Las Cruces, NM was a short side trip for us between El Paso and Albuquerque.  We had opted to attend the Monaco Pre-rally as SOBs (some other brand) to meet up with old Monaco friends rather than attend the Holiday Rambler Pre-rally.  The President of the Holiday Rambler Chapter of FMCA had already settled in at Las Cruces to make final preparations.   We stopped along with Hans and Cindy as it would be an opportunity to view the new Holiday Rambler coaches.  The four of us had a great time exploring Old Mesilla, NM.  In the early 1800's, Mesilla was the largest town and trade center between San Antonio and San Diego.  Billy the Kid stood trial for murder in the Mesilla Courthouse.  This area is abundant with pecan trees.  Rows of trees go on for miles.   Just south of Mesilla on Route 28 you will find Stahmann Farms -- the largest pecan producers in the world (4000 acres in NM and 2000 in Australia.   There are third and fourth generation workers currently employed on the farm, in the factory or in the stores.  The Field and Factory tour was fun with a reward at the end -- a tour of the candy factory and samples of a fresh batch of pecan brittle.    (Thanks to Cindy & Hans for the great pictures of our Stahmann's tour.)  The gift shop was a "candy store" for every kind of brittle, syrup, sauce and flavoring -- just as long as it's made from pecans.  (

        1                                2                                3
1 -- Cindy & Hans;   2 -- Processing Table;   3 -- Samples for Everyone!

Cindy and Hans headed North to Santa Fe for the American Coach Pre-rally while we weren't far behind headed to Albuquerque for the Monaco Pre-rally.

The Monaco Pre-rally was held on the grounds of the Sandia Pueblo just north of Albuquerque.  The trip was a little over two hundred miles through the NM mountains and desert.  Just about 40 miles south of the city, we noticed black clouds rolling in and being the naďve Easterners that we are, thought the clouds were rain.  Well, surprise, surprise. . . it was a hail storm.  The coach had never been in snow in New England!   Sunny weather existed on both sides of this hailstorm that lasted about 3 miles.

Hail Storm NM

Monaco Pre-Rally

The Monaco Pre-rally was held on the grounds of the Sandia Pueblo just north of Albuquerque on I-25.  There were over 600 coaches in attendance and the logistics of “watering” and feeding over 1200 people created challenges.   Coaches were parked on the casino grounds as well as the old airport runways with shuttles running between the two locations.  The 2005 Dynasty and 2005 Executive were debuted at the rally.  The entertainment included The Drifters (not the originals) and a comedian.   The comedian was great!  His best joke of the evening – “This is a great rally but I have to admit. . .I’ve never seen so many homeless people wearing Rolex watches!"

In New Mexico, each of the Indian Pueblos has their own casino and this was no exception.  We spent one evening gambling and had a great time playing with the $5 in free chips that the casino included in our goody bags.  Remember that hail storm that we drove through??? Well, the storm dropped snow on the mountains surrounding Albuquerque.  It was very strange for the temperature to be in the 60s and see all that snow on the mountain.

Pre-Rally Parking                  Snow "On the Ridge"

It was great to see old friends from New Hampshire and fellow FMCA Granite Staters.  Shirley and Jerry Goulet had traveled to Albuquerque with Judy and Al Fuller.    If you've been to a Pre-Rally, you know the there is usually a Happy Hour with Open Bar and the rules are "two at a time."  Jerry and Ron complied with the rule; but, as you can see, they just went up multiple times!  Ron found a new friend who just loves men with "flesh colored hair" and every time she passed  behind his chair she couldn't resist. . .

            1                                             2                                    3
1 -- Granite Staters; 2 -- Two At a Time?; 3 -- Love That Shiny Head

Exploring Albuquerque, NM

We had a few days between the Monaco Pre-Rally and the FMCA Rally so spent some time exploring Albuquerque.  We visited the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, the Natural History Museum and explored the section of Route 66 that passes through Old Albuquerque.

21st Century Todd & Buzz

The Indian Pueblo Cultural Centers offers dance exhibits on Sunday afternoons.  The young man (Dancer Apprentice) demonstrated a native dance using four ceremonial rings forming the wings of an Eagle.  The next dancer (Mentor) demonstrated the same dance using 10 ceremonial rings.  The Mentor had won competitions for his dancing expertise as did the Squaw Dancer and the Chief.  The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is "recognized as a significant part of the oldest American culture, Pueblo Indian history and artifacts are displayed in the museum's many exhibits. The Pueblo Indians have maintained their identity and cultural continuity and how they have accomplished this is amply demonstrated in the variety and scope of these presentations.  Tracing the origins, spoken traditions, art and craftsmanship and the cultural development of these vital people, the museums are a showcase of the creative adaptations that have ensured the Pueblo Indians' survival."  (

            1                                        2                                        3                                4                                5
1 -- Indian Pueblo;   2 -- Dancer Apprentice;   3 -- Mentor;   4 -- Squaw Dancer;  5 -- Eagle Dancer

FMCA International Rally/Balloon Fiesta Park, Albuquerque, NM

The FMCA Rally was the week of March 15th with the majority of the coaches parked at Balloon Fiesta Park on level grass and everyone had plenty of space to put out awnings and chairs.   We were parked with the Goulets and Fullers and put together a couple great happy hours!  Service vendors were available at Balloon Fiesta Park but the merchandise vendors, coach displays and much of the daily entertainment was at the Expo in Albuquerque (Fair grounds).    While the facilities at both locations were good, we didn’t meet anyone who liked the idea of having to commute back and forth since it took about ˝ hour one-way.  Entertainment included John Davidson and The Gatlin Brothers.  The last evening featured a Balloon Burn that was spectacular.  The balloons were tethered to the ground and fired the propane burners in unison to create a light show at dusk.  

        1                                    2                                        3                                            4                                    5                                    6
1 -- Welcome FMCA;   2 -- View from a Balloon;   3 -- View from 400 ft;   4 -- Fairgrounds;    5 & 6 -- Balloon Burn Event

We were adventurous and took a hot air balloon ride.  Earlier in the week we were awaken by the sound of a balloon burn within feet of the coach.   There were ten or twelve tour balloon taking off each morning all week.  You had to be at the launch field at 6:00 am and be prepared to be a crew volunteer for your pilot.  This turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip and we'd highly recommend the experience to anyone.  The pilot maneuvered the balloon so that the winds took us south/southwest flying over the Rio Grande River.  He brought the balloon down in a field between a power line and tree line with about 10 feet to spare.

7 am Alarm

   1                                    2                                    3                                    4                                    5                                    6

7                                8                                    9

1 -- Laying out the Balloon; 2 -- Attaching to the Basket; 3 -- Inflating the Balloon; 4 -- Righting the Basket; 5 -- View of Albuquerque;
6 -- View of the Rio Grande & other Balloons that launched with us;
 7 --Our Shadow at 400 feet;  8 -- Stowing the Basket for Transport;  9 -- The Pilot and "Crew"