Monday, August 24, 2015

Tips for getting the most out of Full-Tilt Fiesta Season

Chile. Art. Wine. Music.
Are you feeling overwhelmed by all the fiesta choices this weekend? You aren’t alone.
If you’d like a few tips to help you navigate Full-Tilt Fiesta Season (FTFS), you’ve come to the right place.
I’m a seasoned festival veteran, a fiesta pro, an FTFS Yoda. In fact, I literally coined the term and have been gratified that “Las Cruces Full-Tilt Fiesta Season” is regularly showing up in guide books and magazine features.
It was inspired by love of local fiestas and my World War II flying ace/aircraft engineer dad, who frequently used the term, which he picked up in the U.S. Army Air Corps, as a life lesson and strategy for living.
Going full tilt, literally with maximum force and speed, came to mean more to us. It was something greater than going all out. “Full tilt” also implied a certain passion, expertise, style and finesse.  That’s what we have here at FTFS Central.
Festivals may come and go, as the last year has shown, but I think most of us will agree that there always seems to be a good fiesta around when you need one, and sometimes there will be several.
Like this weekend.
That’s why I’m offering you some insider tips I’ve picked up both as an enthusiastic fiesta aficionado, and as a journalist who has sometimes been called upon to cover three or more fiestas in one day, and lived to tell about it. (And even had a good time in the process.)
First of all, do a little planning.  If you’re going with family, friends or out-of-town visitors, consider the preferences, ages, attention spans and other limitations, if any, of those involved. Unless maximum crowds and occasionally sitting in traffic jams is part of the fiesta experience you enjoy, develop some strategies to avoid peak crowd times. Check out festival websites for schedule times for your favorite band or activity. Buy tickets in advance to avoid lines and look for discounts.
Be prepared. Gas up, check the oil, make sure your transportation is in good repair and your AAA card is handy, if you have one. Charge your cell phone.
Safety first: Make sure your first aid kit is stocked up. A bandage in time can save a day of fun. Include insect repellent, moist wipes, hand-sanitizers, pain revievers and stomach remedies, if you can’t resist those funnel cakes and deep-fried everythings.  If you take prescription medications, take extras in case you’re stranded, and have a complete list of meds, dosages and physician contacts handy. If someone in your fiesta party has a chronic medical condition, it’s a good idea to make a list of urgent care medical facilities if you’re going to an unfamiliar community. Appoint a designated driver if anyone in your party is  planning to sample beer, wine or other libations.
We love fiesta food and drink, but bring water and snacks for the trip.
Dress for fiesta success. You want to look cute and impress your fellow fiesta animals, but consider the weather, time of day and length of time you’ll be in fiesta mode (including those aforementioned traffic jams). Essentials include a hat, comfortable shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen, and a complete change of clothes (including shoes: snap a sandal strap and you could be relegated to fiesta sidelines) for everyone in your party.
Umbrellas, blankets or beach towels and folding chairs could come in handy.
Leave pets at home or with pet sitters if you’ll be gone overnight. Most fiestas ban pets (except for service animals) and it’s too hot to leave them in the car.
Here are a few fiesta-specific tips. The Franciscan Festival of Fine Art: Still the most laid-back of the fiestas, it’s a great place for a date or day with a good friend. It’s become a birthday or anniversary tradition for some, a place to have a meal or drink, inside or out, enjoy mellow tunes and choose one-of-a kind artistic gifts. Hatch Chile Fiesta: If you plan to watch the 9 a.m. Saturday parade,  pack a breakfast picnic and arrive as early as possible to find a parking place along the parade route. Wine Fest: Wine merchants may find they’ll have more time to chat early on Monday, usually the festival’s least-busy time.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at, @derricksonmoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Hidden treasures in Las Cruces

