground. Blue skies and great music.  What else is there to say?  While you’re waiting for the music to start … try some Frisbee Golf!  Now that is a lot of fun and you get a good share of exercise, too, when you consider that part of Taos Mountain ski area is used for the course!

taos-bavarian-innWe had a great lunch at the Bavarian Inn just up the mountain from Taos Ski Valley.  Thomas and Jamie Schulze are the owners who believe that “good” just isn’t good enough.  Their patio is open in summer and winter and is right at the bottom of one of the mountains chair lifts.  If we ever meet remind me to tell you the story of the stein of beer that Thomas shared with me!  It’s one of those that you have to hear in person.

Chuck, our native New Mexican, had never had true German food.  Thomas is from Munich (I believe) and he knows good Bavarian food!  Chuck has made me promise that the next time we’re up there we’ll pay the Bavarian a return visit for the combination sausage platter.  That’s what I had and it was so good I selfishly refused to share more than one bite with the crew … Chuck included!  The Bavarian has four ski chalets for rent year-round and Janine and I will definitely be booking our room there for the upcoming ski season!

taos-ski-valley-summerWe spent time rock climbing with Jay and Donna Foley.  Something I hadn’t done before and neither had producer/director, Chuck, who wedged himself in a large crevice to get some great shots of Jay climbing.  Something I definitely want to do again.  Jay has actually done some climbs that required overnight stays sleeping in a hammock attached to a rock on a sheer face canyon wall!  Don’t think I want to try that … but …

Big Al Johnson is a cowboy everyone should meet.  A tall, gentle man who wakes up every morning thankful that he gets to do what he does … take folks like us on high mountain horseback rides at over 10-thousand feet elevation.  His stories are fabulous and the care he takes to make sure everyone enjoys the ride is second to none.  Just a wonderful guy with a couple equally as wonderful people working for him.  He does overnight camp stays, too, and I’ve promised him that I’ll be back for that experience, too!  He explained what the stars and night sky look like from up there but I think this is something you have to see to believe. What a great day rock climbing and horseback riding!

The great thing about Taos Ski Valley and the Village is that if you like to fish you can fly fish right out of your “home” … or very close by.  Just another great example of places to go that offer something for everyone!   Taos does that and a whole lot more!  Spend a week there and enjoy Northern New Mexico to the fullest.

Richard Visits the State Capitol

January 30th, 2010

I’ve lived in New Mexico for many years and have spent a great deal of time in Santa Fe.  You know – The City Different – the place that gives all of us a different perspective on New Mexico.  A travel Mecca for people around the world.  And a place that most of us who live here take for granted — as a result, we have our favorite places to visit and therefore we miss a lot.

Recently, I visited the State Capitol building for the first time.  My wife, Janine, had been invited by Governor Richardson to meet with him about Travel Guide NEW MEXICO and in-state travel in general.  Since I wasn’t on the invite list, I tagged along and started to look around the inside of the Capitol Building while Janine was in her meeting.  After a couple minutes I asked one of the guards if it was possible to take a tour and he said, “Sure, this is the people’s building … feel free to go wherever you would like and be sure and check out the great art we have here.”

Art? In the Capitol Building?  Feel free to walk around?  Unescorted?  Go wherever you want to go?  You’ve got to be kidding!  So I started off walking into the visitor’s gallery of the House of Representatives and the Senate, located on opposite sides of the building.  I sat and looked in amazement at our seat of government and in awe of the fact that I could just walk around and check things out.

The art is magnificent and you are even allowed to walk into the reception area of the Governor’s suite and check out the art there.  Wander the hallways and there is nothing short of a great art collection at every turn in every hallway.

New Mexico’s State Capitol was built in 1966 and from the air looks like a giant Zia sign.  There is no dome … the only capitol building in the country without one!  The atrium on the main floor is awe-inspiring.  Just walk in and look up and you’ll see what I mean.  Take in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors … walk up the steps or take the elevator.  It is one building that you need to see if art is your love.  Or, if you are just interested in how government works.

