August 25, 2013

Las Cruces Salsa Fest

"Go to the Salsa Fest" they said.
"It will be fun" they said.

Our friends Bill and Clair, the ones with the six dogs, several cats, countless chickens and one rooster, always say don't go to these kinds of things. That includes the Salsa Fest, Enchilada Fest, Taco Challenge, and many, many others. "Too crowded" or "Too hot" or "Too something or other." Well today, I did not take their advice and went to the Salsa Fest to take some pictures. Yes, it was too crowded. Yes it was too hot. But I did get some good photos.

We arrived after brunch at about 12:30 and drove around a bit to find a close parking spot. When we exited the car, the smells of spicy food and Mariachi music assaulted us. And what a great assault it was.

We stayed for an hour or so, got good pictures and the Mrs. tasted some good salsas. We drank water, listened to music and watched dancers. Saw the tiniest baby we have ever seen and got back into the the air conditioned car and drove to our air conditioned house after an hour.

So as they say on the intertubes, pictures or it didn't happen. What follows are a few pictures!

Mariachi band

Mr Balloon Man

More Mariachi


Cool Sax...

The sign of a really good salsa? Wearing it so everyone knows you like it. 

Mandatory husband comments:
1. You can take the girl out of the northeast to the southwest but you can't take the salsa out of the clothes...
2. I can dress her up but I can't take her out...


August 7, 2013

What I did on my summer vacation

Part 1: The Wedding...

We knew that there was going to be a wedding, in Colorado, this summer, about 18 months ago. When we first checked and saw it was an 800 mile drive, we decided then and there that we would take our time, do some sightseeing and enjoy visiting a couple of states.

As the date slowly approached, we refined our thoughts to include a couple of National Parks - Arches and Grand Canyon. This was our agenda for quite awhile until about a month or two before the wedding when we began to realize how far a trip the Grand Canyon was from the wedding town of Estes Park, CO and how long a return trip it would be from there. This was complicated by the fact that we were going to send our dogs to a "Pet Spa" that was more costly then I had hoped for and we didn't want to leave them for all that long for the first time ever.

We spent a great deal of time studying the maps of the area and decided on a grand circle tour from Estes Park  toward home, visiting 2 other National Parks in the process, Rocky Mountain and Mesa Verde. Today I will talk about the wedding weekend.

I have known Bill for almost 40 years. He gave me my first job out of college, encouraged me (demanded really if you know Bill) that I go back to school for a MSW and then helped me get my first job in Massachusetts and hired me essentially for my second job there that I stayed with for 30 years. He has two sons, who I watched grow up, playing little league and hearing all about the traumas of adolescence, college and their growing up. It had been close to 15 years since I had seen either of them but that would change as one, Fred, was getting married.

The wedding weekend took place on in a lodge on the Lake Estes, a very beautiful location. We were invited to the rehearsal dinner where we caught up with friends and new acquaintances, and then spent the rest of the evening at the lounge discussing life. Saturday was a bit threatening with clouds and we spent part of the day looking at the town and the mountains during a bit of a drive. A passing shower had people concerned about an outdoor wedding but the clouds opened up, sun shined and the wedding went off without a hitch. The reception featured non stop dancing that left participants and bystanders dizzy for sure.

Overall it was a wonderful weekend of celebrating, catching up and enjoying the mountains and lake. Sunday morning would bring us to the Big Climb!

Storm approaching from the west

Threatening skies

"and the bastard dog becomes legal..." maid of honor

July 15, 2013

Three day countdown

Anyone who knows me might think this is about Dunkin Donuts coming to Las Cruces, but it is not. Well, DD will be mentioned again so perhaps it is, but the underlying theme for today is 3 days to vacation. My vacation or Mycation as we used to say where I worked. On Thursday morning at some ungodly hour, we will put the dogs in the car for a ride south to the Doggie Spa (more about that later) and then head north for day one's adventure - Trinidad, CO. No, there is not much to see there but it is a stepping stone to Day 2's goal, Estes Park Colorado, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. There we will attend my best friends, son's wedding, play and drink at the Lodge, catching up on old times and then leave for Rocky Mountain National Park

Over the next several days we will also visit Arches National Park and also Mesa Verde National Park with the cliff dwellings. I hope to post almost every day, include some iPhone pictures and then do a couple of photo blog posts when we return.

