February 28, 2010

The Great SouthWest Passage aka Chronicles of Las Cruces: Part 7 - "Speaking Spanish..."

It surprises me how many people do not realize New Mexico is part of the United States based on questions I have been asked when I stated I was going there.

“Do you need a passport?” was one. “Can you drink the water?” another. “Do you speak Spanish?” was one that makes sense. Given the fact that the majority of the population is Native American and Mexican, speaking the language would have some advantages.

To the rescue comes mrsfabp! I must admit I was looking forward to the cultural shock. Spanish is such a pretty language even if it was well beyond the capabilities of a college student in 1975 (yea, that is me…). Little did I know however that I was married to Sonia Sotomayor. We got off the plane in El Paso, Texas and after a nice lunch, we were picked up by the hotel shuttle van to get us there for the evening, leftover nachos and burrito in tow. Our driver spoke no English and I was anticipating a quiet drive. Suddenly Ms. Sotomayor/mrsfabp is talking in Spanish, asking the name of the mountain range ahead in the distance, asking if the driver was working tomorrow (to drive us back) and commenting on the relative handsomeness of her husband (yes, me again) . To say I was shocked is an understatement.

She was good and deserving of some props.

Now I only hope she can make us some good Mexican food favorites….

February 27, 2010

The Great SouthWest Passage aka Chronicles of Las Cruces: Part 6 – “These are a few of my favorite things…”

(My pix, desert sunset)

Mrsfabp and I love to explore. We did it a great deal when we were younger, taking drives to visit new areas, see the sights, taste the food, shop the shops and just drink in the culture and ambience of the area. When we made the first major move of our lives, from NYC to the great north woods of Massachusetts, that is exactly what we did – camping, motelling, checking out various areas to live.

So this trip to Las Cruces was that same sort of thing. Sure, we are older but we are also wiser. On this trip we saw lots of things, met lots of people and really reveled in the area. What follows is a list of some of my favorite things from the 10 day adventure…

Wine – Heart of the Desert “Viva la Roja”, a varietal blend, so far unattainable in Massachusetts.

Beer – Had several micro brews while here, High Desert Brewing Company was excellent but it could have been the green chile cheeseburgers and green chile cheese fries too.

Nachos – the first big test of a Mexican restaurant, the best by far were from Carlos & Mickey's Mexican Restaurant. We got the shredded beef and chicken which was piled high on a plate with cheese galore. I must admit that we did not have a bad order of nachos along the way. El Comedor in Mesilla was excellent too.

Green chile cheeseburgers – This is a quest in New Mexico and our friends brought us to two places where we had them – The High Desert Brewing Company, which was excellent, and Guacamole's Bar and Grille which was very good, boosted by the atmosphere of dining in an adobe walled patio.

Mountain view from our friends patio – we went to their house, a classic real adobe and sat on their patio among the pecan trees, looking dreamingly at the mountains. Good company, good beer and great enchiladas surely helped.

Roadrunners – I really wanted to see one and we lucked out with two, fast little suckers, but worth the effort.

Desert smells – we went into the desert twice to see the sunset and were pleasantly surprised at the smells. There is mesquite and creosote bush which adds some exotic flavor to the smells. We hear it is wonderful after a rain but all we saw was virga.

Tall cacti – each foot of height they say is equal to about 100 years of age so the 18 footer by the Las Cruces Art Museum = 180 years old.

Chips the size of Frisbees – served with bean salsa at Carlos & Mickey's; OUTSTANDING.

Route 70 bypass rd around Alamogordo – I was disappointed in this town (see later episode on this very subject) but the best of it is the bypass road around it. Not a good sign Alamogordans.

10 day vacations without any rain – that may be a first.

Beating the snow out of town twice – See episode 1 of this saga. We win, twice!

Watching mrsfabp speak Spanish – this too will be the subject of a future episode. Surfice it to say I didn’t realize I was married to Sonia Sotomayor.

Seeing hawks all over the desert – I love birds and saw several species of hawks hovering in the dessert, searching for lunch. Them, not us…

Driving 80 mph with the window open, in February!– Making the White Sands Range run almost daily, it is a freeing experience. ‘nuf said!

LC Public Library – good library is important to any move we make and this one passed the test. Easy to get to, great parking, nice collection and plenty of computers. A-OK!

