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Adventures in Northwest Kansas – Nicodemus, “the oldest and only remaining” (barely) Black town west of the Mississippi and Taylor Swift

Nicodemus has been on my to-visit list for about 35 years, since soon after I moved to Wichita in the mid-1980s but it is far far off the beaten path. Today, we finally stopped there on our drive home from Albuquerque and it was only a half hour out of our way. It looks like any other wind-battered, barely-hanging-on rural Kansas town except it has a fascinating history and is now a National Historic Site, with explanatory plaques in front of a few of the handful of buildings left.

In 1877, 300 recently freed slaves from Kentucky moved way out to this remote place, building the first Black settlement west of the Mississippi. In its heyday, Nicodemus had 500 residents. Today, there are about 16 residents and we saw four (25 percent of the population) because we happened to arrive when the Sunday service was starting at the Baptist church. The only other signs of life were a slightly menacing barking white dog who followed us for awhile, as our lab Millie picked up the pace, and a helpful park ranger in the visitor’s center, where we looked at some exhibits and watched a 13 minute video about the town then and now.

Nicodemus AME church. (Services were held nearby at the Baptist church.)
Nicodemus National Historic Site

The night before, we drove through wide open, barely populated western Kansas ranch land to oakley, KS, where we’d booked a room at the serviceable Sleep Inn. Who knew we’d get an excellent cheeseburger (even medium rare, as requested) from Buffalo Bill’s bar and grill, the name a nod to Annie Get Your Gun?

After Nicodemus, we drove east, passing a few small towns and interesting sights including The M Motel in Stockton, whose dayglo yellow sign shouts in blue “Taylor Swift stayed here.” So she did, after playing the Rook County Free Fair in 2007. (Early days for the now superstar.) A town later, Alton boasted of being Russel Stover’s birthplace. The chocolate candy maker, we presumed.

Technically east-central Colorado but northwest Kansas looks much the same

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hiking, dining and shopping in ABQ (Albuquerque)

Among our favorite trails at the Sandia Mountain foothills:

The Pino trail at Elena Gallegos “Open space” – wide dirt path and slight incline initially, then narrows and winding with more boulders, roots and rocks, plus mud, snow and ice (so we turned back after 50 minutes)

On the Pino Trail

La Luz Trail, a little more strenuous, narrow switchbacks and uphill, very scenic.

at Petroglyph National Monument – we did two dog-friendly short hikes (Piedras Marcadas Canyon Trail 1.5 miles; Rinconada Canyon Trail 2.5 miles) with our lab Millie late in the afternoon when the light was particularly dramatic, walking on sandy flat paths on a trail hugging a canyon of dark volcanic rocks, some with ancient markings of hands, faces, animals, crosses and who knows what else made by the ancestors of Pueblo people and by Spanish visitors. The main trail doesn’t allow dogs.

Among the ABQ restaurants and shops we enjoyed: BUT First a shout out to the free local monthly foodie magazine The Bite, which I happened to pick up early in our visit (along with a bimonthly Edible magazine.) The Bite offered dining scuttlebutt and many suggestions of places to eat in ABQ and beyond and never steered us wrong! Thanks to The Bite, I found FARMessila in Las Cruces, Mille in Santa Fe and Mesa Provisions and Ihatov Bakery in ABQ.

Modern General, which sounds a bit like a TV sitcom but is a southwest breakfast-themed “brunchery” with wonderfully inventive and delicious entrees and smoothies in a bright white space resembling a super tidy and curated “feed and seed” general store but with a handful of books, home goods and local lotions and potions, plus what look like very good cookies, brownies snd bread. We shared savory/sweet Green Chile Cilantro Corncakes, three little pancakes topped with a soft egg, with a squiggle of cilantro lime crema and Chile maple syrup; And The Albuquerque,flavor-packed scrambled eggs with green chiles, bacon, cumin, garlic, sharp cheddar with well-browned diced potatoes.And that drink (in the photo below) is a peach pollen smoothie (peaches, bee pollen, cucumber, banana, pineapple juice.) This is a sister restaurant of nearby Vinaigrette and both have Santa Fe locations.