Aug. 23, 2015
When I was a little girl, I loved stories about hidden treasures, mysterious quests, lost continents and secret gardens.
Truth to tell, there are phrases that still intrigue me and draw me in: “off the beaten path” and “the naked truth about ...” and sometimes even tourism bureau campaigns promising to reveal [insert city’s name here] BEST-KEPT SECRET!
Actually, I’ve been a travel writer for long enough that I’m rarely roused by that old chestnut these days. If something is the focus of a tourism promotion, the truth is out and it’s not any kind of secret, well-kept or otherwise.
There was a time, after my first decade here, that I started to think I had a pretty good handle on most of the most interesting and original people, places, and things in my corner of the Mesilla Valley,
Now, well into my second decade as Las Cruces Style columnist, and features and arts and entertainment writer, I know, to borrow Shakespeare’s famous line, that “There are more things in heaven and earth, (and specifically in Las Cruces) than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Or mine.
In the last couple of weeks, there have been many reminders of the richness and beauty of treasures I’m just discovering in some of my favorite neighborhoods, and even on the street where I’ve worked for more than 21 years.
Holy Cross Retreat Center, for instance, has been a favorite of mine since I first arrived, in the days when a talented artist, Father Marcos Reyes, presided over creative arts workshops and a flock of big, angelic dogs roamed the pastoral grounds and communed with visitors.
But I hadn’t visited since last year’s Franciscan Festival of the Arts, and though I’d watched its planning and progress with interest, I hadn’t been back since its new chapel was completed. This month, when I visited for stories for Healthy U magazine and our SunLife section, Father Tom Smith took me on a tour of the new friary and chapel. They’re some of the most beautiful structures I’ve seen in New Mexico or in travels throughout the Southwest. The chapel is a revelation, filled with light, spirit and lovely art and surrounded by gardens, a rosary walk and a new labyrinth. It’s still a work in progress (watch for stained glass alcoves coming soon) but it’s already on my list of Top Five New Mexico places of worship.
I’ve actually known about Joe Soebbing’s Wild West town for many years, though I’d never seen it. Friends who got a glimpse would pass me Joe’s contact information and I’d periodically call him to see he was ready for an interview. But Joe preferred to remain anonymous, even when stories I wrote about his Billy the Kid and Dan Dedrick tintype went viral, eventually attracting the attention of the History Channel’s “American Pickers.”
After the “Pickers” show aired this month, he decided it was finally time to go public with projects he’s been working on since he arrived in Las Cruces in 1992. I was surprised to realize his five-acre frontier town is tucked away in a wooded area I’ve been driving by for many years to visit good friends and colleagues. I suspect his pasture may adjoin the farmlands once owned by some of my all-time best friends, when they lived in Las Cruces.
You can discover more about his Wild West town in today’s SunLife, along with news about some intriguing new treats for antiques aficionados that he’s planning to bring to Picacho Avenue in September.
I found Ron’s Southwestern Treasures and today’s Artist of the Week, Ron Schade, one maverick day when I decided to take a new route home. I pulled out of the Sun-News parking lot and followed Las Cruces Avenue to Solano. After all these years, I hadn’t realized there was a little shop complex there, let alone a gallery of Spanish colonial artifacts, some of the most spectacular molas I’ve seen in a lifetime of collecting textile art, and, at the helm, a genuine treasure hunter who really helped discover some legendary gold in them thar hills.
For me, August has been a life lesson in the rewards for paying attention, even when you think you are travelling very familiar territory.
You never know what hidden treasures you might discover.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at, @DerricksonMoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.