Martin Leger, the Advertising Manager for the New Mexico State Tourism Department, has great stories to tell of his father’s days as a state senator and I look forward to talking with him more about his Dad’s time in the “Roundhouse”, as it is called by those who work there.

If you prefer, you can arrange for a guided tour.  Call first (505/986-4589) to make arrangements for a once in a lifetime tour of a building where laws are made and art is king!  Janine and I have promised that everyone who comes to visit us will be treated to a tour of OUR State Capitol.  A building open year-round for all of us to see and enjoy!  Make sure you add it to your list of places to visit while in Santa Fe.   It’s an easy two minute walk from the Plaza … so you have no excuse for not stopping by!

Behind the Scenes with Richard: Trail of the Ancients

January 16th, 2010

Long before I moved to New Mexico I had been told stories by my grandfather and grandmother of the great cliff dwellings and Native American ruins that they found during their travels here in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s.  I just couldn’t imagine what these “houses” must have been like.  I found pictures in National Geographic and read books in the library and eventually, as technology advanced, sought information on the internet.

Bandelier, Chaco Canyon, Aztec, Salmon Ruins and Gila are all part of our early Native American Culture along the Trail of the Ancients.

So, you can imagine how thrilled I was when we sat down in a Travel Guide New Mexico television production meeting and the topic of the “Trail of the Ancients” came up.  It was interesting to learn that, perhaps, many of the cliff dwellers came from the same Native American tribes and how they split and moved in different directions.

I knew this was a trip of a lifetime and I wasn’t disappointed.

I have visited Bandelier near Los Alamos many times when relatives and friends visit and I always look forward to going back.  To me it is a very magical place in a magical location.  Often times we spot deer drinking and relaxing along the stream where early inhabitants drew their daily water supply and irrigated their fields.  If you’re up for a hike you can climb out of the canyon and peer down on the ruins or head south to take in the two waterfalls that feed into the Rio Grande.

However, I had no idea that Puye Cliffs on the Santa Clara reservation was just a few miles from Bandelier near Espanola.  And I had paid only a brief visit to Aztec and Chaco Canyon and couldn’t wait to get to the Gila Cliff Dwellings near Silver City.

At Puye Cliffs, Lucretia Williams met us in her Santa Clara native garb and gave us a first hand tour of this wonderful place.  In many cliff dwelling communities we see a main “village” under the cliff dwellings.  At Puye Cliffs the “village” is on a mesa above the cliff dwellings … something I was unaware of until Lucretia drove us (you can climb but dusk was approaching) to the top of the mesa for a spectacular view of the surrounding area.  Now this is a place where I could have lived!  You have to take a guided tour here and don’t be hesitant to do so.  Your family will learn a great deal about the early inhabitants and the Santa Clara people today.

Chaco Canyon is one of those places that you scratch your head and ask why people came here in the first place?  Many theories abound with trade from Mexico and California not to mention trade routes from the north and east as well.  From the air we were told you can still see the outline of these routes.  What we don’t understand is why Chaco was chosen.  Wood beams were cut and hauled many miles to make the ceilings of the dwellings secure and the rocks used to build the structures were carried from about five miles away.  Imagine doing all of that hundreds of years ago before horses and wagons entered the scene.  It is just mystical.  Be sure and ask the guides about the theories of Mayan and Aztec influence in the region and at Chaco in particular.  Especially as 2012 looms before us …

North of Chaco is the Aztec ruins located right in downtown Aztec.  The most notable part of Aztec is the reconstruction of the Great Kiva, which gives you a real look at the kiva as a meeting place and this is one HUGE kiva!  I was blown away by its size and can only imagine what actually took place here.  One incredible place for a family reunion!

Right next door to Aztec is the Salmon Ruins named after the family that homesteaded the area surrounding the ruins and kept them in pristine shape.  Interestingly enough these ruins were not pillaged by those searching for pottery and other ancient artifacts.

It was well into the 1970’s before the ruins (just outside of Bloomfield) were excavated and research is still ongoing there today.  The Salmon brother’s home is still intact and if you peer into the windows you can see dishes still in the kitchen.  Other buildings of the Salmon family are right next to the ruins.

