The Big Ride – Culture and the Arts…part 2 (New Mexico)

If you read my last blog titled Culture and the Arts you will know that my travels in New Mexico were filled with some great riding, along with some interesting Spanish architecture and an array of beautiful art.

My visit to Santa Fe was equally as charming.  While there I had the opportunity to stroll through the historical district.  There I met Donna, a former motorcyclist who was helping out a friend at one of the local art galleries.  The gallery had a wonderful collection of Edward Curtis original photographs of North American Indians from the late 1800’s.  Donna also shared an interesting piece of history about the building where the art was being shown.

The room where we were standing was joined to a small office that had been the working space of J. Robert Oppenheimer,  (April 22, 1904 – February 18, 1967) often called the “father of the atomic bomb” for his role in overseeing the Manhattan Project, the World War II project that developed the first nuclear weapons.  It seems my travels have been filled with some very interesting history!

The building where Oppenheimer's office was while he lead the
The building where Oppenheimer’s office was while overseeing the Manhattan Project aka developing the A-Bomb

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My visit also included the famous Loretta Chapel which was constructed in the 1870’s.  The chapel resembles the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris but it is on a smaller scale. Before the chapel was completed, the architect died suddenly leaving the builders to realize it lacked a stairway to the choir loft. Due to the chapel’s small size, a standard staircase would have been too large.  The story is that a shabby looking carpenter appeared at the chapel and offered to build a staircase.  He used a small number of primitive tools including a square, a saw and some warm water and constructed a spiral staircase.  The identity of the carpenter is not known.  When the staircase was finished three months later the carpenter was gone. The spiral staircase is twenty feet high and has two complete revolutions up to the choir loft.  There are no nails or apparent center support.  It is an incredible piece of mastery!

Loretta Chapel, built in 1872
Loretta Chapel, built in 1872

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Loretta Chapel spiral staircase
Loretta Chapel spiral staircase

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Another historical landmark in the Santa Fe historical district of interest was the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, commonly known as Saint Francis Cathedral which was built during the three year period 1714 to 1717.  Here are a few photos, including one of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680) the first North American Indian to be promoted to Saint.  In her final years, she lived in a Jesuit mission south of Montreal in what was then known as New France.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi built 1747-1717
The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi built in 1714-1717
Outside the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
Outside the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680) the first North American Indian to be promoted to Saint.
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680) the first North American Indian to be promoted to Saint.

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Here are a few additional photos that you may find interesting.  Enjoy!

Interesting sidewalk art
Cool sidewalk art

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A delighful ceiling in the lounge of the Loretta Inn
A delightful ceiling in the lounge of the Loretta Inn

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Emma will be jealous if she finds out I'm photographing other felines!
Emma will be jealous if she finds out I’m photographing other felines!

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If you know me well, popcorn is my favorite snack - I selected hot green chili...oh my it was deliciously spicy!
If you know me well, popcorn is my favorite snack – I selected hot green chili…oh my it was deliciously spicy!

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A quaint motel in Santa Fe
A quaint motel in Santa Fe
Even the parking garages in Santa Fe have an artistic flair!
Even the parking garages have an artistic flair

Stay tuned and find out where I’m off to next!! 🙂

The Big Ride – Culture and the Arts! (New Mexico)

Two of the States that I have always wanted to visit were Texas and New Mexico, so having the opportunity to visit them back to back was incredibly amazing.  As you know from my last post, Texas surpassed my expectations.  Well, that was also the case with New Mexico!

I was able to spend time in Las Vegas, New Mexico – a small historical town , along with a couple days in Santa Fe.  What a wonderful experience it’s been visiting New Mexico.

My first stop was in Las Vegas, NM, which was established in 1835.  The little town was built around a central plaza in a traditional Spanish style with a plaza surrounded by buildings that would have been used to fortify the city in the event of an attack. With the arrival of the railway in 1880, the town became notorious for it’s reputation of murderers, robbers, thieves, gamblers and  gunmen, including Doc Holliday and his girlfriend Big Nose Kate…I wonder how she got her name…Jesse James, Billy the Kid and Wyatt Earp. What’s interesting is that some parts of the town appear to still have a similar “flavour” 🙂

Here’s a few of my favorite photos from Las Vegas, NM.

One of the local
The Plaza Hotel, which apparently is “haunted”

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I could pull this behind my Harley as a spare set of wheels :)
I could pull this behind my Harley as a spare set of wheels 🙂

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From Las Vegas, I headed towards Santa Fe, NM.  The scenery was exceptional!  Here are a few photos from along the way.

