Stepping off the plane, New Mexico was a shock to our senses. Immediately we noticed the clean, fresh smog-free air. The weather was sunny and warm, but not humid and stifling like in Atlanta. And the sky….we could see for miles! My kids could really play the game “what shape is that cloud;” something that is hard to do living in a city like we do. The architecture also was different from anywhere else that we had been, starting with the airport and continuing into Santa Fe. Driving around Santa Fe’s commercial district we were surprised to see familiar stores looking very un-familiar as adobe buildings. We screamed out the window and pointed: “adobe McDonald’s, adobe IHOP, adobe Starbucks, adobe Target!” Once we left the commercial area, all we saw was desert–which we expected—but as it gave way to tress and mountains the higher in elevation we climbed, that was less expected. All of it was beautiful and so different from the canopy of trees that makes up Atlanta’s landscape.
We vacationed in New Mexico because we were fortunate to be invited to Jane Fonda’s ranch, which has quite an interesting history. Besides Jane, our housemates were her daughter, grandchildren and their father. And I can’t forget Jane’s constant companion, Tulea.
The house is amazingly beautiful. Built in a traditional adobe style, it is very spacious with soaring ceilings and an open floor plan. Rustic wood beams and doors, brick floors, and traditional New Mexican features like silver and inlaid wood make the house a spectacular showpiece, but it is also warm and inviting. All the furnishings are beautiful, but completely comfortable. Everything about the house is wonderful, but my favorite part is the art—it’s everywhere and outstanding. It was so special being surrounded by such beauty everywhere I turned.
I love this bed on the back porch!
Everyone in the house ate dinner together every night (delicious meals prepared by Jane’s chef Sandra), but during the day we did whatever we wanted to. Jane exercised every morning for over 2 hours (she is in incredible shape) and then spent the rest of the day writing her new book. The rest of us hung around the house reading, talking, watching movies, playing board games and swimming.
That is, when we weren’t exploring the ranch’s absolutely breathtaking 3,000 acres: mountains, canyons, trees, desert and the Pecos River. Although we hiked arroyos, mesas and caynons, driving an ATV was the preferred method of getting around the property. Jane’s dog Tulea is never left behind when she’s on the ATV; she has a dog carrier strapped on the front and Tulea seems to love it. There was plenty of fishing in the river too. Jane is quite a fisherman herself and has worked hard to make sure that the river is full of trout; consequently all fish that are caught must be released. The one thing I was afraid of, rattlesnakes, didn’t show themselves to us (thank God!), even though we climbed rocks and I knew that they were always nearby, as well as coyotes and bears. The family tells quite a harrowing story about a bear breaking into Jane’s bedroom a few years ago—while she was in there! I’m glad he didn’t repeat his performance. And while we heard the coyotes at night and caught fish, the only other wildlife we saw was a prairie dog on the sidewalk in Santa Fe.
However, I did get quite a scare when I let my son drive me on the ATV. Truthfully, he was a good driver, but it was very disconcerting to have him be in control of a large piece of machinery propelling us both through space. I think I got a glimpse of what I have to look forward to in 15 months when he starts learning how to drive a car.
I love horses, so I was happy to have the opportunity to ride one of the 9 horses at the ranch. I rode Jane’s horse, a beautiful Arabian named Gitan, who was always trying to be the leader of the pack. On our second day of riding, we rode up to a mesa that provided an incredible view of the valley and river below.
The barn. Look at those clouds!
We are very high on a mesa. Can you see the valley below?
We went into Santa Fe a couple of times and had lunch at Cowgirl BBQ (home of the world famous ice cream potato) and the historic La Fonda Hotel. We walked around Santa Fe plaza, toured St. Francis Cathedral and shopped a bit. I was in heaven when I found Overland and their downstairs full of UGG boots. We had fun trying on cowboy hats and my son bought a really cool leather Indiana Jones-type of hat. That boy looks good in hats! (He takes after his mama in that respect.)
At Cowgirl BBQ: it looks like a baked potato, but it’s all ice cream!
Inside St. Francis Cathedral
Santa Fe Plaza
Downstairs in Overland….UGG heaven!
We are being silly trying on hats.
Another afternoon we went to a local “store” (I use this term lightly because it was more of a auto shop garage/sometimes store—if their was someone there to let you in) recommended by Jane for their custom-made leather and silver items. It was quite an adventure of local flavor, but Jane was correct; we found a beautiful necklace made with beads from the 1800’s. This was the perfect gift for our friend who had been watching Chili Dawg during our vacation.
Our last day in New Mexico came all too soon. While we were anxious to get home to see Chili Dawg and prepare for the start of a new school year, we didn’t want to leave New Mexico. What was first a shock to our senses—the big open sky, low adobe architecture, vast open land and wilderness—quickly became our preferred view. It’s no wonder that Jane is able to do all that she does (and she never stop moving) with such a wonderful place to go replenish and refresh herself.
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