Texas and New Mexico


Cattleman's Steak House - 06

                                 Susan at Cattleman’s Steakhouse

This blog will chronicle special events or experiences in our home state of Texas, and neighboring areas of New Mexico.

Chihuahuan Desert Garden - UTEP, El Paso, TX

The Chihuahuan Desert Garden on the campus of UTEP (University of Texas, El Paso) is compact, but beautiful.  It showcases many of the plants that are native to the area, and is a pleasure to visit.  It has a fountain and several areas where one can sit and just enjoy the atmosphere.  Many of the plants are labeled so they can be easily identified by anyone who is interested.

There are pictures of some of the flowers we’ve seen blooming in photo album.

Originally posted April 18, 2009

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM

We drove over to Carlsbad Caverns on a beautiful sunny day, perfect for driving with the top down on our convertible.  It was at the end of May, and the rains had apparently been good because all sorts of wildflowers were in bloom.  The surrounding country was therefore beautiful.

Although it was warm outside we made sure to bring our jackets because the caves stay at a consistent 56º F (13º C).  Comfortable, rubber-soled shoes are also a must.  When entering the caves you have a choice of taking the elevator from the visitor center, or walking down the entrance ramp.  If you walk down you have the chance to see things like the ‘whale mouth’ formation.

There are so many fantastic formations that it is impossible to describe them.  So we’ve included a variety of pictures in the photo album.

Carlsbad Caverns are living; in other words, the cave formations are still growing as water seeps down into the cave.  The scale of the rooms is huge, and there is incredible variety in the kinds of stalactites and stalagmites.  An easy way to remember which formations grow down and which grow up is that stalactites (with a ‘c’ for ceiling) grow down from the ceiling, while stalagmites (with a ‘g’ for ground) grow up from the floor of the cave.                                                   

It is most interesting when the two kinds of formations grow together, as in this picture.  On this one the process is not quite complete, but there are places where you can see them completely grown together.  This formation is known as the ‘sword of Damocles’.                                                      

One of the great things about the Carlsbad Caverns is that the spaces are so cavernous (we just had to say that!), that it is unlikely that anyone would become claustrophobic.  

There is not much color down in the caverns, but the wide variety of textures makes up for that.

The end of this story is that when we finally came out of the cave, we saw some dark gray storm clouds; it turned out that the storm had already passed, and we had left the top down on our car.  The seats of our car were very soggy for the drive home.  This photo shows a small pool of water left on the top cover.

We did wait to see the bats fly out of the cave.  Our visit was on May 24, and it was apparently too early for the Mexican freetail bats to be there.  We did finally see a few bats leave the cave, but it really was very few, and the wait was akin to our wait in 2008 for Old Faithful to erupt when we were at Yellowstone.

There are several ‘rooms’ in the caverns that are open only for special tours.  That is something we will probably do if we go back.  For an initial visit, seeing the main ‘rooms’ is a major expedition.

Original post May 24, 2009

Scenic Drive Luminarias, El Paso, TX

This evening (December 19, 2009) we decided to see one of the traditional holiday displays in El Paso, the luminarias on Scenic Drive.  Scenic Drive runs along the edge of the Franklin Mountains and offers a great view of the city and of Ciudad Juárez.  For this event, Navidad de La Fe Luminarias, Scenic Drive is turned into a one-way street.  The drive starts in central El Paso and heads southwest.  La Fe is a medical clinic, which has done this now for 18 years.  They put out more than 4,000 luminarias along the retaining walls, and drivers are asked to dim their headlights, so the luminarias will show well.  At the crest of Scenic Drive they had a live nativity (just the people, the animals were life-size cutouts), along with Santa and his elves, who were collecting canned goods and cash donations for the clinic.  La Fe Clinic provides an amazing array of services for impoverished citizens.  We were hoping to be able to find photo links for the event, but no luck - not even finding the El Paso Times photos on line.

This was an amazing experience.  First there is the beauty of Scenic Drive at night, compounded by the thousands of luminarias.  Second, all the people in the live nativity were so friendly.  The music there was a bit loud, but nothing could destroy the peaceful feeling that comes from being up there.  We felt very uplifted by the experience, especially by the joy in the people who were participating in the event.  

At the time we went there was nobody else on the road until we got to the crest, which made the drive feel even more peaceful.  It would be nice to make this a yearly tradition.

Original visit December 19, 2009

Viva El Paso! El Paso, TX

On August 6, we went to the McKelligon Canyon Ampitheater with a couple of friends to see the production of Viva El Paso!.  The setting is in the Franklin Mountains, a beautiful desert landscape.  There are other productions put on at this theater, but Viva El Paso! is the primary one.  The stage is open at the back to the canyon, so you can see the three permanent buildings up on the hillside, which are part of this production.   

Before you even go into the theater, there is a large area with tables and vendors, and if you get there early enough there is entertainment.  The night we went it was a classical guitarist who was playing popular songs.  In addition, when you go into the theater there is a pre-show with costumed dance groups from various regions in Mexico, which is a lot of fun.

