A day in New Mexico (7/20/03)
Last updated 7/25/03
Russian translation here
After Arizona, our next stop was in
Albuquerque New Mexico. Driving in New Mexico also rocks for the same
reason as Arizona: 75MPH speed limits everywhere (I'm getting spoiled
by this, and I'm sure it won't last throughout the trip!) We stayed in
one of the "Kamper Kabins" at the KOA near Albuquerque, which spared us
from having to put up the tent, and provided needed electricity
(blogging) and a ceiling fan for the hot weather.
We visited the El Morro National Monument, more commonly known as
Inscription Rock during our way to Albuquerque. Inscription Rock is
aptly named, since it is the sight where various travellers beginning
with the Spanish in the 16th (?) century carved various inscriptions
into the rock to signify their passage through the area. There were
tons of different inscriptions in old-Spanish, Spanish and English that
all amounted to: "Bob was here". Kind of interesting that currently we
condemn the works of similarly-motivated youth as "graffiti" -- who
knows, in a couple hundred years, they could have a "national monument"
with a bunch of urban graffiti (sounds plausible to me). In any case,
some of the inscriptions were really well done and looked pretty. The
area is also historic because it provided water for the travellers and
some Native American tribe used that area as a water source and lived
in the surrounding regions.
In Albuqueurque we also visited the historic downtown region which had
a lot of pretty shops and architecture that had a southwestern feel due
to Spanish and Native American influences. A final stop in Albuquerque
was to the museum section of the town, which had several (more than 5
if I recall correctly) different museums. We ended up visiting the
National Atomic Museum, which houses a lot of info on the devestating
history of atomic weapons and the science behind them. The picture
below shows a replica of the "Fat Boy" bomb that was dropped on Japan
during WWII. Overall the museum was nice, but depressing and we didn't
have too much time to explore the exhibits in enough detail. I discovered, to my surprise, that
dentures are substantially radioactive, and so are most hot springs --
apparently, their benefitial health effects are due at least partially
to the radiation from the underground rock strata.
After Albuquerque we visited Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico. I
really enjoyed Santa Fe, and we spent the better part of a morning and
afternoon exploring the historic downtown of this city as well. There
is a lot of beautiful architecture there, mostly in the old Hispanic style, with
winding little streets (the cutest one is Burro Alley where donkeys
used to deliver firewood to, for sale; see picture of the burro statue
below). We visited the Loretto
Chapel which is famous for its "miraculous staircase". The staircase
which was necessary for the nuns to be able to climb to the 2nd floor
(I forget the appropriate terminology that was used during the
explanation at the chapel), was built by a "mysterious" carpenter who
worked on it for 6 months using nothing but a saw, hammer, and hot
water to shape the wood. In addition, the carpenter disappeared after
finishing the staircase and didn't ask for any payment for his efforts.
If you're trying to figure out what's miraculous about all that... well
nothing! The supposedly miraculous part is that the staircase has no
central support and isn't supported on the sides either. Supposedly the
only thing keeping it up, and allowing it to function appropriately, is
its "perfect" design which allows the staircase to support both its own
weight and those who used it. I personally don't buy into all of the
religious explanations for the staircase, and instead believe that
sometimes people end up performing their job well (just think of all of
the times that someone has screwed up your order at a fast-food
joint... for each of those, there should atleast be several other times
that people don't, and maybe even a few times when they do a superb
job). In any case, the chapel was beautiful and the staircase was
certainly pretty -- and if it makes you happy to think of a higher
power acting through the "perfect" design of the staircase, then please
don't let my previous comments spoil this wonder for you...
KOA campsite in Bernalillo, NM, near Albuquerque. This
time we picked a "kabin" over a tent.
Inscription Rock (El Morro National Monument, NM)
Santa Fe, capital of New Mexico.
National Atomic Museum in Albuquerque, NM. This bomb is
identical to the "Fat boy" that was dropped on Japan.