07 May 2021

RAPEA - Day 22 - Mescalero NM and Alamogordo NM Day Trip

Today we took a short day trip down US 70 through the Mescalero Apache Reservation to Alamogordo NMThe Eastern Apache, once a hunter and gatherer culture group of Native Americans, have resided as a tribe formally recognized by the United States government on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in south central New Mexico since the Eastern Apache were assigned to the reservation by Executive Order in 1883. The reservation consists of 463,000 acres of some of the most beautiful mountains and lakes in New Mexico.

As we drove down US 70 we noticed that someone had painted murals on the retaining walls aligning the highway. It seemed as though each retaining wall had been divided equally to support the artwork of individual artists. As the Mescalero tribe today consists of three sub-tribes, Mescalero, Lipan and Chiricahua, all three are represented individually within the murals.

The Mescalero Apache Tribe operates several Tribal Enterprises which are open to the public including Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino, Ski Apache, Casino Apache Travel Center, Mescalero Forest Products, Mescalero Cattle Growers and the Mescalero Apache Tribal Store. 

We only drove through the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casino but I was extremely impressed at the grounds. It was built in the shadow of the 12,000ft Sierra Blanca mountain on the Mescalero Lake and includes a championship golf course designed by Ted Robinson.

At the entrance to the Resort and Casino, in the center of the circular drive, is a massive stone fountain topped with a magnificent bronze sculpture depicting the Mescalero legendary Crown Dancers in the act of performing their dance to drive away sickness and evil and bring good health and good fortune to the Mescalero Tribe. This incredible artwork was created by Frederick Peso who was the grandson of the last Mescalero Chief. 

While on the reservation we also visited the Saint Joseph's Apache Mission which was founded in 1887. The current stone church which houses the mission was designed by noted Philadelphia architect, William M Stanton, as a gift to Father Albert Braun OFM and completed in 1939.

While enroute to the home of the world's largest pistachio in Alamogordo NM I snapped these two landscapes of the White Sands Missile Range in the distance (the white strip on the horizon). The one on the left was shot with my Nikon Coolpix P900 through the windshield of the van while traveling at approximately 60mph. The one on the right was shot while stationary with my Samsung S21 Ultra Smartphone as the majority of my photos have been. 

I also managed to snap these two photos of the white cross at the summit of Round Mountain through the open passenger window as we were traveling down US 70 about 9 miles northeast of Tularosa NM at approximately 60mph. Not bad for a snap happy shutterbug, eh? 

By the way, all of the photos contained in both my blog and Insomnia Cure are completely unretouched and unedited except for the size reduction of the blog photos and the very few that are slightly cropped. I have neither the time nor the inclination to learn how to use editing software at this late stage of the game.

Our final destination of the day trip was McGinn's PistachioLand home of the largest pistachio in the world where we visited the gift shop followed by a cooling ice cream break on the patio in front of the store. What flavor? Pistachio of course!

06 May 2021

RAPEA - Day 21 - Ruidoso NM

Ruidoso received its name from the Rio Ruidoso (meaning noisy river) which meanders through this mountain village. Early visitors came by wagon from communities like El Paso and Roswell. Now the village is the vacation home favorite for the wealthy from places like Albuquerque and Amarillo. We passed a Berkshire Hathaway Realty office on the way in. For a town to qualify for BHR status it must contain a prerequisite number of multimillion dollar homes. From the looks of the cliff dwellers in the surrounding area I'd say that's not a problem.

There are signs throughout the town proclaiming wild horses, elk and mule deer roam freely here. I saw a group of juvenile Elk and mule deer as we came into town but I haven't seen any wild horses yet.

Masks are mandated by the governor of the state. They are required for entrance to ANY commercial property here and the businesses are quite militant about it. Denny's even goes so far as to require customers to sign in and give their phone number for contact tracing. 

Many businesses were only just reopened in the last two months. This town runs on tourist dollars. This is a great area for outdoor enthusiasts. Camping, snow skiing, hiking, biking, kayaking, etc. For indoor enthusiasts there's the Apache owned Ruidoso Downs horseracing venue, casinos, live theater, concerts, etc.

I was given the opportunity to explore my surroundings here at Best Western Pine Springs today so I went in search of some of the wild life to shoot (with a camera!) I walked trail after trail in search of sign, but the only sign I found was from the two legged animals who frequent the area. They recklessly abandon the detritus of their daily lives without a care for the other creatures who live here.

This is, by far, the most serene destination we've encountered. If I ever get back this way I want to stay here again. Hopefully by then they won't be under a mandate to keep the pool closed and they'll be able to open the breakfast room again.

