Day 12 – May 21

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On the road again, to quote Willie Nelson. George and I saw about 300 miles of New Mexico today, from Albuquerque to Artesia. We started out on Albuquerque’s Central Avenue, which includes the remnants of old Route 66.

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Lots of free-market association with this venerable old highway, including this sign for a Mexican restaurant. Sadly (to me, anyway) the old road takes you through some pretty sketchy stretches as you head east out of town. A little bit of Americana, I suppose.

Speaking of Americana, some clever highway engineers fashioned the rumble strips on Route 66 just east of Albuquerque to play “America the Beautiful!” I’m serious! There are a couple of small signs that suggest that you drive 45 mph in order to “hear the music.” No further explanation. When I drove 45 mph, we began to hear the car vibrate and soon recognized the melody. What a hoot! Then the guy in front of us slowed down and knocked us out of tune.

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New Mexico’s personality is ever changing, at least it appears that way from my vantage point behind the wheel. From vast stretches of endless scrub brush to towering mountains, back to barren flat lands.

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One very pleasant surprise is the area surrounding the small town of Cloudcroft. Located on top of a mountain within the Lincoln National Forest, this wooded wonderland reminds me more of east Tennessee than southern New Mexico. Lush pine forests, cattle grazing, fruit trees, and cool breezes. It appears like Brigadoon, then gone.

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We pulled in for the night in Artesia, about 50 miles shy of the Texas border. I was struck by several impressive pieces of public art, including this amazing bronze beauty commemorating the cattle drives of the 1880s. I think these longhorns were headed for the IHOP!

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Day 11 – May 20

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Adios, Ghost Ranch! George and I each had a great time and hope to return to this magical place in the desert of northern New Mexico. Special thanks to Layne Kalbfleisch for her vision and her kind hospitality during our stay. See you next time!

We started the day at a worship service, celebrating Pentecost Sunday. I led the group in singing “Spirit (Bend Close to Me)” – a song I wrote about 15 years ago with my dear friend Ralph Blizard. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBMMkXtXSs8

After lengthy farewells, George and I headed south to Albuquerque, where we met with Bill Groll, my Webmeister for the past decade and a half. Bill moved from Texas to New Mexico about 11 years ago, and we haven’t seen each other since. We had a swell visit and didn’t hardly mention business!

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We were the surprise recipients of a complimentary night at a beautiful Airbnb in Albuquerque. A woman and her daughter were with us at the Ghost Ranch, and they apparently felt some kinship toward my son George and me. In any event, they decided to treat us to a nice place to stay and a delicious meal. Thanks so much, Angela and Anna!

Day 10 – May 19

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Busy day at the Ghost Ranch! Saturday was our final full day at this wonderful desert oasis, and it seems we never stood still. Breakfast was at 7:30, I led the morning song session at 9, then had my songwriting class at 10. Actually my student, Ron, and I agreed to work separately from 10 – 11, so our class time really started at 11. We put our heads together and came up with a song by 3. Here are the lyrics:

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George was busy all day getting ready for the evening student and staff showcase. He is pictured above with his band, Black and Blue Bluegrass. He sang “Love’s Gonna Live Here” and played the mandolin. In the picture are (from the left) Tim on banjo, George on mandolin, Ellen on guitar, Cooper on bass, Betsy on banjo, Ruth on guitar and Lewis on fiddle. They did a fine job!

Day 9 – May 18

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Staring into the afternoon sun with my compadres Bill Kirchen (left) and Rob McNurlin. I’m having a blast working and hanging out with these guys!

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Bill Kirchen and Rob McNurlin lead the morning song session, along with Erin Youngberg on bass and her husband Aaron Youngberg on banjo. I am scheduled to lead this session tomorrow morning.

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Songwriting student Ron Walker performs at a bluegrass student coffeehouse session on Friday evening. I have enjoyed working with Ron this week. On Friday afternoon, Ron and I held our class nearby at the spectacular Echo Amphitheater, located about five minutes away from the Ghost Ranch. Very inspirational!

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Friday night dance at the Ghost Ranch. Rob and I traded off between the bass and guitar. Here I am on the bass, Mike Gallagher plays the banjo, Rob on acoustic guitar and Bill on electric guitar. This dance was a highlight of the week for me!

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George with his new hat. Tired boy after a busy day!

Day 8 – May 17

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Things were in full swing today at Ghost Ranch. Students and instructors are here from all over the country teaching and taking workshops in bluegrass guitar, mandolin, fiddle, banjo, honky tonk guitar, and songwriting as well as various arts and crafts. There is even a class in hiking! I am teaching the songwriting class. George, my travel buddy and photographer, is immersed in the mandolin class. He was too busy to take any new pictures today, but we can promise some fresh images tomorrow.

Check out www.ghostranch.org

 

Day 6 – May 15

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Onward and upward! Today was a brutal and beautiful travel day – the last for the next several days. George and I made our serpentine way from Aspen, Colorado, to Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. Take my word for it – there is no easy way! We thought we were lost several times.

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Remnants from another time dot the roadsides. George discovered this old bus at an abandoned drive-in theater.

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Please, officer, I am just trying to get to the Ghost Ranch. Yes, the Ghost Ranch. It’s like this place where, well, it’s hard to explain. Illegal, why no! You just make up songs, and learn to play the mandolin – no, that’s a musical instrument – and play honky tonk guitar. Well, no, it’s not really a bar. Oh, never mind, just write me the ticket!

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Made it!