SRT RSS Feed

The Brown Hotel – Springer, New Mexico

The Brown Hotel & Cafe

My feet thrust to the bottom of the bed in choreographed unison with arms yanking the comforter to nose hair level. The inexpensive hotel sheets are rough; chewed from the passage of a multitude of feet sliding across the surface. I like the way they feel. Without cell phone service, the hotel has my full attention. I’m alone to savor it and can’t suppress a clipped squeal as a mournful whistle from the wind’s turn of the sharp corner of the old building, calls out the storm.  A hand shoots out and flicks off the old lantern. As the dark tucks around I’m reminded for the first time in a long time of childhood stay-overs with Loretta Branton. In a tiny clapboard house whose roof was hardly wide enough to cover the heads of everyone inside, we’d settle down under a pile of quilts in the thin light of an early winter night. The sheets were pebbly from the friction of feet over coarse woven cotton and harmless leftover sand from an occasional unwashed foot. I’d sink into that fat bed, flat on my back, arms straight, trying hard to not take up too much space from my tiny friend and a sister or two stacked beside us. Laughter and some shuffling for position soon brought soft sounds of rhythmic breath and my conscious contentedness was alone in the room. Between that forlorn but comforting wail of the wind and the erratic crash of a piece of displaced tin roof, my mind wallowed in the joy always present in that house, and the lingering taste of raisin pie.

Loretta had a slew of siblings and the abundance of personalities was equally offset by the lack of money. My own home wasn’t exactly plush – we didn’t have an indoor bathroom until I was 12. But there were fewer of us and so it always seemed a bit more towards the upper end of the impoverished scale. I don’t recall much about Loretta’s Dad but I remember her mother well.  She was always in the kitchen when I arrived. And come to think of it, in the kitchen when we went to bed. But despite the crowd, I’ve never been in a house so thunderously peaceful.  Her secret as I’ve considered it over the years, had to have been the raisin pie. I’d never tasted one and a moment of lifelong eureka and wistful longing resulted from that first bite. Between a substantial double crust that melted in your mouth in glorious stages – first a savory velvet sand, then dissolving even as you fought with your tongue to contain and coax it to stay ’round, the raisins were fat as grapes, though with more give, and suspended in a thick chestnut tinted goo. There were platelets on the bottom crust from the goo that coupled with the pan on the other side of the pie shell. Those prized bits were magic – the collision of molten sugar and crackling crust.  Loretta told me her mother made several a week. I wanted to move in.

On a road trip, staying in some sort of motel/hotel is part of the adventure. It’s not the same as staying at Grandma’s, or better yet, Loretta’s house. Besides, staying at Loretta’s was the experience it was because Loretta was there. And of course her mother’s raisin pies. But an old hotel is as close as I can get today to the experience that thrilled me as a kid. They’re interesting and fun and the always friendly sometimes odd-turned proprietors are attempting to preserve something old and grand. It’s impossible to walk one of the creaking hallways and not get lost in thoughts of the early travelers – the grandeur of anything that wasn’t their own drafty bedroom, something large and with all those rooms had to sweep away their imaginations and fuel the thrill of travel for them. When I stay in Yellowstone’s Mammoth Hotel or Old Faithful Inn, I choose the oldest rooms for this reason and stay at any old hotel along a road trip journey – they fuel my imagination too.

 

Built in 1922, The Brown Hotel has 11 rooms available for rent. The sheets are not high thread count Egyptian cotton, the comforter isn’t down, clothes hangers are thin wire – the ones of your youth, the towels from Wal-Mart. Wind whistles around the eaves, the gas radiator chugs, and the sink with its separate hot and cold spigots presents the dilemma of how to get the right mix in your hand with which to splash your face. All for $54.91 including tax and a breakfast so good I’d just as soon keep that to myself (the Huevos Rancheros!).

 

Brown Hotel

No cell phone service. No complaints. Just before the snow storm struck with force. 

 

Brown Hotel

That Thing Above My Head

They did what they could in those days with bare lightbulbs.

IMG_0511

Floorboards creak and groan all night. But the winter storm bearing down swung around the eaves of this old place in such a fashion as to create the whistle and moan of the wind of my youth.

