Tag Archives: new mexico

The High Road – Enchanted Weekend Part 3

The High Road

The High Road is a NM Scenic Byway that connects Santa Fe and Taos. A little over 50 miles of roadway winds along through the Sangre de Cristo mountains through small towns, land grants, pueblos, and villages. (The Low Road, by comparison, connects Santa Fe and Taos via the valleys along the Rio Grande.)

The High Road begins in Pojoaque, then passes through the towns of Nambe, Chimayó, Córdova, Truchas, Ojo Sarco, Las Trampas, Peñasco, Vadito, Sipapu, and finally Taos.

Along the way are no less than 50 small galleries and shops displaying the art of local artists. Our intention was to stop at several galleries along the way, but we found that many were closed (or just seemed empty) on the day we were driving through.

One place we did stop and browse was the High Road Marketplace in Truchas. This shop displays the art of many artists in a variety of media — paintings, ironwork, gourds, etc.

The High Road Marketplace in Truchas, NM
The High Road Marketplace in Truchas, NM

We then visited the gallery of painter Charlee Newman in Ojo Sarco. Her oil landscapes and pastels of wildlife were stunning and we all left there wishing we could afford to take a few home with us. Also, the gallery was on her private property, and we were shown around by Ms. Newman herself. In true EatingNewMexico style, we all noted that whatever she was cooking up for dinner smelled REALLY GOOD.

Charlee Newman's gallery property -- fall
Charlee Newman’s gallery property — fall

Smelling whatever was roasting on the Newman property got us all pretty hungry. So we checked our maps and decided to stop and eat in or near Peñasco. According to Yelp, a little place called Alicia’s Café was nearby and open at the right time and claimed to serve New Mexican food. So we aimed ourselves at it, in hopes of some Enchiladas with Red. You know how it is when you just NEED some red. That’s where we all were.

So, all the map apps LIE.

After being sent way out of the way by both Apple Maps and Google Maps about 4 times (with a loss of about 30 minutes), we were all starving and ready to get our grub on. We searched and searched. We were ready to give up. We pulled into a parking lot to make a final U-turn and just get the heck out of dodge and try our luck in another town.

HARK! An old building with a kind of skeezy sign out front reading: New Mexican Food. I honestly don’t remember the name of the restaurant or really much about it other than that we walked in and all said, “Nope.” Meaning, let’s just tend to our blood sugar then get out of here. There was something off about the feng shui or something, but we all knew immediately we didn’t want to spend a whole lot of time there. We ordered chips and salsa (very yummy) and chile-cheese fries to share around the table. The waitress informed us that the restaurant actually used to be Alicia’s, which we had been looking for all along. Ah, evil irony.

We didn’t take any pictures of anything to write a real review, which is unfortunate because the red chile on the fries was SUPER good.

We finished up quick and got back on the road. I think we all would have liked to have spent a little more time on The High Road, meandering along, walking through galleries. I think the best bet here would be to take one of the organized tours (offered here via High Road Artisans) to ensure the most galleries will be open, and that you won’t be the only person walking through someone’s home/gallery, looking through at their stuff.

Next stop: TAOS.

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El Santuario de Chimayó — Enchanted Weekend Trip Part 2

On to Chimayo

This is part 2 in an 8 (or so) part series about our weekend trip from Albuquerque up to Red River and back. Find part 1 here.

We passed right on through Santa Fe with nary a foot stepped on the Plaza nor a breakfast burrito in our guts and headed north on Hwy 84 to state road 503.

FUN MAP FACT: When looking at a map, you can tell the difference between a US Highway and a State Road by the shape of their number designator. US numbered highways are marked with a shield shape with the number inside. State Roads are marked with a circle and the number inside. 

For some great New Mexico road maps (including a map of State Roads, one of Scenic Byways, and one of rest stops), visit the NM DoT:  NM Dept of Transportation Maps.

After turning east on road 503, we passed through the small town of Nambé. The town combined with Nambé Pueblo has a population of around 2,000 people. A nearby mill produces the eight-metal alloy used to create Nambé housewares such as THESE BEAUTIES. But they are actually made elsewhere. Like, China-elsewhere.

About 12 miles up the road (503), we came to Santuario de Chimayó.

 

Chimayo Courtyard entryway
The oft-photographed & painted entryway to the Santuario de Chimayo courtyard.

The church at Chimayó is known for many things. The original chapel on the site was built around 1810 and was then upgraded to the larger church (which stands today, and BTW is still pretty small) a few years later. So, it’s pretty old, is what I’m saying. During the Easter season, the roads from nearby towns to Chimayó are crowded with walkers. Not the Walking Dead kind of walkers, rather those devout souls making the pilgrimage (walking or even on hands and knees) to this holy place from locations all over northern NM. There is a ton of history here, which you can read about at their website: Santuario de Chimayo Website  (but be forewarned it autoplays music).

