Of Chloride and Chlorox

Let's see...to catch up...we spent our first non-moving day on Friday at Elephant Butte State Park, waiting out the 25-35 mph winds blowing through with the big storm that was delivering snow up north. Temps were lovely here, though--near 70--so we managed two good-sized hikes. Walking up the sand dunes from the lake against the wind, with tumbleweeds attacking, is not much fun, though. But it sure is pretty here. The Rio Grande is dammed here and the water is a lovely shade of green. We even saw wild pumpkins clinging to their withered vines. (Nick took a yellow, tennis-ball-sized one--of course--back to our campsite.)

New Mexico has some of the nicest state parks you'll find. We opted not to buy the annual pass, as we aren't staying enough nights to make it worthwhile (it's something like $250/year and makes every night only $4; it's $14 otherwise), but just love the electric and water hookups for that nice, low price. Most have recycling (a rarity on the road, unfortunately) and shower facilities. But we are glad to be self-contained:

Saturday we toodled up to Chloride, NM. What a trip back in time and into the boonies this was. We passed through Cuchillo, which we thought held some tourist attractions (per the Las Cruces Visitor Bureau), but alas the town was in serious decline. (And the Bureau denies any responsibility for accuracy--lovely!) We did see some fun things, though:

The view into town (see the police car looking like a speed trap?):

There are dummies inside the car, which I couldn't capture, but which made us laugh out loud.

These folks don't have much of a town, but they do have a sense of humor (another sign said, "Welcome to Chloride. Now Slow Your [picture of a donkey] Down!") and a pretty little church.

As we kept traveling up and up in altitude and farther out and out into the boonies past a whole lot of hunters and lots of blind curves at cattle guards marked for 10mph, (and they MEANT 10 mph), we were getting discouraged. What if Chloride was as big of a bust as Cuchillo? We pressed onward.

What a find.

The town of Chloride, once population 3000 during the silver boom, is now home to 10 full-time souls. 10. And two of those souls have made the town a labor of their love. They were weekenders for many years, bringing up groceries to the old folks in town every Friday night, until they were able to retire (he from IBM) and move up full time. (Keep in mind that the nearest anything is well over an hour away.) They bought the two remaining historic buildings in town from a real old timer (many folks were in their late 90s and were able to tell tales from the old days--the town shut down as a town in 1923).

One building, which was once one of 9 saloons in town and had become the school at one point, is now an artists' coop, featuring the work of 30 "local" artists.

Some things were pretty crafty (a "cake" made of ribbons and silk flowers ;-) and some things were really quite accomplished. The quilts--wow. The photography? Stunning. We ended up buying 2 paintings for our still-bare walls at home, a cowgirl necklace for Lisa, and a Christmas ornament made by our sales lady. They had told us on the way in that it was "Yuletide in Chloride" weekend (!), so for every $25 purchased, you got a special treat. We declined to take all that we had "earned," but we did take a peanut brittle and a fudge. Unreal. These ladies know how to make candy. And the pecans in both were local and harvested this fall. So fresh.

Then, the REAL treat began. The woman who'd done the restoration gave us a tour of the next-door museum. (The sign on the front says that if no one is around, go down 3 doors and knock.)

This building was the mercantile for the area and had simply been shuttered in 1923, with everything in side left as it was. The bats and rats had free run for 60 years and along came this retired couple to clean it up. They spent 3 years shoveling and hand cleaning (with Chlorox bleach or just even damp cloths) the amazing items inside--all of which have been restored and actually work! I've never seen a McClaskey credit machine (made in Dayton at turn of 20th century). An ingenious, fire-proof, and semi-automated device made for keeping each customer's credit record and printing out daily receipts. I've been searching the web a bit, but can't yet find anything on this. Really interesting contraption. Suffice to say, we were in this museum for quite a while, like kids in a candy store, asking questions and listening to the most fascinating stories. (I was reminded of the antebellum house in Mississippi, in which the 80+ year old owner and restorer gave us all his stories ;-) People are just amazing with what passions they follow and share with the world.

So, our visit was definitely worth that washboardy, winding, and beautiful drive. And put this on your list, Nancy :-)

We ended up heading back into T or C for lunch at the Full Belly Deli (the name turned out to be the best thing about the place) and walking around the funky little downtown's first annual "Hot Springs Festival." The festival was intended to accomplish many purposes: provide vendors a closed street on which to sell all manner of tchotchkes, provide tours of the 10 hot springs downtown (we missed that tour, unfortunately), honor the almost-centenarians in town (?), and generally provide live music, a beer garden, and a bouncy house. We do love small town festivals. Ended up buying one more souvenir. (I think we have shopped more on this trip than any others because we aren't driving like madwomen every day.) Can't believe we did it. And I didn't get a photo before Lisa packed her (her name is, inexplicably, Martha) away. We bought a bleached old cow skull. Yup. Sure did. Can't wait to find the right spot for her when we get home.

As the afternoon wore on, we decided we needed to find a new state park. (The last one had been ruined by a hideous family moving in next door to us. The husband was some kind of Neanderthal beer belly redneck, the helpless wife got dragged for walks by the untrained beast of a dog, the little girl threw tantrums wailing at the top of her lungs, AND--get this--they tied up the dog and left it outside ALL night. Did you know that the car horn doesn't honk when the engine isn't on? Yes, I got a bit steamed with the dog's barking at one point and tried the horn....)

So, we found another state park gem just a bit down the road: Percha Dam, also known for its birding possibilities. (We've heard tons of interesting ones, but really haven't seen too many.) These are just iPhone photos, but they capture the pretty late afternoon, autumnal light here:

Goodness, but we love fall travel. Gorgeous weather, clean air, colorful leaves. We are in the perfect spot right now--high of 60, no precip. Albuquerque is having a wintry mix today. Glad we got out of northern/central NM when we did.

Today, we're off to Las Cruces, since Lisa has made a request for civilization and possibly a movie theater and we need to do laundry again. Think we'll go back to the resort we stayed at last November--the one with the concierge, hot tub, and nice library/laundry room combo. We found out that we can actually walk to a historic plaza from there (Old Mesilla) and maybe, just maybe, we'll get our hair cut!

And happy 87th birthday, Dad! Calling soon....

1 comment:

  1. LOL! Chloride IS my kind of town!

    You guys have way too much fun. Are you using a guide to explore the state? Or just happening to find things?