Spacey summer fun

Aug. 16, 2015 Las Cruces
In a summer that has had way too much sorrow and violence for what we like to think of as a carefree season, there have been a few lovely, refreshing, spacey moments.
I thought about those moments — and the decades that preceded them, when I was plotting an updated tour of six space attractions in southern New Mexico for today’s SunLife section. About the same time, I was catching up on episodes of the ABC series “Astronaut’s Wives Club.”
It took me back to my Baby Boomer childhood, when nothing man-made was orbiting our planet. The moon walk was an aspirational gleam in President John F. Kennedy’s eye, and it was still several decades before the Michael Jackson dance move it inspired.
We Baby Boomers are, of course, older than we like to admit, but we’ve still come an amazing distance in our lifetimes.
And humanity has racked up a lot of cosmic frequent flier mileage: “Billions and billions” of space miles in fact, in the numerals so often evoked by the late Carl Sagan.
When I was a kid, we had just three TV channels in most markets, and the closest thing we had to today’s “reality” shows consisted of reality itself, on morning and evening news shows.
That could be why we were all so obsessed with space. It crossed all entertainment genres. It epitomized sports and competition (as in the “space race”). Politics and danger were involved: the Cold War seemed to hinge on whether we could beat the USSR into space with the first orbiting satellite, the first orbiting animal, the first manned flight, the first man on the moon.
And the competition was closer than most remember. Russians were first with Sputnik, and somehow, we as kids were made to feel it was our fault. American school children were not concentrating enough on math and science, we were told. Those of us who loved languages, arts, and social sciences felt guilty, and resolved to try harder.
We paid extra attention when Walt Disney introduced us his hero, rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, guest starring on the Mickey Mouse Club. And we tried to put it in perspective when our relatives muttered about serving in Great Britain during World War II, when Werhner was part of Nazi teams launching rocket bombs at them.
Most of the rocket-hungry, space-obsessed post-war world seemed ready to forgive and forget the past sins of rocket scientists, as long as they were now willing to work for “our team.”
But we also grieved for the Russian’s first dog in space, who did not return, and rejoiced for our monkey who did make it back. (You’ll find a tribute to astronaut monkey Ham at the New Mexico Space History Museum in Alamogordo, where his remains were buried after his 17-year, post-spaceflight residency at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.)
Soon enough, we’d witness the deaths and triumphs of brave human test pilots and astronauts. We would cry with the families of those lost in space, and in dauntless pursuit of ever-evolving technologies.
We all dreamed of being astronauts, in those considerably more racist and sexist times, whatever our sex, creed or color.
And it was a dream that persisted for most of us. I didn’t let go until a few years ago when I watched a too-real documentary of a space mission at the Clyde Tombaugh IMAX Theater. It made camping, which I loathe, seem luxurious: all the inconvenience, claustrophobia and discomfort, along  with added double wallops of looming danger and without the redeeming glories of nature and fresh air. True, the views are out of this world, but I’m content to share the astronaut’s pictures and videos and the unmanned feedback from the likes of Hubble and New Horizons.
Personally, cost aside, I’d just as soon wait until we get to the Star Trek (later generations) phases, before I less boldly go where others have gone before.
And I’m still hoping Spaceport America will soon be able to launch talented poets, writers, musicians, artists and journalists into space. I’m looking forward to their creative reports.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at, @derricksonmoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.

