Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Journey: Respite at the Foot of the Sandia

I just loved New Mexico: the sun, the blue sky, the pueblo architecture, the restauarants, the house we stayed in and most of all our hosts! The weather was perfect for us -- warm bueat not too warm. Even now on July 5, it escapes the sweltering heat away from the mountains. Now I understand Albuquerque itself isn't of particular interest to tourists in the way Santa Fe and Taos are. Regrettably time did not allow us a visit to Taos, but next time, next time, next time!

My priority our second day there was to find out if my computer had bitten the dust, and how much it would cost to repair it and could it be done before we had to leave. We decided the best bet would be to head for Best Buy -- we knew it was probably going to cost $200 or more just to look at the thing. Anyway, on our way down Juan Tabo Drive at 1701 Juan Tabo Drive, to be specific, we saw the sign for Computers Direct. The sign said diagnostics would be done for $32.50 (or maybe it was $36.50). Ok that was it! In we pulled. So we dropped off the laptop and they promised not to do any work on it until they called us with an estimate. Two days later I got a phone call: my computer was up and running! Turns out, it really had 'bitten the dust' -- far too much of it over the years. They blew some air through the vents and voila! I bought some compressed air, took a short lesson on how to use it and handed over $41.00 and left the shop very very very happy! Since then it's worked better than it has for a very long time.

But alas, no computer meant I was way behind on my journey chronicles. I mean it's now July 5 and we got back to Olympia on the 25th of May and I'm only half way around!

We did relax a lot while there. Our first full day we went out for lunch with Kristen to the Flying Star Cafe. Since it was warm enough to eat outside we did. My Chinese Crunch Salad was yummy and I managed to stay away from the tantalising freshly baked desserts that tempted me as we entered the place. The staff was very friendly, the food was great, the weather was perfect -- what more could you ask?

The following day it was Guarduno's and my first taste of New Mexican food. I can't remember what I had, just that it was delicious. This restaurant has lots of character and I just love the decor. The service was impeccable and very friendly.

Our favorite shop was without a doubt Skip Maisel's. It's quite an Albuquerque landmark, located on old Route 66 in the heart of town. We returned three or four times to buy Native American pottery, figures, and jewelry at the best prices we found anywhere -- whatever the cost is half of whatever the price tag says. And it's not just the prices that are so great, it's the sheer quantity and quality of the merchandise, as well as the ambience of the storefront, the window dressing and the helpfulness of the staff.

Another place that I liked very much, but which was more expensive was a pueblo style museum and shop run entirely by Native Americans and on reservation land. I was sorely tempted to buy a very small but exquisite little pot, which had been designed and hand painted by a Native American who was there demonstrating his work. The pot had been shaped by hand and the design and story of the design had been painted by the artisan from stories he had been told by his grandmother. He and his wife were a softly spoken lovely couple. She designed and made jewelry that was also very fine. But the pot was very small and though I thought it worth the $100 he was asking for it, I didn't -- some day, I'm sure I'll regret my decision. They were from Acoma Pueblo, an ancient village also known as 'Sky City'. Another place, I hope I see one day.
On a rather cloudy day, we visited the Petroglyph National Monument, about 40 minutes from where we were staying. It has to be said the the National Park Service does these things very well! Trails are clearly marked and there are trails to accommodate every ability. Petroglyphs are ancient drawings in the rock ranging over a long number of years.
From the National Monument website:

American Indians and Spanish settlers carved their images on these
basalt boulders. The nature of the rock itself is what allows the petroglyphs to
be visible. The basalt is high in iron, manganese and calcium. The combination
of these minerals makes the basalt a light gray color. After long exposure to
oxygen and water the iron and manganese oxidize or rust. A dark shiny coating,
or patina, forms on the surface of the basalt boulders. The patina is called
desert varnish.When looking at the dark basalt boulders, you are actually
looking at desert varnish. American Indians discovered permanent marks could be
made by using another rock to chip off the desert varnish. Many American Indians
are able to claim cultural relationships to past inhabitants of this area be
cause they recognize the images as having deep cultural and spiritual
significance. Please respect the importance of petroglyphs to American Indians
and to the descendants of original Spanish settlers.

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