Joni's Journal

Observations and

musings from the

keyboard of Joni

New Orleans, LA to
Santa Fe, NM

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April 1-3


New Orleans, Louisiana

My Observations:

Tuesday, April 1

We explored the city of Jackson Mississippi this morning. At an art display representing the thoughts and feelings of people from Mississippi right after Katrina, one of the paintings depicted Lampeter Strasburg high schools trip to Long Beach Mississippi to give two high schools a senior prom two months after Katrina. I remember reading about this in the Lancaster papers. The LS kids raised money and took prom dresses and tuxes for the Mississippi kids so they could have a prom. The art display had audio with it where the people, in their own words, talked of their thoughts and feelings.

We walked through the capital including the Senate and House chambers. The Mississippi Capital was ornate. What was interesting is that we saw a group of all white kids in uniforms and then we saw two different groups of all black kids touring the capital. Is there still segregation in Mississippi high schools?

We encountered several heavy bouts of rain on our way to New Orleans. At one point, driving across the bridge on Rt 10 we could barely see in front of us. On the other side of the highway a red mustang had evidently hydroplaned and almost gone over the barrier. Whoever was driving that car should thank their God for sparing their life because if they had gone over the barrier, they would have dropped 30 feet into the swamp.

When we arrived at our hotel in New Orleans, Fred was freaked because we had to use Valet Parking. We had a minor tiff on the street, probably not the last on this trip.

We unpacked – it will be wonderful to actually spend 3 nights in one place after 5 one night stands. This hotel a Country Inn and Suites is awesome. They renovated seven historic buildings retaining open beams, exposed brick walls, and tile floors.

We love New Orleans. Out first stop was the Crescent City Brewery where we had the sampler and I could add 5 beers to my list. Our next stop was supposed to be the Jackson Brewery but when we crossed the street and walked inside it was a shopping mall. We found out that the Jackson Brewery was originally in that building but had ceased brewing beer a long time ago. By now it had started raining again. Fred ran down the street to see if he could find somewhere for us to go.

There was nothing on that side of the street so we crossed over and the first place we came to was The Corner. We got a seat by the window and Fred went to the bar to order beers. The rain continued to pound harder so we stayed for quite a while. We had southern egg rolls which Fred bravely ate. I thought they were good. Anita Pen, the bartender came over to talk with us. She was from Dallas but had moved to New Orleans last November. She was currently living in a 200 sq ft. apt but was planning to move to a 600 sq ft apt for $1200 per month near the French Quarter if she could rent out her Dallas house. She was leaving to drive to Dallas that evening after her shift so she could attend to her house and see her shrink.

When the rain let up we set out in search of Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop We had been there before and the place has quite a history. It was amazing to think we were walking on the same floor where the pirate Jean Lafitte and his brother had been back in 1800's. During the war of 1812 Jean provided information to General Andrew Jackson that helped win the war. We started talking to a guy from Indiana who was leaving in a few weeks for Iraq. He introduced us to Lafitte’s cherries – the best bargain on Bourbon Street-3 grain soaked cherries for $1.00. The bartender was feeling generous because he gave us 6 for a $1.

We went to the Funky Pirate where Big Al was singing. Big Al is in fact very big-over 300 pounds and quite an entertainer. He involved the crowd in his show especially Christine who passed around the tip jar and Carol who had been married 21 years and was feeling no pain tonight.

Next stop, bar where skinny girl was singing – I was fed an apple shot by a waitress.

Next stop bar where Fred had to pay a $5 cover and I got in free. $2.00 drinks-what a bargain.

We split an Egg Burrito from Mr. Chubby’s Cheesesteak and called it an evening.

Wednesday, April 2

I am sitting here at 1 AM and writing this so let me start from the end lest I forget what we did tonight. Which by the way is why I am doing this journal because we forget all the stuff that happened so if I bore you, I will not be insulted if you stop reading.

We ended tonight with Chubby Cheesesteak Egg Burritos and they were damn good. Forget the sharing stuff- tonight we each had our own.

Ok so back to this morning. After breakfast at the hotel, we set out to follow the walking tour from the brochure we had picked up at the Visitor Center. It started to rain so we ducked into an art gallery. Interesting photograph exhibit – all the photos were inside of an old house and each had a mirror in the photo.

Before going to stop #1 on the Walking Tour, we strolled down along the River. As we were crossing the railroad tracks in a desolate area, some guy yelled at Fred to bet him that he could tell him what kind of sneakers he was wearing and where he got them. We fell for it and stopped. The guy did a whole spiel and ended up saying "you got your sneakers on your feet and give me $20". We gave him $5 and moved on quickly.

As we walked around going from stop to stop on the walking tour, we got bored looking at houses and decided it was time to have lunch. We stopped at the Bourbon Street Blues Company where we got a table by the window looking out on Jackson Square. I had the Creole Sampler-Gumbo, Red Beans and rice, and Jambalya. It was a little spicy but I give Fred credit for tasting it all. He had the shrimp po boy which was very good.

We continued the tour and it felt like we had walked for miles before we finally went back to the hotel to rest before we set out for the evening.

