On Friday, January 26th, I followed hundreds of bison being rounded up on Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch, near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The tour was sponsored by Ted Turner Expeditions and was the 2nd annual Bison RoundUp. The tour part of the roundup lasted for 2 days and the bison on the 250 square mile ranch had been collected over the last several months. This was the last collection of bison and herds of 200 to 500 bison were driven into pens where they would be weighed, tagged and checked before being released.
The roundup lasted about 5 hours each day and involved 4 cowboys on horseback and 4 on ATV’s keeping the bison in line. The bison followed a truck that they mistook for a feed truck. Behind the herd, 15 of us who had signed up for the tour watched from ATV’s.
The 28 Turner Ranches are home to 51,000 bison.
The roundup is not advertised and will become an annual event. I received an e-mail invitation since we had stayed at the Sierra Grande Lodge in T or C, New Mexico, which is owned by Turner. The first class restaurant serves bison and the Lodge has natural hot springs spa tubs available to guests along with massages.
Turner Expeditions offers numerous other tours on the various ranches; all directed toward conservation and the preservation of natural habitats.
The Ladder Ranch has no paved roads, is 29 miles from T or C, and is near the Amadaros Ranch, another Turner Ranch. It is also near the NM Spaceport and Elephant Butte Lake. There are several vinyards that produce good wine. Turner’s Vermejo ranch is in Northern New Mexico, near Philmont Scout Ranch, where I first ate Bison in 1955.
The cost was $175 plus tax for a 7 hour day including driving time to the Ladder Ranch.
The guides were great and informative – they knew all about the flora and fauna on the ranch and a lot about the history.
The bison roundup is fascinating; with real cowboys and bison that are genetically pure .
In addition to bison, we saw a 40 Elk in a line and numerous birds. The ranch is a wildlife paradise and all of the ranches offer photographic expeditions.
I was told that there were about 27 bison bulls for 1500 cows, and that last year all but two of the cows had calves; however, I was unable to verify this.
And, of course, if you want to eat bison:
or, it is available at Whole Foods.
The Albuquerque Journal announced that the Pecos Benedictine Monastery was having an open house. I attended and discovered a quiet place to visit. It has about a dozen monks and numerous volunteers. They support themselves by holding retreats and by allowing private retreats. Look at their web page; pecosmonastery.org. Trappist monks bought the place in 1947. It has been transferred to several religious orders since then ending up as the Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey today.
The Abbey is about 20 miles from Santa Fe, NM in the small town of Pecos. The Catholic Church in Pecos dates back to 1862. This is rural Northern, New Mexico, midway between Santa Fe and Las Vegas, NM.
There are numerous guest rooms, several chapels, a library and of course friendly monks. There is a common room with wi-fi and they have the necessary equipment for retreats.
The bedrooms are simple, but fancier than what I imagined a monk’s cell to be like; having seen a few in Europe. They have private baths, a desk and a closet. No phones, no TV’s; just the simple basics. This is a monastic place.
The Abbey has 1000 acres; of which about 4o can be planted and used for buildings. That leaves about 960 acres along the Pecos River for contemplation.
We did not stay overnight; however, if you want to and if you take the AARP discount, it is $67.50 per night and that includes three meals and all the quiet you want. There are common areas with WiFi and each room has a desk. It will be a great place to get caught up on a blog.
It is not for everyone; however, if you are the geezer’s age, overwhelmed by this electronic society, and looking for a new social setting, there is something relaxing about the place.
I couldn’t help but compare it to long-term care facilities that I have visited; and, at some future point, if they would have me, I would much prefer to live at the Abbey, rather than an in-town assisted living facility. There is plenty to do and it might give some purpose and meaning to the end of life.
Anyway, you might want to try it; or any monastery. Most take guests, even in Europe, and they are all over, need the money and certainly need volunteers.
An old book that I like is: A Guide to Monastic Guest Houses, 2nd Edition by Robert J. Regalbuto which is available on Amazon.
And, if you are really interested, some of the Refugios that I stayed in when I walked the Camino de Santiago are in monasteries.
