Posts Tagged ‘ Things to Do ’

Very Large Array Open House

Written by Mark T Fiedler - The Mark and Sheila Team
October 31st, 2012

The VLA or Very Large Array (recently renamed the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array) is a radio astronomy observatory comprised of 27 dish shaped antennas arranged in a Y configuration which can be as small as 3000 feet across or as large as 13 miles depending upon the resolution of the imaging desired and the wavelengths of radio waves to be studied. The observatory is located at just under 7,000 ft altitude on the Plains of San Agustin, near the town of Magdalena, about 50 miles west of Socorro, New Mexico. The configuration of the array can be changed using a special rail car to move each antenna to one of many pre determined mounting sites along the Y shaped tracks. Once all the dishes are bolted down on their concrete mounts, the fiber optic connections are hooked up, and the array is back in business.

The observatory is a part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), and not only acts as a standalone facility, but also as a part of the Very Long Baseline Array, which is a group of ten 25 meter dishes located between Hawaii and the US Virgin Islands. Working together they act as a single huge radio telescope. Since running thousands of miles of fiber optic cable to hardwire them all to a central processor is impractical, each dish in the VLBA records its data to a hard disk drive. The data is time stamped using an atomic clock to allow for synchronization back at the NRAO Operations Center in Socorro, NM.

The staff was eager to share their passion for science during a recent open house tour of their facility. Things have changed there since the movie “Contact” was filmed. Astronomers need not visit the observatory in person. Their observations are scheduled, run and stored semi automatically by staff, and can be downloaded via the internet.

One question we asked was whether the signal would degrade if snow collected in the dishes, kind of like what happens with my Dish Network Satellite TV receiver. The answer was yes, it would. Their fix is to tilt the dishes vertically, and kind of shake them to knock off the snow. There are also heating elements present to help melt the snow. You never know unless you ask….

Image Courtesy of NRAO/AUI and NRAO

Trinity Site Tour was a Blast!

Written by Mark T Fiedler - The Mark and Sheila Team
October 24th, 2012

Twice a year the Trinity Site, the place where the first atomic bomb was detonated, opens its gates to the public. Although other videos we have seen made it appear to be rather boring, we were pleasantly surprised and intrigued! This location is a magnificent representation of iconic and revolutionary history in the United States. The Manhattan project was created in June of 1942 with the ultimate goal of creating an atomic bomb. Led by Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, a group of scientists and engineers designed and built this device in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Their device was tested at the Trinity Site, located about 30 minutes from Socorro, NM which is now part of the White Sands Missile Range. The monument offers a great educational experience with information on both the historical context and the technical and scientific aspects of the testing. Not to mention that you can pick up some quirky merchandise in the process. This area has radiation levels higher than the typical background exposure that we all experience, but safety is always a primary concern. The brief exposure that one will receive in one hour at the site is approximately equal to 1/4th the dose received in a coast to coast commercial flight. While the atomic bomb may not be on your list of favorite things, the Trinity Site is a worthwhile trip that we would highly recommend to anybody who has the opportunity.


Written by Mark T Fiedler - The Mark and Sheila Team
June 21st, 2012

Enchantment Helicopters

Written by Mark T Fiedler - The Mark and Sheila Team
May 15th, 2012


Enchantment Helicopters in Albuquerque is the only helicopter flight academy in New Mexico. Located at Double Eagle II Airport on the West Side of Albuquerque, because of the high local altitude, they are able to offer training in flight conditions that few pilots experience. Their program can take a student all the way to a career as a Certified Flight Instructor. The school’s training craft of choice are Robinson R-22 (2 passenger) and R-44 (4 passenger) helicopters.

One afternoon we took a discovery ride over Rio Rancho, New Mexico. We circled the Civic Center, the new Presbyterian Rust Medical Center and a number of subdivisions bordering Unser Blvd. The flight was smooth and fun!

In addition to flight training, Enchantment can provide a great aerial photography platform. If you’ve ever considered a career flying helicopters, but don’t want to go the military training route, give them a call.

A weekend breakfast (or lunch) option – Geo’s Mobile Bistro.

Written by Mark T Fiedler - The Mark and Sheila Team
May 29th, 2011

Sometimes you find good things where you least expect to… Most weekends at the Idalia Road Marketplace in Rio Rancho you will see a small, mint-green trailer on the South side of the grounds. This is Geo’s Mobile Bistro – a small business run by George and Jan Menza. Visit early in the morning and you might see a line of hungry patrons lined up waiting to order or pick up one of their freshly made breakfast burritos. I seem to be addicted to the one made with turkey sausage, 2 eggs, green chili and cheddar cheese. Note that I did not say shredded potatoes. You won’t find cheap filler in these burritos.