I had read about a free concert in Lafayette Square so we went there at 5:00, had Abita Turbo Dog’s and people watched. Next, was the free wine tasting I had read about at the OBM which was located in a hotel on St. Charles. The bar was funky with multi changing lights, a funky blue backbar, wine samples, comfortable couches, and free appetizers-multiple cheeses, strawberries, crackers, and grapes.

Time to head to Bourbon Street and the French Quarter. We were looking for a happy hour and found a 2-for-1 special. The 2-for-1 turned out to be a double well drink which cost us $13.50 for two drinks. Some special but it got us on the way to a Bourbon Street frame of mind.

Our next stop was Lafitte’s. Once again, I say this is my favorite bar in New Orleans because we always meet the most interesting people here. Tonight it was Gilbert who was a native New Orleanininan (??) He owns an audio/video production company and was born and raised in New Orleans. He talked to us about Katrina and how his father would not leave and the family could not get in touch with him for a week. He also told us that he recently found out a childhood friend of his has cancer that spread to his liver and how he got all the high school basketball players together to go visit the friend last week.

Next stop was the Funky Pirate to hear Big Al again. Fred wanted to take a picture and we enjoyed his show. As we were walking down Bourbon Street I remembered that there was a show tonight at Preservation Hall. It was a $10 cover but totally worth it. Preservation Hall has been around for years and contains no bar and is very cozy - only 50 or so capacity – it is just about the music. This was the highlight of Fred's stay in New Orleans.

After we left there, we decided it was time to get our egg burrito and head back to the hotel. Some guy with tattoos all over his arms started talking to Fred (again because of the PSU t-shirt). He was originally from Pittsburgh but had gone to PSU on a baseball scholarship but only stayed for a year. He moved to Texas and had just been released from jail because he beat up some guy that had tried to attack his girlfriend. He said that in Texas they hate Yankees because they freed the slaves. He just had to tell Fred his story because he knew someone from PA would understand.

Now it was really time to head back. Enough excitement for one night. We got our egg burritos and headed back to the hotel. They were even better than last night. Chubby's rules!

Thursday April 3

We rode the trolley line down St. Charles and then thought it would be a good idea to walk back so we could explore part of the city outside of the French Quarter. We walked and walked and walked - past a large Catholic school where school children were playing, then through Audobon Park-a lovely oasis in the middle of the city with walking paths, a lake, fountain, and massive shade trees. We were already hot and tired by the time we reached the edge of the garden district when we saw a patio restaurant where we stopped for lunch. The garden district proved to be disappointing in that I thought we would actually be able to see gardens. There were a lot of beautiful old houses but not many gardens. We cut back to Magazine Street and were walking down a block when Fred said, "If you want to see some damage, look right." An old wooden three story house with junk piled out front looked as if it was on the verge of falling down. Three people were sitting out front-one wailing at the top of her lungs while the other two appeared to be arguing with what were officials from the city. A news crew was there. A young guy standing out in his yard said "Take a picture now because it won’t be there tomorrow." We stopped to talk and found the house had been condemned and was being torn down tomorrow. As we were chatting with this guy we found out he had done a home exchange just last year with a couple from Philadelphia.

Then a neighbor, Miss Jo walked over to talk and from her we found out the entire history of the house, the block, and New Orleans. She had lived in New Orleans her entire life and three weeks before Katrina had moved into her house on this block. The historic preservation society dictates that if you tear down a house you must rebuild in the same style. Hers was Greek Revival with a 130 year old door. There was an empty lot which she also owned between her home and the dangerous wreck of a house. She had given permission for the bulldozer to park in her empty lot to be ready for the demolition in the morning. We got the feeling that she had spearheaded the petition to get the house removed. She told us it had been in that condition since 1995 and was a hazard to not only the people living it in but the entire block because it contained guns and ammunition that if caught on fire could blow up the whole block. The three siblings that lived there were the off-spring of a marriage of 1st cousins (at least according to Miss Jo). It was a sad situation. The news anchor women came over to interview Miss Jo so we said goodbye and continued walking back to the hotel.

The drink special at the hotel bar was called Swamp Water so I had one of those before we ventured out for the evening. Once again on Bourbon Street we visited many establishments. We started with a balcony beer (draft beer was skanky so I got the guy to give us bottles instead). If we would have been so inclined, this would have been a great place to hang out for a while, but we wanted to keep moving. Next stop, International House of beer where we sampled 6 different beers. The one Fred decided to try was a Chimaex Bierre Trappiste brewed by Monks in Belguim. Luckily the bartender told us we probably did not want that one since it was $9.75 for one beer. He was kind enough to give us a sample.

We went to Lafitte’s again where we met Glenn-the assistant DA who we had met in 1999. Small world. Next Bourbon Jazz Company $9.75 hurricanes but no cover-good jazz band. We really enjoyed the New Orleans style jazz. I think we were at some other places but I can’t remember all of them. (I wonder why?)

Ended with.... surprise!!, two egg burritos from Mr. Chubby’s.


April 4-5


Lake Charles, Louisiana

My Observations:

Friday, April 4

New Orleans, LA to Lake Charles, LA

Before we left town we drove down Magazine Street to see if they had knocked down the house. It was about 1/3 of the way down to the ground. There were neighbors in the street, police cars, and camera crews.