We will finish up our trip in Taos, NM before returning home. Our friends Bill and Clair visited there and raved about the little social and artistic mecca of the northern New Mexico frontier so we are looking forward to that too.

This will be  one of our typical whirlwind tours but hopefully will give is some ideas about future vacation trips. I know the National Park Hat Trick (Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion) are in our future as is Death Valley and San Diego so our trips out are stacked up for us.

Just to whet your appetite and mine, a couple of pictures of what to expect, courtesy of the National Park Service;








June 26, 2013

Why U Mad ???

Yea, so it has been almost 6 weeks since I wrote last. Part of it was writers block, part recent medical stuff and part is that along with reddit boy, we have been working to move the blog (and a photography portfolio) to their very own domain. This is been hard to coordinate because, first I did not know how to use WordPress, and secondly, reddit boy is the urban social media type, in his job which eats up significant parts of his type. But we are moving there slowly. If you would like to see the progress, go to a take a look. Not too much there but construction is under way!

Life in Cruces continues its slow meandering pace. Retirement is good, the sky sunny, the time to work on projects etc. is delightful. I continue as the event planner for the State Park and just had a storyteller come in for a show. They usually charge about $350 for a show but because we are a state park and they were going to be in the area, and we had become friends with them in T or C at the hot springs, they did it for free. Attendance was not great but there were 8 people at the evening story tell and they were fantastic. We went out for a drink after and spent a couple of hours swapping stories and experiences with them and some friends. Again a wonderful time.

Two other things are on my horizon for late summer - I have been asked to run the annual symposium on photography which is a big learning experience for me. Also I am planning a Native American Heritage Day at the Park in November. That same day we met the story tellers, I met a NMSU business professor who was working with the Native American program at NMSU for NA entrepreneurship and he is going to make the project a class event where the students  will earn credits for all the work they do, which is significant. I got the Friends of the Park group to give $500 seed money and we are off. More about this as it develops.

Anyway, this has been my last six weeks and I am looking forward to continued work on the blog and photography site. By the way, I also taught myself basic inDesign, an Adobe graphic arts program and Lightroom, an image editing program for my photographs. And WordPress too!

Just because, here are two of my latest images:


Trapped Again

April 28, 2013

Three Days in Tucson: Day Two

Me: Hi, my name is penguin and I am a dunkinaholic.
The Group: Hi Penguin
Me: It was 509 days since my last drink of Dunkin Donuts coffee until we went to Tucson
The group: Tell us more.
Me: OK, Here is my story
After day one in Tucson and a nice dinner, while driving home we passed a DD about 500 yards from our hotel door. I knew this is where we would be on Day 2, bright and early, and we were. When we got inside of the store, I smelled the coffee and fresh baked goods and broke out into a cold sweat. By time the lightly toasted bagel, smothered in cream cheese and hot coffee, large, arrived I had developed the shakes. We sat outside and after each sip, an “ahh” escaped my lips. It was the best morning of my life but then I realized I had given into the crack infused coffee dream and had a problem. The new DD in Las Cruces will open in May and it is a quarter mile from our  home. What should I do?
The Group: Get on line there NOW! What are you waiting for?
Me: I knew you would understand.
(the above is a dramatization of the actual event.)

Our first goal for day 2 was the Sonoran Desert Museum. Everyone we told that we were going to Tucson, and I mean EVERYONE, said to go there. It was a bit of a ride but worth every single mile. We knew we only had limited time and dove right in. The museum, most of which is outside, features a 2 mile paved trail, through various areas of desert features like a butterfly garden, a bee garden and the like. The flowers and cactus along the way were spectacular and we planned to go as far as the hummingbird exhibit. We were not disappointed. There were hundreds of hummers all around and I got to see my first hummingbird nests ever which was wonderful. We spent a total of about 2 hours there and enjoyed every second.

Flowers along the Museum Trail

Hummer in action

Docent and Harrison Hawk

Next up was a drive through the western part of Saguaro National Park, which is so different and more rustic than the east part. The views there were more spectacular and the cactus and flowers seemed to be in a more natural desert setting.

Saguaro in the afternoon sun

Having ignored the dogs in their crate in the hotel for several hours, we treated them to a trip to the local dog park where they ran around with other dogs their size for over an hour. They really seemed to enjoy themselves. Their second treat was a hamburger from a fast food joint which they also loved. Overall Skippy and the Desert Rat did well on the trip and that makes it easier to plan future trips.

