Saturday, June 14, 2008

12-08 Tucumcari to Albuquerque New Mexico

Tucumcari, NM

Albuquerque, NM

Campground: Cactus RV Park, Tucumcari. A Passport America campground, half off $12.25. Full hook-up with cable TV and wi-fi. There are 6 Rv parks in town.

Campground: Hidden Valley Resort, Albuquerque, NM. A Passport America campground, half off $12.00. Full hook-up, wi-fi available in the office area. Hot tub, nice sites on the side of a hill. Many pull-thru.

I had a stop over here in Tucumcari a couple of years ago and here I am again. Historic Route 66 Hotel signs are a must see in Tucumcari NM. These are all the original neon signs and they really look great at night. I stopped into the Blue Swallow Motel and had to buy one of their T-shirts. Talked to the owners who live here during the summer, then close up shop and travel in their RV during the winter. The Motel has garages for each motel room!

It’s a dusty quiet town on the original Route 66 and a great stop over before heading to Santa Fe or Albuquerque NM.

If you travel to NM via I-40, stop into the NM Visitor Center, they have the BEST staff to help you plan your visit in the awesome state.

It’s amazing to me the change in the landscape from Texas to New Mexico. From a flat arid land, suddenly I find myself gradually climbing up hills, opening up vistas that seem to go on forever. Mesas begin to appear on the landscape. Off to the left I see one Mesa merging into another and another like long inclined steps reaching towards the sky, stretching all the way to the horizon.

Looking across the short dry rolling grass lands, I try to visualize what it must have been like to see huge herds of buffalo roaming the land. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see a prong horn Antelope. Then another. They blend into the landscape so well. In all I saw a small herd of about 8-10. How exciting, my first viewing of the wild life out here.

As I get closer to Albuquerque I’m surrounded by the Sandia mountain range on one side and rounded mountains covered with cedar trees and short needled pine trees, all a part of the Cibola National Forest on the other. The highway winds it’s way through the mountain range. An awesome sight seeing the mountains rise on either side.

Today I drove to the other side of Albuquerque to see the Petroglyph National Monument. It only cost $1 for parking. I had planned on purchasing a new National Park pass, but they’ve gone up in price to $80 for the year (check or cash only).

Yikees! I was a bit disappointed by the Park office, which is in a former pueblo home. An expensive entrance and parking lot have been added. When you enter the park office, it’s the usual gift shop, but no displays or movies or interpretive center. So they hand you the brochure and tell you to go back out and drive a couple miles further up the road to the Petroglyph’s. Huge empty parking lot at the visitors center, little parking lot at the site. Our tax dollars at work.

Walking along trails through the volcanic rubble there are a couple really nice Petroglyph’s. Such a shame they haven’t spent any money restoring the weather worn signs, which gave little if any information on the Indian art. Then I read where the park became a National Monument in 1990 so I guess it takes a while to get things done.

I headed back into town and caught the historic Route 66 which goes right through Albuquerque. How cool is that. They have a number of the old historic motels and shops. I was going to explore Old Town, but the heat has gotten to me and I headed for a restaurant and some cool a/c. By the way Albuquerque is a very colorful city. Many of the buildings are painted really colorful southwest colors. Each adding a unique flair to a very energetic city. Which I might add is pretty easy to get around in. The downtown is bustling with shoppers, workers going to work or lunch, it’s the most energetic city I’ve seen in ages.

When I got back to the campground the weather felt much better, being at a higher elevation up in the mountains. As I drove back on I-40 a half moon shone down on the land against a light blue sky, not a cloud in the sky and those mountains ranges on either side of the highway. What an enchanting land.

A side note: My Tom-Tom Gps system has been a big help. Although I do get turned around occasionally and it doesn’t always get me to the exact spot, it has been a big help. Having literally thousands of points-of-interest, makes it easy to find the local Wal-Mart or the Petroglyph National Park. I find it does best with a specific address and it also has most all of the campgrounds I stay at, so that’s pretty cool in itself.

