It has been nearly three weeks at home. It is time to get back to riding. We notice that the spring temperatures have fled and now its high 90′s to 100′s in New Mexico. Time to head north. The rest of the desert states will have to wait till the Fall. We arrive back at the Sheraton Albuquerque Airport Hotel and are given a room directly across the hall from where we stayed 3 weeks ago. It is late and, although it seems too warm in the room, we think little of it and get settled for the evening. We find the room is not cooling off any, but we are too tired to move to another room at midnight. The next morning, with little sleep, we head out to retrieve Nell from the dealership, return the rental car, and head for Santa Fe for the next few days. I have never been to Santa Fe. The turquoise trail is our route for the day and we are glad to finally get on the road. We had noticed around the hotel a large number of grasshoppers on the ground and the car. While we were packing up, the TV Weather Report is showing on the local radar what looks like a rain cloud but, it is actually a monster swarm of grasshoppers that have been blown up about a 1000 feet by the winds. I had hoped it had subsided while we were back east but no such luck. We are having a real grasshopper infestation. We hurriedly get ourselves together. We pack the duffles and a few things that will not fit our constrained luggage space and arrange to send everything back to Florida. Away we go! We head back east on I-40 to exit we came in on three weeks ago.
What was the Salt Mission Trail to the south of I-40, becomes the Turquoise Trail to the North. I don’t make the next part up. It really happened. We stop at Tinkertown Museum a little ways to the north. Tinkertown is hard to explain. A man has built a structure using 55,000 wine bottles. For an entry fee of $3.50 you can wander through all of the small models of old west towns and circuses which are made in miniature and housed in this building constructed from wine bottles. Deep within the exhibit is his full sized ocean going sail boat aboard which he sailed for ten year around the world. On a wall he has painted his route round the world noting various happenings along the way. He notes shark and whale sightings, bad storms, broken ribs, emergency surgery, and where his first wife leaves him ( Not very far into the journey). He sailed his boat from Ft.Lauderdale, Florida around the world finally returning to Mobile Ala. He then put the boat on a tractor trailer and hauled it out here to New Mexico. The only person in the museum is the lady who takes the entrance fee and watches the gift shop. She did not know if the errant sailor cum architect was around. It would have been fun to meet this guy!
From Tinkertown we turn left for a 6 and 1/2 mile windy ride up the mountain. It is a beautiful ride and it becomes cool as we gain altitude. We go through a pina and oak forest. The oak trees have new spring green leaves and flowers are blooming. It is early June and Spring has just arrived here.At the top of the mountain( 10,678 feet), is the Sandia Crest Park. We meet volunteer ranger, Art, who is there to answer questions while you gaze out at fantastic views of Albuquerque in the desert below. There is a green band of vegetation where the Rio Grande is running through the desert. Mt. Taylor is visible off in the distance. Art is also a “Birder” like me. He explains that the Swifts have just arrived. I hope they like grasshoppers. Art says they have hummingbirds around but, for some reason, the feeders have not been set out this year. After a chat we head into the cafe which is staffed by folks who have an obvious aversion to children. Warning signs everywhere about what is not permitted in this establishment. While James is enjoying a hot dog, I notice lots of hummingbirds off the back deck. I head out for a better look and notice the feeder has been put out after all. There are six or seven hummers shoulder to shoulder at the feeder. As we are leaving, I mention seeing them to Art and he hurries off to get a look. Back on Hwy.14, The Turquoise Trail, gives us a nice motorcycle road with attractive ranches and a big drop into a valley with a winding road leading through Madrid, a very artsy village a few miles south of Santa Fe.
In late afternoon we arrive at the Inn of the Five Graces in Santa Fe. The hotel is interesting in many ways. The buildings are very old. It was originally built as housing for the San Miguel Mission Church located across the street. The Seret Family transformed several city blocks into the Inn using treasures from their travels in South Asia and the Middle East. It also has mosaics everywhere throughout the buildings. Best word to describe the Inn is eclectic. We love it because it is in the historic district of old Santa Fe.
We take a tour the next morning and learn that this area has been inhabited for 500 years before the Spanish arrived in 1540 a.d. the Pueblo Indians did not take well to the Spanish and their Catholic priests who immediately decreed that no more Indian dances or tribal rituals would be allowed. The Indians destroyed several missions and churches but San Miguel managed to make it intact with the exception of its bell tower which collapsed under the weight of its 750 pound bell. We marvel at the history of this ancient place. Why here? Why here for so many years? Our tour guide tells us of the Jewish merchants who provided major funding for the Catholic Church. We heard about the Harvey Girls who worked and lived at the Harvey House Hotels along the railroads. The old Harvey House in Santa Fe is now the lovely La Fonda Hotel but still has the iron gate that was closed every evening to secure the dorms for the single Harvey Girls. We went to 109 East Palace Street where Robert Oppenheimer maintained his offices during World War II. He administered the Manhattan Project from this office. Lots of physicists and engineers, who worked on the project, first came to this office to be interviewed. They would depart for Los Alamos secretly by a rear door. Children born to the physicists during the war had a Post Office Box for the address on their birth certificate. High school children who graduated during the war had Charter School# 15 on their diploma.
The Indian craft people have a sidewalk in front of the old Governors Palace where they spread their wares on the sidewalk for tourists to see and buy. Each spot on the sidewalk is drawn by lot each day for the day. If you think you like something, you had better get it because the artist may not get a spot the following day. James and I take some time to people watch from the Plaza. Loud motorcycles, antique cars and trucks, people on bikes all circle the Plaza like a ritual. One bicyclist has a McCaws Parrot on his arm rides by. A lady in her 90′s with flame red hair also strolls by. I have just named a few of the colorful sightings. A block away from the square is Cafe Pasquals, an award winning resturant that seats only 50 people. There is always a line to get in. We hope to snag a table so that I can sample their mole’.Their’s is considered the best around. Although it takes 2 to 3 days to prepare, I am not sure that James and I could appreciate the effort. It was good but not great.
Back at the Five Graces we just enjoy the beauty and peacefulness of this place. The sky is so blue due to the low humidity, the air dry and cool, the fountains provide soothing music and the vibrant colors of the Seret’s decor make for a pleasant afternoon of relaxation. Some memorable things about New Mexico: Blue doors and chili strings called Ristras. The door colors were originally to protect the home from evil spirits. This custom originated with the Spanish who adopted it from the Moors when they controlled Spain. Santa Fe was founded around 1607 so this influence was still present in Spanish architecture. The Squash Blossom necklaces which are made by the Indian artists have a crescent from the Moors incorporated into the design. Another unique item was the Horno, a hive shaped structure found in the yards of homes which is used for baking. Even the state cookie, biscochito, has spices from Spain and originally from North Africa. The Indians adopted and adapted some of the Spanish culture into its own. “Christmas Sauce” is a combination of red and green chili sauce which we bravely try. Its hot!