We went to dinner at a place that served Mexican and was also recommended. President Clinton dined there when he was in office in 1999. The margaritas were great, the chips and salsa excellent and the meal itself was very, very good.

Day two was complete and we were all very tired. Enjoy several photos I took on this day in Tucson.

My new Hawk buddy!

April 7, 2013

Pensamientos al azar sobre el Three Days in Tucson*

Random Thoughts on Three Days in Tucson

We just returned from 3 days vacationing in Tucson, AZ and had a great time. But before I talk about the trip, some commentary. I was a little hesitant about going to Tucson, perhaps the racist capital of the southwest. I decided to just deal with it but it very early reared its ugly head. We were looking for a steak house for supper and found one that was universally touted as being the best of the rest. However, as I researched it there was a comment - This owner is RACIST - which piqued my interest so I looked it up. It seems that the owner, angry old white guy, is a racist and bigot. He has a Karaoke bar and refuses to allow anyone to sing songs in Spanish there. Like that will keep our brown friends from crossing the border, no Karaoke. So I have decided to dedicate this series of blog posts to this big jerk. I figure he will never read it because the title is in Spanish and that just encourages undocumented aliens. And to this bigot I say “Usted seƱor es un idiota.”

Now for the trip. This is how Day One went.

The early drive over to Tucson was uneventful and maybe the easiest 4 hour drive I have ever made. No traffic, no rush, no problems. We decided that the first stop was to be the east section of The Saguaro (pronounced swar-o, not sa-GOR-o) National Park. I love National Parks and this one met if not exceeded my expectations. We got in on my handicap pass, drove the 8 mile loop and took lots of photos, several of which are here at the end of this post. We stopped to walk the dogs, now veteran vacation travelers and nicknamed Skippy and the desert rat, and had a picnic lunch in the shadow of 20-30 foot tall saguaros.

We checked into the hotel, rested a while, and then went out not to that Racist Restaurant but to a place called “El Correl.” As we walked in, a gentleman leaving said hello to us so I asked him how this place was, and he responded, “it is great, I recommend the prime rib.” No one needed to twist my arm about this. We had a fresh salad, tossed at the table, a pitcher of Sangria (little light on wine and too heavy on ice, fruit and soda but good) and perfectly cooked prime rib. Unfortunately, there was no doggie bag for our boys.

On the way home, we drove around the city a bit and found a Dunkin Donuts! With a Baskin Robbins inside!! Marking the site for the next morning we drove home only to find one right around the corner of the hotel. I was in heaven. More about this in Day Two.

Some pictures from day one.

View from the Saguaro National Park picnic area.

Dead cactus with woody spines that the Native Americans used

Dead vs. alive

Late day sun on a cactus

Rather majestic cactus

April 5, 2013

First Photowalk

My friend Rob, from the photo club, came up with an idea for a photowalk. He is part of the group teaching the digital photo workshops at the State Park with me and several times in the various classes and in discussions afterwards we have gone on and on about practice. The class students understand the need to go shoot. I have, over the last year and a half, 
greatly increased my time out photographing with an obvious increase in the quality of the photos I have made. As Malcolm Gladwell theorized in “Outliers”, 10,000 hours of dedicated practice in a given field or area of expertise allows a person to become truly “expert”. I have taken that advice to heart. In the last few years I averaged about 500-700 images a year. This last year I shot more than 3000. A lot more practice.

Rob is from southern Texas and he and a group of buddies would just go out and stop at an area of interest and take photos. Afterward they would meet to compare pictures and notes and use this as a way to improve as photographers. When he mentioned this to me, I encouraged him to embrace the idea here and thus the “Photowalks” were born.

The first walk in late February, attended by 6 people ended up in the Mesilla Plaza, a very picturesque part of town. I have posted event pictures from there before, Dios de los muertos, Christmas Eve and the Farmer’s Market there. Below are some of my shots from that day. 

You should have the bad photo before this one. The photo club will.

This pickup just says NM to me.

Blue skies between the branches

Love these street lamps on Mesilla Plaza. 

Again the deep blue skies of New Mexico

Lamp shadow...

More budding trees.