IMG_0513

Really love having a separate sink and mirror. It makes the tiny bathroom much roomier.

IMG_1767

 

The Brown Hotel & Cafe

(575) 483-2269

302 Maxwell Avenue

Springer, New Mexico

 

Who has a recipe for raisin pie?

 

Join the Road Trip Revolution at the Solo Road Trip Facebook Fan Page, here.

Abiquiu, New Mexico

I always feel late to the party. Never having an urge to follow trends or trendsetters, I confess to harboring a secret desire to be cool, and/or the first to write about a place few have experienced. Oh I realize there’s really no place left where I could be first and I understand the ‘Momconsolation’ about any place having the capacity to be lent a factor of cool just by having viewed it from your own unique perspective, “dear”.

But still.

I just discovered Northern New Mexico. Really?

Northern New Mexico

Northern New Mexico

Following that with another shocking fact– it’s not Wyoming. But I love it like that.

To contrast the two in a broad sweep, my favorite region of Wyoming, the Teton/Yellowstone region, is male. The Rio Chama valley, female.

The Teton/Yellowstone area is an in-your-face jack, masculine, egocentric, chest-thumping, robustly virile environment. The topography is massive, imposing, bigger than life. The mountains are mighty, the mammals large, the water flows fiercely. You do things here that are dangerous, macho, vigorously physical, and more often than not, controversial. Vistas overtly fight for attention; not one component is subtle in its call to attention. An arrogance of survival and natural selection permeates the thin air. The largest volcanic caldera on the planet lies chugging underfoot. The area lends itself well to rap lyrics.  Not only is it male, it’s 14 year old male.

Rio Chama River

Rio Chama River

As I look around from a perch on a ridge in the Rio Chama valley, I see that the high-desert environment is also vigorous. The elements here, if not respected will kill you, but quietly so and without fanfare. Strength without intelligence to match is punished by this environment. It’s also make-a-grown-man-cry beautiful. But the beauty here is erudite. Abstract. Humble. The primary colors of the earth are riotous but gently turn your head with their rebellious outbursts; nothing here yanks obnoxiously at your lapels.  Life is older; wiser. Long deep breaths are induced during sweeping, lazy gazes at the horizon. Where the Tetons are brute force and prideful in the face of their aging, Northern New Mexico is heartbreakingly fragile and makes no apologies for it.  It’s Pavarotti. Not only is it female, it’s an old, eloquent, eccentric woman that everyone wants to be when they grow up.

Taos New Mexico

West of Taos, somewhere

On the October road trip, I drove west trip from Taos with the intent of not stopping until I had driven the truck into Arizona and made a U-turn. Abiquiu (Ab-i-que) stole those plans. Then made me like the change-up.  I arrived here and didn’t leave for 4 days.

New Mexico

New Mexico

Abiquiu New Mexico

Northern New Mexico

Abiquiu New Mexico

Colorful New Mexico

Other New Mexico related posts in this series:

The Abiquiu Inn

Abiquiu – The Penitente Morada

Abiquiu – Plaza Blanca

Abiquiu – The Dar al Islam Mosque

Abiquiu

The Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail

New Mexico Travel Sites:

Hatch Chile Festival – September 3,4, 2011

New Mexico Tourism

Where to buy hatch chiles

Join the Road Trip Revolution at the Solo Road Trip Facebook Fan Page, here.

The Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail

Somewhere on the outskirts of Paris, Texas was a heavenly little burger joint.  Our stops there were the rare exception to home cooked meals and would have been pure giddiness had I ever been allowed to have two of those small gems.  For that cruel dictum I fought back by eating the huge roll on my lunch plate first. And my skinny friend’s for dessert.  I can’t recall the superheros of the time because Wimpy balancing that stack of burgers was the only hero I required.  Iron Man recently bumped Wimpy as a more modern version of burger clutching role model. Stopping for an American cheeseburger was first priority upon his return from three months in captivity – my kind of hero despite the Burger King bag.

