Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Discovering More in New Mexico: Santa Fe, Los Alamos, & Albuquerque OLA

Monday, November 26, 2012

Discovering More in New Mexico: Santa Fe, Los Alamos, & Albuquerque OLA

Carol having fun at the Old Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas
National Helium Monument in Amarillo, Texas

As I said in the last post, we had time between my right and left eye cataract surgery (please see Part 1 We actually made a brief stop at the Cadillac Ranch at Amarillo, Texas on the way to Santa Fe, New Mexico. The unique ranch is devoted to 9 old Cadillacs that have been stuck to the ground, nose down, since 1974 with layer upon layer of graffiti painted on each one. Bill and I, of course, left a huge BC on one! There was also the Historic Route 66 Museum and the National Helium Monument (Amarillo produces most of the helium in the country).

Route 66 (Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona) Museum in Amarillo, Texas 
the helix-shaped spiral staircase at Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe, NM
Immediately upon arrival in Santa Fe, only about 4 hours away, we went to the most famous spots in the city, vestiges of the Spanish colonization of the territory. Loretto Chapel, built in 1872, features the miracle of the helix-shaped spiral staircase that was built by a carpenter, without nails, who just appeared one day and vanished when it was finished. Outside, a tree is heavy with rosaries from devotees hanging from every conceivable branch.

San Miguel Mission in Santa Fe, NM, oldest church in US
oldest house at its right
Santuario  de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe
oldest shrine to Virgin Mary, in Santa Fe, NM
Midtown is the Old San Miguel Mission, the oldest church in the US (several years before 1628, the date on the earliest document found). Beside it is the oldest house in America. A few miles away is the Santuario de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, the oldest Shrine to Virgin Mary in the US. We also had fun window shopping at the colorful Plaza and visiting the Georgia O’Keefe Museum with her distinctive art, influenced by her life in the desert beauty around Santa Fe. But the best view of the city is from atop a hill where the Cross of the Martyrs stands, a tribute to those who perished in the 1680 revolt against the Spanish colonizers (please see Part 1) and those who were punished after the re-conquest of the territory in 1760. 

Cross of the Martyrs with a view of Santa Fe, NM
one of the murals at the Coronado State Monument
A few miles west of Santa Fe is the Coronado State Monument, at the Kaua Ruins. Coronado is the legendary first Spanish explorer of the Southwest in 1540, much like Magellan is to the Philippines or Columbus is to the Southeast. There we got our first experience at a pit house, a kiva, and some pueblo ruins. But the prize in the Monument is the set of 6 murals found in the ruins, hanging at a special adobe room created to protect them and where no flash photography is allowed. 

one of the cliff dwellings at Bandelier National Monument
near Santa Fe, New Mexico
pueblo ruins at the bottom valley
in Bandelier National Monument near Santa Fe, NM
A little further northwest of Santa Fe is Bandelier National Monument where we saw some examples of cliff dwellings which we were able to climb into. The dwellings and storage areas were in cavates on hillsides.  The ruins of a Pueblo lie at the bottom of the hills surrounded by a clear flowing stream that was the community’s water source.

Bill with Gen. Groves and J. R. Oppenheimer
at the Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos, NM
This was on the way to Los Alamos, further up in the northwest from Santa Fe, which was the secluded site where by J. Robert Oppenheimer and a team of scientists including Enrico Fermi, built the atom bomb (we saw the cottages on BathTub Row where they lived). General Leslie R. Groves took charge of building and maintaining the infrastructure while the scientists pondered upon the imponderables. Finally, on July 16, 1945 the first ever atomic bomb was tested and detonated at Trinity Site, southwest of Albuquerque (unfortunately only open 2 days a year).

where Oppenheimer lived on BathTub Row (only homes with bath tubs)
Little Boy for Hiroshima and Fat Man for Nagasaki
at the Bradbury Science Museum
The rest is history. Little Boy was dropped in Hiroshima and Fat Man on Nagasaki, Japan, ending WWII. Still active today, the Los Alamos National Laboratory assembled the bombs while the facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee produced uranium (please see and the one in Hanford, Washington produced plutonium (please see The three sites largely comprised the Manhattan Project. The Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos explains it all. 

at the Petroglyphs National Monument near Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque is the most modern of the New Mexico cities. But still it is host to the Petroglyph National Monument where rocks revealed as many as 20,000 petroglyphs. Bill and I walked one of the two trails (Boca Negra and Rinconada Cayons) and discovered pictographs that told the stories of American Indians and how they lived. We were going to visit the Pecos National Historic Park (filled with more petroglyphs, etc. and the Acoma Sky City, another continuously inhabited pueblo like Taos Pueblo) but we ran out of time. I had to be back to Pittsburg for my left eye cataract surgery. But we did have some fun at Old Albuquerque where art and crafts prevailed. We also did not miss the Sandia Peak Tramway which is the third longest single (the upper section of 7,720 feet) clear tramway in the world, climbing from about 6,500 to 10,500 feet.

Sandia Peak Tramway in Albuquerque, NM
There will be other times though. New Mexico is a state we wouldn’t mind seeing again since we did not even go to the places like the Painted Cave or the Puye Cliff Dwellings which would require us to hire guides and probably hike strenuous courses. Bill might be ready for that, but I am definitely not! This visit really showed me the enchanting indigenous peoples, the American Indians, still flourishing in the state, the extent of the Spanish influence of the 1500-1800s, like their 300-year reign in the Philippines, and the now noticeable gradual rise of the descendants of the Anasazis (please see Part 1) and those who came up from Mexico and their influence in American politics (the Hispanic vote) and the arts (cuisine, fashion, and casinos).