Viva El Paso tells the story of how this city came to be, covering the 420+ year history through dance, song, and dialog.  The premise for the show is a grandmother explaining the importance of tradition to her granddaughter who is about to be married.  The young woman doesn’t see any point in paying attention to tradition until she hears the story behind it.  The show starts and ends with a production dance number in sequined costumes, with the six flags that have flown over the state of Texas:  Mexico, Spain, France, Texas, the Confederacy, and the United States of America.  From there it starts into the history, including the native Americans and the other countries.  The sets are simple, the costumes beautiful.  The singing wasn’t great, but it did the job.  The players are all very energetic, and the look of the production was quite professional, though simple.  We were amazed to find out that everyone involved in the production is a volunteer.  It takes a couple of hours to tell the story, with a 15-minute intermission.

We have seen quite a few Las Vegas-style shows on cruise ships.  The costumes for them are quite complicated.  In this show, much of the time the dancers were wearing simple long, tiered, very full skirts.  They would swirl the skirts, creating beautiful patterns with them.  For the Las Vegas-style shows the effect is achieved using lots of tulle.  The effect in Viva’s production with the swirling full skirts is far more beautiful.

Viva El Paso runs from early June to mid-August.  It is a show well worth seeing.  It is very inspiring to learn about the city’s history through the eyes of people whose ancestors were involved in the formation and growth of the city.  We are looking forward to seeing the show again.

These photos shows the beautiful setting in which we got to view the production.

NOTE:  About a year after we attended the show it was discontinued due to problems surrounding the director.  There has been talk about reinstating the show, but to the best of our knowledge that has not happened.

Original post August 13, 2010

Plaza Classic Film Festival, El Paso, TX

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The third annual Plaza Classic Film Festival was held Augst 5-15, 2010.

We attended the last film shown, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, at the restored Plaza Theatre.  It was fun seeing one of our classic film favorites, but the restored Plaza Theater stole the show.

The theater dates from 1930.  It has recently been completely refurbished at a cost of $38,000,000.  The result is utterly magnificent.  The restored, original Wurlitzer organ has been returned to the theater, and on the night we attended the film festival, there was a pre-showing organ concert.

The interior of the theater is designed to look like you are out on a street with homes and even a starry night sky.  The seats are very comfortable, and we had a great view of the screen from our seat about half-way up in the balcony.  It is obvious that no expense has been spared in the restoration.  The theatre re-opened in March 2006, but it looks as if it had just re-opened yesterday.  No food or drink is allowed in the theater, which helps keep it in good condition.

It is worth going to see the theater, as there are very few such theaters that remain in the country.  The restoration does justice to the original. It is a great landmark in downtown El Paso.  The El Paso Community Foundation oversaw the restoration.  Kudos to them for a job very well done!

Information about the film festival can be found at http://www.plazaclassic.com.  Don’t forget to check out a couple of additional photos in the album.

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Original post August 22, 2010

San Antonio Botanical Garden, San Antonio, TX

The San Antonio Botanical Garden is one of our favorite places to visit, and we do so regularly.  One of the great things about it is that it is beautiful at any time of the year.  They periodically have special exhibits in the garden, of which the best we’ve seen was the Big Bugs, outsize wooden sculptures of a variety of bugs, including a praying mantis, a spider in its web, and several ants.

Another exhibit they had was tree houses which were scattered through the garden.

The garden has a wide variety of special exhibits, such as the cactus/euphorbia greenhouse, the palms/cycads greenhouse, an orchid greenhouse, and a fern grotto.  In addition there is a cactus garden, a children’s garden, and a large area where one can become acquainted with all the regions of Texas.  They have a rose garden, a scent garden for the visually impaired, and a Japanese garden.

There is fun wildlife here in the garden also.  By the lake we’ve been able to watch a yellow-crowned night heron, great egrets, and of course there are always ducks to feed.

We look forward to returning to the garden whenever we are in San Antonio.  There is always something new to see, and it is fun for children of all ages.

You can find out what is going on at the garden on their website: http://www.sabot.org.  Check out the additional photos in the album, too.

Original post September 29, 2010

River Walk, San Antonio, TX

The San Antonio River Walk is a wonderful oasis, even though it is generally very busy.  You can see it by walking, or by taking a river cruise, which affords a really nice view of the area.  The area is beautifully landscaped, which adds to the peaceful atmosphere.

The photographic story can be enjoyed in the photo album.

Original visit September 17, 2009

The Alamo, San Antonio, TX

                                       The Alamo, tucked in between modern high-rise buildings

The Alamo is probably the most well-known piece of Texas history, famous for it’s part in gaining Texas independence from Mexico.   The fort that was once in the wilderness is now surrounded by the city of San Antonio, as you can see in the photo above, which was taken from the Hemisfair tower.

One can tour the fort and see a movie about the famous battle.  The grounds also include a beautiful, peaceful garden that belies the famous history.

The Alamo was originally the Mission San Antonio de Valero, a Catholic mission combined with a fortress.  It was only after the mission was abandoned that it became a fortress.  The best rendition of the history of the Alamo was provided by the Kingston Trio, which you can hear if you click on the arrow below.  There are more photos in the album, too.


Original post September 30, 2010

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, NM

Guadalupe Mountains National Park in New Mexico is on the way from El Paso to Carlsbad.   The visitor center is a convenient rest stop, and the scenery is beautiful.  The visitor center has a native plants garden, where the plants are labeled, so you can identify what you’ve seen.  Our visit was on May 24, 2009.

The park is very inviting for hikes, something we would enjoy doing when we have time.  The photo album has few more photos from our visit.

                                             El Capitan, Guadalupe Mountains (near the National Park)

Original post October 1, 2010

© Susan L. Stone 2015                   rovingstones@me.com