Lander Bar & Grill Kitchen Sink Cheeseburger

Burger King wouldn’t know what this is. Lander Bar & Grill Kitchen Sink Cheeseburger, Lander, Wyoming

Since fast food is off limit during a solo road trip, I’ve become part bloodhound in detecting the smell of a well seasoned flat iron grill.  Oh I’ve ordered burgers in upscale restaurants (just in case you’re a first time reader I use ‘upscale restaurants’ loosely).  But haven’t eaten one yet that surpassed the cheap ones cooked on a blackened grill of high quality beef, American cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and pickles – in Oklahoma with onions fried in.  Always capped with a white flour bun toasted on said grill and slicked on top with a shimmer of oil – pulls the whole thing together. Not unlike the rug in The Big Lebowski.

Brownie's Tulsa Oklahoma

the basque beret bun is the perfect lid. Brownie’s, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Brownie's Tulsa Oklahoma

That’s the basic architectural structure but no condiment or food item plopped atop is doubtfully frowned upon. Mom’s “eat the damn thing before you judge” was taken to heart at an early age.   Which brings me to the Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail.

Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail Map

Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail Map

No single state can lay claim to a burger component like New Mexico to the hatch [chile]. Roasted, then sweated to shed the skin, halved or chopped and blanketed with cheese, the first bite yields a soft tomatillo wang that settles on the front of the tongue; mild to medium heat creeps toward the back. The taste bud conference in the middle is unmistakably green pepper, a stab of sunshine, and a swish of buttery chardonnay.  Wimpy would have pawned his waistline for this coupling.

66 restaurants (in honor of Rt. 66) made the trail for 2011.   Some, like Blake’s Lotaburgers have multiple locations. My favorite? The green chile cheeseburger from Bode’s General Store in Abiquiu. Clayton’s The Rabbit Ear Café was good.  I couldn’t get past Blake’s Lotaburger in Espanola being part of a chain. Bobcat Bite in Santa Fe (in a very un Santa Fe location) grinds their own chuck roast. While bigger than Bode’s, it lacked something. Could have been the karma from Bode’s table cloth – an intangible advantage that may not have a leveling component. I’m guessing those table covers aren’t available just anywhere.  Sorry Bobcat.  If you’re headed to New Mexico or near any of its borders, plan on taking the burger trail map and stopping for a New Mexico gem, or two.

**   No caveman cookery will take place tonight. I’ll give the arteries a break and grill the Boca Burger in my freezer. They now make ¼ pounders!  I can’t decide if this is more of a good thing or a harder slap in the face.  The cheese will remain in its cellophane package. A stack of tomatoes, pickles, and lettuce will be piled high between a whole wheat bun that I’ll give a good lick on top to mimic the oil slick.  And I’ll dream of being Wimpy’s best friend on a day he was flush with burger money.

Green Chile Cheeseburger

Bode’s General Store Green Chile Cheeseburger and the Rockin Table Cover – most burger joints can’t compete with that

Bode's General Store

Bode’s on the Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail and home of the SRT favorite Green Chile Cheeseburger.

** For more fun travel and taste bud ideas, check out Wanderfood Wednesdays at Wanderlust & Lipstick. The Pan Fried Chive Bun recipe is on my list. Check out the July 12th post.

Other posts in this series:

The Abiquiu Inn

Abiquiu – The Penitente Morada

Abiquiu – Plaza Blanca

Abiquiu – The Dar al Islam Mosque

Abiquiu

New Mexico Travel Sites:

Hatch Chile Festival – September 3,4, 2011

New Mexico Tourism

Where to buy hatch chiles

Join the Road Trip Revolution at the Solo Road Trip Facebook Fan Page, here.

The Abiquiu Inn

Seldom does my choice of lodging impact the road trip.  I come away with hardly a memory of where I slept.  The stipulations of clean, cheap and quiet aren’t exactly fodder for a story about architectural elements, or the rarity of the wood used, or how the original paintings made the room museum like.  I don’t plan to be in the room long enough to enjoy such decorative perks; subsequently I darn sure don’t want to pay for them.

There are the road trip nights spent at motels like the Cozy Motel that spawn and spin memorable yarns that emanate from something other than the IPE deck surrounding the private hot tub.  Like way colorful characters.  And a lapse of observation skills on my part.  But those sand man related moments are rare.

The Abiquiu Inn, Abiquiu, New Mexico was the only visible lodging in the area.  I broke a rule allowing dark to find me before I’d found a place to sleep.  Reason enough to check in the first night. But I continued my stay for the 2nd and 3rd nights.

