Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Buckhorn Tavern - 04/29/15 - San Antonio, NM

Wednesday – April 29, 2015
Buckhorn Tavern
San Antonio, New Mexico

Continuing on our quest to sample green chile cheeseburgers at the top rated green chile cheeseburger establishments New Mexico has to offer; we visited the Buckhorn Tavern in San Antonio, New Mexico this afternoon.

The Buckhorn Green Chile Cheeseburger was rated the #7 Burger in America by GQ Magazine in 2005 and the "Baddest Burger in the Land" by the Nightlife Flavor Roundup on the website.

In May, 2009 the "Green Chile Cheeseburger Duel" was on between Bobby Olguin (the owner of Buckhorn) and renowned chef Bobby Flay….and the winner was…..Bobby Olguin’s Buckhorn Green Chile Cheeseburger. In honor of the event, New Mexico’s Governor, Bill Richardson, declared July 24, 2009 as the Buckhorn Tavern Day, proclaiming that the state’s revenue in green chile sales was way up for the year. The national publicity proved very beneficial for both the State’s main staple as well as for the Buckhorn Green Chile Cheeseburger.

Celebration of the Buckhorn Green Chile Cheeseburger and Bobby Olguin’s win over Bobby Flay continued during 2009 by naming him the Grand Marshal at New Mexico’s State Fair and Parade Marshal of the Aspenfest Parade in Ruidoso, New Mexico.

After sampling the green chile cheeseburgers at the Owl Bar & Café on Tuesday and the Buckhorn Tavern today, we agreed, both establishments make an excellent green chile cheeseburger. However, the Owl Bar & Tavern’s version was juicier, and therefore we enjoyed their version more.

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

VLA - 04/29/15 - Socorro, NM

Wednesday – April 29, 2015
National Radio Astronomy Observatory
Socorro, New Mexico

We visited the Very Large Array (VLA) this morning. It is run by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and is located on U.S. Highway 60, fifty miles west of Socorro, New Mexico.

The VLA is a powerful telescope that observes the Universe, night and day. There are 27 dish-shaped antennas tuned to a kind of light that the eyes cannot see. This invisible light is in the form of radio waves. Visible light, the light our eyes and optical telescopes can see, is only a tiny fraction of the light given off by normal matter in the Universe.

Radio waves reveal previously unseen activities of stars, galaxies, and planets and map the chemical workings of the gas and dust clouds that create them. Optical telescopes cannot see into these places, because those same clouds block their view.

Unhindered, radio waves can travel for billions of years across the vastness of space. They provide the VLA with the data that help astronomers construct a timeline of the Universe – from its ancient past to its possible future.

Each of the 27 white dishes of the VLA gathers faint, natural radio waves traveling through distant space from objects such as galaxies, black holes, and baby stars.

Each of the VLA dishes is actually larger than the biggest optical telescope in the world. However, a single VLA antenna cannot see as clearly as its optical cousin. Why is that? Bigger telescopes do reveal finer detail, what astronomers refer to as having greater "resolving power." But radio waves are much longer than light waves, so a much bigger telescope is needed to resolve finer details. A radio telescope needs to be many miles across to rival the resolving power of an optical telescope. It is not possible to build one dish that big, but the connected array of 27 large antennas of the VLA create a telescope that is 22 miles in diameter!

Each of the 27 antennas in the array weighs over 230-tons, is 82 feet across and over 90 feet high. Motorized drives steer these 100-ton white dishes around, dip them up and down, and keep them pointed exactly on the cosmic radio source for several hours at a time to collect enough radio waves from each object they observe.

The array of 27 radio antennas spans a huge "Y" shape (called the Wye). Every four months the antennas are moved to different stations along each arm of the Wye. At its most compact configuration, the array has a wider field of view and maximum sensitivity to diffuse gas. At its most extended, the array zooms in on finer detail. Unique Transporters carefully lift and relocate the 230-ton antennas to one of 72 new positions along the "Y" shaped railroad tracks.

Since the VLA first began watching the skies back in 1976, it has observed nearly 43,000 different cosmic objects.

The Warner Brothers Movie "Contact," based on Carl Sagan’s novel, was filmed in part at the VLA. In September 1996, film makers and actors arrived at VLA to film many of the scenes in the movie. About 200 people from the "Contract" crew worked here during five days of fast-paced activity. A movie "base camp" was set up behind the Antenna Assembly Building, where equipment and wardrobe trailers, a kitchen trailer and a large dining tent were located. House trailers sat in the Visitors Center parking lot for leading actress Jodie Foster, director Robert Zemeckis and producer Steve Starkey.

