Find us on Google+ Rick and JoAnne's RV Travels: June 2015

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Abiquiu: Georgia O’Keeffe Country


After pulling up stakes in Santa Fe, we headed 50 miles north to the Core of Engineers Riana Campground on Lake Abiquiu. Perfect. At this time in April the campground was mostly empty which translates to quiet and peaceful. The views of Abiquiu Lake with the backdrop of Cerro Pedernal and the amazing pallet of color of the surrounding landscape were inspiring. Yes, this made for a perfect headquarters for our visit to Abiquiu and the beautiful Rio Chama Valley.

We had come to Abiquiu to tour Georgia O’Keeffe’s home and studio and visit Ghost Ranch a few miles up the valley. Little did we realize the area offered so much more.

There is an interesting spiritual aspect here. On the plaza in Abiquiu is the Santo Tomas el Apostol Church. The Presbyterians run the retreat center at Ghost Ranch. Up the valley The Monastery of Christ in the Desert is tucked in a canyon along the Rio Chama River. Across from the river from Abiquiu is the Dar Al Islam Mosque.

We visited them all. Our trip to the monastery was the most adventurous. After leaving Hwy 84 you travel 13 miles on a dirt road. It would not have been too bad except for the fact that we took the trip right after a rainstorm and the road was a muddy mess – a challenge for our little Honda Fit. However, the trip and visit to the monastery was well worth the effort.

The most unique was our visit to the mosque. Our main destination was the Plaza Blanca -the place O’Keeffe called her “white place” and which is now on the grounds of the Dar al Islam Mosque. After a short hike we stopped and got permission to enter the mosque.

Of course we made it to Ghost Ranch and took the tour of Georgia O’Keefe’s Abiquiu home and studio (no pictures allowed inside). The house and gardens have a calm and tranquil feeling to them. The house is at the top of the hill and overlooks the valley – the views are spectacular. It is easy to understand how this area inspired her. 

However, the highlight of our trip to Abiquiu was our visit with Napoleon Garcia. After visiting Santo Tomas el Apostol church our attention was drawn a house on the corner of the plaza, across a dirt road from the O’Keeffe compound and a large white sign with red lettering “Tourist Information and Gallery”. How could we resist? We climbed up the steps onto the porch and as instructed, and rang the cowbell. A loud voice from inside called out, “I will be there in a minute please come in.” 

 It turns out 83 years old Napoleon is an Abiquiu native and local storyteller and historian. We learned that Napoleon is a decedent of Genizaros – Native Americans who had been taken captive and raised as servants by the Spanish. He shared stories about how as little boy helping workers build the church and as a young man working for and being fired by Georgia O’Keeffe. We asked him if she was a nice lady. He said, “no”.

We spent an hour or so talking with Napoleon who at the time was in a wheelchair recovering from a recent fall. He autographed an article about him that appeared in the May issue of the New Mexico Magazine, loved having his picture taken with us and as we left he invited us to the Native American Feast Day as his guest. Perhaps some day…?

After a week in the Chama Valley it was time to head home. We stopped for a couple of days in the beautiful Lathrop State Park at the foot of the Spanish Peaks near Walsenburg, CO and then home… yes, to snow!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Déjà Vu Santa Fe

We never get tired of visiting Santa Fe. In a previous life, my consulting work bought me to Santa Fe many times. JoAnne and I have also traveled here several times both with and without an RV.

There is always a new restaurant to try or a new gallery to explore not to mention revisiting and digging a little deeper into our favorite attractions. Besides the adobe architecture is really cool.

We stated at Trailer Ranch RV Resort. I think “resort” is stretching it a bit. Yet, far as commercial parks go it was nice enough, clean and convenient. The real reason for staying here is the fact that it is close to historic downtown Santa Fe.

JoAnne and I are very interested in Native American history and culture. On past trips we have visited many of the pueblos around Santa Fe and collected our share of Santa Clara pottery and Hopi Kachina Dolls. With no place to display such items in the RV we were happy to spend this trip browsing – not buying.

Santa Fe is also home to some wonderful museums. On this trip we enjoyed our visit to the Palace of the Governors and New Mexico History Museum. In the early 17th century this was the seat of Spain’s government. On your first visit to Santa Fe, I would suggest this being your first stop. The Palace and Museum provides a good overview of Santa Fe, New Mexico and the American Southwest history. Besides, it is located right on the historic plaza.

After the Museum you can spend time browsing the plaza shops, galleries and street vendors on your way to the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi and the Loretta Chapel and the Miraculous Staircase.

The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is always on our list. This year we were planning on visiting her home in Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch so it made the visit to the museum all the more relevant. Factoid: in November last year a “sister” painting of Jimson Weed painting below here sold for 44.4 million setting the record for a painting by a female artist.

Some of the city’s finest museums are on located a short drive out of downtown on Museum Hill. On this trip we first visited the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture. In their words the museum is a, “ premier repository of Native art and material culture and tells the stories of the people of the Southwest from prehistory through contemporary art. This is a fabulous museum and one you don't want to pass up.

Next up – the Museum of International Folk Art. But first, lunch at the Museum Hill Café. The food service was very good and the setting is a huge bonus.

Like the Palace of Governors and the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture the Museum of International Folk Art is one of four museums in the Museums of New Mexico system. If you have any interest at all in Folk Art (actually even if you don’t) don’t miss this museum. It is unique, fun, and quirky. The highlight for us was the Girard Wing and the Multiple Visions: A Common Bond, which showcases thousands of items from over 100 countries. The exhibits are a bit overwhelming making the free printed guide is a must when visiting this gallery.

Food and friends are always an important part of our RVing travel adventure. And our stay in Santa Fe was no exception. We met up with RVing friends Hans and Lisa of Metamorphosis Road for a delicious brunch and lively conversation at The Pantry.

We also celebrated my birthday at Georgia. This has to be one of the best of 450 plus restaurants in Santa Fe. The service was perhaps the best ever and the food was superb. It was a 5 star experience all around.

Snow! Its time to head out… Up next – Abiquiu.