Pueblo Cultural Center’s dining room – we went with the most traditional Pueblo entrees, according to our very knowledgeable server who was raised on the Taos Pueblo. A contemporary (and delicious) take on Blue corn chicken enchiladas and beef and poesole stew (less delicious). The blue corn onion rings were very good. We’d been through the museum part before. The place is an interesting cultural experience, in a well-designed contemporary building with Pueblo decor.

Mesa Provisions – a splurge to thank our relatives who have put us up for the past month in their newest house, this covid-era Nob Hill restaurant’s chef worked previously at ABQ’s Farm & Table, which gave us high hopes that were not dashed. The food and service were excellent, especially the creative take on a green Chile cheeseburger, the shrimp on toast, smoked chicken, I even liked the kale salad. The key lime sorbet was a perfect end to the meal.

Golden Pride – a local treasure near the U of New Mexico campus and hospital, this restaurant advertises chicken and ribs but is most famous for its breakfast burritos (homemade tortillas,) and sweet rolls, which you can request hot or cold. Our relatives recommended hot, which came in a bath of butter, doused with cinnamon sugar. No wonder there’s often not one but two lines of cars for the two drive through windows every time we drive pass on Lomas Avenue. Word has it, few customers eat inside. Drive through is the way to go, easy in and out.

Heart unhealthy breakfast at Golden Pride

The Daily Grind – we liked this casual breakfast and lunch place, off the beaten path. good salads (turkey club) and sandwiches (Cuban).

ABQ’s Modern General (also in Santa Fe)

Kei and Molly textiles – The production facility and showroom for this well-known, do-good local maker of tea towels, aprons, sponges and napkins is right nearby Nob Hill, prompting some early holiday gift shopping.

Sara Bande Home – well-chosen home goods in a small ritzy strip center in NW Albuquerque on the stretch of Rio Grande that gets fancy, with huge mansions on dusty ranch land. It’s tethered to a good bookstore, paper goods store and outpost of the Flying Star Cafe. We found what we needed so didn’t go on to the fancy and pricey store at Los Poblanos resort up the road.

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Farmers & crafts Market, Maya hand woven textiles in Las Cruces, FARMesilla, plaza and art in Mesilla – southern New Mexico

What a totally fun and interesting day in Southern New Mexico. It warmed my midwestern heart to be able to stroll down a city street full of other strollers looking over farmers market goodies and crafts during Las Cruces twice-weekly market (Saturdays and Wednesdays.) This time of year there were more crafts than produce but we did spot some garlic and lettuce. Mostly we saw pecans (and pecan-infused lotions and potions), southwestern-themed woodwork and photography, turquoise jewelry.

The market is held on Main Street, which has some interesting old adobe and brick buildings, including a theater decorated with colorful terra cotta. On nearby streets, we found similar buildings in the Mesquite Historic District, home to small shops run by independent entrepreneurs. We began the day in the district with coffee at the welcoming Beck’s Roasting House and Creamery.

As fate would have it, it was the third Saturday of the month, which I learned from a flyer in the Beck’s bathroom, is when a local church group “Weaving for Justice” sells Maya textiles hand-woven by women in Chiapas, Mexico. At the church, a kind older woman with long white hair showed us around and explained the church’s project to provide work and money for impoverished Mexican families. We left with a bag full of hand-woven placemats and scarves, hand-embroidered pillowcases and two hand-made woolen animal dolls (an owl and llama).

A short drive away, Mesilla felt a bit more like Santa Fe, with a small concentration of adobe houses containing shops for tourists around a pretty central plaza dominated by a Catholic Churchthat is on the national historic register and is often used in film shoots. It’s pleasantly rougher around the edges and with much more reasonable prices for artwork. In one gallery that was having a reception, I bought a handmade silk poncho-like blouse for $30 and a one-of-a-kind ceramic plate for $35.

There seemed to be a battle of the local nuts going on, with two stores facing off across from each other on the plaza, one selling all things pecans, the other all things pistachios. (Unwilling to take sides, we bought both.)

We popped into the famous historic Double Eagle restaurant, circa 1849 and the Plaza’s oldest structure, according to a lengthy history provide as a handout by the restaurant, filled with Victorian armchairs and old oil portraits. We gawked at ornate “Imperial Bar,” which sports a 30 foot hand carved oak and walnut bar, light fixtures with Lalique Crystal rosette shades, an antique brass foot rail, two seven foot tall French Baccarat Crystal chandeliers, and a tin ceiling with bits of 18 karat gold. No wonder visiting movie folks reportedly hang out here.

