Tuesday, April 22, 2008. Museums of Santa Fe


We are alternating days between day trips in the van and museums. Yesterday was a trip day to Albuquerque via the Turquoise Trail, and today will be a Santa Fe museum day.

We drive to the downtown plaza and make our way to the museum called the Palace of Governors. Originally constructed by the Spanish in the 1600s, it now contains the history of Santa Fe.


Local crafts people are lined up under the extended roof. This must be for protection from the sun, but this morning it's cold, and they are mostly bundled up.

While wandering around, we find amazing art galleries and sculptures.



It's here that we purchase our four-museum money-saver passes, and we zip out the first ticket. The Palace of Governor's is a pretty fascinating place, and we take a very informative and interesting self-guided tour.

Afterwards, we're hungry, and we check out some of the plaza restaurants, choosing one with upstairs, outdoor porch seating, called The Ore House. The theme must be mining.

After lunch, and after an ice cream at an establishment in the plaza arcade, we set off for the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, and it's here that I learn that O'Keeffe has two f's in it. There aren't that many O'Keeffe paintings, but there's an interesting video about her life and work. It's excellent because you get to sit down. Or sit to get down.

It turns out that whereas I love the scenery of New Mexico, as she did, I'm not much of a a Georgia O'Keeffe art fan.

Next, we make our way to the famous Loretto Chapel, where which was commissioned in 1872 by Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy (remember the town that came too quick, when Bob tried to have a half hour nap. "Wake me when we get to Lamy," Bob said. Two minutes later, Sharon said, "We're at Lamy.").


The architect died during the construction, and after much of the chapel was constructed, the convent sisters asked where the stairs were. "You use a ladder," they were told. "Huh-uh," they retorted, only in polite nun language.

The story goes that the nuns prayed for a solution for nine days, when a shabby looking stranger appeared at their door, telling the nuns he would build a staircase but needed total privacy (A variation of this says he appeared at the door, looking for work, then when the problem was explained to him, he took on the work). He built the staircase alone. No one saw how he did it, and he used only primitive tools - a square, a saw and some warm water (sound like McGiver?). When he finished, he left without saying anything. There is some evidence that French-born Francois-Jean Rochas, a member of a celibate order of artisans in the southwest, was the stranger who showed up and built the staircase, completing it in 1877.

Many people who witnessed the staircase felt that it was a miraculous occurrence, as it had no banister, nor a center support column. It ascends twenty feet, making two complete revolutions, and was built without the use of nails. The stair diameter is small enough, that the central spiral was apparently narrow enough to serve as a central beam. Nevertheless, there was no attachment to any wall or pole.

Later, when the sisters became nervous that they might fall off the staircase, since it had no railing, they contracted with one Phillip August Hetch to build the banister in 1887.

It was in the building of this railing that the outer spiral got fastened to an adjacent pillar.

For a long time, the mystery had never been solved as to who the carpenter was or where he got his lumber, since there were no reports of anyone seeing lumber delivered or even seeing the man come and go while the construction was being done. Since he left before the Mother Superior could pay him, the Sisters of Loretto offered a reward for the identity of the man, but it was never claimed.

No Birding Today.

Life Birds Still Stand At: 4
Trip Birds Still Stand At: 94

RV Park: Night 4 of 7 at Trailer Ranch RV Park. $33

Miles Today (on our pickup): 0
Total Pickup Trip Miles Still Stand At: 1956


Wednesday, April 23, 2008. Day Trip to Taos.


Today, we are doing the Taos loop, going up a back way, and returning the highway. Er, the highway way. Uh, on the highway.

Our first stop is at Chimayo, and is specifically El Sanctuario de Chimayo. It is sometimes called the "Lourdes of America." It is famous for what one might call "healing earth." While church officials say that the earth is blessed by the padres of the sanctuary, visitors over the years have said that the earth has healing powers.

Inside the church, in one small room you have to duck your head to walk into, is a concrete floor, with a hole about two feet in diameter, filled with earth. Sharon and I independently and separately decide to filter some of the dirt through our fingers. You never know, ya know?