Coas Used Book Store – after a good library, a good bookstore is paramount. Coas meets this challenge.

Sonic – in the great fast food wasteland, Sonic is a step above. I wish they were in the northeast

Writing names in the sand – Yes, mrsfabp did it. Yes we have pictures. No I did not try to write names in the snow in Ruidoso, if you know what I mean...

LC Farmers Market – This will be a regular Saturday experience for us. It was fun and everyone says hello there.

Mesilla Plaza – photographers dream, I will spend a lot of time there.

White Sands Monument - it is like you are on a different planet. On the T Fab P scale of visual awesomeness, nature mode, it ranks only behind the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. Sorry Niagara Falls, you slip a notch.

Pizza at Zeffiro’s - When we moved from NYC to Massachusetts, we had to give up certain foods – bagels, pizza and hard rolls come to mind. In NM we found a great pizza place that makes nice brick oven rounds of fame. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

February 26, 2010

The Great SouthWest Passage aka Chronicles of Las Cruces: Part 5 - "Beep-Beep"

If the state bird of New Mexico was anything other than the roadrunner, someone was not doing their job. There is a certain “Looney Tunes” influence working here which gives this particular bird a bit more cache if you know what I mean. Really, you cannot hear the name without thinking of the epic Roadrunner vs. Wile E. Coyote battles. Having now been to New Mexico, all those backgrounds from the cartoon come to life including the mountain passes drop offs which created the mrsfabp squeal I grew so fond of on this trip (NOT!)

I asked our friends if there was a good spot or way to see a roadrunner in the wild. Unfortunately unlike whale watches where the prey is a tad bigger and the boat captains offer promises, there are no guarantees in bird watching or roadrunner spotting. The Zees told us “Look along the desert highway, maybe you’ll see one.”

Seven days into our visit, it happened. We went to Cloudcroft for some fancy shopping and even fancier lunch at The Lodge there. Great food, nice mimosas and incredible views. As we left we decided on a circuitous route through Alamogordo to get to Ruidoso. One twisting, turning, fast dropping road down the mountain later, we were back in the desert on a side road pulling into town, when it happened. Two roadrunners sped across the black top and into the brush on the side of the road. We were able to quickly stop and began looking for them. Despite their relative lack of size, and wonderful color camouflage, we spotted them. We tried our best to snap off a couple of pictures (like 20 of them) but they are just a bit to fast and well suited to their environment to get the show stopping shot. Hopefully you can see something. I promise that when you come out to visit, (and you are ALL invited), I will guarantee a roadrunner sighting, even if we have to go to the zoo to do it.

I have included a couple of pictures we got of our roadrunner encounter but you must remember, they are fast and camouflaged well. The pictures has been enhanced for your viewing pleasure (click on the pix to embiggen!)

February 24, 2010

The Great South West Passage aka Chronicles of Las Cruces - Part 4: “Ah, isn’t the border like 100 miles from here? …”

On this recent visit to LCNM, we actually stayed in Ruidoso, about 138 miles away and commutated about 5 of the 8 days we were there. The reason for this is that Ruidoso was the closest timeshare we could trade our Cape Cod week for.

It was a really nice, calming drive unless you were mrsfabp white-knuckling it through the mountain passes. Best of all, a significant part of the ride has posted speeds of 70 and 75 miles an hour which is all the invitation I need to put that sporty little rental into overdrive.

Temperature ranges were wild as we left the mountains of Ruidoso and went through mountain passes, to the desert. It was not uncommon for it to be 21 – 28 degrees as we left our condo and 22 minutes later on the floor of the desert seeing the thermometer registering 55 –60 degrees.

The White Sands Range Run is what I called the approximate 40 mile drive from the White Sands Monument Park to the White Sands Missile Range. It was a 4 lane divided highway with 75 mile per hour signs except when passing the air force base or other military installation. I made this trip each time, each way in under 12 parsecs (Star Wars meme) which meant the 40 miles in under 30 minutes – about 82 MPH I’d guess. But like the stormtroopers guarding the galaxy, there was a bit of an oddity out there in the wide open desert spaces. Plopped down in the middle of the run was a border patrol stop on the east side of the run. This meant each night returning to Ruidoso, we made a stop at the border patrol building, to chat with our local public servant.

