Friday, October 31, 2014

Albuquerque, New Mexico - Part 2

October 24-30, 2014:

The Albuquerque Museum was our destination on Saturday afternoon which turned out to be incredible, way beyond our expectations.  It had a huge special exhibition called "Gods and Heroes" with a couple hundred rare paintings and sculpture from the "Ecole des Beaux-Arts" in Paris, France.  The Ecole des Beaux-Arts was the original school of fine arts in Paris and a repository for works by some of Europe's best artists.  They also had a great exhibit on south western art from local artists and a section on "Vivian Vance" who started her stage career in Albuquerque and went on to fame as Ethel in the "I love Lucy" TV series.  Then there was the bluegrass band playing in the lobby area who were very entertaining.

They didn't allow photos inside

Next to go to the Marble Brewery for a couple of beers, they were having a benefit for the Albuquerque farmers Market.  There was a good crowd on hand, a live band and lots to watch including a man doing Tarot card readings and dancing with a Goose. It seems that the Marble is a cool hangout day or night.

Fortune telling dancing Goose

Sunday was a ride to the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park where they have a few hiking trail loops through the Cottonwood tree forest (the Basque) along the Rio Grande River. It was not much of a hike and not so nice this time of year, but we enjoyed the visitors center and bird viewing area.  It seems that the Cottonwood trees, which are in the flood plain of the river, are slowly dying since the river no longer floods due to flood control Dams and the lowering of the water table.  As a result, they are now planting and watering new trees in hopes of restoring the forest.

View from the Nature Center

The Rio Grande River

Beautiful Cottonwood trees

Afterwards we went to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque which is the former site of the Indian School.  The Indian school started in the 1880's and was closed in 1982 when it was consolidated with the Santa Fe Indian school. The old school eventually fell victim to fire and was razed.  It was then transferred to the All Indian Pueblo Council and developed into a cultural center.  There are 19 Indian Pueblo's in New Mexico making up the council that jointly operate this center.  The Pueblo's all have separate governing bodies, slightly different customs, beliefs, art work and languages.  There is a exhibit area where each Pueblo has an exhibit with a brief description of their history and present status.  They are most disturbing and depressing stories for the most part, but show incredible resilience and hope.  It is a beautiful complex with great exhibits, a fine restaurant, a gift shop and they have dance and music performances in a central courtyard area at times, another amazing facility ! 

Indian dancer performance was great

Murals in courtyard

Another courtyard  mural

Changing gears, I go to the Unser Racing Museum on Monday morning.  The Unser family is an auto racing dynasty who are based in the Albuquerque area.  They have been racing for several generations in multiple racing classes.  They originated from the Colorado Springs area where they started racing up Pikes Peak.  They then moved to Albuquerque where they had a auto repair shop on route 66.  The racing eventually became a full time business and they became a major force in Indy car racing.  Six Unser family members have raced in the Indianapolis 500 with a total of nine wins.  This museum was excellent, wonderful exhibits on the family's history, many of their wining cars in all racing categories and several antique collector cars from the Unser's personal collection. The museum is an excellent history of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb and Indy Car racing.  They are the classic inspirational American success story.

Indy car on display

Older Unser race cars

Another famous Unser Indy race car

A partial view of the trophy room

One of Unser's dirt race cars

We rode across Albuquerque to route 14, the "Turquoise Trail" through Tijeras, Cedar Crest, Sandia Park, Golden and finally to Madrid.  Madrid was a coal mining town that went bust, then became a ghost town, then in the 1970's, the age of enlightenment, was re-discovered by the artistic free spirited element.  The town sits in a beautiful setting amongst the high desert and the mountains.  It has a great bar/restaurant, the Mine Shaft Tavern, a mine museum/tour and lots of artistic shops and galleries.  A great place to for a few hours of shopping and lunch.

View from road near Madrid

The Mine Shaft Tavern and Restaurant

On the return through Albuquerque, we found a Dunkin Donuts and had to stop.  They are rare in the west where Starbucks and the zillion other Espresso cafes have a stranglehold on the market.  Funny how tastes are so different in different areas of the country.

Another great Albuquerque place of learning is the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.  I was really not that excited about going to see another collection of old dinosaur bones.  I was wrong, this place was sensational, it gave the history of the planet from the formation of Earth, the first stages of life, the age of the dinosaurs, the various extinctions, the climatic changes, the shifting of the land masses and then the human impact to the present.  This place had many helpful volunteers who wandered around explaining things.  There was a great display of the night sky and a laboratory area where they were working on cleaning up dinosaur bones.  A volunteer there came out of the work area to explain to us about this recently discovered Stegomastodon dinosaur skull with intact tusks.  He explained how it is the best, most perfect Stegomastodon skull in the world, found totally by accident by boaters out on Elephant Butte Lake in New Mexico during a period of low water.  The boaters saw the tusks sticking out of the water and reported it to the museum who immediately investigated and had it removed.  My brain was about to explode after the museum visit, it can't hold that much knowledge, I went back to the RV and took a nap.

Dinosaur exhibit

The Stegomastodon Skull

Very life like !

A depiction of the Asteroid crashing into Earth that is believed
to have caused the extinction of the Dinosaurs

Another great Dinosaur exhibit, there were many

If you tire of the cultural and museum attractions, head for the Route 66 Casino on route 40 west.  It is a huge casino and is lavishly decorated in classic route 66 style.  We joined the players club, went to the 2 for 1 all you can eat buffet, then took our free $ 5.00 credit to the slot machines.  We somehow won enough to pay for our whole days activities, that's new !

