Casa Grande to Las Cruces

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

We are on the road by 0800 hours, a typical time for us. We like to leave fairly early. The weather is clear but very cool. We are on our way to Lordsburg, NM. Not a long trip but this part of the country can bring howling winds. We travel over some hills that might be classified as small mountains then down to what appear to be perfectly flat playas, the lowest portion of which are invariably dry lakes. This is typical of the terrain along I-10 heading east from Tucson AZ to at least Las Cruces NM. The wind does kick up but does not create unbearable driving conditions.

Rock Formations Near AZ Rest Area

This part of Arizona is not very eye appealing, at least not to me. There were a few spectacular rock outcroppings in one area however. There are not many variations in desert flora. We did spot snow on a very high peak off in the distance. Interstate 10’s roadway was good in some portions and not so good in others. Although a federal roadway, I believe that repairs of the interstate are a cost sharing venture with local governments. I draw that conclusion as there is a marked difference in the quality of the road surface at every posted county line.

Even These Critters Like This Rest Area

Upon pulling into Lordsburg, New Mexico (2460 souls), elevation 4200′ we fuel up, top off the propane tank at the KOA we at which we are staying, then hunker down. The park is all gravel with a few mesquite and cacti around its perimeter. Nothing fancy, but it will do.

This morning was very cold at 18 degrees, but the sky was clear making the warmth the from early morning sunshine very welcome. The dogs are walked, utilities stored, leveling jacks are up and off we go.

Continental Divide in the Middle of the Desert? Yep!

We are only traveling as far as Las Cruces (110,000 souls, 3900′ elevation) today as we want to visit the old town of La Mesilla.

Las Cruces, NM

We arrive before noon- our travel day is less than 150 miles. We are staying at the Hacienda RV Resort with a lot of other folks. Wow, this RV park is popular! La Mesilla is just a couple of miles away.

The Plaza

La Mesilla, established in 1848, was originally in Mexico, the border moved south after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo took effect. The U.S. was determined to protect its citizens from Apache attacks but the border was in dispute due to a mapping error. The Gadsden purchase solved that problem.

Two Civil War battles were fought here. During the “Wild West” era the area attracted characters such as Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and Pancho Villa. The area was also a crossroads for two major stagecoach, mail and trade routes. The village of Mesilla was the most important city in the region until 1881. In 1881, the Santa Fe Railway was ready to build through the Gadsden Purchase region of the country. Mesilla was naturally seen as the city the railroad would run through. However, the people of Mesilla asked for too much money for the land rights, and a landowner in nearby Las Cruces, a much smaller village than Mesilla, stepped in and offered free land. The city of Mesilla has not grown much since, and Las Cruces has grown to a population of an estimated 101,000 people (2014) and is currently the second largest city in New Mexico.

Billy The Kid Was Tried At The Mesilla Courthouse
Businesses Across From Mesilla’s Plaza

Today Mesilla (2600 folks) is really a part of Las Cruces. Historic Mesilla still has the flavor of an old Mexican town. A large plaza in its center- three sides are businesses and the fourth is the Basilica of San Albine. The architecture is great, the brightly colored doors are wonderful. A great place for a stroll. We ate lunch he Double Eagle restaurant.

Interior of the Double Eagle Restaurant

This is amazing building was built in 1849 as a private residence. It was purchased in 1972, made into a restaurant and became home for a collection of museum quality antique pieces. The food was really good but the building itself is wonderful. The four wings of the building are built in the hacienda style around a central court. If you are interested in the description of all of the antiques in the restaurant follow this link:

Basilica of San Albino

The Basilica of San Albino may be the smallest basilica in the United States. The original bell cast in 1876 as well as three large bells added at later dates still are rung to gather parishioners to Mass. The original church was built in 1850, the present in 1908.

Mary, Altar and Ombrellino

The Basilica is of a minor (lesser) class. There are seven major basilicas and fewer than two thousand lesser basilicas around the world, fewer than one hundred in the U.S. Nonetheless, basilicas enjoy privileges and honors greater than most Roman Catholic Churches. Three special symbols of a basilica are the Coat of arms, the Tintinnabulum, and the Ombrellino.

Mother Mary, Alway Present At A Catholic Church

Who woulda thunk it? The Mesilla Valley and specifically the Dona Ana County is the largest grower of pecans in the world. As Jil spoke to the proprietor of the Legacy Pecans store which specializes in pecan products she learned that her family also owns and lives on a pecan farm along with relatives and farm workers. In fact, she is fourth generation farm girl. It was very nice talking with her. Of course we couldn’t walk away empty handed……………

We thoroughly enjoyed visiting Mesilla and will be sure to visit again if we are ever back in this area.

Tomorrow we are heading south on Interstate 10 and stopping in Fort Stockton for the night, then on to Fredericksburg, TX, our first stop in Texas Hill Country.

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