One of my book clubs is traveling to Ruidoso, New Mexico for a four-day weekend. No snow on the ground, so no one in our group is planning to ski although we might try out tubing on the man-made snow. Our group name is ROBC, the Reading Optional Book Club, where we read ten books a year but you are always welcome to attend even if you didn’t have a chance to read that month. This particular group has been together for 15 years. We have an annual dinner in the kitchen at Brennan’s and are well known to the chef and his staff; he even sends us Christmas cards. We have also traveled together to lake houses and New Orleans. This year in celebration of the 50th birthdays of two of our members we have rented a house in Ruidoso, New Mexico.
The eight members of ROBC that could make the trip flew together from Houston to El Paso where we rented two SUVs and headed straight to Costco to stock up on beverages. We passed a Wienerschnitzel, part of the world’s largest hotdog chain with 320 outlets including a restaurant in my hometown of Victoria. I always eat at one if I can find it. There is even one in the Guam airport. Back in High School when I got one dollar for lunch, I could go to Der Wienerschnitzel (as it was called back then) and get two chili cheese dogs, fries, and a drink for 99 cents. My sister Emma sent me an article that says they are coming to Houston sometime this year. It’s about time.
I was fortunate to be in Sheryl’s car. She grew up in El Paso and pointed out the landmarks along the highway. Near downtown, we passed right by the USA/Mexico border; you could see Mexico on the opposite mountain range. Rather than heading straight to Ruidoso, we stayed on Interstate 10 to Las Cruces and visited the historic village of Mesilla. This traditional stagecoach stop is perfectly charming. Although we never had the opportunity to visit together, my mother-in-law Shirley loved Mesilla. We went first to La Posta a restaurant serving Mexican fare since 1939. They still had their Christmas decorations up and as a result the colorful restaurant was even more delightful.
At La Posta, the house enchilada is not rolled (although you can get it that way), but flat with an egg on top. I am used to TexMex, but this was “New Mexican” cuisine. The queso was served with warm corn tortillas (so much more flavorful than flour) and was a mix of half cheese, half green chilies. Their guacamole was wonderful, as were the sopapillas. If you are so inclined, there is also a two-page assortment of margaritas to choose from as you start your festivities. We were all tempted to take a nap after indulging in all the restaurant’s tasty treats.
To stay awake, we wandered around the town after lunch,catching the After-Christmas sales and enjoying this charming community. On the corner is the historic Dona Ana Courthouse where Billy The Kid was tried and sentenced to hang. The building dates from 1850 and once served as the Capitol of Arizona and New Mexico. It is now a souvenir shop, currently with a nativity scene on the roof. Also on the square is the peaceful Basilica of San Albino, with both an outdoor and indoor nativity scene still set up. In the middle of the square sits the bandstand.
This is a stop on the Butterfield Overland Trail, the stage mail route from St. Louis to San Francisco that predated the Pony Express. La Posta is the only remaining station on the Butterfield Trail. For more than a century and three quarters, La Posta’s “adobe walls have withstood the attack of the elements and men and have sheltered such personalities as Billy the Kid, Kit Carson, and Pancho Villa.”
All too soon we were on the road again so we could make Ruidoso before dark. This part of the country is very different from the humid climate I live in in Houston. This is dry dessert terrain. We were skirting the large Fort Bliss and even went through a border control checkpoint. We passed the White Sands National Monument and got a passing glance at the white dessert dunes.
As we came into Alamogorda we saw the fields of pistachios and even made a stop at McGinn’s Tree Farm where we sampled the many flavored varieties of pistachios and other nuts. The highlight however was outside, the world’s largest pistachio. We all had to take a picture, trying to outdo the one before. The photos do show increasing creativity; I was at the beginning. During the drive, we viewed a cluster of mountains where very low cloud cover ringed the summit. Sheryl confirmed that we were looking at Sierra Blanca, our destination.
We entered the Lincoln National Forest and the Mescalero Reservation for the Apache Tribe as we started the mountain climb. We saw the Tribal Headquarters. On the right side of the road, the shaded part of the mountain had captured and retained snow. Elk scavengered in the flat ground. We are due for a snow shower overnight. We reached Ruidoso just as the sun was setting. Sheryl took us the back way to the house through one of the canyons. Here, the locals refer to many of their roads by the canyon name.
The exterior of our rental home is in true adobe style with thoroughly modern décor and amenities inside. The property is named Casa Encanto de Alto and is available through VRBO or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. It is in a lovely residential section. We unloaded our luggage and beverages and started chilling champagne. We had dinner at the club for the subdivision residents. We were all pretty exhausted and went to bed relatively early in anticipation of snow.