March 29, 2013

A Sunday Drive, Part 2: City of Rocks

(Continued from February 28th post)

So we continued our day out in the Deming area with a plan to see one more thing. We decided to pass on the Pancho Villa State Park because it was still further away from Las Cruces meaning a longer time to get home. We passed on Rock Hound State Park because we’re not the hiking type and so settled on City of Rocks State Park

When I first heard about this state park, I was not overly impressed. Yea, big rocks, nice views but nothing really grabbed me. As we rode along I began to wonder if this last leg of our day was so important. It was breezy and cool and a nice warm home beckoned me.

As we turned off the main road and advanced toward the park, in the distance one could see these large rock columns rising out of the desert. You couldn’t grasp their size as there was only the horizon as a guide but they looked large. The closer we got, the larger they looked up until we arrived at the park gate. They were huge! There seemed to be hundreds of them! They were spectacular.

All at once there was a feeling of power and quiet all at the same time.You could hear the wind whistling through the trees and rocks yet the campers, and there were lots of them, made no noise or at least none we could hear. We drove around the park road, marveling at the sculpture of rocks and the tucked away camping and picnicking sites. The afternoon light added a nice soft golden glow and all seemed at peace here. It made me glad we adventured here and we made some plans to come back and camp here sometime soon.

Below is some pictures of that day. Hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed taking them and experiencing them.

This car gives perspective of the size of this rock group that is NOT one of the largest!

I can never get over the color of the sky...

These last two shots show a hole to the sky which is why I liked them Can't tell if the horizontal or vertical is best but I like the vertical because of the rock texture

February 28, 2013

A Sunday Drive

 When I was a kid, we did not have much money with 5 kids in the house so  often times our entertainment needed to be cheap or free. Thus, we often went out for a ride on Sunday. We went to watch airplanes land, visited relatives on Long Island, drove upstate NY, that sort of thing. When Mrsfabp and I hooked up, we kept doing that. We had just moved to Massachusetts and enjoyed our little trips, to the Cape, Newport, Vermont, museums, little quaint towns and when our kids arrived, it was more of the same.

So, it should not be a surprise that Mrsfabp and I have continued this sort of tradition. We have enjoyed our little trips, with friends or on our own. We have gone to see the cranes at Bosque del Apache State Park,to Hatch for Green Chile Cheeseburgers and music, to the Lava flows north of the city, to Santa Fe on the Railrunner express train, as well as the things right around town, like driving around neighborhoods, picnics up at Picacho Peak and trips out to the desert.

So it only seems fitting that Mrsfabp has had a desire to see Deming, NM. It was the first town we researched in the area and she thought it would be fun to see if we are missing anything not being there. So one Sunday, we packed the car with 2 dogs, snacks for them, water for us and headed out to Deming.

We can now sum up Deming in 3 words - out of business. There were more empty stores then working ones. Downtown was just about a ghost town. We stopped at the visitors bureau but that was closed too. At least the dogs enjoyed a few minutes out in the fresh air. We went and visited the place we were looking at to live to see what was there and again were totally underwhelmed. Country club estates was a grid of SW style homes next to what would have appeared to be a golf course, except there was no grass, lots of sand and it was flat as the eye could see. My friend Fred, a golf fiend would probably turned down the opportunity to play there, and he plays everywhere all the time.

Center of Deming
Nothing else to look at there
Then we got our first break. We saw a listing for the Adobe Deli and thought it might be good to get a deli sandwich and maybe a cold beer but the directions seemed unusual. Basically they said travel 15 miles south by south east. I thought Mexico was there but that what the directions said. After 10 minutes of driving there were just the occasional home. After 20 minutes, there was only grazing cows and as we approached the place, there was nothing but desert and barbed wire fence. The place itself looked like an abandoned car repair place, lots of chain linked fence, razor wire and abandoned cars. Out of the back there was a barbed wire fence in the distance that I was sure was in Mexico. But we pulled into the parking lot because there were quite a number of cars there. As we walked in we realized this wasn’t a deli but an old fashion honky tonk bar with plenty of tables for eatin’ and drinkin’ and moving around for dancin’. The decor was pure hunters lodge as you can tell by the picture below. I am sure that the person who coined the phrase "out in the middle of nowhere" was sitting at the bar of the Adobe Deli.

All it is missing is a deer blind!