2015: A Space Odyssey
By S. Derrickson Moore
@DerricksonMoore on Twitter
LAS CRUCES >> Welcome to space central.
From early rocket launches by some of the world’s greatest space pioneers to new frontiers of civilian space tourism, it’s all been happening right here, in our territory, and we’re still on the cutting edge.
And we have the space museums and attractions to prove it.
Celebrate our unique past, present and future with spacey summer adventures at six regional attractions that include celestial artifacts and some brand new additions to Spaceport America tours.
Plan a fun-filled marathon tour or a series of easy day trips to explore some of the wonders of New Mexico’s contributions to the ever-evolving space age.
Start with a visit to Spaceport America Experience Visitor Center, 301 S. Foch St. in Truth or Consequences. Attractions in T or C include the Nav Knowledge & Space Medicine exhibit and the Kidspaceport exhibit, which lets kids “create and live out space missions of tomorrow.” The visitor center is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It’s free.
It’s also the place to catch a “theater shuttle” tour bus to take a guided tour of the $218.5 million site of the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport. En route, the bus offers educational videos about the history of New Mexico and space travel.
The spaceport itself is accessible to the public only through the official tours, which include another visitor and information center in the 110,00-square-foot Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space Building terminal-hangar. Attractions include a dinosaurs-to-the-present historical display, the kid-pleasing G-Shock Simulator and interactive games that let you try your hand at mission control duties, a space debris cleanup, and simulated docking with an orbiting satellite. Magic Planet features a 3-D digital globe and visions of the ways air travel today could be transformed by point-to-point space travel in the future.
Other attractions include Otto Rigan’s behemoth sculpture “Genesis” which welcomes visitors to the 18,000-acre site, future home base for Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo, SpaceX’s Falcon 9R testing and other suborbital launches.
Morning tours depart from the T or C visitor center at 9 a.m. and return by 1 p.m. on Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Afternoon tours, from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, are available from May through September. Register at least 24 hours in advance by calling 1-844-727-7223 or online, for a 10 percent savings, at Tours are $44.99, $29.99 for those under 18 and $25 for residents of Sierra and Doña Ana counties.
If you’d like a more extensive space tour, you can join the reported 700 people who have reserved a flight when Virgin Galactic begins commercial service at the spaceport. The inaugural flight list reportedly includes celebrities like Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake and Brad Pitt. The ticket price has escalated from $200,000 to $250,000 since the first intrepid tourists signed up.
Or plan a more down-to-Earth odyssey along our very own southern New Mexico space corridor. Start at the Las Cruces Museum of Nature & Science, 211 N. Main St,, which includes permanent exhibits honoring Las Cruces’ pioneering astronomer Clyde W. Tombaugh, internationally renowned for his discovery of Pluto. Tombaugh also led a team that monitored the skies for objects that could hamper space missions and helped clear the way for successful launches. The museum has periodic exhibitions, programs and special events focusing on space exploration and astronomy, including annual Tombaugh Day events every February.
Continuing on North Main Street as it turns into U.S. 70, within 50 miles from Las Cruces, you’ll find three intriguing institutions: The Space Murals Inc. Museum in Organ, White Sands Missile Range Museum and Missile Park, and the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo.
Each stop has some unique attractions worthy of spacey selfies and bragging rights, and some have gift shops where you can pick up everything from NASA, WSMR and spaceport T-shirts, and freeze-dried astronaut ice cream to books, posters, toys, games and bumper stickers.
• Space Murals Inc. Museum, in Organ, just east of Las Cruces on U.S. 70, has been dubbed “the people’s space museum,” because “most of the inside displays were put on display by, or on loan from, people who have an interest in the space program,” according to a museum pamphlet.
Since we’re in primo space territory, it’s all worked out very well, and the museum’s eclectic collection of space photos, artifacts and memorabilia puts a very human face on the space race.
The murals circle a 1.2 million gallon water tank, depicting the progress of the U.S. space program from its beginnings to the fatal Challenger accident. It’s a peaceful outdoor setting to relax and reflect on the brave souls who dedicated their lives to space exploration.
Inside, the child-friendly museum has a kid’s corner and some very kid-pleasing gift shop treats.
“The freeze dried astronaut ice cream is still one of our most popular items, along with a new line of T-shirts from NASA and the Smithsonian Institution, and little things like Pluto Plasma and Galactic Ooze, that little kids love,” said Odette Bertolas, museum tour guide.
Other attractions include more than 2,500 photos related to air and space programs, replicas of the Space Station Freedom and space shuttle and model airplanes.
“It’s a great opportunity for the public to see the insiders’ view of what it takes to put together a space program,” Bertolas said.
Admission is free. For information and to arrange guided tours, call 575-382-0977.
• White Sands Missile Range Museum & Missile Park features a park displaying more than 50 missiles and rockets that have been tested at White Sands and periodically adds aircraft to the display, which is open daily from dawn to dusk. Since 1945, WSMR has conducted more than 42,000 missile and rocket firings, tested weapons system and regularly launches scientific research rocket payloads from NASA.
The WSMR Museum offers an eclectic collection with some entertaining surprises, like a Darth Vader mask from the “Star Wars” movie series, ancient pottery, color images of the first atomic bomb test at Trinity Site and  taxidermy specimens of animals found on the WSMR territory.
“We’ve completely revamped our gallery and added new things over the last three years and we’ll be opening a new exhibit on the Vietnam War on Veterans Day,” said Darren Court, the museum’s director and curator and author of a pictorial history of the missile range.
Admission is free. To enter WSMR, you must stop at the visitors’ center and show your driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance.
The museum is open year-round, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. It’s closed on Sundays and holidays. For information, call 575-678-2250, 575-678-8800, or visit
• New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo offers attractions and activities that should more than fill a day trip and also offers some fun summer evening features.
The museum boasts one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of space exhibits and artifacts focusing on everything from Robert Goddard’s early rocket experiments near Roswell to a mock-up of the International Space Station.
The International Space Hall of Fame commemorates the achievements of men and women who have furthered humanity’s exploration of space, including long-term regional residents like Frank F. Borman, who commanded Apollo 8, the first mission to orbit the moon in 1968, and 1972 Apollo 17 astronaut and geologist Harrison H. “Jack” Schmitt, a Silver City native lauded as “the first scientist to walk on the moon.”
You’ll find information honoring Pluto’s discoverer, and special programs in a popular museum campus site named for him: the Clyde W. Tombaugh IMAX Theater, now featuring “Sea Monsters” and “Journey Into Amazing Caves.”
Continuing is the museum’s Summer Drive-In Film Fest with space-themed films at 8 p.m. Saturday nights Aug. 29, and Sept. 12 and Sept. 19. Cost is $10 per car, payable at the gate.
Other attractions include an interactive flight simulator, the museum’s internationally renowned Space Camps for K-12 kids and New Mexico Space Academy educational outreach programs, the outdoor John P. Stapp Air & Space Park and the Astronaut Memorial Garden, a tribute to the space shuttle Challenger and Columbia astronauts.
Admission is $6, $5 for those over 60 and for active and retired military and their dependents, $4 for ages 3 to 12 and free for tots age 3 and under. For information about programs and IMAX schedules, visit
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at 575-541-5450.