Toward the rear of the church, a tiny room with a slanting floor and low ceiling holds what tens of thousands of people come here for each year: El Pocito — the healing dirt of Chimayó. Believed to have healing powers, the dirt is dug from a small hole in the clay floor. Visitors either rub the dirt on a hurting or problem area (a bum knee, say), bag a teaspoon up to keep with them, or in some cases (I’ve read) ingest it. Team EatingNewMexico opted to save our stomach space for chips & salsa and just rubbed a small amount of the dirt on our hands.

Beyond El Pocito you pass through a prayer room, lined with photos, testimonials, and discarded crutches (by those allegedly healed by the soil).

PROS:  The church is beautiful and has major historical significance in New Mexico. The grounds are lovely. It is a spiritual place sure to have an impact on people of any faith.

The grounds at Santuario de Chimayo
The grounds at Santuario de Chimayo
The grounds at Santuario de Chimayo
The grounds at Santuario de Chimayo

CONS: Now, I remember visiting Chimayó maybe 15-18 years ago, and I remember there only being the church, kind of hard to find, with a small dirt parking lot in front and one across the road. Now, there is a gift shop, a café, and other things that just make it feel kind of commercial. It was pretty sad/annoying to walk up the hill to the church from the parking lot (which is now down the hill behind the church) and see a big plywood SLUSH PUPPIE sign in front of the café. Talk about tacky. It has just lost some of its mystery and charm, is all.

But it is still WELL WORTH the visit. We hung around the Santuario de Chimayo for about an hour total, then got back in our cars to continue on our journey up along The High Road to Taos.

 

Figments Tea Shoppe & Gallery

Please don’t tell St. James that I’ve cheated on them. I love my tearoom. But look, I just can’t afford it every day. So when the opportunity came up to try another place that was a more reasonable option for every day tea cavorting, I took it. I went to Figments Tea Shoppe and Gallery and enjoyed tea and desserts.

I’m not going to lie. It was good. And I’m going to go back.

Figments Tea Shoppe is located at 8510 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Suite A7 and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sundays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. The place sells loose leaf tea by the ounce  and tea products, as well as unique gifts. The Tea Shoppe also features a fragrance blending bar. Customers can get a personalized lotion, soap or massage oil made from a variety of fragrances.

Oh, but I’m sure you want to get to the details of my dalliance. Fine, I’ll share. Figments offers daily tea time specials. No reservations are required. For $8 I enjoyed a scone, dessert and tea. For my first time, I chose The Great Pumpkin selection (there are two selections every two weeks). I mean come on, it was too tempting, tea and a Charlie Brown reference??? This particular pairing included Linus’ Great Pumpkin Bread, Charlie’s Yogurt, Granola and Honey and Snoopy’s Caramel Delight. For each selection, Figments suggests a tea pairing. Teas come in a three or six pot serving or one specialty tea. I chose the Roobios peppermint bark latte for my tea of choice. I mean I was already cheating, might as well go decadent.

The Great Pumpkin selection at Figments
The Great Pumpkin selection at Figments
The Mad Hatter Selection at Figments
The Mad Hatter Selection at Figments
Peppermint Bark Latte at Figments Tea Shoppe & Gallery
Peppermint Bark Latte at Figments Tea Shoppe & Gallery

The portions were the perfect size for an afternoon bite, not too filling or even too sweet. The latte was huge and wonderful. Even more enjoyable was the ambience. Figments has a seating room towards the back of the store that is decorated like the Mad Hatter tea party from Alice in Wonderland. A decorative tree grows from a wall and blossoms glass flowers and glass tea cups. Hats hang from another tea branch, and the glass table and wicker chairs are decorated with bright flowers. It’s a great place to relax.

A little Koi Pond
A little Koi Pond

The staff is friendly and helpful. The owner explained that beginning soon, Figments will also feature a small bar with flavored vinaigrettes and olive oils. While Figments changes its tea menu every two weeks, after December this will change as well. The two selections will be available for a month, allowing more time for customers to enjoy their favorite sweet treats and tea. And yes, I’ll be back. But shhhh, it’ll be our secret okay?

The Turquoise Trail – Enchanted Weekend Part 1

Hello! This post is part 1 of a (so far) 8-part series dedicated to a weekend trip we recently took around northern NM. Check back soon for the following 7 (or so) parts.

In northern New Mexico, highways and byways have names, not numbers. Well, they have numbers too, but their names are much cooler. A few weeks ago, team EatingNewMexico took off on a whirlwind weekend jaunt around north-central New Mexico. Instead of using interstates and bigger roadways, we opted for back roads and scenic byways: The Turquoise Trail, The High Road, and The Enchanted Circle.

We hit a bunch of historic and special little towns along the way, and of course ate a lot, because that’s how we roll. We were extremely wise/lucky to plan our trip for mid-October, just as the trees along the rivers and on the mountainsides were their brightest yellow and orange.

