It’s right downtown

Do you ever run into people whom you like instantly? It happens often in our case.

We met Tony and Elizabeth Riome last Tuesday morning. They are from Scotland, both former air traffic controllers in Norway. It was our daughter-in-law, Connie Trujillo, who took the first step at New Mexico Hospitality 101. As she left the El Fidel Monday, Connie noticed an elderly couple toting suitcases. They were asking the waiter if, where and whether they could hire a taxi.

A taxi in Las Vegas? Connie instead offered the couple a ride to their hotel.

The new arrivals, in their 70s and married 53 years, had been making their way on foot to 816 Grand Ave., the block that contains the Trujillo Insurance Agency, a bar, a laundromat and a car wash. And why were they walking in that direction, north of the railway station?

Amtrak had stopped to load and unload passengers. Having used the internet to plan their trip, Tony and Elizabeth assumed that the Holiday Inn Express, where they’d booked reservations, would be just a couple of blocks north.

But were they ever mistaken!

You see, typing the name of the inn via cell phone, located the Holiday Inn Express at 816 Grand Ave. Try it!

Connie delivered Tony and Elizabeth to the real address of the Holiday Inn Express, a considerable walking distance from the 800-block of Grand.

Connie talked to my wife, Bonnie, who picked up the visitors Tuesday morning at the hotel and gave them a tour of the area.

I tagged along for a quick tour of Montezuma and the Armand Hammer United World College.
We looked at what used to be the Montezuma skating rink and returned to town, in time for me to report to work at 10. But in the 45 minutes that we chatted, we learned much about them: their families, their jobs before retirement, and the reason they were in the area.

They’d flown from Scotland to Chicago and hopped on one of those Amtrak 30-day 12-stop tours that include Las Vegas. Their next stop was some city in Arizona, then on to California and finally Oregon. Our regret is that our visit was too short, as they needed to catch a noon-ish train at the Las Vegas Depot. And as we all know, Amtrak’s arrivals are occasionally on time.

In the short time we visited with the Riomes we felt an affinity to the couple. I love their accent. We found we have much in common, our having visited some of the same European cities.

Work beckoned, and I was unable to see off the new arrivals. I regretted having to leave the couple. Bonnie delivered them to the Amtrak station and waved goodbye, even though she suspected Tony and Elizabeth would need to steel themselves for a lengthy wait before the arrival of the next (and only) west- and northbound train.

“Remember, you have a place to stay in Scotland if you ever want to visit,” Tony hollered to Bonnie before she drove off.

Tony and Elizabeth are the kind of people we felt immediately at home with. Connie, Bonnie and I felt a glow when our acquaintances repeated their convictions that the people they met in this town are friendly. We’re happy to share even a small part of that compliment.

Our new friends wanted to “come to the U.S. and see small-town America.” Sadly, it’s difficult to arrange for walking tours for those who come by train, but the Riomes liked what they saw of the Las Vegas area and said, “That’s what we came to see.”

They especially liked Old Town, the Plaza, the Rough Riders Museum, the mix and placement of stitched-together houses on South Pacific, and the taste of an Italian soda they drank at Travelers.

But you don’t have to be from Scotland to enjoy Italian sodas.

Since Scotland was settled centuries before our area, houses there are often more than 250 years old, a point Tony made as he asked, “How old are the houses here?”

Our best guess was that many of the houses in Old Town have been here more than 100 years. Even though the Native Americans lived in this area for centuries, our town does not show overt signs of their occupancy. Tony said that in his homeland, houses 250 years old are common.

I believe that our Scottish visitors will have good memories of Las Vegas, as people they saw were kind and friendly. Our little burg may not be the picture-perfect, Walt Disney town of the movies, but the Riomes were nevertheless taken by it. Las Vegas seemed quieter on that Labor Day

After our visit, Bonnie and I tried to discover what made the Riomes walk — suitcases in hand — north on Grand from the Amtrak station, toward a hotel that never was.

We checked several web sites and found that the hotel in question does indeed appear to be at 816 south Grand. But yet, at least one web site gives the address as 816 Grand, with neither a north nor a south designation. Most visitors would surmise that 816 Grand is between National and Columbia Avenues. And the map on that site shows an arrow on the same spot.

Perhaps in the future we citizens will have created a viable transportation service for those who arrive by train. The visitors said they made calls to inquire as to whether hotels provide shuttle service for passengers who arrive by train.

No. Are there taxis in this town of 14,000? No.

Meanwhile, we hope the map information for the Holiday Inn Express gets corrected.
There is an alternative: Trujillo’s Bar is located at approximately 816 (North) Grand. Maybe they could add rooms, suites, a lobby and a snack area and call it Holiday Inn Express–North.

One thought on “It’s right downtown

  1. Dolores Hagen

    Loved this story. It’s so like you and Bonnie to help someone you don’t know. The best part is how much you enjoyed yourselves.

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