Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Las Cruces, New Mexico

March 24 - 30, 2015:

The Banana Yucca's in the campground are stunning

I finally weighed the RV at the Pilot truck stop which does not give you the weight on each wheel, but the weight on the front and the rear axle and the total weight.  The good news is the weight ratings for both front and rear tires are OK.  The bad news is that we are about 280 lbs over for the vehicle GVWR of 14,500 lbs.  That's actually better than I expected, we can live with it, but there are a few items that could be dropped off along the way.  

We drove separately again taking I-10 east to Deming, then route 26 north to Hatch, NM (capital of chilli) where I stopped and walked around taking a few photos.  It was then route 25 south to a rest area just north of exit 19 where we hooked the Jeep up behind the RV and towed it into the Leasburg Dam State Park.  I need longer safety chains, but otherwise all seemed good and I could hardly tell the Jeep was back there.

World Famous chilli burgers

Leasburg State Park is adjacent to Leasburg diversion dam which was built in 1908 on the Rio Grande River for irrigation.  We have a pull through site with electric and water, a covered picnic table and a fire pit.  There is a bathhouse with very HOT water and a dump station.  It is so very quiet here, nothing like the truck stop.

Within a mile of Leasburg State Park is the Fort Selden Historic Monument. It's mission was to keep the peace and protect the Mesilla Valley from the Apaches.  The Apaches were mostly decimated by this point however and there was not much action.  It seems that more soldiers were killed in town by local bad guys that were killed by Apaches. The fort was eventually abandoned, the locals took everything useful including the roofs. As a result the adobe walls were left to the elements are mostly eroded away now.

Fort Seldon before

Fort Seldon now

Las Cruces, New Mexico is the 2nd largest city in New Mexico.  We explored the Main street area where a farm market / craft market happens on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  Saturday was much larger although mostly crafts and food this time of year.  There are several restaurants, a great bookstore, a few theaters and three museums also in this area.  We found an excellent mexican cafe, Rosies Cafe, for lunch nearby.  We also found The Mesquite historic district with many old original adobe buildings that were interesting.

Rio Grande Theater

Another colorful Theater on Main Street

Aquas Frescas is great stuff

Very interesting food truck with boat

Mesquite historic district sign

Symbol of friendship, have a coke ?

Our Lady of Health Church

La Nueva Casita Cafe

Another very interesting area not to be missed is the old Mesilla area in southwestern Las Cruces.  Mesilla was originally where the action was and where history was made. It was larger in population than Las Cruces and on the opposite side of the Rio Grande River. The town hasn't moved, but the river did, it changed course at some point so that Las Cruces and Mesilla on now on the same side.  It was disputed land between the US and Mexico until the Gadsden purchase officially made it part of the US.  Several of the original buildings are still standing and in use.  The present Church, the Basilica of San Albino, built in 1904 sits on the exact site of two previous churches built.  The town has a scenic old courtyard and most of the central area is converted into restaurants and stores.

This was a courthouse where Billy the Kid was
sentenced to hang

A very old building in Mesilla

The Basilica of San Albino

An original town gate

Painting on a building

They are several good hiking location near Las Cruces.  We have an interesting short hike around the state park campground that takes you down to the Rio Grande River in sight of the Dam then along the river through a picnic / beach area.  The Rio Grande is just a trickle of water here, but it becomes a raging torrent at times during the monsoon season.  They have a on-going project to remove the evasive (non native) Salt Cedar trees from the Rio Grande River banks.  The Salt Cedar trees were originally planted to stabilize the river banks and prevent erosion.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it grows so fast and dense that it crowds all other vegetation out and is now a menace.

A beaver Dam in front of the Diversion Dam

The Rio Grande River

The dreaded Salt Cedar is ugly !

The Dripping Springs Natural Area is administered by the BLM.  The area was bought and saved from development by the "Nature Conservancy", (an incredible organization), who then worked a deal to turn it over the BLM.  This is part of the Organ Mountains which are very pointed prominent peaks on the Las Cruces landscape.  

