Travel


Apple Annie’s Country Store – Willcox, Arizona

Apple Annie's

 

Sunday Afternoon at Arizona Folklore Preserve

AZ Folklore Preserve

Organ Mountains, New Mexico

Organ Mountains, NM

 

New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum

Windmill at NMF&RHM

Blacksmith

Blacksmith demonstration

Red Cactus Blooms

Spring cactus blooms.

Country Store

Remembering the country store.

Bread from Horno

Bread baked in a horno oven.

The day in Alamogordo started with dark skies and rain showers. A visit to the New Mexico Museum of Space History seemed a good place to begin. In the Main Exhibits Building visitors start on the fourth floor and work their way down ramps through themed exhibits – Icons of Exploration, Living and Working in Space, Rockets!, Space Science in New Mexico. Woven throughout the exhibits are photos and brief bios on inductees of the International Space Hall of Fame – a trip through the memory bank for those who grew up in the heyday of manned space flight and exploration. I’m sorry to say that I mostly found the exhibits uninspiring and frequently tacky.

 

Space History Museum Ext.

We planned to attend a morning Imax feature but found that the show was sold out. A weekday morning in early April didn’t seem like a time likely to fill. We didn’t count on school bus loads of students on field trips. We did choose a planetarium presentation on what one can see in the night sky over Alamogordo this time of year. The school group that attended the show at the same time we did was extremely attentive and well-behaved.

 

Gyros

 

Our best entertainment of the morning was watching museum volunteers being trained to operate a new human gyroscope. Two teenage girls served as guinea pigs to be twirled, flipped and spun while most of us older folks knew this was not anything we wanted to try. I’m sure this will be a very successful attraction.

 

Note: The theater complex is considerably downhill from the exhibit building. Allow enough time to relocate.

A visit to Alamogordo wouldn’t be complete without a visit to White Sands National Monument, 15 miles west of the city. First stop is the historic visitor center built in the Pueblo Revival style in the 1930s. An orientation film, exhibits, bookstore and information desk provide an overview of the monument and a schedule of ranger activities. The free ranger-guided Sunset Strolls always holds appeal for me.

 

IMG_9887

 

Across the courtyard of the visitor center there is a gift shop with a selection of souvenirs, plus Native American jewelry, arts and crafts. A few food items, snacks, ice cream bars and soft drinks are also available. There is no water available beyond the visitor center complex, be sure to be prepared.

 

White Sand Fun 2014The most popular gift shop purchase is plastic saucers for sliding down the dunes. Early in the day there may be some available for rent. If you do purchase saucers you can receive a $5 rebate if you want to turn them in after use. I offered to purchase one for Bob but he declined. It is definitely an enticing activity for many visitors.

 

An eight-mile scenic drive takes visitors deeper into the gypsum dunes. Numerous pullouts allow parking for an up-close encounter with the fine white sand. Picnic tables are sheltered by wind breaks but locals bring their own umbrellas or shade tarps. A ranger tells us. “On Easter this is everyone’s “go-to”. They come early, set up volleyball nets and stay the day.” Overnight camping or RV parking is not allowed at White Sands except for ten backcountry sites requiring permits.

 

White Sand YuccaI recommend the 2,000-foot-long Interdune Boardwalk with interpretive signs for a greater appreciation of the formation, flora and fauna of the dunes and interesting photography opportunities.

 

 Nearly everyone has to charge up at least one slope – usually with a bit of backsliding.

 

 

Climbing the White Sands Dunes

 

 

Day 2 of our Southwestern Sojourn took us from Santa Fe to Alamogordo, New Mexico. Not surprisingly, we didn’t follow a direct route. At Carrizozo we turned southeastward for a mountainous route detour. In Capitan we made the snap decision to visit Smokey Bear Historical Park.

 

Smokey

 

During WWII a campaign character was created to build awareness of the valuable resource of the National Forests. A devastating fire swept through the Capitan Mountains in May 1950. In the aftermath a badly singed bear cub was found clinging to the burnt trunk of a pine tree. After recovery the cub, originally named Hotfoot, became the symbol used to educate the public about the dangers of careless human-caused wildfires.

 

Smokey was presented to the schoolchildren of American and took up residency at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. After his death in 1976 Smokey’s body was returned to New Mexico and buried in the Village of Capitan. Today a park and visitor center surround Smokey’s grave.

