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Aztec Ruins or Baseball Town USA?

After extending their stay in Albuquerque by a day, Hank and Bobbie-Joe had to get goin’ on the road. The next big spot was the Grand Canyon, but before they got there, after some map searchin’ to do. Hank found an Aztec Ruins site in the northwest corner of New Mexico that deserved a visit. But before they left, Hank and Bobbie-Joe had searched for accommodation in nearby Aztec. It wasn’t a happy hunt.

The only accommodation in small town Aztec, population 6,500, was the Step Back Inn. It looked amazing with its simple Victorian charms and was about to be booked until a traveller review concerning pubic hair and bloodstains on bed sheets shattered any interest Hank and Bobbie-Joe had in staying there. In fact, it almost meant Hank and Bobbie-Joe reconsidered the need to visit the Aztec Ruins, but a bit more research and traveller referrals pointed them to nearby Farmington.

It’s a town not on many tourist maps. But with over 45,000 people and the main industry being mining, natural gas, petrol and coal, somethin’ entertainin’ must happen here, surely? Yeah, it didn’t strike Hank or Bobbie-Joe as a tourist mecca but they travelled as always with an open mind, down the main highway into town, passing all the industrial plants and refineries. Yeeahh! Livin’ the dream!

But to be fair, we were lucky to get a room. For some reason, most of the hotels in Farmington were booked out. We found a room at the Region Inn at the eastern end of town and checked in.  The young folk running the reception desk were friendly and welcoming. They showed Hank and Bobbie-Joe to their room. For some reason, the curtains were closed but Hank and Bobbie-Joe just assumed that was because it was 105F outside and the staff were trying to keep the place cool. After driving for 181 miles from Albuquerque, Hank and Bobbie-Joe were tired and dropped their bags on the floor and headed for the bathroom to freshen up, to head out for dinner.

Driving through the town, Hank and Bobbie-Joe stumbled upon the 3 Rivers Brewery shortly after 8pm. It looked comfortable inside – a big bar area, pressed metal ceiling, original antique signs; the references to a life long past as a drugstore. And people kept filing in, well after Hank and Bobbie-Joe were seated at the window. Bobbie-Joe opted for a home-made Root Beer. For dinner, she ordered the highly recommended hot dog with a home-made bratwurst and sauerkraut and Hank went for the smothered black bean burrito with chicken and a locally brewed 3 Rivers Scottish Ale.

Shortly after ordering, the streets outside were eerily quiet. There were no cars. And people had seemed to stop in their tracks at the roadside. Suddenly, slashes of red and blue light were cutting through the dark night. Within seconds, motorcycle police arrived at the T intersection out the front of the 3 Rivers Brewery and cordoned off the street, like they were creating a corral for a Presidential parade. There was much chatter within the bar and people craning their necks to get a glimpse of what was happening outside.

Hank and Bobbie-Joe had the feeling this type of activity didn’t happen too much round Farmington parts.  Within minutes, three buses emerged and turned into the street the police cordon directed. Following the buses were three more motorcycle police. As the buses and tailing police passed through the intersection, the cordoning police started off and followed behind the cavalcade. Hank and Bobbie-Joe were mystified, however, it clearly seemed that there was someone important in town. As the motorcade moved off, the bar punters gradually turned around excitedly conversing with friends about the commotion all the way back to their seats.

In what seemed like a Twilight Zone episode, Hank and Bobbie-Joe’s food arrived. Before orderin’, Hank and Bobbie-Joe didn’t know what a “hoagie” was in food parlance…well they did now; it was a white hotdog roll. Despite the mouth waterin’ description of the home-made, beer-infused bratwurst, Bobbie-Joe looked on longingly at Hank’s smothered black bean enchilada, to which Hank shared with his lovely wife. To round off proceedings, Hank ordered a Kentucky Bourbon Pecan Pie and the rumour that Bobbie-Joe also took a couple of spoonfuls, is true. Calling it a day, Hank and Bobbie-Joe retired to the Region Inn for the night for the visit tomorrow to the Aztec Ruins.

However, still curious about the evening’s police involvement with the buses, Hank  and Bobbie-Joe jumped on the internet to find out what was happening. Turns out it wasn’t the President, but it was the buses bringing in the teams for the Connie Mack World Series of junior baseball. Teams from all over USA, Canada and Puerto Rico win divisions and play off at Farmington. Any wonder it was tough to get a room in Farmington! The opening game and ceremony was scheduled to kick off the next night at Ricketts Field. Hank and Bobbie-Joe didnt want to miss the opportunity especially as the opening game was played by the local team against the Puerto Rican team and clocked it into the itinerary.

After a great night’s sleep, Hank and Bobbie-Joe arose in the morning, keen to get moving. Upon opening the blinds in near nakedness, Hank recoiled in horror to realise that the only window for the apartment faced onto the restaurant’s dining area and pool! Luckily there was no-one on the other side dining on breakfast but the lesson was learnt: Always cover up before you open ANY blind!

Heading out to the Aztec Ruins, it was peaking near 100F again and it was dry and hot. Before going out to explore the ruins, we were treated to an hour-long documentary about how the villagers would have lived and the functionality of the architecture of the time. Additional stories were built on top of ground floors and were accessible by ladder only. Like most indigenous Americans, it was community minded with clear roles and responsibilities for all inhabitants. Hank and Bobbie-Joe were amazed that the buildings belonged to the 11th or 12th century. However there was also somewhat of a misnomer on the ruins being Aztec of origin; they were actually ruins of the Pueblo Anasazi. Talk about Chinese whispers.

