We started the day by visiting the New Mexico Space History Museum. The building is situated above Alamogordo on a hill where it’s easy to see several of the local sights.
Before going inside, we visited the grave of, Ham the Astrochimp. Ham was the first monkey in space back in 1961 when he was strapped into a capsule attached to a Redstone rocket. He reached a top speed of 5800 mph and an altitude of 155 miles. Ham retired to the ‘Zoo life’ after his one and only space flight.
Outside there is also a small airpark with various pieces of equipment on display. We checked out all of the rockets, missiles, dishes, etc but found that our favorite item was the ‘Whisper Dish’.
The Whisper Dish is 2 satellite dishes set up about 100 feet apart. One person stands by each dish and whispers something into the dish and the sound is bounced to the other dish and can be easily heard. It was so fun we played with it for quite a while!
While we were roaming the airpark and I was taking pictures I noticed the coolest thing…the moon high in the sunny sky at 10:oo in the morning. It seem so appropriate to have it looming over us while we were at the Space Museum…coincidence? Maybe….Maybe not.
Entering the building we paid our admission fee ($6.00 with a military ID) and then took an elevator up to the 4th floor where the 1st of the exhibits were. It was a neat design as we started on the 4th floor and then through a series of ramps we made our way through the museum and back to the first floor.
One of the more interesting displays was of the various types of food the astronauts on various missions ate. From food in pouches to food in cans. Used to be that no utensils were used but now normal utensils are used.
Michael spent quite a while at a display that provided the sound of six different engines from six different space missions. It was cool…but for me once you heard one…you heard ‘em all…they were all LOUD!
Another really cool exhibit had you stand on a metal platform, choose one of four different rockets/shuttles, push the button and the platform vibrated showing you what it would have felt like to be inside that piece of equipment at takeoff. We tried all 4 ‘rockets’ but found that the vibration from Apollo 11 was the worst. Took a while for my legs/knees to feel normal again!
Throughout the museum were pictures of the various inductees to the Space Hall of Fame from astronauts (Armstrong, Shepherd & Glenn, etc) to scientists (Galileo, Copernicus, Hubble, etc). Walt Disney and George Lucas (Star Wars) were both inducted in 2015…interestingly enough.
Outside there is a memorial honoring those who perished in the Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia missions. It’s amazing that with all the missions there have only really been three big tragedies.
The Daisy Track also sits outside along with other pieces of equipment used to test the effects of G-forces on humans. The Daisy Track works quite like a BB gun…hence the name Daisy. People were strapped in place and flung at high speeds and then stopped on a dime…checking the reliability of seats and harnesses.
We stopped at Pistachioland to see the World’s Largest Pistachio and to check the place out. They offer tours of their vineyard and pistachio tree grove but we didn’t partake.
The offer samples of all their various pistachios, pecans, brittles and barks and we had fun sampling most of them. We found that our favorites were garlic, bbq and bacon ranch pistachio’s. Neither of us were real big fans of the spicy varieties and Michael really didn’t’ like the dill pickle flavor.
They also offered wine tasting…but neither of us tried any.
We ended up purchasing small bags of garlic, bbq & bacon ranch pistachios and a jar of Christmas jelly (made with green & red chilis) which we sampled at the checkout and it was quite yummy.
Our plan was to spend the afternoon in Cloudcroft, New Mexico, a small town of about 800, nestled high into the mountains (nearly 9,000 feet). It was only about a 18 mile drive but that drive took us nearly 3 hours! Why you ask? Because we stopped and ‘smelled the roses‘ along the way.
On the way up the mountain on highway 82 we stopped at one of the many overlooks. I took a few pictures of our gorgeous surroundings and were shocked that we could see the White Sands National Monument from there.
We had a snack (Oscar Mayer P3s & oranges) while enjoying the beautiful view and then continuing up the mountain passing through the only tunnel in the state of New Mexico (at least that’s what we were told).
Just a few miles further on we stopped at another scenic overlook. This one included the Mexican Canyon Railway Trestle. The trestle was one of many that carried trains up the mountain. Those trains carried passengers from Alamogordo to Cloudcroft…people trying to get out of the heat and enjoy the beautiful mountain temperatures and views.