We first took the La Cueva trail which takes you to a cave which was once inhabited by ancient indians where many artifacts were found during recent excavations.
It latter was inhabited by a hermit, Augostini Justiniani, who was actually born of Italian royalty.  He was a religious man who traveled from Europe to South America, Cuba, Mexico and finally the west extensively and was reputed to perform miracles.   In the end he was murdered in this cave in 1869.

Interior of the cave

We then did the Dripping Springs trail which takes you to the ruins of the Dripping Springs Resort, originally built in the 1870's by a Colonel Eugene Van Patten and called Van Patten's Mountain Camp. The camp was very popular around the turn of the century with many famous people such as Pat Garett and Poncho Villa as guests.  The ruins of several large stone building remain.

Old corral area

One of several old stone ruins

Another old wall still standing

A second hike was taken (another day) from the Aguirre Spring Campground located on the eastern side of the Organ Mountains.  It is another BLM managed natural area.  We took the Pine Tree Trail which was a 4 mile loop that has about a 1,000 foot elevation gain.  It goes up through an area with many old Alligator Juniper trees, Gray Oaks, Sotol's, chollas, Ponderosa Pines and beautiful vistas in all directions.  We were able to see far across the Tularosa Basin and White Sands National Park from the trail.

A trail view into the Tularosa Basin

Lush green trees along trail

Twinkles striking a pose

Beautiful mountain views
Friday night I went to the Blue Moon Bar in Radium Springs about two miles from the campground.  It is actually a fairly nice place with a large outside patio area with two concert stages.  A band called "Saturday Night Special" was advertised to play there.  I figured this to be some local country band, but when I checked on the internet, this band has 4 original members of Lynyrd Skynyrd.  I am not a big fan of Lynyrd Skynyrd and their redneck attitude, but have to admit they made some great music.  It is basically a cowboy bar and the band was very accommodating, they went from Jimi Hendrix to Hank Williams without missing a beat and sounded at home playing both.  I don't really think the original members are still in the band, but they could play the Lynyrd Skynyrd stuff perfectly and were a real journeyman working band that could play about anything better than average.

Saturday after the farmers / craft market we visited the Art Museum, Nature and Science museum and the Railroad Museum.  They were all very small museums but interesting.

Interesting exhibit on a new National Monument
called the Permian Trackways near Las Cruces

Jerry Mac Donald was the one to discover the site
that holds huge numbers of prehistoric Dinosaur tracks

The Las Cruces Depot is now a museum

A classic Santa Fe Chief advertisement

We just couldn't leave La Cruces without a return to Mesilla for lunch at the La Posta de Mesilla.  The food and service was very good but the ambiance of the place was beyond compare.


View from our table

Old painting of the Restaurant

In the Lobby wall

Next stop is Alamogordo, NM,

Twinkles and Slick

Friday, March 27, 2015

Lordsburg, New Mexico

March 23-30, 2015:

We travel route 80 east from Bisbee through Douglas then continue northeast through wide open ranch lands.  The roadsides and hills were carpeted thickly with beautiful yellow flowers sprinkled with deep purple flowers and poppies.  I stopped at the Geronimo surrender Monument along the route, amazing to think what occurred on this very spot a few generations ago.

Brilliant yellow flowers along the highway for miles

Geronimo surrender Monument

As I left the monument just after two motorcyclists, running down the road at 50 MPH, I collided with what must have been an entire hive of honey bees, the windshield was covered with dead smashed bees, could hardly see out, especially when I put on the wipers.  I had to stop and use the windshield washer for a while and the whole front of the RV was slimed.  I was wondering though how it would be to ride a motorcycle through that ?

I then crossed over the border into New Mexico, and got on route 10 east.  Actually I first backtracked two miles on 10 west one exit to take a look at the ghost town of Steins.  It is one of the most original intact ghost towns in the west, but unfortunately is closed presently under somewhat spooky circumstances involving the murder of the owner.  I was able to take a few photos from outside the fence.

