Saturday, March 5, 2011

Day 3: Be Careful, You'll Become Soup

We left all of our traveling companions behind when we headed north to Truth or Consequences, NM on Sunday morning. The itinerary for T or C started when I looked at a Google map of the area. (This is just another way in which Google acts all Helpy McHelperson and then you find yourself driving 45 miles into the middle of nowhere just because the name of the town sounds cool.)

A little history for this drizzly Saturday afternoon:
T or C, as it is known to the locals, is a spa village and was originally named Hot Springs, NM. When the hit radio quiz show announced they would air the program from the first town that renamed itself after the show, the residents of "Hot Springs" took a vote. A vote that would forever pique the interest of travelers gazing at Google maps...thinking what an interesting name for a town. They MUST have interesting people, interesting food, interesting shopping. So...not so much. But more on that in a moment.

Ralph Edwards, the host of Truth or Consequences (the show, not the town...I can see how all of this would get confusing), visited the town during the first weekend in May for the next 50 years. It became known as "Fiesta" and included a beauty contest, a parade, and a stage show. The town continues to celebrate "Fiesta" and usually features some B actor and, of course, the Hatch Chile Queen. Do you know what else happens the first weekend in May? Derby. The Kentucky Derby. It is understandable that I had never heard of "Fiesta" until we saw the wall of celebrity photos at the Geronimo Springs Museum. We were too busy watching the fastest 2 minutes in sports...and getting liquored up to appropriately cheer our pony around the track. But we did it in suits and huge floppy hats and that's classy.

Anyjulep, we packed up the suitcases, bid adios to the Hampton, and made our way up 54, passing Hatch and the New Mexico Spaceport on the way. No time to stop...there was shopping to be done at interesting stores and food to be eaten at interesting restaurants. Except when we got there, everything was closed. I mean, the churches and the Geronimo Springs Museum were open, but everything else was shut up tighter than...well...never mind. Let's just say it has something to do with a nun. It was only 10:30 and check-in to the entire reason for driving to T or C (besides the cool name):

...was not until 3. We had a problem. So we consulted the TripAdvisor site, which did list the Geronimo Springs Museum as the #2 attraction with 2 glowing reviews. It was time to look at dead things and read about dead people.

My knowledge of Geronimo is limited to "when you throw yourself from a perfectly good, non-crashing airplane, you scream (or cry) "GERONIMOOOOOOOOOOO!" That's the extent of it. I expected that I would learn all about Geronimo in the next hour or 2, maybe even discover that he liked to jump from high places. And I may have learned something but the information was everywhere, in 10-point font. And I have the attention span of a 4-year old. So all I got was this:

Geronimo and I sometimes wear the same do-rag. Also...his name translates to "one who yawns." Although there was very little yawning while he was leading his Apache tribe brothers into war with Mexico and the U.S. for stealing their land. I guess he didn't get the memo that the U.S. has a tendency to do that. Just ask the residents of Panama when we decided we needed a canal. If you would like more accurate information on Geronimo, Ric Burns did a documentary on him for American Experience titled We Shall Remain. (Those Burns boys are hoes for history.)

In addition to Geronimo: The Wax Man, the museum housed a pretty impressive collection of Native American pottery:

...along with a mannequin, just in case you forgot to pack your imagination.

Then there was the miner, who smokes the eternal cobb pipe, waiting for someone to share a beer with him in his log cabin (which was actually moved to the museum. I imagine moving a log cabin is something like moving a mobile home).

And, of course, what is a museum without a display of food items created by companies who have forgotten to change their packaging over the past 100 years...

...and a display of the various types of barbed wire used by local farmers and ranch hands.

But perhaps what was most exciting was a display of toys that children made during the pioneer days, with a sign that read "Remember when children made their own toys?" I glanced, I scoffed, and remembered my own Barbie dollhouse and Glo-worm (which were most assuredly not made by me). Suddenly, I heard Neal exclaim, "HEY! I had one of those!"

You heard it here first, y'all...Neal is basically a pioneer. And thus a remarkable Soldier.

When we left the museum, it was noon and time for lunch. We cruised around the block (we cruised around the block a lot while we were in T or C and it truly is just one block) to Happy Belly Deli, which got fantastic reviews. As we were pulling up, they were locking up for the day. At noon. I'll let you ponder that for a second because I still don't get it.

So, we cruised around the block again to Cafe Bella Luca, which also received high marks by travelers on TripAdvisor.

via TripAdvisor Reviewer
A modern restaurant with rustic-chic decor, they served a full menu of everything...but we settled on the New Mexico pizza with red sauce and, natch, green chiles. A Kona Brewery Pipeline to wash it all down with and by 1 PM, we were again ready to stalk the streets of T or C. 

Unfortunately, there was nothing to stalk. It looked as though the town didn't really open on Sundays. So, we headed about 10 miles east to...

Now, cue hysterical laughter while I sit in the passenger's seat exclaiming things like "We are at Elephant Butt!!" and "That sign says 'New Mexico's Diamond in the Desert' but shouldn't it be "Turd in the Crack??" and "I love a trip that includes a trip to Elephant Ass!" From there, it only got worse...

