Lots of welcome shade from an intense New Mexico sun on the Aldo Leopold Trail in the Rio Grande River bosque in Albuquerque.
I was in Albuquerque last weekend and came across this roadrunner at a local park. It was a little shy and kept a constant distance from me and wouldn’t turn around or give me a profile view for nothing. I lived in New Mexico for years and I don’t think I ever saw one. When I worked summers in the oilfields of west Texas I saw lots of them. Of course back then we didn’t have smart phones snapping away at anything that moved.
I’m linking with Saturday’s Critters
Earlier this month, during my sojourn to Eagar, Arizona for a high school reunion, one of the things I really wanted to see was the Very Large Array, a radio telescope the feds built on the Plains of San Agustin. A huge, very flat, very dry, former lake bed in a remote part of New Mexico. My family left the area in 1971 and the facility started being built in 1973 and was operational a few years later.
I had read and seen photos of the giant antennas at the site. There are twenty eight of them and they are ninety feet tall. When I dropped out of the mountains to the plains where the VLA is located, the plains are so vast that the antennas looked like small mushrooms popping up on a large football field. But when you get close, the antennas are indeed gigantic.
There are twenty eight of these antennas spread out on three rails going out from a hub. The rails are in a Y configuration and and are about ten miles in length give or take. This allows the towers to be wide apart to focus in on details. You see the tires are all wired together with fiberoptics and are connected to a supercomputer. So it simulates up to a 22 mile wide telescope. I am not sure that I understand it all but fortunately they have a comprehensive web site with all sorts of videos, photos, and other things to help you make sense of it.
They have a very good, self guided, walking tour. They ask that you register in advance. It only costs a few dollars per person.
This is big science but it is retro big science. They first started making images there in 1980. They have upgraded the software, wiring, and computational capabilities so they keep the site current.
The VLA is in this remote site because of the flat terrain, high altitude, and low humidity. The mountains that ring the plains help keep out radio waves. Warning though, the site has not very good cell phone coverage and the facility has no street address so they suggest you download the map on google maps or may never get there. They actually don’t like cell phones and ask that you turn yours completely off when visiting. They said the cell phones can kind of fog the images. In fact everything you have that is wireless including blue tooth just turn off.
This is the admin building where the technical stuff and people are. They let you walk on the balcony but you cannot go inside.
This is the barn where they do maintenance and upgrades on the antennas.
This is the transporter that picks up and moves the antennas. They change their configuration of the towers every several months.
Check this link for a video narrated by Jodie Foster explaining the VLA. She does a lot better job than I can. She made a movie, Contact, that had her at the VLA communicating with aliens.
On my recent trip out west for a high school reunion I stopped at the old mining town of Magdalena, New Mexico. Ever since I was a little kid I was intrigued by old mining town of the west. At the time, the early 1970’s the town reminded me of the desolate towns in Clint Eastwood’s Fistful of Dollars movies. Magdalena was a town where we never stopped, we just went through. My dad worked for the US Forest Service and they had a ranger district in Magdalena and my mother would thank her lucky stars that dad never been transferred there. So here I am years later able to stop. I didn’t spend too long though.
The Magdalena area was of course populated by Native Americans prior to, and after, Europeans arrived. Spainish soldiers explored the area in the 1500’s but I don’t think they stayed. In the 1860’s miners were digging for lead, gold, and silver and the town became incorporated in 1884. A railroad spur was built to the area about then. The railroad helped spur the cattle and wool industries in the region. Most of the mines were up the canyon in the little town of Kelly.
After World War II Magdalena started a long decline as the mines had depleted also wool and cattle prices declined. The railroad quit operating and the tracks were pulled up in the early 1970’s. Ranchers were shipping their cattle by truck by then.
The town has less than a thousand inhabitants but has kind of turning into a funky location. The town’s hotel and other buildings have been restored and there is kind of a funky vibe in the air. The Very Large Array Radio telescope is within a half hour and that has added some spice to the mix. They still have that beautiful blue New Mexico sky overhead as well as an intense sun beaming down despite relatively low temperatures.