Once the home of some of Mesilla’s fancy families, Double Eagle was named after the eagle-adorned 1880s era twenty dollar coin by a Roswell NM native who bought the building in 1970. (The Roswell guy became president of Atlantic Richfield Oil.)

The sunlit “”Billy the kid” patio (yes Billy was around here) has a seven- foot carved stone fountain surrounded by palms, an eccentric space that reminded me New Orleans. The restaurant is fancy but has a casual cousin called Pepper’s.

We ate instead at the wonderful local specialty market FARMesilla, which looked like something out of Magnolia mag, a bright airy space full of local meats, cheeses, eggs, sausages, spirits, jams, salsas, bread, oils, vinegars, soaps and lotions. At a counter, we ordered interesting entrees that we ate outside on a patio. Delicious and different and such small portions, which I found refreshing after days of eating huge heaping plates of beans, rice and melted cheese atop meat. Example: my Green Chile Cheddar Polenta, a small mound of creamy polenta topped with a soft-cooked egg, green Chile (of course), melted orange cheddar and a strip of crispy sweet Serrano bacon, served with a small container of what I later learned was “carrot habanero” hot sauce. Delicious and different. We brought home crunchy slight sweet blue corn bread muffins. On our way out of town we stopped at one of the outposts of the Las Cruces frozen custard maker Caliche but skipped the green Chile topping option, choosing heath bars instead.

The double Eagle

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White Sands National Park – Las Cruces NM

I may never get rid of the sand between my toes but the other worldly White Sands National Park was worth a little discomfort. And where else in NM could we walk barefoot in February across great white dunes of fine white sand, made of billions of distinct dry tiny grains of gypsum? And behind these rounded sand formations, jagged snow dusted mountains that turned pink with the sky at sunset.

I found the park a strange and wondrous place, almost overwhelming my sense of sight and touch. I’ve never seen or felt sand like that, rare gypsum sand so unlike everyday moist granite beach sand, so white and bright, with dark shadows, so cool to the touch even in hot sun, so fine and granular like fancy salt. I loved walking barefoot through a sea of it, in the shadowy, wind-sculpted dunes. I loved the sifting it through my fingers, a cool silty sensation. If I had a stronger body, I would have loved sledding or snowboarding down it, as we saw a few kids and adults do.

We did trek the two mile backcountry trail, which was perfect and we had almost to ourselves, walking high on a ridge looking out at hundred of square miles of dunes that looked like snow drifts. Walking up and then down the dunes was surprisingly fun once I learned to enjoy the sinking sensation of my feet in the sand and often the sand was firm, a hard crust that was easy to walk on. There was no real trail but instead periodic orange markers jammed into the sand at helpful intervals (although some were blown over.)

At 5 pm we joined about 60 people for a ranger-led “sunset stroll” and glad we did. The whole place lit up, both the sky and the dunes in gradations of yellow, pink, blue, purple, as the sun set.

Next time, I’ll bring a picnic – there are tons of picnic tables, each with a sun shield, scattered across the dunes. We found slim pickings for food in honkytonk Alamogordo, the town closet to the dunes and ended up at the Hi-d-ho drive in, popular with locals. The burger was good and large. Dinner tonight in Las Cruces, 50 miles west of White Sands, was at Habeneros, a local Mexican place that friends who used to live here recommended. It fit the bill.

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Signs of ABQ

Vanishing neon road signs in ABQ appear to be a concern here, also sparking efforts to restore and save them, maybe even via a possible Sign Museum, controversial because signs would be removed from their original locations.

But plenty classics remain, including near us on Central Avenue aka Route 66. Here’s a choice few from the Nob Hill stretch of Central, our temporary stomping ground:

Night lights
Our dog clowning around (not)

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La Luz Trail, Los Poblanos, Petroglyphs, Snow (yes snow)- ABQ

The weather was glorious, in the mid 60s, so we finally got our Sandia Mountain hike in, starting at the bottom, where the snow has melted (for now) rather than the snowy ice trail up top. And the temperature dropped only a degree or two as we climbed upward.