Last year I attended the Matanza in Belen, NM where I ate my fill of roasted whole hog, beans, chile, and tortillas. This year it is scheduled for January 27, 2018 from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM at Eagle Park in Belen, NM, about 30 miles South of Albuquerque, NM.
Matanzas involve roasting a whole pig overnight in a pit dug in the ground. It is a celebration for all your family and friends. It involves a lot of home-made food and too much drinking. The first one I attended was when I came to Albuquerque over 50 years ago and was held on Thanksgiving Day. Lou had obtained a 300 pound hog and the night before it was placed in a pit in his backyard, wrapped in wet burlap, and laid on top of a huge bed of coals. The hog was then covered with coals and dirt and left to roast for twelve hours.
It was hoisted out of the pit, unwrapped, and the meat fell off the bones. More beer, pinto beans, tortillas, salad and pork made the Thanksgiving Dinner one that I remember to this day.
The one in Belen is more organized, raising money for charity. It costs $15 and is preceded by judges determining who made the best red chile, pork, tortillas and chicharrones. There are long lines and no shortage of beer. It is best to come early.
You can read about the “World’s Largest Matanza” in the January 2018 issue of New Mexico Magazine. The article, “Whole Hog” by Gwyneth Doland is worth reading. The article also contains recipes if you want to create your own Matanza, and tells you where to buy a whole hog. Go for it.
The 2017 Belen Matanza was the first I attended:
For instructions see the Weekly Alibi
When we travel, we try to seek out non-chain places to eat; and, our recent trip to see our son in Waynesville, NC, led us to MOE’s Barbecue in Asheville, NC, for the third time. It is in an old building, near the Biltmore Mansion, with a large gravel parking lot and is always crowded. There are only about 20 tables inside, you order from the counter, and they call out your name when the food is ready. It has always been good, simple and tasty. You bus your own tables.
This time we shared a brisket sandwich with two sides and a drink. Our son had the rib plate with two sides and a drink. We had to wait for a table and borrowed two chairs for our table. It was out of our comfort zone, but we were with our son who knew of the place and he had taken me there before when I visited.
As usual, I took a few pictures, enjoyed the food and the crowd and thought it would be a good subject for a brief blog post. After lunch, I googled Moe’s Barbecue and much to my surprise discovered that even though Asheville is apparently the original Moe’s, it has expanded. The three boys from the University of Alabama, have expanded this Moe’s to 60 Moe’s around the country, including one in Albuquerque that I was not aware of. So, next week, I will start off the new year by eating at Moe’s in Albuquerque, aware that it is a big business that came out of North Carolina.
You can become a franchisee; the franchise office is in Vail, Colorado; or, you can just order a t-shirt and a hat from the retail site.
I will continue seeking out places out of my comfort zone, but will also check them out.
Trust but verify!
Just because it is a chain, does not mean that it is not good. And, of course, I satisfied myself at the meals there, thinking I was out of my comfort zone, not realizing that there was a Moe’s just a few blocks from me in Albuquerque.
Several times a year we drive the 450 miles from Albuquerque, NM to Tucson, AZ to see our grandchildren. The trip takes about 7 1/2 hours, but since we are retired and have extra time, we explore along the way. In old age, you come to realize that the trip may be as important as the goal.
Between Albuquerque and Tucson, you can find a number of interesting things all in New Mexico and all just off I-25: the Very Large Array Telescopes near Socorro, NM, the Hatch Chile Festival and Sparky’s, SpacePort America, Elephant Butte Lake, and, usually an overnight stop at the Sierra Grande Lodge and Spa, owned by Ted Turner which in addition to providing an interesting Lodge, also provides tours of Ted Turner’s nearby ranches.
Since I originally wrote this, Spaceport America has restarted tours.
The lobby at Sierra Grande Lodge and Spa in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.