Take time to talk with the volunteers and staff members inside the visitor’s center.  They’ll be happy to show you around and explain what they have found there.   Larry Baker, the superintendent, has been there since the first excavations and has many great stories to tell about the ruins and the people believed to live there.  He’ll talk your ear off with wonderful information and will make you yearn for more!  Larry is an all around great guy with a true passion for what he does. Someone who has undertaken his job as a true labor of love.

The Gila Cliff Dwellings require about a 90 minute to two hour drive through the Gila National Forest from Silver City and it is well worth every mile you drive.  The views of the forest are nothing short of eye popping.  The hike to the cliff dwellings is about a half mile along a narrow and unpaved trail.  I wondered about this before we started and then quickly began to understand that this walk is one the Ancients made daily and hiking without the benefit of concrete or asphalt gave me a real feeling of peace and serenity along the small stream lined on both sides by massive rock formations.

When you first see the dwellings you might feel a little disappointed.  Why? Well, you can see the face of the dwellings but the magic here is the 100 plus foot climb up to the dwellings and then your first look of what lies behind the stone face.  There is a whole city built back into these giant caves with hundreds of rooms with a view!  I was taken back by what we experienced.  And the great part is that you can climb into the cave to experience much of what life might have been like hundreds of years ago.  I’m adding this to my list of places to take family and friends when they come to visit.

Gila is a full day trip.  Two hours in … two hours out … and a few hours of just looking around.  You can camp there and might want to consider doing so. We talked with a few campers who said they had never seen stars at night like they saw at Gila.  I can only imagine.  Oh … there are other isolated cliff dwellings you can see and enter along the hiking routes outside of the main cliff dwelling area and near the camp grounds.  Great places for the little ones … and old ones … in your family to explore!

Staying in Silver City as part of your visit is well worth the time.  Billy the Kid … museums and a growing art community make this a great place to “camp” while exploring.  Fort Bayard is an 1850’s army post which was home to the famed African American Buffalo Soldiers and a national cemetery with graves dating back into the 1800’s.  This national treasure is still today a place where our soldiers are laid to rest.  I must ad that several of our Buffalo Soldiers who were stationed here were honored with the nation’s highest award for valor …  the Medal of Honor.

There is much more to see in Silver City … Pinas Altos and early gold mining town and home, for a short time, to the famed Judge Roy Bean.  Stop in at the “PAPO” … that would be the Pinas Altos Post Office and Ice Cream parlor as the locals call it,  for one of the biggest and most delicious banana splits that I have ever consumed!  Tell them that Richard sent you.

And remember … the Trail of the Ancients is your trail to another great family adventure in the Land of Enchantment!

Behind the Scenes with Richard: El Camino Real

January 9th, 2010

Imagine taking a 1500 mile walk from Mexico City to Santa Fe (or visa versa).  Something you would want to do?  Well after “exploring” this 7-month “hike” I can tell you it is not something I would look forward to doing but thousands of people did over a couple of centuries to find new homes and a new life in Northern New Mexico.

The “Royal Road” was in use long before Columbus landed in North America and was fraught with hardship and death.  Stretches of this amazing highway, which was a primary trade route between South and North America, were so thick with brush that clothes were torn, shoes destroyed and animals injured. Long stretches were void of water.  It wasn’t an easy hike but people continued this long walk until the railroads entered the scene in the mid-1800’s and shortened the trip from months to days and offered a ride in what was then the lap of luxury.

We stopped at the new International Heritage Center located just off Exit 115 of I-25 and received our first glimpse into what life must have been like way back when.  This is a fascinating new addition to New Mexico’s Department of Cultural Affairs and a place that really gives you a chance to look back in time and explore life a couple hundred years ago and even further back.  You can’t see this new building from the highway but the signs make it an easy trip.

Just north up the Frontage Road is Fort Craig.  I’ve always been intrigued by our early fortifications and was really interested in seeing what remains of one of New Mexico’s Civil War battle places.  The South was heading for California to find gold to help finance their portion of the war and the North was ready to stop the trip.  What the Northern troops (both regular army and volunteer’s number over 2,000 strong) did to “discourage” the Southern troops with actual weapons and slight of eye is really amazing.  This was not a place you wanted to be stationed.  Wool uniforms in the summer were incredibly hot and the cold winters along the Rio Grande made this a less than desirable post.   While there, be sure and ask about the huge food storage bunkers that were uncovered … and the thousands of rations of rice stored there.  Rice?   Yes, I asked the same question … how did it get there and why so much?  You’ll have to get those answers yourself.