One of the many valleys that adorn New Mexico
One of the many valleys that adorn New Mexico

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Amazing scenery on the way to Santa Fe, NM
Breathtaking scenery on the way to Santa Fe, NM
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There were numerous rock formations like this along the way
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There were also a lot of arid dessert like areas along the way
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The roadways swept through the mountains and hillsides making for some very nice riding!

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My travels included a stop at the historic Nambe Trading Post off Route 503.  It’s one of the last authentic trading posts in the area.  There I met Jennifer Jesse Smith, one of the owners of the shop and a local artist. What a wonderful experience that turned out to be.  Jennifer took the time to show me around the trading post and provided a commentary about the wonderful collection she has at the Trading Post, including numerous authentic native artifacts and an array of fabulous pieces of local art, such as handcrafted jewelry, locally woven native blankets, pottery, paintings and more.  Included in the collection were a number of native costumes made by her mother, Cathy A. Smith, the Emmy award winning designer, made for the movie Dances with Wolves which starred Kevin Costner.  If you are in New Mexico, stopping in at the Nambe Trading Post is a must!  Here are a few photos of what you might find there.

Tee-pee made by Cathy A. Smith for her daughter Jennifer Jesse to play in when she was young girl
Tee-pee made by Cathy A. Smith, Emmy-winning costume designer, for her daughter Jennifer Jesse to play in when she was a little girl
Outside the Nambe Trading Post, NM
The Nambe Trading Post, NM

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Costumes made by Emmy-winning costume designer, Cathy A. Smith for use in the movie, Dances with Wolves
Costumes made by Emmy-winning costume designer, Cathy A. Smith for use in the movie, Dances with Wolves
Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves, wearing one of the costumes designed by Cathy A. Smith, co-owner of the Nambe Trading Post
Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves, wearing one of the costumes designed by Cathy A. Smith, co-owner of the Nambe Trading Post

Here are a few other photos that I found interesting.

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A fence crafted from small branches
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Historic wagon outside of the Nambe Trading Post

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Seen at a local cemetery
Seen at a local cemetery
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The fireplace at my hotel in Santa Fe

My time spent touring around Santa Fe is worthy of its own post…stay tuned for Part 2 of “Culture and the Arts!”

The Big Ride – Until we meet again (Texas)

I must say that I’ve enjoyed the past six days in Texas riding through the majestic Yellow Pine forests, through the hill sides and across the grasslands that went on forever until they touched the sky somewhere far off in the distance.  The vast canyons called out to my soul as I traveled over the lands where many a great warrior had gone before me and I was able to share the passion of my dream with numerous locals along the way.

My last stop in Texas was in Amarillo where I visited the notorious Cadillac Ranch that is somewhat immersed after the tumultuous rain falls experienced in Texas a few weeks ago, not to mention a little shopping pleasure and of course being a carnivore at heart what would be a trip through the “cattle state” without enjoying a great steak dinner!

Here are a few final photos for your viewing pleasure:

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Cadillac Ranch - the cars are in a pretty big puddle after the horrendous rains in Texas in the past number of weeks.
Cadillac Ranch – the cars are in a pretty big puddle after the horrendous rains in Texas in the past number of weeks.

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Yup...they're everywhere and Walmart has a huge selection!

Yup…they’re everywhere and Walmart has a huge selection!

I understand the principle but it scares me!
I understand the principle but it scares me!
I caught one!
I caught one!

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A little shopping pleasure before leaving the state:

My new cowgirl boots
My new cowgirl boots
An addition to my collection of belts and buckles
An addition to my collection of belts and buckles
My new friend
A new friend

Go big or go home!

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Go big or go home!
Go big or go home!

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From here my amigos….I’m New Mexico bound!

The Big Ride – When in Rome (Marlin Texas)

The past few days riding across Texas have been memorable.  After leaving Nacogdoches I had the pleasure of chatting with a couple of locals in Marlin, Texas, a small town that was at one time known for its mineral hot spring and a buzz of activity with many people visiting to benefit from its healing properties.

An exuberant Beth Scruggs and her friend Earnest Cluck provided me with an incredible amount of information about that town and its history.  Beth recounted how her father, now 87 was the owner of one of the largest herds of Texas Long Horns.   She went on to say that the Hilton Hotel chain built its eighth high rise hotel in the town to provide accommodations for the many visitors who once flocked to what was a vibrant bustling little town.  The lavish 110 room facility was built by Conrad Hilton in 1929 with a tunnel that led to a bath house across the street.