At the Visitor Center, visitors can take a self-guided tour to a radio dish antenna and view a 23-minute movie – Beyond The Visible (The Story of the Very Large Array) – narrated by the actress Jodi Foster.

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Owl Bar & Cafe - 04/28/15 - San Antonio, NM

Tuesday – April 28, 2015
Owl Bar & Cafe
San Antonio, New Mexico

Last year, I believe it was the Food Network, profiled a few establishments in New Mexico that serve up the very best green chile cheeseburgers in the state. The restaurants profiled were:

  • Double Eagle Restaurant – Las Cruces, New Mexico
  • Buckhorn Tavern – San Antonio, New Mexico
  • Owl Bar & Café – San Antonio, New Mexico
  • Bobcat Bite Restaurant – Santa Fe, New Mexico

On our previous visit to New Mexico in October 2013, we became aficionados of the green chile cheeseburger. So… while we are once again visiting southern New Mexico we continue on our quest to sample the best green chile cheeseburgers New Mexico has to offer.

We sampled the green chile cheeseburgers at the Double Eagle Restaurant on April 23, 2015 (click here to go to that page in our blog).

But first… a word or two about green chile cheeseburgers. What is so special about them? A key ingredient is the green chilies grown in Hatch, New Mexico that are used in the cheeseburgers. The quality of the green chilies are crucial, it makes all the difference in a green chile cheeseburger. A full-flavored, chopped hot green chile sits atop a hand-formed gnarled patty of crusty-fried beef topped with a slice of cheese that melts into the chile and the crevices of the hamburger. The chile's heat is complemented by the beef and balanced by the layer of creamy cheese on top. Now that’s a green chile cheeseburger!

We visited the Owl Bar & Café in San Antonio, New Mexico this afternoon. We ordered their infamous "Owl Burger" (a green chile cheeseburger – duh!), with a side order of green chile, cheese-covered fries. The recipe for the "Owl Burger" remains unchanged since its inception in 1948. The meat is ground fresh daily and cooked on a grill that they have been using for the past 50 years. Talk about a seasoned grill!

The Owl Bar & Café definitely lived up to their fine reputation. The green chile cheeseburgers were delicious. If you have never had a green chile cheeseburger, or green chile, cheese-covered french fries, you must visit the Owl Bar & Café and try them. They are outstanding! We quenched our thirst with a Corona beer served with a twist of lime.

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Socorro, NM - 04/27/15

Monday – April 27, 2015
Escondida Lake Park Campground
Socorro, New Mexico

We awoke to a frigid morning, the temperature in the middle 30’s, with a dusting of wet snow on the ground, here at the Lester Jackson Park Campground in Pie Town, New Mexico.

It is time to depart Pie Town and move on. But before we do that we stop at the Pie Town Café to have another of their fabulous breakfasts (followed by a piece of pie of course!). They open at 10:00 a.m. We arrived there at 10:15 a.m.

Our friend Nita, a longtime resident of Pie Town, was already there, having breakfast with three backpackers that had spent the night at her hostel in town. The backpackers, in their 30’s and 40’s, one from Alabama, one from North Carolina and one from Maryland had started out in Mexico on April 10, 2015 and were hiking across the U.S. up to Canada.

We thanked the owners, Camilla Van Sickle and Bill VanPenn, for their great food, pies and hospitality. We wished the backpackers a safe journey and told Nita we would see again her on our next visit and off we go.

We departed Pie Town at 12:00 p.m. and arrived at the Escondida Lake Park Campground in Socorro, New Mexico at 2:00 p.m.

This will be our base for a few days while we continue on our quest to sample green chile cheeseburgers the top rated establishments in New Mexico have to offer.

Escondida Lake Park Campground is a county campground. It has 8 campsites with full hookups (30-amp electric, water, sewer). There is one restroom facility with flush toilets. The campground has a playground and a small fishing pond.

Campground: Escondida Lake Park Campground
Camping Fee: $18.00
Campsite: 2

Total miles traveled today: 88
Route Traveled:
East on U.S. Highway 60
North on Interstate 25
North on New Mexico Highway 408
East on Escondida Lake Road to campground

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sundown Bob - 04/26/15 - Pie Town, NM

Sunday – April 26, 2015
Memorial to Sundown Bob
Pie Town, New Mexico

While camping at the Lester Jackson Park Campground we noticed a campsite containing an American flag, a pair of hiking boots sitting on the ground beside a reclining lawn chair, and a sheep wagon that had been converted into a make-shift home on wheels. It had a wood-burning stove, cooking pots and a bed. The top of the shelter was covered with a weather-worn canvas tarp.

