Road Scholar 11005

Explore the best that the New Mexico has to offer: the cosmopolitan heart of Albuquerque, the state's largest city; the Old World charm of Santa Fe; and the frontier spirit of Taos. From history and culture to cuisine and the arts, compare and contrast these unique cities and see how they evolved into the jewels they are today.

• Explore the renowned museums and art galleries that make northern New Mexico a mecca for both artists and collectors.
• Step back in time on a trip to historic El Santuario de Chimayó, a Spanish mission church built on the site of earth reputed to have healing powers.
• Native American guides lead us through Taos Pueblo, and Acoma Pueblo (Sky City), both among the oldest continually inhabited settlements in the US.

They didn’t warn us that this is the time of the year that the area gets high winds developing every afternoon. The ambient temperature might be ok, but the wind-chill can be, and usually is, “brutal.”

Day 1, Sunday, Apr 12: Arrive in Albuquerque / Orientation and Introductions
I was notified by United on Nov 23 that the flight was changed from 11:30 to the miserable time of 9:02, I’ll have to take the StuporShuttle about 6:30; a real hassle. Not only that, but the forecast is a 100% chance of rain, with thunderstorms this morning. At least the heavier rain held off until I was in the shuttle. It was still raining when the plane took off, but the thunderstorms weren’t there yet so we had a nice flight.

United UA 5198Houston - Albuquerque9:02A - 10:08A2:06

(D) I got in about 10:10 and took the free hotel shuttle (which was VERY slow to get to the airport) and arrive at the hotel well before the usual 3PM check-in time. There were 4 other RS travelers also waiting for the very tardy hotel shuttle. Fortunately, after an extremely long wait to even try to check in, the hotel was able to find an available room so I did get checked in – with a toilet that wouldn’t work, but the hotel engineer managed to quickly fix it - part of the mechanism had come loose.

From my last trip, I remember that there are some junk food places across the street and that is where I got some (better than expected) lunch. Back at the hotel, the soft drink vending machine stole $2 and wouldn’t give me anything but at least the reception staff gave it back. I’ve now been at this hotel three times and all three had problems with the room or the a/c or heat. Later, come over to the Road Scholar table – if I can find it - to register with the program staff between 4:00 - 5:30, to get our welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule and other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Dis-Orientation session.

I didn’t think much it at the time, but while retrieving my luggage at the Albuquerque airport, another passenger yanked his big bag off the carousel and slammed it into my back knocking me down. I landed on my right arm/hand (the “bad” one) and also got twisted around quite a bit. By 4PM, I have a very sore right shoulder/arm (the one I hurt so much a few years ago) and my twisted back is really hurting. Between that and the hotel problems, what a start to this trip! I hope that it isn’t an omen of what is to come.

At the hotel in our reserved section of the dining room, enjoy an extensive buffet (last time it was fajitas and it was the same this time - and very good) with complimentary soft drinks, coffee, tea from 6:00 - 7:00 PM. The Group Leader, Lisa Wilder, will greet everyone (all 25 of us) and have introductions. We will review the program theme, the up-to-date daily schedule and all the changes, and answer any questions you may have. I was at this hotel in 2013 for the New Mexico trip to Carlsbad Caverns, Guadalupe Mountains, White Sands, etc. It is a nice hotel but a bit of a maze to find our way around, and as noted, often has room/engineering problems. Lodging: MCM Elegante (D)