The Turquoise Trail

The Turquoise Trail is where our journey began. It is a National Scenic Byway (turquoisetrail.org) that spans about 50 miles along Highway 14 from Tijeras to Santa Fe. (Once it hits Santa Fe, it turns into Cerillos Road.) The Turquoise Trail runs through the towns of Tijeras, Cedar Crest, Sandia Park, Golden, Madrid, Cerillos, and San Marcos.

Worth a stop nearly every time we go through is the small town of Madrid. Madrid (pronounced like “MAD-rid” not “muh-DRID” like you might think) was an old mining town turned ghost town that was then revitalized in the 60s and is now a small but thriving artists’ community. There is a cool little dusty museum there, galleries and shops to walk through, and the Mine Shaft Tavern, where you can get a green chile cheeseburger (and probably some other stuff). Madrid is also where parts of the John Travolta movie Wild Hogs was filmed.

Alas, on this trip, we had much to do and not much time, so we didn’t stop in Madrid. Just blew right through (at the prescribed 20 mph).

Our first stop on this trip was San Marcos, at the San Marcos Café and Feed Store. (visit on Yelp)

San Marcos Café and Feed Store

This adorable little café is one of those places that you’ll miss if you aren’t looking for it. And you might miss it even if you are looking for it. It’s located just off the road along Hwy 14, about 7 miles south of the intersection of I-25 and Hwy 14 near Santa Fe. It is open daily for breakfast and lunch.

The grounds of the café are unique to say the least. Peacocks and turkeys and chickens roam free, and behind the building are several aviaries for turkeys, doves, and other birds. You might also catch a peek of what we call the “Lady GaGa Chicken” which is pretty much a chicken in a really fluffy feather suit.

San Marcos Café and Feed Store - San Marcos, New Mexico
San Marcos Café and Feed Store – San Marcos, New Mexico

The inside of the café is just as charming, with uniquely painted and crafted wooden tables and chairs, and a cozy fire in the fireplace (this day, at least).

San Marcos dining area
San Marcos dining area

The wait staff is friendly and welcoming, and somehow remembered that our group of 5 likes cinnamon rolls, even though this was only our second visit. Cups of coffee all around and cinnamon rolls for everyone. That’s how we wanted to start this trip.

The cinnamon rolls are flaky and sweet and delicious — everything a good cinnamon roll should be. The coffee is tasty. This is a great duo to start off a weekend getaway.

Overall, we have fully enjoyed our stops at San Marcos both times we’ve been so far. I’m sure we will be back soon and often!

Santa Fe

Next up, we headed into Santa Fe to drop our doggie off at the doggie hotel. The Z Pet Hotel, to be precise. This is a little doggie hotel right off of Cerillos where you can board your pets and even get them groomed on their last day there. We have been very happy with Z Pet Hotel. They have easy reservations, easy drop offs, easy pickups, and the dogs seem happy there. Prices are reasonable and the employees are nice! Check them out here: Z Pet Hotel

PART 2

Check out Part 2 of our journey — Chimayo — here.

So You Want a Little Breaking Bad with Your Donut?

Rebel Donut

2435 Wyoming Blvd NE
Albuquerque, NM 87112
rebeldonut.com

Rebel Donut, according to their website, is Albuquerque’s “premier artisan donut and pastry shop.” Being a recent arrival to the Albuquerque area, I had heard a lot of office chatter around the water cooler about how great this little donut shop was, and how we “had to try it!” So not long ago, with the Albuquerque Balloon Festival in full swing, Team EatingNewMexico took an early morning foray to the Abq East Side to grab some artisan donuts and coffee, and to see if we could spot any hot-air balloons floating over town.

We arrived at Rebel Donut around 7:30 AM on Sunday morning. Their normal business hours are 7:00 AM-4:00 PM on weekends, and according to their Facebook page, they had opened an hour early to accommodate early-risers attending the Balloon Festival. When we arrived, the shop was not busy and we were able to go straight to the counter and start the very challenging task of selecting which donuts we wanted. Actually, it was more of a challenge to decide which ones we WEREN’T going to buy!

The selection was very good. Since there were three of us, we decided on a conservative half-dozen box. Rebel Donut varies their selection daily, so you won’t know what’s available until you walk into the store.

But one of the regulars is the Blue Sky donut, a.k.a. the BREAKING BAD donut, named after the blue sugary crystalized sprinkles on top that closely resemble Walter White’s nefarious creation in the television series. As a “BrBa” fan, the Blue Sky donut was at the top of my list — so much so, we got two.

BrBa Aaron Paul Donuts
Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul admires a box of Blue Sky.

Others that made the cut were the Fruity Rebel, Biscochito, a Red Chile Chocolate Cream, and a Boston Cream.

Rebel Donut - 6-pack
Blue Sky x 2, Fruity Rebel, Biscochito, Red Chile Chocolate Cream, and Boston Cream.

