Saturday, November 24, 2012

New Mexico: The Land of Enchantment3

Click on Photos to Enlarge!! 
When we left The Ranch Escapees Park we weren’t sure where we were going to end up – Las Cruces or Truth or Consequences. We wanted to visit Deb & Jerry in T or C if they were home, but would go on to Las Cruces if they weren’t.
On our way we stopped at Oliver Lee State Park outside Alamogordo to get our Sunset fix

And to revisit the White Sands National Park

We made it to T or C and spent some delightful time with Deb & Jer!
The Chile Tour
While the fellas’ tried to find out if the squealing brakes on the Motor Home were a problem, Deb and I went on a Chile Discovery Tour.
The first thing I learned was that Chile is spelled with an ‘e’ not an ‘i’ – huh – imagine that!
Hatch, New Mexico, the Chile Capital of the World is close to T or C – so off we went.
You can see the fields from the road and small growers dry their chiles on sheets on the ground, on metal roofs or car roofs but we wanted to get up close and personal and see what they do with them after they leave the field.
The gal at the local service station directed us to a couple of Chile processing plants just up the road.

At the first plant we were greeted at the door by a fellow covered with chile dust who suggested we go around to the office and someone would show us around. AA Chile Company is a fairly sophisticated operation. We noticed that most workers wore gloves; breathing masks; and nets over their hair and beards.

Once the chiles are trucked to the plant from the fields, they are washed with a special solution to sterilize them; put onto trays that are on tracks to travel through the drying tunnels that reach 150 degree F.

Most of AA’s chiles crushed and sold wholesale to food companies. Paprika is one product they produce from those specialized chiles.

The second plant (MBJ Packing) is family run and our tour was with two of the brothers (Angel and Manuel). They not only dry chiles, they produce salsa and do custom packing. Their mother was working in the area where they make the salsa and do the customized packing. Angel does the marketing in El Paso but he was at the plant because they were busy and needed his help.
Their process is different because they pack some of the chiles whole – dried but supple so the chiles can be packed into boxes without damaging them.

We discovered that the long string of chiles that are sold all over are called Ristras. The Ristras are mostly decoration now but originally they were a way to dry the chiles to use later.

So Deb and I decided to try our hand at stringing the chiles. After we finished, we found directions on how to do it. Yes, they did fall apart but that was okay – we just put them into the freezer until we get the courage up to try to cook with them.

Friday, November 16, 2012

New Mexico: The Land of Enchantment 2

There is something about the camaraderie in a traditional Escapees RV Park and The Ranch is one of the few that follow that tradition. A welcoming bell rings each time visitors come in. Folks seem to come out of nowhere to welcome the new visitors. Hugs are the greeting for many and others just welcome the newcomers with a smile, a nod or a handshake. The only drawback of The Ranch is that it sits in the middle of nowhere between Roswell and Carlsbad but the folks could not have been more welcoming and congenial. We reconnected with people we had met before and connected with others we will probably meet again in our travels as we explored the area.
Carlsbad Caverns
The first caverns we toured were the Mitchell Caverns in the Mohave Desert over 10 years ago. They felt small and intimate as the walls seemed to close in. The strongest memory is the sense of darkness. Without the guide’s light, it was impossible to even see your hand in front of you.

In contrast, the Carlsbad Caverns are humongous!
We toured the Big Room. that is supposed to take about one and a half hours – Huh! After over two hours, we were all pooped out but it is spectacular.
The first thought through my mind was “it seemed a lot like the Grande Canyon “ – just that huge! Then I discovered that Will Rogers described it as the Grand Canyon with a roof on it - I understand why (except you are 750 ft. underground).
When I Googled the Big Room in the Carlsbad Caverns it came up with the funniest explanation of the size that I have ever read so I decided to include it.
The Atlas of Great Caves of the World by Courbon, Chabert, and Bosted & Lindsley published in 1989 states that the floor area of the Big Room in Carlsbad Cavern is 33,210 square meters. 33,210 sq. meters equals approximately 357,480 sq. ft. A football field is 360 feet long (including the end zones) by 160 feet wide or equal to 57,600 sq. ft. By dividing 57,600 sq. ft. into 357,480 sq. ft., you roughly get that 6.2 football fields would fit into the Big Room. In acres, one acre is equal to 4,840 sq. yards or 43,560 sq. feet. Divide 43,560 sq. ft into 357,480 sq. ft. and we find that the Big Room is 8.2 acres in size (more or less).

Needless to say - it is BIG! – And old!
It’s estimated the caves started forming about 25 million years ago. The acid percolating up from below and rainwater and snowmelt draining down from above form small mineral deposits called speleothems. Growths from the roof downward are known as stalactites. Additionally, water on the floor of the caverns can contain carbonic acid and generate mineral deposits by evaporation. Growths from the floor upward are known as stalagmites. Other speleothems have names that reflect their shapes: columns, soda straws, draperies, helictites, and popcorn and formation carry names such as: Bottomless Pit, Giant Dome, Rock of Ages, and Painted Grotto.

Path through the Big Room


Ladder down to the Bottomless Pit

Saturday, November 10, 2012

New Mexico: The Land of Enchantment

Santa Fe

We literally blew into New Mexico and Santa Fe. We set up in an RV Park a few miles outside of the city and decided to explore Santa Fe the next day.

The next day when we left the Park, we wound our way through the hills surrounding Santa Fe and stopped at a couple of the museums hidden in and among all the adobe dwellings.

Even with the trusty GPS, we struggled to find our way to the historic old town. Once we were there we spent most of our time in and amongst the plazas, churches, shops and old adobe buildings.


Santa Fe is laid out according to the “Laws of the Indies”, town planning rules and ordinances which were established in 1573 by King Philip II – winding streets radiating from a busy central Plaza. Many of the streets are narrow and include small alley-ways. 
It was oh, so difficult to slow down and Santa Fe did not seem to be the place we could do that. It was still very cool and windy. Even though Albuquerque is drenched in historic Spanish influence, Native culture, Museums, and Art Galleries, we were not ready for any more city time so we skipped that leg and headed down towards Roswell and Carlsbad.