 

Somkey Plaque

 

Bob & SmokeyThe visitor center introduces Smokey’s history, displays a wide range of memorabilia, presents a short video and continues education of the importance of preventing human-caused wildfire. The original Smokey is buried in a quiet corner of a tw0-acre park setting. Outdoor interpretive exhibits feature the vegetation of six life zones found in New Mexico.

 

We spend nearly an hour tripping down memory lane with Smokey and his cause. “Remember! only you can Prevent Forest Fires.”

 

 

Finally, a chance to get out of town for a few weeks  with plans to visit New Mexico, Arizona and San Diego. Day 1 saw us make a beeline south to Taos. I think we set a time record from our driveway to the Orlando’s Restaurant parking lot – 4 hours and 31 minutes. For 20 years this has been my favorite eatery in the Taos area. We know they stop serving for a couple of hours between lunch and dinner; that’s our incentive to arrive before 2:30pm.

 

Orlando's Interior

Although I peruse the menu and think that perhaps I’ll make a new selection I fall back on my long-time favorite – a shredded beef burrito smothered in green chile served with beans and posole. Note – I never cared for posole until I had Orlando’s; now, I even make it at home.

 

Orlando's Interior 2Bob opted for fish tacos and their excellent french fries. Our perky and efficient waitress said she prefers the fish tacos on blue corn tortillas instead of the usual flour. When Bob can’t make up his mind she suggests one of each.

 

Although we are stuffed we can’t pass up sharing a thick white chocolate, macadamia nut cookie. Pleased to once again enjoy an Orlando’s lunch.

 

On our way to Santa Fe we stop at Stephen Kilborn’s pottery studio in Pilar. I purchased my first hand-thrown and painted coffee mug early in the 1990s. Adding a few pieces each year I now have complete dinner service for eight and numerous serving pieces. Instead of selecting a single pattern I preferred a potpourri of Stephen’s unique endeavors. Recently he added a bee pattern and I had to have one of the small oval plates – a size I use almost everyday.

 

Turn Out the Lights

Day is done.

Overnight is at Old Santa Fe Inn just a few blocks from the historic plaza. A daughter-in-law found this lodging when she planned out 50th anniversary. We’ve returned a half dozen times since. Although we’re only passing through Santa Fe on this trip we want to indulge in a bit of the local ambiance by bypassing the typical brand hotels.

 

Today we leave Winnipeg, Manitoba to head eastward to Western Ontario for the next portion of our road trip. The plan takes us to Fort Frances, Ontario where we will cross the border back into the United States at International Falls, Minnesota. From there we’ll head to Duluth to begin a journey around Lake Superior.

 

Manitoba Forestry Association SignLooking for interesting possibilities along our route I read about the Sandilands Forest Discovery Centre sponsored by the Manitoba Forestry Association. Their website indicates they will be open so we make the short detour only to find a bar across the road with a Closed sign.

 

After crossing the border into Ontario we see that the Provincial visitor center seems to be permanently closed. In travel, as in life, you win some and lose some.

 

Lake of the Woods

 

Lake of the Woods Sign

Kenora Discovery CentreOn a more positive note, we find the Discovery Centre on the shores of Lake of the Woods just west of the town of Kenora a modern, well organized facility with exceptionally helpful and friendly staff. When I relate that I’ve been unable to contact our lodging for tonight by either phone or internet they volunteer to take care of the situation. Inquiring about a restaurant for lunch serving local fish they give detailed suggestions and directions.

 

Kenora Cream of Wild Rice SoupThis time we’re on the winning side! The recommendation of The Boathouse is exactly what we wanted. The restaurant sits on the lake front with great views. An outdoor deck is inviting but a brisk wind makes us opt for an indoor window table. It didn’t take us long to make our menu selections – wild rice soup and beer battered walleye with parmesan fries. Both dishes proved to be excellent choices. At first the service seemed a bit lax but improved considerably.

 

Kenora Fish & Chips

After lunch we spent some time exploring the town. Bob declared he could come back to Kenora for a stay instead of a just a lunch stop. We would certainly plan to be repeat customers at The Boathouse.

 

We procede to Fort Frances for an overnight at La Place Rendez-Vous on the shores of Rainy Lake. (The lodge is basic and somewhat a disappointment but the setting is nice.) The evening’s entertainment beyond enjoying the lake front view is finely washing the Saskatchewan dust and Manitoba mud off the car.

 

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