Now be mindful that we are at least 100 miles from the nearest border unless you mean Texas. The degree of interrogation varied but always included one question – “Are you US citizens?” after which we were sent on our way. One time there was a “illegal alien” sniffing dog that gave the car the once over, but that was about it for the stop. One time we saw several border patrol offices pull a bunch of people out of a truck and give it the twice over but we weren’t sticking around to see what happened after that.

My first thought was – is this racial profiling? We were not asked for any identification, were not questioned beyond if we were US citizens and except for the dog and a cursory look into our car a couple of times, let pass quickly. If I looked Mexican, would I have been asked for more? I think I already know that answer…

February 23, 2010

The Great SouthWest Passage aka Chronicles of Las Cruces - Episode 3: “Damned spot…”

Lady Macbeth “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!”
Mrsfabp “Why don’t you wear that white shirt. You look so good in it”
T Fab P “Because it is white, you know me.”

I have a nice white polo shirt. I have worn it a couple of times but must admit to a bit of paranoia about it. You see, I am a slob. Spills seek me out as if to make a good impression. If something is spilled across the room it will eventually find its way to the front of my shirt. I have a closet full of shirts with a stain right in the middle, front and center. But when mrsfabp says those magic words, “you look so good,” I aim to please.

Of course, the reality of this situation makes itself evident immediately. I know I will get a stain. I just hope that first, it is small, and second, it is light enough in color to at least give the appearance of being minor.

In the gambling parlance of the day, the over/under on the stain occurring was 30 minutes. I felt confident I was in control so I bet the over – I could wear the shirt without mishap for more than 30 minutes. The timer is set, the die is cast. I did have some good inside information, sort of like Martha Stewart and her stocks sale; I knew we were not going to go out to breakfast that day. Breakfast is a veritable stain waiting to happen. There is ketchup on the hash browns, butter and syrup on the hot cakes and toast crumbs and jelly and butter to defend against. No, today it would be a cup of coffee and plans for a big Mexican meal for lunch.

Out of the condo, into the car and on the road without mishap we began. A quick drive to the Apache Indian Casino Convenience Store (yes that is what it is) and mrsfabp gets 2 coffees and some muffins. Quick mental check – muffins, usually crumbs but no major stain potential. Watch the fingers though, they can get sticky. Fifteen minutes in, no problems noted or anticipated. Would I like to look at a newspaper? ARE YOU CRAZY? THERE ARE INK STAINS WAITING TO JUMP FROM THE PAPER TO MY FINGERS AND THEN ONTO MY SHIRT!

There we sit in the parking lot, enjoying the sun, beautiful sky, hot coffee. My attention wandered for only a second, really, it wasn’t that long. As I brought the cup to my lips, I noticed a drop of coffee on the cover, a small drop with mean intentions but didn’t give it a second thought until it was too late. Cup to the lips, drop rolls around the top, leaps to edge and dives for my shirt. I realize what is happening and move the napkin toward an appropriate position, but it is too late and does not get there in time. It leaps from the cup edge and lands with a splat on the front of my shirt.

I glance at the clock, 22 minutes have past. I am a loser.


It is small, it is light in color, it may not be too noticeable, but it is there. Damned spot!

February 22, 2010

The Great SouthWest Passage aka Chronicles of Las Cruces - Episode 2: “How dry I am…”

When you tell people you are going to the desert the first thing they say to you is “It is so dry there, drink a lot of water.” Even if they have never been there themselves they give you the great desert warning. After this trip what I can say is until you have been there, experienced the dryness, you have no idea what it is like. But I am going to tell you.

First of all everyone carries water with them – jogger, water bottle in hand, mailman, water bottle in mail bag, construction worker, student, business woman, all have water. Everyone offers you water too. We went into a realtor office at 9 am one day during the trip and the receptionist said “Would you like some water (pause…) or maybe coffee?” She gave us two big bottles. Our other realtor brought 3 big bottles of the stuff when we were out for a couple of hours looking at new constructed homes. Me and mrsfabp had a water bottle in our sporty little rental that we drank from constantly. You need it!

The air here is dry, DRY I say. We went out to the desert to watch the sun set and saw rain falling from some clouds but disappearing before getting to the ground. WikiAnswers says “Virga is any form of precipitation that doesn’t reach the ground. There could be rain virga or snow virga.”

