Category Archives: New Mexico

Pterodactyl about town

What is a young pterodactyl to do when exploring a new town?   Why go out and about and see the sights.

Enjoying the local cuisine in a popular restaurant.  Nom, nom.  It’s so delicious.

Or perhaps going for a bit of al fresco dining.   Watch out, those chilis are hot!

This antique curiosity was what the ancients once used to communicate with distant family and friends.  It’s abandoned now but it’s a great place to launch a surprise attack.

Enjoying a bit of the local color and blending right in.

All this running around is thirsty work, but there are a number of watering holes to cool off at.

There was just time for a quick photobomb before heading home, the city is full of such interesting places, he must visit again soon.



I hate to drive long distances (over four hours away), so after I got to Santa Fe, there was the question of how to get back.   I could take a plane ($$$) to Denver, and then take the shuttle home.   Or I could take the train and see if I still liked it as a way to travel.   I hadn’t taken a train in America in years (at least 35), but I had taken trains in Europe, so I decided to give it a go.

The first issue:  the train doesn’t actually go to Santa Fe (because of the grade), so it was off to Lamy, NM.

The train creeps along a similar, but slightly different path than the interstate (motorway).   I wondered who had lived in these adobe ruins, and how long ago that was.

This ruin was the Casteneda Hotel, built by Fred Harvey to draw tourists to the southwest.  It hasn’t been in use for years, but someone with deep pockets is renovating the place in the hope of attracting rich tourists  (who like to ride the train) again.

The train does feature this lovely observation car so that one can watch the scenery as it goes by.   No photos, but I did see wild turkeys, buffalo, deer, antelope and elk as we rolled along.

This is M’s uncle’s place, and I know that I have posted pictures from the house looking towards the tracks.  That’s Santa Clara mesa in the background.

And I know I have posted lots of pictures of the mound, too bad that it was an overcast day this time.   And you can see that it is dry as a bone there.

The beautiful high plains of New Mexico, with Capulin in the distance.  I never get tired of this view, although I am usually looking at it from the other direction as I come over Raton Pass.   Yes it was definitely a great idea to ride the train this time.


I don’t really have anything to say about these pictures, just that Fall sometimes has glorious days of sunshine and cool weather that makes one feel glad to be alive.

This butterfly was out enjoying the zinnas.

The morning glories are still in bloom, I must have gotten up early by mistake.

This is not a scene from my house (I am an indifferent gardener), I was at M’s cousin’s.   In Santa Fe.

What is more iconic of Fall than a bunch of pumpkins?    Just nature’s reminder to stock up for the long winter ahead.


What is a summer celebration without a parade?   (There are lots of parades in our downtown, which the local merchants hate).  Here at the 107th Annual, it was a fine day for the parade, and there was a good turnout of participants.   The parade always starts late because it is hard work herding all these cats people, politicians, beasts and machinery.  Anyone who wants to show up can be in the parade, but politicians have to pay $100 for the privilege.  😉  Heading up the parade as usual was the State Police and the local fire department (they are quite proud that they have a newish truck!).  They were followed by the color guard of old soldiers who had squeezed into the old uniforms.  Next:

The mariachis were the most colorful group in the parade.  I don’t know if they are local, or if they are the sort that turns up at events. The mariachis at Mass just wore plaid shirts, so I don’t think they are the same group.

It is the West, so there must be horses.  And a rodeo queen or two.

This is M’s uncle, riding on a 1950’s John Deere, and coming along on the tractors behind him are cousin-ish relatives on his other tractors in the collection.   (Don’t ask me what he uses the tractors for or why he has them).

This is the son of M’s actual cousin, driving Great-Uncle S’ 1928 truck.  As Uncle S never threw anything away (he did finally buy a new truck in the 1950’s) the truck even has the original manual.

Non-relatives, these are government employees from nearby Fort Union National Monument at the tail end of the parade.   In between were Shriners, school kids, parade marshalls, heavy equipment,  old cars, new cars, a dog, a parade queen, more relatives and miscellaneous marchers.  And a good time was had by all.


This is a picture of M’s uncle, probably taken by M’s grandma about 85 years ago.   The other being in the photo is Lady, who was a good and faithful dog.   Some of the folks in old photos are hard to identify, but we do remember our dogs.

I not only got juried into Fine Arts at the state fair, but I got first place, which was rather thrilling and unexpected.

I am happy to report that the old truck is still there, rusting away into eternity.   The sky was not as blue as usual because of smoke from far away wildfires.

Steeple Chasing Pt. 3

I’m sure it’s great fun to plan a grand church full of beautiful details, but what is one to do without the wood and slate to make a nice tall steeple?

How about a church made of plentiful adobe (mud brick).  This church lacks fancy details, but it is cool and dark inside, and it is still in use even though the modern church building that replaced it is nearby.

But it is not enough to have a beautiful building.   This adobe church in the village of Lamy (named after the famous archbishop of Santa Fe) lost it’s congregation and priest at some time in the past, when the use of the railroad declined.   It still has it’s lovely stained glass windows, just waiting for a special occasion to be put back in use.

This church was started in 1706, but it was modernized in 1793 (when the old church fell down) and the towers were added.  As it sits in the middle of a tourist spot, it has pretty much been left as it was .   It’s a quiet little oasis in the middle of a bustling area (and still has a priest).

