Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Shakespeare and the New Mexico Border

We're nearing the end of the trip and plan to see what we can of another great old ghost town - Shakespeare, before making our way back eastward along the New Mexico border to El Paso.

We head southwest from Silver City, knowing that we won't be able to tour Shakespeare, as they are only open designated weekends and by appointment. We, of course, didn't make an appointment, because we never know exactly where we're going to be at any given time. But, I had read that this privately owned ghost town could be seen from the road and was determined to at least get a glimpse of it. As we drive up to the gate we see the expected sign designating that it is closed and giving more information on visiting. However, there is also a very nice lady going into the gate that we get to visiting with. Helen Foster is writing a book about Janaloo Hill, the owner of Shakespeare before she died a short time ago. Her husband, Manny Hough, continues to preserve the Shakespeare and runs a working ranch. A very nice lady, I asked if it was ok to walk along the fence line and take some photos of the old place. When she indicated that would be ok, I headed up the hill for a better view and some photo opportunities. Next thing we know, she's running up from the house, waving her arms. Manny has decided we can visit after all. What a great surprise. We were not only given the opportunity to visit with Manny and find out more of Helen's work as a writer, but were also allowed to tour all of the buildings. There is just nothing better than having a ghost town to yourself. No waiting for people to get out of the way for pictures, lots of answers to questions, and an all around great time!!

That was a wonderful opportunity and we are so grateful to Manny and Helen for providing this wonderful opportunity. See more about Shakespeare HERE!

Next we head west to Steins, New Mexico, another preserved ghost town. Though it appears that this place may be "open" sometimes, it was shut down hard on our visit. Fenced in and filled with weeds and old vehicles, even its sign was fading. Perhaps it's no longer open at all. It was very hard to tell, but at any rate, got off some photos and we were on the road again. Heading due south along the Arizona border, we then turn eastward on New Mexico Highway 9 to make our way to El Paso. A very lonely stretch of road.

We soon run into another ghost town, this one very sad and lonely -- Hachita. An old railroad town that supported some of the nearby mines, it was once in the midst of Pancho Villa territory. Today, there are a few remaining residents, lots of abandoned buildings, and no open businesses.

As we continue on, it is apparent that we are close to the border, as the only vehicles we pass on this lonely road are Border Patrol SUV's and every few miles or so, we spy tall extended things with little platforms at the top, that apparently allow them to see the area around the border. For a while, we chase the white dot in the sky, as Dave has decided it is most certainly a UFO. Later, he finds out it some type of "super-sonic" surveillance system utilized by the border patrol.

We eventually wind up at Pancho Villa State Park and the site of U.S. Military post, Camp Furlong in Columbus, New Mexico.

Done for the day, we head on into El Paso and hotel. Tomorrow, it's back to Kansas City and the cold, cold, cold.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Silver City Mining Adventures

Next day, we decide to take it a little easy - not covering hundreds of miles and numerous ghost towns -- just two, Mogollon and Pinos Altos, both easy drives from Silver City. In fact we weren't even sure we would be traveling as the weather said Silver City was supposed to get 6-8" of snow. It didn't. Getting around slowly though, we finally head out to Mogollon, one of New Mexico’s premier ghost towns. It's just about 70 miles northwest of Silver City, the sun is shining bright, and it should be an easy trip. Right?

Well, not when ole' Kathy is around - always got to have at least one adventure on my trips to tell you about. Actually, it was easy for the first hour, I'm driving, good roads, breeze through Glenwood looking for our turn to take us into the Mogollon Mountains. Still easy for a couple of miles, then we start to climb. And, viola, we find snow and ice, especially on the shady side of the mountain. Hmmm, guess there was something to those signs we ignored that said "steep grade," "sharp turns," and "night travel discouraged." Never one to back off a steep road or a little snow, especially when navigating in an SUV, forward we go. The road rises some 2,500 feet, before dropping back down about 1,200 feet to Mogollon, all in the space of nine miles. It is narrow and twisting, with solid rock straight up one side for hundreds of feet and straight down an equal or greater distance on the other side.

Though poor Dave is clinging to console and his backside is puckering (his words,) I'm ok. Well, at least until I meet someone coming down that road on an extremely narrow stretch of gravel. Hmmm, what is that rule when you meet someone on a narrow mountain road -- is it the person going up or the person coming down that's supposed to back up. Totally escapes me. Maybe that's why those people were glaring at me when they stopped and I passed them on the side. Backing up is just simply not an option for me. I have trouble with that in my driveway. Ok, now, I am scared as I know my wheels are just inches from the dropping cliff to the left, and my right rear view mirror narrowly misses colliding with theirs. Suffering more dirty looks, we’re off again. No harm done, right? Shake it off - there's some beautiful views! Dave is as white as a sheet.

Now, it's a February weekday. There is absolutely no one else going up to this remote ghost town and only 15 residents who live there, so what are the odds, that five minutes later, we meet another vehicle coming down the mountain. Still can't remember that rule, but this time, I see opportunity, pull off, wait and wave as the car passes on down the mountain.

When we finally reach Mogollon, it is everything they said it would be -- filled with historic buildings and most of the snow has melted. The one good thing about ghost towning in the winter, is there aren't a bunch of people standing in front of the buildings I want to take pictures of. Didn't see nary a soul except for one stray dog and a lonely carpenter working on a house.

It was great, at least until, I wanted to make another steep trek up a two mile stretch to the cemetery. After about five minutes of rocking and bumping around, Dave wasn't having any more of that, so we turned around.

Going down was easy, of course. Back to Silver City, we then make our way to Pinos Altos. Another historic mining town, it still provides a number of historic buildings to look at, but this is no ghost town anymore. Just six miles north of Silver City, it appears to be more of a quaint little suburb, as new construction, luxury cabins, and resorts dot the terrain.

That's all - easy peasy day. Next mission, the best steakhouse in Silver City. Oops, me thinks we missed that opportunity back in Texas.