Saturday, November 28
Welcome to New Mexico and Otero County at 10:00, temp 39. A bit of mist in the air. 67 miles to Alamogordo. 70 mph, cruise control. By 10:10, the haze has pretty much disappeared, there's desert on either side, flat as can be, low growth, maybe a bird's nest in one, barrel cactus, to my right that inevitable railroad line, a double cactus, telephone lines alongside the railroad. Off in the distance I can see some high tension wires to my left. Over a low rise, there are mountains in the distance slightly off to my left, low ridges pretty far in the distance to my right, maybe a couple of miles away. Fort Bliss at 10:20, the mountains to my left closer, a couple of shrub-covered hills to my right, Orogrande, "great gold." To my left, a couple of abandoned shacks, a tavern with a lot of junk in front of it but probably open with a house next to it, an abandoned trailer, a building of very dark wood, to my right an "outpost," a yellow house, the post office with a sheet of plywood in a window. Passing by those peaks now to my left, a low range of hills rises to pointed peaks then falls off, a higher range of hills to my right than before. Past them, back to desert, a dark blue range to my right, a couple of miles away. Another border patrol check point at 10:40. No questions, just "Have a safe trip."
Texas state line to Roswell
Alamagordo City Limits at 11:04, the sky totally overcast without a break in it anywhere, mostly desert, some buildings to my left, dark mountains to my right, some of their tops covered by cloud. US 70 east at 11:06. I stop at the Pancake & Waffle House at 11:12 for a vegetable omelet, hashbrowns, coffee, toast with seedless blackberry jam. Then to the visitor's center but there's not much there, the museum closed, moving it to another location.
Tularosa at 12:20, Del Sol Handoven Southwest Woven Rugs, Elite Repeat Collectibles, the Dusty Peddler collecting dust, Tulie Freeze, a lot of southwestern type buildings, Chavez Market Tacos, a Franciscan mission, square white buildings, tiled roofs, some with the the square front rising above the roof, a standard western porch held up by 4 wood poles, the ubiquitous trailer homes, Yum Yum's Restaurant. Even Subway in square and a bit Southwestern. It's not the names though, it's the descriptions that are so hard to put down here. Square, made out of concrete maybe but it looks like adobe to me, some very thin and tall trees, not branching out, some kind of evergreen, not branching out, Abigail's Apothecary, another house with a rusted tin roof, Country Classic Cars with at least one car from the 20s or early 30s. It's hilly now, I go through a rock cut, a dark orangey-yellow color off to my right. At 12:30, I'm back in dense fog again, cars ahead of me disappearing into the mist. Nogal Canyon, a post office for Bent NM, golden-leaved trees. Past a sign with a galloping moose on it, maybe. I'm able to see a little further ahead. 12:35, the Mescalero Community Center Tribal Office, Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Apache Pass, elev 7612. 12:42--Suddenly I'm out of the clouds and into the sun, blue sky, little puffs of cumulus clouds, pine-covred hills and mountains behind them, whoa! Almost immediately out of cloud-shrouded stuff into this sun, 41 degrees. It's like being let out of prison.
Mountains rising up in front of me, some with peaks totally covered by cloud, yellow stone cliffs cut out for the road, a bunch of small houses like small cabins, a fair amount of distance between them. Four brown horses in a field, 2 lying down, 2 standing, a house yellowish on the side dark green in front,a peaked roof, on my right, a small shack with a tin roof falling into disuse on my left, back into the pines, nothing but pines to speak of, just a couple of small trees without leaves. Patchy Summit 7591, a couple of good sized leafless trees. The Inn of the Mountain Gods. A long house with porch its entire length, red roof. Casino Apache Travel Center, a yellowish building, fairly large, a lot of cars in the parking lot. I should have stopped (Rule #3). The Lincoln County Line at 12:55, temp 50, 45 mph.
Ruidoso, elev 6900, the Casa Decor, Cherokee Mobile Village to my right. Beyond that and up ahead, more hills dotted with trees. Ruidoso Mountain Inn, Super 8, Travelodge, Motel 6, Days Inn, Ramada Inn, Denny's, Walmart, Bestway Inn, La Quinta Economy Inn. A lot of them here in the middle of nowhere. At 1:13, a screwdriver set, peanut butter bars, candy, at the Dollar Tree. Boots and Jeans, Key Bob's Steakhouse, New Mexico Bone and Joint Institute, Shamrock Gas $1.95, Ranch Sales Luxury Homes, R K World Famous Hatch Green Chile and pecans, Billy the Kid Casino, a race track. The Billy the Kid Scenic Byway Visitor's Center at 1:33, 3 postcards. I decide to forego the Hubbard Museum of the American West, $5.