 

The Blue Sky donut was a light cake donut with blue frosting and blue “crystal” candy on top. While it was delicious, we couldn’t quite pinpoint a flavor in it, other than sugar flavor. Maybe cotton candy? Not sure. The Fruity Rebel was a basic cake donut covered with Fruity Pebbles (the 8-year-old liked it). The biscochito had the perfect biscochito flavor — cinnamon, sugar, and the subtle licorice flavor of anise. A true New Mexico tradition, in donut form (genius!). The Red Chile Chocolate Cream was a raised donut with chocolate glaze, and a dollop of red chile pastry cream in the middle. The Boston Cream was your typical BC donut. Tasty!

Other donuts available that day were French Toast, Maple Bacon Bar, Green Chile Glazed, and some more savory selections, such as Jalapeno & Cheese, and Apple Chicken Sausage kolaches.

Rebel Donut display case
So many choices. Get them all!

The donuts were fresh and delicious, and while there are probably “fresh and delicious” donuts all over Albuquerque, the variety and artistry of these confections are what make Rebel Donuts special and are such a big reason for their success.

Something you likely won’t find at Rebel Donut are your typical “donut shop” items, like glazed twists, apple fritters, and bear claws. (Though there was a plain glazed the day we were there.) So if traditional and cheap is what you’re after, you might want to try somewhere that doesn’t have “rebel” in the title.

For coffee lovers, Rebel Donut also has an espresso menu and delicious brewed coffees, including (my favorite), New Mexico Piñon Coffee!

The only negative on the day we visited was the SUN. In the early morning, the sun blasts through the shop’s huge windows, and there was literally NO shaded seating to be found inside. It was hot and bright and really uncomfortable, so we chose to eat in the car while driving around looking for balloons. At the very least, they could pull some shades or something.

Overall though, we were very happy with our Rebel Donut experience, and I highly recommend a trip to Rebel Donut the next time your sweet tooth gets the better of you!

 

St. James Tearoom: A Sweet Respite from a Hectic World

Life can be crazy these days.

Between work and a somewhat hectic social life, I’m bombarded by all kinds of extraneous noise. I mean how many snarky tweets, Facebook postings of cute animals and Google alerts on Channing Tatum can a girl wade through before just needing to run away for a while? Luckily, I have a special place I can go to escape the fast pace and noise of today’s world. A place that offers me some time to relax and unwind. Oh yeah, and drink some lovely teas and eat some amazing, wonderful food.

The St. James Tearoom, a quiet place for afternoon tea service in northwest Albuquerque.
The St. James Tearoom, a quiet place for afternoon tea service in northwest Albuquerque.

This magical place is the St. James Tearoom, located on the corner of Edith and Osuna in Albuquerque. What is a tearoom, you ask? You actually may not be asking, as you might be more refined than I am. Because the first time I heard of the St. James Tearoom, I assumed it was a place where caffeine junkies hung out, hopping themselves up on the latest teas and discussing—well, I honestly don’t know. But in actuality, a tearoom is a place where you get to experience a traditional afternoon tea service, a two hour respite from the world where you relax while enjoying a variety of loose leaf teas and a full meal.

The first time I ever went to the St. James Tearoom, I was leery. I’m not dainty, refined or even the least bit graceful. So the idea of sitting still for two hours in a room where I was expected to be quiet and drink tea from a dainty china cup while sitting on dainty furniture rather terrified me. I actually brought extra money with me knowing that the chances of me breaking a cup or piece of furniture was going to be quite high. While I might not be graceful, I am always prepared.

I’m glad to report that in the five years that I’ve gone to the St. James Tearoom, I have never broken anything.

The dainty teacup, ready for service.
The dainty teacup, ready for service.

For those of you who have never been to a tearoom and have stuck through the previous paragraph, I will reward your patience by describing the wonders and logistics of the St. James Tearoom. As each tea setting is broken into two-hour intervals, you must make reservations ahead of time. Reservations can be made by calling, or via their online reservation service. Seating times are available at 11:00 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and at those times plus 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

As this is a formal tea, I recommend dressing up. Not in a full-length ball gown or anything, but at least in either your Sunday best, or minus the scruffy jeans and shorts. Although the staff at the St. James Tearoom is so gracious and mannered they won’t judge you. (I totally would, but they won’t). To add more fun to your adventure, you may also want to wear a decorative hat to tea (think Kentucky Derby-type hat). If you do not own such a hat, you can find a selection of loaner hats in the Tearoom’s gift shop.

Fancy hats for the borrowing at St. James Tearoom, just for funzies.
Fancy hats for the borrowing at St. James Tearoom, just for funzies.

Once you arrive at St. James Tearoom, you can wander through their gift shop or peruse their wide variety of loose leaf teas and tea accessories. A bell will sound to alert you that it’s time to be seated for your tea.

The gift shop sells a variety of loose teas with fun & unique names and flavors.
The St. James Tearoom gift shop sells a variety of loose teas with fun & unique names and flavors, such as this one: Van Gogh, Smiling.