Staying on the Frontage Road just a few miles north you’ll drive right into Bosque del Apache …one of those magical places you want to see at dawn or dusk when the wildlife … especially the birds … are flying in and out.  And I’m talking thousands and thousands of birds … not just your backyard variety either. Mid-November is prime bird watching time for Snow Geese and Sand Hill cranes not to mention Bald Eagles and hawks, too.  Four footed critters, as you might imagine, are also present.  I had no idea what I was in for when people started telling me about the annual crane migration but I have to say that this is one spectacular (director, Chuck, and producer, Frank tell me I use that word too much but it does describe what you’ll see) place to be year round … and if it is easier for you, you can stay right in your car and not miss a thing while you take in all the sights and sounds.

Behind the Scenes at the Bosque Del Apache

Behind the Scenes at the Bosque Del Apache

San Antonio is next along the Frontage Road and just a couple miles north of the Bosque.  I love San Antonio … and here’s why.  Two great green chile cheeseburger places … the Owl Café, home of the original green chile cheeseburger, and the Buckhorn Tavern, home of another great green chile cheeseburger. Both have received their fair share of national attention and it’s tough to decide which is best so don’t count on me telling you which one you need to try.  Do what I did … have them both and make sure you add green chile cheese fries to your order.  Come on … it’s not like you’re treating yourself to these delicious delicacies seven days a week!

Next to the Owl and across the street from the Buckhorn is a quaint little gas station that just happens to have the best home made fudge I’ve ever eaten.  Multiple flavors and I’ll bet you won’t leave with just one piece of one kind.  You’ll be sampling and loading up.  Another reason to forget your diet and waistline for a couple hours!

These three unique stops make San Antonio one of those places we always make plans to spend time while traveling north or south on I-25.

Socorro lies directly on the El Camino Real and was a major stop along the way to Santa Fe.  We actually spent three days in Socorro using it as our base of operations while we traveled in all four directions to check out all the things above and many other sights.  Check out our Socorro videos for more info on what you can see heading west out of Socorro … and our Socorro TV show, which will air again over the next few months.  We have great memories of getting after hours help fixing a flat tire there and how gracious the Mayor and the Convention and Visitors Bureau folks were to us.  A great little city along the Royal Road!

Next it was off to Old Town where you can truly imagine what Albuquerque was like when the Rio Grande really was the Rio Grande!  I can’t imagine too many of us who live in New Mexico who haven’t visited … and spent time in this great place that is such a huge part of our heritage here.

And the same applies to Santa Fe where the Royal Road ended for us.  We had a great tour of the Palace of the Governor’s and I had to take a few minutes to imagine what Lew Wallace, one of our early governors, was thinking when he wrote the epic novel, Ben Hur!  And he didn’t even know Charlton Heston when he wrote the book!!!  Moving on … the brand new New Mexico History Museum that opened in 2009 is next door to the Palace of the Governor’s are these are two places you can spend hours tracing New Mexico’s history from the earliest days of Spanish and Native American inhabitants through today’s modern settlers.  The History Museum is a very powerful 3 ½ floors of what we were yesterday and what we are today.

Behind the Scenes at the New Mexico History Museum

Behind the Scenes at the New Mexico History Museum

Why the Royal Road?  Primarily trade and the search for gems and gold.  Turquoise, silver and gold both have been sought after for hundreds of years.  And early pioneers from Mexico took the El Camino Real to seek their fortunes.

Take the journey to New Mexico’s Royal Road with your family and you’ll find more wealth than you ever imagined.  I know I did!

Behind the Scenes in Silver City, New Mexico

January 2nd, 2010

I truly need to start this blog with a special thank you to Lola Polley of the Convention & Visitors Bureau and her staff … Mayor James Marshall … Christine Steele of the Silver City Sun News … Lanny Olsen of the Silver City Holiday Inn Express and his staff and a host of others who made our trip so enjoyable!

