We spent the afternoon at the Arizona Folklore Preserve located south of Sierra Vista, Arizona. The center has evolved from dream to reality for singer/songwriter/entertainer Dolan Ellis. An original member of the New Christy Minstrels in the 1960s, Ellis has served as Arizona’s Official State Balladeer since 1966. He’s written more than 300 songs focusing on the history, culture and nature of his adopted state. Joining with the University of Arizona South, Ellis and a dedicated cast of volunteers have established the Preserve for performances of music and Arizona folklore – fact and fiction. Originally Ellis performed nearly every weekend, currently he is scheduled once a month with guest artists from around the country the remaining weekends.
Our trip was planned around attending a Sunday afternoon Ellis show, and, we were not disappointed. Today’s theme was Songs of Spring and included the debut of a new song, Casa Grande. We’re amazed at his strong voiceand energetic performance for a man who celebrated his 79th birthday this week. It was a privilege to once again see and hear this Arizona treasure who has been named the first Arizona Culture Keeper.
Situated in Ramsey Canyon the Arizona Folklore Preserve grounds are lush with spring greenery. After the show we relaxed on the deck which is built around a sprawling Arizona Sycamore estimated at more than 200 years old.
The word “Museum” stops many from considering a visit, even the well educated think “how boring”. Our day was enhanced by three museum visits that were not only not boring but also were Free – not something we often find. First stop was theLas Cruces Art Museum. We visited to see the current exhibition of the Gustave Baumann, a renowned New Mexico printmaker. Although we have several of his prints and books this show included many works we had never seen plus we learned of Baumann’s talents as a marionette artist.
The Las Cruces Museum of Nature and Science is in an adjoining building. With the intention of just taking a peek the well presented exhibits lured us into a complete walkthrough. In the process we learned a great deal about the surrounding Chihuahuan Desert. Next door is the Branigan Cultural Center which we will check out on our next visit.
Sixty miles west of Las Cruces, in Deming, New Mexico, we made another discovery. Again a particular interest drew us in only to find a treasure trove. The Luna County Museum is known for their collection of Mimbres Indian pottery.
Two hours later we were still exploring the amazing collections found in the rambling structure. A thousand antique dolls, the military room, transportation wing, original art, western history, quilts, bells, on-and-on. Besides the Mimbres pottery the most amazing to us was the geode collection. This compares with those we’ve seen in university mineral museums. We made a note to visit nearby Rockhound State Park on a future trip.
Visible from I-25, a dramatic sculpture points skyward marking the access road to the El Camino Real International Heritage Center. Located approximately 100 miles south of Albuquerque, the interpretive center transports visitors along the 1500-mile “Royal Road” during more than five centuries of history.
We spent twice as much time at the El Camino Real Center as planned. A 15-minute film relates background information before we wind our way through the informative exhibits.
Stepping out to the observation deck we overlook a stretch of the National Historic Trail. A well placed bench encourages quiet respite while reflecting on the trail’s significance. A short nature trail highlights local desert vegetation.
We made a quick stop at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. The site deserves much more time and our past visits have been more comprehensive. Upon exiting the car in the visitor center parking lot the first thing Bob notes is the chorus of a multitude of song birds. We especially like to visit this birding paradise in January and February when thousands of sandhill cranes and Canada geese escape the northern climes.
Upon arrival in the small town of San Antonio (New Mexico) there’s no doubt we’ll make a stop at the Owl Cafe and Bar known far and wide for their green chili cheeseburger. The exterior would never entice me to stop but their reputation and past experiences confirm this is the place for a delicious lunch.
When traveling I-25 through New Mexico and we near Las Vegas – New Mexico not Nevada – we know it’s time for a stop at Charlie’s Spic ‘n Span Bakery & Cafe. Hunger pangs will be more than satisfied. The local eatery is just a few blocks off the Interstate at exit 345 in the richly historic town.
The menu, which features Northern New Mexican flavors, is heavy on breakfast items – available all day. As someone who loves breakfast – but not before 10am – Charlie’s is a perfect fit. The “Stuffy” lives up to its name. A fluffy house-made sopapilla is stuffed with scrabbled eggs and meat of one’s choice, smothered with red or green chile, topped with melted cheese and accompanied by crisp hash browns. Even after sharing ⅓ with hubby I’m stuffed and can’t finish the last bites of potatoes and chile. But, I’m happily stuffed.
As tourists we’re out numbered by the steady stream of locals. Obviously Charlie’s is a pillar for the community whether they’re stopping for a Starbucks latte, breakfast, lunch or a package of the fresh-made tortillas. I saw one family load up! The husband balanced his arm load of eight packages with his chin as the wife paid the bill.
Payment is at the bakery counter and it’s hard to imagine not being tempted by the plate sized old fashioned cinnamon buns, glazed donuts, cream puffs or long johns. I swear one of today’s offerings was at least 10 inches in length giving new meaning to “long john”. On my last visit we left with two iced sugar cookies – absolutely the best I’ve ever had. Bob was lucky to get his before I wolfed down both of them. This time we order a half dozen for sweet treats down the road.
When You Go: Charlie’s Spic ‘n Span Bakery & Cafe, 715 Douglas Ave, is open for breakfast and lunch. If you want dinner arrive early they close at 6:oopm nightly. Phone 505-426-1021