El Vado Motel

El Vado

Didn’t have time to commune with nature today. As soon as I got off work, I came home, put the dogs out, and threw together a hurried dinner so I could be in front of Ron’s computer by 6 p.m. to watch the Albuquerque City Council meeting, where the fate of the beautiful and historic El Vado Motel (pictured above) was discussed. Visit Ron’s blog for details. I posted the results of the vote (7 to 1 in favor of city landmark status for El Vado) and am working up details as fast as I can.

In the meantime, here are photos of El Vado from my trip out there in October, a week or so before it closed:

Em and Jerry

Me taking a picture of Jerry Ueckert taking a picture of me during a tour of one of the rooms. (What’s that line from Catcher in the Rye about monkeys watching monkeys?) The owner at the time, the late Sam Kassam, let us in to document the details for posterity.


El Vado was built in the Pueblo Deco architectural style. It’s a stunning building and operated continuously from 1937 until its current owner, developer Richard Gonzales, closed it last November.


The fireplace in the office is just breathtaking. And look at the vigas. And the light. I wish I had the money; I’d buy the place and use that fireplace room as a studio when I wasn’t busy turning over rooms.


The current owner claims the place is a wreck. Do these photos look like images of a wreck to you? Because they certainly don’t look that way to me.

Pueblo Deco

The attached carports are also historically significant. You only find attached carports or garages on motels of a certain vintage — primarily late ’30s and early ’40s — and they’re a dying breed. Classic car owners love this particular amenity, as it helps protect their beautiful babies from the elements.

Thanks to the wisdom of Albuquerque’s city officials and the enthusiasm of Route 66 aficionados from around the world who flooded the city with letters of support for El Vado, it is now under the protection of a city ordinance that makes it illegal to issue a demolition permit for the property until after June 1, when it becomes a city landmark. Landmark status doesn’t guarantee a building protection in perpetuity, but it makes it much harder for someone to come in and tear it down. It certainly carries more legal weight than a listing on the National Register of Historic Places (which El Vado has had for many years, but which is basically just a nice honor that makes it eligible for federal preservation grants but does nothing to protect it from shortsighted developers with bulldozers).


Productive day

I wish I’d thought to take before-and-after pictures of the garage this afternoon. We scheduled a large-item pickup for Tuesday, so we spent a big chunk of our Sunday afternoon cleaning. Ron helped me move some heavy stuff out of the garage, and then he went out to the garden to rip out some old fencing and last year’s tomato stakes while I sorted boxes, assembled shelves, put things away, and swept up enough leaves, sawdust, and wood shavings to make a small tree. I know where the sawdust and shavings came from, but I don’t know how that many dead leaves ended up on the floor of my garage.

Anyway, I now have all my storage containers and shelves lined up neatly along one wall; my Wave bag is in a corner, waiting to be filled with water so I can take out my frustrations on it; and as soon as we move my workbench, I will have a workshop on one side of the room and an open space in the middle where I can roller skate, assuming my skates — which I found on the floor under some tools — are not infested with spiders. (I have to figure out how to check them without risking a brown recluse bite. I expect this project will involve our bee suit….)

We have a huge flock of sparrows that like to play in the tree beside the garage. They were just chirping and jumping around up there the whole time we were working. Very cute.

According to my Waterman and Hill-Traveller’s Companion, bluebirds should be arriving in Southern Illinois, woodchucks and tiger salamanders are mating, and we’re about two weeks away from spring peeper and chorus frog season. (Note to self: Find excuse to go home for a weekend when the frogs start singing in Giant City.)

Oh, and the Cubbies’ pitchers and catchers report to spring training a week from Thursday. I’ve got to find a Baskin-Robbins somewhere and have a scoop of rainbow sherbet in a sugar cone — my favorite pretending-it’s-summer treat — to celebrate. 🙂

Walking the dog

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, will make you more conscious of nature than taking a walk with a natural-born hunter.

I ran with Suzanne on the river trail this morning. Songdog joined us this time.

When we got to Suzanne’s, Song directed my attention to a trio of squirrels that were playing in the front yard. Fortunately, I saw them before we got out of the car, so he didn’t have a chance to chase them.

I got kind of annoyed with him when he got sidetracked and drifted in front of me, tripping me, a couple of times on our walk, but he was really very well-behaved … especially considering the amount of information that constantly bombards his senses and distracts him.

In the wild, canids’ survival depends on their ability to find and capture prey … so Song is hard-wired to be infinitely more sensitive to nature, in all its madcap glory, than I am. He notices the birds. He notices the squirrels. He perks up his ears at the slightest noise. He detects the most subtle odor and inhales deeply to try and figure out what it is.

If he could talk, he could tell me the species and probably the identity of every creature that ever left its scent on the trees in front of Suzanne’s house. He could tell me exactly how many different types of animals and edible plants can be found along the trail. He could identify every creature living in the river. And that’s just what his nose tells him.

This morning, he overcame a host of distractions — Strange people, seagulls, other dogs, a mockingbird, a leaf blowing across our path, and a vast array of sounds and smells I can’t even begin to imagine, let alone detect — and trotted along at heel for three miles, with only a couple of momentary lapses.

Sometimes dogs amaze me.


Iggy babies?