It never ceases to amaze me about all of the truly wonderful and friendly people we meet during our travels.  I don’t believe I’ve been anywhere in the State that someone hasn’t come up to me to say “hello” and welcome me to their community.  Silver City is no exception.

Only once before had I been here and it was a quick drive through.  This time we spent three days getting acquainted and filming a whole new adventure for you blog readers and watchers of our weekly TV show!  Let’s get started …

Silver City is the home of Billy the Kid’s mother and it is rumored that he shot his first victim here, although that hasn’t been confirmed.  So we started our adventure with a re-enactment of a Billy the Kid Encounter.  It was a lot of fun and the folks who put on the “show” for us do this regularly right next to the Visitor’s Center where a replica of Billy’s mothers’ home is located.  These folks rehearsed and practiced for a couple days to get the scenes just right and we enjoyed every minute of providing them with their justifiable “15 minutes of fame!”

On Location in Silver City

On Location in Silver City

The city is rapidly becoming an art mecca with over 30 galleries and growing.  I was taken back by the number of great local and regional artists displayed and it is obvious that every gallery owner takes great pride in the art, jewelry and pottery they have in their stores.  The art district is right off the main drag … easy to find … and anyone can point you in the right direction.  Just fun to walk around … stop at one of the many café’s for a cup of coffee between browsing excursions.

We also found some great restaurants right on main street and had a great lunch (one of the only ones where we actually had time to sit and chat) at Diane’s, the owner of which also owns the pastry shop across the street so make sure you save room for pie and a great assortment of other deserts!

About a half hour south is City of Rocks State Park.   Now we’re talking some great big rocks out in the middle of no where just sitting there by themselves waiting to be explored.  Lots of camping facilities and RV hookups are available to make this a great overnight stay or weekend get away.  As I said in our TV piece, this is a great place to bring the kids … turn them loose … and encourage them to wear themselves out playing “hide and seek!”  The park is another one of those eye-openers that you just don’t expect to see and when you make the circular drive around the entire City of Rocks complex you can’t help but stop … look … and wonder about all of the different formations and how the heck they got there!  Of course, the park’s visitor’s center will explain all of that.  Photographer/Director Chuck and I had a great time climbing and exploring ourselves and watching many families doing the same thing!  Let me know if you get lost while climbing around … just curious!

Prepare yourself for an incredible drive to the Gila Cliff Dwellings.  It’s about 40 miles but will easily take you 90 minutes to get there and if you want to truly enjoy the scenery figure on about 2-hours.  It is a great drive through the Gila National Forest and don’t be surprised at all the wildlife you’ll see along the way, particularly if you start early in the morning to arrive at the Cliff Dwellings when it opens at 9am.

It’s about a half-mile from the parking lot to the Cliff Dwellings along an unpaved path that winds along a small creek that once was a river.   The river is still there … next to the parking lot.  And then once you reach the cliffs it’s over 100 vertical feet to the dwellings themselves.  From down below the view is breathtaking but nothing like you’ll see once you our inside the dwellings.  I did say … inside.  This is a great park because you can actually walk through and around several of the dwellings built into the natural rock caves.  They go forever and give you a wonderful perspective of what life might have been like.

The view from inside, by the way, is just as spectacular as the view from down below.  It’s almost as if the people who lived there shared one enormous picture window to the rest of their world.

In the campgrounds nearby you can hike other trails that will take you to smaller dwellings easily accessible along the paths and once again you can explore some of them inside and out.  A great hands on adventure for you and the kids!  And someplace you’ll want to visit more than once … isolated … serene … peaceful with vistas for miles once inside and during the drive to and from Silver City!

Fort Bayard is just a couple miles outside of town and was home to the famed African American Buffalo Soldiers from the mid-1800’s.  Several of these brave soldiers received the nation’s highest medal for valor, The Medal of Honor.  Today the Fort is home to New Mexico’s State Hospital but for many years it was home to those suffering from Tuberculosis.  The officers quarters, the old theatre and other facilities are there and, with a guide, are open to the public.  They do re-enactments here, too, so check with the Visitors Center for more information and dates.  A real “hidden treasure” here is the National Cemetery where our brave soldiers are still being buried amidst wonderful surroundings and incredible history.