05 May 2021

RAPEA - Day 20 - Clovis NM to Ruidoso NM via US 70, US 380 and US 48

Hello blue sky and sunshine! What a difference a day and 213 miles make! We mad a short stop in Roswell NM today just to recon for a future visit. All my life whenever someone mentioned Roswell all I could envision was little green men, spaceship themed buildings and Fox Mulder and Dana Scully in search of the truth. But Roswell NM is so much more than the butt of alien jokes. More on that in a few days.

Our first stop along the way was Lincoln NM. It was the site of the Lincoln County War between rival factions which began in 1878 and ended in 1881 with the supposed demise of Billy the Kid (born by the name Henry McCarty) at the hands of Sheriff Pat Garrett. I say supposed because in the past 140 years there have been quite a few alternate theories floating around. But no definitive proof could ever be provided as the areas where both the purported Kid and his mother, Catherine Antrim, nee McCarty, were interred were heavily damaged by floods so no DNA has ever been recovered.

Sadly, none of the tourist facilities were open the day we visited and I shot pictures under the watchful gaze of a tuxedo kitty on a nearby roof. But the few locals we met while walking the empty main street were friendly and welcoming, including the mule deer that were sitting in and around the yard of one of the houses. They seemed totally nonplussed by my presence.

Next stop was Fort Stanton, where supposedly "history comes to life" but we had to use our imagination as, once again, everything was closed and we didn't see a soul, living or dead. (Later I discovered they just recently reopened and they're closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. And of course we arrived on a Tuesday.) The buildings and grounds were extremely well maintained and I imagine it would be an exciting place to be during a historical re-enactment. Established in 1855 as a military post to control the Mescalero Apache Indians, Fort Stanton may be one of the most intact 19th century military forts in all of America today.

I couldn't depart Fort Stanton without paying my respects to the Patriots interred at the Fort Stanton State Veterans Cemetery that was just up the road. It's a well cared for, captivating location and even though grass is hard to grow in that environment, nature provides its own ground cover in the form of these hardy little desert daisies. During my research I came across this informative video on YouTube produced by Desert Rat Gardener, a local, that I think you'll enjoy. The cemetery entrance is marked by a Blue Star Memorial.

Then it was on to Smokey Bear Historical Park. (No I didn't forget 'the'. That was added later by songwriters.) Established in 1976 to honor Capitan's favorite son, Smokey Bear, an orphaned little bear cub with burned paws, found in the aftermath of the Capitan Gap wildfire. Smokey Bear rose to fame as an icon for forest fire prevention and he lived in Washington, D.C.'s National Zoo for 26 years. When he passed away, the famous black bear was laid to rest in his hometown.  His burial site is a special place within the Smokey Bear Historical Park. And, you guessed it, they were also closed on Tuesday and Wednesdays. Moral to this story: Come see a bit of New Mexico history...just not on a Tuesday or Wednesday.

As we passed through Ruidoso on Billy the Kid Trail enroute to our motel I happened upon my nirvana...Bears "R" Us. It's the largest chainsaw carved bear shop I've ever seen. But it doesn't just have bears and wood isn't their only medium either. They sell handcrafted pottery, metal art, yard art, wind catchers, etc. Their characters are so expressive they're magical. I need to step across the road to the Billy the Kid Casino and come out a big winner so I can bring home half their creations!

RAPEA - Day 19 - Shamrock TX to Clovis NM via Route 66, I40 and I27

The threat of rain was in the air all day today. But, lucky for us, it didn't deliver until long after we had checked in for the night. And boy did it deliver! For over an hour it dumped bucket loads from the sky and then added a little thunder and lightning just for good measure. But by morning it was all dried up as if nothing had occurred.

We departed Route 66 today for a little different terrain. Our first of two visual communication displays (otherwise known as graffiti) was the VW Slug Bug Ranch in Panhandle TX, roughly 30 minutes from Shamrock. It's a miniature of Cadillac Ranch (in car size as well) but it's at the sight of a now defunct hotel and gas station just off I40. I believe the fact that it was surrounded by what probably was once a bustling commercial corner led to the poignancy of its appearance.

Next was Cadillac Ranch. I don't know what I was expecting but I was a bit underwhelmed upon arrival. It's a large empty field and you walk through a turnstile of metal poles to enter the field and then walk deep into the field to the site of the half buried cadillacs covered in so many layers of paint that the base of each car is mounded with the thick coats of years past that have sloughed off in the brutal Texas heat. Unlike the VW Slug Bug Ranch this one had a small gift shop (which is where the 2nd Amendment Cowboy resides) located just down the road at an RV park that was more interesting than the ranch itself.