After a couple of hours, Hank and Bobbie-Joe headed back to the Region Inn to go to the pool. Upon arriving back they were quite surprised that at 2pm on a 100F day, the hotel had the sprinklers on doing the front lawn. I mean it was a major drought – didnt they have water restrictions? The sprinklers were located at the edge of the lawn, next to the car park. Driving into the car park, Hank thought it would be a good idea to clean the underside of the car grill with the sprinkler. He pulled the car gently into the car park and edged closer centimetre by centimetre over the sprinkler. The sprinkler did its job and both Hank and Bobbie-Joe could hear the water cleaning the grill from grit and bugs. After a short time, Hank and Bobbie-Joe agreed that it was time to hit the pool.

In order to avoid trouble from hotel management for blocking the sprinkler, Hank put Malibarbs into reverse and edged back, when suddenly there was a ripping sound, then a clunking sound, followed by one of the most amazing water spouts five metres into the air that you could ever have seen in drought-stricken Farmington. Hank and Bobbie-Joe looked at each other for a moment in sheer disbelief. After realising what they had done and feeling desperately guilty for wasting water, the nervous energy turned to laughter at how ridiculous the situation had become in just a fraction of time.

Hank got outside that car and surveyed the scene and realised that he wasnt going to be able to re-insert the sprinkler head into the ground pipe. He realised that there was only one thing he could do, as the passing cars were beginning to slow down to take in the new Farmington tourist attraction, the “Region Inn Water Spout”. He had to move the car as quickly as possible to avoid detection. He pulled the car out of the park promptly, if not desperately, and parked around the rear of the building, hoping the 100F day would dry the water on the bonnet of the car quicker than a hotel management inspection of the car park.

Giggling, Hank and Bobbie-Joe entered the building and upon sighting the reception desk, Hank straightened up and authoritatively reported that one of the sprinkler heads seemed to have blown off and there was a massive water-spout out the front. It took a couple of attempts to convince the young receptionist that what Hank was reporting was true. In the end, with reporting responsibilities cleared, Hank and Bobbie-Joe went back to their room and jumped into swimming gear and headed to the pool. After a lovely couple of hours in the sun, chuckling guiltily about the spout and in the stone cold swimming pool water, they were able to relax before they headed off to Connie Mack later that night.

Arriving later at the local stadium, Hank and Bobbie-Joe found a park pretty close by and within walking distance. After paying the $US2 entrance fee and picking up a program, Hank and Bobbie-Joe headed to get some Baseball Town USA style dinner from the Concessions Stand. Lining up in the queue gave Hank and Bobbie-Joe a great opportunity to people watch. Turns out the event is very popular with young teenagers and older baseball officials who were all men. Reaching the Concessions Stand, the volunteers from the local bank really helped Hank and Bobbie-Joe out on explaining what a Chimichanga, Frito Pie and Sloppy Joes were!

After collecting their junk food, they reached the bleachers and found a spot halfway up the stand right near third base with a great view. There were a few people around but it still had some breathing room, given it was still 80F at 8pm. They started to dine on their fast food. The Sloppy Joe’s were an interesting mix of what seemed like bolognaise sauce in a hamburger bun, but quite passable. Chimichangas were described as a deep-fried burrito, which sounded appealing and they are probably lovely when prepared and served in a restaurant setting. However, when they a prepackaged and deep-fried at the manufacturing plant, delivered and microwaved on site then served to unsuspecting tourists, they didn’t hit the Hank and Bobbie-Joe’s top 100 favourite USA meals. Frito Pie was another ghastly creation using Frito chips, chilli and cheese. I can see the fast food appeal, but no, not for Hank and Bobbie-Joe, who dont need food that fast and can wait!

However, before too long, there were plenty of people sitting front, side and behind us, which seemed to have the effect of pooling all our collective heat and preventing any small breeze that could offer any relief. Right next to Hank and Bobbie-Joe was a human eating machine and should have been in the circus as we saw him chow down 3 sets of nachos, 3-4 chimichangas, 2 large boxes of popcorn, a frito pie, a couple of pickles and the leftovers from the family as well as three 2 litre soft drinks. Hank and Bobbie-Joe didn’t feel they could say anything, even though they were genuinely concerned for his health. He was a big unit, and he ate like he wanted to be bigger. At one point, Hank had to remind Bobbie-Joe not to stare. Hank and Bobbie-Joe hope he is ok!

Stifling heat and eating extravaganzas aside, the opening ceremony included a military component and thanks were again given to the men and women in the military, their families and their communities for protecting the mighty USA. Eventually the Governor of New Mexico was invited out to the diamond to rapturous applause to give a short speech and to throw the first pitch. The game was underway!

A very tight tussle in the early innings, however the Puerto Ricans raced to a 6-1 lead by the second innings. No runs again until the 7th innings and the local Farmington boys needed to do something, as it was their last chance. They responded well under pressure by slamming home 6 home runs in the final innings, to get a 7-6 lead. The Puerto Ricans batted, but didn’t trouble the scorers for the remainder of the game. Won by the home side and the crown erupted in an ecstatic outpouring of local and national pride, that was in good spirits.

Overall, a fantastic experience in Baseball Town USA. Full of inappropriately named ruins, great local baseball experience and Hank and Bobbie-Joe made their own tourist attraction in a free water-spout a the Hotel. After being completely unsure of what to expect, it was quite a lot of fun. A big day on the road tomorrow; a visit to the four corners monument, then off to Williams and the Grand Canyon!



About hankerinroundusa

Hankerin' round the USA with my lovely wife Kirsten White!

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