We were curious. Did this shelter belong to a homeless person? What was the story behind this shelter? We subsequently learned from Nita, a resident of Pie Town for 40 years, that the locals referred to the man as Sundown Bob (his actual name was Bob Sundown). He had lived in that shelter at the Lester Jackson Park Campground when the sheep wagon became no longer road worthy, and he could no longer care for his donkey that pulled it. He passed away in his shelter sometime during 2005. Nita could not recall the actual date of his passing, only that it was about 10 years ago.

Several residents of Pie Town offered Sundown Bob food and shelter, but he preferred the shelter he had built on the sheep wagon.

As a tribute to this man, the residents of Pie Town honor Sundown Bob, by leaving his shelter intact, just as he had left it.

Following is a wonderful profile of Bob Sundown:
Bob Sundown — Freedom in a Sheep Wagon
By Carla DeMarco
Last updated on Thursday, January 09, 2003

Oldtimer Bob Sundown is a dropout in the true sense of the word. For 40 years he has voyaged about 20 miles a day along the West's gritty highway shoulders in a donkey-drawn sheep wagon he and some kids built from discarded materials. "Thousands of friends," a few live-in chickens and his knowledge of edible plants form his sometimes tenuous security net. Although he intentionally draws no pension nor social security, he claims he's the richest man on Earth because he knows how to "use his mind."

The seventy-something, slow-and-steady traveler espouses hard-won creeds borne of stark life experience. It's apparent this slight, one-eyed, leathery-faced man in dusty clothes has conquered concepts cerebral seekers grapple with perpetually. As his story unfolds, he untangles fear, worry, surrender, attention to the moment, freedom and peace of mind sagaciously in the rough, unfeigned tongue of cowboy slang.

Sundown bears his Nez Perce Sioux mother's name. He drove his Caucasian father off at age ten with a pitchfork after the man "whupped" his mother and sisters one too many times.

He left home at age eleven to begin a lifetime of labor that continues to this day, although a heart attack last year curtailed his fence building and "cowboying" activities. He still teaches survival skills to children, announces for children's rodeos and ranch-sits for friends - mostly in Arizona and New Mexico. He says when he gets too old to work, he will lay down and die.

He eats plants, jackrabbits, chickens and eggs. His burros, he says, "always have hay." Sometimes, if he has money left over after his burros are fed, he treks to town and treats himself to some store-bought food. "I'm not afraid to go hungry," he says. "It never killed me yet."

The former Marine, prospector, sheepherder and owner of two ranches used to travel the highways incessantly in trucks loaded with show horses and cattle. But four decades ago, after his wife was killed in an automobile accident, he decided the fast lane was not his friend. He relinquished his worldly goods and properties to his children.

He motions to the range beyond the highway. "I wanted to prove that a person can survive if they know what to do. Do you know there are 190 different plants you can eat around here? Pretty soon people better learn to be self sufficient."

He expresses concern for an exploited world and its victimized children, blaming corruption in government, the church, the media and other institutions. But the corruption, he says, is just the end result of the root problem: the unbridled human ego.

Humans will be free when they learn to surrender their fear-based need to control, says the cowboy, intimating that the mind can expand to a clear perspective when aired in nature's open spaces.

"Lots of people are afraid to do the way I do; they say they can't. I say, How do you know? Have you ever tried?'"

But the nudge is designed to click light bulbs rather than change lifestyles. Acknowledging his way would be inappropriate for most, he believes humans from all walks of life face tough roads, and the key to peace is in learning to handle the fear that accompanies struggle.

"People are worrying about, 'what am I going to do tomorrow?' Let a person who has real heavy duty fears of life just go someplace away from every place else and just give up on everything and relax and start to think - use their mind. Then they figure, 'Hey! By golly! I made it through today!' They realize, 'Hey, I could have done this but I was afraid.' Then they figure again, 'What was I afraid of?'"

"Everybody can be free; it doesn't matter what kind of element they're in. They just sometimes get too afraid to turn loose. If they just take another step - it's like a newborn learning to walk - they're afraid but then they take it and everything's all right."

"I don't give a hoot where you're at or who you are. If you can use this brain and these eyes and legs, you can always make a buck or two. In 40 years, I've never worried about tomorrow because tomorrow is always a new adventure."