Day 2, Monday, Apr 13 - Field Trips to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and Pecos National Historical Park / Travel to Santa Fe
(BLD) From 7:30 – 8:30, a nice buffet at the hotel (but we can go early – 6 or 6:30) and it is the best breakfasts of the trip. We begin with a class from 8:30 – 9:30 by Lisa about the history of New Mexico and Albuquerque then have our luggage out and board the bus at 9:30. But Lisa talks and talks and … so we are 45 minutes late ending the presentation. It turns out that this is the first time that she has done this trip and is disorganized. Fortunately our bus driver, Fidel, has done it several times before and pretty much keeps things going and provides lots of extra information – both to us and to Lisa. The bus departs for Pecos at 9:45 – make that 10:35. We then go on a field trip to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Dedicated to preserving and perpetuating Pueblo culture, the IPCC presents the accomplishments and evolving history of the Pueblo people. Our self-guided visit introduces us to New Mexico's many different Pueblos as we view the Pueblo-curated exhibits. Following our visit to the Cultural Center, we depart for Madrid, NM, via the “Turquoise Trail”. This is a very nice drive with some very interesting scenery.

Lunch (very poor and miserable service which we all commented on in our trip evaluations) is at the Mine Shaft Tavern in the historic mining town of Madrid. The town looks very interesting. I really wish that we would have had time to walk around for 30-45 minutes. After lunch, we depart for Pecos National Historical Park, an example of Pueblo ruins and Spanish colonization. The site, on ranch land (the Forked Lightning Ranch) owned by the late Greer Garson and her husband, Buddy Fogelson, was donated with the hope that it would be preserved for visitors. The museum/visitors' center features a film narrated by Ms. Garson. A mile-long, paved hiking trail circles the site, which has remains of pueblo dwellings, kivas and a mission church, all located on remarkably beautiful land in the Pecos valley 30 miles northeast of Santa Fe. More foul-up; we were scheduled to be there until 4:30 but it turns out that the park closes as 4 so we got short changed and didn’t get to do the long walk – just a quick bus stop and the church and ruins. Nice to look at but it was VERY windy and the wind chill made it seem quite cold.

Depart for Santa Fe and hotel check-in. Dinner, from 6:30 – 8, is a plated meal from a selected menu (limited choice but ok) at the Santa Fe Bar and Grill in Santa Fe. This evening we have an optional video: Mabel Dodge Luhan, Rites of Passage. It is about the early artists/painters and I’m not interested so I skip it. The hotel is not a true hotel; just a large motel. It appears that breakfast tomorrow and Wednesday will be very limited. As usual for a motel room, lighting is almost non-existent. Accommodations: The Sage Inn (2 nights)

Day 3, Tuesday, Apr 14 - Presentation by Award-Winning Native American Musician / Field Trip to the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and the Museum of International Folk
(BL) We have a "Fresh Start" (make that a non-starter) mini-breakfast mis-labelled buffet – if you can call it breakfast. The waffle-maker wasn’t working right and the orange juice dispenser was already out of orange juice – which is what I need instead of coffee. Also, with two busloads of victims (ours and another tour) trying to find something edible at the same time, the space was way too small. Even our small group would have crowded it. So I guess that I’ll have to go with the same blueberry muffin and water non-breakfast tomorrow morning.

After the miserable excuse for breakfast we have a really excellent presentation by Native American professional musician and scholar, Ronald Roybal. Ron is an award-winning musician dedicated to the preservation of traditional Native American music as well as being a composer in his own right. He's a fine singer, guitarist and Native American flute player.

At 9:30, following Ron's presentation, we board our coach and travel to Museum Hill, where we visit the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and the Museum of International Folk Art. Both museums are very good but I liked the MIAC better. The MIAC offers a huge collection of pottery, basketry, rugs, jewelry and artifacts, mostly from tribes of the southwest region. The exhibits are beautifully displayed and documented. The Museum of International Folk Art features the huge collection of folk art of Alexander Girard, displayed in charming scenarios. We get passes for admission to these museums and the downtown state museums. The pass is well worth it.

Lunch is from a selected menu at Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen offering New Mexican fare (more enchiladas but they were very good and the service was excellent – both factors much better than lunch yesterday).

