Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Turquoise Trail is a beautiful trip through New Mexico

Tinkertown Saloon

Traveling from Albuquerque to Santa Fe is a beautiful drive, even on the interstate. But on a trip this summer, I took the more scenic route along the Turquoise Trail, and I was rewarded with great views and fun places to stop.

The Turquoise Trail follows route NM-14 from Tijeras in the south to the suburbs of Santa Fe in the north. It follows the eastern edge of the Sandia Mountains. I first drove this route a twenty-five years ago. The Amazing Ms. D and I were drawn the promise to seeing three ghost towns along our trip. Today, the towns of Golden, Madrid and Cerillos are no longer abandoned. They have become centers of growing arts communities, and homes to the two stops I made this year.

My first stop was at the Tinkertown Museum, in Sandia Peak. Tinkertown is a labor of love, created by Ross Ward. Ward began carving figures while in junior high school. He continued this hobby while traveling the country as a painter for all of the major carnivals and circuses. He turned his hobby into a traveling attraction, one that he brought with him on the road.

Checker game in the Gerneral Store
Mary Poppins visits Tinkertown

The Monarch Hotel

Shotgun wedding

General Store
Trading Post

In 1984, Moss opened the Tinkertown Museum, filling up one room. Today the museum covers twenty-two rooms. The two main exhibits are the Western Town and the Circus displays. Each features hundreds of miniature figures, many of which have been animated. All show Moss’ respect for and humor about his subjects. There are many more objects of nostalgia on display, from midway games, to dolls to classic signs. It is worth the 1 to 2 hours that a full tour will take.

One-man Band

My second stop was in the town of Madrid. Madrid was a thriving coal mining town, a company town, from the 1880’s through the end of World War II. By 1954, mining was done in Madrid, and the town was mostly abandoned. In the 1970’s artists started to move into the area, buying up old houses and land at very low prices, at least in part because there was neither running water or electricity. Today, they have created a thriving community that numbers around 200 households. When you visit you will find art galleries, jewelry shops, and some very good restaurants. I had lunch at the Holler, on the south end of town. They have a great outdoor space, good sandwiches and offer live music on the weekends. Across the street, is the Mineshaft Tavern, which includes a small museum of local history.

Old Coal Town Museum

A trip on the Turquoise Trail is a great way to spend a day. It is a beautiful drive through the New Mexico mountains and you can easily drive it in a day, and take the Interstate back home.

Nuts and Bolts:
The Turquoise Trail is about 50 miles long from Tijeras to the first junction with I-25 near Santa Fe. The entire round trip is a little over 100 miles.

Tinkertown Museum - The museum is 1.5 miles west of route 14 on route 536. Entrance fees are $4 for adults/ $3.50 for “geezers”/ $1.50 for children. Please check their website for Accessibility issues.

Madrid -  Route 14 is the main street in Madrid. It is 30 miles south of Santa Fe and 47 miles northeast of Albuquerque. It gets crowded on the weekends, and street parking is limited. There are private lots available for $5.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Albuquerque is a place to explore Southwest Culture and Nature

Sansia Tramway
This summer, I attended a course in photography in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Besides learning a lot, and getting to work with some great photographers, it gave me an excuse to return to one of my favorite parts of the country. Before and after my course I had the chance to spend some time in Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city.

Old Town Plaza

Albuquerque sits between the Rio Grande River and the Sandia Mountains. The area was home to as many as twenty Tiwa pueblos before the Spanish invaded the area. In 1706, the Spanish settled in the area, building a town around a central plaza. Today, that area is called “Old Town Albuquerque.” Old town is a great place to walk around. The adobe buildings house restaurants, jewelry stores and other fun places to shop.

Classic Cars on the Plaza

More Classic Cars

Indian vendors at the Old Town Plaza

San Felipe de Neri Church

The first place I visited was Los Poblanos organic farm and inn in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. The ranch was founded in the 19th century by Ambrosio and Juan Cristobal Armijo. In the 1930’s it was reassembled by Albert and Ruth Simms. They grew sugar beets and ran a dairy farm on the site during the 30’s and 40’s. Today, its primary crop is lavender, a low water plant that thrives in arid climates. The store on the ranch sells a wide variety of products made on site, along with a great selection of sandwiches and salads for lunch an al fresco lunch. If you want a more formal meal, make reservations at Campo, a farm-to-table restaurant at the ranch that is open for breakfast and dinner.

Another great place to visit in Albuquerque is the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (IPCC). Founded in 1976, this museum is operated by the 19 Indian Pueblos in New Mexico. It is dedicated to preserving and supporting the culture, history and art of Indian Pueblo culture. The IPCC has 10,000 square feet of exhibition space that includes a large permanent  - “We Are of This Place: The Pueblo Story.” It presents a comprehensive history of Pueblo culture through art and artifacts. There are also galleries where temporary exhibits are on display. When I visited there was a thought provoking presentation on the appropriation of Pueblo sun symbology by the state of New Mexico and then the entire tourism industry.

