As we left Hueco Tanks we headed for El Paso and the first thing we found was a bilingual (spoke instructions in English and Spanish) coin operated spray car wash so we gave the RV a good bath. In our RV book it mentioned a good Mexican restaurant in Canutillo so we took the 375 loop up and over the Franklin Mountains (sort of bypassing the downtown area of El Paso) and eventually found the Little Diner restaurant in the back streets of Canutillo. The whole neighbourhood had Mexican influences. We had a fantastic lunch, tried a new item for us Gordita’s and also bought some containers of their salsa to go.
Our main reason to head to Las Cruces was to visit a friend of mine, who also used to work at Dell, Becky and her husband Ed. Originally we thought we might arrive there in mid-February but with our slow pace of travel we didn’t arrive until March 26. Our timing worked out well though as we also got to meet Ed’s sister Barb and her husband Dan from Orillia who were there on vacation. This links us back to the McKittrick Canyon trail in Guadalupe Mountains where we had briefly met a couple and their son on the trail, it was Barb and Dan! We keep saying small world but this shows how that saying comes true, what are the odds! The day we arrived at Becky and Ed’s home we got setup in their driveway and gave a tour of the RV. Then we chatted for a while and went out to a restaurant for dinner. What a nice feeling we had to be in a home after 4 months of travel;-)
The next day Barb and Dan were going for a hike through the Baylor Canyon Pass of the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument which are quite close to Becky’s home so we tagged along. It was about 5.6 KMS up to the pass and we went part way down the far side so we likely did about 13 KMS total. The start of the trail was desert terrain and as we climbed (1643’ elevation gain) there were larger cacti and some trees with spectacular views of the Mountains. We stopped often to enjoy the scenery and to drink water as it was hot out. I’ve included shots from both sides of the Baylor Canyon Pass and also a collage of the flora and fauna (2 types of beetles, one called the Stink Bug) we saw.
That evening Becky and Ed made dinner for us and after dinner I did some blogging while Sharon played Train Dominoes with Ed, Barb and Dan. On Tuesday morning we had scheduled Safelite to come to Becky’s home to fix our windshield that had a rock mark on it from Mississippi a couple of months earlier. We were the technician’s first call of the day and we all stood in the driveway and watched her fix the windshield. She did a great job as you can hardly see the mark. The rest of the day was a house day for us where I finished and posted a blog while Sharon did many loads of laundry! You really need this type of non-travel day to recuperate from all the activity. That evening we had a great dinner at a local Italian place called Pastaggio’s, they had phenomenal Tiramisu! After dinner we were talking to Becky about music and she mentioned she was a huge Pat Metheny fan and as well a Rush fan, note the jacket. Also she said she was going to see Chicago in concert in El Paso on Wednesday night and we said wow we’d love to see them. She said let’s see if there are any tickets left and a few minutes later Sharon and I had purchased tickets for Chicago the next night!
On Wednesday morning Barb and Dan headed out as they were going to the Gila Cliff Dwellings and eventually to connect up with their daughter. Becky said she could tour us around that day so first we went to Soledad Canyon to do the 5.6 KM hike to see the small waterfall (899’ elevation gain). There was no one else on the trail and we explored the small waterfall and dam and the old stone and wood homestead as well as the old windmill which was the photo used on Ed’s business cards.
After our hike we went touring and saw the home that Becky lived in and then went to the historic square of La Mesilla. We saw the Basilica of San Albino (church buildings had been on the property since the 1850’s but the current one was dedicated in 1908 and it was raised to the rank of minor basilica in 2008, fewer than 100 minor ones in the US), the Mesilla Square, visited The Chocolate Lady where Becky treated us to some amazing homemade ice cream, and saw La Posta restaurant and some other historic buildings around the square.
At 5:15 pm Becky’s friend Barb picked us up to drive to El Paso to see the Chicago concert! On the way we saw the Dairy Farms which seem really different to us compared to back home as they are open pens. We had dinner pre the show and then went to the Plaza Theatre in El Paso for the show. The warm up band was JD & the Straight Shots and we got seated just as they were playing their first song, they played for 45 minutes. We hadn’t heard of them before and I would call them sort of country rock blues. The theatre was amazingly restored and had great acoustics. Our tickets were in Row F, although a little to the side, but the view of the stage was fantastic. Our only issue was the guy behind us insisted on singing every Chicago song very loudly and very badly. Luckily by the second set he went down front so we didn’t need to listen to him. Chicago played for 2.5 hours and we were totally impressed with how much energy they had, especially the 3 original members. We thoroughly enjoyed the show and it was clear the band was really enjoying playing! They finished off with Sharon’s favourite song 25 or 6 to 4. We were so glad our timing worked out to see them and that there were still seats open to buy the day before.
The next day Becky was able to tour us around again and we started off with the Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum. We decided to go through the outdoor exhibits first and chose to have the volunteer (an ex rancher and Bank Marketing Director) drive us in a golf cart which was fantastic as he gave us tons of information on the exhibits. We saw a Blacksmith shop, the historic Green Bridge from 1902, Antique Equipment, and he explained all the history of the different Livestock they had in the corrals. For cattle they had Corriente, Texas Longhorn, Brangus, Angus, Charolais, and Hereford, as well as Holstein.
Once back inside we enjoyed the Jay Hill photography exhibit of modern agriculture. Becky had a connection to the family so was aware of his work and the exhibit was closing two days later. We also saw how they honour the livestock from the corrals when they pass on.
There were several galleries in the indoor portion of the museum. We went through the special exhibit on the importance and concern over the future of the honey bee. We saw an early Mogollon Pithouse and got to try grinding corn to make corn meal, I would have starved in those days as grinding corn is very difficult;-) We saw a New Mexico Colonial home that had many similarities to the home Becky grew up in with the layout and the central courtyard. We saw the ranch kitchen with the Regulator clock, the fridge with the compressor on top and the old stove. We also read about the history of Fabian Garcia who was the “Father” of the New Mexico Chile industry.
Lastly we went through the “Cowboy Way” exhibit done by Robert Shufelt. The works were amazingly life like. He used Giclee, Duotone Offset Lithograph, and Stone Lithograph techniques to represent the Cowboy Way of life. I’ve included a few samples of his beautiful work.
In the gift shop of the museum we sampled the Pistachios and Wine from the Heart of the Desert Company (and made purchases). We returned to Becky’s home and had a quick lunch and then decided to go to one of the Las Cruces wine trail locations, we had never heard about wines from New Mexico. We visited Amaro Winery (after stopping at a bakery outlet) and sampled 5 of their wines and 2 local beers with a very knowledgeable hostess guiding us through the tastings. They had a 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon that was excellent so we bought a few bottles (they might not make it back to Canada). They also had another wine cork project that Sharon can try when we get home.
Our last stop for the afternoon was the Holy Cross Retreat Center Chapel which was just opened in February 2015. Becky’s family had a long connection with the center and they had donated one of the stained glass windows in the Chapel. That evening we took Becky and Ed out for dinner to the St. Clair Winery & Bistro to thank them for their incredible hospitality. The restaurant used the Flight method of sampling their wines so Becky and Ed tried 3 whites and Sharon and I tried 6 different reds and 3 port type wines for dessert. The food and wine was amazing and of course we had to buy our favourite red and our favourite Port. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Las Cruces and owe that in large part to Becky and Ed’s hospitality. We sincerely hope they will come to visit us on one of their trips to Canada so we can show them our area.