Summer 2021 Tour Taos, New Mexico Episode 2: Taos Plaza and Kit Carson House and Museum

In this second episode of our Taos visit during July 2021, we visit the Taos Plaza and Kit Carson Home and Museum.

Taos Plaza

The plaza is the place to be for gatherings, the farmers market (May through October), live music, parades, demonstrations, and art displays. Surrounding the plaza are various shops, studios, and galleries. A day or so before we arrived, there was a big to-do because city staff had mistakenly covered up a public art display in the crosswalks. Oops! Sorry! What else could the city say?

From a distance, the gazebo looked in fine shape. Although, a closer look revealed trip hazards of broken and sunken bricks in the walkway.

Native American music and dance at the gazebo
Watch your step

The veteran’s memorial recognizes all military branches. The black cross is dedicated to New Mexican service members involved in the Bataan Death March during WWII.

Honoring heros

Prominently displayed nearby is a statue of Padre Antonio Jose Martinez (1793-1867). He is recognized as a person of influence in New Mexico’s history through the Spanish, Mexican, and American territorial periods.

Padre Antonio Jose Martinez

Here are a few buildings that surround the plaza. Some of them are holding up pretty well, while others are showing their age.

Pull in to shop

The Hotel La Fonda de Taos is an appealing-looking place to stay. Hotels have occupied the site since 1820 when a mercantile store that also rented rooms opened. According to the website, a recent renovation of the building retained many historical features while including modern amenities for 21st-century travelers.

A historic place to stay

One store had emptied out its stock, and a sign in the window said it had to close because of pending demolition. Further research revealed the building, which once served as the former county courthouse, was slated for demolition and renovation.

The building includes ten murals created by four Taos artists in 1934 under the commission of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Public Works of Art Project (PWAP). I had to look them up online because we couldn’t see them in person. I hope the contractors can save the paintings from destruction. It would be a shame to lose such a treasure. To see the murals, go to The Living New Deal.

Former County Courthouse

Lunch at The Alley Cantina

After walking around the plaza and visiting Kit Carson’s home, our stomachs growled with hunger. Our map app led us away from the plaza, down an alley, and past Taos Adobe Quilting to The Alley Cantina. We ducked in for a plate of chicken enchiladas and adovada, a red chile pork stew. Both were delicious, as were the margaritas.

We see quilt shops in almost all the small towns we visit
The Alley Cantina has good food
Watch sports under the skylight

Kit Carson Home and Museum

The Kit Carson Home and Museum (owned by Bent Lodge No. 42 of Taos and operated by the Kit Carson Memorial Foundation) seemed like an excellent place to soak up a bit of history, so we sought it out.

Kit Carson Home Courtyard

One might think Kit Carson would have found a fancy mansion for his family. Not so. As I walked through the four rooms, I tried to imagine seven children running around, plus several Indian children Carson took in after he rescued them from their captors and countless other extended family members from time to time.

Enter the door for the Kit Carson visitor center

We started our visit with a movie where several of us gathered along with a docent. When the movie ended, she told other stories of the man and his family and described the home, explaining the use of the various rooms.

Watch a movie about Kit Carson

She led us through the four small rooms, stopping to point out photos, memorabilia, and artifacts. Much of the furniture was not original to the home because Carson’s heirs sold off most of the belongings along with the house when he died. Luckily, collectors have donated some of the objects back to the museum.

Cozy place to snuggle against those cold winter nights

Kit Carson purchased the adobe home in 1843 as a wedding gift for his bride, Josefa Jaramillo. They lived there for twenty-five years, although Carson traveled extensively while on scouting trips with John C. Fremont and serving as an Indian Agent and Army Officer during the Civil War.

Kit Carson’s desk used during his time as Indian Agent

Historical photos show a humble home in this circa 1863 photo

A 1920 photo shows the home when one room housed a licensed Indian Trading Post.

The sign says, Kit Carson’s House 1858 to 1866 Trading Post
Josefa Jaramillo Carson’s sewing kit, including needles and pearl topped pins
Silk dress worn by Josefita Carson, youngest daughter of Kit and Josefa. Six weeks after her birth on April 13, 1868, both of her parents died.
A place to rest
Window, wagon wheel, and stump

Thanks go out to the masonic lodge and foundation for having the forethought to purchase the home in 1910 and turn it into a museum to honor their Freemason brother, Kit Carson.

Murals are a common sight in historic towns, and Taos was no exception. Across the street from the Kit Carson Home and Museum, I spied the mural shown below.