Becoming One by Cloud Eagle

Historical Trauma by Robert Dale Tsosie
At the center of the museum is a courtyard that has several large murals painted on the walls that depict aspects of Pueblo culture. There is a dance circle in the courtyard where troops from different Pueblos perform on the weekends. Finally, the IPCC has an excellent restaurant, Pueblo Harvest, where you can enjoy delicious examples of traditional Pueblo food.

Dance Circle

Acoma Dance Troop

On my last day in New Mexico, I returned to Albuquerque for my flight home. But before leaving, I decided to visit Sandia Peak, on the eastern side of town. I took the Sandia Peak Tramway, the third longest tramway in the world, to the top of the mountain. It is a fifteen minute trip that covers a length of 7,720 feet ((approx 1.5 miles) as it climbs from 6500 feet to a height of 10,300 feet. At the top of the mountain there are a myriad of trails to walk, ranging up to 7.5 miles long. You can walk along the ridge, and take in wonderful views of the city below. Or you can hike down, or up is you so desire, the eastern side of the mountain. There is a new restaurant at the top of the mountain, unfortunately it was not yet open when I visited. The views are amazing, but when you visit, remember, you will be at an altitude of 10,500 feet, so be ready for the effects.

Albuquerque offers a wide variety of options for visitors. From nature to history great food, there are a lot of great ways to send your time. So, before you head out to the big name places to visit, spend some time in the big city.

Nuts and Bolts:
Los Poblanos: Lunches are reasonably priced, dinners are a bit more expensive. There is also an inn to stay at for around $245/night.

Indian Pueblo Cultural Center: Open Monday-Sunday 9:00-5:00. Entrance fees are $8.40 -Adults/ $6.40 - seniors, military, and NM resident/ $5.40 children over 5.

Sandia Tramway - Flight tickets are $25 adults/$20 students, seniors, military/ $15 children. There is also a $2 parking fee for the park.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Mariners' Museum - Naval history in Newport News VA

When you travel to the Virginia Coast, you enter and area that is filled with naval history. Portsmouth is home to the largest naval base on the east coast. However, this history goes back a long way in the history of the United States. That history is captured at the Mariners' Museum in Newport News VA.

Cape Charles Lighthouse Lens

The city of Newport News sits on the north shore of the James River, on the Virginia Peninsula, which separates the river from the Chesapeake Bay. Its history dates back to the forming of the Jamestown Colony in the early 1600’s. Newport News became a thriving town when the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway decided to build their terminal there, making it the place where coal from West Virginia would be transferred to ships.

USS Lancaster Eagle
The Mariner’s Museum was founded in 1930 by Archer Milton Huntington, whose father founded the city. He, and his wife Anna Huntington, bought eight-hundred acres along the shore of the James River. Today that land includes a 5 mile hiking trail, a 167-acre lake and the 90,000 square foot exhibition space of the museum. It is home to over 35,000 maritime artifacts from around the world, the largest collection in the Western Hemisphere, and it has been designated as the National Maritime Museum of the United States.

Model of the Mauretania

The museum has an extensive collection that includes a large number of ship models from around the world. There is also a beautiful first order lens that used to be housed at the Cape Charles Lighthouse.

Replica of the USS Monitor

The heart of he collection is the exhibit on the U.S.S. Monitor. The Monitor was an iron-clad, steam-powered warship built by the U.S. Navy that was in service for the year for 1862. The Monitor is best know for its participation in the Battle of Hampton Roads. In that battle, the Confederate Ship Virginia, another iron-clad ship, had attacked the U.S. Navy ships that were blockading the James River in order to protect the access to Washington DC. The Virginia had already proved impervious to the cannon of the U.S. naval ships and its cannon had sunk two ships and forced a third to run aground. The Monitor arrived during the middle of the battle, and over the next one-and-a-half day, fought the Virginia to a draw. This allowed the U.S. to regroup and the blockade held.

On the deck of the Monitor

Model of the Monitor

Model of the Virginia

The Monitor stayed with the blockade fleet at the James River for the rest of the year, and alway fought in support of the Peninsula Campaign of 1862. In December of that year, the ship was sent to join the blockade off of the coast of North Carolina. There it sank during a large storm, and was lost for over one-hundred years.

Replica of the turret as it was found

In 1973, its wreck was discovered, and partially salvaged. Its gun and turret were raised from the ocean floor, and moved to the Mariner’s Museum, here they are undergoing cleansing and restoration. Parts of the boat have been recreated in both their pristine state, and the condition they were found in in 1973. There is also a full-sized model of the Monitor at the museum.
Turret under restoration in the lab

Cannon under restoration
The mariner’s Museum is a wonderful place to explore the naval history of the United States. Visit, learn about the past, and be inspired for the future.

Nuts and Bolts:
Getting There: The Mariner’s Museum is on Museum Drive, just down the road from The Viriginia Living Museum, and sharing a parking lot with the Peninsula Fine Arts Center.

Cost: Entrance fee is $1 (that’s right ONE dollar). If you want to see one of the 3-D movies, there is a $6 charge.