Visitors included the New York Giants Team who came to Marlin during their spring training between 1908 to 1918 to take advantage of the healing mineral waters.

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Wanting to learn more about the mineral springs and the “little town that was”, I rode over to the Chamber of Commerce to check it out.  There I met Dusty Rhodes, a 67 year old local who claimed that from the time he was a young boy he’s been drinking the water as part of his daily regime.  He was there at the spring collecting water to take home for bathing.

Marlin, Texas - The mineral water capital of Texas
Marlin, Texas – The mineral water capital of Texas

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Doing as the Romans do
Doing as the Romans do

Being the curious type and wanting to do as the Romans do….literally and figuratively speaking, I took the plunge.  Not only did I experience relief when I soaked my hot tired feet in the mineral water…my feet had been stuck in my hot motorcycle boots all day.  I also drank a full glass of the hot salty water.  I must admit I think it made a difference.  I feel wiser as a result and I think I’m a little taller too.  Oh wait…that’s from those new cowgirl boots I bought…but now I’m getting ahead of myself in my story telling and will have to leave that for another blog 🙂

Stay tuned…there’s more to come!

The Big Ride – When the unexpected turns into the spectacular (Little Grand Canyon – Texas)

Riding through Texas has brought so many amazing experiences and riding into Palo Duro Canyon was one of them.  The magnificence of the Canyon was far more than I had anticipated.  From the research I did when planning my trip I knew it was referred to as the Little Grand Canyon.  What I wasn’t aware of was that I would be able to ride down into the base of the canyon on my motorcycle.  Doing so was nothing short of spectacular!

As I started to descend into the canyon I was in a complete state of awe and wonderment at the beauty that unfolded before me.  The layers of the richly coloured rock that was millions of years old called out to me as I navigated my way through the park.  As I rode deeper into the Canyon I could feel the presence of the Comanche Indians who dwelled there just a little over a century ago.  As I looked up to the ridge, in my minds eye I could see them as they prepared for the battle against the US Army that would result in them being forced out of the 120 mile long expansive paradise.  This was the Comanche’s last stronghold.

Palo Duro Canyon, Mexico
Palo Duro Canyon, Mexico
“The Little Grand Canyon”

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Palo Duro Canyon, Texas The Little Grande Canyon
Palo Duro Canyon, Texas
The Little Grand Canyon

And for those of you who would like to be a part of the ride, here’s a video clip of some of what I experienced while in the Canyon.

Finally, here are a few additional photos to amuse you

Yup...Texan Armadillo Poo It's a big seller out this way
Yup…Texan Armadillo Poo It’s a big seller out this way
Twist and shout!
Twist and shout!

The Big Ride – Miles and miles and miles (Creole Nature Park – Louisiana)

It’s been a few days since I’ve made a post to the blog.  Although in some respects it feels like only a short time ago, in reality, it’s been miles and miles and miles and on a road trip a lot can happen in three days.  Road trips are like that.  Time passes quickly and upon reflection it’s sometimes difficult to recall all of the interesting details but I’ll do my best…just for you.

The last time I posted I was in Morgan City, LA and I had just toured Oak Alley Plantation after leaving New Orleans.  While heading towards Lake Charles I stopped in the historic town of New Iberia to take a couple of photos.

While there I went into the library…I know it sounds strange but road trips lead you to interesting places.  The truth of the matter was that it was about 38 degrees Celsius with plenty of humidity and the library was air conditioned and had facilities.   There I met Jackie, a woman who works there.  She is formerly from Canada and now lives in New Iberia.  She and her colleague chatted with me about the area and suggested I check out a little town called Beaux Bridge located a few miles north.  Thank you ladies for the suggestion!

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Spanish moss adorning a majestic oak tree
Spanish moss adorning a majestic oak tree
Interesting to learn that New Iberia was home to a Prisoner of War camp during the WWII
Interesting to learn that New Iberia was home to a Prisoner of War camp during the WWII
New Iberia close to the library
New Iberia close to the library

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Beaux Bridge is a quaint little town with interesting shops and cafes, including one called “Joie de Vivre” where I was able to treat myself to a frozen latté while being able to admire some local art.  Here are a few of my favorite photos from there.