We walked for about two hours on the La Luz trail, fairly easy at the bottom but we gather it gets more challenging higher up. It’s a narrow dirt path with large rocks here and there, gently rising, with switchbacks. This was Millie’s first mountainside hike and we had to make sure she didn’t go over the edge which she tried to do at first but she quickly got the hang of it.

We had a fancy dinner, thanks to a generous gift from my aunt marking D’s birthday and retirement, at Campo at los Poblanos, a reservations-only “field-to-fork” restaurant at a beautiful historic inn/spa located on an organic (of course) farm in the Rio Grande River Valley, on the outskirts of ABQ which you enter by driving on a narrow road through a tunnel of tall cottonwood trees bordered by lavender fields.

After we were finally seated (we had to wait 40 minutes past our 7:30 reservation. I protested, and soon after we got a table, and our margaritas comped.), we had a lovely meal, a big hunk of steak for D and saffron spaghetti with mussels for me, a shared piece of flourless chocolate almond torte. Next time, we need to check out the inn, on a former ranch, which includes a historic hacienda designed by prominent NM architect John Gaw Meam, with beautiful 1930s “Territorial Revival” rooms (tin light fixtures , hand carved beams, hardwood floors, ironwork, hand plastered walls, fireplaces, period NM artwork) and newer rooms nearby (average March cost appears to be $367 a night). We have visited the “farm shop” in the past, which sells high-end “farm food”/baked goods and artisan/local maker personal care and home goods (“lavender peppermint blue corn body scrub”), some now sold at places like the Des Moines art center gift shop.

Two days after our balmy weather it snowed. Our second snow storm here in 3 weeks but it’s pretty. By early afternoon it was almost gone.

“Our” house, snow
Second snow in 3 weeks. Fleeting

We were pleasantly surprised that the ancient markings on stones by Pueblo dwellers and Spaniards were so cool at Petroglyph National Monument, in western ABQ. We hiked an easy 2 miles on the dog-friendly Rinconada Trail in the late afternoon when the light was particularly dramatic, especially with the clouds parting over the now-snowy Sandia Mountains way to the east. The hike took us on a sandy path lining an edge of a canyon with huge black volcanic boulders. At forest we strained to find the ancient markings on the boulders but by mid trail, we were on a roll, finding markings, some clearly birds or sheep, others maybe symbols of some sort, on the boulders. When we returned to our car at 4:45 (the parking area closes at 5) a park ranger was already shutting some gates.

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Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway and Ten-3 on Valentine’s Day in ABQ

About 10 years ago, we marked Valentine’s Day by doing something nutty — we went zip-lining high above a ravine in Boquete, Panama. Never again. Today was much better. We also went high, this time into Albuquerque’s jagged Sandia Mountains, but we were inside a large glass tram that climbed 10,378 feet to the crest, where we ate lunch, tried unsuccessfully to hike (too icy) and glided back down into the valley in our glass cocoon.

The weather was clear and not too windy, the temperature was the warmest it’s been during our stay here, low 60s, although as promised it was 20-30 degrees colder at the top of the mountain and icy snow kept us from a short hike to a CCC cabin on the ridge. At 2.7 miles in horizontal length, the Tramway is reportedly the world’s longest passenger tramway. The tram came very close to the mountain at times which took some getting used to and the guide pointed out the debris from a TWA plane crash long ago, but we could see only jagged granite and limestone peaks, dotted with ponderosa pine and oak trees, scrubby pinyon juniper, dusted with snow.

Tram view
Tram arriving up top

We had a good lunch in the restaurant Ten-3 (a reference to its elevation, at 10,300 feet above sea level) at the top, an attractive contemporary space with huge picture windows offering spectacular views from on high of the valley and mountains in the distance north of ABQ — part of the 11,000 square mile panoramic view.

The food was very good in the casual restaurant. The fancier restaurant was being readied for Valentine’s night diners. The contemporary artwork, including large thickly coated oil forest landscapes by Frank Balaam turned out to be from Ventana Fine Art, a gallery we visited earlier this week in Santa Fe. (Some prints of southwest ruins, in bold unnatural colors, by Mary Silverwood that we are still considering buying were hanging in the women’s restroom).

Sandia means watermelon in Spanish, a reference to the stunning pink of the mountains at sunset.

