An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989

The Gauntlet

Sandia Pueblo uses RASTRA to build church

The Pueblo of Sandia dedicated the new San Antonio de Padua Church on June 9.

This is the first new church integrated into the Archdiocese of Santa Fe to be constructed in a pueblo for at least a century. Archbishop Michael Sheehan was one of the honored guests. Also adding to the historic event was the fact that the church is perhaps one of the most spectacular demonstration of RASTRA construction in the country. This eight-thousand-square-foot mission-style church includes forty-foot-high double RASTRA walls.

RASTRA is an insulated-concrete-form system made from a blend of 85-percent recycled polystyrene and fifteen-percent cement. Polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, is used as a packing material for electronics and other products, including the wafers Intel uses to make computer chips. While polystyrene is inexpensive to produce, its bulk and inability to decompose introduce many environmental issues.

When the pueblo’s historic adobe became structurally too dangerous to occupy, the pueblo decided to build the new church with RASTRA. They wanted a building that would accommodate the future, while paying respect to the past. RASTRA is versatile like adobe for sculpted architecture, but promises to last longer with much less maintenance.

According to RASTRANew Mexico, the lightweight ten-foot-long forms are filled with concrete and rebar, making them seven times stronger than frame construction, resistant to tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, fire, rodents, and termites. RASTRA’s composition makes it easy to carve and shape into virtually any architectural design, including the massive adobe-like walls like the ones at the church. RASTRA also claims that its insulation properties reduce heating and cooling costs by at least 50 percent.

RASTRA is starting a locally owned and operated factory in Albuquerque and is setting up a recycling program with the Placitas Recycling Center. For more information, check out their Web site at

Local contractor Ted Wright has built RASTRA houses in the area for several years. He is an enthusiastic and experienced advocate of RASTRA, one of the fastest growing alternative building materials. He can be contacted at 280-5847 or by e-mail at


Lizard Rodeo Lounge opens with a bang

After much anticipation, the Lizard Rodeo Lounge at the Range Café in downtown Bernalillo opened Friday, June 14. The highlight of the evening came at 8:00 p.m., when the power went out for most of Bernalillo and the west side of Albuquerque.

“We were so hot, we blew out the west side,” said Range owner Matt DiGregory when asked about the unfortunate experience. “We had a rehearsal dinner going on in the new space. The area around the bar was packed, and then it happened. Fortunately, everyone was understanding and realized that it was out of our control,” he added.

The new space is an extension of the Range dining room to the north and is next to Something Else, the gift shop owned by Christine and Jean DiGregory. The walls have been opened up as they were in the days when the building was fully occupied by the Silva Family. At that time, it was Rose’s Center, and it included the Pottery House, with soda fountain, grocery store, hardware, and auto parts. It is now possible to visit several different businesses without going outside.

“The new space has turned out really well. We had no real plan of attack on what the final outcome would be. We contacted various artists and told them to go for it. The end result is just fantastic,” said DiGregory.

And it is! A mosaic-tile fireplace was commissioned by Laura Robbins of Placitas, featuring some colorful lizards meandering down its face. She also placed mosaic detail in the tile floor, and created a mosaic on the steps leading into Something Else. “We had been collecting broken plates from the restaurant, and Laura was very creative in using them on the steps,” said Range co-owner Tom Fenton.

Jake Lovato of Bernalillo did the forged-steel countertops and the lizard-accented foot rail. Julianna Kirwin painted the night-sky scenes on the tables. Christianne Hinks laid the tile floor. Camian Poling handled the color selection and faux painting.

But Ben Forgey of Rio Grande Rustic added some of the most obvious features. An eight-by-ten-foot driftwood-framed mirror graces the west wall, and it is stunning. His whimsical chairs are as spectacular as the face of the bar. “Ben’s creativity is unmatched. He calls the chairs ‘dying-of-thirst chairs’ for their skeletal spines toped with a cowboy hat,” said DiGregory.

The front of the bar is a mosaic of old oak doors complete with doorknobs and hinges for bags and purses. Yet to come are two chandeliers made of barbed wire and copper screen. They will hang above the bar and the dining area.

With the addition of the Lizard Rodeo Lounge, the Range Café now has a full liquor license as well as a package license. “Our plan is not to be a place to come and buy ‘minis,’ but rather we now have the ability to sell bottles of wine from our gift shop,” said DiGregory. “We hope that soon you will be able to go into our gift shop and pick the bottle of wine you are going to have with your dinner. Since Bernalillo is the home of the state’s largest wine festival, we plan on having a wide selection of New Mexico wines,” he noted.

Future plans for the Range include a small outdoor patio off the rear entrance to the west and special dinners with Matt and Tom getting back into the kitchen to cook. “We also would like to investigate the possibility of bringing in guest chefs from other restaurants to cook special dinners at the Range,” Fenton added.

The Range Café and Lizard Rodeo Lounge are open seven days a week. The closing time for the lounge is still not determined but will likely be around 10:00 p.m., except perhaps on nights when there are live musical events.