So I looked in the worm bin again tonight. It looks like some kind of worm swingers’ club in there. This time two days ago, I had never seen worms mate. Tonight, I look in the bin, and they’re all over each other like a bunch of teenagers at the drive-in.

I am, of course, delighted. Their bedding looks a little too wet — especially the lower layers, which are mostly castings, which I need to harvest soon — but apparently they like it. I hope they have lots of babies so I can feed them lots more of my kitchen scraps. Tomorrow, we are going to find out how they like sweet potato peelings, as I am planning to make a batch of candied sweet potatoes and some stuffing for dinner tomorrow night.

Here is a picture of some of the worms:


I also took a picture of two tiny spiders that were hiding in the zipper part of the Ziploc bag that I am using to store my okra seeds. I need to find a safe place to release them. I don’t want them to starve to death in that bag (I see no signs of other bugs — just spiders), but I don’t want them running around my house, either. Tiny as they are, they are still arachnids, and I still am not cool with arachnids taking up residence in my home.

Anyway, here they are:


That’s about all I have to report today, aside from the usual pigeons hanging out above the Broken Arrow Expressway.


Seagulls and worms and tomatoes (oh, my!)

1. I saw a seagull circling the parking lot today at work. It was gorgeous.

2. I looked in the worm bin tonight. They have been busy chewing up the stuff I put in there (except the lettuce, which they continue to ignore) and have made a pretty good supply of castings. As I was checking their food and moisture levels, I saw a pair mating. I’ve never seen that before. I did not take their picture, as I was afraid the flash might bother them. I know how it disappoints you to miss out on the opportunity to view some gratuitous earthworm porn, but just imagine how you’d feel if some giant started flashing a blinding strobe into your bedroom just to satisfy some weirdo’s curiosity….

3. I spent about an hour this evening turning a dozen 32-ounce Gatorade bottles into terrariums for starting tomatoes. I planted two varieties: Early Girl and Mortgage Lifter. The Mortgage Lifter seeds are a couple of years old, so I planted extras to increase my chances of germination.

It’s really about two weeks too early to start tomatoes, but I figured I’d go first and see how these mini-greenhouses perform while you start rounding up Gatorade bottles. If I have healthy seedlings by Feb. 15 (seed-starting time in my zone), then you’ll know this project is worth the trouble. If you decide to try this at home, here are the instructions:

Rinse out the Gatorade bottles and remove the labels.

Put a garden trowel full of perlite, vermiculite or small gravel in the bottom of each bottle for drainage, then add a scoop or two of potting soil.

Plant three or four seeds in each bottle, using a chopstick or fondue fork or something to poke the seeds down into the soil about a quarter-inch.

Give them a little water, cap the bottles, and use a Sharpie to write the varieties on the lids.

The finished project will look like this:

Tomato starts

Obviously you should keep these in a sunny window and watch the moisture level to be sure it’s not too wet or too dry. Add water or remove the lids to let the moisture evaporate as necessary.

I am going to try an experiment next week. Tomatoes supposedly love the color red, so I am going to try to find some sports drinks with red labels and leave the labels on when I do my next round of seed starts. I guess if you left your labels on the bottles and drank different flavors of Gatorade, you could use the labels to sort of color-code the different tomato varieties you planted.

Hopefully this will get my plants off to a good start.



The yard was a busy place today. I came home for lunch and spent a few minutes pulling dead plants out of the garden and harvesting seeds from the dried okra pods. Tiny spiders kept running out of the pods. I guess they were hibernating in there.

After work, I found a box from my parents on the front porch. This was inside:

Frog statue

Mom knows I’m nuts about frogs. If you look closely, you can see that this one is saying grace over the bug he is having for dinner. I put him next to the pond, where I hope I will be seeing a lot of real frogs this spring.

While I was outside, I found another surprise: a dandelion blooming next to the house.


Weed, schmeed. It’s pretty. And it’s an edible plant, although I haven’t bothered cooking with dandelions yet. I’ve heard they taste good when you batter them and deep-fry them. (Quick: Show me something that doesn’t taste good when you batter and deep-fry it.)

Skittles, my neighbor’s hilarious pit bull mix, wanted to leap over the fence and come play, but she couldn’t, because her owner had her tied up to thwart her escape attempts. When Skittles gets really frustrated, she goes to the end of her leash and jumps up and down, which cracks me up to no end. Since I had the camera in my hand anyway, I couldn’t resist recording her performance for posterity. It’s not a great shot (too dark out to speed up the shutter enough to catch a leaping dog in midair), but you get the idea:


Scout hates Skittles. She also hates it when Songdog pesters her, which he was doing while I was trying to take her picture … hence the disgusted look on her face:


There’s a magnolia tree down the street that looks absolutely gorgeous. I don’t know why I never noticed it before. I love magnolias. I can’t wait to see it bloom this spring.

The Japanese honeysuckle vine is trying to sneak back into the garden. I’ll have to trim it back so it doesn’t creep through the fence and take over this spring. I know it’s an invasive species and I’m supposed to hate it, but honeysuckle blossoms smell so nice, I just can’t bring myself to work very hard at eradicating this vine. As long as it stays on the back side of the fence and doesn’t choke out my tomatoes, I think we can coexist peaceably. Besides, our honeybees love it.

Gotta run. I have to rustle up something for dinner before I leave for church.