The grandest cathedral in the state is this one.   The first adobe church was built on the site in 1610 and bits were added on over the years.  When the first bishop arrived he thought something a little fancier would do, so he commissioned this building.   They ran out of money for the steeples, but there is a place for them to go.

I had never actually been inside the church until recently.  I had read that there was a Star of David in the decorations of the church.  And oddly enough it is true.



My friend GA lives in a village that was absorbed by the larger city centuries ago.   Because he loves the village, he is forever fighting the destructive encroachment of the city.   The forces of commerce continually seek to destroy the existing fabric of the village, and replace it with the shining bauble of the moment, while pretending that nothing has really changed.   To find the unchanging (or rather the slow changing), one need only look in a small village, like this one.

I know that I have taken pictures of this very truck for the past two years.  I doubt if the truck is in working order so there it sits, only the light changes.  It is quite near C’s house, built in about 1895 and a mobile home, which was put on the spot 10 years or so ago.

From the front porch one sees the vacant lot (vacant for at least 40 years) and M and N’s house on the right.  The large tree is in the yard where Grandma lived, next to a vacant lot (also vacant for at least 40 years), then a house with a crumbling prostitute’s  shack in the back (probably unused for a century or more) , and some family homes.

The view across to the mesa seems unchanged.

Until you consider the constantly changing effects of the light and sky.   Like Monet with his multiple renditions of the same scene, one could look at this view every day and find something new about it.

Of course one pays for the unchanging nature of this place with inertia.   There is no real estate jackpot to be made in selling the family home (unlike the tourist city that is further south), there are no jobs to be had, travelers do not stop here, there is no nearby market to shop for things (although one can still buy booze and crisps here).  But life goes on in a steady tempo, at least some families will always be here, I hope.



Somewhat Imaginary places

I never thought much about how movies create an imaginary place out of a real one.   The first time I saw this sort of artificiality I was in Boston, staying in a  BnB in an older part of town.   It was after dark and they were setting up for a shot.   They had watered down the street so it would sparkle in the lights, an effect I have since noted in scores of movies.   Nothing was happening, I didn’t know who the actors were, so I went back to the BnB and forgot about it.

But, I have noticed the town of Las Vegas, New Mexico cropping up in movies, and it is a thrill to see a place I know standing in for somewhere else.  Years ago I was watching “No Country For Old Men” with M when I recognized parts of Vegas (Yes, I know there is another town with the same name, but I have only been to that one once).  Now I have been watching a television series “Longmire” for this reason.   The show is set in a mythical county in Wyoming, but it is quite clearly filmed in and around Vegas.

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The fictional sheriff’s office is right on the plaza, and the fictional sheriff is played by an Australian actor.  He does a convincing job of being a laconic American.

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And then this sign for an imaginary hotel and coffee shop set in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado.

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The hotel is catty corner from this alleged pharmacy.   It’s actually a pizza place, and since they weren’t filming that day, they could put their sign out front.

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Across the street from the hotel is the imaginary bank.   (It doesn’t look fortress like enough to really be a bank.  It was probably a store in it’s former life).   But brief glimpses of these places establish the reality of the fiction.

It also makes me think of the gritty crime dramas that they film in the allegedly mean streets of East London.  East London is not imaginary, but one is more likely to find a Starbucks instead of a pub, a banker instead of a crook (maybe they are the same person now).


They often include a shot of this iconic Spitalfields church.   But this is getting harder and harder to include as the area gets more and more gentrified.   They will have to find another spot to stand in for the area.  But they won’t find it in New Mexico, it has too much sunshine. 😉


The Fort

I don’t know why I am drawn to ruins, but there is something about the impermanence of life that has always been appealing (Sic transit gloria Mundi).   Perhaps along with the idea that buried treasure might be nearby.   Fort Union was an important frontier outpost along the Santa Fe Trail.   I have driven by many times and wanted to stop, but M always said “there’s nothing there”.  That was possibly true when he visited as a child many years ago, but I decided that this time I would go and see for myself.   And of course I have this love of ruins and forgotten places.

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And there it is, lovely adobe ruins.   Made from earth, water and sunshine now devolving back into the earth from which they came.

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Of course since this now a National Landmark, archaeologists are trying to stabilize and preserve the buildings from further decay.  To help us remember the past, which was not always pretty.

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The post was entirely adobe, except for this well preserved stone jail.   An adobe jail would hold a prisoner for a few hours, you could escape using only a spoon.

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The walls have melted away, leaving only the chimneys.  And the shapes they have melting into  somehow reminder me of the heads on Easter Island.

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The hearth that warmed the occupants is all that’s left, a ghost in the wall.

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This bit hides a modern sound system.  And it sounds  bugle calls at the appropriate times, so the spirits of the soldiers can answer the call.

The Mound

M’s grandmother and uncle lived in this village at the foot of this landmark along the Santa Fe Trail.  (The directions were: go west until you see the mound, turn left at the mound,  and you’re just 120 miles to Santa Fe).    I love the feeling of coming over the Levy Grade and catching that first view of the mound, it means I’m almost there and I can stop driving soon.

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Much like our local mountain, the aspect changes with the different lighting over the course of the day.

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It looks soft and distant in the morning light.

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You can see the details on a beautiful sunny day.

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Or at least you can see them until they disappear into the shadows.

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A storm is brewing with a mixture of dark and light.

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And after the storm comes a golden sunset.   It’s not hard to see why there are so very many artists living in New Mexico, it’s just so gorgeous.  And I really must get a better camera, because it is even more beautiful than my pictures.