May 29 – June 1
Our plan for the day was to drive to Los Alamos to tour the Bradbury Science Museum, part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park which is comprised of various spots in the city. We figured we’d spend the day there and then return to town for dinner, first stopping back at Santa Fe Spirits to drop off five dollars.
Why would we do that? When checking out on the iPad POS at the bar, it brought up a screen with default tip amounts, starting at 18%. Normally we tip generously, but in this case, our total included a thirty-dollar bottle of gin which didn’t require a whole lot of effort on the part of the bartender to deliver. So, we were going to opt for our standard bar tip of one dollar per drink. There is a custom tip option which I selected and dutifully entered the number five, thinking it would register as five dollars.
When I checked my email at camp that night I looked at the receipt which had been sent to me to discover I’d left a five-cent tip. Thus, our need to return and rectify the error. We made sandwiches to take with us and started the forty-five-minute drive; short enough so that some Los Alamos employees live in Santa Fe and commute from there.
We arrived at the museum just before they opened and then joined a small crowd to enter the facility. Founded in 1953, it is named for the Laboratory’s second director (1945-1970), Norris E. Bradbury. We spent an engrossing two-hours perusing over 40 interactive exhibits that trace the history of the World War II Manhattan Project, including declassified artifacts and documents from project.
Other exhibits include full-size models of the Little Boy and Fat Man atomic bombs (dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively), the history of supercomputers, Los Alamos’ contributions to the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity rover), nanotechnology, algae biofuels, and high explosives.
At about the two-hour mark our brains could not absorb any more information and we left the museum to park next to Ashley Pond, named after the founder of the Los Alamos Ranch School.
We popped the tailgate on the Highlander and pulled out our sandwiches, washing them down with water and a Coke Zero from the cooler. We then drove around town, essentially mimicking the path of the walking tour outline in the Manhattan Project National Park Brochure.
Most of the buildings from the war years have been torn down or repurposed and seeing all we could see and based on pictures from a simple map in the brochure, we thought we’d drive into the nearby country side to find the Pond Cabin, the Battleship Bunker, and the Slotin Building.
After about thirty minutes of fruitlessly driving around, we entered the town of White Rock and stumbled upon the Bandelier National Monument Visitor Center. We parked outside and after entering asked one of the rangers on duty about the three sites we wished to see. They advised us that they didn’t exist anymore, but if we wished the shuttle was just leaving to enter Bandelier (no cars are allowed near the ruins).
The monument preserves the homes and territory of the Ancestral Puebloans (formerly referred to as the Anasazi); most of the pueblo structures date to two eras between 1150 and 1600 AD. Designated by President Woodrow Wilson as a National Monument on February 11, 1916, it is named for Adolph Bandelier, a Swiss-American anthropologist who researched the cultures of the area and supported preservation of the sites. The park infrastructure was developed in the 1930s by crews of the Civilian Conservation Corps and it is a National Historic Landmark for its well-preserved architecture.
We’ve visited many of the well-known pueblos and cliff dwelling sites of Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico (Mesa Verde, Canyon de Chelly, Walnut Canyon, Kuaua, etc.) and considered it a stroke of luck that we had literally stumbled upon this one. We walked out of the Visitor Center on site into Frijoles Canyon which contains a number of ancestral pueblo homes, kivas (ceremonial structures), rock paintings, and petroglyphs.
Some of the dwellings were rock structures built on the canyon floor; others were cavates produced by voids in the volcanic tuff of the canyon wall and carved out further by humans. We walked the 1.2-mile loop trail and visited all of the twenty-one stations, reading about each in the trail guide.
As we view today’s seemingly civilized society, it’s interesting to reflect that the Puebloans, along with many other advanced societies throughout history (Incas, Aztecs, etc.) simply vanished, leaving only the ruins of their villages, temples, and towns. Who’s to say that won’t be our own fate some years hence?
We caught the next to the last shuttle back to the car and made our way to Santa Fe, stopping by the Spirits shop to leave the five-dollar tip, then onto a Trip Advisor recommended choice parking on the street near Fire and Hops Gastropub where we would enjoy a very nice dinner. Occupying an old house, we were seated outside on the back patio under a trellis.
It was a beautiful afternoon, in fact the weather during our stay was nearly perfect, warm days with little humidity, the desert climate your friend as long as your skin doesn’t spend too much time in it. Along with a delightful selection of beers, it is essentially a small-plates joint with some large plates, which we would eschew in favor a multiple selection of things to taste.
We started with a Boxing Bear Blood Orange Pale for Joanna and a Stone Double IPA for me, an Organic Chicken Satay (with Green Papaya and Red Curry Yogurt), and Roasted Pork Taco (with Green Cabbage Slaw, House Made Chile Sauce and Radish) to split. Joanna found the Satay a little disappointing, but the tacos made up for it.
For our second round we gleefully ordered a Founders Sumatra Mountain Brown (which we’d had in Charlotte, at 9.0% ABV. a team of malts including Caramel malt for sweetness and flaked barley for dense foam makes it possibly one of the best beers ever) and the star of the night, a Shepherds Lamb Grilled Kefta (with, Bulgur Salad and Preserved Lemon Aioli).
A Kefta is finely ground beef or lamb that is spiced with seasonings and made into meatballs or patties to be grilled, similar to the kebabs we’d had in Greece and this one was equally good. To finish our night, we ordered one scoop of a house made berry sorbet that was the perfect finish to a fine night of dining. Our total tab was $64 (including the tip), not inexpensive but completely worth the price for the satisfying experience it brought.
There are places you visit that when you leave you feel as though you’ve done them and there is no need to return. Nashville on this trip is an example. Santa Fe beguiled us, leaving us wanting more. Our visit many years ago with Jessica was good but dictated by the requisite to accommodate the needs of a pre-teen.
For all of us that travel, this is often the case. Think of the places you visited as a child, often dragged there by your parents whose agenda didn’t match yours. And yet the memory of that place sticks with you and you find yourself drawn back to it and that different perspective changes the place entirely for you. That was Santa Fe for us. We’ll be back.
Bradbury Science Museum: http://www.lanl.gov/museum/
Little Boy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Boy
Project Brochure: https://www.nps.gov/mapr/upload/Final-Brochure.pdf
Bandelier National Monument: https://www.nps.gov/band/index.htm
Fire and Hops Gastropub: https://fireandhopsgastropub.com/
Founders Imperial Brown: https://foundersbrewing.com/our-beer/sumatra-mountain-brown/