Despite losing an eye and getting his legs pummeled with machine gun lead in the Korean war, Sundown has persevered. "They told me I'd never walk again. That's just a big bunch of stupid words," he says, nodding downward. "I don't even wear braces anymore."

An avid reader and gatherer of information, he lived through his recent heart attack without medical assistance by preparing beforehand for the unexpected. "I used my mind, what was give to me. The mind is the most powerful thing on Earth, if people learn how to use it."

Sundown was heading west toward Flagstaff, Ariz. to teach a survival workshop and announce for a children's rodeo. Then it was on to Wyoming and Idaho, where he says he's going to die because "that there's near where I was born." Is he afraid to reach the end of the road? "Fear of death is one of the dumbest ideas they put into people's minds."

When will he arrive in Idaho? "Whenever I get there, kiddo."

Pie Town Cafe - 04/26/15 - Pie Town, NM

Sunday – April 26, 2015
Pie Town Cafe
Pie Town, New Mexico

In addition to Pie-O-Neer, there is another pie maker in town: Pie Town Café.

Pie Town Café is open Sunday to Wednesday, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Upon our entrance to the Pie Town Café we were welcomed like family by one of the owners, Bill VanPenn, wait staff and a few residents having breakfast. This is such a nice friendly town.

Pie Town Café offers breakfast and lunch fare in addition to pies. We had a delicious, hearty breakfast there. I had scrambled eggs, with sausage, potatoes and whole-wheat toast. Sharon had their pancakes. We finished our breakfast with a piece of cherry pie and a piece of multi-berry (blackberry, blueberry, rasberry) pie.

After our high caloric breakfast at 12:30 p.m., we embarked on a 5-mile walk through the BLM camping area. We returned to our campsite at 2:30 p.m. The cherry pie we ordered from Pie-O-Neer on Saturday, for a pickup at 2:00 p.m. today, should be ready.

We walked over to Pie-O-Neer, arriving about 2:45 p.m. The owner, Kathy Knapp, again greeted us like family and announced our cherry pie was waiting for us. She just had to box it up. We had our picture taken with Kathy and then settled in at one of the tables to have a piece of pie. Sharon had the apple cranberry and I had the apple crunch.

We spent the remainder of the afternoon at Pie-O-Neer, talking with Kathy and other customers. One of the customers, Nita, has been a resident of Pie Town for the past 40 years. We had met her earlier in the day at the Pie Town Café having breakfast. Nita has a small cabin in town that she lets backpackers and cross-country bicyclists use overnight for free. She lives in another home farther from town.

While chatting with Kathy, we had inquired how long it had taken before Pie-O-Neer became a profitable business venture, since it opened in 1995. She explained that the business finally turned the corner around 2010. Over the years she leased the business out twice and had to find outside work a few times in order to make ends meet. Eventually, visitors started finding out about Pie Town through social media. Then on November 30, 2014, Bill Geist of CBS News Sunday Morning, did a segment on Pie Town. Since that program aired, visitors from around the U.S. have flocked to Pie Town, including visitors from Germany and Scotland.

Pie-O-Neer is closed during the months of January and February. During the months they are open, they are only open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. On March 15, 2015 they had their best day ever, selling over 200 pies. A whole pie sells for $27.95 and a slice for $5.45.

Bill VanPenn, the owner of the Pie Town Café arrived around 3:15 p.m. and ordered some of Pie-O-Neer’s green chile stew. He remembered us from our visit to his café that morning and commented he just loves their green chile stew.

Around 3:20 p.m. a sharply dressed older gentlemen in a long sleeve white shirt, blue jeans, cowboy boots and a stetson hat entered Pie-O-Neer. He made his way from table to table, introducing himself and making small talk. Sharon and I thought he must be the mayor of Pie Town. If he wasn’t, he should be! He was so handsome, with a wonderful mane of white hair and a marvelous personality. He made his way into the art gallery, a separate room addition at Pie-O-Neer. He promptly seated himself behind a set of drums. He was followed into the room by Kathy, two employees of Pie-O-Neer and two or three residents of Pie Town, carrying their instruments: a cello, a bass fiddle, two with guitars and Kathy with her violin. At 3:30 p.m. a music fest was in full swing at the Pie-O-Neer. We were told this was the first time this year the group had gathered for an impromptu music session. We just sat back and enjoyed the music and the singing until closing time at 4:00 p.m.

We subsequently learned that Pie-O-Neer and Pie Town Café schedule their days of operation so as to not to compete against one another. The one exception being Sunday. That is just another personal quality of Pie Town that will bring us back for many return visits.

The adventure continues in Pie Town.