•Spaceport America Visitor Center
When: 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily
Where: 301 S. Foch St., Truth or Consequences
Attractions: Games, exhibits, departure site for Spaceport America tours
How much: Admission is free
Info: 1-844-727-7223,
•Spaceport America Tours
When: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Afternoon tours, from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, available May through September.
Where: Depart from 301 S. Foch St., Truth or Consequences
Highlights: Space and New Mexico history videos en route, facilities tour, interactive games and exhibits
How much: (Register at least 24 hours before tour) $44.99, $29.99 age 18 and under, $25 for residents of Sierra and Doña Ana counties
Info: 1-844-727-7223,

Las Cruces Museum of Nature & Science
When: 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: 411 N. Main St.
Higlights: Interactive planetary globe, exhibits on Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh and his homemade telescopes
How much: Free
Info: 575-522-3120

•Space Murals, Inc. Museum
When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Where: 12450 E. Highway 70, Organ
Highlights: Outdoor murals & displays, exhibits, artifacts, astronaut gallery, space station replica, kids corner, gift shop, free guided tours by appointment.
How much: Admission free
Info: 575-382-0977, e-mail

•White Sands Missile Range Museum and Missile Park White Sands Missile Range Museum and Missile Park at:
When: Museum: 8 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. Closed holidays. WSMR Missile Park: open dawn to dark daily
Where: East on U.S. 70 about 19 miles from downtown Las Cruces. Turn right at Museum - Missile Park sign, 4 miles to WSMR Main Gate
Highlights: Over 50 missiles and rockets, museum exhibits, gift shop with WSMR caps, shirts, pins and patches, astronaut food, Southwest Indian jewelry and kachinas
How much: Free
Info: 575-678-2250, gift shop 575-678-8800,

•New Mexico Museum of Space History
When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. every day except Christmas and Thanksgiving
Where:op of Highway 2001, Alamogordo. Take Highway 54/70, turn toward the mountains on Indian Wells Road and drive to the end of the road. At the T-intersection, turn left on Scenic Drive.
Highlights: Exhibits and films, Tombaugh IMAX Theater, interactive exhibits, New Mexico Space Academy, lectures & special events, outdoor park with displays, gift shop
How much: $6 adults, $5 over 60, military-active, retired & dependents, $4 age 4 to 12, free age 3 and under
IMAX Movies: $6 adults, $5.50 over 60 and military, $4.50 age 3 to 12, free age 2 and under
Info, group and combo rates:, 575-437-2840 or 877-333-6589

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Are we too quick to forgive, forget and move on?

