Saturday, November 8, 2014

Truth or Consequences

November 4-5, 2014:

We had light rain in the morning, always happens when I wash the Jeep and get it looking half decent.  Also a cold front has moved in, low 40's in the morning.  I start off with a really good (hot) breakfast at the "El Camino Restaurant" across California Avenue from Walmart. It seems to be a local favorite, several old guys hanging out talking a mix of Spanish and English, (can barely understand anyone) with a short order cook who was really fast and efficient, a wonder to watch.  

We decided to take state highway 1 instead of I-25 south to Truth or Consequences.  It is longer, but way more scenic going through the towns of Luis Lopez, San Antonio and then through the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Reserve.  It also passes the Ft. Craig historic site and the El Camino Real International Heritage Center.  I wanted to see the El Camino Real Center, but it was unfortunately closed. You just can't see it all, hard as you try, a little frustrating ?

View along route 1

El Camino Real sculpture off route 1

Our target destination was a boondocking spot a short distance from exit 89 on I-25.  This was when the problems started !   Monticello Point road was not at the exit as the free camping web site said it would be.  After checking various maps we found it was actually off of exit 92. One exit away would normally be no big deal, except that in this case, where highway construction had exit 92 northbound closed.  As a result, we had to go north to exit 100, do a U-turn, then backtrack south to exit 92.  The map showed the road at the exit to be Monticello Point Road, but the road sign said Reservoir Road, not sure we at the right spot ? We took it anyhow and saw a couple of pulloffs that appeared to be former camping, parking and trash dumping spots. It isn't the ultimate campsite or even if it is BLM land, but by this time we didn't care and parked the rig.  We are surrounded here, 360 degrees, with nice mountain vistas as long as you block out the highway view.  The wind is strong, rattling our vent covers, but no dust is blowing and the wind noise is drowning out the highway noise nicely.  There is no easy way to get  to where we want to go from here, due to the highway construction so it will be a one night stay.

Nice big level campsite

As you drive here, not just here but many rural open areas of the west, drivers of approaching cars and trucks often give you a wave.  Twinkles always gives me a hard time about not returning the wave, a flick of one finger will suffice, but frankly I have a hard time with this overly friendly stuff.  In New Jersey it's more common to get a different kind of hand gesture. 

On Wednesday morning, we pack it up again and move 12 miles to the Enchanted View RV Park in Elephant Butte.  Elephant Butte is a few miles outside Truth or Consequences and is a resort area around Elephant View Reservoir which is New Mexico's largest Lake.  It has Elephant View State Park with all sorts of water activities, campgrounds and RV Parks.  

Enchanted View RV Park strangely has no view that I can see and few amenities but is inexpensive, quiet and convenient to get around the area, all we need. 

I take off in the afternoon for a ride on route 52 to visit a couple of ghost towns.  This area has many ghost towns, mining towns that only lasted a few years and then went bust.  The majority are now totally gone or have only a few remaining structures.  I stopped first at Winston to visit the general store which is a normal folksy country town store.  People still live in Winston but most of the houses are more like shacks, old trailers and are surrounded by all sorts of trash, old car tires, dead cars and trucks and plain junk. Needless to say, I wasn't impressed.  

Next was the the town of Chloride where I saw the mother lode of all General Stores.  The owner was there and he told me the story of how it all came to be.  Silver was discovered in 1879, the town sprang up, miners flocked in and the town reached 3,000 residents at it's peak.  The boom didn't last long, when the US government decided to use gold as the monetary standard in the mid 1890's, the price of Silver dropped and the mine quickly closed.  It seems that the "Pioneer Store" operated from boom to bust from 1880-1923 in some form and carried everything, the local newspaper, the "Black Range, was printed upstairs and it was also the post office.  When the store did close, the owner left everything in it and boarded it shut with the idea that his son after college would return to take over the business.  The son never came back to take it over, but did maintain the building over the years.  The present owner met the son and eventually bought the building and contents with the condition that it all be saved as a museum.  Happy to say, it is being done very competently, an absolute treasure trove of stuff in this building.  In addition to the store artifacts, all the stores sales records along with the Court, Post office, Newspaper records and virtually the entire town and surrounding area history was saved here. The present owner has bought up many other town building which are also being restored and it's a must see museum when in the area.

View along route 52

Inside the Pioneer Store

Things were cleaned and put back on the shelves
in the original locations

The tool department

A restored pioneer cabin moved next to the Pioneer Store

Front view of the restored Pioneer Store

The Indian tribe of note in this area were the notorious "Chiricahua Apaches", with several iconic leaders such as Geronimo, Victorio, Mangus Coloradas, Cochise and others. They had no mercy for the mexican or white settlers moving into their hunting areas and were ruthless warriors.  Everywhere you go here, almost every historical marker will reference something about the dangerous raiding Apaches, killing and maiming the settlers.  It was a brutal bloody period of American history.   

The quest for knowledge continues at the Geronimo Springs Museum in Truth or Consequences.  I'm kind of tired of saying it, but yet another amazing museum of local artifacts and information.

The local branch of the railroad was called
"The Horny Toad Line"

Ralph Edwards shirt worn for town celebration

A romanticized painting of Geronimo

Giant display (only part of it shown) of Indian
pots donated by early collectors

A romanticized painting of Juan de Onate, an
early Spanish explorer and colonial governor
of spanish New Mexico

It is the off season now and much seems to be closed, but I'm impressed with Truth or Consequences, a pretty cool small town !  The big thing here is the Mineral hot springs, there are about 10 mineral bath house or resorts in the downtown area and the town was originally named "Hot Springs".  The mineral baths and springs have always been an attraction, the Apaches came here to soak way before the white man.  In 1950 Ralph Edwards, host of the popular game show "Truth or Consequences" said that he would broadcast his show from the first town in the US to change it's name to Truth or Consequences.  Hot Springs did so and gained considerable national publicity, continuing to the present as a result.  They also have a fairly vibrant arts scene in town and a few decent cafes, we can vouch for two of them personally.  They also have one of the best looking Water Tanks I've seen in town. Twinkles was also quite impressed with the mural in the post office, it was a beauty !  In addition, they have a Spaceport with the likes of Virgin Galactic and SpaceX planning to provide private space flight in the future.

When Pigs Fly shop

THe El Cortez Theater in town

Second Hand Rose

Original Hot Chili Peppers Tee Shirt

Indian Bear Dance mural in the Post Office painted
by Lithuannian born Boris Deutch

A Raven mural in town

View looking out across town from Water Tank

The town Water Tank

Nice flower mural in town

Nice mural on historic WPA built building in town

The "Indian Springs" in town

In the morning we stopped for coffee and a couple of baked goods at the "Passion Pie Cafe" which was excellent.  After the museum and more wandering it was then a lunch at "Barbecue on Broadway" which also was excellent.  As far as nightlife goes, they roll up the sidewalks when it gets dark. 

We finally made it to Elephant Butte Dam and reservoir.  The water level in the reservoir is very low, really low and the Dam has the river flow totally shut off.

View of the Dam, originally you could drive across

View of the reservoir, the normal level is covering
the lighter colored rocks

Next stop is Deming, New Mexico;

Twinkles and Slick

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