Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Mae Goes to the Shop; We Go Stargazing

AT Enchanted Oaks RV Park, Albuquerque, New Mexico...

I had been noticing that our toad, Mae, has developed a slight noise in the front end that sounds a little like a mudgrip tire on asphalt. That certainly isn't normal, so we made arrangements at Reliable Chevrolet here in Albuquerque to get it checked out the next day after we leave it with them later. They will give us a loaner car to drive, a nice touch, for sure! 

After that, we decided it was time for lunch, so we drove to La Salita, a restaurant in east Albuquerque recommended by cherished readers (and fellow foodies) Bob and Jo, whose blog, "How to Love Where You Are and Eat Where the Locals Eat" has been a favorite read for a very long time. Like us, they publish a list of favorite restaurants on their blog. (That may be where I got the idea; I can't remember.) They had specifically recommended the chile rellenos, and that's what we ordered, along with one of La Salita's combo plates. We noticed on their menu that they had won a citywide award for the best chile rellenos, so we were expecting a treat; we were not disappointed. The large chile was of the Hatch variety, and we ordered it stuffed with avocado. It was perfectly fried in a light batter, with all the flavor of the chile and the richness of the avocado inside. It was swimming in some killer green chile sauce that I would have licked off the platter if there weren't other diners all around. The chile pepper of the relleno and the sauce would have wide appeal because it wasn't too spicy. Personally, I like spicy chiles, but Sandy--not so much. It was a perfect compromise. We enjoyed all the rest of the dishes, too, and we agree that the relleno probably has no equal. This place will go on our list, too. Thanks, Bob and Jo, for the tip!

Afterward, after driving around doing some sightseeing, we returned to Phannie in our loaner car and took a nap. At dinnertime, we still weren't all that hungry after our sumptuous repast at La Salita, so we fixed one of our signature Thai salads with Korean chicken in it for a light meal. 

I was still thinking about the show we saw in the planetarium a couple of days ago, where we learned that we had forgotten some of our meager knowledge of astronomy. When it was nearly dark, I suggested we go stargazing and see if we could identify some of the planets, stars and constellations we had seen in the show. Sandy eagerly agreed, so we hopped in the car and turned westbound out of the RV park onto route 66. In about five miles, we found a little-traveled side road, upon which we turned and drove a short distance before parking and turning off the lights. 

Once it was fully dark, we could make out the Big Dipper and Little Dipper, even though there was a half moon out and we weren't far enough from the city to achieve the ideal blackness we would have liked. We also learned from the planetarium show that we would have the good fortune of being able to see four planets this evening: Venus, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars. We could make out Jupiter and Mars, but Venus had already set by the time we were parked. We weren't sure about Saturn, as it wasn't immediately distinguishable.

Then I remembered that there were apps for the iPhone that would give you a map of the night sky, so I quickly downloaded SkyGuide. What came up on the screen was certainly worth more than the $2.99 I paid for the app. 

The app knows where you are and, as you move your phone around the sky, the names of the major stars and planets appear on the screen along with a depiction of the constellations and an artist's rendering of them. Not only that, but the app plays soft ethereal music as you enjoy the quiet starry darkness around you. Coolest thing I've seen in a long time!

The clear night skies are a very appealing part of the great southwest for us. Sandy and I still recall a moonless winter night years ago when we were driving along a country road near Flagstaff. I happened to notice that the stars seemed brighter than usual, so we stopped and turned off the lights and lay back on the hood of the car. The black sky was ablaze with a million points of light, and the Milky Way was easily visible. It was like nothing we had ever seen, and we stayed there in utter amazement until the cold drove us back into the car. We're hoping to see something like that again now that we have this cool new app on the phone. 

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day. 

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