One of the first things I noticed about NM was there were far fewer 18 wheelers. I don't know why that was. But I did notice the train that sometimes paralleled us on the Interstate was stacked two high with connex containers that are usually hauled by the semis.

Clovis NM doesn't seem to be much to write home about so I won't. The only thing I noted was it was doing a booming business building EF5 Tornado Shelters. 

04 May 2021

RAPEA - Day 18 - Part 2 - Shamrock TX

Ever wanted to kiss the Blarney Stone for a little luck but not had the means to get to Ireland? Then come to Shamrock TX! I know Reno and some place in Michigan claims to have a piece of it too but as Biden says, "Come on, man." What town name could possibly give off a more Irish luck kinda vibe than Shamrock?

Local lore has it that a Shamrock official brought it there in 1959 and that it was so important to the town that the mayor called out the TX Highway Patrol and National Guard, who, reportedly set up a machine gunner on the roof of the local pharmacy as the stone was wheeled into town. Who was the local official? 'Blarney' Fife? (If I have to explain that reference, you're too young to read this blog.) The stone was encased in a concrete cylinder and originally placed at Edmond Park but that was a little tricky for tourists to locate so now it resides in Blarney Stone Plaza at the corner of Main and 2nd Street just a couple doors down the street from The Jumping Leprechaun.

Shamrock TX has experienced many ups and downs over the years but I'm afraid they, as well as many small towns in America, are currently in an economic downturn. It's sad really because it has quite a few things going for it. In the 80s it was the largest town in Wheeler County. It had over 95 businesses supporting Cattle, Agriculture, Chemicals, Gas and Petroleum. The Gas and Petroleum businesses are gone now leaving behind a glut of motels and many restaurant buildings empty. The population has dwindled to less than 2,000 as the high school graduates seek their pot of gold elsewhere.

On March 14th, 2013, the 83rd Texas House Legislature passed HCR83, designating the Shamrock St. Patrick’s Day Celebration as the official St. Patrick’s Day Celebration for the State of Texas. Started in 1938 by band master Glen Truax, Shamrock has had an annual St. Patrick's Day celebration on the weekend nearest March 17. This multi-day affair features Irish food, fun, and festivities, complete with a parade, a banquet, various other entertainments, and the crowning of Miss Irish Rose. In previous years it has brought in as many as 30,000 people to the event. Although they managed to pull it off in 2020, (despite very uncooperative weather and a devastating fire in the community center where thankfully, no one was hurt) there will be no celebration this year due to Covid. But the force is strong in this tough little town and the plans are already in the works for their St Patrick's Day 75th Diamond Jubilee Anniversary March 17-20 2022 so start making those reservations folks.

And while we're on the subject of reservations, I stayed at the cutest little motel while I was there called the Route 66 Inn. The proprietor, Mike, was so gracious and helpful. It has this adorable little gazebo in the center of the property that includes a porch swing where you can watch the cars go by on Route 66. It even has two grills in case you want some grillin' to accompany your chillin'. The place is beautifully maintained with gorgeous murals painted by local artist Tye Thompson throughout the property. (Tye's artwork can be seen all over Shamrock and surrounding towns.) And rumor has it that Elvis once stayed there in Room 18!

And if you happen to arrive on a Sunday as we did The Jumping Leprechaun is the only game in town to bounce out your hunger (unless you want fast food). Don't let the outside appearance of the building deter you. One side of the building is for indoor bounce house rentals and the other side is a restaurant that serves the best Tex-Mex I've ever tasted. I was really wanting to try the Barbacoa (cow's tongue) because I had already heard from a couple people it was delicious but alas, they were all out. But the Pastor Torta (pulled pork seasoned with pineapple) was incredible. Beautiful, petite Marisol is the chef and proprietress and her dutiful son, Daniel, helps serve occasionally on weekends when his college studies permit.

Mike,  from The Route 66 Inn, and Marisol and Daniel, from The Jumping Leprechaun were just two of the great people of Shamrock I was fortunate enough to meet during my short stay and I hope to come back and see them again one day.

Vintage gas stations are prevalent on Route 66 but the most iconic is the U-Drop-In at the corner of Route 66 and Main Street. Back in the day it was a gas station and cafe for the weary traveler and it boasts of a visitor list that includes none other than...you guessed it, Elvis Presley. Now it serves only as a visitor center and fantastic photo opportunity, both night and day. Although it no longer provides fuel for the combustion engine, outback it now hosts several charging stations for the electric set. A sign of the times I guess.

Tower Plaza is an extremely educational stop which is also on Main Street. It is the home of the Shamrock Water Tower. In 2015 it was praised to be the tallest water tower in TX at 176 feet.