In our 70’s the Sierra Grande Lodge gets us out of our comfort zone, which is good, if at times unnerving. I haven’t had bison in 63 years, when I had it at Philmont Scout Ranch, at the end of a 37 day trek at age 14. The restaurant serves bison burgers, bison rib-eye, and if you just want to test the water, 4 ounces of bison steak in a great pasta dish. You can eat indoors or out; the patio is great:
The Lodge, like many other places in T or C has it’s own hot springs. There are indoor spas and an outdoor one. The naturally hot water has made T or C a destination for a thousand years. It used to be called Hot Springs, NM until it won a 1950 radio show contest hosted by Ralph Edwards, and changed its name.
We like the outdoor spa; private but open to the stars. In our 70’s we are out of our comfort zone for nude bathing; and it may even be pornographic, but a half-hour soak removes a lot of age-related soreness and is included in the price of your room.
Outdoor hot springs spa as Sierra Grande Lodge.
Next time you travel to see your grandkids, look around you, take your time, and try to get out of your “old” comfort zone. You may learn something new.
The point is; especially at your age, you should be interested in the journey, not the END of the journey.
ACOMA PUEBLO – SKY CITY
On Saturday, May 14, 2016 I visited Acoma Pueblo Sky City located 370 feet above the desert on a mesa 65 miles West of Albuquerque, NM. It has fewer than 50 permanent residents living in homes on seven acres of New Mexico mesa top.
San Esteban del Rey Mission dominates Sky City. Established in the early 1600’s, it now has no priest. A service is held yearly on September 2 and is open to the public. The church was started in 1629 and completed in 1640.
There is a still-used cemetery in front of the church, with burials in dirt hauled up from the desert floor. The church’s is 150 feet by 40 feet and has a dirt floor. It is simple inside and is undergoing some reconstruction, but is still 95% original.
The streets in Sky City are dirt. At intersections cisterns collect rain water. There are no utilities. No water, sewage, gas or electricity. There are some generators and port-a-potties everywhere. They were installing a huge water tank on Saturday, so the water problem may be alleviated.
Commercial port-a-potties have replaced the outhouses suspended over the edge of the mesa that I remember from 40 years ago.
Until the 1920’s there was no road to Sky City, just a single-file path cut into the steep side, which made it easy to defend. A movie company agreed to put in a dirt road in exchange for the right to film. In the 1950’s a second movie company paved the road. Today it is used for busses and on the week-ends for residents cars and trucks as they work on their houses.
The Acomas are matrilineal and the homes in Sky City are owned by female tribe members. The youngest daughter inherits. They cannot be sold. Non-Acomas cannot stay overnight and of course there is no Airbnb.
The residences are from one to three stories, and usually reached by means of ladders.
Each family is responsible for their own repairs and the only restriction is maintaining the earth colors, so in repairing the homes, concrete block, insulation and modern roofing is used.
Traditional Food can be had in the cafe at the visitor center.
Fifteen miles away, on I-40, is the Sky City Casino owned by the tribe and which provides income and tourists. The Casino has a hotel and an RV Center.
At the visitor center you buy your tickets, visit the museum and gift shop and eat at the restaurant.
You board a small bus and make about a 10 minute trip to the top with an articulate and knowledgeable guide. You can also walk up and down, but… remember your age.
- Tours: daily on the half-hour
- Location – 65 miles west of Albuquerque, NM, off of I-40.
- Hours: 9 – 5
- Cost – $20 for seniors
- Casino and Hotel –Sky City Casino Hotel
- Bus to top- Small bus
- Pottery- see museum and tables set up by residents.
- Toilets – Nice at Center on desert floor, port-a-potties on the mesa
- Museum – small but impressive – lots of excellent pottery
- The streets are dirt and rough. You can fall.
- Hot in the summer. Take a hat and water. Buy a bottle from tables
- Toilets are port-a-potties.
- Senior rate is $20.
- Senior Centers have tours at various times of the year – check bulletin boards and senior magazines at centers.
- There is an RV park next to the Casino.
- Never forget local Senior Centers. In Albuquerque, the Manzano Mesa Multigenerational Center, has a trip to Sky City Cultural Center $ Haaku Museum on May 25, 2016. Depart at 8:00 am – return at 5:00 pm. $9.50 for transportation and $20 admission.
