Sunday, May 22, 2005

A Tale of Two Ho's

While cruising up Central Avenue on our way to visit friends on Albuquerque’s west mesa this past Saturday evening, my wife marveled at the restored neon saguaro cactus sign that demarks the Westward Ho Motel. I sighed under the weight of knowing that I have been sitting on that landmark as potential blogging material for some time now, yet unsure how to best present it to my readers. Luckily, I had removed the top of the jeep only minutes before the drive, so my sigh was drowned out by a combination of rushing warm air, the roar of tires across pavement, and Paul Westerberg’s vocals on the Replacements "Swingin' Party” issuing forth from the speakers.

I understand that the Westward Ho Motel was constructed in 1948 and was one of the first impressions of Albuquerque that eastbound Route 66 afforded visitors. I really don’t know a whole lot about this motel other than it looks like it must have been a welcome sight to innumerable road weary travelers in the 1950s and 1960s. For many, Tucumcari would have to wait for at least another day.

I suspect that like many Route 66 motels and roadside attractions, the Westward Ho Motel must have seen a marked decrease in business with the construction of Interstate-40. Certainly the property fell into varied states of disrepair, yet failed to kick the old bucket. Just prior to the turn of the century, the U.S. Congress passed the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Act. A brilliant plan to use funds designated by that act to restore old neon signs along the Mother Road was proposed by Elmo Baca, and accepted by the National Park Service. Thus, the postcard-worthy saguaro cactus shines brightly for all to enjoy each and every evening.

Although separated by a distance of some 450 miles, Albuquerque’s Westward Ho Motel reminds me of another personal significant cultural property… the Westward Ho located at 618 North Central Avenue in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona. That Westward Ho is inarguably one of the Valley of the Sun’s most legendary landmarks having pampered the world’s elite and famous since it was built in 1928. Today the Westward Ho serves to house some 300 elderly low-income residents. It’s once grand lobby now smells distinctly of stale perfume, forgotten cigars and undiscovered urine. It is simply fabulous!

For the past 12 years, it has been my dream to retire to the Westward Ho when the time comes… assuming, of course, that it is still available to old people in a few years. I’ve “heard” rumors that they are in the process of restoring the old hotel’s “Thunderbird Room,” that has been vacant since the hotel closed in the 1970s. My fear is that it will become a popular hangout and someone will recognize the fabulous structure for what it is, and convert it to luxury condos forever ruining it with the stink of money and corruption.

Certainly if the walls of either of these fantastic buildings could type, they would be capable of producing a blog worth reading.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

home sweet historic home

So, you've read all about the upcoming Huning Highland Historic District's "Mother’s Day Historic House Tour" at the Duke City Fix, and have come to me for more details and photos...

Smart move!

Historic home tours include the following properties:

816 Silver SE

209 High NE

111 Walter SE

123 Walter SE

301 Arno SE

418 Arno SE

Vintage cars will be displayed at the following historic gas station locations:

320 Central SE

601 Coal SE

Gardens available for touring include:

201 Edith NE

501 Walter SE

416 Iron SE

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

put 'em in coach

The combination of this less than ideal weather and the fact that the Isotopes are in the middle of a road trip makes me begin to think that just maybe spring hasn’t truly settled into the Albuquerque area yet. Then I begin to wonder if maybe I jumped the gun and planted my gourds and sweet corn too darned early. I think my grandfather used to consult both the Farmer’s Almanac and the other farmers at Riley’s Gas Station in the wee town of Chambersburg, Illinois before he put in his cash crops each year.

I have my fingers crossed that things will begin to heat up for good when the Isotopes return to the Duke City and kick off a 12-game homestand. First the New Orleans Zephyrs blow into the valley Friday night for two night and two day games. The Zephyrs are, of course, the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals (Major League Baseball’s “newest” ball club), so that should prove interesting enough.

Next, Robert Fick will lead the charge when the “nasty-boy” Portland Beavers (San Diego Padres) do their best to irritate both Isotopes players and fans alike. (If you don’t make it to any other ballgames this season, I highly recommend coming out to the park and catching at LEAST one of these games. And please, do not throw beer at Mr. Fick!)

The longest Isotopes homestand of the 2005 season wraps up the following weekend with four games with the Tacoma Rainiers. Many of the Rainiers players hope to be called up to play for the Seattle Mariners before the end of the year- or before they get traded to another team where they will have even less of an opportunity for promotion.

Hopefully the Isotopes will return to Albuquerque in a winning frame of mind. Outfielder Matt Padgett leads not only the team, but also the entire Pacific Coast League with his whopping Ted Williams-like .409 batting average. I’m predicting here and now that IF the bunny in right-centerfield is going to get bopped by a homerun this season, it will be during one of the next 12 home games… and probably by Matt (or perhaps big Mark Little).

Although the fans will be given freebies as they enter the park before most games, the only two promotions that really stand out include performances by Rockin’ Ray and the Amazing Skyy Dogs on Saturday, May 7th, and “Salute to Duck® Brand Duct Tape Night” on Thursday, May 12th.

The Isotopes just recently announced that they have been selected to host the 2007 Triple-A All-Star Game. Albuquerque is sure to shine in the spotlight as the 20th Triple-A All-Star Game is broadcast on ESPN2 on July 11th. The Triple-A All-Star Fiesta (sponsored by Sandia Casino) will feature the best minor league players from the Pacific Coast and International leagues as they face off in a home run derby, skills competitions, and the actual game itself. Players will also be available for autograph sessions and other activities that will be announced over the next 2 years, 2 months and 19 days (give or take a few hours).

Monday, May 02, 2005

who let the dawgs out?

Gee whiz, have I really not posted any blog entries since the last one about my visit to the racetrack? Would you believe that I got busy with baseball and gardening again? Well, those are my excuses. Unfortunately, I seem to have more excuses than I have ideas for interesting topics to blog about.

And to make sure that you don’t think that all I do now is spend my time betting on the ponies, here is a photo I snapped this Saturday at the Downs at Albuquerque. Although these little critters only raced some 50 to 60 feet, I was AMAZED at how quickly they covered that amount of ground after busting out of the gates like a pack of insane rats at a cheese convention.

(Don't forget to click on the images to see them full-sized.)

I also took this photograph of what I would describe as a “normal” horse between two of the horse races. My theory is that they keep “normal” horses around the track to help calm the high-spirited racehorses so they don’t jump the rails and trample the fans.

Certainly Albuquerque has been getting lots of national press this weekend with the arrival and quick departure of Atlanta native, Jennifer Wilbanks. It almost goes without saying (but I will anyway), that it is great news that she was found at the payphone in front of a local 7-11 store rather than stuffed in a dumpster behind the building. Too bad the television show “COPS” has been banned from filming any more episodes in our city, as that would have made for a fantastic episode. On a nearly related note, seeing her photos flashed all over the tube the past few days has reminded me that it is probably about time for my annual visit to the optometrist.

This blogger is left wondering whether Jennifer and her blushing fiancĂ© will be returning to Albuquerque this fall for the balloon fiesta. If so, hopefully they’ll be able to stay longer.