After lunch (2PM) we go to the downtown Plaza for a guided walking exploration in very nice weather (sunny, 60s, only a little wind), of the area. The rest of the afternoon is free for independent explorations. Nearby sites of interest include the Palace of the Governors (excellent), the New Mexico Museum of Art (skip), and the New Mexico History Museum (very good). Our "Culture Pass" can be used for these admission to these state museums. I did do some souvenir shopping. Our bus returns to the hotel at 5:15. Dinner on our own tonight – there is a “burgers and fries” place a couple of blocks away which is a nice change from all the Mexican food.

Day 4, Wednesday, Apr 15 - Field Trip to Bandelier National Monument / Field Trip to Martinez Hacienda
(BLD) Breakfast – another mini-breakfast - is at the hotel from 7 – 8, moved up a bit to try to avoid yesterday’s overcrowded disaster. It worked well since the chaperones of the school group were there and had things organized. Check out and depart for Bandelier National Monument, which is fascinating both for its geology and archaeology. After stopping at the Visitor Center, we explore some of the trails in Frijoles Canyon where we see cave-like dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived here 400 to 800 years ago. The exploratory walk was supposed to be reasonably flat and paved. False. Only the first 100 yards were good, then it turned uneven and with lots of steps so I had to skip the longer part of the walk. This is very disappointing since of all the stops on the trip, this and the hacienda this afternoon are new. The gift shop was very nice and I did buy a couple of unfinished pieces of turquoise. Then we continue on to Pojoaque, NM.

Lunch is at the Sopaipilla Factory in Pojoaque. It turns out to be an excellent lunch (another New Mexican menu). After lunch, we continue on to Taos (with a rest stop along the way), where we visit the Martinez Hacienda. The Martinez Hacienda is an example of a Spanish/Mexican hacienda with many outbuildings, all representing the Spanish Colonial era. I had hoped that it would have been restored/refurnished as it had been “back then” but it was just a museum so it was nice to visit but not all that interesting.

As the weather is definitely changing (for the worse) we head on to Taos. The weather forecast is probably reasonably accurate. Hotel check-in is at about 4:45 PM. The rooms are quite nice and more like mini-suites. It is definitely the best of the trip. Dinner is at the hotel. It is a buffet but with very limited choices, none of which appeals to me. Since I had a great lunch, I don’t eat very much tonight. This evening we have an excellent class by Cisco Guevarra about Taos and its colorful history and residents. Accommodations: Sagebrush Inn & Suites (2 nights)

Latest Weather forecast for Taos:
Thursday: Morning low 28, possible snow, rain later in the day.
Friday: Another cold morning but we are headed south.

Day 5, Thursday, Apr 16 - Rio Grande Gorge / Earthship Biotecture Community / Taos Pueblo
(BLD) Low temp this morning: 29. There is even a possibility of snow. But the snow held off and as of 8AM, no sign of rain. It also disappeared but the wind stayed very high and there were a few reports of scattered snow flakes, particularly just after noon.

This hotel is one of the nicest I can remember staying at – even some of the European hotels. We have a very nice buffet breakfast. After breakfast, board our bus and depart for the Rio Grande Gorge. We cross the Gorge via the "High Bridge," which spans the Rio Grande Gorge 565 feet above river, giving a frigid breathtaking view of both. After stopping for photographs – except that the wind chill was so bad that only a few braved the long walk back onto the bridge - continue on to the Earthship Biotecture Community. Earthship Biotecture is a sustainable building style using recycled materials, such as old tires, bottles, and aluminum cans, in a variety of fascinating — and sometimes funky — shapes and sizes. There we had an excellent, enthusiastic presentation out the concept and the company – their works around the world – then a tour of one of the houses under construction. Fascinating, but it would not work in a city environment due to building codes.

Lunch (at best just so-so) is at the Taos Mesa Brewing Company. So far RS has taken us to a tavern, a bar, and now a brewing company for meals. Are they sending us a message? After lunch, we go to Taos Pueblo. This not-so-picturesque Pueblo at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in North America. It is not the mostly stereotypical “apartment house” style. The mostly independent adobe dwellings reflect an ancient culture. At places it looks more like a slum area. Approximately 100 Pueblo residents still live much as their ancestors did 1,000 years ago, without electricity or running water. Taos Pueblo is the only living Native American community designated both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark. We have a one-hour walking tour scheduled but the wind (and wind chill) is very bad and with the wind, frequent “dust storms.” Six of us decided to skip the walk and are glad we did since several people came back saying the weather made it absolutely horrible.

