South Fork Evening Light Through the Aspen

 

We headed out for a week-long jaunt around Southwestern Colorado to revisit some old favorites and spend time in spots we’ve somehow missed over five decades of living in the state.

 

We made a fairly uninterrupted beeline to our destination of South Fork even though we drove through beautiful mountain scenery worthy of more attention – springtime greens of South Park, 14,000-foot snow-capped peaks, historic mining towns, and rushing rivers.

 

Bob's Bear Friends

Bob made friends with a couple of happy bears at the Visitor Center in South Fork.

 

 

 

 

Arbor House Inn

 

 

 

 

 

Arbor House Inn – an exceptional Bed & Breakfast in South Fork, Colorado

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ramon's DessertsDinner was enjoyed at Ramon’s Mexican Restaurant. Even on a busy Saturday evening the service was excellent and attentive. Our innkeepers recommended the flan for dessert – they knew whereof they spoke. We’ve been flan fans for years and this may have been the best we’ve ever had. Worth the trip all the way from the Denver area.

 

 

Relaxation and an amazing evening sky concluded the first day of our trip.

 

Evening in South Fork

 

 

 

IF YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO TIP STAFF APPROPRIATELY STAY HOME.

 

This evening at dinner I was totally disgusted by the actions of two tables near us. Both, in my opinion, stiffed restaurant employees. I really felt anger at both parties but felt that it was inappropriate to insert myself into the situation. Am I right or wrong?

 

The Restaurant is a long time regional favorite south of Tucson. Menu is Mexican with some unique touches, prices very competitive for the fare and region. The staff is friendly, kind and efficient.

 

Table one – an elderly couple, simply but nicely dressed, (we may be seniors but I refuse to be classified as elderly – yet) ordered chips and salsa, bowls of the homemade tortilla soup and the restaurant’s signature dessert. The bill must have been between $15 – $20. The man came back to the table and said, “I almost forgot to leave a tip.” I don’t know exactly how much he left but I know that a quarter, a dime and some pennies were involved and not a shred of paper money. The lady who was busing the table asked, “What is this?” His reply, “The tip.” I had watched the waitress’ entire service to this couple, she did absolutely nothing to deserve this treatment.

 

Table two – two senior ladies, from overheard conversation, they were well educated and traveled. One had greeted an owner by name. There were two musicians playing requests at the tables, quite good and very engaging. The ladies carried on a lengthy conversation, requested a song and, or course, did not tip.

 

Are people this clueless, rude, disrespectful, thoughtless? In today’s world doesn’t everyone understand that wait staffs are paid far below minimum wage with the expectation that they make up the difference in tips. Musicians moving from table to table taking requests are working for tips. This was not a situation where there was a cover charge. If you are going to take up their time – PAY UP. It is wrong to avail yourself of services you are unwilling to support.

 

IF YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO TIP STAFF APPROPRIATELY STAY HOME.

 

Am I right or wrong?

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 Рusually 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.”