Saturday, November 3, 2007
Andrew and I were pretty much all planned out by the time thoughts of a honeymoon came up, so basically we just agreed to pack a suitcase and hit the road without committing to where we were even going. With only four days to travel, we thought about New Mexico. My friend Elise had suggested Silver City, so that's where we headed first. We didn't even get out of Tucson until around three, so we hit Silver City after dark. Fortunately we had Kate and Ray's AA guide with us, so we called in a Bear Creek cabin in Pinos Altos. Luckily, they had a vacancy. (Picture of the Bear Creek office above.)
The cabins were so cute and cozy! Perfect for a honeymoon. Art, who checked us in, suggested we go to The Buckhorn Saloon for dinner (pictured below). It turned out to be a cool old place full of antique mining boom days paraphernalia. There was even a contract on the wall signed by Porfirio Diaz himself! We knew the place was gonna be good when we almost parked in a spot that had a sign over it reading: "For witches only - all others will be TOAD", not to mention the fact that Modest Mouse was playing at the bar. I bought a Buckhorn sweatshirt.
The next day we went into Silver City for breakfast. We ended up eating at Nancy's Silver Cafe, which was kinda cool because it was obviously a townie spot, but the food was a not so good. I've made better huevos rancheros myself. We went to the Silver City Museum and it began to dawn on us that the old west mining town thing was going to become the theme of our honeymoon. (Check out the photo below of old-timey stuff from the museum.)
It wasn't long before I was reading every area tourism magazine and pamphlet I could get my hands on (in an old-timey cadence, of course.) I found out that there was a significant Mogollon ruin nearby, so we drove the Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway to the Gila Cliff Dwellings.
The drive is really beautiful and the dwellings are fascinating. If you're thinking of visiting, don't miss the trail off Lower Scorpion Campground on your way out. There's another dwelling there and a whole slew of petroglyph like the ones pictured below.
By the time we finished with the dwellings, we were getting hungry and tired, so we chose the closest place to lodge for the night. It turned out to be Deming, New Mexico. I seemed to recall that we had stopped in Deming for lunch when we moved to Tucson. "Really? Well, what do you remember?" Andrew asked.
"All I remember is that it was kind of a one horse town."
I was right.
We didn't want to stay at the regular motel eight, so we opted instead for the Grand Motor Inn. Our predilection for off-beat lodging has sometimes gotten Andrew and I in trouble, and this was no exception. We walked in to find gold-lame wallpaper and faux wood paneling in the lounge; Shania Twain blasting from the tavern; and old career waitresses in the restaurant - you know the kind who are so crusty and depressed they can barely crack a smile anymore? That kind. We left a hearty tip.
We were so tired and hungry that we barely cared about the quality of the food or the sad ambiance. Needless to say, however, we didn't opt for seconds. The place did - to state a redeeming quality - have free wifi. We went to our room, drank wine out of a box and surfed the net - which builds up an appetite. At 11:00 pm we began to crave pizza and were infuriated to no end that none of the pizza joints in town would deliver at that "ungodly" hour! There was plenty of gnashing of teeth and shaking of fists in our room that night.
The next morning we went to the Sunrise Cafe for breakfast. I was wearing one of my Paraguay tee shirts, which our waitress noticed immediately. The Mexican restaurateur sat us down and excitedly asked me if I had any Paraguayan folk music, which she loves but can't find anywhere. She asked me to come back and sell her some, to which I replied that we were traveling, upon which she wrote down her mailing address and handed me a twenty dollar bill. I refused the money and told her I could certainly send her a CD for free, especially being that I rarely run across anyone who knows a thing about Paraguayan folk music. She told us the story of her Filipino "uncle" who played violin for her and her sisters when they were young. Apparently he also brought them Paraguayan and Hawaiian music recordings, which forever ring in their memories, associated with his kindness, (because the man brought them bags of grilled cheese sandwiches and strawberries, among other things, when the girls were so young and poor.) The two Mexican sisters of Deming told us many stories, but the one about the Filipino man who loved Paraguayan music and was finally reunited with his Filipino wife and daughter after fleeing the country 43 years earlier was the best story of them all.
So Deming wasn't a complete bust after all. We went to Joe Perk for road coffee (the same coffee shop we had stopped at three years prior on our first run-in with Deming), but alas, the coffee was a not so good.
