The Sunday before we headed out to New Mexico, I baked three loaves of banana bread for us to snack on during the long train ride. Sylvain managed to eat an entire loaf on Monday, so I took that as a good sign that he won't complain too loudly when I offer him some of the remaining loaves in the coming days. Being in full teenager mode -- eating banana bread in your seat with your parents isn't nearly as glamorous as purchasing an armload of junk food from the train cafe....
Not wanting to be a total cheapskate ogre, we had dinner together Tuesday night in the dining car. "These will go good with that banana bread," Chuck said as he slipped several butter packets into a side pocket of his cargo shorts.
"I don't think that's a good idea," I warned; to which, he just shrugged and waved me off as being nonsensical.
Can anyone guess who was right?
Of course you can....
Chuck remembered the butter packets several hours later while we were sitting in the train's observation car. "Damn it!" he gasped as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a semi-melted wad of oily butter and foil wrappers. "Shiiiiiit," came a second exclamation -- he had also forgotten that his MP3 player was in the same pocket.
Yes, there was great restraint played on my part to not go into "I told you so" mode; I just smirked and continued with my knitting while he began a futile attempt at cleaning up the mess with a handful of thick Amtrak dinner napkins.
So, that was Tuesday; flash-forward to Friday.
While dressing in our Albuquerque hotel room, Chuck eye-balled his butter-stained shorts. "You can hardly tell there's a stain!" he proclaimed as he slipped them on. He did have a point -- the thick, cargo-pant material had kept the amount of butter seeping thru the fabric to a minimum.
Friday was started off with a quick breakfast and three and a half hour ride to Philmont Ranch provided by the outfitters. The Ranch is a sprawling property located in north-central New Mexico. Sylvain was eager for us to depart as quickly as possible. So as soon as the father and son duo we were sharing the rental car with arrived, Chuck and I said our goodbyes and hit the road. The car we rented is a Town & Country, which is what I drove during my trip to Atlanta and really liked it.
We spent the rest of the day touring Taos -- visiting the touristy shops and sights. We had lunch at Eske's Brew Pub, but we both ended up skipping the beer. I had my first green chile cheeseburger of the trip; Chuck had a beef brisket sandwich. I was somewhat disappointed in my burger -- the green chiles didn't add anything special to the overall taste.
Having our fill of Taos, we stopped at the Albertson's (grocery) to stock-up on food and headed west on State Road 64. We made a few stops at places that interested us: road-side vistas that Chuck attempted to capture on his camera, the Rio Grande River Gorge Bridge, and the visitor's center to the Earthship commune.
We found a good campsite at the Hopewell Lake Campground and had our tent pitched in no time. Chuck was eager to find a good clearing nearby in which he could set-up his tripod to take good night-sky photographs, so we took a quick walk around the campground. While making our way along the dirt drive, the camp host drove up next to us. After calming the over-excited chiuaua sitting in her lap, she asked us what site we were in and how long we were staying. Once she heard our answers, she handed us a pamphlet titled "Keeping Bears Alive and You Safe!"
"We've had an extreme problem with bears ever since the 4th of July. It's almost like they're falling right out of the sky there's been so many of them! It's so bad that the State of New Mexico doesn't even own enough traps to distribute to all of the campgrounds affected. We've had bears come into camp looking for food nightly. They've even figured out how to open the 'bear-proof' garbage bins, so we're now placing all trash in a trailer that's fitted with a metal cage," she said.
"I've been recommending that people not only store their food in their cars, but also the clothes they wore while cooking and eating too. I don't want an attack to happen here. Not on my watch!"
I'm so very glad that she stopped us and said something. Up until that point, we had forgotten that Chuck was wearing his butter-stained shorts. Typically, he'd change clothes for the night in the tent, but wouldn't necessarily be in a hurry to take the laundry bag back to the car. Usually, he'd shove it in a corner of the tent and take it out in the morning.
I'm certain that wearing butter-stained shorts in bear country is second only to smearing bacon fat on one's legs.....
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