Depending on the size of your party, you will either be seated in one of the cozy nooks or the library area. Each of these areas are decorated to represent a different estate of a famous person from the Victorian era. For example, there is a room decorated to look like the home of Florence Nightingale (my favorite nook) and another to represent the farmhouse of Beatrix Potter. Each area is blocked off by a curtain to allow you privacy, and to let you enjoy some peace and quiet. So turn off your cell phone and use your inside voice. That said, my inside voice is quite loud and I’ve never been shushed, so you’ll be fine.

Library seating at the St. James Tearoom.
Library seating at the St. James Tearoom.
Interesting décor fits the Victorian theme.
Interesting décor fits the Victorian theme.

After being seated, a server (dressed in darling Victorian garb) will introduce you to the month’s menu. Each month, the St. James Tearoom features a theme. For instance, this October’s theme is “Phantom of the Opera” and next months’ theme is “A Narnian Teatime.” I only mention November’s theme because I love C.S. Lewis and am geeky-excited about the theme. Essentially, the foods will be named or inspired for the theme, such as Mr. Tummins Fig and Goat Cheese Sandwich (see how I got Narnia in there twice?).

Your server will begin by serving you one of three teas for your setting. Usually, your tea adventure begins with a traditional black tea, followed by a spiced black tea, or a green tea, finished by a flowered or fruit tea. Each tea is served in a pot and you are provided cream and sugar. Your server will tell you which tea goes best with cream and sugar. Once you’re done with a particular tea, you set the lid of your tea pot up to indicate you’re ready for your next tea.

A hot cup o tea at the St. James Tearoom. Excellent.
A hot cup o tea at the St. James Tearoom. Excellent.
All the creams and sugars you could need for your teas.
All the creams and sugars you could need for your teas.

During Christmas, the St. James Tearoom features my absolute favorite tea—sparkling sugar plum. The tea actually sparkles!!

The Sparkling Sugar Plum tea has little glittering bits of something that sparkle in your cup!
The Sparkling Sugar Plum tea has little glittering bits of something that sparkle in your cup!

Ah, now let’s talk about your afternoon tea food. After you’ve been given your first tea, your server will deliver heaven on a three-tiered tray.

Your lunch, on a 3-tiered tray!
Your lunch, on a 3-tiered tray!

Now, don’t be alarmed by how small everything looks. The first time I saw the amount of food provided, I leaned over to my niece and told her we would go for a cheeseburger afterwards. Trust me, you will leave full and satisfied. The bottom tray of the tier will feature savories, such as (from this month’s menu), carrot soufflé, salmon en croute and more. The second tier will have the St. James traditional scones and lemon curd and the month’s featured scones with cream. The top tier will have desserts, fabulous, wonderful, sugar coma (worth it) inducing desserts. I cannot say enough about the food. This is melt in your mouth, savor every bite, sell your mother or your soul for another bite, wonderful food.*

Another bell will ring letting you know that your tea time is officially over. Feel free to cry that your respite from the real world has come to an end. Your server will offer you a hot towel to let you wipe away your tears. Okay, the towel is really to wipe your hands, but you know, they’re not going to judge you. Even I won’t judge you as there has been many a time that I’ve cried and wailed. You know, in my inside voice.

I will say that this wonderful, magic experience does not come cheap. Seating prices for adults is $33 and for children 4-10 is $24. During the Christmas season, prices are $36 for adults and $26 for children. But I’ll pay anything for those sugar plum sparkles. But while the tea experience is pricey, it is completely worth it. The St. James Tearoom also caters to individual dietary needs. They offer decaffeinated tea, as well as a gluten free and vegetarian menu.

*I realize this post sounds rather blasphemous. I in no way really mean that the food is literally like heaven, as in actuality it’s not served by Channing Tatum or Ryan Gosling. And in no way should you really sell your soul for food. Hold out for a car at least.

Surfing (and occasionally eating) Pavement in New Mexico + 8 Tips for Beginners

Insights from a “forty-something” rookie skateboarder…

This is a story about longboard skateboarding and some things I’ve learned about it over the last year. Before I jump into the skateboarding part though, I need to share a little back story about why, at age 48, I feel the need risk broken bones and road rash to careen down the hills east of Sandia Mountain in New Mexico.

Around February 2007, I was living in the Florida Panhandle when a friend of mine invited me to come out to the beach and try something called “standup paddleboard surfing.” Using a borrowed wetsuit and a borrowed 11’ Nash paddleboard and paddle, I attempted to paddle out into a churning surf that looked like it was being created by a giant washing machine agitator. It was one of the most exhausting hours of “fun” I’d ever experienced. Even though I didn’t come close to catching a wave, or even standing up for that matter, I was hooked. A month later I bought my own paddleboard. By that summer, I was at the beach constantly. On days with good surf, I would go out and catch waves. On flat days, I’d paddle up and down the beach, watching the assortment of sea life below my board: jellyfish, pompano, and even the occasional green sea turtle or Atlantic bottlenose dolphin. Life was good.

