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Life on California's beautiful Central Coast

Archive for May, 2009

Famous church

Our last stop in Taos was at this very famous, much photographed church (including by artists like Ansel Adams – O’Keefe painted it, too .. they went there together.)

San Francisco de Asis

San Francisco de Asis

 

I was actually more fascinated with the buildings in the little square behind the church, including this one:

Will build to suit, the sign says.

Will build to suit, the sign says.

 

And this one:

Drive through cocktails.

Drive through cocktails.

 Out front we wandered into this trading post, and the owner claimed it was the oldest trading post in the U.S. Not sure if that’s true .. but .. it sure seemed like it inside. The wares included hundreds of hand-strung rosaries and lots of arrowheads.

Oldest trading post?

Oldest trading post?

 

I’m blogging this from a remote spot north of Taos called Cebolla Mesa. The Rio Grande is 1.25 miles below me and the cliff face across from the picnic table where I’m writing looks like a miniature Grand Canyon. We are (almost) the only people here, about 3 miles down a rutted dirt road.

Happy weekend, everyone!

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Sopapillas!

Here they are .. the famed dough pillows .. a delicious New Mexican treat, usually served on the side of a meal that is way too big to truly enjoy them.

Delicious.

Delicious.

These were from a great local Taos lunch/breakfast restaurant called Michael’s Kitchen, and they came with the most delicious flavor-infused fat I’ve ever had in my life – homemade honey butter.

We also lucked into a good local brew pub for dinner called Eskes, so I guess all my whining about foodies yesterday was silly. Their green chili stew with ground turkey and green curry special were very tasty and totally reasonably priced. (Here’s an example of Taos-style diversification: The family also runs a local balloon tour adventure company.)

Mas art de Taos

Photo card issue resolved. These last few shots had decent color.

Today we are on our way to Red River, which is northeast of here in the mountains. Lots of camping, fishing and other non-city pursuits. I’ve been running, hiking, or riding my mountain bike almost every day, which has been amazing. New Mexico trails are something else though – not always well maintained, and often not marked at all. You really have to pay attention to where you’re going and how you got there!

Bird in hand .. worth two on the head?

Bird in hand .. worth two on the head?

 

Painted pony at a casita in an art alley.

Painted pony at a casita in an art alley.

 

Old cowboy sign off a side street.

Old cowboy sign off a side street.

Taos

OK, I’m going to be brutally honest and critical here: Taos is a bit of a tourist trap.

We’d heard this from some fellow campers from Oregon who we met at a bus stop in Santa Fe. They were right.

Nevertheless, wandering around in the evening, looking for good photos, we found some bits of charm among the countless art galleries and foodie  restaurants.

If you go, here’s a tip: Skip the Kit Carson home and museum. Instead, put your $5 entrance fee towards a purchase of Hampton Sides’ excellent historical rundown, “Blood and Thunder,” which covers the beginnings of the American Southwest in articulate, well-researched fashion. It was the best book I could have read before coming on this trip, and many thanks to E’s mom Nell for buying it for him and thereby making me aware of it.

A few Taos snaps. My camera card reader has been in an unfortunate accident with a bottle of beer, hopefully it will dry out and return to working order soon.

Kit Carson portrait.

Kit Carson portrait.

 

Street mural on main drag.

Street mural on main drag.

 

Funny suitcase slogan.

Funny suitcase slogan.

 

Iron moose.

Iron moose.

Side note: on the way to Taos we stopped at a national Vietnam Veterans Memorial outside Angel Fire. My dad had mentioned this from a New Mexico trip he took many years ago with our good family friend Tom McCord. The memorial is perched on a perfect hillside spot and had a very powerful presence to it. Just after Memorial Day, it was a sobering stop.

veterans

Funky (and beautiful) Mora

South of Mora.

South of Mora.

From Las Vegas to Taos, we took one of the most beautiful scenic drives I’ve ever been on – and I’ve been on a lot of beautiful scenic drives.

Here are a few shots before and around Mora and Cleveland, New Mexico. (Never thought you could go from Las Vegas to Cleveland in an hour, did you?)

Cleveland, N.M.

Cleveland, N.M.

 

North of Mora.

North of Mora.

Historic Las Vegas (N.M.)

When Gen. Stephen Kearny claimed New Mexico from Mexico for the U.S. government, he did so in the plaza of Las Vegas, New Mexico. Claiming that he and his men came “as friends, not as enemies; as protectors, not as conquerors,” and they were thereby absolved of their  allegiance to the Mexican government. The people, reportedly, were pleased but skeptical that the Americans could protect them from Indian raids.

The text of Kearny’s speech, which concludes with his meandering remarks about his personal religious beliefs, are bronzed on the plaza of Las Vegas, which is a very neat frontier style town, though commerce seems to be struggling.

Kearny's proclamation text in the plaza.

Kearny's proclamation text in the plaza.

 From that history making moment to a more recent one .. one of the vacant historic buildings on the plaza was the previous headquarters of the local Obama field office. Check out the “Yes We Can” left in the windows.

obama

Lots of the historic storefronts were empty and many for sale. Las Vegas seems like a tourist destination whose golden moment has not yet been realized, or perhaps is long past.

I’d sum up the general feeling in town by the look on this pup’s face.

saddog

He was hanging out across the street from what we’ll call, just for fun, the Dropped R Merchantile.

popula

Villanueva, New Mexico

Beautiful little state park right on the Pecos River. We stayed an extra day because we liked it so much. The little town of Villanueva, two miles down the road, was a funky little place. Now stopped in Las Vegas, New Mexico, en route to Coyote Creek State Park – last stop before Taos on Thursday.

The Pecos

The Pecos

 

Park was on route of Spanish explorers.

Park was on route of Spanish explorers.

 

Mural on the Villanueva community well.

Mural on the Villanueva community well.

 

Villanueva church.

Villanueva church.

 

Historic threshing fields between the town and park.

Historic threshing fields between the town and park.