Mural outside the Route 66 Casino

Another place of interest in Albuquerque is the National Hispanic Cultural Center where they have a impressive Hispanic art gallery.  I must admit some of it is hard to understand, but each piece has an explanation, which is sometimes more interesting than the artwork itself.  I was most impressed by the cut paper artwork, they were all great !  On the way out, we noticed the door was open to the tower where the amazing fresco by Frederico Vigil is located.  This is a huge fresco, the largest concave fresco in North America, which took a decade for the artist to complete. It depicts over 3,000 years of Hispanic history.  Unfortunately, no photos were allowed.  On the way back to the campground, we stopped at a local Hispanic market that was like being in Mexico itself, another cultural center of sorts.

No photos allowed inside

Nice architecture and tree

Chillis for sale at the food market

If you aren't here for the International Balloon Fiesta, the next best thing is the Albuquerque International Balloon Museum I suppose, so we did it.  It is a huge building with the history of ballooning since the beginning of time up to the present along with several interactive exhibits and the Balloon Hall of Fame.

Entrance to the museum

Great exhibits

Twinkles is ready for a ride

Scantily dressed women are popular doing anything ?

Love the shape of the Breitling Obiter

Of course I did find time for a few downtown Albuquerque photos.

The Kino Theater at night

Fire breathing dragon mural 

The New Mexico rail system, great graphics

A reflection of a building in another

The Freed Company (since 1920) will become
"The School of Rock"

The wonderful Kimo Theater

An hazy morning Albuquerque view

The Rio Grande River keeps on flowing

Train builder mural

Indian with bow mural

A super Hero in action

Comic book heros mural

A Good Indian is a live indian mural

Interesting mural on city building

Balloon mural on same city building

Albuquerque has been great, we've been very busy, but now it's time to move further south, back out into the boonies for a while and possibly relax ?

Next stop is in the the Socorro, New Mexico area, lets see what we can find there?

Twinkles and Slick  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Albuquerque - Part 1

October 23-24, 2014:

On the road again on the morning of the 23rd taking route 550 south for 152 miles to route 25 west and the Enchanted Trails RV Park off route 40 outside Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Route 550 first the first 30 miles or so looks to me like the armpit of the world, all oil or gas drilling equipment, butchered landscape, trash, thoroughly disgusting.  You then get into the Indian reservations with the poverty living conditions, but they also now have oil wells.  I watched a PBS a special on the rise of drugs and crime related to the oil bonanza in North Dakota and wonder if it is also happening here.  Eventually the oil country fades away and it is just one Indian reservation after another.  Route 550 is a 4 lane road with a 70 MPH speed limit and mostly big rigs on it, an easy drive and you can make good time.  You then come to route 25 and Albuquerque which gets a little crazy as you have to deal with the aggressively driving city folks again.

Beauty and the Beast

Oil rigs all over

Enchanted Trail RV Park is an old park with full hookup, we are here mainly for the half price Passport America rate.  It is fairly convenient to downtown, WiFi is weak, no shower room, much traffic noise and not particularly attractive.  They do have some really cool old RV trailers and a couple of classic cars for overnight stays.

The Enchanted Trail sign

A nice rig

A Silver Streak

Love those roof wings

This is our second visit to Albuquerque, but we didn't see it all the first time, there is so much more.  We begin with the "Old Town" section of Albuquerque that originated as a Spanish settlement in 1706.  Lots of interesting shops with much southwestern art, jewelry, gifts, a nice blend of good quality stuff and tacky tourist stuff.  Another Tony Hillerman book was obtained along with a very cool corn shaped Candle.  Lunch at "Hacienda Del Rio" was very nice, we had a sampler appetizer plate that was perfect for lunch.  I love their historic mural on the patio area. 

We are back in "Day of the Dead" territory

Mural on the Hacienda Del Rio wall

Typical Old Town courtyard

Several art galleries

Nice Parrot !

Twinkles is ready for a hearty lunch

We have neighbors at the campground who have been full time RV'ing for 3 months with two children who they are home schooling. The Dad is originally from New Jersey. The boy, Jackson seems a bit weird, he delights in talking to us, comes over and sits on our step, tells all, they are leaving next week after the check arrives.  We are also leaving this RV Park, nothing to do with them, going almost across the highway to the High Desert RV Park.  Enchanted Trails only gives the Passport America rate for two nights and we can get a better weekly rate at High Desert RV Park.

It's Friday night and I must go check out the music scene at the Marble Brewery.  A blues guy was scheduled there, but he wasn't there and instead there was a more reliable bluegrass band that wasn't that interesting. The Marble Brewery is a very cool venue however with a large outside patio and stage where the bands play.  They don't have a kitchen but instead schedule various food trucks to park there.  They have music and food trucks about every night of the week.

I decided to check another nearby spot and went to "Low Spirits" where they were having a special event called "Night of the living color cover bands" in which several bands were covering songs by well known bands.  Each band would do about a 4 song set then new band would set up.  I saw a "Cream" set and then a "Heart" set that were both very good.  The following set was a mystery to me, (must have been during the 80's when I wasn't paying attention), didn't hear the intro, but the couple next to me were really into it and lonely guys at the next table were drumming away manically on the table top.  

Saturday morning we make the 2 mile move over to the High Desert RV Park.  We are next to a RV with much Halloween stuff all over the RV with a dented car with Alabama license plates, could be interesting ?

High Desert view

More Albuquerque to be exposed,

Twinkles and Slick