Today was one of those times when what we had planned to do was a bust. We went miles out of our way to take a scenic drive that was listed in our tour book but the towns were not as represented. It ended up being a 6 hour drive (would have been less than 3 if we had gone direct) and we barely got out of the car. We were glad to finally arrive in Lake Charles.

Lake Charles was a pleasant surprise. Our hotel was located across from the lake and had a happy hour from 5 -7 with free beer and mixed drinks. Life is good.

The Contraband Antique Car Club of St. Charles was hosting a ride weekend for other clubs in Louisiana and they were staying at our hotel for the weekend. Restored Chevys, Oldmsmobiles, Corvairs, and El Caminos were parked all over the parking lot.

Before dinner we took a walk over to the lake. They have done a nice job with the lake front making it inviting for people to walk and hang out.

Dinner at Steamboat Bills – Entoulle Shrimp – creole dish with rice, gravy sauce and shrimp. Fred got the large fried shrimp and we stuffed ourselves. People all around us were eating huge plates of Crawfish. It reminded me of crab fests at home only substitute crawfish-the favorite of people in the south. I just can’t bring myself to try any.

Saturday April 5

During breakfast we chatted with Thelma, one of the organizers from the car club. They were going to be taking a ride today so we waited and watched them leave. It was neat to see all the old cars that had been lovingly restored. These people seemed like a fun bunch.

Gray Plantation (#4) is consistently ranked one of the top golf course in the state of Louisiana. Gray Plantation has members and is considered a semi-private club. The amenities were nicer than any other course so far-free range balls, a snack cart on the course, and a starter. We played by ourselves behind two five-somes of young guys. We thought the day would be slow and since we were walking I did not care. However the groups were playing a scramble so they moved along – we finished in under 4 hours. The guys in front of us were a sight to behold – one guy had bright primary colored checked pants on. Every time the cart girl came by they purchased beers and flirted.

The best part of the course visually was the marshland that came into play on several holes. The course is a charter member of the Audubon Golf Trail and there were acres of undisturbed marsh and many bird houses. A stunning hole #6 and #7 both contained island greens. The starter had told us about hole #7 which required precise layup shots over marshland on more than one occasion. Thanks to his advice we navigated #7 without losing a ball.

The one thing both Fred and I noticed about the design is that on almost every hole there was a sand bunker directly in front of the green. The Dogwood course we played a few days ago had a lot of sand but the bunkers were around the green, not directly in front of the green. Having sand between the flag and a great shot down the middle of the fairway got old real quick. A lot of the holes were long and after being in the front sand one too many times on our approach shot, we started to lay up. Yes folks it was not just me down the middle of the fairway – I am happy to say Fred was cranking his drives. Skins – Fred 8, Joni 10

There are two casinos in Lake Charles. We stopped by just to check it out and the main area inside with dining is on land but to gamble you go through a walkway onto an anchored boat.

Wild Wings for dinner (we made ourselves sick by eating fried food again! - oh how we are craving vegetables). We got into a game of trivia and stayed longer than we had planned.


April 6-8


Houston, Texas

My Observations:

Sunday, April 6

Creole Nature Trail to Houston, TX

This morning during breakfast we saw Thelma and her sister Louise again. Louise just bought a corvair convertible so the sisters were planning to have some fun. They filled me in on the Pirate Festival that goes on in Lake Charles for two weeks in May. Jean Lafitte sails across the lake, captures the mayor, and makes him walk the plank. Jean Lafitte is rumored to have buried some of his treasure at Lake Charles. Thelma told me how she had to evacuate to Lafayette during Hurricane Rita. The wind shifted her house on the foundation and when she first came back she could not get any of the doors open. I certainly enjoyed talking to these two interesting ladies from Lake Charles.

Today we are going to drive along the Creole Nature Trail on our way to Houston.

Driving along the Creole Nature Trail we passed acre upon acre of marsh land. Turning off onto the Pintail Wildlife Drive we saw a sign upon which was written, "Stay in your Car". I lamented that I wished we could get out and walk along the marsh land and canal. It was beautiful and peaceful-a clear blue sky, waving grasses, lagoons, white birds, and miles of marshland. Half way along the drive, I found out why it was a good idea to stay in the car. We started spotting alligator after alligator along the banks. Most of them were small but every so often there was a big guy. We were fascinated.

As we continued along the Nature Trail, driving from Oak Knoll along Rt 82 we saw foundation after foundation where homes once stood. Mobile homes, all shapes and sizes of travel trailers, and Fema trailers housed people who were still not back in their permanent homes. Especially bothersome were the churches that had been destroyed where graveyards and a foundation were the only indication that a church once stood on that spot. Cameron, the county seat, and Holly Lake, a former beach community were both completely wiped out. Three years after Hurricane the devastation is still evident although some people have started to rebuild.

To continue on the Creole Nature Trail we had to take a ferry across a small body of water. It took 20 minutes to load up and only about 90 seconds to get across. We drove past miles and miles of bayou and marshland.

Our first view of Texas was oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and Port Arthur (our first Texas own) was nothing but a gas and oil town.

