It is New Mexico state law that anyone drinking alcohol must be over 21 years of age. Neither Chris nor I are under any delusions that we look anything like that young. Consequently we were not surprised to be able to buy beer and other drinks in a number of places during the first few days of our trip. The friendly Buffalo Bar in Silver City happily served us beer and Jack Daniels; the Socorro Springs Brewery had no problem with us enjoying their brews both with and after our meal; and our hotel in Grants served us without a quibble. So imagine our surprise, and initial amusement, when a server in the Flying Star Café in Albuquerque asked to see ID when we ordered two beers with our burgers. It is a very long while since anyone questioned whether I was over 21! But the server was adamant – no ID, no beer. She did however offer to see if her manager would waive the rule, but the manager too was insistent. According to her, state laws meant that anyone serving alcohol to anyone had to ask for and see evidence that they were of legal drinking age. We pointed out that no one else had so far done so, but she said that she could lose her job if the police were to raid the restaurant and find anyone drinking without ID, so Chris popped back to the hotel (thankfully only a few minutes away) to get our passports. Just as well, as later that evening we were again asked to show them when going into a bar for a night-cap.
After that we made a point of taking them out each evening, but nowhere else did anyone seem to bother about this law, if law it was. In the end, only one other place asked for ID, and that was a small family-run restaurant in Alamogordo which had only recently got its license and was presumably being very carefully to do the right thing. On our return I checked the wording of the law, and found that as we had thought the premises who demanded our ID were being perhaps a little over zealous:
“All places that sell beer, wine or liquor have a duty to ask for identification for proof of age of all persons who appear to be and might be under the drinking age. All places have the right to refuse to sell alcohol to all persons who cannot show true proof of age, even if that person is 21 years or older.”
Note that phrase – “persons who appear to be and might be under the drinking age”. And look at my photo. Really, do I look under 21?! I am flattered if you think so, but I know it’s not true. Nevertheless, if you plan to drink alcohol anywhere in New Mexico, do carry ID - just in case.
If you are at all afraid of heights, not in good physical shape, or not used to very hot weather in the summer, it might not be a great idea to climb up to the Alcove house at Bandelier.
It was very hot and dusty when we climbed up there and we noticed several other people got uncomfortable after the first ladder and went back down. We hike and climb up mountains all the time so it did not bother us.
On the way out, there were a ton of firetrucks and ambulances at the entrance getting ready to transport someone out. We never found out what happened, but I had this horrible feeling someone fell off one of those ladders...so please be careful.
We were here at the very end of May with plans to white water raft and mountain bike. It snowed and sleeted every day we were there. the locals warned us that the weather in northern New Mexico can vary by the hour...kind of like my native Boston.
The roads in New Mexico can be hazardous because of animals: The wildlife in New Mexico is great (keep binoculars and cameras handy for pulling off to the side and taking pictures), but keep an eye out for dangerous conditions! You can usually spot wildlife at night because of the reflection of their eyes from your headlights, so watch for them or that "eye flash", especially in the mountains (bear, elk, deer) and plains (antelope, coyote).
The passes are well known for falling rocks, so please pay attention. Even if rocks don't actually fall ON YOU, they may have fallen IN FRONT of you before you round that bend. Some mountain passes in New Mexico are known as dangerous for a reason, no matter how much people have tried to make them safe. If the pass says 30 MPH, follow that speed limit and go even slower if you're not sure. This is not NASCAR! By the way, in years where there is lots of run-off due to heavy snows, some of the roads in low-lying passes will have water flowing over them. Treat these like you would any normal flood plains, even though you're in the mountains.
I've read three warnings about altitude sickness in New Mexico, and none of them mentioned alcohol. Because many people are going there to ski, enjoy the outdoors, and have fun, alcohol is often involved. Unless you are acclimated because you live there, or you just plain get lucky, you will probably suffer headaches, fatigue, and/or extreme inebriation because of alcohol consumption.
The most important things to remember are to drink plenty of water before you go skiing (snowboarding, golfing, snowmobiling, fishing, etc.), eat when you're hungry, and take it easy when you're not hitting the snow. Sounds simple, right? But it's true. You can drink alcohol, but make sure you have plenty of water, food, and rest in between. You'd be surprised how many people get dehydrated, light-headed, extremely drunk (even with their usual amount of beer/alcohol intake), disoriented, sick, or develop hypothermia.
And for those of you who wonder why I mentioned golf, which is usually played in warmer months, don't forget that we are talking about altitude, not weather. Altitude sickness can happen any time you overextend yourself and you don't get rest, water, and food.
Relive Nazi Germany where the SS stop and search the cars along the highway!!! New Mexico has the same thrill and excitement as the Border Patrol divert all cars off I-10 to randomly search for illegal immigrants and contraband. Personally, I don't need the federal government looking over me that closely. There must be a better way to catch illegals rather than trampling my civil rights.
Use caution with the weather in Arizona! Sand storms are common. Low visibility makes headlights essential...if the visibility is minimal, get as far off the highway as possible. If you just pull over to the edge of the road, you are asking to get rear-ended. Find the nearest exit!
There are a lot of speed traps in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Most people just speed anyways and manage to not get a ticket but that's because they know the officer or some crap like that. The police love to pull over out of towners and give them a high priced ticket. If you argue and say that everyone around you was going the same speed-they won't hesitate to up the price. (my friend was visiting and got a $400 ticket for going 30 in a 25 when everyone else was going 40-45). Cops here are crooked and let their buddies get away with anything--even the cops themselves have been caught drunk driving. Don't get me started on this........just watch your speed.
Drunk driving is a huge problem in New Mexico. Actually, in some communities, public intoxication is so extreme that it even shocks this experienced ER nurse.
In Albuquerque, new laws have been passed that make the fines and legal ramifications of driving while itoxicated much more severe.