Outside in the parking lot of the Adobe Deli

Two things to tell about the place. The food was great, including hand cut onion rings and Sam Adams, Lager and Alpine Spring on tap and cold as could be. The other is a story. While we were waiting on our food, a family (yes, apparently it is ok to have families come into a honky tonk DURING DAYLIGHT HOURS. Anyway as they settled into a table, their little girl, maybe 4 years old, wandered over to the pool table, looked and turned to her dad, pulled on his sleeve, and said “Daddy , what is this?” He quickly answered that it was a pool table. She turned and looked at it for a bit longer and turned to her father again, pulled on his sleeve, and said, “well, where is the pool then?” There was a murmur of giggles throughout the bar and the dad quickly got her into a seat at their table.

In my next post, a bit about the second half of our Sunday ride adventures.

February 27, 2013

Riverbend, a Review

Many years ago, there was a town in New Mexico, a little more than an hour north of Las Cruces, called Hot Springs. That town was renamed Truth or Consequences. Wiki explains: “Truth or Consequences is a spa city and the county seat of Sierra County, New Mexico, United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 6,475. It is commonly known within New Mexico as T or C. Originally named Hot Springs, the city changed its name to Truth or Consequences, the title of a popular NBC radio program. In 1950, Ralph Edwards, the host of the radio quiz show Truth or Consequences, announced that he would air the program from the first town that renamed itself after the show. Hot Springs won the honor. Edwards visited the town during the first weekend of May for the
next fifty years. This event was called "Fiesta" and included a beauty contest, a parade, and a stage show. The city still celebrates Fiesta each year on the first weekend of May. The parade generally features area celebrities such as the Hatch Chile Queen. Fiesta also features a dance in Ralph Edwards Park.”

A spa city. Again, Wiki explains: “There are several local hot springs. The combined flow of the hot springs complex in Truth or Consequences is estimated at 99 liters/second. Before World War II, there were about 40 hot springs spas in Truth or Consequences. By 2008, the Hot Springs Association in Truth or Consequences had 10 spa facilities as members. Five of those obtained their water from wells, and La Paloma Hot Springs & Spa (formerly Marshall Hot Springs), Indian Springs Bath House and Hay-Yo-Kay Hot Springs are from free flowing hot springs. The New Mexico State Energy and Minerals Department created two demonstration projects using geothermal energy in Truth or Consequences in the 1980s. The Carrie Tingley Hospital for children with physical disabilities, which has since moved to Albuquerque, used the state money to create a physical therapy program. The local Senior Citizen's Center benefits from a geothermal space heating system.”

Our friends, Annie and Pete went there when they were visiting us and made it sound like a great, fun getaway. So for Christmas I made a reservation for Mrsfabp and I to go for a weekend visit. After much anticipation, the weekend arrived and we headed out to T or C  for our adventure. After we arrived in town and  drove a bit to get the lay of the land, we went to the Happy Belly Deli on  the main street in town, for  an excellent lunch with soup, sandwiches and  nice bagels, soda and coffee. Then we went out to Riverbend to check in and have our first “soak.”

Riverbend is on the end of a road that features several natural springs. However it looks a lot nicer than any of the others, more like a resort. Well manicured xeriscape front area, tall fence for privacy, very inviting looking over all. The staff were friendly, courteous and efficient. The room we were in was basic but met our needs as we were not planning to spend much time there.

Deck overlooking the Rio Grande
Entrance to one of the pools

Garden sculpture

We got changed and off to the pools we went. There are various sizes and temperatures and all, both public and private, have great views of the mountains, Rio Grande (with water in it!) and the beautiful New Mexico blue skies. The tubs are fairly accessible for someone with ambulation difficulties and so we climbed right in. The temperature range was great, the water had a nice feel to it and we planned to stay about a half hour but ended up closer to 75 minutes. We then left to go to dinner at Cafe BellaLuca which had some of the best Italian food that I have had in a restaurant, and included a house made pomegranate sangria which was wonderful. You could see the chef and staff working in the kitchen and the chef made the rounds of the tables talking to guests.

After dinner it was back to a private spa that had a wonderful view of the sky and the mountains, which were lit up by the moon. After an hour of this, we returned to our room to collapse in bed and fall asleep. The nect morning we were into the public spas again for a couple of hours before we checked out. The people who were also visiting the spa were very friendly and we ended up chatting with an NMSU professor (more about him in another post) and a couple who were storytellers (more about them later too).

Riverbend is a wonderful place for a couple of hours of relaxing or a couple of days, soaking up the warm waters. On the Penguin scale, Riverbend gets the highest recommendation, 5 Happy Penguins !