Our next stop: Elephant Butte. We had read that the lake was the largest and most popular of all New Mexico, and it didn't seem like we had enough time to go all the way to Albuquerque, so Elephant Butte is was. First we drove through Truth or Consequences (which the natives call T or C), and Andrew got all excited because it advertised an antique auto museum. Unfortunately, the truth was it was closed and the consequences: disappointment number two.
We went on to Elephant Butte Lake (as pictured below - can you make out the elephant?) to find nobody there. "How is this the most visited lake in New Mexico?" we wondered. Maybe its heyday was over. We later came to find that the water level was extremely low due to an eight year drought, among other things.
Low water or not, that couldn't keep me from renting a two-person "sea kayak" and dragging Andrew onto the lake with me. We saw some birds and a great deal of jumping fish, but in general the landscape was pretty barren - not that much to see. But I had paid for a three hour rental and that's what I was going to get, gosh darnnit. Turns out the kayak had a crack in it, and was taking on water - not enough to sink it, but enough to make it twice as difficult to paddle. After just under two hours we finally got it back to Marina del Sur. I was feeling fine until we got back in the car. Then I was hit by heatstroke and dehydration I think, because suddenly I felt like complete ass. Poor Andrew drove us around, looking for a place to have dinner, until he finally found one and upon walking in the door and getting a whiff of the aromas from the buffet I almost hurled. We had to turn around and walk out, but not before Andrew got a tip for lodging from the waitress. Fortunately, the Elephant Butte Inn turned out to be quite nice. Andrew checked us in and dragged my sorry ass to bed. After a fifteen minute nap I was fine.
When we went down to the restaurant, (Ivory Tusk), we realized it was Halloween because some people in costumes started coming in to have a drink at the bar. We got a special kick out of the guy pictured below (Bob), who was dressed as - and acting like - a retired Hooter's girl.
I forgot to mention that we would've stayed in the 1940s "cabins" near the Elephant Butte Damn Site if we could've found a person to rent them out: very cute vintage lodging with a perfect lake view. (Call 575-894-2073 for reservations.)
The day after Halloween we thought about getting a spa treatment at the Ivory Spa ($125 for a two hour wrap! What a deal!) but we had heard about a ghost town 45 miles away. The lady at the Elephant Butte Lake office had spoke highly of a place named Chloride and gave us a brochure. She said it would be open and there was more to see than in some of the ghost towns and "living ghost towns" we had been to.
A living ghost town is a town that likely got its start as a mining camp in the 1800s but is still on the map - people still live there. Sometimes you can find original buildings from the Old West period still standing. Sometimes they are marked, sometimes they ain't. For example, Monticello, Cuchillo, Winston and Hillsboro are all living ghost towns, but you might not even realize it passing through because there aren't always historical markers of any sort.
As it was, we drove through Cuchillo and really wanted to eat at the Cuchillo Cafe or browse in the Cuchillo Bar and Store (original building) - but alas, both were closed. Anyhoo, when we finally got to Chloride, we weren't let down. The museum owners were very kind and informative. The museum is actually the "Pioneer Store", which the owners bought after it had been boarded up for seventy years - full of period artifacts, spiders, and rat and bat poop. They painstakingly cleaned it all out, cleaned up all the artifacts and then put them all back again! Here are some of the artifacts on display, including Chloride's first radio in the background.
We also checked out the oldest building in town; Harry Pye's cabin. It is now a two bedroom vacation cabin available for rent.
Our final stop was Chloride's Greenwood Cemetery on the top of a hill (the sign off the main street just reads "Cemetery"). We had to hike up to it, since the road was so bad. The variety in headstones was perhaps the most intriguing part. Some of the headstones were very old, some were new. Some had the regular info, others just said "killed by indians" or nothing at all. The very old and the very young were buried there. Perhaps even the wealthy (judging from the marble headstones) and the poor (judging from the painted plywood headstone).
Perhaps one of the most impressive things about Chloride is the near absolute silence. It's sort of in the middle of nowhere, so there is no road noise, air traffic, etc. Only eleven people live there now. In fact, it's so still that a herd of deer walk right through town every day. (They say the young ones are fun to watch when they get to playing.)
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Let's not forget "sorry, i have a nut in my mouth... I'm not sure who it is..."
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