I had never heard of “Orphan Trains” until a few years ago when I came across a notice in the Tucson Weekly, a weekly free alternative newspaper. (Wherever you go, pick up a copy of the free alternative papers for the most comprehensive, and unique, happenings in the town you are visiting.)
Orphan Trains operated between 1854 and 1929 and transported over 200,000 homeless children in New York, NY to every state in the continental United States. The children were often street children, but many were turned over by parents and orphanages. Remember that this was initially a few years after the Irish potato famine and many children hit New York without parents.
The children were loaded onto trains, frequently in the last car, with a woman who supervised them and arranged for their disbursement along the way. Their ages ranged from infancy to about 14; no girls over 12 for fear of sexual exploitation. They had no documentation, not birth certificates and virtually no chance of adoption.
When the trains stopped, locals appeared, either by pre-arrangement or by chance, and selected the child they wanted. They often broke up families.They were necessary to the development of the West and the railroads carried them for free or at a reduced fare.
Alison Moore has documented this in her book Riders On the Orphan Train. She and her husband appeared on February 16, 2014 at the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum in a multi-media show. Something none of us knew about.
Moore puts on shows all across the country. To find out when and where go to: http://www.ridersontheorphantrain.org/
It is worth it, free and will open your eyes to something you had no idea existed. You can also visit the Orphan Train Depot in Concordia, Kansas.
Keep looking for things that might interest you and that are out of your comfort zone.
An article on “Orphan Trains” that might interest you is found in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
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:
Meetup is a social networking group based on common interests. You locate a site near you, or near where you will be, by going to meetup.com and inserting your zip code or city. You can then find groups that have the same interest as you. You can sign up, go to the meetings and enjoy what they have to offer.
The Meetup in Albuquerque includes one on blogging using WordPress which I joined. It meets weekly and while it has over 800 members there are usually only 5 – 10 there. The meetings are either “work-a-longs where you can get expert help with your blog for free; or sessions with speakers on various blogging topics; including photography.
The work-a-longs are very good if you are trying to learn something new and need help. I can get quick, knowledgeable help on my blog problems from people who are expert in the field. The meetings last up to two hours and are always useful.
Meetups are not limited to blogging; they are for any thing people are interested in; including, dancing, languages, travel, art, cooking, or you can even start your own. They cost nothing for the participant, and about $10 a month for the sponsor. You could even start one on how to live as an old person.
When traveling, look for Meetups where you will be. Just plug-in the new zip code or name of town and see what you get.
Google: meetup.com +city, state
For example: Since I am going to Huntington, NY:
Google: meetup.com +Huntington, NY
and the result is: a list of Meetups around Huntington, NY, including, hiking, food, photography, sailing, widows and widowers, etc. There is no shortage of Meetups, including 25 on writing; none on blogging and one on WordPress, which costs $6.
You should Google: meetup.com +name of town
They are worth considering.
Whenever I go to a new senior center, I peruse the bulletin board; a source of classes, events and TRIPS! In the first six months of 2017, the Albuquerque Senior Centers offer 106 trips; both day trips and overnight trips. A sampling of the trips includes: Albuquerque Police Museum, Albuquerque Balloon Museum, Indian Pueblo cultural Center, Santuario de Chimayo (A pilgrimage site known for its healing powers), Hollywick Farms: Working Alpaca Farm, Christ In The Desert (2 days/nights at a monastery), Sky City Cultural Center & Haak’u Museum, Albuquerque Publishing Company, Santa Fe Opera, and numerous Theater trips. Most are free, plus a small transportation cost. The most expensive is Christ In the Desert, which is $176 double occupancy which includes transportation and meals.
Vacations can be boring; especially if you are old and the swim suit doesn’t really fit, the sun is too hot, and you miss your routine. Trips to see grandchildren are even worse, as the kids are working and the grandkids are in school and you can’t figure out how to work the TV. The solution is probably near; the senior center.
Every town has a senior center of some sort; and, every senior center has a bulletin board, a news letter, a web page, or some source of information for seniors. Many also have free book exchanges, classes, and most importantly trips.
The trips can take you to interesting places that you might not otherwise be able to get to. The trips are free or reasonable. The only downside is that you may not be willing to admit that you want to spend your time hanging out with a bunch of old people.
Plan in advance. Look at the on-line Activities Catalog and call or e-mail the senior center that you are interested in to make sure that you can take the trips as a non-member. You can probably use the center as a guest, but the trips may be another matter; if nothing else, you can probably join using your kid’s address and paying $13 for an annual membership.
In addition to the events, classes, and trips that you find on the bulletin board, you might also be interested in computer classes and working out. All are available plus a card room, pool room with four pool tables and a large dining hall where you can get breakfast for $1.50 plus 30 cents for coffee. Admittedly this is the senior center close to my home in Albuquerque, but most that I have been have similar facilities.
Albuquerque does not have reciprocity, but if you are from out-of-state, you can use the facilities as a short-term guest.
Check the Activities Catalog and see what trips are available and attempt to sign up for those in advance, so that when you arrive everything is taken care of. I suppose if they insist on a card, you could use your local address, pay $13 for an annual membership and take the trip. At your age you should go for it.
Google: name of town +senior center
For example: Albuquerque +Senior Centers
leads to: Senior and Multigenerational Centers
I am going to Huntington, NY in June, so I googled: Huntington NY +Senior Center and got:
The Huntington web site indicates that it may be limited to Huntington residents, but check on reciprocity, ask to go as a guest, or join using a local address. Bring your local senior center membership card.
If you visit Santa Fe, New Mexico, a visit to Tesuque Glass Works will provide an interesting experience; perhaps even better than the tours of the Corning Glass Museum in Corning, New York, since at Tesuque, you are closer to the action.
You can watch expert glass blowers turning out works of art, which are for sale.
If you arrange for it in advance, you can also take classes and blow your own creation. For classes contact: