Wow, What a Week!


It’s been a little more than a week since my last chronicle, and so much has happened at Hacienda Dominguez.

Just nine days ago my brother-in-law, Ryan, his wife Karleigh, and son, along with my mother-in-law, landed almost-unexpectedly in Albuquerque, for we initially had expected them to arrive the next night. As we only found out that same morning, we had to drop everything and respectfully - and gladly - accommodate.

After all, it was bound to be a wonderful family reunion of sorts, with our son Dominic having landed the night before on Thursday flying in from Jersey to surprise his little sister for her eighth birthday.

There was a bit of confusion, as Mama had told her a “big package” was arriving, so I myself was wondering what she had ordered. Thankfully, it was simply a veiled allusion to the pending arrival of her big brother and not another-big-thing to ultimately store in the already overcrowded Shed.

Nonetheless and allthemore, once all the expected family members had landed, we began a week long adventure of pseudo-staycationing and day trips with our crew of 13.

The fun began Saturday, when we attempted to attend The 95th Annual Spanish Market at the Santa Fe Railyard, which had skipped a year because of Covid.

The art market was first held in Santa Fe in 1926, with “rigorous standards developed to ensure that the participating Spanish Market artists authentically represented regional Hispanic heritage and culture. Today, there are nineteen art categories, with approximately 200 qualifying artists.”

Alas, we arrived a little too late, around 1:00, when a downpour from that afternoon’s monsoon ensued. To our dismay, not only was the farmer’s market packing up, but so was the art market because the tents were not weather proof nor were the tourists and prospective buyers.

(Post-script correction: The Spanish Market was actually held for the first time in the Plaza this year…so the artists we saw at the Railyard, were general artists participating in the art fair there. The lack of Hispanic art now makes sense!)

Thus, we took shelter by walking about the trellises at the railyard, whilst the hour-long clock ticked down our wait at the Second Street Brewery.

When we were finally seated, we immediately discovered that dogs, cute puppies or not, are not allowed on the restaurant’s premises, even if we were dining outside on their makeshift sidewalk patio, lest we violate Health Department regulations.

As a result, we had to leash them to the outside of the gate and place them in a Trader Joe’s reusable shopping bag with a blanket (place sad face emoji here). Needless to say, the dogs survived, albeit shivering most of the time, while we enjoyed our burgers and sipped on iced teas and craft drafts.

On Sunday, the dogs got short-shrifted again, as most of the family drove to Bandalier National Park near Los Alamos, while I stayed home caring for the pups and (finally) planting the fifty cactus cuttings we had picked up in Eldorado the week before. A pair of tweezers and I became best friends that day.

On Monday, we finally attended MeowWolf in celebration of Olivia Luz’s eighth birthday, which was prefaced by lunch at the yummy Plaza Cafe número dos. Their huevos rancheros were excellent and the spicy margarita was a strong complement to my Christmas sauce-covered New Mexican meal.

After the art-exploratorium extravaganza, we moseyed on over the Santa Fe Plaza for ice cream. By six, half of us were tuckered out by a full day of traveling the day before, whilst the other half decided to check out the live country music performance at the bandstand.

Subsequently, the restless half danced for a good set or so upon the square, where we dared look happy and carefree whilst the rest of the cowpoke sat in their lawn chairs chewing their cud and wondering what the glee was all about.

Tuesday began early at 6:30 AM with the absolutely most-spectacular-ever (double) rainbow I’ve seen in my life, which I was lucky enough to capture on camera as a lovely loop of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple was pitched over my home, turning 36HTR into a pot of gold.

Then, quite thrilled and all-jacked-up like the Lucky Charms Leprechaun, at 8 am we departed toward Taos. We stopped for breakfast at The Roadrunner Café in Nambé, before heading our way up the Rio Grande for a few hours of river rafting in honor of Grandpa Roland’s birthday.

Splish-splash, half of us ended up taking a bath in the river when we jumped in, whenever it got lazy; Olivia and Dominic rode the bull when it was not.

For lunch we cruised down the river without paddles this time into badass Española, OD capital of the New Mexico, if not the Southwest. We stopped at El Parasol, reportedly the súper popular taco stand offshoot of the original restaurant, El Paragua, which was started and is still run by the Atencio brothers.

The day ended back home at 48B, where we celebrated both Olivia and Grandpa’s birthdays with a chocolate and berry compote cake made from scratch by Sidney and Dominic.

Wednesday was a casual respite from the go-go-go spirit of our typical extended-family vacations, so that after I dropped off Dominic at the airport after noon, and then met half our motley crue at the The Mineshaft Tavern in Madrid for a few drinks and a saunter through town to check out the shops and crafts.

On Thursday, we finally went for a short-but-sweet family hike across Milo’s Crossing. It was a short-lived sojourn for most, but Olivia and I lingered a little longer to explore, discovering a small spring and a large reptilian snout of a rock we donned La Boca del Cocodrilo - “The Mouth of the Crocodile.”

That evening we went to dinner at Beer Creek Brewing Co. for some of their spectacular NoCal-inspired pizza, which is always a great way to introduce the out-of-towners to how lucky we are. Happily, we ate and also celebrated the closing of the sale of our house in New York that same morning.

On Friday, we took The High Road to Taos, “following the footsteps of Bing and Bob” - alas, a half-joke-reference that no one seemed to get but me.

