"The New Mexican Eating Trip"
Day Two, Tuesday – Okay, Dianes for Lunch then...:
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Morning dawned all too early (we'd lost an hour the previous day - time zones...), but I still got up at 7:30 or so. While Dee Dee slept, I went out to take a morning walk in the area.
This isn't nearly as interesting as it sounds. "The Area" in this case is the chunk of 180 to the east of most of the rest of Silver City - at least, the scenic
rest of Silver City. So apart from a couple, three motels, the view consisted of a few fast-food places, gas stations, some somewhat anemic mini-malls and a feed store.
I was mainly about because a) I really needed to do some
sort of walking after the previous day's twelve hours in the car and, b) I wanted to see how close the Walmart I found in the phone book was as we needed to pick up a couple of things we (naturally) forgotten - and we knew they'd have them.
The "Super Center" was perched on a hill about a mile east of our motel, cheerfully sucking the life out of all the little businesses in Silver City (with the possible exception of the "Old Town" stuff - Walmart doesn't do Art Gallery or Coffee Shop well, as yet...), so two hours later we were there trying to track down the pharmacy department.
Shopping finished we found ourselves somewhat at loose ends. Diane's
didn't open for lunch until eleven (and, yes, we were
going to be there at eleven!) and it was still a little over an hour from that - yet "still a little over an hour" wasn't nearly enough time to actually go
anywhere or do
As it ended up, we went over to the Visitor's Center
to kill some time. It is set just on the other side of "The Big Ditch"
(well, to the nearest block, anyway), has parking, its own pedestrian bridge over
"The Big Ditch" and some interesting stuff to look at to kill that requisite hour or so.
One of those things is an old log cabin, sitting at the "Billy the Kid Homesite." Well, it looks
like an old log cabin - and is more or less correct for Billy's era too - but it's actually
from Ron Howard's movie The Missing
(which, surprisingly, we've actually seen) and later donated to the town. If you look carefully, in fact, you can see where one of the "fly-away" walls was (used so that they could maneuver the cameras inside for certain angles). Along with the building itself, Ron donated a whole cabin's worth of period antiques (also collected for the movie) to dress it.
We then wandered about the inside of the Visitor's Center...which is pretty much "Visitor Center Generic," but gave me a couple ideas for the rest of the day.
By now, lunch was rapidly approaching, so we strolled across the bridge to Bullard Street and up a half-block to Diane's
, just opening as we arrived. The place looks exactly the same as it did five years ago when we were first here - kind of homey (and homely), but inviting and comfortable.
After a scan through the menu
(and it's one of those kind of menus where you just want to hand it back to the waitress and say "yes..."), Dee Dee selected the ham sandwich with house side-salad, while I picked the Green Chili Alfredo with chicken and a cup of that day's soup, which was clam chowder.
Excellence all around! Oh, the chowder was a bit strange (it was more in a "Manhattan" than "New England" style, yet with cream), but still good. Dee Dee's salad (with the house dressing - recommended) and sandwich quickly disappeared. And the Chili Alfredo (as strange as that sounds) was worth the trip all by its lonesome.
Following the lunch portion of our day, we took to driving around some of Silver City, checking out the scenery. The place is an interesting mix. Century-old brick Victorians stand next to century-old adobes stand next to more standard frame houses nearly as old. There are a smattering of new homes in the area as well, but - at least, in the area we were in - it's just that, a smattering. Much of the town has seen both World Wars - and a good chunk wasn't new for the Spanish-American one either.
After our drive around Silver City, I planned for us to do an even bigger
loop (for it was still hours
before our dinner reservation at Diane's
- made as we finished lunch) around some of the surrounding mountains. We'd only ventured a short ways into them last trip and I was keen to see some more. Dee Dee wasn't quite so interested in this - but I
had the keys and thus had the power!
Ah, Ha, Ha, Ha!!!
Anywho, soon we were off on the 15 out of town. After passing through some "suburbs," it soon is winding its way through pine forest. Just a few miles down the road, we passed Piņos Altos - where we'd explored last trip - and continued on into the woody depths.
For the next ten miles or so, the narrow road twisted its way along, following first one, then another of the many rivers and streams in the area. Blue sky with just a dash of cloud peaked through the trees as we wound back and forth, heading generally north in spite of all the turns.
Soon we began to climb slightly above the stream-bottoms we'd been following and the trees thinned out a bit. Now bizarre rock formations poked out of the trees or ran along canyon walls. Some looked like faces, others looked like long fantasy-castle walls, others, bits of "Star Wars" style alien cities, all high above us as we drove. We stopped many times to enjoy the view (and the silence!) as we traveled.
The road eventually climbed to the top of a long ridge and then proceeded to run along the top of it for several miles. Forest thinned and shrank, becoming first scrub then classic chaparral as we did the last couple of miles north. From this point, the view went out for miles and miles in all directions. And all of those miles were filled with mountains, some still snow-capped.
Reaching the end of the ridge, the road hairpinned-down to the junction with the 35. If we'd stayed on it, we'd have eventually reached the "Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument," but with an eye on the time before dinner - and one on the narrow-ness and slow speed of the road - I decided that we wouldn't have enough time to reach there and back.
In retrospect, I was probably wrong
on this - we got back with hours to spare - but at the time I wasn't sure. On thing learned on this trip was that - in general - you need more
than two days to check out a given area. Oh, it looks
like you've got time, but those "two days" are really just one
full day, with two half
days that are mostly taken up with arriving and leaving activities. Future road trips may show this lesson - or may not, you never know...
Anywho, with a incorrectly ticking clock in my head, I headed east onto the 35 to begin the rest of the big loop back to Silver City. While the 15 travels through deeply crinkled mountains, 35's route is a lot more open. We pass a lake - Lake Roberts (artificial) - and miles and miles of open meadows (most filled with ranches) which were often delimitated by mountains and/or cliffs on one side and forest on the other.
Soon the road was following the Mimbres River (as in the pottery
) almost due south. It passed through the tiny town of Mimbres and not much later the only slightly larger one of San Lorenzo, both showing a depressingly large slant towards "redneck trailer gothic" as their preferred architecture, dotted with the occasional large, new (and expensive, even by L.A. standards) "Ye Old West" ranch-style homes.
After San Lorenzo, we turned west off of the 35 onto the 152. This passed through rugged, chaparral-covered mountains, the occasional small town and right by the largest open-pit copper mine in the United States - El Chino
. Then it connects up with the 180 just near Fort Baynard - where the "Buffalo Solders" memorial is (as seen here
, from the last visit) and that - of course - brought us right back to our hotel...
...with, as I mentioned above, some hours until dinner.
Well, we basically kicked around the motel resting and reading for those hours and then headed back out to the Visitor Center's parking lot and made the walk - now through much cooler ("freezing" in DeeDeese...) air - to Diane's.
there was even better than lunch. I had the day's special Lasagna with Italian sausage and tomato soup (which was more of a bisque according to Dee Dee) while Dee Dee went for the Lemon Caper Chicken she had last visit backed by another salad. The lasagna may be the best I've ever had, and the lemon caper chicken is the dish that turned Dee Dee onto capers in the first place, five years ago, so she
was a happy camper.
There are, in fact, only so many ways to say "this is really good food," but our reaction can best be shown by the fact that as dinner wound down, we were discussing ways to drag our friends the six-hundred and fifty miles to Silver City to eat there...
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