Today was AH-may-zing!
Brian woke me up bright and early. He claims it was the time change, but I think he was just excited to get going… and worried about fitting it all in today! I’ve been to New Mexico before and had a bunch of places that I wanted Brian to see. We already had to pare down the list a bit to make it all fit.
First stop was the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Park – I figured Brian would enjoy looking at the ancient architecture. There are actually three different sets of ruins. I’d only been to one site, so we decide to see that one first.
The Quarai Ruins are probably my favorite. I like that these ruins are more “complete.” It just gives you a better feeling of what they were like when people lived there. The roof is gone, but there is more definition to the rooms. I also like the park area around it a bit more than the other two sites. The walking trails are nice and there was a pretty little picnic area under some big trees. There aren’t a whole heck of a lot of big trees in New Mexico. Mostly there are short cedar trees and scroungy little scrub brush.
Gran Quivira Ruins were interesting to see, but probably my least favorite site to visit. The ruins are the least intact of the three and they sit high up on a hill. It was interesting to see the differences between the two sites and the different styles of building. The other two sites were built near water, but this site depended on rainfall so they had big wells dug to catch and store the water.
The Abo Ruin was more like the Quarai site. Both were constructed from the red rocks and red clay and the site was fairly well intact (for being centuries old!). It was interesting to wander through the remains of the rooms and imagine what life must have been like. The picnic area here was really nice, it too was built under some big trees. The first two sites had nicer (real) bathrooms while the Abo Ruin had more port-a-potty style bathrooms. (This is important in New Mexico, because you can drive for over an hour and not see a town… or if you do see a town they don’t have a gas station… or anywhere else to stop…. nice clean restrooms are important!)
Brian and I ate our lunch at the Abo Ruin picnic area before heading off to the VLA in Magdalena, NM. We’re really enjoying picnicking instead of trying to find a restaurant. For one thing, it would be really difficult to find anywhere to eat in New Mexico…. you can drive for a really long way and not see anyone… and for another, we’re saving a ton of money and calories and getting to spend more time in some really beautiful places.
The Very Large Array in Magdalena/Socorro (It’s really just in the middle of nowhere):
“The Very Large Array is one of the world’s premier astronomical radio observatories, consists of 27 radio antennas in a Y-shaped configuration on the Plains of San Agustin fifty miles west of Socorro, New Mexico. Each antenna is 25 meters (82 feet) in diameter. The data from the antennas is combined electronically to give the resolution of an antenna 36km (22 miles) across, with the sensitivity of a dish 130 meters (422 feet) in diameter.”
These things are just amazing. They are listening to outer-space! Of course, that is totally oversimplifying, but I just look at them and realize that they can see/hear stars being born and dying… looking beyond what our human eyes could ever see…. I look at them and I see such exciting possibilities…. who knows what they will help us discover? I know it seems weird… it’s just a bunch of big dishes out in the middle of nowhere…. I just think they are beautiful. The sky was a beautiful blue with big fluffy clouds today…. I took a ton of photos of the VLA. Every time they would move I have to take a dozen more photos…. They are SO quiet… and they move faster than you’d expect for such a huge thing.
Brian and I watched the movie at the Visitor’s Center… it’s narrated by Jodi Foster… she was in the movie Contact that was based on/at the VLA. The video isn’t very long, but it explains the VLA and what it does. The best part of the video is when it explains how they move these dishes on train tracks around the site. They weighTONS… the whole process is pretty interesting.
It’s a long drive to get to any of these sites if you are staying in Albuquerque (and I’m not sure where else you would be staying… maybe Roswell? Not a lot of big towns to choose from.) but if you are in New Mexico I would say these are all really interesting things to see. (And they’re all free!)
After the VLA we headed back to Albuquerque to finally meet up with MINI USA. The MINI’s started arriving at the MINI dealership around 6:00pm. We had a great time… MINI really knows how to throw a party! Brian and I got checked in and got our MINI ID’s and our first goody bag. The dealership served dinner and had a live band. It was great! There were hundreds of different MINIs and no two alike. We ate dinner and made a new friend (MINI people are just friendly… especially when we are talking about our kids… er… cars.) We hung out for a while, sitting on the grass and listening to the band. The weather was just perfect… mid 70’s (I thought New Mexico was supposed to be hot?!). We finally decided to call it a night. We’ve got to get up very bright and early to meet the other MINI’s and start driving to Lubbock, TX. More adventure awaits!