Steins is closed again

A few old walls standing with a warning sign to keep out

Even the outhouse was locked

It was then back east on route 10 to Lordsburg, NM.  We decided to stay at the Pilot Truck stop because we haven't ever done that before, it has a store, food, gas and is right off the highway and is free.  The price you pay is that you are exposed to the noise of the Southern Pacific Railroad and the constant truck stop activity.  It's kinda nice having the Pilot store with all kinds of coffee blends, muffins, donuts and danish or the attached Arby's across the parking lot.  This truck stop camping is not so bad !

I see beauty in the fuel lanes at night

Lordsburg started as Southern Pacific railroad work camp and the railroad continues strong today.  There are two versions on the origin of the town name.  The more accepted one is of a Tucson businessman, Dr. Charles Lord, who owned a wholesale distributing company. He shipped supplies to the unnamed railroad work camp and they started calling the spot Lord which latter changed to Lordsburg. The other version is that the name derives from railroad supervisor Delbert Lord who decided to locate the town exactly halfway between Tucson, AZ and El Paso, TX.  

Lordsburg was a popular spot in days past when the highway went right through town.  There are amazing photos in the museum to prove it. There is a route 66 look and feel to it, but since the interstate now diverts traffic around the downtown, people don't come here anymore.  The old main street is somewhat of a ghost town.  The action has now shifted to the newer end of town next to the interstate exit.  The biggest thing is now is the Border Patrol headquarters with its razor wire fence.  If you cross the railroad tracks to the "wrong side", you are in a poverty area. The good side is just low income for the most part.  In the 1920's it had one of the first airstrips in Arizona, Lindberg landed here on his celebratory cross country flight after flying to Paris.

La Fiesta is now closed

So is this old Motel

Across the tracks, the El Charro survives with a great
western mural scene on the right

Beautiful brickwork on this building with a renovation permit
on the front door, hope it gets saved

The traffic through town is light these days

No one comes to the Coachlight Inn anymore, but a few small
stores and offices remain

Rico's restaurant is closed

Nice tile work on the old Hotel Hidalgo

There are three attractions in Lordsburg; the Library, the Museum and the Shakespeare ghost town. 

We then do our usual visitor center visit to get the latest New Mexico brochures.  Then a ride to the town cemetery, near the ghost town of Shakespeare.  I know it's a little strange to visit a cemetery, but they can be very interesting.  This one is mostly hispanic and the graves are very colorfully decorated.

Lordsburg Cemetery

Next we take the adjacent dirt road to the Shakespeare ghost town where you come to a closed gate with a very threatening warning sign.  You can see a few of the old buildings from the entrance road, but not much.  It's weird to me that a place like this, that is really the only attraction in town, is only open two Saturdays a month and the only way to see it is by a guided tour.

Many warnings and rules at Shakespeare Ghost town

Large sizable buildings do remain

The The Lordsburg Hildalgo Library is a beautiful Aztec-Pueblo style gem of a building built by the WPA in 1936 with beautiful wood beamed ceilings.  It is obviously a lovingly volunteer run operation with a decent collection of books  for a town this size.

Nice architecture

A very clean well maintained Library

Nice ceilings and lighting

The Lordsburg-Hildalgo County Museum has a photography room with a ton of old Lordsburg and local area photos.  They were quite an eye opener to see, downtown Lordsburg had such a busy vibrant downtown full of shops, hotels, restaurants, bars and the train station in the past.  It's so sad to see it now. If the people from that era could return and see it again they would die a second death. There was also a interesting Prisoner of War room about the POW's, mostly Germans and Italians who were held captive at the Lordsburg POW camp. They mostly worked on local farms and actually were treated very well.  There is also a military room, a local cowboy Hall of Fame room, a mining room and lots of donated artifacts.

Twinkles is checking out the Windmill

The Hotel Hidalgo was great hotel complex

It was booming in the 1930's

Next stop is Las Cruces, New Mexico;

Twinkles and Slick