Dr. John Counts, president of Western New Mexico University invited us to visit with him and see the WNMU Museum, which houses that world’s largest comprehensive and complete collection of Mimbres pottery and artifacts going back over 800 years!  Dr. Cynthia Bettison is the director of the museum and I doubt you’ll ever meet anyone anymore passionate about her job than Dr. Bettison.  We spent several hours with her and learned so much about this incredible collection of pottery.  We were given a sneak peak into the area where pottery pieces are put back together, analyzed and categorized.  Fascinating to say the least!  We’ve promised Dr. Bettison that we’ll be back to this great state treasure that is open year round (closed during normal university holidays) to the public.  I would recommend you call first for hours … but do add this to your Silver City list of places to see.  And if Dr. Bettison is around be sure and corner her and ask a few questions.  My guess is that once you ask one, she’ll be off and running with you on a tour you won’t forget!

You have to take an hour or so to visit the “PAPO” … that would be the Pinos Altos Post Office, which just happens to house a great ice cream parlor, too.  PA, as it is called by the locals, is on the road to the Gila Cliff Dwellings and once was home to famed barrister, Judge Roy Bean.  Geronimo and several other notables visited PA during its gold mining heydays.  And the ice cream parlor?  The hands down best (and biggest!) banana split I’ve ever had.   Wish I’d had time to finish it … make sure you do while you’re enjoying Silver City!

Behind the Scenes with Richard in Carlsbad

December 26th, 2009

Every friend and family member that has come to visit us here in the Land of Enchantment wants to know about … or go to … Carlsbad.  And who can blame them?  Carlsbad Caverns is known worldwide (and the nearly 400,000 people a year who visit attest to that!) and it is surprising to me the number of people I encounter who live in New Mexico that have never visited Carlsbad.  I have to admit this was my first trip and it won’t be my last.

Carlsbad is a great community with lots t o do outside of the Caverns, which I’ll talk about in a minute or so.  The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park is a State Park that really  is something to stop  and see.  The State has encompassed the Chihuahuan Desert into the park.  All kinds of plants and vegetation truly do take you down into Mexico.

And the Zoo puts you up close and personal with the wildlife throughout the area.  Buffalo, Elk, Bald and Golden Eagles, Badgers, Snakes (and a nasty rattle snake who wasn’t very happy to see us!) and lots more.  Speaking of seeing a lot more … check out the wolf pack.  Talk about getting up close and personal you’ll have a great walk around viewing area to see these magnificent animals in their element.  All confined in areas that are easily accessible and viewable.  I thought we’d spend about an hour there looking around and it was much closer to a half day.  The staff was incredible and helpful in answering our questions and encouraging us to just walk about and see all there is to see.

Ken Britt, the park Superintendent, and his staff warned us that the park is much larger than your first impression would suggest.  Ken is a great guy and reflects the helpful attitude of his staff.  He really showed us how to immerse ourselves in this incredible landscape and prepared us for the many acres and room to roam and it doesn’t feel as confined as most zoos I’ve visited.

As soon as you walk outside of the Visitor’s Center you really are immersed!  You do feel as if you are  in  the wild and the walking paths give you much more reason  to believe that to be so.  At the end of your trip back at the visitors’ center you’ll be ready to have a cool drink, sit down for a minute and ask more questions of the staff.    This wonderful state  park is located just a couple miles North  of Carlsbad ll.  Just about 10 minutes or less from downtown.

