ACOMA SKY CITY – a simple life that has endured for a thousand years


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.

Sky City Catholic Church

Catholic Church on top of Acoma Pueblo mesa. Sky City.

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.


Water Cistern at Acoma Pueblo

Cistern to collect water at Acoma Pueblo, Sky City.


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.


Road to top of mesa at Sky City, Acoma Pueblo

Road to top of Sky City, Acoma Pueblo.

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.


Aroma Pueblo, Sky City

Residence at Sky City.




  1. Tours: daily on the half-hour
  2. Location – 65 miles west of Albuquerque, NM, off of I-40.
  3. Hours: 9 – 5
  4. Cost – $20 for seniors
  5. Casino and Hotel –Sky City Casino Hotel
  6. Bus to top-  Small bus
  7. Pottery- see museum and tables set up by residents.
  8. Toilets – Nice at Center on desert floor, port-a-potties on the mesa
  9. Museum – small but impressive – lots of excellent pottery


  1. The streets are dirt and rough. You can fall.
  2. Hot in the summer. Take a hat and water. Buy a bottle from tables
  3. Toilets are port-a-potties.
  4. Senior rate is $20.
  5. Senior Centers have tours at various times of the year – check bulletin boards and senior magazines at centers.
  6. There is an RV park next to the Casino.


  1. 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.
  2. See the ABQ 50+ Activities Catalog.
  3. Sky City Cultural Center.
  4. New Mexico True











NATURAL GREEN BURIAL – An Environmentally Sound Option

I attended a Gray Panthers meeting and heard a speaker on Natural Burial.  I was unaware that it was legal, that it was inexpensive, environmentally friendly and for many a better and more natural alternative. I was also unaware how widespread it had become.

Natural Burial of New Mexico, operates La Puerta Natural Burial Ground about 60 miles from Albuquerque.  Natural Burial of New Mexico provides an inexpensive, environmentally sound solution to your remains at death. The body only has to be wrapped in an organic wrap; however, Natural Burial of New Mexico can arrange for an acceptable pine casket made by Fathers Building Futures, which provides training and work for fathers that have been in prison. You can do a lot of good at the end of your life.

Burial has to take place within twenty-four hours unless the body is iced, which can be done with ice packs from Techni-Ice which are available at Walmart.

Once the body is released by Hospice, the hospital, or the Medical Examiner, you can pick it up and take it to La Puerta Natural Burial Ground which is about 60 miles from Albuquerque. If you don’t want to transport the body yourself, and I must admit that I am not sure that I want to load a loved one in the back seat of my car and drive for 60 miles, Natural Burial has an arrangement with a local mortuary to transport the body, or Natural Burial will help you with the transport.

The body can’t be embalmed; if it is, they put it in an adjacent five acre plot so as to maintain the natural burial ground. You can have a natural marker but it has to blend in with the ground.

Natural burial is Kosher.

In addition, they also provide natural burial for pets for about $175.

The cost at the present time for the plot, burial and transportation to the site is $695. This does not include a coffin or cremation.

It relieves one from the stress of the funeral industry and its guilt-inducing arguments.

This is a national thing and a number of funeral homes are getting involved; however, you want to watch out for extras that may add to the cost.

You can read more in National Geographic News.

Natural Burial is available nation-wide and in Canada. You can find a provider on the Green Burial Council Web page.

You can also read up on natural burial on Amazon.





VISIT THE “OLD MAIN” NEW MEXICO PRISON – Scene of 1980 Prison Riot

In 1980 there was a prison riot in Santa Fe, New Mexico that resulted in the deaths of 33 inmates and the destruction of the New Mexico State Penitentiary. Since then a new prison has been built next to the remains of “Old Main.”
The New Mexico Department of Corrections conducts tours of Old Main at the New Mexico Prison in Santa Fe. I took the tour in 2012. The tour took about two hours.
“Old Main” was virtually destroyed and 33 inmates were murdered.
Tours are conducted for part of the year. The goal is to raise money for a museum; however, nothing seems to have happened in the last five years.
If you want tickets for the  Tour, click here; however, as of the date of posting this post, no tours are being offered. They may be offered again in 2018.
If you want to read about the 1980 prison riot, click here.
This is out of my comfort zone; but something we should be aware of.



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.



                                                          Sopapillas at Rancho de Chimayo  in Chimayo, NM

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.

Courtyard and entrance of Rancho de Chimayo


Statue at the entrance of Rancho de Chimayo


Courtyard dining room at Rancho de Chimayo

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.



GROWERS’ MARKETS – A source for traveling seniors!

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.

Some of the stands at the Los Ranchos Growers’ Market.

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:


“growers’ market”+City

“growers’ market”+Albuquerque

















On a Rick Steves’ tour to Ireland a few years ago, we visited a working sheep ranch and watched the dogs herd flocks of sheep following whistled commands from the sheep herder.

The Kissane Sheep Farm  is located in Moll’s Gap, Kenmare, County Ireland, Ireland. It is 7 Euros for an adult to watch the dogs and the shearers in action. You can also adopt a sheep, but if you want to take it home, you have to buy it and put up with an enormous amount of red tape. Better to adopt one in the name of a grandchild.

In addition we were able to watch expert shearers shear one of the sheep:

Irish sheep shearer working on a sheep.

I like Rick Steves’ tours because they always include something new; something beyond museums and restaurants; and, something that I know nothing about.  I wanted to replicate the experience when I returned to New Mexico.

Searching in my own backyard, I discovered the New Mexico Herding Dog Association and on Saturday, May 13, 2017 we went to one of its events on the New Mexico State Fair Grounds.

This was the herding instinct test in which herding dogs, as classified by the American Kennel Club, and which have no experience with sheep, are tested to see if they like sheep, with three sheep. Mixed results. A fascinating new sub-culture to me, and one close to home.

Sheep Dog at Herding Instinct Test in Albuquerque, NM


New Mexico Herding Dog Association – Herding Instinct Test

Trained Sheep Dog herding sheep into arena for Herding Instinct Test

Sheep Dog that has never seen sheep before being tested.

A variety of breeds tried to maneuver three sheep while their owners urged them on. At first the dogs didn’t do much, but after watching the owners race about herding the sheep, the dogs got the idea,  and tried it themselves.

About 40 sheep were kept in pens and were maneuvered about by a trained sheep dog which efficiently moved them from pen to pen and then into the arena where the test took place. The trained dog then sat quietly and watched from an adjoining arena.

The next step is to visit the FTB Ranch in Mountainair, NM and watch more events.

If interested you can search for events in your state on Google.

Search terms: State+herding dogs

ie Utah+herding dogs




MEETUP – social networking for seniors; and, everyone else-

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 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: +city, state

For example: Since I am going to Huntington, NY:

Google: +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: +name of town

They are worth considering.




SENIOR CENTER BULLETIN BOARDS – a source for travelers!

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:

Huntington Senior Centers trips

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:​
Corning also has classes in glass making.
Tesuque is located six miles North of Santa Fe on Bishops Lodge Road.