The trestle was recently restored as it had fallen into disrepair. It was the tallest of the trestles at 60 feet tall and 323 feet long.
Again, just a little further up the mountain we stopped at a small recreation area that had a replica of the original Cloudcroft train depot with several walking trails stemming from it.
We decided to walk the trail to the trestle we’d just see from the other side. It looked like it wouldn’t be too far or too strenuous. I only had flip-flops on so I wasn’t really prepared for a ‘hike’.
The first part of the walk was easy enough although it was mostly downhill. We stopped at several overlooks along the way and even saw a bicyclist down below us.
As we walked the trail signs along the way kept stating that the Mexican Canyon Railway Trestle was ½ mile…and another ½ mile etc. The signage just confused us more and more and without a real trail map we decided to turn around and head back.
While the walk out was nice the walk back was mostly uphill and we thanked the Lord for each overlook (and bench!) on the way back.
The town of Cloudcroft was kind of a letdown. I knew it was just a small mountain town with shops along its main street but many of the shops were either closed or had gone out of business.
We walked up one side of the street and down the other popping in and out of each of the shops that were open. Most sold some type of Western or Native American items, jewelry, candles, etc. We picked up a few items from a couple of different stores and inquired about places for dinner.
We ended up at Rebecca’s at the Cloudcroft Lodge. The lodge was built in 1899, burnt to the ground in 1909 and rebuilt in 1911. It sits up higher on the mountain and overlooks the town. Rebecca’s is named after the resident ghost. Rebecca was said to have been killed by her lumberjack lover after he found out she had fallen in love with another man. Rebecca was a chambermaid at the lodge and since she didn’t have any religious affiliations when she died she stayed at the lodge. People continue to see the red-haired beauty around the lodge.
We arrived at the lodge about 4:30 pm and found that they didn’t start serving dinner until 5:30 pm so we put our name on the dinner list and relaxed in the lounge until we were called for dinner.
The bar in the lounge was originally built for one of Al Capone’s homes and was auctioned off and purchased for the lodge.
We decided to splurge on dinner and went with a six course Chateaubriand dinner. It might have been pricey but it was wonderful and we really enjoyed our 2-hour meal. I told Michael he’d made me feel like a princess.
We started with a blue corn encrusted chili rellenos with a sour cream and green chili sauce…something we probably would never have ordered on our own. It was delicious and it would definitely recommend it. Actually, we did recommend it to our dining neighbors and they enjoyed it as well. In turn our neighbors recommended several places for us to dine while in San Antonio as that’s where they make their home.
Our second course was a simple salad….just greens with finely shredded Parmesan cheese, cucumber and few tomatoes, dressed with our choice of dressing. As simple as it was it was quite tasty.
Third course was soup…Green Chili Beef Stew. Very tasty with a bit of heat to it it was much like a regular beef stew with potatoes, carrots, onions and beef just with the addition of the chilis.
4th course was a yummy strawberry sorbet to cleanse the palate. Nice and icy cold and refreshing.
Next came the main course…Chateaubriand a wonderful cut of beef tenderloin that our server, Emma, finished table-side. It was served with baby red potatoes, asparagus and mushroom demi-glace. The beef was so tender it was able to be cut with a butter knife.
For dessert we had many different treats to choose from: Cherries Jubilee, Bananas Foster, chocolate cake, carrot cakes, etc. We went with a piece of Red Velvet Cake and had it packaged to take home. We’ll enjoy it some evening when we haven’t feasted on 5 other courses.
Everything was perfectly seasoned and the service was wonderful. I would definitely recommend Rebecca’s…just beware it is a fine dining experience and the prices reflect that.
As we enjoyed our dinner we watched the sunset through the lodges beautifully decorated windows. The sun through the trees was such a gorgeous sight that I had to take a picture to share.
When we left the lodge, it was 8:00 pm and cold…just 43 degrees! We cranked the heat and turned on the seat warmers and made our way down the winding mountain road. Getting back to Alamogordo about 8:30 or so we found that the temperature was at a comfortable 65 degrees!