Eventually, around 2009, I bought a 9’ longboard and started to learn to “prone-paddle” surf, the more traditional surfing style. Learning to “pop-up” from a prone position after being a paddleboarder was a steep learning curve, but I eventually became competent at it. (Notice I didn’t say “mastered” it. I never really mastered it.)

Shortly after I bought the longboard, circumstances in my life changed and I left Florida. I sold off the paddleboard, but (thankfully) I hung onto my longboard. In 2012, after a couple years of living inland and not surfing at all, I jumped at an opportunity to move to Southern California. Even though I only lived in Ventura County for a year, it was good to be back to surfing again. I missed my paddleboard, but I was grateful to be back in the water. I have some great memories of early morning surfing at Mondos Beach and playing tag with the sea lions.

Surf day at Faria Beach, CA. February 2013
Surf day at Faria Beach, CA. February 2013

But job changes and life changes happened again, and today I find myself living near Albuquerque, New Mexico. My surfboard still hangs in the garage; I didn’t have the heart to sell it. Last Christmas, knowing that a move to New Mexico could be coming, my awesome girlfriend bought me a Sector 9 longboard skateboard. From the first time I took it out, I knew it would make for a suitable substitute for surfing, as well as be a great way for me to keep my balancing skill sharp for the northern New Mexico ski and snowboard seasons I might soon be enjoying.

I’ve always been a minor-league adrenaline junkie. Personally, if there’s not a small chance I’m going to hurt myself, then it’s probably not something I’ll enjoy all that much. Arguably, skateboarding is a young person’s sport. Like a lot of other sports that involve balance and wheels turning quickly over the earth’s surface, it’s not a matter of if you’ll crash, but when. And let’s face it, 18-year-olds heal a lot faster than 48-year-olds, plus they have that sense of invincibility that makes them more prone to push limits, whereas those of us who’ve seen a lot more sunrises tend to be a bit more conservative. With that thought in mind, I think someone in their late-forties or even older is more than capable of taking up skateboarding. The key to not winding up in the emergency room is knowing…and respecting…your own limitations. With that said, here are a few tips I’d offer a new skateboarder of any age.

1.  Get out there and skate!

Conventional wisdom probably says I should hound you about safety gear first and foremost. And yes, safety gear is important, but I’m going to talk about that later. What I really want to stress here is that you’ll never be good at anything unless you get out there and do it…a lot. With a skateboard, the more you ride it, the more it becomes an extension of your body. Most of what you learn when you ride a skateboard comes through trial and error. The more you ride, the more you can sense when you’re going too fast, when you’re turning too deep, or when you’re about to lose control. There’s a lot going on below your feet when you’re riding. The more time you have feeling the board beneath your feet, the less likely things will surprise you and send you sprawling across the pavement.

2.  Wear protective gear.

Speaking of sprawling across the pavement, at some point it’s probably going to happen, so it’s always a good idea to wear protective gear. At a minimum, wear a helmet. I usually roll with a helmet and some leather gloves. When I get to the point where I’m rolling at higher speeds and doing big downhill runs, I will eventually wear knee and elbow pads and slide gloves. Wearing a helmet is crucial, because you can strike your head pretty hard even at a low-speed crash.

Case in point, I was out with my girlfriend (Zia) and her eight year-old daughter (Little Coyote) a couple of months ago, skating on a short hill near my home. I was wearing my helmet mostly just to set a good example for Little Coyote. Normally I wouldn’t have been wearing one on this particular hill. I was practicing some deep turns at a low speed when I over-skidded on the toe-side and stumbled, falling over backwards. I was barely moving with any speed, but the back of my head struck the pavement hard. Had I not been wearing a helmet, I definitely would have split the back of my head open, and probably even had a concussion. After that incident, I ALWAYS wear a helmet now. Also, as I become more confident in my riding and start digging deeper into turns at greater speeds, the more likely I am to take a spill, especially on my heel-side (backwards). Instinct is always to stick a hand out there to break your fall. Leather gloves won’t save your wrists when this happens, but it will help prevent a painful road rash on the palm of your hand.

All too common "road rash." Wear gloves...or don't fall. Either way is good for your skin.
All too common “road rash.” Wear gloves…or don’t fall. Either way is good for your skin.