I drive by Fox Cave with aliens and a Tyrannosaurus rex head out on the desert. Rule #3 finally kicks in and I turn around. The entire mouth of the cave is blocked off, first by the souvenir store, which is one floor but there is a second floor with windows. The rest of the mouth of the cave is blocked off by stone. There is no further entrance to the rest of the cave. The Apaches had used the cave and apparently Billy the Kid hit out in it. Among the souvenirs are salt lamps from China (Mongolia?) for $21. I actually would like to have one for wherever I wind up settling down when this is over but what would I do with it in the meantime? I drive out past the Fox Gem mine ("Keep Out Dangerous Explosives") and a handful of low buildings like adobe huts. It was kind of disappointing but at least I tried.
Glencoe, Lincoln National Forest Access Road #120 is a dirt road. Clouds hang low over the road in front of me. Devil's Canyon Road is dirt but Access Road #443 starts out paved. Eagle Creek, red-roofed homes below the road level, Casa Mendoza closed for ever, lots of tin buildings (some kind of fairground?), a tin-roofed house with smoke coming out of the chimney, lots of tin roofs out here, a yellowish sand or grass, dotted with small green shrubs of some kind, sagebrush or whatever, not growing really close to each other, each one claiming its own territory, some small rocks,. San Patricio at 2:09, the Hurd Museum, a crow or raven flies across the road. At 2:12, Roswell 37 miles away, US 70 joins US 380, between 2 ranges of hill, one rises up immediately off the road to my left, the other some distance away to my right, maybe half a mile. Honda. For sale ranch. A number of buildings, including a stallion barn. Tinnie at 2:16. Another abandoned house, the First Baptist Church (pretty small), the road to Arabela. The Tinnie Silver Dollar Steakhouse and Saloon ("We're a Cut Above") is a pretty big red-tiled roof building that rambles, only one floor but it takes up quite a bit of space. I drive past it, ignoring Rule #3. Picacho at 2:2, clouded over, a peak to my left hazed over at the top, hazy desert to the left of the peak. A yellow sand area, which looks like a dry very wide river. Riverside at 2:29, another apparently abandoned building to my left with a truck in front of it, other buildings next to it; to my right, it rolls off to plain then to pale-colored hills pale in color. It's down to 30 degrees and plants are frosted over. Then into the clouds, still a pretty good bit of visibility. 5 black cattle chewing icy grass, visibility pretty good in all directions, kind of hazy to my right, a house is way off to my right, maybe a quarter of a mile, the hill behind it has an antenna of some kind. The road is now divided highway again, 70 mph, 2 lanes each way with icy grass in between them with frequent breaks for turnarounds. Now it's rolling road, prairie on either side, what looks like snow on rocks and the slopes at the sides of the road.
A McDonald's billboard: "Unofficial Crash Site", UFO Museum. Temp up to 33. Roswell City Limits, elev 3370, at 2:54. Visitors Center 912 Main. I stop at the Crane Motel at 3:21, the temp 34, odometer 113175. There's a desk and chair and lamp (unplugged), an overhead shelf with a rod for hangers but no hngers, no foldaway suitcase holder,a 3-drawer dresser with TV, a small table with radio alarm clock, 2 small bed tables with wall lamps, fridge, microwave, a small round table with 2 chairs. Very little sink space.
Down to the UFO Museum ($3). In 1947, a Roswell area rancher found the wreckage of a flying saucer with 3 aliens, which was then hushed up and denied by the US government. Much of the documentation refers to this incident, which is what set off the UFO hysteria of the late 40s and 50s. A lot of official-looking and unofficial documents, newspaper stories, UFO movie exhibits. I hit a number of the souvenir stores. Rocks Fossils and Christian Supplies. I'd like to have bought license plate but not for $9.
Then I take the long way round to Denny's for chicken, veggies, corn, soup, and coffee, followed by a DQ cone. Bed at 1130.