Yes, that is a tram employee riding outside atop the tram. We don’t know why.

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Santa Fe old favorites and new finds

Always fun to wander around lovely sophisticated Santa Fe, especially on a crisp sunny day in February. We visited a few old favorites and discovered some new places to add to our list:

La Boca – a little Spanish tapas restaurant near the plaza. Excellent garlic shrimp, grilled artichoke with goat cheese, chicaronnes (deep fried chunks of pork belly), red wine sangria.

Oldest church structure in the US, ca 1610, San Miguel Church.

Ventana Fine Art, a Canyon Road gallery where we bought a painting years ago and were tempted to buy from again, this time a boldly colored red and blue print by Mary Silverwood of one of the Salinas Mission Pueblos we visited last week, south of Albuquerque. Looking at the print we realized it was the same view (minus me) of the Quarai ruin that we captured in a photo, although maybe a different time of day since the shadows differ.

A few new discoveries:

Mille Creperie – we didn’t have the crepes at this small rustic chic French place (Santa Fe is the essence of rustic chic) but the coffee, salad Nicoise, ham sandwich on baguette and hefty buttery croissant were delicious. People watching was fun too, lots of well-heeled octogenarians and young boho moms with cute kids.


Form & Concept gallery in Railyard Arts District/Guadalupe Distict (unclear of the boundaries), big bright space with eclectic collection of contemporary artwork where we met another interesting woman working with textiles, not braiding this time (as in ABQ) but sewing together pieces of vintage silk, linen and cotton clothing and table cloths to refurbish a high wire-framed sculpture outside the gallery that was set on fire by an unknown arsonist. A heap of the original burned cloth, salvaged post-fire, was not far from the artist, aka Anastazia Louise, working at her sewing machine. The replacement cloth is flame resistant. Anastazia is also a costume designer and performance artist from California, I learned here:

Chocolate + cashmere —- the name drew us in but the prices kept us from indulging, as is often the case in this affluent town. Beautiful stuff though, on both fronts. We also found a rare free parking spot in a pretty, lowkey neighborhood of adobe homes (where we think we may have stayed 35 years ago with a friend attending St. John’s college here) near Mille (water and west alameda streets) and Guadalupe church, which was unfortunately closed on a Wednesday, as was the contemporary art museum SITE. Another good free parking along one side of a small triangular pocket park at Marcy and Paseo de Peralta.

Kakawa chocolate house – with fantastic Mexican hot chocolate varieties served in pretty blue and white Mexican ceramics. There’s even a hot chocolate flight, offering tastes of several varieties, some hot in more ways than one (i.e. laced with chile.) The chocolates also come with southwest dashes, including chile and piñon. And there’s organic chocolate ice cream too. No wonder there was a line snaking almost out the door on the sunny late afternoon we visited. (much quieter mid-morning.)

San Marcos Cafe and Feed – We have passed this rustic adobe cafe and farm operation on the Turquoise Trail (highway 14) south of Santa Fe before but it wasn’t open or it wasn’t lunch time. This trip, it was both so we went inside, found a cozy atmospheric old adobe cafe with several other diners who looked more local than us. D finally got his huevos rancheros and I decided to go New Mexican too and try the blue corn enchiladas. Both good but my stomach is still rocky. Much of Madrid seemed closed on Tuesday including our favorite rug shop Serrapin and daughters. (There was a number to call to summon a salesperson. We opted not to.) South of Madrid we did drive past what appeared to be a movie set, overlooking a spectacular panorama view.

The New Mexico Museum of Art – we’ve also passed this gorgeous old adobe building off the plaza in Santa Fe several times but this was our first visit. The architecture (1917 Pueblo Revival) and art are impressive. We saw some 20th century New Mexican portraits and landscapes by artists who visited or lived in this area. There was also a temporary exhibit of 21st century protest art. (We got into the museum free with our Des Moines art center membership.)

Lovely San Miguel Church, built in 1610 by Tlaxcalan Indians “under the direction” of Franciscan padres (according to the sign out front).