Arriving in Houston on Route 10 we found the Lovett Inn without a problem. After unpacking, we took a walk around the neighborhood. The Lovett Inn is in an area of Houston called Montrose. We found a great restaurant – Ruggio’s to have dinner. No bar food tonight – we had a real dinner. Fred’s sea bass was superb and my vegetable platter was full of all kinds of grilled vegetables.

Monday, April 7

There is a jogging trail at Rice University so we walked the two miles to Rice, ran for about 25 minutes, and then walked back to the Lovette Inn. This neighborhood is nice – it does not feel like we are in a big city. The nice thing about the Inn is that breakfast is available any time so we were able to eat a late breakfast after we finished exercising.

After we lazed around for awhile, we took the Metro train to the Science Museum where we saw a display on Leonardo de Vinci the inventor. Sketches and prototypes were on display showing what a mechanical genius he was – way ahead of his time. We also visited the butterfly house. The most interesting part was a display of many different types of chryllis and you could punch in a number to see what butterfly will eventually emerge.

Since we did not have enough exercise today we opted to walk back to Griff’s (#8 on the Top Sports Bar list). This bar had not changed in years and that was part of its claim to fame and charm. Every year on St. Patricks Day, Griff’s shuts down the streets and puts on a heck of a party - bigger than Mardi Gras, they claim. Another claim to fame is Griff’s Army – a group of regulars who gather to watch games and charter buses to go to game. They run a happy hour every day from 3 – 6 - $1.00 off everything and then at 7 $2.00 domestic drafts. When we first arrived there were not many people there and the juke box was playing. This is a real sports bar though because when the home opener of the Astro’s came on TV, the juke box went off and the TV sound came on. We congratulated the bartender for that and he said he did it because he did not want to get yelled at when the owners came in. The owners were twin ladies and they got there right after the first pitch – evidently they are huge baseball fans. .She passed out oreo cookies to everyone right before the game started. During the game two Astros hit back to back home runs so everyone in the bar did a shot. One of the ladies was yelling for Hot Pants – who we figured was Hunter Pence spoken in a southern accent. A guy came in with an old Phils hat on and we found out he was actually from Minnesota but had become a Phil’s fan back in the 70’s and followed all Philadelphia sports teams. He told us he would be going home to Minnesota soon to help his family put their dock in on their cabin. With over 12,000 lakes in Minnesota, everyone has a cabin on the lake.

Every year on St. Patricks Day, Griff’s shuts down the streets and puts on a heck of a party - bigger than Mardi Gras, they claim.

Tuesday, April 8

Our exercise this morning was P90 Cardio on the deck before we went to the main house for breakfast. We lounged around, listened to the Phil’s game (playing the Mets) on XM on the deck and then took the two mile walk thru near town to mid town to downtown. Houston is a city that we could live in. It has nice mini neighborhoods, an attractive downtown, great museums, and at least three large inviting parks that we saw.

Our destination was Minute Maid Park – the Houston Astro’s new home. But before we went into the stadium we had to check out the entertainment around the stadium. Across from the park there were three interesting bars where large crowds gather on game days. The first one we stopped at the waiter told us that the place had been wall to wall yesterday on opening day. It was crazy. Fred had a beer there and then we checked out a bar called the B.U.S. which was a huge warehouse with large garage doors thrown open. It felt like you were partying in someone’s converted garage – there was a crude, but large bar, pub tables, and a few leather sofas. TV’s hung on the walls. I wasn’t feeling well so we only got 1 beer and swallowed hard when it was $6 for a bottle of Bud Light. No food in the B.U.S.– just lots of room for people and beers.

Minute Maid Park is nice but has a retractable roof which looms and detracts from its overall appearance. There were lots of foods choices – sliders (mini burgers), foot long hot dogs with chili, and nachos. The beers here were $7.50 per bottle so now we know why so many people were partying across the street before the game.

The many ambassadors ready to help answer questions made the park seem friendly. Our seats were in peanut heaven but that gave us a view of the city and the entire park. The park was nice but we like Citizens Bank Park better. The Astro’s lost.


April 9


Austin, TX

My Observations:

Wednesday, April 9 -

Short drive today from Houston to Austin. It was raining when we arrived in Austin to view the capital and the University of Texas. The Longhorns wear the burnt orange shirts with steer horns as their logo. The campus is built on a hill and the one cool thing was when we stood at Old Main and looked straight across we could see the State Capitol. They were built directly across from each other.

It was pouring and windy as we searched for Scholz, one of our Top 25 Sports Bars. We found it and thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere. Originally built in 1909 as a gathering place for Germans, it had been added onto several times over the years and now contained a large outdoor Beer Garten and a large German beer hall. The several 40" plasma TV’s on the walls were the only modern touches. The Phils vs Mets happened to be on ESPN2 so we watched the beginning of the game while we ate our German platters of food. (It’s good we left before the Phils self destructed so we did not have to watch)


April 10-11


Lubbock, TX

My Observations:

Thursday, April 10

Long drive today and there is not much to see in Texas-scrub land dotted with oil drilling rigs and a small town every 50 miles. One of the towns proclaimed to be the show goat and milk goat capital of the world. Who knew – goats in Texas. Our guess is that the scrub land is not fit for grazing cattle in this part of central Texas. And then what to our wondering eyes did appear but windmills – lots and lots of windmills harnessing the air currents. Fred remarked that it was interesting to see the old and the new energy sources – the oil drillers and the wind mills. We stopped to take a picture thinking that it may be a good one to enter in a contest.