Sunday, November 29
In 1968, I had a long talk with Beverly at the Bent Card Thanksgiving dinner
and took my first ride in Jack Schuster's Land Rover.
Roswell to Albuquerque
Up at 8:30. Another gray day. It rained overnight. Leaving the motel at 9:31, temp 38, odometer 113195, stopping at the Escondido Cafe for steak picado, scrambled eggs, hash browns, beans, toast, coffee. Next to me at the counter is a stocky man, probably in his 50s, like a Navajo Indian, but with a face that seems more Mexican, wearing a black cowboy hat and a vest. I take Washington Street to 4th Street to Main Street, US 285 (Arby's: "Aliens Welcome", the Quick Draw Carwash--my car definitely needs one) to get $18 of $1.859 gas at a Stripes in Roswell. 10:24, temp 37. A guy in his 50s or 60s with a cowboy hat at the pump in front of me, 50s or 60s. I see another one for $1.809 as I leave Roswell. Goodbye to US 70 at 10:30.
70 mph. A large white storage silo to my right, lots of pipe stacked inside a fence alongside the road, with a couple of low buildings that go back from the road quite some distance. There seems to be a farm of some kind here, an open shed with a lot of hay bales in it but no house, very green off to my right, buildings on my left, a house and several outbuildings made of metal. Occasional buildings out in the middle of nowhere, a large old building, 8-9 windows across, 2 floors, abandoned, a crow, pretty dreary country, desert on both sides, hazy at a distance, gentle swells of land and road, yellow-green with dark green growths, it seems more brownish on the left side. A tiny house off to my left, tiny because of the distance. The land drops off to my left then comes back up to a ridge; the road pretty flat and pretty much flat off to my right, a ridge a mile or two away. Then the country becomes a little more rolling on both sides and on the road, but it's still pretty much prairie or desert. The Connie Beck Memorial Highway.
The De Daca County Line at 11:06, gently rolling gerritory, prairie on both sides, greener instead of that yellowish-brown, no hills in sight, at least not until the clouds lift a little more, pretty hazy in the distance. A couple of black Angus out there, eating grass, walking around. A rock outcropping off to my left. At first I thought it was a building--it looked like a large adobe hut. To my left, 5 or 6 buildings, some kind of ranch of farm 5 or 6 buildings. A little bit of snow along the road to my left, where the median ends and the road begins. More cattle to my right, a bunchof outbuildings, no house, snow on the bank on the far side of the road, temp 34.
The Lincoln County Line at 11:23, totally overcast, hazy off to my right. Snow now lines the road on both sides of these 2 lanes, very gently rolling country, an abandoned house to my left, a shack. At 11:25 I get into some pretty dense fog or clouds, more snow alongside the road, cars disappear into the mist. The fog creates all kind of illusions, like there's mountains right next to the road, right next to me, mostly in my peripheral vision, some kind of bridge to my right, just off the road. At the Guadeloupe County Line, temp 32, 11:33, there's more snow along the road, the fog thicker. The fog lifts to some extent, better visibility, the sun trying to get through, actually shining and creating shadows.
US 60 at 11:53, still very foggy. I pass 54 south to Alamogordo. US 60/US 285 is a 4-lane highway divided just like 285 was. I can't see much in the distance, a railroad off to right. Lawrence County at 12:02, the sun trying to break through the clouds. I can see it as the fog moves away a bit. I stop at a rest area for 16 minutes to rest my eyes. At 12:23, the haze and fog are suddenly gone, replaced by a blue sky with bunches of little cumulus ahead of me and to my left, a bank of clouds to my right, the area totally flat, the road a little on rough side (making me worry about things breaking loose underneath), everything now bright blue and sunny. I cross over the railroad track and it's now to my left and soon disappears into the desert, the clouds to my right are gone, just flat yellow country to my right. Encino, a small little community, a couple of abandoned shacks, "Know the Truth Phoenix Journals", another abandoned building but in good shape, a former trailer, an adobe style square house, "mufflers and pipes," a gas station no longer in use, another abandoned square building, a couple of them, a Catholic church, a house really falling apart, with timbers shattered everywhere, couple of abnandoned buildings in fairly good shape, what looks like a former trailer home out by itself, a strange-looking 2-floored house that seems to b built out of bits and pieces. Yellow fields on both sides, scattered small green shrubs solitary out there by themselves, just a handful of them. Still a blue sky with a fair amount of cumulus scattered but mostly blue sky, yellow on either side with snow cover, left (due west) a couple of mountains with shallow peaks. To my right there seems to be some sparsely scattered green growths in the yellow. I'm doing 70 in cruise control. Red clay in the bank to my right, the Victor Perez Ranch. By 12:41, the peaks to my left are pretty much behind me, the yellow to my right is much more dotted with green growths, a ridge of red rock falls to desert floor, the ridge going all the way round to my right, buttes or whatever, over a rise, gust of wind between the mountains, red and yellow sandstone or whatever rock, green shrubbery going up the slope, snow on the northern slope to my left, then back to high desert. 3 black cattle out on the prairie, 2 lying down, one grazing. A rectangular pond.
