Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Spring Break breakdown - 6

Deer observation, Roswell reconnaissance

Friday, March 20: It was time for us to start heading back to Texas. Before we loaded up the truck, we were graced with the presence of several deer, which wandered down the hill behind the house, scrounging for pinon nuts and other food. The deer in the Alto Lakes area, while not tame, are certainly used to the presence of people and will closely approach houses and cars, providing many opportunities for observation and photography. The dozen or so which visited us on Friday morning hung around for about half an hour.

Alto Lakes doe

Miss C, C, and I headed out around lunch time. L and M stayed behind an extra day and rode back home with Mom. We'd rendezvous with them at the Clyde Dairy Queen the next day. First stop for my half of the group? The International UFO Museum and Research Center in nearby Roswell. We've been driving through Roswell for years, but had never visited the museum before. It was time to see what all the hype was about.

Roswell's downtown are is crowded with tributes to the area's UFO connection.

Inspired by the purported UFO crash near Corona, NM in 1947, and the subsequent analysis of "UFO debris" (and allegedly, even alien bodies) in Roswell, the UFO museum presents a multitude of displays and "evidence", encouraging believers and skeptics alike to decide for themselves for themselves if the reports were true.

Summer of 1947: NM alien activity at its peak

Alien autopsy diorama

Exhibits run from factual and informative to humorous and comical to just plain weird. Nothing we saw helped confirm the presence of UFOs or aliens to US... then again, we didn't have time to conduct our own research in the museum's "research library" since closing time was approaching. I do believe that intelligent life has evolved somewhere else in the universe... but has it ever visited Earth? Call me a skeptic.

One of many displays implying (playfully... right?) a gummint cover-up

Alien hunters, don't leave home without one of these...

The museum's most, umm, unusual exhibit was this sculpture of a horse plastered with newspaper clippings about the Roswell Incident. WTF?

He prefers Dr. Pepper? Not an alien...

So, was it worth the $5.00 admission charge (per person)? Well, it was interesting to read a few of the news clippings and some of the affadavits from people connected with the incident. Beyond that, it was about what I expected it to be... mildly entertaining, with more hype than substance. I suppose it was worth visiting once...

Coming next... Saturday morning train watching in Midland.


np: Gurf Morlix - "Your sister"

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Spring Break breakdown - 5

Ghost hunting & sand surfing

We spent the afternoon of March 19 on a "mini" road trip to Cloudcroft and White Sands. Back in Texas, L's Junior Historians group was embarking on a "ghost hunt" project in the Ft. Worth Stockyards, so we thought we'd hold a ghost hunt of our own at a hotel in Cloudcroft. Simply known as "The Lodge", Cloudcroft's finest hotel is reportedly haunted (the hotel owners prefer the term "charmed") by the spirit of Rebecca, a beautiful red-haired chambermaid who disappeared from the hotel under mysterious circumstances in the early 1900s. Would we find her?

Observation tower - The Lodge, Cloudcroft NM

stained glass portrait of Rebecca - the Lodge, Cloudcroft NM

L looks for signs in the observation tower.

During our climb up into the observation tower, the boys reported that a chair in the stairwell had inexplicably "moved". (The mischievous Rebecca is reportedly fond of rearranging furniture, and pulling other little pranks to startle guests.) But since our visit to the Lodge didn't yield any definite ghost sightings or other contact, the results of our visit were "inconclusive". We did, however, enjoy a nice lunch in Rebecca's restaurant... and our little adventure helped stimulate a discussion of college dorm room proportions on our trip home.

Next, we headed for White Sands National Monument near Alamogordo. Although there's plenty to be learned at White Sands about nature, geology, climate, weather, wind patterns, etc., the primary purpose of our visit was to entertain ourselves. Namely, to spend a couple hours sliding down the dunes on brightly colored "sand saucers". A good time was had by all!

Climbing the dunes

All that climbing was worth it!

L wasn't afraid to try it standing up.

Enjoying the good life

A dearth of vegetation... but footprints were everywhere.

Happy times!

Happy Easter, y'all... and check back after the holidays for my next report... a visit to the UFO Museum in Roswell on our way back to Texas.


np: Ralph Stanley / Jim Lauderdale - "This world is not my home"

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Spring Break breakdown - 4.3

Railroad jewels & Rail Runners

On to Albuquerque...

We were fortunate to be in New Mexico during the Alvarado Hotel exhibit at the Albuqerque Museum of Art and History. The Alvarado Hotel was one of the famed Harvey House hotels of the Santa Fe Railway. Opened in 1902 and located in downtown Albuquerque, the hotel provided train passengers and other travelers with first-class lodging and meals through its closure in the 1960s. It was demolished in 1970.