Speaking of winds – they were steadily blowing and gusting up to 50 mph at times. Looking out the windshield into the distance, we thought it was clouding up until we realized that it was a dust storm that was making the horizon look foggy.

After short stops in Lampassas and Abilene, we finally arrived at our hotel in Lubbock. This Radisson was one of Fred’s priceline deals and turned out to be awesome. The king bed had a remote with a control for each side so you could adjust the softness or firmness of the mattress. The sheets were a high quality thread count with a down comforter and soft down pillows. Heaven.

Even with the gusty wind we wanted to get out and walk after being in the car all day. We set out to look for the Buddy Holly statue. We were not even three blocks down the street when being Miss Graceful that I am, I tripped on a stupid bump thing on the sidewalk, stumbled once, tried to catch myself, stumbled twice, and down I went. Just a few bruises to my hands, leg, and ego.

We had forgotten the map and could not find the Buddy Holly Statue or the Walk of Fame so we strolled over to the Texas Tech Campus (where Bob Knight had coached). What a pretty campus. Lots of benches, art sculptures, and some gorgeous buildings.

We grabbed a pizza, our Grandma Utz’s from the car and went back to our room to watch Scrubs and highlights of the Masters.

Friday April 11

This is the first hotel we have stayed at that did not include breakfast so we went to the Denny’s next door and pigged out before we did the tourist thing in Lubbock. We did find the Buddy Holly statue – it was one block from our hotel. Fred climbed up, had a few words with Buddy and posed for a picture.

Lubbock has many attractions that we would have liked to visit. The Windmill Museum, the Prarie Dog Center, the Buddy Holly Museum, were a few we could have chosen. However The Silent Wings Museum is where we opted to go. The Lubbock airport was a training site for over 5,000 pilots who flew gliders in WWII. Since Fred’s father Leo had been a glider pilot during WWII, we were extremely interested to learn what we could. For Fred the best part was seeing an actual replica of the glider. We were both in awe of the amount of bravery it must have taken to be a glider pilot. The gliders were towed by aircraft and then released to silently glide behind enemy lines. Their difficult mission was to land safely to dispense the soldiers, equipment, and supplies they carried. The pilots had no way of flying back out and many times had to fight along with the soldiers.

On the way to golf we just had to see one more "attraction". We stopped at the Texas Ranchers Museum on the Texas Tech campus. It was actaully very interesting. The University brought actual buildings from around the area and displayed them on a 10 acre tract of land. These buildings dated from the early 1800's. The collection included everything from a primitive ranchers one room shack to a 24,000 ft. 3 story home.

Today we played The Rawls Coursewhich is also on the caampus of Texas Tech. Jason the assistant pro had relatives in Wernersville and Reading PA. He claimed to recognize my accent.

We teed off in the afternoon and had the pleasure of playing behind 4 members of the women’s Texas Tech golf team. These girls were something to watch. They played from the Red Tees but here the Red Tees are the 2nd set of tees from the back playing to 6700 yards. The Rawls course looked flat but was nothing but. The girls showed us the place to hit our tee shots because it made a big difference if you were to the left or right on many holes. Grass bunkers and mounds in the fairways made placement extremely important. Large undulating multi tiered greens made the location of approach shots difficult and putts exciting. It is a links course so the balls roll forever. That was ok as long as they were rolling in the proper direction and sometimes they did. However, deep bunkers everywhere on the course seemed to swallow our balls into them. One errant bounce and boom you were crawling down into a bunker.

The sand was dark brown, coarse, and extremely difficult to get out of because all the bunkers were deep – even the fairway bunkers. The bunkers were visually attractive and that is the nicest thing I can say about them. We noticed the Golf Team was rarely hitting out of bunkers so we know that Texas Tech has a definite home course advantage. Oh, and did I mention the wind that kicked up on the back nine. Fun stuff indeed. Skins Fred 9 Joni 9.

After talking to my sister Judy who called to rub in the fact that she was at the Phillies game directly behind home plate but gave me an update on the game, we drove downtown to find the Triple J Micro Brewery. We found it along with everyone else who was in town. Fred went to the bar to order a beer while I put in our name for a 45 minute wait for a table. We split a beer and since we had so much time decided to walk down the street to see what other places were around. The only thing we saw open was an Irish Bar where the bartender told us that most of the bars do not open til 9. By the time we got back to Triple J, they had given our table away so we put in our name again. This time we got the beer sampler at the bar so we could try 4 different brews. I liked the names of the brews but the beers tasted just so-so. We finally got our table and a good waiter named Louis who was a student at Texas Tech in the hotel/restaurant management program. The food was good.


April 12-19


Santa Fe, NM

My Observations:

Saturday, April 12

Congratulations to Judy and Jeff who got married today.

Today we ate well. It was a long drive so we left and thought we could get breakfast on the road. Wrong - We ended up splitting a subway sub for breakfast (along with Grandma Utz’s chips) because that is the least evil we could find on the road. Texas is big and so is the space between anything sizable called a town. Lunch was cold leftover pizza. Boy, do we know how to live high on the hog.