Yippee! Friends Tim and Scott have arrived in town and will be here all summer. We joined up and caught up on what’s been happening with them this past year. They were in Palm Springs, then moved to Houston for another work-camp job, but hated the area. We all agree that Albuquerque is a super place to visit and stay awhile. Lots of places to explore and the city is easy to get around in.

We visited Old Town right off of Route 66. The usual tourist shops, and yes I bought another T-shirt. Had lunch and walked around the central plaza with a small park in the center and the main church facing the plaza and park. There are a number of museums downtown in this area, most within walking distance of Old Town. There’s an awesome sculpture of the wagon trains heading west. You can see it in the sculpture gardens surrounding the art museum.

I tried to get Scott and Tim moving the next day, but it was tooo early for them. Some of us are early risers and are ready to go by 8:00. That wouldn’t be Tim and Scott So I had to head out on another adventure on my own.

I went to the Coronado State Monument, it‘s just a couple exits north of the city. It’s a pueblo consisting of over 1,200 rooms. The Coronado pueblo is one of hundreds of pueblo’s scattered throughout New Mexico. Many like this one are along the Rio Grande River. Now much of the complex has been re-buried to protect it from weather and further decay, but the big find was a series of murals found in one of the Kivas.

The murals were able to be removed and preserved by removing layer after layer of plaster. Each containing paintings. 17 of over 85 different layers were able to be recovered. After being sent away to various Universities and research centers, some of the murals are now back in Coronado and are on display. Can you imagine, each layer 1/30 of an inch thick, revealing another layer of paintings. One of them represented the “Priestess of Fecundity”.

Well, after viewing art from the 1,500’s I was getting hungry for lunch and wouldn’t you know it, right next door was the Santa Ana Star Casino. I picked up one of their rewards cards, put a couple dollars in the slot machine, had some fun, then headed over to the buffet ($7.25). Had an awesome lunch. Hit the slots one more time. They had a ton of new slot machines I’d never seen and spent a total of $3.00 playing them. Lots of fun for a really cheap price.

On Thursday I started our enjoying my mountain view retreat by taking a walk around (actually up and down, we’re on the side of the mountain you know) the park and up to the office for a cup of coffee. Seems everyone was in the mood to talk this morning. Lots of full-timers sharing how they got to that point in life and their secrets for having made it to this point. I got a few tips as to places to visit. My next door neighbors are from Ocala Fla. They literally sold the farm after a neighbor had just sold his place and made a fortune. They almost fell over when they realized how much their land was worth. They sold just before the bubble burst. Travel in a motor home and actually don’t like to travel that much. They find a place and stay for 3-4 months. Eventually they plan on getting two trailers, one up north and one in the south and just drive between the two.

So I finally got out of the park and headed into town to see the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. Now I’ve got to tell you, this is one of the best museums I’ve seen in quiet a while. They have a new exhibit on the “Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Triassic New Mexico” which is awesome. The displays are top notch and the descriptions really help a person understand the immense changes our planet have taken over millions of years. This global warming is barely a drop in the bucket of climate change when compared to what our planet has gone through over the years.

Now the exhibit I went to see specifically was the one called “Startup, Albuquerque and the Personal Computer Revolution“.

It all started with the first personal computer, the ALTAIR here in Albuquerque. Click on the room maps on the web page to see each exhibit room and more information on the dawning of the computer age. I literally spent hours there. The exhibit had the original roll of computer tape that Bill Gates and Paul Allen wrote the first Basic program to run on the Altair. Bill Gates was a true business man and insisted that he and his partners own the rights to the software. He refused to sell the software to MITS the company that built the first personal computer, Altair. That started the computer software revolution, oh and making him a multi-billionaire along the way. That was back in 1975. Can you believe it’s been 30 years!

A final evenings adventure brought us to the top of the Sandia Peak via the Longest Tramway in the world. Wow, what a ride, Scott, Tim and I rode up with about 50 others crammed in like sardines for the ride, but what a view! We went up at sunset and had dinner at the High Finance Restaurant. The food was not all that great, but the wine, good conversation and the views of the sunset and the cities night lights were spectacular. At 10,378 and 360 degree views, cooler air, one had to feel refreshed and alive.

My next stop I’ll be heading on up to an Army Corp site half way between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Have a great adventure, till next time.

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