The museum exhibit featured artifacts and memorabilia from the hotel and from the railroad during the Harvey House era.

The exhibit runs through June 7; I'd highly recommend it if you're in the area. Check the Albuquerque Museum's website for more information:

Next, it was back to trackside to accomplish our next goal: shooting the Albuquerque Rail Runner commuter trains on the new line to Santa Fe. When Miss C and I visited New Mexico last November, we were about a month too early to see the Rail Runners on the new extension. Rail Runner service to Santa Fe commenced in mid-December, on a route that included several miles of newly constructed railroad, built expressly for the commuter train service. The line featured some impressive engineering work, including a stretch down the median of Interstate 25.

C gets some practice with my Canon gear near Belen.

A southbound Rail Runner arrives in Los Lunas.

"Next time, take the train!" This southbound Rail Runner, about 20 minutes out of Santa Fe, paces vehicle traffic on Interstate 25. The new line runs down the I-25 median for several miles southwest of Santa Fe.

Catching the last rays of sunlight near Santo Domingo Pueblo. This is the former BNSF Glorieta Subdivision, now owned by the state of New Mexico.

Coming next: ghost hunting and sand surfing. Stay tuned...


np: Kevin Welch & Kieran Kane - "Them wheels don't roll"

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Monday, April 06, 2009

Spring Break breakdown - 4.2

Ghost sign pay-dirt

Continuing with Day Four (March 18) of our Spring Break trip... in Socorro, we located some ghost signs which had been on my "must shoot" list. In the city's downtown area, the K of P (Knights of Pythias) building features Owl Cigar ads on both its east- and west-facing walls (the best surviving example of which I've seen), and also a Bull Durham ad on its east wall.

Bull Durham tobacco ad - Socorro, NM

Owl Cigar ad - east wall of the K of P Hall. Socorro, NM

The building now houses an optometrist's office. Socorroans seem to take a certain level of pride in the signs; one passerby even recommended a nearby spot for me to obtain a more favorable photo angle (she said she had featured the signs on her Flickr page.) At any rate, they're worth checking out if you're in the area.

Owl Cigar ad, west wall, K of P Hall. Socorro, NM.

Continuing on, we stopped briefly to check out the caboose and rail cars on the Grefco spur (BNSF's rail line to Dicaperl, a perlite loading facility)...

Grefco Spur Milepost Zero. Caboose is used as a "shove platform" so brakemen won't have to ride the sides of the cars during the long shove up to Dicaperl.

As you can see, it's not in the best of shape.

Miss C waits patiently...

C checks out the railcar inventory.

Next, we continued on toward Belen and Albuquerque. Check back soon for the report & photos.


np: Hank Thomspon - "Wake up, Irene"

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Spring Break breakdown - 4.1

El Camino Real Tour 2009

March 18: Miss C and her son C joined me for a day trip out on the El Camino Real between San Antonio and Santa Fe. Objectives for the day: locate a ghost sign in Socorro, visit the Albuquerque Museum of Art & History to see their Alvarado Hotel exhibit, and photograph the Albuquerque Rail Runner commuter trains on their recently opened line to Santa Fe. It would be a full day, but we were up to the task...

On the road between Carrizozo and San Antonio.

Our first stop would be at San Antonio, where we took a look around town and checked out the Santa Fe's San Antonio depot.

BNSF El Paso Sub: looking north toward Belen.

"This used to be my railroad..."

The old depot has been moved off of the railroad's right-of-way.

What's inside?

faded lettering and peeling paint

Mother and son pose for a photo.

Stay tuned for more. Coming next, a stop in Socorro.


np: Stevie Ray Vaughan - "Give me back my wig"

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Spring Break breakdown - 3

Spring skiing

Tuesday, March 17 - time for some skiing at Ruidoso's Ski Apache. L was ready to tear it up; M attempted to do the same but quickly decided he'd do better if he took another beginner lesson. After lunch, Mom, Miss C, and C arrived and invited M on a gondola ride to the top of the mountain.

Heading up the mountain, hoping it's still ski-able...

"Let's do this."

Part of our happy group, ready for a ride on the Ski Apache gondola.

Heading toward the summit.

Enjoying the 70-degree weather in our short sleeves (and I in shorts), L and I had a great afternoon skiing the few runs that were actually open. We were lucky though; Ski Apache closed for the season just five days after our visit.

L says: "What's up, people?"

This seems more like water skiing...

A great day on the slopes!

That night, we went to dinner and treated M to an early celebration for his 8th birthday.

At Alto Lakes, they do things a bit differently (birthday candles in key-lime cheesecake) but M didn't care...

Tear it up, duuuuuuuude... and happy 8th birthday.

Coming next... El Camino Real and the Albuquerque Rail Runners...


np: Anthrax - "Got the time"

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