As we were driving down the highway, Fred suddenly did a u-turn. He had spotted what he thought was a large horseshoe but turned out to be The World’s Largest MULESHOE. Since we like weird and bizarre stuff, we had to document this icon located in Muleshoe, Texas. Our other stop was in Fort Sumner where Billy the Kid had hung out and is buried.

Our drive took around 6 hours to get from Lubbock, Texas to Santa Fe, New Mexico. The landscape in Texas and through lower New Mexico was scrubby brush and fairly flat. Miles and miles of barbed wire fence outlined ranches-cattle, we presumed, even though we did not see any cattle. Usually the entrance was marked with a gate and arched round pipes in orange, red, or blue proclaiming the name of the ranch.

Mountains started to appear as we drove into central New Mexico. Still no towns, only groups of buildings that denoted a community or in some cases what was once a community.

The décor in the condo is what I would consider "try to be" southwest. Stucco walls, tile floor, wood beams on the ceiling, and a corner fireplace. Fred and I unpacked everything in the car, did laundry, went to the store, and made pasta and veggies for dinner. Exciting stuff.

Sunday April 13

Up and out the door by 9 for our drive to Albuquerque to pick Darla up at the airport. Her plane was an hour late thanks to American Airlines. We took a walk through the University of New Mexico campus. All the open park like space on campus, the art sculptures, and the adobe buildings made the campus seem calm and serene. Of course that could be because it was Sunday morning before 12 so all the students were still asleep. The stadium is located west of campus. There is actually a north, south, and west campus.

We had a surprise for Darla – the Kelly Brewing Company located in Albuquerque. They had 15 different beers that they brew but we were there too early. They cannot serve alcohol until 12. We drove to Old Town and walked around the shops looking for some history on the area. Darla was on a shopping jag and got some Indian Jewelry. We did finally find a plaque with some infomation. Darla and I told Fred to read it and just give us the cliff notes. Old Albuquerque when owned by the Spanish was a major stop between Mexico City and Santa Fe with buildings dating back to the 1830’s.

Fred had done some research to find a place to watch the Masters so we went in search of Coaches Sports Bar that promised a unique way to watch sports. As we parked, we saw a rather scruffy dude come out the door but no worries. It was great inside with multiple TV’s, the sound was on for the Masters and an added bonus, the Phillies/Cubs were on another TV. In my search to taste 1,000 different beers, we all ordered something different off the menu. Fred tried the Coronitas. We had to laugh when he got a 7 ounce bottle of Corona.

Next we went to Kelly’s where we each got 3 free samples of their Micro Brews and then each ordered another beer to drink. (nothing like knocking off 12 different beers in one sitting for my list) Kelly’s, is located in a building that had been a Ford Car Dealer and gas station back in the 1930’s. It had location, location, location since it had been the first stop in Albuquerque along the famous Route 66. It was interesting looking at the old photos on the wall. Darla got a Kelly’s Brewing tee shirt.

Monday, April 14

Golf today is one of the 50 under 50 courses at Santa Ana Golf Course. On the way we took the scenic route and got more than we bargained for. Route 14 took us on the Turquoise Trail.

At our first stop in the town of Cerrillos, we came across the Casa Grande Trading Post. Pat and Todd Brown have been here for a long time and able to make a living in this tiny little town with their trading post and turquoise mine stake. Darla and I bought green turquoise pendants that came from the mine here and were crafted by Pat. Attached to the adobe trading post is the Cerrillos Turquoise Mining Museum. Walking through the doorway was like a 100 steps back in time. This was years of collecting old stuff – room after room displayed old bottles, antique dentist chair and implements, coins, rock specimens, mining equipment and old stamps. Every square inch was covered with some sort of memorabilia. Informational displays showing the mine and how they get the turquoise were especially interesting.

As we drove out of town we spotted Mary’s bar on the corner and decided we had to come back to visit that establishment at some future point.

Next town Madrid was an artist town with an interesting looking bar called the Mine Shaft. Another place we would have to visit especially when we saw Grizzly Adams standing on the front porch.

Continuing on Rt 14 we drove to the top of the mountain to Sandia. At 10,600 feet elevation the view went for miles but it was too cold to linger very long. On the map we saw a shortcut so instead of going back down the mountain on Rt 14 we cut across to Route 165. I was driving and what an adventure. This road was unimproved and had suffered the perils of winter with ruts, bumps, and deep potholes. 10 mph was too fast so we had time to enjoy the scenery on the way down as we bumped along. Darla popped some advil to ease her aching back and Fred decided that after this bumpy ride we had to get the car serviced this week. Our 8 mile shortcut took 45 minutes making us late for our tee time. Fortunately the golf course was not busy and we were bumped back.