From the Pueblo we go to “Fleece-the-Tourist” (Taos) Plaza for free time to explore this historic area and the way-overpriced shops on our own. Twelve of us decided that we weren’t really that interested in shopping and particularly wandering in the weather so we came back to the hotel after a very short "visit" rather than staying. The others met our bus at 5:30 to return to the hotel. Dinner is at the hotel at 7. If it hadn’t been for the awful wind it would have been a nice day but the visit to Earthship Biotecture was very good.

Day 6, Friday, Apr 17 - Field Trip to Chimayó / Travel to Albuquerque / Field Trip to Petroglyph National Monument
(BLD) We have another nice breakfast at the hotel. It is a cold morning but not as cold as yesterday.After checking out of the hotel, we depart for the northern New Mexico village of Chimayó via the "High Road." That is a very nice, scenic drive. I wish I could have taken pictures, but as usual, there is so much problem with reflections in the windows that it is impossible. While in Chimayó, we'll visit a weaving gallery, Centinela Traditional Arts, for a short history lesson and a big sales pitch but I didn’t “take the bait.” Chimayó is home to several families who have been creating Hispanic weavings for generations, and we saw some beautiful works designed and woven by an award-winning artist.

We also visit the beautiful little church in Chimayó, El Santuario de Chimayó, a Roman Catholic church (Santuario is Spanish for "sanctuary".) This was a very nice visit. It is too bad that pictures inside were not allowed. The architecture and decorations are great. This shrine, a National Historic Landmark, is famous for the story of its founding and as a contemporary pilgrimage site. It receives almost 300,000 visitors per year and has been called "the most important center in the United States for Catholic pilgrimage. A small room called el pocito (the little well) contains a round pit, the source of "holy dirt" (tierra bendita) that is believed to have healing powers. An adjacent Prayer Room displays many ex-votos as well as photographs, discarded crutches, and other testimonials of those purportedly healed.

We have lunch at historic Rancho de Chimayó, a charming restaurant housed in an old hacienda. Chimayó is known for its heirloom chiles, the fruit of the Capsicum pepper; most New Mexican dishes are prepared with red or green chile. (New Mexico's official state question is "Red or green?" If we would like to try both, order "Christmas!") Our group has a very nice lunch at Rancho de Chimayo, a restaurant in an old hacienda. We order from a special menu featuring traditional New Mexican cuisine, with chips, salsa, and a non-alcoholic beverage. It was one of our better meals.

After lunch, our bus continues on to Velarde, New Mexico, for a visit to the Wells Petroglyph National Monument Preserve. This remarkable site is home to more than 8,000 carved rock images. We have an opportunity to see some of them before continuing on to Albuquerque. The trouble here is again weather. The wind is quite high (wind chill) and there are even a couple of light showers/sprinkles. Thus only a few of us (3) braved the longer walk but what we saw was good. Then it is “back” to our first hotel. Dinner is at our hotel. Accommodations: MCM Elegante (2 nights)

Day 7, Saturday, Apr 18 - Acoma Pueblo / Old Town
(BLD) Last night in Santa Fe they had a bit over 2” of snow. Darn! We missed it. This morning here its 42F and the weather forecast is showers this morning (didn’t happen), clearing later. It does stay fairly cold and we again get the afternoon high winds. Except for that, it was a nice day.