Cline's Corners Travel center at the junction with I-40 at 12:52. After getting 99-cent coffee and a small purse for Penny, I get on I-40, speed limit 75, at 1:25, due west, lots of cumulus clouds very unthreatening off to north, just a line of them, clear blue sky up ahead, more clouds less well formed to my left, blue mountains ahead to my right, a gully off to my right, short rock cliffs off to my right, a rocky hillside, some boulders come down from the top here and there, over a rise, a yellow landscape dotted with green shrubs. I stop to check the shield. The duct tape is holding but there's a pretty big gouge in metal above it, maybe caused by same thing. 4 horses grazing alongside the road, coming into a lot of cars and traffic, mountains rising in front of me, starting off low to the southwest, staying a low ridge for a while then rising in the northwest, falling back down a bit then rising even higher to peaks instead of ridges and rounded areas. Soaring Museum, Lisa's Truck Center, "Railroad Ties buy 16 ties get 3 free," piled up alongside the side road, well-kept farming country, not so well kept on left, a bunch of houses here, small one-story, some ranch style, some trailer style (those that get trucked in halves), a trailer, some that have seen better days, United Transmissions, desert on both sides with a large collection of homes in the distance to my right, a wind vane standing silent in the desert by the road.
The Santa Fe County Line at 1:51, yellow desert with lots of greenery dotting it, the mountains rising up to my right, not much off to my left, over a rise, low mountains in front of me. Past the desert to my right, the landscape is dotted with homes and houses, a modern church with a modern spire (whatever modern might be). The houses are now close to the road, Edgewood. Over a rise coming into a valley, those mountains that looked pretty small before are getting higher and higher. Lots of little homes alongside the road, some not so little, tract homes, pretty standard, Exit 181 "Historic Route 66," at Sedillo, Zuzax at 2:20, the temp up to 50, a rock cut, mountains higher and higher, some snow on them. Tijeras City Limit. Between some very rocky hillsides now, rock jutting out, some are fairly large, very very rocky, rocks on top of rocks. National Museum of Nuclear Science. Petroglyph National Monument.
I-25 at 2:18, temp 58. The Sandia mountains rising ahead of me have white rock at the very top. America's Best Value Inn on Alameda Boulevard at 2:50, temp 56, odometer 113410, a blue sky with clouds hanging over the Sandia Mountains to the northeast, the clouds moving perceptibly, it's pretty windy.
The room is pretty damn good for a little under $60. It's large, with the standard shelf, hangers, and foldaway, a safe in an alcove just inside door. A cabinet contains a microwave and fridge. There are 2 tables, one with a lamp, a coffee maker, and a plug for my laptop, and 3 chairs. A 6-drawer bureau (3x3) with a TV. A floor lamp, 2 bedside tables with wall lamps, alarm radio, phone. A fold-out bed "a Murphy bed". Lots of counter space in the bathroom. I may make this home for a while.
I call Brian Boggs and he calls me back around 7:15. After the football game, I have nachos at Denny's. Bed at 11:30.
Monday, November 30
In 2004, Ken Jennings lost on Jeopardy.
Up at 8:15, another clear blue sky day. Breakfast at the motel is a thick piece of toast with butter, a bagel with cream cheese, a small waffle, coffee, 3 cups of applie juice. Then I sign up for 5 more days here at around $50/night, including tax.
