At the Casa Grande trading post and museum in Cerrillos, New Mexico, there is also a small petting zoo for the kids. There were, this morning, some fowl and goats in the locked pens, and, oddly, a solitary camel. The last Scotttreks camel experience was in a Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic airport smoking room, and that camel was ceramic and painted with smoking advertisements.
Camels, it appears, were big in the Southwest United States in the mid 1800’s when the United States Army created a Camel Corp and experimented with the animals, using them to pack goods as Army soldiers patrolled and kept order in the western territories before they became states. The camels were well suited to their task, and the landscape, but the experiment was shelved and the camels were sold off.
You can buy a camel today for a little more than $5000.00 but you need to know a few things about them before taking one home. Camels need space, exercise, lots of hay, and they are not always friendly. From people who own camels come reports that the large animals can show love, hate, be jealous, be warm and caring, fierce and dangerous. They can drink up to 20 gallons of water at a time and eat grass, hay, wheat and oats, seeds or dried twigs in the wild. Water is stored in their bloodstream, not their hump, and the hump, one or two, is stored fat the animal uses as a food supply when food is scarce. Camels can sleep standing up, spit when aggravated, and pee on their legs to keep themselves cool. There are claims that their milk will cure diabetes, TB, autism and AIDS, and, in the desert, they are used for transportation and even food by the Bedouins who depend on them in their nomadic lifestyle.
I’m wondering, this morning, if kids are really allowed to approach this camel, hoping that it is one of the sweet, gentle, lovable cartoon kind of camels that children love to get close too. I can imagine it’s caretakers and owners climbing aboard and taking a midnight ride down one of the arroyos that run through Cerrillos, scaring the devil out of the coyotes howling a mournful song on a moonlit night.
When Scotttreks goes on the road, there is never a moment when something quirky doesn’t pop up and bite you on the behind.
While I’m standing here, the camel doesn’t drop what it is doing and come over to see who I am, and what I want.
That, I’m feeling, gives me a pretty good idea that he’s not as interested in me, as I am in him.
In the 2000 U.S. Census, Cerrillos had 229 permanent residents. On the road between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and a few miles north of Madrid, another New Mexico ghost town, Cerrillos has even more ghosts than Madrid.
The town has a few art galleries, shops, a U.S. Post Office, the nearby Cerrillos Hills State Park with hiking trails, the Cerrillos Mining Museum, a General Store, the Saint Joseph Catholic Church, train tracks, a lot of quiet, and a small town rural New Mexico pedigree.
According to a town history, on a board by a little public restroom by the headquarters of the Cerrillo’s Hills State Park, this town started as a tent city for miners,and was once considered to be the location for the state capital. This area has always been big on mining and the original inhabitants, the Tano Indians,way way back, were slave labor in the mines till they revolted. Turquoise, gold, silver, and lead are the main minerals that have brought people here looking for easy riches. There was a movie, ” Young Guns, ” made here, and many of the residents work in Santa Fe and commute, just liking to be away from city life.
Highlights of today’s visit was encountering a California “Hippie Bus ” with its occupants a family who spend their life on the road and were looking for turquoise in town. When they had trouble navigating, the woman would get out of the bus, step back and direct her driver till he got the bus going the right direction. Another place, good for the spirit, was the Saint Joseph Church at the end of a main street. The church goes back a hundred years and there is an open courtyard visitors can stroll through and meditate on the human condition. The Mining museum and trading post were closed but you could still see the camel, goats and birds at the petting zoo, along with mining machines all rusted and inoperable. A local man, waxing his older Volvo, that is a classic, told me his son was living in New York and he and his girlfriend haD to sneak out at night just to get relief from the lock down there.
” No way I’d want to live there, ” I volunteered, and the man, who was a contractor who builds in Santa Fe, agreed.
” We’re still working but you can only have five in the house at one time, ” he said, ” It makes making a living difficult.”
This little town used to be full of hotels, saloons, dance halls, shops and short order houses, brothels and boarding houses, but it is now just a sleepy little burg for sightseers and tourists.
Cerrillos means ” Little Hills ” in Spanish, and , later IN the evening, as the sun goes down, these little hills will get a pinkish tint that makes them look like some of the art canvases in the shops.