I spilled some water on my shirt (surprise!) but it seemed that instantly, it disappeared, shirt dry again. Towels dry quickly after a shower as do people.

One other amazing thing is the feel of dry skin during warm weather. At home, when the temperature approaches 70 degrees, your skin feels moist, almost clammy especially if the humidity level is above the comfortable 50’s. Here in the LCNM (Las Cruces, New Mexico), the skin stays dry. Sure, my lips chapped a bit, but I would trade that in for clammy any day.

Have a drink on us, don’t mind if I do.

February 21, 2010

The Great SouthWest Passage aka Chronicles of Las Cruces - Episode 1: The Gamblers

The idea was more than a year in the planning, our exploratory to Las Cruces, New Mexico. One of the dominating concerns was the weather. No, not in LC, but rather can we get out of Massachusetts on an airplane, in the winter? As anyone from the northeast knows, weather dominates all travel decisions (see travel during Thanksgiving week or the Christmas holidays). However after all the planning is done, we wait for the weather report. We became close friends with all the forecasters on the Weather Channel. Our fingers automatically type www.accuweather.com every time we sit at a computer. We become weather Nazis. It all begins with the 10 Day Forecast and we count down the time from there, hoping that the weatherperson (PC meme)/ meteorologist (gender neutral, better) will be right this time or in our case wrong because a major storm is looming on the horizon for the northeast.

The Northeast has had a difficult F-month. Places like Washington DC, Philadelphia, NYC have all dealt with major snow problems (current temperature in Las Cruces 67 degrees, chance of snow? YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING!), and now a major weather attack is on for our vacation. We originally were leaving MA at 5am to drive to NYC for a 12:30 pm flight out of La Guardian airport. But the panic was on. First change of plans was to leave Tuesday evening so as not to have to drive in the snow. Second change was to book earlier flight – 6:30 am to beat the snow but the storm sensed our panic and moved its own timetable up. Snow in NYC by Tuesday night, MA by morning. Frantic cell calls got us a shot at a last flight out of LGA on Tuesday evening but we missed it by 10 minutes, cursing all the way as a few flakes began to laugh at us on their way down to the airport runway. We had a 6am flight, no sleep for the worrying and fingers cramped by lack of blood due to crossing.

Here is where our luck began to actually change. We awoke at 4am with only a light dusting and wet roads on the ground. A quick ride to the airport got us to the baggage check in by 5am and thru security (that is another story – look for “Pat Down Penguin” in another episode). Boarding went smoothly and we watched the snow increase in intensity and start to stick to things like the plane’s wings and the runway. There was a delay, then another delay and then they said they needed to de-ice the plane which only creates more anxiety for me, a reluctant flyer. Finally after 45 minutes they announce that departure was eminent and off we were thru the blowing, heavy and visibility altering snow, now officially in my mind the WORSE BLIZZARD OF THE CENTURY. Later we found out there were only a few more flights out of LGA and that other travelers were waiting 2 days to get out of the backlog of flights.

Dallas-Fort Worth airport was a breeze to get thru on our connecting flight except for the fact that you had to get a train and a taxi to make the 45 minute journey across it. OK, that is a bit of hyperbole but it did take quite a long handicap cart ride to get to the next departing gate. All the talk in DFW was about the impending snowstorm predicted, yes, snow in Dallas and the people were a bit on edge. They got 6 inches of the foreign white stuff beginning that night but by then we were safely ensconced in an El Paso hotel for the night. We were late due to the delay at LGA, missed the connecting flight but easily got on the next plane headed to El Paso. Of course our luggage decided to take a different route on a different plane to a different city. We don’t need another lost luggage story so suffice it to say the luggage got a taxi ride to our hotel about 4 hours after we had arrive. It was only thru impeccable travel planning that we had carry-on bags with toiletries, medications and the like with us so we were happy to await the clothing arrival. It also helped that we went to Mexican meal at an airport restaurant with a nice waiter, good tap beer and awesome nachos. Aaaa Mexican food, such a comfort!

That is the story of the first leg of our journey, with several episodes of the Chronicles to come. Lots happened, LOTS, and over the course of the next couple of weeks you will get to hear more about it. Aren’t you lucky. So, in the words of Las Crucians (is that a word? It is now…) – MaƱana!