- See the ABQ 50+ Activities Catalog.
- Sky City Cultural Center.
- New Mexico True
Strings of New Mexico red chiles for sale at The Albuquerque Rail Yard Market in October.
A Railyard mosaic.
Every Sunday from May through October, the old rail yard in Albuquerque, New Mexico becomes The Rail Yard Market, home to food and local arts and crafts. There are food trucks and a variety of food, both fresh and prepared, at stalls inside the old train yard. The yard, complete with roundhouse was the hub of Albuquerque’s new town beginning in the late 1800’s.
Today it is largely abandoned and waiting redevelopment.
Rail buffs will be fascinated by the huge interiors alongside the tracks that still serve Amtrak, the New Mexico Rail Runner and numerous freight trains.
After visiting The Rail Yard Market, catch the Rail Runner to Santa Fe or Belen for more of historic New Mexico.
The Wheels Museum is also located on the premises.
New Mexico is full of small out-of-the-way interesting places. Chimayo and Truchas in Northern New Mexico doesn’t really qualify as travel since Truchas is only about 130 miles from my home; however, it is worth discovering since it about 50 miles North of Santa Fe, a popular tourist destination.
Truchas is home to about 1200 people and dates to around 1750. Chimayo has about 3000 people and the Catholic Church, El Santuario de Chimayó, is the goal of Good Friday pilgrimages. It is known for its weavers, the Chuch, which is a National Historic Landmark, artists and Rancho de Chimayo, a great restaurant.
A friend’s art exhibition took us to Truchas one Sunday; and since we were in the neighborhood, we couldn’t pass up the restaurant in Chimayo, always crowded and always good. The food is traditional Northern New Mexico.
Rancho de Chimayo has been around for more than fifty years; is a James Beard Award Winner; and, Florence Jaramillo, the owner, recently received the New Mexico Woman Restaurateur of the Year Award.
For me, you can’t beat the Huevos Rancheros. (Two eggs on a corn tortilla topped with cheese and your choice of red or green vegetarian chile. Served with refried beans and rice.) I usually have the green chile; however, the Christmas is good. (Red and green chile mixed.) And, of course, I think the Chile comes from Hatch, New Mexico, the chile capital of the world.
The rest of the menu is equally good and is topped off with the sopapillas with New Mexico honey.
Never miss a chance to stray from the beaten path.
If you are traveling to Albuquerque you should visit the Los Ranchos Growers’ Market on Saturday morning.
The growers’ market is a weekly event, though many towns have different markets on different days.
In Albuquerque, there are several, but my favorite is the Los Ranchos Growers’ Market on North Rio Grande. There are farmers (maybe urban) selling peaches, onions, beets, berries, etc. There are also a number of bakers and several vendors of meats. The mix changes weekly and what is offered changes as crops are picked. Always fresh, never shipped in.
There are also dozens of local crafts people selling jewelry, hats, canes, clothing, etc. Almost anything someone could make at home; especially if they are old and retired. A number of our friends have set up sales tents to sell things they have made. You might even want to consider a new career. Want to sell hats?
Take a look at Hat Academy to learn how. You don’t just have to be a buyer; you can also be a seller. The same goes for any other craft. If nothing else, these markets are a source of creative ideas.
The best part for me is the food. I always stop for a breakfast burrito. For $4.00 I get the # 1 which is a large tortilla filled with eggs, potatoes, crisp bacon and Hatch green chile. Another dollar gets me a cup of coffee and there is a table and a few chairs where I can sit and watch the people go by.
I know that it sounds strange to go to a growers’ market when you are travelling, but it is an interesting bit of local lore and even when you are on the road you need to eat and you may want some fruit to tide you over. I have been to such markets in Taos, Tucson, Waynesville, NC, Washington, DC; not to mention Bulgaria, Armenia and Belgrade. Each has been an interesting experience.
How to find a growers’ market near you; wherever you may be: