Tag Archives: places to visit

Same country, different world

“Wonderful” is the best word to describe a trip last week to my home-away-from home, Las Cruces, New Mexico. It was delightful to see dear friends and enjoy some local cuisine (THE best Mexican food this side of the Rio Grande). And I was reminded why New Mexico is called Land of Enchantment. I gotta tell ya, weather is a big part of it.

IMG_2255 My first morning started with the sound of a rooster crowing in the distance. I looked out the window to see a beautiful blue sky blooming over pink, orange and yellow bands of sunlight. Delightful! Only 24 hours earlier, I awoke to another gray day that has come to typify winter near the lake. What a contrast.

As I’ve traveled these United States, going back to my corporate days doing business on both coasts with stops in many towns and cities in between, I’ve come to appreciate the vast differences in climate and geography.

I remembered my first trip to Phoenix and Scottsdale and being utterly amazed at Saguaro cactus. Or at Lantana blooming on bushes eight or nine feet tall and round. We’re lucky if we can grow them at all in the midwest.

There was that February trip to Newport Beach, California when the weather was so beautiful – quite a contrast from Chicago’s damp chill that time of year – when I said to my colleagues, “This is not the real world.” Ha. Not MY real world but it certainly was for them.

Nearing the end of a wonderful week in Las Cruces, my brother – who would have been an excellent meteorologist – texted the weather back home was looking to make travel kinda dicey.

“Near 60 today,” he wrote. “Snow Wednesday. Near 60 on Friday.” My response was simple, “Oh yay. Oh sh-t. Oh yay.” I moved things around and got on a plane that day, ahead of the 10 inches of heavy snow dumped on our town overnight.

There are joys in our midwestern winters, of course. My sister reminds me we all have roofs over our heads, warm beds, plenty to eat, our health, loved ones … her gratitude lift goes on. I’m grateful too. But because I’ve lived where the skies are not cloudy all day, I sure do appreciate  the contrast. Here’s the view from my bed the first morning back in Indiana. And what a treat!


How to go ‘There and back again …’

Here's Las Cruces native, Aw'gy, stealing some shade under a Mesquite tree during our last desert walk, August 24, 2011. "You're right, Aw'gy," I'd tell him. "We need to enjoy this."

My throat tightens as I write this.

A year ago today I drove north on Roadrunner Parkway to US70, across the desert through White Sands, picked up 54 north in Alamagordo toward Santa Rosa and I40. I made that trip several times over seven years, but this time I was leaving home.


Check that. Heading home, to Indiana.

I’ve left home before – Girl Scout camp, that first airplane ride at 16 to LA, college. I left home when I got married and lived in other towns. But I think now I never really left home until I moved to New Mexico.

Before visiting Las Cruces in March 2003, I’d never heard of it. We were going to visit friends. “Show me again. Where is it?” Continue reading

Taco torture: Mexican food causes heartache

This writer's tastebuds crave the best Mexican food in the country, made in Las Cruces, New Mexico. (Thanks to La Posta's website for this mouth-watering photo of red enchiladas, flat, with egg.)

A couple of things this week made me homesick for Las Cruces, New Mexico.

It began with a call from  journalism colleague and friend William about his fabulous summer marketing internship with Ford Motor Company. Later, through email, he wished he, his parents and I could meet for dinner to celebrate. Impossible, since his folks live in SoNewMex, William is at Northwestern and I’m back home again in Indiana. His dad jokingly wrote we should all meet that night at Chope’s.

My mind wandered. I’m driving south on US28 toward this very unassuming establishment in La Mesa, about 20 minutes from Las Cruces. The road winds through acres of alfalfa, cotton and pecans. Irrigation ditches carved into the land carry water from the Rio Grande to the fields. And off to the left, the craggy, sometimes purple Organ Mountains sit atop desert foothills filled with juniper, sage, snakes … I miss all of it.

My New Mexico friends know the history but as I recall Chope’s has been there for eons. (There is great irony in Chope’s being listed on urbanspoon, by the way.) First it was just the tavern about 50 yards north of the restaurant.

Chope's, La Mesa, NM. Simple on the outside - hot and spicy on the inside.

Folks would walk from the bar to the kitchen to buy relanos to go with their cerveza fria. Now the restaurant bustles with diners  downing homemade Mexican dishes from tacos to red or green enchiladas.

For my tastebuds, the best Mexican food in the country is homemade in New Mexico. In the first few months, I tried flautas at several restaurants in search of the best. As my palate adjusted to red or green chile sauces, I switched to green chicken enchiladas. I’m tellin’ ya folks, this is good eaten’. I was ruined. Continue reading

Why I moved home, part 1

People in Las Cruces thought I was nuts to move back to the midwest. “Are you ready for all that snow and cold?,” several asked.

If it was about the weather I’d be on Maui.

It’s about family and Labor Day Weekend was Christmas for me. Friday afternoon I drove a quick 130 miles to spend time with my sweet niece Lindsey, my brother and his wife. We laughed hard, went to Cracker Barrel and laughed more. I had a great time and didn’t want to leave. But I had told my sister I’d be home for her family’s Labor Day cookout, and got back to Crown Point to find six of her seven grown children and at least a dozen grandkids sprawled all over the living room watching family movies. (Apparently hard rain and wind closed the pool and forced everyone indoors.)

Just a few of the many reasons I moved home to Indiana.

Later that evening my niece Connie invited me to join a bunch of them the next day at Great America. Awww, thanks, but no. Then later I remembered why I moved home. Three vans carried 15 of us ranging from seven to slightly-more-than 57.

I’m sure I had the most fun. I rode roller Continue reading

Not exactly White Castle’s

Cousin Karen Sandrick was in town last week for a quick visit and tour before meeting up with her friend John from Albuquerque. Since ABQ is about 260 miles up the road from Las Cruces, John suggested we meet at The Owl Bar & Café in San Antonio. (Worth the trip if you’re ever in the ‘hood.)

Sandrick cousins last Friday at The Owl Bar & Café in San Antonio, NM.

I overheard Karen on the phone telling John we would meet him at The Owl ‘Café’ – since I’ve been there and know the place to be kinda funky, I told her I was sure it wouldn’t qualify as a café. Wrong again, chili breath. Yes, it is funky, but it weren’t for the café, we wouldn’t have had their world famous green chili cheeseburgers.

Continue reading