Santa Ana golf course’s 27 holes (Tamaya, Cheena, Star) are located on an Indian Reservation so there were no houses on the course and it was walkable. Larry, the starter decided Darla would be fun to pick on. He and his buddy had us all laughing before we teed off. The greens were lighting fast which made for some interesting approaches and putts, The course was located in a valley so there was a view of the surrounding mountains on almost every hole. We saw a wolf walk across the fairway. It was a gorgeous day and a beautiful course so we decided to play an additional nine. Skins for 1st 18 – Fred 6, Joni 7, Darla 5

Fred got us beers but Darla decided we each needed two since the bar would be closed by the time we were finished. When she went back in to the bar some ladies complimented her on her beautiful smile. They asked her if she was going to play tomorrow and when she told them she was playing Kaa-pa they told her it would kick her a!@. We got 7 holes in. We wanted to stop at the casino on the reservation but someone from the backseat nixed that idea.

It was a 45 mile drive back to Santa Fe and we were all tired by the time we got back so we stopped at the grocery store to load up on veggies to cook using Darla’s new find – steaming bags. We had a bottle of local New Mexico wine and some veggies and left over pasta. Then it was off to bed for Darla. We vow that one of these nights we will experience the night life of Santa Fe New Mexico.

Tuesday, April 15

Breakfast at The Pantry recommended as "the" breakfast place in Santa Fe". Darla ordered the Huevos Rancheros – with the Christmas Chile. I got a side of the green chile but should not have bothered. Even that was too hot for me.

We read about PAA-KO Ridge Golf Club and found out that after today the price was going up $20 per person. PAA-KO turned out to be a bargain especially when we saw the course. The greens had been aerated two weeks ago and were still bumpy but the views were tremendous. The high altitude made us all breathless at times. Darla said to tell you all that she just about died – she was sucking wind due to the 7,000 ft. altitude. Dramatic views off the elevated tees made us feel like we were on top of the world. The holes just kept getting better and better. PAA-KO has 3 nines and the two we played totaled 5900 from the front tees making the course long but not as brutal as I would have thought. We heard that the nine we did not play was even more gorgeous. Skins – Fred 1, Joni 10, Darla 7.

On the way back we stopped at the Mine Shaft in Madrid. Some grizzled old guys were drinking at the bar and we know if Tara had been with us she would have been down there talking to them. The bartender filled us in on the history of Madrid. Madrid had been a company mining town starting in the 1920’s. The Mine Company owned the entire town and the workers were paid in chits that they spent at the company store. In the 1970’s they stopped mining and the Company tried to sell the whole town for $250,000. No buyers so they broke off lots and sold the houses and lots for $2,000 each. The homes are now going for $200-$300,000.

When we walked into Mary’s Bar in Cerrillos we were not sure it was an operating bar. It was dark with stuff piled on the pool table and everywhere else. A lady came out from the back and said "We are open anytime someone comes in, what can I get for you?"

Wow, a 24 ounce can of Mickey’s Malt Liquor for $1.85 - too good to pass up and another brew to add to my list (I never said I was choosy).

We chatted while we drank our beers with Kathy who is the daughter of Mary. Two of Kathy’s cats wandered in to join us. Max, rescued by Kathy’s daughter was gorgeous and sat on Kathy’s lap while she talked with us.

Three generations of Kathy’s family have lived in Cerrillos. Kathy filled us in on some of the history of her family. Her grandfather owned the Palace, a hotel in town in the early 1900’s. He built the building we were sitting in in 1918 and leased it out as a grocery store. It was turned into Mary’s bar in 1936 and run by Kathy’s parents. 91 year old Mary still tends the bar during the day and Kathy takes over in the evening after she returns from Albuquerque where she goes everyday to tend to her horse.

Kathy’s father had been a POW during WWII. He was captured on Christmas Eve by the German’s and liberated by the Russians. He died several years ago. Kathy told us about when the movie crew for Young Guns came to town to film. She said the crew hung out in the bar during the day drinking soda and playing pool between takes. Everyone that is except Charlie Sheen who got dropped off in his limo, filmed, and then left in his limo. Beer for Horses was also filmed there. Kathy told us that when the movie crews come to town they make donations to the fire company, police department and pay each property owner when they use their property for filming.

Darla wanted a tee shirt but Mary said she was out. Darla spied a photograph on the wall of the outside of the bar and asked Mary if she would sell it. She would and she did and now Darla has a memento of her trip to New Mexico signed by a 3rd generation Cerrillian.

We stopped on the way back to Santa Fe to get pizza, doughnuts, and a bottle of wine to take back to the condo. One of these nights we will make it to Santa Fe for the nightlife.

Wednesday, April 16

Today is sight seeing day. We are on Route 84 which is the same route we have been traveling since we left Houston.

Our first stop was the Black Mesa Winery where we did a wine tasting and bought some wine. Our favorite was the Black Beauty – tasted just like a chocolate covered cherry. It is definitely for sipping since the alcohol content is 19%.

We were almost at the Taos Pueblo when we were stopped by a long line of traffic waiting to park at the Pueblo. We soon found out why. People wearing tee shirts that said The Longest Walk, San Francisco to DC, Feb. 11, 2008 to July 11, 2008 had stopped at the Pueblo and the Taos tribe was welcoming them. We stood on the outskirts of the circle of people not sure what was going on. A monk looking person in the center banged a drum while 50 people of all ages and all nationalities stood in a large circle and chanted, some were holding home made flags. Then the tribal leaders from the pueblo spoke welcoming the group and talked about how grateful they were to get their sacred land back. The mountain (Blue Lake?) behind the pueblo had been taken away long ago but President Nixon gave it back to the tribe. The chief talked about how glad they were to have it back and how they will protect it.

