The Great American Road Trip II - 25 - A Fish Out of Water
After delicious breakfast which included corned beef hash, blueberry muffins, and coffee so strong it took us one pot of cream each to tame it, we left the hotel when we got the call from the dealership that the car was ready. We went over to pick it up and realized that, in addition to fixing the cylinder (which turned out to be due to carbon buildup on the spark plugs), they rinsed off the outside, cleaned a bit of the interior, and fixed a rear taillight that hasn't been coming on consistently. We talked a bit more with the crew there - who still wanted us to trade it in - before thanking them profusely and heading out in a much smoother ride.
Since we had a day on the town, we headed downtown to a very historic section of Santa Fe - the Plaza, which was made out to be more than it really was. It was still nice, with brick streets blocked off to car traffic and a nice big green area in the middle with a number of trees, but it wasn't all that mind-blowing.
(Side note: Santa Fe passed an ordinance in the early 1900s that was unusual for the time - it said that all new constructions must be adobe-style. There are no buildings which are not adobe-style, leading to the interesting sights of seeing adobe-style Wal-Marts and McDonalds. Also, I did not anticipate the kind of hippy culture that thrives in the Plaza area - it was kind of like some parts of San Francisco.)
After navigating around some sort of wedding in the popular Plaza area, we found parking and within short order found something to do: a New Mexico history museum located next to the Palace of the Governors, a 1610 construction that has been modified over the years but still retains original portions. We toured the museum and learned quite a bit about New Mexico's history, from the arrival of the Spanish to the Puebloan revolt to the Mexican-American War and finally to the present day. It was extraordinarily well done and maintained a great number of unique and original artifacts.
After roughly two hours touring the museum and the adjoining Palace of the Governors (which was really squeaky but didn't tell us too much more than the museum itself), we headed out of Santa Fe on I-25 northbound towards Glorieta, a nearby town and the namesake of Glorieta Pass, the site of a far western Civil War battle often referred to as the "Gettysburg of the West."
The far western theatre only lasted for a few months and did not greatly affect the war's outcome, but if the Confederate forces had won at Glorieta Pass, then the reach of the Confederacy could have extended to southern California, reenforcing their case as a legitimate country to potential European allies. The three-day battle ended in a technical stalemate, but the Union won by sending a detachment behind Confederate lines to Johnson's Ranch, the site of relatively unguarded Confederate supplies. The Union burned them, forcing the Confederacy to retreat to Texas and ending the far western campaign.
(The Battle of Glorieta Pass also featured a character by the name of Major Shropshire, who was trying to take out a Union artillery battery at Pigeon's Ranch. Motivating his men to take the hill, he said "come on and help me take that position, or stay back and watch men who will." He was killed approximately five seconds later leading the charge up the hill.)
Our route not only took us through Pigeon's Ranch - a place where some of the original house structure still stands, with rocks behind it that Confederate snipers once crawled upon - but it was also once a part of Route 66. We got to the visitor center in the town of Pecos and asked questions of the ranger there. Most of the battlefield is in private hands, and those private hands don't care for snooping around - unless you're on a ranger-led tour. Unfortunately the next such tour was scheduled for next Monday, by which time we will be deep in the heart of Texas. The one non-ranger trail didn't have much on it that we hadn't seen in Mesa Verde - plus, the nearly 7,000-foot elevation was made doubly unpleasant by our unfortunate lack of sunscreen.
The lack of trails or other roads to parts of the battlefield was disappointing, but since there was nothing else to see in the area we headed back to the highway, where we passed by Pigeon's Ranch again - but after heading on the Interstate for a while, we exited near an old church, which the ranger had told us about. We went on a road that dead-ended at Johnson's Ranch in Apache Canyon, the site of the Confederate supply burn. While looking at the old church we encountered a man who asked where from North Carolina we were from. He was born and raised in Winston-Salem, but lives in Boston now and also has ties to the Oakland area. He's on a big road trip of his own, following as much of Route 66 has he can before coming up to Oakland and then back to Boston.
We then got back on the highway bound for Santa Fe, where we got a late lunch at "Bumble Bee's," which specializes in burgers, gourmet tacos, and general Baja cuisine. We all got a fish taco - yet another item crossed off my food bucket list on this trip - and they were surprisingly delicious. While the soft shells were not big, the amount of fish, sauce, pico de gallo, cabbage, and avocado they put on the thing makes it tricky to eat without getting half of it all over your body. Originally anticipating their size to make them appetizers for a larger meal, we were full by the time we had finished them.
At around 6:00 we left for the stadium of the Santa Fe Fuego, an independent minor-league team in the relatively new Pecos League. The Pecos League functions on a unique business model comparative to short-season A ball - but with league tryouts to make the teams competitive and a limit of just a few years for players within the league. The league is in its third year, and within its first two years, it saw 119 players sign with affiliated minor league teams or higher-level independent league play.
The play was surprisingly intense with a lot of excellent defense and pitching. Most of the offense was provided by extra-base hits on the part of the visiting Roswell Invaders, who use baseballs with green seams on them for home games as part of their alien shtick. They did not sell pennants, but they had a cool hat, which we got. We left at the end of the seventh inning with the Fuego down 7-2. (I've seen better outfield defense at the high school level.)
When we left around 8:00, the sun was setting behind mountains, providing a fiery backdrop for the black smoke of two forest fires, which are sizzling behind the mountains. Fortunately for us, that's due west - a direction we won't go in for the rest of this trip if we can help it.
By around 8:30 we pulled back into Bumble Bee's, where we got some more tacos. I tried the shrimp taco, which was even better than the fish.
Tomorrow: either Las Cruces or Clovis, with the outlying possibility of Carlsbad. These routes will all serve to take us down south so we can take I-10 to San Antonio.