Created by George Chacón 1989

When we returned to our campsite at Taos Canyon Stop, we found a not-so-nice surprise. Before we left for the day, Jon had secured the awning to our picnic table to keep it from flying away during the afternoon wind. What we didn’t count on was a hail storm rolling through the canyon that unleashed rocks of ice the size of marbles. Rain we expected. Hail? No way.

On the bright side, replacing the awning fabric gave Jon a project to work on when we got back home.

Next up: Red River, Cimmaron, and Cimmaron State Park

Safe Travels

Lake Havasu City, Arizona: The Bunker Bar

We interrupt the Summer 2021 New Mexico series, to bring you a more current update. We’ll have blog posts about our Fall 2021 Family & Friends Tour once we finish the New Mexico series. But for now, we wanted to give our friend Chris Blackwell and The Bunker Bar in Lake Havasu a stand-alone post.

Our last visit to Lake Havasu was in November 2019. During that trip, we saw the progress made toward a dream. I understood the concept even though it was hard for me to visualize what the blank slate of land would become.

Container structures for the bar, store, restrooms, and band stage

He and his family had worked for years to bring a desert bar to the community of Lake Havasu. He saw the potential to offer a place about 2.5 miles off US Route 95 for people from town and sport utility vehicle enthusiasts to step off the dusty trail for a cold drink, tasty food, and music.

This container is for the drinks

The simple plan turned into one hurdle after another until on January 1, 2020, when the venue opened for business. A few months later the bar closed due to the pandemic. Another tough obstacle to overcome for a business only opened three days a week during the cooler months of the year.

This container will become the stage for the band

We avoided The Bunker Bar on November 6, 2021, because they were hosting lunch for the Desert Hills PFFA 3rd Annual Side X Side Poker Run event. Come Sunday, we traversed the gravel road and were amazed at the transformation and pleased to see the success of Chris’ hard work and patience.

The Bunker Bar at Thirsty Lizard Road
Ashtrays on each table keep the place clean of butts

While the band plays in the background, gals and guys can sit and talk at the tables (if the band doesn’t play too loud), dance in front of the bandstand, or show off their cornhole skills. It looks like there are enough sets to conduct a tournament.

Great music. Wish I knew the name of the band.
Anyone up for a game of cornhole?

Minnesota Mitch’s Mess Hall serves up hamburgers, sandwiches, and fries. Or one can opt for a hotdog, fish & chips, or chicken tenders. Non-alcoholic drinkers can pick up a Mister Root Beer or fresh lemonade. Step up to the bar for a mixed drink, or choose one of the locally brewed beers.

Food and non-alcoholic drink stands

Stop by the store to pick up a T-shirt, hat, drink cozy, and other products.

Sittin’ in the shade in front of the store
Olive drab trash/recycle drums and helicopter are all part of the military theme

Jon created a 360-degree video of the bar while the band played. Click here to watch the video and hear a snippet from the band.

So here’s to Chris and his family who supported him through the process, and play roles to make The Bunker Bar a success. May the guests continue to roll in, may the drinks and food continue to flow, and may the musical bands continue to play on and on for many seasons to come.

Congratulations to all who made The Bunker Bar possible.

Safe Travels

Summer 2021 Taos, New Mexico Episode 1: Angel Fire and Vietnam Veterans Memorial

On July 9, 2021, the two-hour drive from Santa Fe to Taos made for an easy moving day. Taos Canyon Stop RV Park was our second choice for staying near Taos. Yet it turned out to be one of our all-time favorites. The wildflowers outside our back window were a surprise, and we treasured the quiet after our stay in Santa Fe.

Orange and yellow daisy
Lavender trumpets
Red lipstick
Papery petals

Terraced lots with brick retainer walls gave us the feeling of having our separate space while encouraging conversation with our neighbors. The drawback was the lack of cell service or usable Wi-Fi, although lack of connectivity has its benefits. An online break now and then can be a good thing.

Jon sets up our campsite
Purple and yellow wildflowers blanketed the Angel Fire valley

Angel Fire Resort

In search of decent Wi-Fi, we drove up to Angel Fire, a ski resort area in the winter and a mountain bike trail during the summer. Horseback riding, hiking trails, and a golf course are other amenities available.

Angel Fire Resort lobby

We drank our decaf mochas and caught up on internet stuff in the lobby area outside of the coffee shop. The cozy-cabin décor looked comfy and instead of typing away on my keyboard, I would have preferred curling up on the sofa, reading a book.

Wi-Fi was best in the lobby area

For a ski resort, Angel Fire, incorporated in 1986, is more low-key than other such resorts we’ve visited. This could be due to the village’s population of around 1,000 people. Participation in sports activities seems more important than shopping, although there are a few sports gear and other types of stores. With the hotel and plenty of condos near the ski area for accommodations, the resort’s popularity is clear. The Village of Angel Fire is 28.84 sq mi (74.68 km2) and encompasses the entire Angel Fire Ski Resort.

Indoor Jacuzzi at Angel Fire Resort

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Angel Fire is also home to one of the best Vietnam Veterans Memorials we have seen where visitors will find a chapel, visitor center and gift shop, and an adjacent cemetery.

According to the memorial’s website, the David Westphall Veterans Foundation honors, “America’s veterans and members of its military forces by memorializing the sacrifices they have made and by recognizing the sense of duty and the courage they have displayed as they answered their country’s call to arms.”

Foundation partnerships with the National Veterans Wellness and Healing Center in Angel Fire and the Village of Angel Fire provide free retreats for veterans and their spouses diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Doug Scott’s Dear Mom & Dad

Dr. Victor and Jeanne Westphall conceived the memorial to honor their son, 1st Lt. David Westphall, who died in combat during a 1968 ambush in Vietnam. Constructed between 1968 and 1971, the memorial was the first major Vietnam memorial in the United States and recognized by congress in 1987 as a Memorial of National Significance.

The A/C 670 Huey helicopter, known as the Viking Surprise, served with 121st Assault Helicopter Company (AHC). Damaged, repaired, and reassigned to the 118th AHC. New Mexico National Guard donated it to memorial grounds in 1999. Restored in 2016-17.

Inside the visitor center, we found a walled-off corner where the HBO movie, Dear America: Letters from Vietnam, was playing. We settled into chairs and watched for a few minutes. Then I understood why someone had strategically placed tissue boxes nearby. When our emotions ran high, we left. Better to watch in the privacy of our home.

Senator John McCain is featured in the photo on the bottom left.
Remember A-F-L-Q-V
Lakota Nation-Oglala Sioux Tribe Display
Displays in the visitor center
Helicopter display
New Mexico and Marine Corps displays
Jon served in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Vietnam during 1969-70

The US Military Aluminum Mermite Hot/Cold Insulated Food Container shown in the photo below brings back memories from 50 years ago for Jon. The days when the helicopters arrived in the field lifted his spirits. Along with fuel and ammo for the armored vehicles, the choppers also brought hot meals in the Mermites for the soldiers.

Mermite, also known as Hot Boxes

After looking at all the photographs and memorabilia inside, I felt the same sorrow, solemnity, and peace I experienced during our visit to the USS Arizona Pearl Harbor Memorial in Oahu several years ago. The thought of all the lives cut short and the families and friends that mourned for their loved ones became oppressive, sending me outside to wander among the trees and flowers and bushes.

State Veteran Cemetery Angel Fire, New Mexico

The State Veteran Cemetery is a recent addition to the memorial and held its first interment on July 2021.

View of cemetery and valley
Recent gravesites
Roundabout and flags

Coming up in future episodes, we explore Downtown Taos Historic District, Red River ski area, Kit Carson Home & Museum, Earthship Biotecture, and much more.

Safe Travels

Summer 2021 Tour Santa Fe, New Mexico Episode 6: Wrap-Up

In some respects, we were glad to move to Taos after our two weeks in Santa Fe. In other respects, we were sad to leave. We had tired of our cramped spot, the daily traffic on Cerrillos, and the screaming kid a few doors down. Yet, we hadn’t checked everything off our “To Do” list. There was so much more art and history to soak up; fitting it all in proved difficult. What follows is an apology, list of sites we missed, and a few words about memorial conflict.

An Apology

Before we get into all of that, I first need to apologize to what I consider the “main event” at the New Mexico Capitol Building. For some strange reason, I failed to include his photo in Episode 2 of this series.

Buffalo mixed media sculpture by Holly Hughes

My friend Lani Longshore alerted me to my faux pas, which allowed me to update the post and include him in his rightful place. Knowing people don’t often revisit previously read posts, I present him here to ensure everyone has a chance to meet him.

Detail of Buffalo

What We Missed

And now, back to the wrap-up. We never had a chance to visit any of the many galleries, not even the one that captured my imagination several years ago when we stayed in the city: Georgia O’Keeffe. Although we had been there before, I was certain the paintings displayed this time would have been different. Canyon Road contains historic sites, galleries, restaurants, Cristo Rey Church, the First Ward School, and the Randall Davey House and Audubon Center &Sanctuary. Nor did we see House of Eternal Return at Meowwolf, a contemporary “Experience of the Unknown.”

Our day trip to Cochiti Lake, discussed in Episode 5, included Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. Unfortunately, the monument was closed due to COVID-19 restrictions at Pueblo de Cochiti, the monument’s gateway. It remains closed as of October 15, 2021, until the Bureau of Land Management and the Pueblo de Cochiti work together on plans to reopen. We noticed many of the pueblos and casinos throughout the state were closed. The American Indians were doing all they could to reduce virus exposure in their communities.

Photo credit: “American Hiking Society Instagram Takeover: Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, New Mexico” by mypubliclands is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Then there was Los Alamos. Our day trip planned for Bandelier initially included the Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Los Alamos, the Valles Caldera National Preserve, and the Jemez Historic Site. Why I thought we could hit all four places in one day was beyond me.

We got up early so we could eat breakfast in White Rock at the Pig + Fig. Thank goodness we arrived before a long line formed.

To get our bearings, we stopped in at the Visitor Center to pick up flyers and brochures. We left the truck in the parking lot and rode the shuttle bus to Bandelier. I would compare the ride up the mountain to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland. At times, I thought the bus would fly off the cliff until the driver careened around a curve. On the way down was more to my liking.

White Rock Visitor Center
Art inside the White Rock Visitor Center
Outside the visitor center: Kinetic Wind Sculptures, Lyman Whitaker

After Bandelier, we nixed Valles Caldera and Jemez from our list and drove to Los Alamos. As we drove through town, we felt like we had entered an episode of the Twilight Zone. Very few people were out and about, and the Bradbury Science Museum, Los Alamos History Museum, and the Manhattan Project National Historical Park were all closed.

All is quiet at Bradbury Science Museum

The Ashley Pond Park was the only happening place with families enjoying a picnic. We had to settle on the local Subway for a bite to eat—the only restaurant we found open.

Only place in town to eat

I guess Monday, July 5, wasn’t the best time to visit Los Alamos. It seemed like most everyone had gone out of town for vacation. We’ll try to get one of the RV sites next to the visitor center when we’re in the area again. Then we can spend a few days exploring rather than a few hours, assuming we are no longer dealing with restrictions.

Another Memorial Conflict

The Santa Fe Plaza is a popular place with so many people around it’s difficult to get a photo. It was clear enough for us to walk through one day without bumping into ten people every few feet. For some reason, it didn’t look like what I remembered from years past. In the middle of the Plaza stood a stone plinth, missing whatever once sat on top and I couldn’t remember what it was.

A few days later, while taking photos of the Scottish Rites building, we found the missing piece from the Plaza. The entire structure was erected around 1866 as a memorial commemorating soldiers who served during the Civil War and battled with Native Americans. Does anyone see where this story is headed?

Obelisk from the Plaza outside United States Court House

For more than a hundred years, people and groups begged the city to replace the obelisk with something else or amend words inscribed on the base panels. While the words were commonplace in the 1800s, over time, the words became hurtful and offensive. Outright removal was rejected, while efforts to chisel off offensive wording were more successful. Unauthorized alterations were also made.

About 40 primarily white protesters toppled the top three sections of the obelisk on October 12, 2020. So now the stone and marble monument is separated. The Plaza remains the home for the plinth, while the obelisk stands in front of the Federal Court House encased in a crate, at least when we saw it on July 8, 2021.

On June 16, 2021, the Union Protectiva de Santa Fe sued the city’s mayor over the destruction and plans to move the memorial permanently. The Hispanic group claims the monument honors the Hispanic soldiers who fought and died for the Union in battles with Confederate soldiers and indigenous tribes, and its destruction and removal dishonors the Hispanic soldiers.

A temporary fix is in the works through the city’s Arts and Culture Department. Is it possible to arrive at a solution that makes everyone happy? While discussing how every story has more than one side, our friend Jim Koch came up with a great idea. “Why not design a multi-sided monument that tells the story from the different perspectives?”

Why not, indeed? I hope Jim submits his idea to the Santa Fe Arts and Culture Department for consideration. With all the diverse artists living in or near Santa Fe, I trust the community to come up with something that pays tribute to and honors the interests of all groups.

Next up: We move on to Taos, The Soul of the Southwest, for another week of adventure in New Mexico.

Safe Travels