This morning, after another good, make that "great", breakfast, we depart for the Acoma Pueblo. I’ve been here twice before, so due to the wind, the temperature, and probable balance problems on the uneven terrain, I decided not to take the micro-busses up to the top of the Mesa. We stop at the Sky City Cultural Center. Although I didn't go on to the top of the Mesa, I did get to meet some of the resident artists and had an extremely nice, long, informative talk with a lady - Karen Miller (whose native name means "Pinon Nut") a bought a few very nice pieces. One was made by her 7-year-old Grand-Daughter, Tazeh. Looking back, the meeting and conversation are probably the high point of the trip.

The others go on to the top of the mesa where we explore the ancient village with a Native American guide. Situated atop a 367-foot high sandstone mesa Acoma Pueblo, known as "Sky City," was settled possibly as early as 900 CE. We learn about the Spanish conquistadors who occupied it in 1599, the filmmakers who helped build the road that goes to the top of the mesa, and the 6,000 residents who live there today in two nearby villages or on top of the mesa in the old pueblo itself. While walking through the ancient village, see the large mission church and meet some of the pueblo residents. The bad bit is that absolutely no pictures are allowed without getting an extremely expensive photo permit - another reason to have skipped the walk.

Lunch (so-so) is at the Y'aak'a Café in the Sky City Cultural Center at Acoma Pueblo. After lunch, we depart for our return to Albuquerque and a visit to Old Town, which has been the focal point of community life since Albuquerque was founded in 1706. About ten blocks of historic adobe buildings surround the central plaza, including San Felipe de Neri Church, which was built in 1793 and is the oldest building in the city. The city's settlers built their homes, shops and government offices here; many of these have been converted into the restaurants, art galleries and shops that comprise Old Town today – especially to Fleece-the-Tourists. The visit to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science was great. I could have spent all day there. After the no-pictures bit this morning, I didn’t take my camera on the plaza walk – mistake!! There was a fiesta going on so I missed out on some excellent photo chances. No way to go back to the bus to get the camera.

Dinner is at the Church Street Cafe which hopefully is better than dinner at the hotel last night – and it was. After getting back to the hotel, we have the Program closing in our hotel meeting room.

Day 8, Sunday, Apr 19: Departure
(B) After another good breakfast from 6:30 - 9, the hotel has a free shuttle to get us to the airport. I take the one at noon. United changed the schedule to a much later time which now means a long wait. I have to buy lunch at the airport. Despite departing the airport a bit early, thunderstorms in the Houston area made us late. At the airport on the north side of town, it was a heavy thunderstorm. On my (south) side, there was (then) no rain at all. That came about an hour later.

United UA 5546Albuquerque - Houston3:14 P - 6:28 P2:14

I made it home by 7:35 just ahead of the rain. Meals comment: I definitely like Mexican food, but after a week of nothing but Mexican food except for breakfasts, I need a change back to the junk-food and TV-dinners diet.

Selected pictures
Click to enlarge

Cisco Guevara, Instructor
- Cisco honed his storytelling craft around campfires deep in the river canyons of northern New Mexico. A river runner since his teenage days in Los Alamos, “the Atomic City,” he has become a New Mexico legend: instantly recognizable by his black hat, which was shaped—like the basalt rocks in the Rio Grande Gorge—by the organic power of the river, and famous for his vast knowledge of local lore. In 2010, he was named one of the Top Ten guides in New Mexico. Cisco’s stories range from his rebellious youth, to tales that draw on his Hispanic and Native American heritage, to hair-raising adventures in the wilderness, to haunting tales of love and loss. A headliner at the Taos Storytelling Festival for the past 11 years, Cisco performs regularly for groups in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and has told his stories to rapt audiences as far afield as London and Paris.

Ronald Roybal, Instructor - Ron is a professional musician who performs in the New Mexico area. A descendant of Spanish Colonial and Pueblo (Tewa) peoples, he has been nominated for four Native American Music Awards for his flute and Spanish guitar recordings. Ronald has been featured twice on NPR’s “Performance Today” program and has performed live at concert venues such as the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and the Colorado Music Festival.

Be sure to take warm clothing
Santa Fe