Not The Best Public Relations
Unlike many of the abandoned places in New Mexico, I actually remember when this gas station was operational. Given it's location on a busy section HWY 550 north of Bernalillo, it's hard to imagine that they didn't have enough business to stay open.
I'll tell you this though...
I only ever stopped for gas there once. When it was open, there was all kinds of fun stuff on the outside of the building, including a really cool antique Dr. Pepper sign. I was parked at a gas pump, planning to buy a full tank of gas plus snacks and drinks from the store inside, but first I wanted to grab a quick photo of the Dr. Pepper sign. Camera in hand, I made it about half way across the parking lot when the proprietor of the business burst through the doors like the Tasmanian devil, arms flailing and screaming like a tornado that I can't take photos because we're on the (Zia) reservation.
Ok, I get that the gas station is on a reservation (and I have many posts about how not to make an unwelcome ass of yourself with a camera), BUT it's a gas station that is clearly set up to attract tourist activity. It's not a private residence, or a church, or a cemetery and since when does a Dr. Pepper sign constitute a sacred native american artifact?
Needless to say, I left without buying anything and barely made it to Bernilillo on fumes. Never went back.
A Career In The Film Industry
Some of you may recognize the Big Chief Gas Station Market from it's appearance in the show, Breaking Bad. Jesse stops here in the motor home to buy gas & cigarettes and convinces the clerk to accept a dime bag of blue meth as payment. Later, Hank has the bright idea of reviewing the surveillance footage from the ATM in the parking lot to identify the make and model of the RV.
In other film news, from time to time my cousin works on movie sets and I recently found out that he is the one who repainted the "Big Chief" sign (in the photo above) for this location's use in a movie.
All photos shot with Motorola Moto X4 and edited with Snapseed.
Is It Real Or Is It Hollywood?
Located around the southern end of the Manzano Mountain Range, Mountainair, New Mexico is not exactly a bustling metropolis. To the contrary, population and the number of open businesses seem to have declined since my previous visit which was about ten years ago. Because of this, there are plenty of abandoned buildings to photograph but are they really what they appear to be?
I was told by a Mountainair resident that the first two photos in this blog post were never what they appear to be. The Grey Hound Trading Post (complete with the grey hound bus company logo) and the Tomahawk Service Station were never these things but the buildings were made to look this way because they were movie sets. So, at least something interesting happens in Mountainair from time to time.
What's Up With This Place?
I have never seen the Shaffer Hotel open for business but the hotel and dining room currently appear to be under renovation so maybe its on the comeback trail. There are many truly odd things about this property including, but not limited to, the swastika motif and the most peculiar stone work wall.
Now, before you get all indignant about the swastikas, understand that this hotel was built in 1923 - before the swastika became the most universally recognized symbol of racism and hate. Prior to World War Two, the swastika had an entirely different meaning to many people. Several Native American cultures, including the Hopi and the Navajo used the swastika as a symbol of peace and goodwill. The swastikas on the Shaffer Hotel were intended to welcome visitors to a friendly place, which just goes to show that you can't make assumptions in the absence of context.
I found a really great newspaper article Valencia County News-Bulletin about the Shaffer Hotel and the history of the Shaffer family in general. I highly recommend giving it a read byCLICKING HERE.
But Wait, There's More
Clem "Pop" Shaffer didn't just build the hotel and dining room, he also made this super weird/cool/creepy stone work fence.
And then there's these other buildings... I don't know if they were part of the hotel and used for something else but there are several beautiful stone buildings on the property. Currently they are all abandoned and boarded up but there are gaps in the boards so I was still able to get a couple interior shots through the windows. Don't worry, no buildings were tresspassed in the making of this blog post. ;)
Punta De Agua, New Mexico
Punta de Agua is a very small town between Mountainair and the Quari Mission Ruins. There's not much to see here but there is this ancient church and cemetery. The Church is called San Vicente de Paul, established in 1878.
Manzano Mountain Range
The drive from Los Lunas to Mountainair includes stunning views of the entire Manzano Mountain Range. I live at the north end of these mountains so it's not too often that I get to see the south end.
All photos shot with Motorola MotoX4 and edited with Snapseed.
Abandoned For 350 Years
The Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument in New Mexico consists of three sites: Quarai, Abo, and Gran Quivira. Quarai and Abo are fairly close together and both are within easy driving distance of the town of Mountainair while the Gran Quivera site is farther south on HWY 55.
I've always felt a special affinity for Quarai. It's easy to see why people would've wanted to live in this area. The ruins are surrounded by lush grass, wild roses, and towering Cottonwood trees (that are probably as old as the ruins). Beyond that the landscape gives way to beautiful desert mountains that provided the stone for the architecture. There several are hiking trails that are not terribly long or difficult should one feel so inclined to go for a walk.
It's important to note that this site was inhabited by native people for hundreds of years prior to arrival of the Spanish in 1598 and subsequent forced construction of this church. Needless to say, life here was probably better before Onate showed up and brought the inquisition with him.
All three Salinas Pueblo Missions were abandoned in the 1670's and the surviving inhabitants assimilated into neighboring pueblos.
To see all of my posts from the Salinas Pueblo Missions,click here.
The Best Photo I Never Shot
You really have to appreciate the scale of the structure when you first enter it. The church is huge and I don't think that photos do it justice. When Johnpaul and I walked through the entrance, I immediately felt eyes on me and looked up to see two beautiful owls perched about three quarters of the way up on the right hand side. They looked to be a mamma and her almost grown chick staring down at us with their saucer-sized peepers. And guess what I didn't have? That's right, I didn't have my "real camera" or real telephoto lens needed to get this shot. I was planning on shooting the location with my phone and never considered the possibility of encountering owls. I zoomed in as much as I could but it's not close enough and of course the resolution is crap due to the digital zoom. I call this The Best Photo I Never Shot. The owls watched us the entire time we were there but they never left their perch on the church wall. The entire trip was worth while just for this moment.
All photos shot with Motorola MotoX4 and edited with Snapseed.
I am DeAnna Vincent, fine art and portrait photographer in Los Lunas, New Mexico. These are the photos from my everyday adventures.