After all the speeches, the tribal leader invited everyone to join in a ceremonial dance. Four people from the tribe banged on drums while the crowd rotated in a dance around them. After hearing the speeches and seeing an opening in the circle, I decided to join in and Darla soon followed. We tried to follow along.

Before leaving, we walked through the parts of the pueblo that were open to the public. The older parts were over 1,000 years old.

Later I looked up The Longest Walk on their website. According to the website, the longest walk in 2008 is commemorating a walk done in 1978 and is being done to raise awareness for the health and well being of Mother Earth, our people, and Sacred Sights, The group will also be cleaning up the highways as they are walking along from San Francisco to Washington DC.

Stopped at Rio Grande River Gorge and walked across bridge. Tried to find a shortcut back to Taos and ended up at the airport. As we were driving back what we did not know was a dead end, we saw brown fur balls scurrying around. There were prarie dogs and we saw at least 10 of them.

We stopped in Taos looking for food and would up at the Alley Cantina. The building was neat with a high ceiling, garden plants, and skylight but we were disappointed in the food. We each ordered a different kind of taco and unfortunately they were not very good. I went to the rest room and when I came back to the table, Darla was looking through the camera and laughing so hard she had tears in her eyes. She was watching the video Fred had taken at the pueblo when we joined into the tribal dance. Darla and I stick out like two sore thumbs. It looked like we were trying to do an Indian line dance and could not get the rhythm. Who does not belong in this circle?

Thursday, April 17

We woke up this morning to snow so change of plans. No golf today. Weird weather-70 and sunny yesterday, 40 and snow today, 70 and sunny tomorrow. We have been lucky with weather. Some bad weather but nothing that has cancelled any plans. Fred and I took the car to the Hyndai Dealer to get an oil change while Darla stayed at the condo and exercised. Our plan was to walk somewhere for breakfast while the car was in for service but the snow and cold wind cut our walk short. So thrill of thrills, we watched Regis and Kelly in the dealers showroom while waiting for the car.

Back at the condo, Fred made us yummy eggs for breakfast.

By afternoon the snow had stopped and the sun came out so we went into downtown Santa Fe to go on the walking tour. We were the only three so we had our own personal tour learning a lot about the history of the area. She showed us many downtown sites including the place where men would walk into a grocery store, talk to the owner and then disappear through the back door to a car waiting to whisk them to Los Alamos (the town that wasn’t) to work on the Manhattan Project (see below). It was all very hush hush at the time. No one knew who was involved. Our guide also took us into St Francis of Assisi Cathedral and Loretto Chapel, the church with the miraculous spiral staircase.

We had an itinerary for happy hour but could not find the Margaritta Factory. Went to Blue Corn Brewery for some micros and got tee shirts. Next stop was the Ore house (tequila bar) with seats on balcony looking out over plaza. Awesome place to sit and have a drink. We could see old church and governors palace.

Went to the nothing over $5 bar (name-?). Very cozy bar with a fireplace, dark wood, small tables with comfortable chairs and a menu that boasts nothing over $5. Had chicken sandwich and mixed drinks. Fred really liked this place.

Finally, we had dinner at Rio Chama – Cheese fondue, ribs, very good. We actually sat in a different room in front of a fireplace. Fred had the 24 oz. Arrogant Bastard beer. The waitress joked around with him asking where the arrogant bastard was who ordered the arrogant bastard. The arrogant bastard kicked the arrogant bastard's butt. I got a tour of the wine cellar even though the tour was not intended for me. Little did I know I was tagging along with another couple who arranged the tour. Fred and Darla happily pointed that fact out to me after my return.

Wow! We actually stayed out past sunset!

Friday, April 18

Our golf course today was 15 miles north so Fred suggested we go a few miles further and hit 2 sites, Bandilier National Monument and and Los Alamos.

First stop was the Bradbury Science Museum. It contained displays about alot of different research projects but we looked mostly about the information on the most famous one, the Manhattan Project -Development of the Atomic Bomb. They had displays, timelines, a film and most interesting, neplicas of Little Boy and Fat Man - the 2 bombs dropped on Japan at the end of World War II.

We stopped at Bandilier National Monument for a Chevy Chase Vacation sized tour-only had 1/2 hour. This was suggested by our tour guide yesterday. Very interesting. Thousand year old pueblos very well preserved. We would have liked to hiked and seen more. Fred and I decided to buy the National Park Pass which gets us into all the National Parks we will be visiting, and we are going to hit a bunch.

Golf at Black Mesa, La Mesilla, NM– wonderful course. We felt like we were all alone on the course in the middle of nature. Gorgeous views all around. Mountains, sandstone formations, perfect blue sky. It really had the feel of playing out in the countryside with very few alterations to the landscape. This is one of the most scenic courses we have ever played. This was another course built on an Indian reservation. It cost more than $50 but it was more than worth it. Skins Fred 12 Darla 6 Joni 1

Nuts- time to go back to the condo to pack. Of course that is more of a bummer for Darla than us, but we will miss her.

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