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Strange but True Southwest - Wierd sights of Arizona and New Mexico

  • Submitted by: Paul McGinnis
  • Submission Date: 14th Feb 2005


'Where men are real men and sheep are real nervous...'

Paul McGinnis September 1993

Thanks to modern transportation, just about every Ugly American can (and will) visit the Grand Canyon and Carlsbad Caverns. Sorry to disappoint those people, but this pamphlet is a guide to attractions in Arizona and New Mexico that don't attract huge crowds of people emerging from air-conditioned tour buses and have a McDonald's nearby...


One of the things Western Americans believe in is freedom from authority. Unlike sissy governments back East, Arizona and New Mexico allow drive-up liquor stores. A good example can be found at Jerry's Liquors, on Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale, AZ. Grab a six pack of Old Milwaukee and hit the road...Believing that Americans have the right to self-mutilation and accidental fires, the enlightened state government of New Mexico allows year-round firework sales. One source is Bowlen's, a gas station and restaurant near the Continental Divide, on Interstate 40. Keep an eye on roadside advertising and you'll discover numerous places where you can take a whiz and buy forbidden items...


For a true sampling of what makes America great, visit the National Atomic Museum in Albuquerque, NM. Just getting there is half the fun... The museum is on the grounds of Kirtland Air Force Base, where real B-52s stand ready to fight a nuclear war (kind of improbable now that the Soviet Union has collapsed). To get there, enter the base at the gate at Wyoming Blvd. and then enter the base security office. Armed Air Force SPs will photograph you and check your identity, and then issue you a base pass to get to the museum. At the museum, elderly Cold Warriors man exhibits of such technical wonders as the Davy Crockett howitzer that can fire atomic tipped shells, MIRVs , and nuclear powered rockets. Ask them about the October and April bus trips to ground zero at the Trinity site in Alamagordos, NM. The only bad thing about this place is they don't sell tacky souvenirs...


In Mesa, AZ (a suburb of Phoenix), take Broadway Road east and you will find El Mar Diving Center, a large scuba diving supplier. Then try and figure out where you can scuba dive in Arizona...


The New Mexico Mining Museum can be found in Grants, NM. While most places featuring Western mining have romanticized guys with pick axes, this place puts the emphasis on strip mining and its underground equivalents. Below the museum, they have a simulated mine that you can visit. Instead of signs describing the mine sights, they have very cool sound sticks -- you point them at the red LEDs in the walls and hear different recorded messages. Not recommended for the claustrophobic.


Many people think that the 60s hippies ended up in Northern California or Oregon. There is a colony of hippies in Arizona also. Italian architect Paolo Soleri has been working here on his vision of future cities that combine architecture and ecology ('arcologies'). Volunteers are building the city Arcosanti in the Arizona wilderness. Unfortunately, as of 1993, it's only 5% complete. Take the tour and learn how water hyacinths can be used to clean up raw sewage and see strange buildings made of concrete and sand. Still you have to admire people building this kind of utopia who don't receive a penny from the government -- they subsist on money made from selling baked goods and bronze wind chimes. To get there go north on Interstate 17 from Phoenix and exit at the junction of I-17 and Arizona Hwy. 69 (near Mayer, AZ). Follow the signs and take the dirt road for 3 miles.


At Bandera, NM, you should visit the Ice Cave. Generally, the temperature inside caves doesn't get much colder than 50 degrees Fahrenheit. At Bandera, climb down 75 feet below ground and the temperature falls below freezing. There is a section of green ice in the cave (green from algae). This is in one of the undiscovered (by tourists) scenic areas of New Mexico (El Malpais National Monument / Cibola National Forest). To get there, take New Mexico Hwy. 53 from Grants or New Mexico Hwy. 602 from Gallup.


Remember the movie 'FIRE IN THE SKY'? The people involved with this case of UFO abduction were from Snowflake, AZ. Travis Walton no longer lives there and the natives are reluctant to talk about being embarassed nationally. But that's ok -- I assume the readers don't mind offending the natives of Snowflake with strange questions. To get there, take Arizona Hwy. 77 from Holbrook. If you want to visit the spooky parts of Sitgreaves National Forest looking for the ride of your young life, you could take the triangular route -- Arizona Hwy. 277 from Snowflake to Arizona Hwy. 260, down to Show Low, AZ, and back up Arizona Hwy. 77 to Snowflake.


All over the Southwest, the Indian motif of tribes like the Hopi or Navajo is real popular. Kachinas and teepees are everywhere. So, why not eat at a real Indian restaurant? Try the Delhi Palace restaurant, on Lincoln Ave., in downtown Santa Fe, NM. Or, if you want to be really different, have a tropical drink at the Polynesian tiki bar at a local Chinese restaurant (New China Town restaurant ??) on Central Avenue (between the UNM campus and Interstate 40), in Albuquerque, NM. This may be the only kitschy Polynesian bar for hundreds of miles. All cowboys will tell you: nothing beats the heat of the open range like a cold Mai Tai with a little umbrella in it...


If you are driving on Interstate 10 near Arizona, you should pay a visit to the General George S. Patton Museum, at Chiricao Summit, CA. Along with various World War II memorabilia, such as samples of various weapons and paper money used during the war, you can also see the General's Christian altar. It's made of stone and faces an empty desert and mountains. As the wind howls through the desert, think of the scene in 'Patton' where he asks the priest to pray for victory, and contemplate what a strange god Patton believes in... Best souvenir: .50 caliber machine gun bullets made into keychains.


Most tourists go to Old Towne in Albuquerque, NM to buy cheap turquoise jewelry and Indian pottery. The real attraction though is the American International Rattlesnake Museum. Along with giving you an education about these beasts, they have a number of live specimens in glass cases, including a rare albino rattlesnake. Unfortunately, they don't sell cooked snakes -- people who should know claim that grilled Diamondback tastes like chicken.


Apparently, today's Native Americans have traded their war horses for the 'iron horse'. In eastern Arizona, you will find the Apache Railway, headquartered at Holbrook, AZ. I wouldn't be surprised if the train crews also stayed at the WigWam Motel in Holbrook -- the rooms look like giant teepees.

The author of this pamphlet can be harassed at the following addresses:

Paul McGinnis
P.O. Box 28084
Santa Ana, CA 92799 USA

Compuserve: 76056,201
America Online: PaulMcG