Visit the Idalia Road Marketplace.George and Jan’s menu extends well beyond breakfast burritos. They draw on their years of experience running Geo’s Restaurant on Southern Blvd. to decide what their customers might enjoy.  They sold the restaurant some time ago, and now with their fully equipped trailer they can provide food service almost anywhere in the state.

Consider a visit to the Idalia Road Marketplace to check out their great food. It’s open weekends through Oct. 30. Saturdays 9-2, Sundays 10-2. Located at 1320 Idalia Rd, just north of Northern Blvd. in Rio Rancho.

Video: The Friends and Lovers Balloon Rally – a more intimate version of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Written by Mark T Fiedler - The Mark and Sheila Team
February 5th, 2011

The Friends and Lovers Balloon Rally has been held every year since the mid 1970’s on Valentine’s Day weekend. The event is put on by the Albuquerque Aerostat Ascension Association (“Aerostat” is much cooler word for “balloon”.), and showcases over 100 local hot air balloon crews and their craft. For many years the event was held at the Rio Rancho Balloon Park near Northern and Unser Blvds. The video above was filmed at the 2010 event. This year the rally will be held at Balloon Fiesta Park in Albuquerque, February 12 and 13.

Video: Albuquerque River of Lights Display Delights

Written by Mark T Fiedler - The Mark and Sheila Team
January 1st, 2011

The producers of the annual Albuquerque River of Lights display at the Albuquerque Bio Park really outdid themselves this year. We visited the display a couple years ago, and it was good for about an hour’s walk through then, but this year, with a combination of a half dozen new light sculptures, excellent organization and presentation, we probably doubled the time we spent there.

The display consists of millions of lights in over 140 light displays and animated sculptures, often set to holiday music and sound effects. Proceeds of ticket sales benefit the Albuquerque Bio Park, which consists of the Zoo, Botanical Garden, Tingley Beach and the Aquarium.    

The weather cooperated on the evening we visited. It was cold, but there was no wind, which helped keep the focus on the displays, not on how cold we were.  If they pull off the same quality of presentation next year, we will be back again to enjoy it.


Video: Sundae (Sunday) Really Was a Funday in Rio Rancho!

Written by Mark T Fiedler - The Mark and Sheila Team
August 28th, 2010


The weather for the recent 5th Annual Sundae is Funday event at Loma Colorado Park in Rio Rancho, NM was pretty darn perfect, encouraging what may have been the best turnout for this event ever! Not only was the attendance over the top, but the number and variety of booths and vendors was also a record. There were booths from local businesses, churches, political campaigns, animal adoption agencies, plumbing firms, government agencies and more.

In keeping with the play-on-words event title, there were a number of ice cream related events, including a 50 ft ice cream sundae, and the Mayor Swisstack Sundae, where Rio Rancho Mayor Tom Swisstack allowed children to turn him into a human banana split. (As I observed the carnage, the terms “nuts” and “gone bananas” came to mind.)  The man is braver than I…

There was a display of classic and collectible cars, various children’s games and activities and a wide variety of family friendly fun. In keeping with the original concept of an affordable family event, food and drinks were free or very reasonably priced.

The day was co-sponsored by the Rio Rancho Kiwanis Club, the City of Vision Civitan Club, the local Elks Lodge and the Rio Rancho Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department. Proceeds are earmarked to benefit  local Boy Scout Troops, the Rio Rancho Boys and Girls Club, and the Sandoval County Juvenile Justice Program and scholarships for children to participate in fee required recreation events. Co-Chairmen Dave Heil and Tony Popper plus Connie Peterson did a lot of the heavy lifting to make the event a success.

Video: Rio Rancho, NM Memorial Day Parade

Written by Mark T Fiedler - The Mark and Sheila Team
August 15th, 2010

The City of Rio Rancho is big on parades – including a Christmas Season Parade and a 4th of July Parade, but none of them approach the significance of the annual Memorial Day Parade. With the country slowly withdrawing from one war, and expanding another one, we all had good reason to take some to celebrate the contributions made by our men and women in uniform.

Following the parade there was a ceremony at the Rio Rancho Veteran’s Memorial.

With a high percentage of the active military contingent from New Mexico coming from the state’s National Guard and Reserve forces, we all need to support these organizations, their members and families. We’ll have more about the Guard and Reserves in an upcoming post.

Video: New Mexico Guitar Guys

Written by Mark T Fiedler - The Mark and Sheila Team
August 6th, 2010

One Saturday, I stopped in at the Idalia Road Marketplace in Rio Rancho to pick up some fresh fruit and vegetables. There were these two guys playing guitar and supplying some really great shopping background music. They were DJ Armijo and William Montgomery. I had my camera in the car, so I asked the guys to play their coolest piece. This is the result…

If you like their stuff, and would like to hire them to perform for you, you can reach them at 505 321 7057.