Because of this.

The Abiquiu Inn

The Abiquiu Inn

The Abiquiu Inn

And this.

Dried Chiles

Tractor Crossing

I'm partial to tractor crossings.

And this. The breakfast.

Eggs Benedict

New Mexican Eggs Benedict - perfectly cooked eggs rest on dense and moist corn cakes, topped by mole sauce, bacon and goat cheese. More, please.

And this.  The towels. And Kiva fireplace.

The Abiquiu Inn

great towels and good water - two simple pleasures on road trips

Other New Mexico related posts in this series:

The Abiquiu Inn

Abiquiu – The Penitente Morada

Abiquiu – Plaza Blanca

Abiquiu – The Dar al Islam Mosque

Abiquiu

The Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail

New Mexico Travel Sites:

Hatch Chile Festival – September 3,4, 2011

New Mexico Tourism

Where to buy hatch chiles

Join the Road Trip Revolution at the Solo Road Trip Facebook Fan Page, here.

Abiquiu – The Penitente Morada

On a cliff in New Mexico stands the reason I could die and not regret having never seen Paris, or gasp, Italy. The structure is not in guidebooks; its presence on the internet limited. The wonder of it on this trip, a simple road trip on borrowed time, summarizes what travel should be – a serendipitous discovery of the unknown. I’d only heard of it from those who’d heard of it.  A small shotgun structure built in the 1700s of straw and mud, the soft curves formed by hand, the large bell at one end tethered to a frayed rope, neither it nor what transpires inside has been altered much by time. Standing respectfully behind the fence with evening bearing down I walked back and forth admiring its position on the hill, the three silhoutted crosses shifted in sand until they’d settled into their own quirky angles, the perfection of the clouds, the angles and time of day at which I’d want to photograph it…. Intent to absorb and appreciate the drama of the moment without a camera in hand, an ineffable joy at seeing this with my own eyes created unexpected tears.  I didn’t know then that the next evening I’d be inside the structure, part of a service a rare few have seen.

Penitente Morada

Photographed after permission was granted.

Abiquiu is known more as a general area in northern New Mexico. But there is an actual town – a private, protected tiny gathering of people tucked into the cliffs of the area; some families having lived here for generations. Like the hollers of West Virginia, the inhabitants live in precariously perched houses helter skelter among the cliffs. It reminded me a bit of Kashgar’s Old Town in China’s Xingiang Provence – New Mexican style. As I crept the truck up the narrow dirt road leading into town, a level area in the cliffs spread out suddenly into a large flat courtyard of sorts. The original villagers had planned the space well – a large adobe church anchored the community and provided a buffer between the outside world and the private dwellings on the other side. At every turn of the tires I felt an unease and wondered if I weren’t treading on private property – there were no signs.  The town was hushed and felt deserted but as I crept through the funnel of walls just past the church, I saw activity at one house – maybe a general store.  I went inside to test my resolve to ask about the morada and discovered it the town library. Smack in the middle of town with the only human movement, was the library. Impressive.  I inquired about the “church” I’d heard of.  You must be asking about the morada, a lady said. “It’s past the wall and up the hill.”  None of the roads looked Yukon passable. They looked like private driveways, river fingers breaking free just past the courtyard. “And there’s no photography.”  “Is it ever possible to photograph it?” “Yes with the permission of Brother Ralph.”  We went back and forth until I’d written my name and where I was staying on a sheet of paper and she’d promised to call him and have him call me.

Standing there with grit gathering like a party on my wet cheeks, the library Director’s business card fell out of my pocket.  By the time I’d chased and trompled it with a boot then placed it in a safer spot, dark had overtaken the hill; the morada tucked into shadow, lights for dinner beginning to twinkle from the houses not visible during the day. I headed to the Inn for a bit of research and hopefully a call from Brother Ralph.