 

3. Learn about your skateboard and its parts.

I had a couple of skateboards in the 70’s when I was a kid. I even had one that my dad helped me make by cutting the wheels and mounts off a pair of roller skates and bolting them to a piece of pine board. Skateboard technology, especially with wheels, has come along light-years since then. There are specific board setups for all different kinds of riding, whether you plan to carve up the ramps at a skateboard park, freestyle ride down gentle slopes, or bomb big hills. Take some time to research the type of riding you want to do. YouTube is a great source of information. For me, the original wheels that came on my board were great for standard freestyle riding, soft and grippy. But I wanted to learn to control my speed more by sliding the wheels, and I found out that the wheels I had were the wrong durometer for sliding. Watching skateboard wheel reviews on YouTube helped immensely when it came to finding the right wheels for the type riding I wanted to do. (Also, big credit to Skate City Supply in Albuquerque!  They not only sold me some awesome wheels, but they showed me how to change them out as well.) There’s a lot to know and learn about skate wheels. Check out this very cool and very informative Skate Wheel Infographic!

My current wheel of choice: Sector 9 Butterball, Durometer 80
My current wheel of choice: Sector 9 Butterball, Durometer 80

 

4. Know your limits, but don’t be afraid to push them.

Like surfing, skateboarding should be all about having fun. Do what’s fun for you…always! For me, the fun comes with learning new skills and riding that fine line between exhilaration and terror. (Exhilaration: a controlled, fast descent down a long, gentle hill. Terror: Way too fast, “speed wobbles,” and a fast approaching STOP sign with cross-traffic. I’ve experienced both!) On a skateboard, it’s very easy to find yourself in over your head before you even realized it’s happened. Most of the time, it’s because you’ve reached a speed that surpasses your abilities to slow down or stop. If the “want” to stop becomes a “need” to stop, then your short list of options is just basically choosing the least painful way to “eat it.” To avoid this situation (even though it is chocked full of valuable lessons), here’s some sage advice.

5. Learn to stop.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. There are several methods and they all have two things in common. They all entail applying friction to the road surface, and they all take practice to master. Here’s a link to a great YouTube video that helped me out a lot:

6. Don’t skate faster than you can sprint.

Sometimes, the best way out of a bad situation (before it becomes a terrible situation) is to simply jump off the board. If you’re pointed downhill and you feel like you’re picking up speed too fast, jump off. Your legs will automatically try and accommodate for the speed. If you’re traveling faster than your legs can carry you, then you’re going to meet the street. However, as long as you are traveling less than your sprint speed, what normally happens is you step off and run 4-5 steps to slow your momentum. Your skateboard will stop in place once you bail out, because your foot will kick it backwards as you leave the board (pretty sure there’s some physics law happening there…). The important thing to remember is if you’re in doubt, just bail out. There’s usually about a half-second between “Hey I should jump off,” and “Oh crap! I’m going way too fast to jump off now.”

7. Know the surface you’re skating.

As I’m walking up a hill I plan to ride, I watch the surface for things like loose gravel, extra-wide cracks in the road, grass growing in the middle of the road, coyote poop, basically anything I want to avoid on my way down. Skateboard wheels today are made of high-tech urethane and can pretty much handle anything they roll over (not like the 1970’s, where a single pebble would stop your board instantly and launch you into a low-trajectory orbit). Regardless, hitting gravel or a clump of grass in the middle of a deep, sliding turn can make your board do some crazy things. It’s best to know what lies ahead before you get there.

8. Forego the headphones.

I admit, it looks cool to cruise down the road on your longboard listening to your favorite tunes on your iPod. However, the reality is I usually hear a car before I see it. Maximize use of all your senses when you ride.

Rediscovering skateboarding as an adult has been an incredible experience. I wish I had taken it up years ago, even though most of the places I’ve lived (like the Florida panhandle) weren’t really conducive to longboarding. Regardless, I’d recommend it to anyone willing to give it a try. On a parting note, next spring I’m going to start incorporating “paddling” back into my game!

Until next time, get out there and stop acting your age!

Go have some fun!
Go have some fun!

New Mexico’s “Musical Highway” Plays America the Beautiful

A small stretch of road along old Route 66 / Hwy 333 near Tijeras, NM has been enabled with a musical ability. If you drive over a special rumble strip at exactly 45 miles per hour (no, not 40, not 50), you will be serenaded with a slightly asphalty rendition of the last few bars of America the Beautiful.

HOW TO GET THERE: From Albuquerque, at the Tramway/Central intersection, either hop on I-40 then exit to Rte 66 at Carnuel, or just get on Rte 66 right there at Tramway/Central and take it the whole way. Either way, after Rte 66 passes under I-40 (east of Carnuel), get ready and start looking for the blue signs. There is a sign reading “Musical Highway” that prepares you, then a sign reading “Reduce Speed to 45 mph” to get you in the proper speed zone. Arrows painted on the rumble strips show you where to actually place your tires. Note: The musical section is on the eastbound lane only.

If you watch the video above, you’ll see a second, shorter rumble strip after the first one. The first time I drove the Musical Highway, that second rumble strip played the Nationwide jingle. I kid you not. It was terrible and I felt somehow violated. But the second time I drove it (in the video above), the second rumble strip had been…. de-activated. THANK GOODNESS.