In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s this little town was feeling it’s oats.
Now, Cerrillos is a place to escape the bustle of the big city, revisit the state’s mining history, pick up some rare turquoise mined from this area, hike in the ” Little Hills”, and spend a lazy Saturday petting camels in the petting zoo.
” You an appraiser? ” the ball capped man, leaning against a pickup, asks me as I stand in the street and take a photo of a house for sale.
” No, ” I say, ” I’m just taking pretty pictures. ”
There are plenty of pretty pictures in Madrid, and some of them are Quirky. Madrid is a New Mexico ghost town about thirty five miles northeast of Albuquerque, closer to Santa Fe, and it has a storied history. Some say ghosts are still hanging out here on moonlit nights with coyotes howling and winds gently blowing the cottonwood trees that line the hamlet’s streets.
Madrid, that had an official population of 204 in 2010, used to be a mining town, and the company town produced anthracite coal for passenger trains because it burned cleaner. The town mostly huddles close to New Mexico Highway 14 and some notable sights to see are the Mineshaft Tavern and Museum, the Old Boarding House that was the only place to get coffee this morning, the Oscar Hubar Ball Field that was the first lighted ball field west of the Mississippi in the 1920’s.
Madrid was owned by corporations and when the demand for coal trickled down in the 1940’s, the town shut down. It was reclaimed by hippies and non conformists in the 1950,60’s and 70’s. There are numerous shops along Highway 14 through town that sell pottery, jewelry, turquoise, art, spiritual counseling, and Tarot readings. The town is a popular destination for motorcyclists, and, in 2007, the movie ” Wild Hogs ” was set and filmed here. In one of the opening scenes of the popular television series ” Breaking Bad, ” Walter White, after cooking some meth, calls his wife, Skyler, and suggests a trip to Madrid for a family lunch.
Today, the town is virtually shut down by a decree from our Governor, and walking the street is pleasant.
Some of the highlights of the visit are having hot coffee in the Old Boarding House, discovering Heaven, finding nooks and niches in the town that shows it’s ” attitude. ”
People, who live here, seem to have long beards, give you an extra long look, and all have three or four dogs around their homestead.
I’m guessing that some of the town’s residents still mine a little coal for their pot bellied stoves on cold winter days when the winds whip down Main Street and even dogs don’t want to be out.
For those with a little extra time, Madrid makes a close place to Albuquerque to see and enjoy.
As the same man who asked me ” if I was an appraiser, ” said, ” Getting out of the city is always good. ”
We don’t mine coal anymore but it sure feels, today, that I’m working for the company store.
Inside Meow Wolf, there is a house, a mysterious house whose owners are no where to be found. They have their left artifacts; an old desk, an old saggy comfortable couch, a bathroom with toothbrushes still in the cup, closets with clothes hanging, a washer and dryer with clothes to be cleaned. As you roam through the house you find rooms just like you would find in a normal home, but, here, the rooms don’t look like our houses and it has secret passageways, and tunnels and challenges.
In a performance area of the installation, these two young men juggle and do acrobatics for their modern audiences, much like they might have done for ancient kings when the castle was dreary and the king threw a party for some of his political allies.
When this performance is done, we wander through the rest of the house, getting lost, finding rooms we have already been in. Finally, sensory overloaded, we leave the house and its ghosts and go find a green chili burrito and cup of coffee.
Getting lost in someone else’s house is okay, but you never want to be at a point, in your house, that you can’t find the bathroom.
Meow Wolf is an immersive, interactive, art installation in an old bowling alley in Santa Fe, N, M. It has become a tourist destination and once you enter you will be challenged. It was started in 2008 as an art collective. This is what the creators, with over 400 employees, and installations in Denver, Las Vegas, Santa Fe, and eventually Phoenix, say about their effort.
” Meow Wolf creates immersive and interactive experiences that transport audiences of all ages into fantastic realms of story and exploration, This includes art installations, video and music production, and extended reality content….. Inside, guests discover a multidimensional mystery house with secret passages, portals to magical worlds, and an expansive narrative amidst surreal ,maximalist, and mesmerizing art exhibits….. Meow Wolf champions otherness, weirdness, challenging norms, radical inclusion, and the power of creativity to change the world…… ”
When I came out of the installation, I was glad to be back to my pedestrian reality.