I call the court at Marfa to try to clear up the insurance problem. It's still going to cost me $20. Then I go to AAA at 10:00, temp 39, to get Phoenix and Tucson city maps and find someone to get an oil change and work on that front shield, Flash Automotive. I make an appointment there for Wednesday morning then go looking for a bank. This is not usually a problem but I'm about ready to give up when I see a Wells Fargo across the street from the large shopping mall where I was sure I would find one. I cash a credit for $300 and come back to the motel at 11:28, crossing over the Rio Grande River, not any wider than the Quinnipiac River in North Haven. Maybe it's not the Rio Grande River.
Brian shows up and we drive around a bit as he does errands then goes somewhere to it. I just get a piece of cheesecake ($6.97!) I work on my laptop, go out for a Subway sub when I can't find Arby's and go to bed around 11:45.
Tuesday, December 1
1977: Strange incredible skies. A big black cloud stretched from north to south, splitting the sky in half.
Up at 8:30 for another clear blue sky day. Sausage patty, waffle, 2 bowls of cereal, apple juice, and coffee at the motel. Leaving the motel at 10:08, temp 40, odometer 113477. I mail 3 postcards and go to a bakery on Jefferson Street for coffee and mediocre flan. At 12:07, I call Burrie while in the parking lot of the small mall where the bakery is located. I spend the afternoon working in the motel, going out for an Arby's roast beef sandwich.
In the evening, I go to the open mike at Brickyard Pizza near UNM. I take I-75 south, passing a big tree all decked out with icy blue lights near the center of Albuquerque, past I-40, to what I think is Central Avenue but turns out to be the MLK Jr. Boulevard. I turn right at University and the next cross street is Central.
I have a hard time finding Brickyard, having to turn around and park on a side street. It's a bit of a disappointment after everything Brian has said about it. Pretty small, about half-full (about 20 customers, which stays constant all night long). Brian's already there, setting up. The host shows up some time later and the open mike begins about 20 minutes late. Several of those who had signed up don't show up so I go on a little before 11. The host is a good guitar player. Brian raves about him. There were two more good guitar players before me, two rap artists with recorded music, a couple of mediocre guitar players after me. I do "New Kid in Town," "Four O'Clock on the Highway", and "All Night Diner." Most of them seem attentive, the applause seems pretty loud, and at least 6 people compliment me afterwards.
I leave around 12, following the same path out that I had followed in and hit the hay as soon as I get back to the motel.
Wednesday, December 2
1969: "The draft lottery was released. Susan Malcolm asked me where I stood on the list
and Gwen Jones said goodbye in a voice loud enough (it seemed) to go over half the campus."
Up at 6:30. Cereal, sausage patty, English muffin, Danish, coffee, and apple juice at the motel. Flash Automotive at 7:45, leaving at 10:17, temp up to 52, another clear cloudless blue-sky day, after 3000-mile service and a repaired splash shield.
Again I spend the rest of the day indoors working on this and other stuff. In the evening I get $20.50 worth of $1.795 gas at the Circle K next to the motel after buying a couple of mailers at Office Depot. Then it's down I-25 to I-40 west and into the desert to look at the stars. There's still too much light pollution from Albuquerque, whose lights are tiny little golden points of light, mildly spectacular. I drive another 9 miles and it’s better, with a ridge blocking out the lights of Albuquerque. I can see Orion rising in the east, Capella and Cepheus, the Milky Way, Cassiopeia, the Pleiades and Taurus and Aldebaran and the Hyades, the Northern Cross sinking in the west with Altair and Vega, the Great Square of Andromeda almost directly overhead, the Little Dipper, but there's still some kind of haze on every horizon, north, south, east, west.
I head back to I-40, stopping at the Route 66 Casino. It has a large hotel, 99 dollar hotel rooms Sunday through Thursday, 3 big arrows stuck into the ground, a performing area with Winona and an Eagles Tribute coming. There are baccarat tables, poker and blackjack tables, a craps table, a roulette wheel, all of them almost lost in the rows and rows of slot machines, at least 3 restaurants, a souvenir shop, a separate bingo room.
Thursday, December 3
1978: It's an evil night out there, a wind that calls me forth, drives me away from the typewriter,
full of hedonistic dreams and memories of a twenty-year-old innocent who romped through the streets of Pasadena,
trolled the streets of New Haven with George Wagner, who drove through Washington with Gene Norris.