Best hot chocolate ever


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Who Knew ABQ? Zsa Zsa Gabor, Puccini, Atomic bomb spies, Early female architect, Guinness record contender for longest hand aid textile braid – what we learned on a free downtown walking tour

If you are a fan of underdog cities and their entrepreneurs (as I am, having grown up in the Detroit area with art gallery-owning parents and having lived in places like Royal Oak, MI, Wichita , KS and Des Moines, IA, you will love Albuquerque and its Saturday morning free downtown walking architecture/history tour. Eight people showed up (including a French women living outside St. Louis and new ABQ residents from Wyoming) for a 2-hour walking tour today of a seven-block stretch of Central Ave, aka Route 66, led by two knowledgeable and engaging volunteer docents. Who knew there was so much cool history and architecture in this deserted (on a Saturday) stretch of downtown between 1st and 8th streets?

I had already noticed the multicolored decorative terra cotta facade of the KiMo Auditorium (1927) but had no idea a hotel just north of central was a gem inside, full of carved wood, Native American designs, vintage furnishings and great stories. Zsa Zsa Gabor married her second husband (of nine) in what is now the Hotel Andaluz, one of the first Hilton Hotels, started by San Antonio, NM native Conrad Hilton. Word has it you can stay in the room she and new husband Conrad Hilton stayed in their first night of their marriage (which lasted five years).

Another interesting story: apparently the hotel was the site of an infamous spy exchange involving Ethel Rosenberg’s brother David Greenglass, the atomic spy for the Soviets who worked at Los Alamos, NM, building the atomic bomb in 1944-1946. David was the one who divulged the bomb secrets but implicated his sister and brother-in-law Julius in exchange for immunity. He alleged that Ethel typed up the spy info. Ethel and Julius were executed for espionage/treason in 1953. After jail time, David was released in 1960. In 1996, he admitted to falsely implicating his sister in order to save his wife who apparently had typed up his notes. He died in 2014. What a schmuck, (excuse my Yiddish.)

In 1945, The early atomic bomb (not sure if it was “Fat Man” or “Little Boy”) was also towed through this stretch of ABQ (without any advance warning) to the Trinity Nuclear testing site near San Antonio, NM, where we were a few days ago .

inside the Hotel Andaluz

Further down the street, we stopped at the El Rey Theater built by the cousin of the Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini, who also visited ABQ. The Puccini family built another building here (and Puccini descendants still live here) but not the stunning Occidental Life insurance building, built in 1917, clad in white terra cotta clad, and designed to mimic Venice’s Doge’s Palace.

Andaluz “curio collection by Hilton” where Zsa Zsa married husband #2 (of 9)

At the former Sears building, we learned of a young girl/aspiring shoplifter who hung out in the building past closing time, got locked inside, freaked out and set a fire, severely damaging the Sears.Another building is still home to a famous hat store, with a sign still touting its “mens hats.”

The imposing 1910 yellow brick building bears the name Rosenwald, for Jewish merchants Aron and Edward Rosenwald. It’s not clear if they are related to Chicago’s Julius Rosenwald, (1862-1932) an early Sears Company leader and doer of good deeds, including funding schools for African American kids in the Deep South. The ABQ building was designed by the same architect as the Doge’s Palace-esque building.

A Maisel building fresco
Art Deco building now a holocaust museum

In an Art Deco storefront that now houses a tiny holocaust museum, we met Hiddekel Sara Burks, a retired Chicago nurse and veteran hair braider/“ethnic folk artist” (Singer Roberta Flack was a braiding client), who was braiding as she explained her quest to break the Guinness record for world’s longest handmade textile braid. She needs to reach 6000 feet and was at 5220. She told us various sections of the multicolored braid were an homage to various prominent African Americans including congresswoman Shirley Jackson. Her handiwork honors Black natural hairstyles (Afros, braids, locks) and aims to combat discrimination against those who sport them. (ABQ passed a measure in 2021 banning discrimination against people with natural hair styles, following LA’s measure.)

On the art and architecture front, we looked more closely at buildings that are easy to overlook but turned out to have spectacular details. The 1930s Maisel Building is the home of an iconic Indian jewelry and craft store run by built by another Jewish entrepreneur. The business recently closed, a victim of Covid. But the building has been bought, with restoration promised. Good to hear. It has spectacular frescoes on its facade by a series of young Navaho, Apache and Pueblo artists.

