North of Elephant Butte to Socorro and in between
Mar 19, 2009
|After a day of enjoying our campsite and a great hike, Tuesday we headed north for some sight seeing. Our first stop was a rest area along Hwy 25. Signs indicated that there was an historical maker and there was a strange structure not too far from the rest area. The rest area talked about Fort Craig. This part of New Mexico is peppered with the remains and/or markers of the many forts that were built in the days of the indian conflicts.
The structure was not mentioned on any of the placards at the rest area. There was a road but we had to drive ahead a bit and backtrack to reach this little gravel road. Turns out this monolith looking structure is part of New Mexico's "Cultural Corriders Public Art Program" to celebrate the "El Camino Scenic Byway". This same road took us to the "El Camino International Heritage Center". This was not on the agenda but it sounded really interesting. Well the building was really interesting. It was 3 1/2 miles down this road and in the middle of nowhere and closed on Tuesday's...only Tuesday's. Darn.
Our next stop was Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. It has a small visitor's center and gift shop. An extensive cactus garden. It is also a wildlife training and research facility. At certain times of the year this area is home to thousands cranes, three different species of cranes, and a host of ducks and geese. This time of year is the season transition so all that was left was ducks. The photos and information in the center was very informative making us wish we had been in the area in January when all the birds were still living in the refuge ponds.
San Antonio was mentioned in the "places to see and do" for their "world famous Green Chili Burger" at the Owl Bar and Cafe. The cafe boasts they were the first to ever serve a green chili burger. Well, San Antonio is nothing to write home about. We were hungry and tried the burger. It was good but I would not go out of my way for it.
We needed gas so we stopped at this little place up the street from the cafe that was hard to tell if it was still an operating gas station. Everything in this area is "historical" (old and used) looking. In the little store I found this great placard hanging over the fudge and ice cream counter; "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, latte in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out screaming "Woo Hoo, what a ride!" Now this is a motto to live by.
Our next stop was Socorro. We wanted to walk the old town and visit the Mineral Museum. Socorro was a lot bigger and more spread out than we expected. We drove the main drag from one end of town to the other looking for the "touristy" signs and found none. On our way back into town we stumbled into the New Mexico Tech which is where the Mineral Museum was located. New Mexico Tech is a really nice campus with the museum right in the middle.
The museum is a must see. It houses hundreds of mineral samples from all over the world. They are displayed beautifully. This building is a working and teaching building. There was no admission charge for all the amazing samples of all kinds of minerals, rocks and gems.
We headed back to town and found the old part of Socorro. The town was founded in 1598. It was a place that gave aid to the Spanish Expeditions traveling to colonize areas of New Mexico. The town was abandoned in 1680 and remained empty for many years. New settlers came and slowly rebuilt. Socorro was home to about 600 by th 1850's. The railroad, and becoming a center for mining, made the town boom in the 1880's and '90s.
The walking tour was OK. There were some really interesting buildings and some not so. One thing Socorro is trying to do is restore the buildings but use them for current businesses. Many are closed or empty. The restoration is going very slowly. It was nice a walk and added a lot to our needed number of steps walked for the day.
On the way home, we passed a convoy of trucks carrying all the pieces of a wind power structure. The individual blades are incredibly long. Our explorations today put nearly 200 miles on the bike. That's our preferred upper limit for a day's ride.