Up at 9:00. 10:49, 41 degrees, on the road to Acoma, some clouds in the sky, cirrus to the east, a long stretch of flat cumulus to the south stretching off to west. I could not find my camera before I left so I decide to try to use the camera Phil Stoecker sold to me so many years ago. I-25 to I-40 at 10:55. A group of houses with different shapes but all uniformly the light tan in color so common here, though a few are made of red brick. As I approach the Route 66 Casino, there are mountains with snow way off to my right. Some kind of stone formation with lots of boulders and rock is closer to the road. Just past the Route 66 Casino, at mile 138, I see mesa-type topped things, gullies, a mini Badlands. Little cliffs rise out of the desert at To’hajiilee. I pass through a cut of yellow rock, then there are dark red cliffs to my right, to my left a cone rises out of the desert, nothing but cliffs in the far distance up ahead. There's a scattering of homes off to my left, far off to my right what looks like the first real mesa of this trip, red rock cliffs off to my right, more behind them, yellowish cliffs behind them, then the snow covered mountains. A train with container cars, probably less than 50, comes toward me. Red rock cliffs in the far distance to my right, in front of them a large collection of homes (Mesita), a little rocky hill rising out of the dessert, the road curves to face the snow-covered peaks, a lot of dull yellow houses with shallow-peaked roofs, a standard ranch home (gray), only one trailer home. I go through a cut between red rock, a red-rock hill by itself, a couple of hoodoos, then the road turns west between red rock cliffs a fall of yellow rock in the middle of one of them. The Pueblo of Laguna, "Home of the World Famous Lagunaburger."
Casa Blanca, Paraje, exit 108, The Dancing Eagle Casino, travel center. Exit 99: Yellowish-red rock, Acoma, Sky City, Acomita. The Sky City Casino and Hotel. I drive down the road to Acoma at 11:04, temp 50, exit 99. There are no signs for the Acoma Pueblo. I turn right at a T. Nothing looks likely so I turn around and go the other way. This time I see it well ahead of me--a roadrunner runs across the road then spreads its wings on the other side. I come to another T, turn left and head back to I-40. I check the map--it's not exit 99, it's exit 89. Onward. Another train with container cards, much longer than the first one, a couple of square adobe buildings alongside the railroad line, piebald horse standing motionless by itself in a field. Exit 89, Quemato, Route 117 at 12:33. No, I screwed up again. This road does not lead to Acoma. I give up. I'm going back to Albuquerque.
Back east on I-40. A spectacular formation with a lot of loose rock rises up with boulders to a cliff that levels up then rises up to another cliff that's ragged in shape. To my left, there are pale red rock cliffs the length of a long ridge dropping down to slopes to the desert. Dark rock off to my right.
I get off at exit 108 (see above) at 12:53, 52 degrees. Immediately there's a sign for Acoma/Sky City. This is definitely strange rock formation country--to my left, there's a flat area with rocks standing up by themselves, some of them mushroom-shaped; on my right there's a huge rock standing by itself with cliffs behind it. To my left, there's a sheer 90-degree cliff then rock shapes rise up like towers out of the mountain itself. A rock massif ahead of me, a smaller one to my right. Jumbled rock cliffs with big rock scree. I'm traveling through prairie, grass, sand, dark green sagebrush.
Welcome Pueblo of Acoma, Sky City. The rock massif that was ahead of me has a big hole, the rock that had fallen out lying underneath it. I get to Acoma Pueblo. A Navajo stops me, probably 50s, informs me the museum is only open and tours of the pueblo on the top of the nearby cliff (Sky City) are only given on weekends during the winter. So he (Gary) tells me the history of his people, claiming that they are the original Navajo tribe, having come down from Colorado. He belongs to the eagle clan and most of the tribe was murdered by soldiers back in the 1800s. His wife's pots are there as well as his drawings and paintings. I feel obliged to buy one of the $10 ones, which I will send to my great-niece Penny. While he was talking, I heard a raven.
I drive back to I-40, taking pictures with my old camera. Only one comes out, of an abandoned adobe hut near the museum.
Back to I-40 at 2:39, temp 55. When I reach Albuquerque, there's a bunch of houses with green, orange, and yellow facades. Back at the motel, I finally find my camera.