This, I’m certain, is just preparing the way for the dystopian, not so distant, world, of artificial intelligence and technology.
I’m missing days when you sat in a rocking chair on the front porch and watched storm clouds rolling in over the freshly plowed and planted fields.
We can’t stop technology, and as easy as it makes our lives, it comes with costs.
The Albuquerque International Balloon Festival was begun in 1972.
A local radio station, 770 KOB, which is still with us, was celebrating their 50th anniversary. They convinced Sid Cutter, who operated a small airport in Albuquerque, and had the only hot air balloon in New Mexico, to let them use his hot air balloon as part of the celebration. The rest is history.
In 2019, there are 588 balloons in the sky, 866,414 guests, and 671 pilots from around the globe.
Standing on a hill at the Juan Tabo picnic ground, this early morning photo is of balloonists beginning a mass ascension into clear skies. The city of Albuquerque spreads out almost as far as you can see and the balloons look lazy in the skies. There will be events, competitions, and spectacles during the festival and fun will be had by all.
The festival runs, this year, from October 3rd, 2020 to October 11th. The official website gives specifics, videos, photographs, reviews, news about the next balloon extravaganza to hit our city.
From the top of the little hill, Scotttreks gets an easy look at the balloons, without parking issues, crowds, and expenses.
Not liking heights much, if I had my choice, I would opt out of ballooning for snorkeling in the Caribbean with brightly colored fish and pina coladas in the middle of the afternoon.
The balloons, this morning, look like periods in a novel, jumping off the page, glad to be away from all those crazy human misconceptions, yearnings, and propaganda.
At an annual celebration of the famed World War 2 correspondent, Ernie Pyle, at his home in Albuquerque, N.M., a docent tells the small group about the permanent closing of Pyle’s childhood home, in his birthplace,in Indiana.
Ernie Pyle was a celebrated World War 2 correspondent, but, today, there are many Americans who don’t know much about World War 2 except what they see in the movies. They don’t know Ernie Pyle, or Julius Caesar, or Frederick Douglas. They believe the American Civil War was only about the abolishment of slavery and the United States Constitution is outdated and irrelevant, written by stuffy white men who owned slaves and wore white wigs..
Where does history go when it is behind us?
Does God put His memos, research papers,videos and photos on shelves in his personal library? Does he go back and review his plans and progress for the Universe, make changes in the roll out of his vision ? Does knowing history mean we can stop or modify what is happening to us while we are in the middle of its happening?
On this pleasant afternoon, we are taken on a guided tour of Ernie Pyle’s life and times, in a place he fixed bacon and eggs for breakfast and read his newspaper thrown on the front porch by a neighborhood boy on a bicycle.
His house feels like a home and I walk away suspecting that Ernie would offer me a cold drink of lemonade on a hot summer day and have some good jokes to soften the wounds of World War 2 as we both set at a little table on his front porch.
His writings and home survive him, and remembering him and his calling is something we still try to do.
The beauty of his writing and life is that it seems like it was lived for everybody but him.
Creede’s reason for existence started and ended with silver.
Rich mines were tunneled into the Earth and precious minerals were extracted. At one time Creede had 10,000 inhabitants. The population now is 290, the mines have played out, and the economy depends on seasonal tourists escaping Texas heat.
In the winter this small mountain town shuts down and everyone who can leave, leaves. The skeleton crew left behind play cards, huddle around pot bellied stoves and keep the road open for crazy hunters who just won’t leave the deer alone.
Walking here, or sitting on a bench under a shade tree, you don’t see hardened miners with dust in their beards, horses pulling loaded wagons, but you are surrounded by slouching wood frame buildings, hitching posts, closed saloons waiting for a modern makeover. Creede has its own 1800’s style repertory theater that puts on performances during the tourist season,and,if they had a casino here,the place would sparkle like a handful of gold nuggets.
Being a tourist here is comfortable.
In 2019, hotels and accommodations here have cable and wi-fi, the phone service is good,and the little grocery has vittles you need. If it were too old, none of us would be here.
We 21st century visitors to the past, like old, but not at the expense of our 21st century luxuries.