Las Cruces, New Mexico is working out well for us after seven weeks. With so much uncertainty in all of our lives these days, just being able to write that feels like a gift. Top of mind for us is what we call our “COVID lives” and we are both healthy and hopeful even as the cases spike here in recent days. Dona Ana county, where we are, has seen an increase in COVID infections. Here in our RV park, the owner came by on July 3 to remind us of the need to wear masks, and to socially distance as we used the laundry, the common areas or the bathhouse.
We continue to limit our time in public markets and drugstores and while we certainly see some people not wearing masks in public spaces, the majority of people, including those we meet along the walking path along the Rio Grande River, are wearing masks here. There is one notable exception to either of us spending any amount of time indoors. Peter has been volunteering at El Caldito, the community soup kitchen.
Two days a week he offers about four hours of his time in preparing food to feed around 125 people who come for the mid-day meal every day. In his own words, Peter says that while he thought he would help with the cooking, he has learned from the experienced cooks just how little he knows about preparing food for over 100 people. While he thought he would give a little of his time, he has learned how much he has gotten back for his efforts. In his words, it is humbling to be in the kitchen and have this real-time reminder of the abundance of our own lives.
El Caldito has been in operation in Las Cruces since 1984 and is a well-established and essential service in the city. As near as Peter can tell, all the food is donated from local markets, restaurants, and even individuals. There is no way of knowing what menu will be prepared any given day because it completely depends on the donations that arrive each morning. In the hands of the extremely talented volunteer chefs, magic happens. One day last week, Peter spend hours taking the meat off 15 twenty-pound freshly cooked turkeys. Sometimes he spends the time chopping vegetables or dicing fresh fruit for fruit salads. Occasionally, he assembles the clamshell dishes containing all the food – entree, vegetables, salad, and dessert – that is passed out to the clients when they arrive to receive their meal. He is loving his time there.
Our site is looking more and more like we live here. I re-did the interior colors in T2, moving to a “cooler” palette. If you are interested, check out the April 5 post which shows the previous colors in the living area. Our outdoor chairs from Airstream are a new addition and on the cool mornings, we sit in the shade, enjoy our breakfast and start the day with gratitude. We found a wonderful local nursery and bought large pots and filled them with plants that can take the full desert sun. You can see the results in our opening photo above. An herb gardener at the Farmer’s Market sold us a little basil plant that has gone on to do its own imitation of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and is keeping us in fresh basil daily. The abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, including things new to us like more varieties of chilis than I even knew existed, continues to inspire eating and cooking adventures from this culinary place.
Our excursions into the surrounding area have been limited. A late afternoon trip to the Organ Mountains National Monument was spectacular since they are the dominant geological feature in the valley, after the Rio Grande. That’s where the selfie of us below was taken in the glorious golden light. Earlier today we drove south along the river and into the miles of pecan groves which flourish here alongside the open fields of chilis and maize. Life in this valley is completely centered on the Rio Grande which is the source of water for the countless canals and irrigation channels that slake the thirst of the crops raised by local farmers and ranchers.
We have two favorite places to walk in the nearby area. The first is a city park just 5 minutes from us. Named La Llorona, it has a 4.5 mile recreation path that hugs the east bank of the Rio Grande and it has just re-opened after the shutdown. Our second favorite place is a neighborhood that surrounds Pioneer Women’s Park in the older part of town which dates from the early 1900s when the railroad came to Las Cruces. There are lovely homes here from that time with wrought iron fences and adobe walls and hidden gardens and riots of colors that capture what I love about New Mexico. Murals are widely used in public spaces. Here are a few of the images from this neighborhood.
We had hoped to do a road trip north to Wyoming and Montana to visit friends this month but decided to postpone any travel due to the rising case numbers. In combination with the fact that the campgrounds along the 1,200 mile route were completely booked for the next couple of weeks we decided to stay put.
We continue to flourish in this desert climate grateful for air-conditioning and our wonderful cottonwood tree. The really impressive temperatures initially felt eye-opening but we are adapting. Here is a screen shot of what we are looking at in the “borderland” for the period 7/8 – 7/16. And these aren’t even record-breaking temperatures. The news that El Paso tends to be a little higher every day than we are (they are 49 miles further south and east) was a surprise. Silver City which is about 100 miles north and about 2,000 feet higher in elevation than Las Cruces is the “cool” spot in the area and generally 7 to 10 degrees cooler. We may head up there on a long weekend if we can find an airbnb with air-conditioning!
Sending wishes for good health and happiness to you all from the Organ Mountains here in Las Cruces. Peace.
Peter and Liz are settled into Las Cruces in T2 where all is well as their pilgrimage to here enjoys some time off the road.