There are some great scenes on the grounds here and I rack up twenty or thirty photos. One interesting scene is a black-billed magpie resting on the back of a palomino. Others are of the stream that passes by, crosses inside arches, in a line and more.


One of Sharon's favorite things here is a man who carefully applies a layer of paint to a picnic table and benches, then cleans up and disappears, not leaving any sign at all warning of wet paint. Maybe the healing earth also can convey fast-drying properties.

We move on and stop at the Castillo Gallery in Cordova. A very small gallery, but with very interesting items on display for sale. We are just able to pass however, and we're off again.

As we make our way, we come upon a slow moving procession. It includes a semi-truck pulling half of a mobile home, and it takes up about 80% of the road. A young man walks beside it with a telescoping pole. Occasionally, he extends the pole in order to raise wires which the mobile home would otherwise snag and pull down.

It becomes clear that at the current rate of about four feet per minute, we're going to be here a while. We keep looking for an opening, but don't get one. We see people coming out direction who have pulled into driveways to await the passing of the procession, and then they get back on the road and head off in the direction from which we've come.

Aaaargh. This is going to take all day.

But hark, a light in yonder window burns. I can see a group of people ahead of us, and a small caterpillar. Not that small. A bulldozer, then, if you prefer. So in about ten more minutes, the procession stops, the truck unhitches from the trailer, and the bulldozer hitches up.

They have torn out many feet of fencing, and it's clear now that the bulldozer is going to turn left, taking the huge mobile home with it, and the left turn would have taken out all the fencing if it were still up.

A dog across the street seems to feel that it is running the show.


So in another ten minutes, the dozer has taken the mobile home completely off the road.

I have jumped out and taken some photos of the process, so I jump back in and we're on our way.

We now continue on our way, but we begin to have questions about the road. Why is it so narrow? Why is it not paved? Why is there a small stream flowing onto it from the left, down the hill towards us, then off of it, to our right? Why aren't there more cars coming from Taos? WHAT'S GOING ON????

Jerry recently purchased a GPS unit and upon checking it, we have somehow gotten off the back road, and gotten onto the really back road - the road to nowhere. So we reverse directions, and head back towards Trunchas. We sheepishly wave at the same people who waved at us as we drove into no mans land. They must think we are dorky tourists, to which I heartily agree.

So we soon discover that the main, paved road made a left turn in the middle of town, but we were so engrossed in the trailer that none of us noticed. Jerry makes the correct turn, and we're now back on track.

Sharon, who's never prone to exaggeration likes to tell the story that we are following this house on the road, which takes up the whole road. And later a river is crossing the road.

We pass through the small villages of Las Trampas and Vadito. We pass through Ranchos de Taos, then the town of Taos itself, and finally we come to the Taos Pueblo. Sharon and I have been here some years ago, and it's pretty much like I remember it.

Great photo ops all over the place. We visit all the little private shops in the pueblo, talk with some of the residents, have some fry bread, then finally we head off to an incredible, exciting view.


Ten or fifteen minutes later, we are standing on the Taos - Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, and it's 650 feet down to the river. More photos.


And after getting our fill, we head back, but we take the road which more or less parallels the Rio Grande. There are two memorable things we see. First is a kayaker, who seems to be practicing getting into and out of trouble. He's pretty good.

Second is the fact that there seems to be thousands of some kind of flying insects over the river. We decide (i.e. Sharon says) that they are May Flies.

We continue on home, hitting Souper Salad again for dinner. But dangit, there's no banana pudding tonight. That's the main thing we came for.

San Il Defonso Pueblo Birds: Say's Phoebe, American Goldfinch.

Bandelier National Monument Birds: Orange-crowned Warbler, Virginia's Warbler, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Pygmy Flycatcher

No Birding Today

Life Birds Still Stand At: 4
Trip Birds Still Stand At: 94

RV Park: Night 5 of 7 at Trailer Ranch RV Park. $33

Miles Today (on our pickup): 0

Total Pickup Trip Miles Still Stand At: 1956


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