Beaux Bridge
Beaux Bridge

Breaux Bridge

Breaux Bridge Art

Walkway at Beaux Bridge
Walkway at Beaux Bridge

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The following day led me south of Lake Charles to the Creole Nature Trail which is a 180 mile long loop that includes Louisiana Highway 27 which runs through a part of the Intracoastal Waterway that runs inland from the Great Lakes at home, along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the US down through the Gulf of Mexico.

I set out with hopes of finding an alligator farm and perhaps taking advantage of being close to the sea to enjoy one last roadside lunch of craw-fish.  The scenic byway surpassed my expectations! The vistas were breathtaking! And visiting with the locals who were parked along the roadside and pull offs to take advantage of the crabbing and fishing was equally as refreshing.

I never did find an alligator farm but to my delight, when I stopped at one of the walkways there was an alligator in the wild that was hanging out there.  Yup…alligators hang out waiting for tourists to show up 🙂  I think that locals fed him despite the warnings not to.  Here’s a couple of short videos from the trip through the Creole Nature Trail.

Oh…and I also found a great place to enjoy a craw-fish lunch.  I love when it all comes together!!

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I’ll try to catch up with the blogging over the next day or two.  It’s been a couple of very hot days in Texas…sizzle sizzle sizzle!

sizzle sizzle sizzle!
sizzle sizzle sizzle!

The Big Ride- Taking it easy in The Big Easy (New Orleans – Louisiana)

It’s been three fun filled days of taking it easy in The Big Easy!  Yes, New Orleans, Louisiana is all that it’s said to be and much much more.  The city is rich in history, music and lots of good times.

My route to get here included riding over the 24 mile long bridge that spans Lake Pontchartrain which is 630 square miles. Wow what an awesome riding experience!  Here’s a clip to give you a sense of what it was like.  Yup…it went on forever.

For my stay in New Orleans I chose a small quaint boutique hotel in the French Quarter so I would be in the heart of the historic part of the city.  As it turned out, the Dauphine Orleans Hotel was built in 1821 and has quite a history.  From 1853 to 1917 it was run by May Baily and was known as one of the better named Bordellos that operated on the fringe of the infamous red-light district known as Storyville.

Front of the Dauphine Orleans Hotel
Front of the Dauphine Orleans Hotel

May Baily

Inside the courtyard of the hotel
Inside the courtyard of the hotel

The hotel was only a block away from Bourbon Street which is known for its many bars and jazz clubs. What is interesting is that it was named by the French rue Bourbon after an aristocrat and was a premier residential area prior to the 1900’s before it became known for its many brothels, gaming and dance halls following an attempt to bring reform to the area.  It’s not for everyone but it needs to be experienced at least once…if for no other reason than to say you were there.  My first night in New Orleans I had dinner on the balcony of a great restaurant called Le Bayou that over looked the street while enjoying a traditional southern meal of jambalaya, gumbo, red beans and rice.  Yes…I even took my motorcycle boots off and traded them in for dancing shoes 🙂

Dinner at Le Bayou on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter
Dinner at Le Bayou on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter
Bourbon Street from the balcony of Le Bayou Restaurant
Bourbon Street from the balcony of Le Bayou Restaurant

Here’s a few of my favourite photos from Bourbon Street.

Shame shame
I couldn’t help myself 🙂
Yup...lots of Spirit here!
Yup…lots of Spirit here!
Is there anything left?
Bottomless and Topless…is there anything left?
Dancing the night away!
Dancing the night away!

For me, a great way to become familiar with a city in a short period of time is to take a Hop-on Hop-Off tour, so that’s what I did while in New Orleans.  The city is rich with history going back to the early 1700’s when it was founded by the French and then later taken over by Spanish rule.  The architecture reflects the Spanish influence and is incredibly beautiful.  Similar to what is seen in Savannah Georgia, many of the buildings are ordained in beautiful black iron.

Here’s a short video from my Hop-on Hop-off tour along with a few shots from around the city.

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Enjoying a little jazz with some locals
Enjoying a little jazz with some locals

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Another interesting aspect about New Orleans is its cemeteries.  Given that the city is below sea level it was found that during heavy rains the remains would rise to the surface, resulting in the need to use above ground crypts as a means of eliminating the problem.  Here is a short clip from my tour of the Lafayette Cemetery…after all no tour is complete without a visit to the cemetery.

From here I’m off to Lake Charles, Louisiana.  On the way I’ll be visiting a historical plantation, checking out a few bayous and perhaps an alligator farm.  What an awesome experience this trip is turning out to be!