February 7, 2010

Our trip to Las Cruces or how we ended up in New Mexico

The first thoughts I had about retirement was where do we want to settle down. When we left New York City back in the '70s, the prerequisite for moving was staying close to family. We essentially we drew a 150 mi. circle around N.Y. and thought we would move within that circle to be out of the urban atmosphere yes still be able to see family. This is how we ended up in Massachusetts.

After some 27 years here, it is time to move on. We were tired of city life. We wanted to raise our kids in a place where they could see trees and animals and not spend hours in traffic or crowded schools. Massachusetts offered that to us. We have a nice home, 3 acres of woods, and a view of sunsets that is outstanding. Those are the pluses. On the minus side of the ledger, we need to drive 30 minutes or more for everything. Want to go to the movies, 45 minutes. Want to eat in a nice restaurant, 45 minutes. Want to see some turkeys or deer, 3 seconds. Want to find a good bagel, three hours. You get my point.

Over the last several years we have used vacation time to explore potential retirement places. This included Cape Cod, the Outer Banks, North and South Carolina, even Virginia. Our report:
Cape Cod too cold, too much snow, too expensive.
Outer Banks - too humid, too expensive.
North and South Carolina - too hot with too much humidity. Same with Virginia. I hate heat and humidity together.

So we began looking for a site that met these needs – sun, no snow but low humidity and the desert southwest began calling us. New Mexico seemed to offer a lot and the exploration began on the internet. Santa Fe seemed too expensive plus they get snow as does Taos. Albuquerque was just too hot most of the time but Deming and Las Cruces offered more.

Deming seemed too small for us now. We had done BIG city (NYC) and small town (North Brookfield) and wanted something different than either. Las Cruces seemed to offer that: larger population, culturally interesting (Native American and Hispanic) yet still close to medical services and a lower cost of living. Once we came to this conclusion, Mrsfabp did what she does best and the information started to pour in. We read about the climate, the schools, housing market, crime statistics, restaurants and more. Looked at pictures, saw videos, contacted realtors and builders. She read blogs, bulletin boards, emails and the like, passing them on to me. We made some internet friends (that’s a whole ‘nother story Lucy!) and planned a trip. That adventure to explore the area begins this Wednesday!

BTW, the forecast right now is for snow on Wednesday. Nooooooooo!!!

February 2, 2010

Read any good facts lately?

Some little known facts posted on Reddit.com. All were fact checked with documentation cited on the website.

John Tyler, 10th president of the United States was born in 1790. He has 2 living grandsons. That would be 3 generations spanning 4 centuries. How is this possible? John Tyler had a son when he was 63 and then that son had a child when he was 75.

Methamphetamine is sold as a prescription drug in the US; it's trade name is Desoxyn

Norway has more coastline than the US, including Alaska and Hawaii.

Viking ships could sail in only 18 inches of water. If it got too shallow, all the men could jump out and carry the ship until the water was deep enough.

There are bags of shit on the moon

A compressed spring weighs MORE than a relaxed spring! If you put a spring and a piece of rope on a scale, and then tie the rope around the spring so that it is compressed and weigh the two again, the scale will read two different things. By tightening the rope and compressing the spring, you gave it potential energy. This energy has a weight. Think Einstein and E=mc2. It's an unfamiliar notion because the weight difference is so small that it can hardly be measured, so we don't experience it in everyday's life.

The word, "run" has the most definitions in the dictionary. In dictionary.com:
Run = 178 definitions
Turn = 122 definitions
Set = 119 definitions

Sailors (stereotyped by the eye-patch-wearing pirate) who often went above and below deck, used eye patches to have one eye adjusted for the top deck and the other eye already adjusted for the darkness when suddenly going below deck. The strong sunlight while above deck on an oceangoing vessel could require minutes of adjustment to the dim lighting below deck. With virtually no light sources below deck, sailors would have to rely heavily upon their eyes to adjust. In the critical moments of modifying the rigging, navigating, and especially during battle, those minutes were too precious. A simple flip of the patch would have saved time when going between decks.

Having no points in tennis got to be called love because the French referred to it as having the egg (l'oeuf).

If you brought the Sun down to the size of the . on this screen, and then brought everything else down to scale, our galaxy, the Milky Way, would be the size of the continental US.

There were plenty more but no fact check documentation was provided.