This past summer, Pat and I spent a week in Ruidoso, Texas … er, New Mexico. (That's an easy mistake to make, because most of the automobiles you see in Ruidoso have Texas license plates.)

For many years, Texans have considered Ruidoso their private mountain getaway, probably because there are so few other getaways near western Texas.

Ruidoso is a resort town of fewer than 10,000 people settled at 6,900 feet elevation in the rugged Sierra Blanca Mountains of south central New Mexico.

The village boasts Ruidoso Downs horsetrack and numerous museums, art galleries and restaurants. Mescalero Apaches operate the nearby Ski Apache resort and the Inn of the Mountain Gods resort with a casino, hotel and golf course.

Ruidoso is about a six-hour drive from Tucson - for most people. The instant Pat and I cross the Arizona/New Mexico border, she's on the lookout for Hatch green chiles. She could eat green chiles for breakfast, lunch and dinner and, in fact, has (and did this time).

In Ruidoso, we stayed in a condo, atop a close-by mountain, surrounded by stately pine trees with a view of the Inn of the Mountain Gods and a beautiful lake in the distance.

To enhance our wilderness-adventure feeling, on one trip back from town we saw a dozen deer near our condo.

We spent a lot of time walking around town, visiting the museums and art galleries. There were some impressive jewelry and American Indian art stores, but sadly we found that some of our favorite stores from previous visits had closed - victims of the recession, we suspect.

We had hoped to do some hiking, so we visited the local ranger station to get advice on trails and maps. But it rained so frequently (short but heavy daily showers) that the rain and muddy trails dissuaded us.

One of the highlights of the week was driving up a winding gravel road to the top of Monjeau Peak and climbing the fire watch tower for a sweeping view of the entire Ruidoso area.

Ruidoso is a great hub for driving side trips. Our first day-trip was two-and-a-half hours southeast to Carlsbad Caverns - one of the world's great natural wonders.

While there, we "adopted" a bat (the flying kind) for Pat's son David, to support the park's bat-conservation program.

On another day, we took a driving tour of Lincoln County, famous for having been Billy the Kid's stomping ground. By the time we had visited all the museums and read all the propaganda, we were ready to elect Billy as a tea party candidate for governor.

Speaking of tea parties, on a third day-trip that included driving through the 1,000-person ghostly town of Carrizozo, we found a teapot for Pat's collection in an old ice cream store. I swear half of that old town was only open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays - with the other half only open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

We were lucky to find the ice cream store open along with a tiny wood-shack restaurant so Pat could get her green chiles.

Our final side trip of the week was to Cloudcroft, another small town, at 9,000 feet elevation, atop Sacramento Mountain - less than an hour southwest of Ruidoso. We had lunch at the well-known Lodge resort - built in 1899 to support area ranching and mining and supposedly haunted by the ghost of a beautiful chambermaid, Rebecca.

All in all, it was a wonderfully relaxing week and we were able to get back to Tucson in record time, with no stops for green chiles.

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