Aug. 9
By S. Derrickson Moore
There is no Switzerland, no refuge from haters.
In a summer of horrible, senseless mass shootings, it’s difficult to gain perspective. By now, most of us know a victim of a mass shooting, or live near someplace where at least one such incident has occurred, in a quiet university community, at a movie theater, at a military gathering place far from any active combat zone, at a bowling alley, a shopping mall, a family home...
Or even a place of worship. On Aug. 2, when two Las Cruces churches were rocked by explosives, mercifully without any physical injuries, many of us wondered if there is any refuge or sanctuary, anywhere in this heavily armed world, too often gone mad.
Beyond several of the news cycles we lifelong journalists take as shake-it-off, survival strategy cues, I find myself still grieving for nine extraordinary people I’ve  never met who were killed in June at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.: the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, the Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Depayne Middleton Doctor, the Rev. Daniel Simmons and Myra Thompson.
I find myself going back to their pictures and biographies. These were people of deep, extraordinary faith and accomplishments, good people who might have changed the world in profound ways, who, indeed, have already done so in death.
We know they were extraordinary by the reactions of their loved ones, so clearly bereft, grieving, suffering, but walking the Christian walk and calling for forgiveness in their pain and sorrow.
We know because their mourners included a nation and its president, and a decisive call, finally, for something that should have happened a long time ago. For the end of the state-sanctioned display of a flag that symbolizes racism, slavery, hatred, Jim Crow laws. subjugation and American apartheid. A disgraced and defeated flag that had its resurgence in the shameful anti-segregationist violence of the 1950s and 60s. And a flag that became. for some, a symbol of fun in popular car chase movies, on mass merchandizing.
Imagine, a friend once said, if Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, and their kids and great-grandchildren for generations, were expected to be good sports about living in land where one’s fellow citizens think it’s great fun to display Nazi swastikas on shoes, T-shirts, their babies’ onesies, coolers, backpacks and flags flying on their town squares and pickup trucks.
Why did it take us so long, and the death of nine extraordinary people, to finally acknowledge such an obvious truth?
I look at the lives of those people, who ranged in age from 26 to 87, and think what might have been. And the flags seem way too little, way too late.
I’ve been thinking about long-ago conversations with Tenny Hale, one of the most profound Christian ethicists of our time, about the nature of forgiveness. To demonstrate true repentance, Hale said, you must say you are sorry, ask for forgiveness, and pledge and dedicate yourself to making amends, to righting the wrongs, to healing the wounds, to atoning for our sins.
As far as I know, the Charleston shooter has done none of these things.
I’d like to stress that I have admiration for the strength, faith and compassion of those who expressed forgiveness to the unrepentant, hate-obsessed soul who took the earthly presence, if not the soulful inspiration, of their loved ones from them.
There is comfort, love and surprising power in forgiveness.
But I wonder if we should forgive so easily, not just the hate-filled persons who pull triggers, but the demons in society, and ourselves, that enable such unspeakable, heinous, tragic actions and attitudes.
I’m glad the flags are coming down from the municipal plazas, from the merchandise on superstore shelves. I hope I’ll quit seeing those hateful images on license plates and decals in the borderland.
In a recent interview with Jon Stewart, Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of “Between the World and Me,” helped me understand why so many of us are still trying to get a handle on this fiercely tenacious grief that has extended beyond so many news cycles and the guilt-driven, belated, removal of a symbol of hatred.
Maybe we shouldn’t try to speed the grieving process.
“We should not feel comfortable with that,” Coates said. ”We should sit with that.”
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news, @derricksonmoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.

On the road with Alexander the Great

Aug. 2
Grandson Alexander the Great, usually a mellow, jovial lad, has a pet peeve about Las Cruces.
“Nobody uses their turn signals here,” he remarked, during a recent visit, also noting that “A big chunk of Main Street is closed but I never see anybody working on it.”
With the astuteness of relatively new drivers, he paid careful attention to speed limits and pointed out the transgressions of our fellow travellers.
Maybe I’ve become used to relying on my psychic Spidey-senses on our roads, but after Alex cited several incidents of lane changes and abrupt turns without signaling, I began to notice that he’s right.
Perhaps it’s not drilled into kids here as it is in other parts of the country. To this day, my turn-signal training is so ingrained in my muscle memory that I automatically signal even while pulling into or out of my own driveway at the crack of dawn, when there are no other cars on the road for miles.
It’s summer in New Mexico and while road rage doesn’t boil at the temperatures of other places I’ve lived, we can get a little crabby.
What bugs you? Chances are, something traffic-related is in the mix somewhere.
I’m not fond of trucks and other high-profile vehicles that pull far out in the left turn lane and block the view for those of us trying to turn right.
And speaking of trucks, though it is not something that interests me personally, I’ve been trying to be sympathetic to those who love mudding or bogging or whatever the extreme mud fans are calling it nowadays.
It was tough, however, during a period when my then-next door neighbors were mudding enthusiasts. Looking at their muddy truck was one thing. It was actually rather impressive, kind of a giant Pigpen version of those water and sand sculptures we made when we were kids. But when they finally got around to washing the filthy behemoth in their driveway, they somehow managed to inundate the whole block with tenacious mud that lingered for weeks.
And then there are the jerks who ignore warnings to merge left or right due to a lane closure ahead, and then glide arrogantly to the head of the about-to-end closed lane and expect to be let in, long before those of us who have gracefully and patiently merged, thus causing a traffic jam for everybody.
On the other hand, I am all for letting people into traffic when they are stuck through no fault of their own and feel it is karmically correct and the right thing to do, even if you get the occasional person who decides, instead of making a right turn, to endanger himself and others by trying to instead make a left turn across four lanes of rush-hour traffic.
Even our relatively mild gridlock issues can be trying. When my ten-minute commute to work turns into 20 or even (gasp!) 30 minutes, if there’s an accident at rush hour, I try to remind myself of loved ones who suffer daily two-to-three-hour commutes, many at an agonizingly stressful snail’s pace.
Truth to tell, if misery is relative, we have very little to complain about. I think about that every time I drive to El Paso, where there seems to be a lot more honking and impatience and reckless maneuvers, usually at higher speeds and in more hazardous conditions.
Near my former home in Florida, a paranoid, gun-totting driver shot and killed an unarmed homeless man who, witnesses later said, was simply reaching out to accept what he thought was a donation from a kindly soul in a passing car.
Alex and I also kept track of incidences of kindness and courtesy during our travels and total numbers of good deeds were impressive. As we ventured off the beaten paths, I was also pleased to note the continuing New Mexico tradition of smiling and waving at strangers as trucks and cars pass on isolated roads.
All in all, there’s a lot more to be grateful for than there is to grumble about here, we concluded.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at, @derricksonmoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.

