"The New Mexican Eating Trip"
Day Three, Wednesday – Hatch is for Chile:
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Eleven o'clock the next morning finds us out of our motel and driving up Bullard, looking for a parking place.
It's actually rather late for us to be leaving Silver City on what will be a drive all the way to Albuquerque, but, honestly, we have a very
, as has been mentioned, won't open until eleven. Now, we've already "missed" one dinner thanks to that "closed Mondays" thingy (okay, if they didn't, they wouldn't get any
time off) and, of course, breakfast's were right out, so we were not
going to miss a last chance to eat a lunch before we hit the road...
does take-out. We even got to order slightly
ahead of time by phone.
So it wasn't until nearly eleven-thirty before we hit the road on the day's long drive - with Southwest Spicy Grilled Chicken & Chili and Grilled Tuna sandwiches (along with some pastries) sitting in their nice little bags...
..."sitting" lasted a whole fifteen minutes as we pulled off the 152 at the "viewing area" for the El Chino copper mine and started ripping open packaging. We each had half of each sandwich. The Grilled Chicken was excellent and while eating her half of the Grilled Tuna, Dee Dee just kept sitting there saying "oh...my...god!" over and over again and "I could have been eating this yesterday"
(no disparagement meant for the ham sandwich, I assure you).
Licking up the crumbs, we then did the touristy-thing and took pictures of the big pit that is the copper mine. Heck, we even lucked out in that we got to see one of their explosions!
Interesting, if stretching the boundaries of the term "scenic" quite a bit.
Soon we were on our way again, east on the 152. At least part of my reason for driving on it the day before was to see just how drivable it was
for an '89 Civic. I wanted to try this route to the 25 and Hatch (our next destination) rather than the 180 to Deming and the 10 which - no offense to Deming - I already knew was really boring (and avoiding Las Cruces is always a good idea). And, heck, the 152 looked shorter too.
And the 152 did prove to be much more interesting than the 180. It winds up through the mountains to nearly eight-thousand feet, with the view varying from chaparral to forest to prairie to desert to just darn pretty overlooks of the Rio Grande Valley.
About halfway along this drive, still high in the mountains and forest, I saw a movement in the road and slowed to a stop. I blinked, as the object moving was very familiar
, if totally unexpected. I shook Dee Dee and pointed, fumbling for the camera.
It was a wild turkey.
Now, I didn't even know there were wild turkeys in New Mexico
- I've always thought of them as an East Coast bird. But there he was, strutting across the road, then quickly scrambling up the hillside into the forest. Rather too
quickly, from my viewpoint, as all I got was one poor picture...but here it is anyway.
The 152 continued to be a nicely scenic route. Still, while I was right in that it was
shorter in distance than the 180 route, it proved to be much longer
in driving time, especially what with the delay for road construction just past the small town of Hillsboro (though this did give Dee Dee a chance to nap).
Past the construction, the road straightened out into a arrow pointed right at the interstate in the distance. Soon we were turning south on the 25 and heading for Hatch.
Now, Hatch is known as the town of the Chile Festival
- and of chiles in general
- so, as this was an eating
trip, we felt there was no way we could pass up visiting it...and maybe picking up some chiles and such.
Hatch, though, was disappointing. Of course, we knew the festival wasn't until September, so we weren't expecting much and, to be honest, I'm not really sure now what we were
expecting. But apart from a few (okay, more than a few) shops along the main road specializing in chiles, Hatch is just a small farming town without a lot of, well, interest.
We did stop to pick up some green chile powder (mysteriously hard to find in Pasadena) and a couple of other things and chatted with the lady who ran the place. According to her
, Hatch isn't even growing all that much chile anymore, due to competition from Mexico (her conversation then devolved into NAFTA and anti-illegals rants and we left soon after that). She also said that a lot of chiles sold as "Hatch" actually aren't
, as - strangely - the town has no real legal hold against others using the name.
Anywho, Hatch made for a short and somewhat iffy stop before we got back on the 25 - heading north this time - and continued on our way.
When we came down
this way five years ago, the weather - to put it mildly - sucked. Skies were gray, the temperature was high and the air was absurdly humid. All we wanted to do then was get where we were going and get out of the steambox the Rio Grande Valley was.
This year, though, skies were blue with just enough clouds for scenic-ness. Temps were only in the upper sixties and humidity was just enough to keep you from doing a desert-dry-out. This
time, we actually looked at the scenery as we drove.
And this time, we did
pull off to check out "Truth or Consequences, New Mexico."
Originally, and rather uncreatively, named "Hot Springs" - due to the hot springs that pretty much were the reason for the town existing - in 1950 Ralph Edwards' radio program "Truth or Consequences" was having its tenth anniversary and NBC was looking for a gimmick to celebrate this. It offered to any town that changed its name to
"Truth or Consequences" some money and (of course) celebrity. Hot Springs took them up on it and changed their name.
The town itself is a small resort community, seemingly stuck in the late 50's, early 60's. It seems to be doing okay - its celebrity having outlasted Edwards' by a good few decades - but at its heart it's small-town 1962 and seems to like it that way.
Back on the road we continued north at a nice clip. Soon we pulled off at a rest stop just off the Rio Salado Sand Dunes
. Unfortunately, while we needed the stop - we discovered it's probably best not
to do so as high winds are blowing sand off the dunes and right towards you. Oh, it was cool looking, no doubt about that - it also
left us rather gritty.
Gritty or not, we were now on the final stretch to Albuquerque. In the distance we could see the snow capped Sandia Mountains which sit to the east of the city and - amazingly - the sun was still slightly above the horizon as we pulled off the interstate and headed for our motel.
Econo Lodge Old Town
proved to be right on old Route 66 (Central Avenue, in Albuquerque) and less than two blocks away from, well, "Old Town." The room was also nice (even without another accidental suite upgrade).
Now, though, we had a problem. Original plans were for us to visit a restaurant we read about in a magazine article that sounded really interesting. Unfortunately, said magazine was - at that moment - a good seven-hundred miles away, since we sorta neglected
to pack it.
So we checked with the clerk at the desk, basically asking "what's a good place to eat around here" and she directed us to Little Anita's
, less than half-a-mile from the motel.
proved to be a rather nice Mexican restaurant of the "old school" - IOW, low prices, huge portions and somewhat mild spice/heat levels to avoid scaring the visitors from Iowa. Still it wasn't bad - and it certainly filled us up!
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