I drove up the canyon the short distance to the old town of Kelly where the mines actually were. Lots of old mine entrances fenced off and violators will be violated signs. I don’t think anybody lives there any longer but it looks like a great place for the local high schoolers to party. The only building still standing was this old church.
I was up there all by myself and then this old guy in a truck with Texas plates shows up and he comes over and we start talking. Texans are like that you know. His family has a ranch in west Texas and it had an old abandoned mine in it. The guys brother was poking around in it and found some old metal parts of some kind labelled Magdalena Smelting Company, or something like that so this guy was always intrigued by that and so was scouting things out. He wanted to explore some more and I had a timed entry admission to the Very Large Array and so we parted ways.
On the way out of Kelly I came across these old foundations. Who knows maybe that was Magdalena Smelting Company?
So I got to visit Magdalena after being intrigued by it 50 years ago. Never give up is what I say.
Here is a video of the ghost town of Kelly made by not me. I tried to find old photos and there a bunch of them and many of them very cool old cowboy, ranching, mining stuff but all rights are reserved so I am not touching them.
This is my favorite Christmas Card this year. A water color set in New Mexico. I grew up in New Mexico and I don’t think there is anything prettier than snow on adobe. Throw in a traditional blue door and a ristra of red chilis and it is perfect as far as I am concerned. Check out the artist, Terry Clark, on his blog Coffee With Clark. Artist, Journalism Professor, Journalist, all around great guy, and fellow lover of New Mexico. He is painting and posting lots of New Mexican scenes and commentary this month on a Christmas theme.
I like the quiet moments of Christmas the best. The introspection and remembering years past, especially the loved ones who are no longer around.
Plus, young kids are great at Christmas. They still have the wonder of how it all happened. Plus I like playing with the little kids toys the best. Especially during the afternoon nap.
So unlike Professor Clark I never got around to making cards except I put this together on PicMonkey. So, to those who celebrate the holiday, Merry Christmas!!!
These are photos, taken by my Dad back in the 1970’s I think, of the Albuquerque Balloon Festival when it was just getting started and has now turned into a big international event.
We lived in Albuquerque back then and the Festival caused quite a stir. There were lots of fender benders all over town because people were looking at the balloons instead of the road ahead of them as they drove. We had balloons come down in the neighborhood. It was all very exciting.
I thought there was nothing more beautiful than all the colorful balloons in the sky. Now I understand the sky is full of them.
So maybe one day I will go back. Check out the Balloon Festival web site for more information. Let me know if you are going. Apply for media credentials. Tell me if you get them.
I’m linking with Skywatch Friday
I just finished “The Pot Thief Who Studied Georgia O’Keefe” by J. Michael Orenduff. The seventh book in his “Pot Thief” series. The book, like the rest of the series, is set in New Mexico and features Hubie Schuze, the owner of a native american pot store (the pottery kind of pot, not the Colorado variety) who buys and sells pots but is also known to take his Bronco out to the boonies and dig one up illegally on public land and sell it.
Hubie is quite the character and you can tell the author has fun with him. In the book Hubie falls in love with a beautiful woman. (Thankfully the author closes the blinds and turns up the music on the intimate scenes like I wish more authors would) Hubie also steals a pot from a top secret military installation and makes a copy of it and then finds out that his pots are changing hands way faster than he can keep track of himself and of course one of the characters ends up dead and Hubie sets to finding out whodunnit. He also gets involved in an obscure O’Keefe painting.
He spends a lot of time at his favorite bar drinking margaritas and eating chips with his friends. Orenduff lived and worked in New Mexico and knows it. I was born there and spent my high school and college years in Albuquerque and get homesick from time to time. This book is the latest mystery set in New Mexico. If you love New Mexico and fun mysteries this is for you!!
So I give this five stars out of five.