Going for the world record in braiding
At the Maisel building, a fresco done by a protege of Frida Khalo and Diego Rivera

KiMo Auditorium remains my favorite and it was great to see it up close and personal and learn more about its history. (We had to walk around a homeless man laid out on the pavement and were told someone was en route to provide help. Homelessness is a big issue here.) KiMo is reportedly a Native American word for mountain lion/king of its kind.) The auditorium still hosts concerts but not much during Covid. It’s apparently amazing inside, which we got a taste of from the ornamentation around the outside lobby and office box which we peered in at through metal gates.

We also went to an intersection where Route 66 crossed Route 66. That’s not a typo. Apparently Route 66 through Albuquerque first went north-south but was rerouted in 1937 to east-west.

Outside lobby ornamentation of the KiMo

Now on our list (from what we learned during the tour): a visit to a hotel terrace north of Bernadillo with great sunset views of the Sandia Mountains and to the Castañeda hotel in Las Vegas, NM, (closed 70 years ago, restored and reopened around 2019). It was part of a chain of architecturally impressive hotels built and operated by Fred Harvey along the route of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, known as Harvey Houses.

The same restoration-minded developer also recently fixed up architect Mary Colter’s self-proclaimed masterpiece La Posada, in Winslow, Arizona. A pioneering female architect, Colter (1869-1958) designed the gorgeous ABQ train station hotel that was ignominiously knocked down in the 1970s and replaced with a less glorious replica. (Why? Why?) Colter was the chief architect and decorator for the Harvey company. Her many other impressive works include: the interior of Santa Fe’s La Fonda Hotel and The Grand Canyon’s Hopi Bright Angel lodge.

The county building and the convention center in ABQ also apparently have great interiors full of artwork and likely an interesting history too. I also heard the city is planning a Sign Museum, which sounds great especially given all the city’s great Neon signs!

More KiMo detail

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Old Town shopping, museum sculpture park and Rio grande nature center state park and and more Bosque trail – Albuquerque (formerly AlbuRquerque)

Somehow I missed really visiting Albuquerque’s Old Town during previous visits, dismissing it as too touristy and a pale imitation of Santa Fe’s old plaza area. My bad. Wandering around the small pocket of oldness dominated by a huge adobe San Felipe de Neri Church (Spanish Colonial, 1793) in the central plaza, past adobe buildings dating from 1870 to 1900, we found some touristy place but also fun shops with local crafts and goods including (thanks to a recent Travel and Leisure mag story): Tiny Grocer ABQ, a little hole-in-the-wall stuffed with local meat, jalapeño hot sauce, baked goodies, homemade soups; The silver artichoke, selling jewelry made with turquoise and a lovely orange shell from Mexico by a mother-son duo; Nizohoni Soap – run by a young woman born in the Great Navajo Nation (ship rock, NM) that sells products with resonant names such as “REZ dirt soap,” “blue corn Pollen lip scrub,” “piñon pine needle foam wash” and “Navajo Sage and Wild Rose Chi’shie Oil w/Eucalyptus”; and Back Alley Bruhas, a fun boutique with vintage and locally designed clothing, jewelry and home goods.

Old Town plaza’s church

From a historical marker in the plaza I learned that ABQ was even harder to spell in olden days: AlbuRquerque. We also wandered down one courtyard in Old Town and ended up in the sculpture garden next to the Albuquerque Museum.

The weather is warming! It was around 60 as we walked Millie around the Rio Grande Nature Center, and I mean around since we learned the center itself doesn’t allow dogs. We ended up on a nice length of the River shaded by cottonwood trees where the only other visitors were birds.

Heading north on Rio Grande (the street not the river), We found one big southwestern estate after another, huge houses set back from the street, surrounded by long fields and often a stable. Moneyland, ABQ style.

Other ABQ finds:

Ikhatov Bread & coffee, new Nob hill bakery, Good egg salad sandwich, Quiche, kakawa (Santa fe) hot chocolate.

Takeout brisket tacos from Casa Azule.

Fantastic special occasion meal (dirck’s belated bday, my signing with a literary agency, early Valentine’s Day at Farm and Table. Trout with crunchy flavor packed quinoa (how does that happen?); pork chop with a savory sauce, even the bread was delicious. (Discovered a good dry cider from Michigan — Rose co-op 39


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