Penitente is Spanish for one who does penance. And morada (Spanish for abode) is where they meet.  Just beyond the basics things get interesting. The Penitente are an extension of the ancient Hermandad (Spanish for brotherhood).  If you look to the history of medieval Spain, Castile specifically, you find they were an association of armed individuals that kept the peace in rural communities with the roots of the Los Penitentes dating back over a thousand years. Closer to home, the current incarnation of the Penitente Brotherhood springs from Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1821. Catholic authorities withdrew the Franciscan, Dominican and Jesuit missionaries from Mexico and replaced them with secular priests; but not one-for-one, which left small communities without a resident clergyman. Without a priest, men of these communities formed the Brotherhood for the purpose of prayer and spiritual and social aid.  A central organization never coalesced because the communities were so isolated and far apart.  A hermano mayor (elder brother) is elected head of the individual group of men. The Brotherhood from the beginning was fond of flagellation as a means to cleanse their sins (all the way back to ancient Spain). The Church, in the late 19th century attempted to stop what they called “archaic and heretical behavior”. The Brotherhood said “you’ve left us to our own devices and to fend for our communities’ spiritual and social needs the best we could all these years and now you want to tell us how to do it?!”  And then they went underground earning the ever intriguing “secret society” moniker.  It all ended well in 1947 when the Los Penitentes  received formal recognition from the Church. They remain active in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. They are however still somewhat of a secret, representing isolated communities, meeting in ancient moradas way off the beaten path.

Well after dark the next evening, I drive the truck slowly to the top of the hill.  This morado, built in the 1700’s and most definitely a secret meeting site at one time,  is dimly lit on the exterior from a few modern solar ground lights. But the frigid New Mexico sky holds sparklers tonight – the way is well-lit. Stepping up and over a threshold, I can’t see much in the dimness, but a blast of scorching wood heat thumps me in the face. The runner room was nine feet wide and maybe 20 feet long with a worn wooden bench running partially down each side – we faced each other rather than facing the front. The floor was the kneeler. Tiny windows shuttered tightly.  It was old and immaculate. Walls were a slick shiny creamy white – like a coating of candy.  A low wattage lightbulb was strung to the side of the alcove aglow with candles. There were seven men and an older woman who had already begun prayer.  Their quiet reverent whispers and the crackle of the wood were the only sounds. I took a place at the end of the bench nearest the door but right across from the chugging wood stove. I’d just have to die of a heat stroke. At least I was in a good place. Ralph comes to me and shakes my hand, smiles at me. I already had tears. And they weren’t from the heat. I watched and listened and followed suit and observed that the men’s boots were dirty and worn – my own hiking boots blended nicely.  Working men. Hard working men.  Kind men. Gentle to the core. I was thankful I knew enough about a Catholic service to not stand in line for sacrament.  And then it was over. Into a tiny room with a burning kiva at the end of the morado opposite the sanctuary they invited me to duck and enter for cookies and cold drinks. And in there I met the men, one of their mother’s (a guest as well), and heard some about them and a little about the Brotherhood.  A strong sense of community and possibly a bit of mysticism impressed me. They requested one of my photographs of the exterior.  Invited me back.  Hugged me.  And in that tiny, dim, ancient, God filled castle room, all travel regrets were washed away like sins. Those too.

All names have been changed. And the deal for photography was strictly “non-commercial.”  Which is why there aren’t any advertisers on here.  The good stuff can’t be bought.

Penitente Morada

Penitente Morada

Penitente Morada

Other New Mexico related posts in this series:

The Abiquiu Inn

Abiquiu – The Penitente Morada

Abiquiu – Plaza Blanca

Abiquiu – The Dar al Islam Mosque

Abiquiu

The Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail

New Mexico Travel Sites:

Hatch Chile Festival – September 3,4, 2011

New Mexico Tourism

Where to buy hatch chiles

Join the Road Trip Revolution at the Solo Road Trip Facebook Fan Page, here.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

 

The Grand Climb

 

Tammie DooleyAbout SRT... I’m a traveler, writer and photographer for whom the open road frequently summons. Adventurous solo road trips are a staple for me, and a curiosity. So I created this website to share them and inspire you to step out and give them a try. Welcome!

A soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone – Wolfgang Von Goethe

  • Categories

     

  •  

    Connect with SRT

    RSS Connect on Twitter

    Subscribe by Email
    Email me
    Become a SRT Facebook Fan
    Follow me on Twitter
    See my photos on Flickr

    I want to hear from you!
    ~ Tammie

     

    World Reviewer adventure travel blogs

     

    Solo Road Trip on Facebook