For a first time offense, your car car be taken and sold. To maintain a driver's license, you will need to install an interlock ignition (not cheap) - this device is a breathalizer that must be used before the car will start. If you don't 'pass' the testing in the car, it won't start up. Jail time and fines can add significantly to your problems if you are caught.
There are so many options to choose from instead of taking this risk .... bus, taxi, or a designated driver.So, take care of yourself, and others - don't drink and drive!
Addendum Dec, 2005: DRUNK BUSTERS!!! The New Mexico State Police now have a drunk driving hotline for other drivers to let the police know of a potential problem. The number is 877-DWI-HALT (877-394-4258). I for one hope this helps keep dangerous drivers off the road before they kill an innocent.
Along the bosque of the Rio Grande are irrigation ditches. Farmers and ranchers pay fees to have this water diverted off the river to water crops and cattle. This diversion is accomplished through irrigation chanels that we locals call ditches. Some ditches are deep, some run fast - all are potentially lethal to those silly enough to try and swim them.
Water levels are controled from far distances, run-off contributes to the flow. As a result, a seemingly calm ditch can raise it's water levels and become a raging torrent without warning. Additionally, since the ditch banks tend to be steep, once inside the ditch, it can be quite difficult to get out.
Another problem for non-locals is that you may not recognize the difference between an irrigation ditch and an arroyo. The arroyos are natural features that usually accomodate run off from the mountains and torrential rains. In more urban areas, they have been paved. Though usually dry, when the water begins flowing, they become lethal white rapids. (This is where the legend of La Llorona probably came from)
So, as you can see ... people CAN drown out here in the desert - stay safe and don't play in the ditches!
If you are a bug enthusiast, you won't want to miss out on all the fun of spotting one of these tarantula's in the wild. This one managed to move into a hole dug for a fort post ... we relocated it before digging deeper. Though tarantulas are poisonous, just the sight will your prompt you to keep your distance!
When wandering more rural areas of New Mexico, you'll have the opportunity to come across various forms of wildlife - mostly harmless, but occassionally harmful.
You'll see signs instructiong you to remain on the paths to respect the privacy of the local snakes ..... HELLO!!! Snakes don't READ! But fortunately, they do tend to avoid areas of foot traffic, and our wanderings interrupt their naps. Therefore staying on the path is helpful and bushwacking is highly discouraged.
The following information on firstaid for snakebites was obtained from the University of Maryland Medical Center website:
Call for emergency assistance immediately if someone has been bitten by a snake. Responding quickly in this type of emergency is crucial.
While waiting for emergency assistance:
Wash the bite with soap and water.
Immobilize the bitten area and keep it lower than the heart.
Cover the area with a clean, cool compress or a moist dressing to minimize swelling and discomfort. Monitor vital signs.
If a victim is unable to reach medical care within 30 minutes, the American Red Cross recommends:
Apply a bandage, wrapped two to four inches above the bite, to help slow the venom. This should not cut off the flow of blood from a vein or artery - the band should be loose enough to slip a finger under it.
A suction device can be placed over the bite to help draw venom out of the wound without making cuts. These devices are often included in commercial snake bite kits.
Once a medical facility is reached, the medical team will need to know animal and drug allergies, as well as the type of snake. This is where a cool head is helpful, as you can obtain this information (or provide it to someone else) in an emergency. If you don't know the type of snake, describe it - most local caregivers know their local flora and fauna well enough to figure it our from there :)
If you choose to wander off the beaten track and onto the dirt roads ...... be cautious! Have an idea of where you are, and where you are going as most of these back roads have no signs and directions are provided by odometer usage and landmarks ...... like, "The 1st right after the old washing machine by the side of the road".
Washboard roads are hard on your suspension, but easy to drive. Less kept roads have hidden boulders that can hand up the vehicle's frame and bring you back to reality as you try to figure out how to get unstuck without cell phone service. Sandy roads are deeper than they appear initially - As this local discovered himself. I think these guys were probably out and about to procure plants for their lanscaping business :)
In 2000, the Cerro Grande fires near Los Alamos made the national news. In 2003 there were horrible fires within the City of Albuquerque. They were centered along a strip of green that follows the Rio Grande - AKA: the Bosque.
The same day that the worst of these fires evacuated many folks from their homes and businesses in Albuquerque, another brushfire erupted a few miles north, in Corrales.
My brother walked out the back door w/ 2 friends, they saw a smoldering spot beneath an old tree along the ditch. He went in to grab a cup of water to put it out ... but the time he got back to the tree, there were flames. He ran to get a large water bottle, and by then the flames were in the tree and spreading fast. He called 911.
There is a lot more to the story. But for now, the rapid response to the call, and the fact that 2 fire agencies arrived, brought this fire under control before it spread like the fires 6 miles south. As it was, my parent's home was damaged, my sister's room destroyed, as were several sheds, windows were blown out of the neighbor's homes, and they also sustained structural damage. Luckily no lives (human or animal) were lost .... though the toad population again took a hit - they died over the next few weeks.
My parent's centuries old adobe home was repaired, and the majority of the damage cleared away ... the only remaining testiment of this horrible day is the scarred tree out by the ditch.
They THINK this particular fire was started by a stray cigarrette - so take this warning seriously and BE CAREFUL!
If you're driving around or through New Mexico, always bring enough water in case you get stuck. In hot weather, the engine can overheat; in winter, the mountain passes in northern NM are sometimes closed due to snow; and in the spring, I-40, the main east-west artery of New Mexico, is often closed between the Arizona border and the town of Grants due to high winds & dust storms. People have been stuck for hours, even overnight because of high winds. Even if the roads are open, strong gusts of wind (40-50 mph sometimes) can blow your car right into the next lane, so stay alert.
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