Video: Soda Dam in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico

Written by Mark T Fiedler - The Mark and Sheila Team
July 27th, 2010

Located about half way between Jemez Springs and Battleship Rock, Soda Dam is an unusual geologic structure located alongside Route 4 in the Jemez Mountains. The dam was formed over thousands of years by depositing of minerals – primarily calcium carbonate, in minute layers to eventually build this magnificent structure. The dam partially blocks the Jemez River, sometimes creating a pool upstream. The materials were deposited on the dam by groundwater which seeped into the natural fault located nearby, was heated by volcanic rock deep in the earth, and which carried the dissolved minerals and gases back to the surface.

A number of active springs within the dam structure continue to carve small caves and streak the surface with color from various trace minerals.

Video: The back road to the Jemez Mountains

Written by Mark T Fiedler - The Mark and Sheila Team
July 26th, 2010

So, you’re up for a little drive in the mountains… If you head west out of the northern end of Rio Rancho on Hwy 550, within a few minutes you’ll hit New Mexico Route 4 and San Ysidro. Route 4 is the 64 mile long main road through the Jemez Mountains connecting the Albuquerque / Rio Rancho area with the Jemez Pueblo, Los Alamos and the Bandelier National Monument.

A few miles north of San Isidro you will find the Canon de San Diego region, with its stunning red rock formations and dirt, rich with iron. The Jemez Pueblo is located here, although tribal laws do not permit photography of the pueblo or its people.

A few miles north of the pueblo, if you’re really paying attention, you will see a turnoff to the left (west) for Highway 485 – a 1 ½ – 2 lane back way into the Jemez Mountains. Although Route 4 is a quicker and wider road than 485, I find myself taking the road less traveled almost every time. The road crosses the Jemez River and goes up a narrow, steep rock canyon, following the Rio Guadalupe. A few miles in you will encounter the Gilman Tunnels. These 2 tunnels were originally built in the 1920’s to accommodate a logging railroad. Just past the tunnels, the pavement ends. In fact, there is a gate across the road at that point which is often closed well into May because of snow and poor road conditions until the spring and summer heat dries things out. The road is rough, but the vistas of the mountain meadows are worth the bumpy ride.

Once you complete the loop and rejoin Route 4, you will be within a short distance of 3 more of the region’s star attractions – Fenton Lake, Battleship Rock and Soda Dam.

Battleship Rock is easily seen from the road and is worth a stop. The large exposed rock face emulates the bow of a large ship – hence the name. The striking, 200 foot tall natural formation of welded volcanic ash is studded with glass-like obsidian rock. A river runs through the day-use picnic area at the base, and hiking trails abound.

Jemez Mountains, NM

Video: Free Music in the Park Series Continues…

Written by Mark T Fiedler - The Mark and Sheila Team
July 7th, 2010

The Music in the Park series put on by the Rio Rancho Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department runs late Spring through the Summer at the Rotary Club Barbecue Pavilion at Haynes Park.
The activity is free, and people are encouraged to bring chairs, blankets and snacks. Sorry, they don’t allow anything harder than lemonade to drink. Most nights an ice cream truck shows up to offer cold treats. The video above features the Mudd Brothers Band.

Performances start at 7pm and end around 8:30. The rest of the 2010 season offerings are below:

July 11: Placitas Mountain Band (Bluegrass and Old Time Music)
July 18: Michael and Donna Coy (Folk)
July 25: Bosque Blues (Acoustic Blues Duo)
August 1: Rudy Boy Experiment (Hot Rockin’ Blues)
August 8: Dennis Higgins & The 2010 Band Folk (Folk, Blues & Contemporary Jazz)
August 15: Saints and Sinners (Classic Rock and Blues)
August 22: Twisted Mojo (Classic Blues, Rock and Soul)
August 29: Rio Rancho Symphonic Band (Symphonic Music)
*Musical acts subject to change

Haynes Park is located at 2006 Grande Blvd., which is across the street from Intel on N.M. 528/Pat D’Arco Highway.

For additional information, please call the city of Rio Rancho’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department at (505) 891-5015.

Meet your friends at the Idalia Road Marketplace in Rio Rancho!

Written by Mark T Fiedler - The Mark and Sheila Team
May 23rd, 2010

The Idalia Road Marketplace is an outdoor shopping hub of great food, arts and crafts, music, entertainment, and local and organic fresh produce. The next time you’re looking for someplace different to go on a Saturday or Sunday morning, give IRM a try.  Don’t eat breakfast before you go… you can get a great breakfast burrito, a fruit smoothie, great coffee, and some luscious French pastries there! I visited today, and bought some fresh yellow squash, some HUGE Haas avocados and some fresh corn on the cob – all for about 30-40% less than the price I’d pay at  a commercial grocery store (they were bigger and fresher too)! This is the first outdoor marketplace in the Rio Rancho area, and the owners (Marc and Phyllis Calderwood) have gone all out to provide a great retail space for the vendors, and a pleasant and different experience for shoppers. Give it a try!