Our stops included a hike up to the waterfalls at the Pueblo of Nambé; and a peaceful walk about the grounds of the ultra-beautiful riverside sanctuary at El Santuario de Chimayo, which is known for its tiny church that the faithful believe sits on a bed of healing earth. Subsequently, the healed often leave art and crosses on the walls and fences, as a testament to their faith and deference to the miracle and salvation they’ve experienced.

Back on the road, we stopped in Cordova, where lost, we were soon found by “Gloria,” the wood carver extraordinaire, who is the matriarch of a famous family of award-winning wood carvers. Apart from a wall full of ribbons, her honors include a piece at the Smithsonian.

Milo picked up a little lizard at basement bargain prices, a mere $15 in comparison to the $1,800 piece she showed us (and let us hold) depicting Joseph and Mary, with the Baby Jesus in her arms, while riding a burro away from Bethlehem.

Despite her winnings, accolades and talent, the 79-year-old Master Santera, Gloria Lopez Cordova, lives alone, atop a backroad hill in Cordova, in a humble dwelling with a small wood-shop work shed-cum-showroom, which had been closed for the last 18 months of the pandemic, but which she happily opened up for us.

There she openly spoke of both her glory days as an artist, as well as the tragic experience of losing her son, who passed away in a car accident at 19; as well as the passing of two grandchildren she raised as her own, after her daughter left them on her doorstep at the ages of 2 and 4. Alas, she did right by them, but fate had other plans and took away her grandson the same way her son died, by car accident at 19; and her granddaughter passed at 22 from a mysterious lung disease.

After receiving that relatively-free lesson in humility, we continued onto our ultimate destination - Taos - through gorgeous grey mountains and plush green valleys, stopping in the tiny town of Truchas to indulge the Sound-of-Music cinematic view of New Mexico’s second tallest mountain.

Once we landed in town, we immediately went to dinner at the Sagebrush Inn and Grill, where the burgers aim to please and the they make a convincing-Negroni, despite the delay due to the bartender having to google the ingredients that were already listed on their cocktail menu. Regardless, I complimented the effort by ordering another.

After a hearty dinner we drove down 68 to the only vacancy in town at the Quality Inn. The service was subpar, but the rooms sufficed for a one-night stand with this sassy ski town, and albeit it was a crisp sixty degrees or so and the blue paint was cracking off the sides, the kids and I jumped in the pool anyway. Despite the chill, I made sure to burn off some calories by dog paddling back and forth across the deep end a few times.

The next morning, we gorged on the free breakfast buffet, until everyone was ready to go into town and see the Plaza.

Luckily, it was rife with vendors and visitors and live music; and the souvenirs were reasonable. So, we ended up toting about a few bags by lunchtime, especially since The Dragonfly offered a sale that three of the dress-wearing ladies in our party could not resist.

Prizes in hand, we all ascended the stairs at The Gorge and indulged a sumptuous lunch on their patio overlooking the Plaza. Everyone agreed that the salsas (and chips) were some of the best we’ve ever had; and I was likewise pleased by their proprietary green chile margarita.

Eating a meal ready-made for a siesta, we walked up the block to a little coffee shop on the corner, where Chelsea and I shared an oat milk spicy latte with turmeric that was so delish that, even days later, I still feel I didn’t get my fair share…(insert grumpy face emoji here).

Then, an hour and a half later, we we’re back home to pick up the pups and put away the chickens. My brother-in-law and wife came up the hill to spend a few of their final hours with us outside, under the blanket of stars, chatting, drinking wine and sorting out the good, bad and ugly of these eight days gone by.

Today, Sunday, was not a day of rest, but rather a day we decided to recharge and press forward - back into the groove of what we came here for.

Thus, the day began with a drive to the city dump to offload a truckload of awfully stinking garbage, so much so, that I had to reenact the trunk washing scene (Karen: “What happened to the car?” Henry: “I hit a skunk”) from Goodfellas at the local car-wash-yourself.

Then, while we drove to Albuquerque to have a celebratory lunch at The Grove with the gun-slinging-while horseback riding champion, who kindly sold us the last bit of land that once was part of hundreds of family-owned acres, where she grew up on a ranch along the Galisteo River - Chelsea and I sorted out what we needed to do to get back on track.

At lunch, I toasted to the deal that took six months to make, ladling lodes of gratitude, because these 40 acres essentially comprise the missing piece to complete and complement our 350 acres puzzle of land holdings, which abut the border to 3,000 acres of BLM land (essentially, land preserved for the public good) for a good rolling-hill mile.

After an indulgent three-cheese grilled sourdough sandwich with pickles, spicy slaw and a bowl of watermelon gazpacho, we hugged Kay, thanking her once again for both her terrestrial concession, and the capstone gift she brought to our rendezvous - five books from the 1930s of land deeds, documents, plats and maps that her grandmother had passed on to her mother, which she passed on to her own daughter, who, until this morning, had kept as an heirloom in her safe.

Thus and therefore and hence, there you have it, a what-a-week to remember and be inspired by as we move forward upon this adventure in Cerrillos, New Mexico.

The saga continues this week with Chelsea starting her new job; the little ones starting at their new school next week and the older ones starting their deferred first years of college at the end of the month. To top it off, our oldest, Enzo, called tonight and may be coming to visit for a long weekend in a couple weeks as well. The action never stops at Hacienda Dominguez & Chelenzo Farms.