A Valentine from Pluto's Tombaugh Regio

July 26
A Valentine from Pluto's Tombaugh Regio
“There’s a heart on Pluto!”
When I checked in for an online update and live broadcasts about the New Horizons approach to Pluto, the first voice I heard was a familiar one.
It was Annette Tombaugh. She and her brother Alden were there at ground zero in Laurel, Md., at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, which designed, built and operates the New Horizons spacecraft and manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
The Las Cruces siblings had also been in Cape Canaveral on Jan. 19, 2006, when the probe was launched with the ashes of their dad, Pluto’s discoverer Clyde Tombaugh, on board. Their mom, Clyde’s wife Patricia Edson Tombaugh, had been there for the Florida launch, too, and told me then, she hoped to be around to see the closest flyby in July 2015.
She almost made it. She died at age 99 in 2012.
But I suspect many of us had the feeling the space pioneer couple were both there, in robust spirit, when the first photos of our favorite planet (dwarf or no) came streaming in.
And the bold heart that showed up, and was soon christened “Tombaugh Regio,” seemed like the kind of cosmic valentine, or high five, the Tombaughs would send us.
Equally heartwarming was to see so many on our home planet get so excited about space exploration again.
There was a lot of cheering — at Super Bowl caliber volume — when the little piano-sized probe navigated some final challenges after a more than 3 billion mile voyage and managed to do just what it was supposed to do: Focus on its closest approach to Pluto and its five moons, and then start reporting back with the first of some amazing discoveries that will be streaming in for many months to come.
A week later, Clyde’s kids and their spouses and some of their kids, grandkids and other family members, were back in Las Cruces.
Alden Tombaugh praised the “level of science and technology” and talked about “the unexpected excitement when they found the heart shape. We were constantly barraged by reporters from all kinds of different media. It was absolutely wonderful to see that excitement about the New Horizons’ adventures. We were there for the launch and it was great to be there for the grand finale.”
His grandkids, he reports, “were amazed by everything going on.”
“Just being there with all the people that are so fantastic in so many fields was thrilling. Every one of the team is very dedicated. And you have to have a good sense of humor to go through what the science team has gone through,” Annette said.
“It was fantastic. It just couldn’t have been better. It was so exciting and so much fun. It’s just so joyous when everything works out so well. The  biggest moment was after the flyby closest approach: the moment when [the probe] called back and made it through the system and started to download. We weren’t sure until it called home that it had made it,” she said.
“Between Tuesday and Thursday (July 14 to 16), I did something like 35 to 40 interviews with people from all over the world. There are a lot of surprises: the high nitrogen atmosphere, the geological activity, Pluto and Charon (Pluto’s biggest moon) acting as a double planet. We’ll be getting so much information about Pluto and the Kuiper Belt Objects. I was astounded at all the people who came long distances, on their own time and paid their own way to be there. And I’ve kept in touch with what we call the Pluto children, who were born the day of the launch. Of course, my heart is with the children,” said Annette, a life-long educator who is carrying on a family tradition. Her parents both lectured until their final years and were particularly touched by how much Pluto is adored by kids.
New Horizons has demonstrated that “Science is not dull. Science is fun,” said Annette.
She’s been cool, calm, objective and keenly interested in the scientific revelations of the mission.
But she’s also inclined to accept and share a valentine message.
“My dad loved astronomy and he put a heart on Pluto. Pluto says, ‘I love you no matter what you call me,’” Annette said.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at, @derricksonmoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.