Right next door is the Ocotillo Nature Trail where our canine pal, Travelin’ Jack, showed us around.   I have to admit that Janine and I had stopped here several months before this visit on our initial exploration trip to Carlsbad.  We had our Labrador, Titan, along with us and he had as much fun on his hike as did Jack!  If you’re in to cacti and want to see hundreds of acres  of Ocotillo then this is the place to visit.  Janine and I were fortunate enough to see these amazing (and not to be touched … OUCH!) plants in bloom.  On this trip the fog had us wondering if we’d see much at all.  The morning was quiet and peaceful as it always seems to be here and the walk was great.  About half way through a “breeze”  (that’s what we call them in New Mexico!) picked up and within, literally, two minutes the fog was gone, the sun was  out, and the Ocotillo were watching us from every direction.  Even in winter these amazing plants somehow grab your imagination and just, sort of, move you along the path.  This is an easy hike with benches along the way to give  you time to rest or reflect.  I don’t know who came up with the idea of putting this trail here, but whomever it was should get a big award for doing so.  Just a great place to stop along your busy schedule in Carlsbad to check out scenery and once again count your blessings that you truly are in the Land of Enchantment.

Paula Bauer, the Management Assistant and Carlsbad Caverns National Park … more commonly known as Carlsbad Caverns, really loves her job and that came through loud and clear as she took  a great deal of time from her busy day to show us around and explain the difference between a stalactite and stalagmite!  The caverns are simply magnificent and, quite honestly, the video we shot and pictures we too just don’t do justice to what you actually see.  The main cavern … located about 700 feet  below ground …is over 60 feet high.  That’s the equivalent of a six story building!  The walking trails are easy to maneuver through and you can do this on your own with an audio tour or take a guided tour complete with lantern and hard hat tours where you can crawl around through “tight” passages and really explore the caverns.  I had always thought  that you only see  lions tails on lions in a zoo.  Never expected to see them hanging from the ceiling of the caverns, but there they were!  Now you’ll just have to pay a visit to Carlsbad Caverns and see them for yourself.  Oh … and have lunch 752 feet BELOW ground!

I’ve wracked my brain to come up with words worthy of what you see at Carlsbad.  I think we all have expectations before we enter the Caverns.  And the expectations are undoubtedly different for each of us.  My guess is that the expectations are far exceeded once you exit the elevator … or walk down through the main entrance and open your eyes to what is really in store for you.  You can easily spend a whole day leisurely walking around underground and with every turn see something you never thought you’d see.

As I’m writing this I’m watching a Randy Travis Christmas Special on television, which was shot entirely in the Caverns!  Choir members are walking along the paths singing and wonderful songs from Randy Travis.  It’s tough to write because I’m mesmerized by what I’m watching and remembering just how magical Carlsbad Caverns is.  But it is just that magical and I think if I could carry a tune I would have sung my way through the entire length of the Caverns myself!

I’m going to go back and corral Paula into taking me into the Caverns again to see what we missed the first time around!

As mentioned above, Janine and I were first  in Carlsbad  in the summer and spent  a couple hours just on a leisurely walk along the river walk next to the Pecos River.  The homes are magnificent and the river full of summer life with boating and swimming.  The transformation between  Thanksgiving and New Year’s  is really remarkable.  The majority of the people who live on the river really outdo themselves with Christmas cheer. It seems as if every home is decorated and the yards are aglow with Christmas lights and decorations.  We even saw the Grinch on a HUGE inflatable television that someone had erected in their yard!  Christmas on the Pecos is the big annual event in Carlsbad and this 50 minute boat ride (free blankets provided to keep you warm) leaves you yearning for more.

Our director, Chuck, has been trying for six years to get me here to see this and I’m glad he was so persistent.  The night of our ride was unseasonably chilly but you soon forgot that once you started looking around and seeing the beauty of the night created by the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau.  These folks, I’m sure, are already planning next year’s event … one that you most definitely will want to share with your family!

And who would think of waterfalls in the desert of New Mexico … not me, that’s for sure!  But about a ½ drive from Carlsbad is Sitting Bull Falls.  It is a sight to see and my recommendation is go in late spring or summer so you and the kids can have a blast playing in the river and around the falls.  Enough said … out of that easy chair and get on the road!

As we always try to do, we stayed at the Best Western Stevens Inn at Carlsbad and the folks in Carlsbad’s largest hotel were incredible in helping us during our stay.  I know they’ll do a great job during your stay as well.

So, here’s to Carlsbad, a place in the Southeast part of New Mexico that is filled with wonders of every type you can imagine and a great place for a great long weekend getaway.

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