[CH] New Mexico Report (Long!)

=Mark (mstevens@exit109.com)
Fri, 13 Mar 1998 15:23:52 -0500

The first 8 hours I spent in Albuquerque on Thursday I experienced, in this
order:  sun and 65 degrees, 23 degrees and moderate snow (top 'o Sandia),
light spring rain, clear with 1st quarter moon, and finally a high altitude
thunderstorm.  All friday evening and saturday was intermittant snow
squalls and temps in the mid 30s.

After arriving Thursday afternoon and checking into my hotel, I took the
Tramway up to the top of the Sandia Mountains, and was greeted with a
stunning view of the city 5000 feet below.  I have dinner at the High
Finance restaurant while a snow squall blows through.  This is the only
restaurant during my stay in New Mexico that could not spare a menu for my
collection.  They took my address and promise to mail me one.  We shall
see...  I get on the tramway for the ride down in moderate snow.  The first
5 minutes we are in a complete whiteout and can only see the cables
trailing off into the snow.  Then it changed to rain and stopped about
halfway down.  The city lights are spread across the vally and twinkle in
the distance like amber stars.    I return to my hotel room shortly before
a spectacular high plains thunderstorm.  I turn off the lights, open the
window all the way, pop open a beer, pull up a chair and enjoy the light
show for about a half hour.

Friday morning was clear and cool.  I woke early (Still running on Eastern
Standard Time), and headed West on 66 and 40.  It is my first experience in
a landscape that is flat and treeless, but randomly studded with 10
thousand foot mountains and visibilities exceeding 100 miles.  Drove about
an hour on the interstate then pulled off onto the back roads into the
mesas and mountains.  Was surprised to find out in the middle of knowhere
little hamlets with maybe a dozen or so small houses or trailers.  What do
they do for a living?   I expect the roadrunner to come zooming around the
next bend followed by a coyote wearing a napkin and brandishing a knife &
fork...  Head back to town for the start of the vendor session of the Fiery
Foods Show at noon.

What can I say?  A huge convention center featuring over 250 vendors
selling anything remotely having to do with Hot & Spicy foods.  Got to meet
a number of folks who I had gotten to know over the years on the mailing
list.  Wendy and Curtis from Purgatory Hot Sauces, Blair of Blairs Beyond
death (And he produces his sauce about 10 miles from Exit109!), Jim
Campbell, Curt & Suzie, Dave Hirschoff <SP?>, Firegirl and others...  I am
in Flaming heaven!  

That evening I Dine at Bankok Cafe, it is a very good meal, comparable to
the better Thai restaurants I've been to.  It is quite spicy and the
portions are just huge!  I am forced to wrap up the leftover Tom Yum Gai
and Grilled Beef Salad.  Not having a fridge in the room I place the
leftovers outside on my windowsill as it is now in the mid 30s.  The hotel,
La Posada, is a renovated 1930s building with high ceilings beautifull
woodwork, and good old 8 pane double sash windows that open all the way.
During the evening the wind picks up and I can hear the plastic bag
containing my leftovers fluttering.  All of a sudden there is a loud
whipping sound and then... silence.  The next day I can see my food on the
roof of the building next door, 8 floors down.  Sigh...  By this time a
chronic case of levitating "Ring of Fire" is making itself evident.  It
will be 3 or 4 days before the nail marks in the thighs begin to recede...
Sorry, I suppose that's a bit more info than you needed.  :-)

I attend the Festival again at 9am, and hang until they let the general
public (Gringos!) in.  It soon becomes too crowded so I jump in the rental
and head south.  I drive through intermittant sun and snow squalls, and
even a moderate dust storm in a dry riverbed.  It is quite windy and I have
to dodge occasional tumbleweeds.  For the first time I notice dirt roads
that look to be driveways designated as numbered state routes!  After
poking around the flats around Siccoro I return to town.  

That evening about a dozen folks from the Chileheads list get together for
dinner at Los Cuates, a popular Mexican restaurant not far from downtown.
Folks from Mild to Wild Pepper Company offer to give a bunch of us a ride,
and we wait as they shuffle the cargo around in the back of their Suburban
(You Know You're A Chilehead If you share the back of a sport utility
vehicle with 75 pounds of chipotle chiles).  The food is good and the
company is great!  It was generally acknowleged that Jim Campbells "Bread"
in conjunction with the buttons supplied by Curt & Suzie were the marketing
hit of the whole show.  There was probably at least a 90% awareness level
of the Bread among attendees of the show.  All this for something that he
was giving away!  Hopefully the interview with the NY times will give him
thge noteriety he deserves.  They about busted a gut when they found out
his day job was as a professional firefighter!

Times reporter: "Could we have your phone number in case we need to get in

Jim: "Well, My work number is 911..."

On Sunday another couple of hours is spent at the festival, then I drive
east on rt 40 and then north behind the Sandias on Rt 14 (The Turquoise
Trail).  Was really a beautiful drive!  Past through a really neat little
town called Madrid ( http://www.showemall.com/showemall/madrid/index.html )
that might have been a ghost town, but now supported a large number of
shops and galleries. After an hour and a half on the road I end up in Santa
Fe. Had lunch at the Guadalupe Cafe, Green Chile Chicken Soup, Chicken
Enchilada and a roast beef burrito with red and green chile sauce.  The red
chile sauce was unexpectantly pungent, the first place I had been (Other
than the fiery foods show of course!) that was not afraid to use chiles in
this robust a manner.

The atmosphere in Santa Fe was unexpected, it was in the mid 50s and sunny,
and all the snow that had fallen over the previous days was melting.  Where
ever you went in the downtown area you could hear the sound of water
dripping from the rooftop downspouts.  Was most unusual for an area you
tend to think of as mostly dry.

On beginning my return to Albuquerque I can clearly see the Sandia
Mountains next to town, 70 miles away.  Distance is so apparent in this
part of the country, when you can practically see your destination the
entire duration of your trip.  I can't imagine what it was like when the
speed limit was 55mph, the average cruising speed is now 80.  I covered
over 500 miles in my 4 days in New Mexico.

Oh well, such was my adventures in the Sowthwest.  I'll be posting photos
and copies of menus to restaurants I went to in the next few weeks.  This
was definately a good time!  The only problem was that by the time I was
acclimated and ready to really spend some time, I had to come back to old
Exit 109...  Sigh...


     @ http://www.exit109.com/~mstevens @

              Life is a Cabernet