Rumor has it that the Musical Highway was created here as part of a Discovery Channel experiment in crowd control for a show to air soon, with the added benefit of getting drivers to slow to the speed limit, at least for a little while. In my experience (ahem), drivers just speed back up when the music stops. But at least we are being safe for a little while.

UPDATE: We indeed saw the episode of Crowd Control that featured the NM Musical Highway. Pretty cool, and I was happy to see that the jingle was included for the episode only. Plus, Crowd Control has become one of our favorite shows.

Corn Dogs and Meh at the New Mexico State Fair

So we went to the State Fair and for like three weeks leading up to the fair we were like CORN DOGS FUNNEL CAKES DEEP FRIED THINGS ON STICKS — MAKE IT HAPPEN, FAIR. And then we got to the fair and yes, there were many yummy smells coming from many food booths all over the place. Promising!

It was about 85 degrees, I think. Which might not sound too hot, but out on the asphalt and NO SHADE of the fairgrounds, it quickly became a blistering stuffed animal & carnie infested hellscape.

You know what sounds good in that environment? A/C and a nap. A cold beverage. Ice cream, snow cones.  You know what doesn’t sound good in that environment? Hot, deep-fried foods.

BUT WE WERE ON A MISSION. A mission to eat and love some fried fair foods (preferably on sticks).  So we stood in various lines and picked up a foot-long corn dog, some drinks, and a funnel cake.

Then we sat down in the shadeless noonday sun in the midst of the carnival crowds of sweating, dragging, weary people and we ate our hot, fried foods, dripping sweat into our mustard.

CORN DOG
Foot-long hand-dipped corn dog, NM State Fair

So the corn dog was $6 and the bottle of water was $3. We also got a cold bottle of Pepsi, also $3. (Which is more expensive than the drinks at Disneyland, which I hadn’t thought possible.)  The funnel cake my daughter picked out (with whipped cream and Hershey syrup) was NINE FREAKING DOLLARS.

Everything was fine. Good, even. But was it exciting or special? Not really.

Something else we had, which was a finalist or something in the “Unique Foods” competition, were the deep fried green chile cheese curds. Which really, sounds like the quintessential NM State Fair food, does it not? And they are served with ranch for dipping, naturally, like every other savory deep fried thing.

And they were fine. Good, even. The problem I had with them was the lack of green chile. There was a slight green chile flavor, but at the NM State Fair, where we are celebrating things New Mexico, if something says “green chile” I want BAM! GREEN CHILE!

So, yeah.

State Fair Cheese Curds
Deep Fried Green Chile Cheese Curds, NM State Fair

Maybe my expectations were too high. I had been watching Carnival Eats for weeks leading up this day, just to prepare myself. But I found the foods to be uninspired and just OK. Oh and way too expensive.

Overall, we had a fine time at the fair. We rode some rides and played some games, ate some foods, and felt somehow violated in ways we couldn’t pinpoint by a few carnies, so it was a typical fair experience.

But I’m just now getting over the sticker shock of the prices for everything ($5 apiece for rides/games was the norm).

My favorite part of the fair was not the food or midway at all — it was the buildings of prize-winning art, textiles, and giant vegetables. Mostly because they were interesting to look at, but also partly because they were air conditioned and didn’t cost another $15 each time we walked through a door.

6 Tips for a Successful Pie Fest

Tips for a Successful Family Outing to the Pie Festival

  1. The Pie Town Pie Festival has a website with a list of activities and times. While the sign up for the pie eating contests begin at 9 a.m., there’s no reason to get there right on time to sign up. You can sign up right up until contest time assuming there is enough pie to go around.
  2. The best time to get to the Pie Festival is between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. The main activities begin at noon, and it doesn’t take more than an hour to tour all of the vendor booths and to get your first slice of pie.
  3. Speaking of pie, it’s better to buy your full pies for the road sooner, rather than later. We debated whether or not to buy pies right away. We decided to wait and many of the popular pies were sold out by the time we were ready to head home.
  4. There are a few activities for the kids to do beyond the junior pie eating contest, but you’ll need to keep an eye on them the entire time. The festival is held at a park, so there’s a swing set, a slide and a jungle gym. The slide is one of the biggest I’ve seen, and judging by the amount of kids I saw face-planted at the bottom, it’s a very fast slide. There was nothing unusual about the swing set, but there was a large number of people who walked way too close to swinging kids and almost ended up with black eyes. Pie can lull you into a dangerous state of not paying attention, apparently. There’s also a giant pie of dirt where organizers hide little toys for the kids to find. However, they left behind an adult sized metal shovel for the kids to dig with. Put together a bunch of kids and an adult sized shovel — trouble and concussions are bound to happen.
  5. If you have access to horned toads, don’t forget to bring your speediest and most well-trained for the afternoon horned toad races.
  6. Pie Town is a very small town. There isn’t a gas station, so be sure to fill up in neighboring towns, like Datil or Magdalena.

I hope these tips can help you have a very successful and stress-free Pie Town Pie Festival 2015.