It is important to come just as you are when you are at the And...

Did you need a butt(e) boat? Perhaps you need to stop at the butt(e) store?? It's amazing that Neal didn't drop me off at the butt(e) and drive away, leaving me to snort uncontrollably all by myself. Fortunately, he's a grown-up.

By the time we left the butt(e)...last one, I promise. And my apologies to the residents of Elephant Butt(e) was almost 3! So, we shook a tailfeather all the way back to Riverbend Hot Springs which was, in one word, redonkulouslyawesomefantasticperfection. The photo that sold me on "natural mineral hot springs located on the banks of the Rio Grande" was this:

via TripAdvisor Reviewer
And yes, it pretty much looked exactly like that. Well, except for the Rio Grande. Which looked more like this: 

I'm going with all marketing photos were taken during the fall, after the monsoons arrived. But other than the Rio Grande being not so...grande...(even DivaV said, upon seeing the Rio Grande, "Seriously? That's a creek."), the lodging and the springs were heavenly. We soaked for 2 hours in the public hot springs (which were for the most part deserted) for free and then booked our hour in the private hot springs at sunset.

The 108-degree mineral water flowed into the baths at the top of the hill and continued through 2 more pools, before finally arriving at this one...making it the coolest of the baths at 101 degrees. It was mostly unoccupied, especially since a sandstorm blew in on Sunday morning and dropped the temperature to the low 40's. Everyone wanted to be hot in their hot springs, not warm. 

 Looking back from the "dock" that extended out to the Rio "Grande" (more like Rio Tall).

THAT is our private hot springs. For a whole hour. What happens in the hot springs, stays in the hot springs. 

But I will say that we didn't do anything that would shame our mothers.

The sun was setting over the Rio Grande and Riverbend Hot Springs. And it was time for dinner.

Los Arcos Steak and Lobster was the only place open. So, steak it was. It was also one of the best and juiciest steaks I've ever had. You know the chef has done something right when I send back the unopened bottle of A1. Although Neal and I couldn't help but be reminded of that restaurant/motel from Sideways. So tragically 80's. And yet, somehow, it worked.

We got back just in time for one more hour-long soak under the stars. I now see why people write novels and plays and movies about the New Mexico night sky. Neal downloaded the Google Sky app on his phone and we held it up to identify the constellations. We were right under Orion's Belt and The Big Dipper! It was the perfect way to spend our last night together.

And then they drained the pools. Yes, my OCD friends, they are completely drained and cleaned everyday. Everyone can breathe a big germaphobe sigh of relief.

The next morning, in an effort to get back on Atlanta time and see the sun rise, I pulled myself from bed at 6:30 AM. The pools were just beginning to refill, starting with the top and the hottest.

And trickling down to its cooler siblings...

We watched as the T or C locals popped in, paid their $10 for an hour's soak, and discussed everything from muscle testing to Plato.

We loaded the car and said goodbye to our abandoned soupy selves. We promised to not try and build something similar in our own backyard someday. And then we closed the door on #1 Riverbend Springs,

and got in the car, headed south. Back to Ft. Bliss, back to El Paso, back to the reality of deployment and all of the separation and loneliness that it brings. For every 4 days worth of yin, there is 10 months worth of yang.

However, a stop in Hatch for lunch and then one quick stop at the Future Site of the New Mexico Spaceport still hovered in our future.


  1. So out of this whole, awesome post, that reminds me of a vacay with my FIL, who knows WAY TOO MUCH about Geronimo and all that southwest stuff or whatever that gives me headaches after I hear it for 12 hours straight....I'm laughing out loud at the Rio Tall. LOL!!!!

  2. Those hot springs look wonderful!
    WAY better than the private hot springs Wilzie tried to get me into in Iceland...
    Rio Tall = total awesomesauce

  3. I hate when downs roll up the sidewalks on Sunday. It's like that here - ghost town until about 1:00 PM but then it all shuts down by 5 or 6 PM? I'm glad you guys found ways to amuse yourselves though.. hehe butt[e]! Those springs look so relaxing!!!

  4. You had me cracking up here! Like you, I would have thought that the Rio Grande would include a little more grandeur. Totally made me laugh about Neil and those pioneer toys! Go soldier boy!

  5. Thanks for the plug! We are glad you enjoyed your stay. BTW, the river is only low like that a few days a year, before they open the dam up for the Summer. It's flowing strong now.

  6. Those hot springs look AMAZING!!!! NO I want to go to T or C :)

  7. I think we need to get some hot springs on the East Coast... those look delicious!

  8. I love that Hershey's has maintained their branding all these years! I'm jealous you had a clear enough sky to use the google app. I've had it on my phone for a year and a half and only got to use it in Yosemite. Once again, sounds like a fantastic trip! Off to read the last part...

  9. I'm thinking I need to get myself to some hot springs. That sounds fantastical.


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