In the evening, I go to an open mike at the Winning Coffeehouse near UNM, just around the corner from Brickyard Pizza. First I go across the street for a reuben which was on a kind of small sub roll and didn't taste like a reuben but tasted good. To my surprise, most of the people at the coffeehouse are middle-aged. The host is probably in late 40s, there's a heavy couple, the man with a beard, a table with several people who don't perform. When I arrive, a young woman (I think) is performing some very esoteric-sounding songs in a very soft voice with some very good fingerpicking. She's followed by a guy in a black beret who recites beatnik poetry while playing bongos. When he takes off his beret, he looks very different. Then a small older man (retired, he tells me) plays an instrument that looks like a small Appalachian dulcimer with 4 strings, very good playing, no vocal.
Then it's my turn--the vibe had been pretty mellow so I don't use a flat pick, trying to keep things quiet. I finger-pick "Paisley Highways," strum "These Ancient Wings," and finish with "Don't Ever Go." A woman at the back of the small room, thin, middle-aged, dark hair, watches me quite a bit as does a fairly heavy late middle-aged woman in a wheel chair, the kind of person you immediately dismiss. She follows me and reads things she has written about working with Vietnamese refugees in the Philippines. I talk with her later about her life and I couldn't have been wronger about her. Like so many of my friends, she's led a much more interesting life than I have. 2 young men who came in late with a young woman finishes off the night with one song each. I have a cup of coffee with 2 refills.
Back to I-10 at 9:24, temp 39, and back to motel at 9:40.
Friday, December 4
Why do they put scenic views where there's no scenic view at all?
Up around 8:30. A couple of bowls of cereal, coffee, juice, bagel with cream cheese, sausage patty at the motel. On the road at 10:20 on an absolutely perfect clear blue sky, temp 42. $200 from a Bank of America. I stop at a State Farm agent who cannot give me an insurance card. Apple Tree Eye Care tightens my eyeglasses for free. The Sandia mountains are beautiful. I get an orange soda, trail mix, candy from Dollar Tree.
12:20. Off to Petroglyph National Monument. The sky is pretty well clouded over now but the sun is still shining, a lot of white with a lot of big wispy clouds and blue. The Visitors Center sends me to the Boca Negra (the Black Mouth) Canyon ("Boca Negra Canyon is a 70 acre section of the 7,236 acres within the monument boundaries. Approximately 200 petroglyphs can be viewed here. The three trails offer a diverse view of the cultural and natural landscape within the monument."--from nps.com), where I hike the Mesa Point Trail up a small hill with lots of black volcanic rock, some with glyphs on them. The hike down is not a lot of fun if you've got a fear of heights. There are two more trails, the Macaw Trail (very short) and the Cliff Base Trail. I leave Boca Negra at 1:54.
Then it's to the volcanos access road on Atrisco Vista Boulevard, past Butte Volcano and Bond volcano, small volcano cones, on my left, the Double Eagle airport II on my right, to the access road on my left at 2:14, blue sky to the south with a lot of cloud, scattered clouds to the north, but the sun shining. These volcanic cones are what's left of volcanos that erupted 130,000 years ago. The path to JA Volcano is closed and it's too far to Black Volcano. There's a nice view of the Sandia Mountains and Albuquerque where I turn around, desert on either side, white and black or black and tan rocks, lots of yellow grass, mountains in the far distance to the south and west. Back to car at 2:43. Back to the motel at 3:10.
When I went out to Denny's in the evening, I found the money I couldn't find inside my good sneakers. I had been walking on it last night! I had clam chowder, ice cream, and coffee at Denny's. Bed at 11:20.
Saturday, December 5
Santa Fe, New Mexico, is an adobe town. --Peter LaFarge
Albuquerque to Santa Fe
Up at 7:30 for sausage, cereal, bagel & cream cheese, coffee, apple juice at the motel, leaving at 9:08, temp 39, 113882 on the odometer, a clear blue sky with a little bit of clouds to south. $22.50 worth of $1.799 gas (12.5 gallons) at the Circle K next to the motel. The Sandia Mountains look pretty neat in the morning with all those shadows in the canyons or whatever.
I-75 to Santa Fe. The Sandia Reservation, Sandoval County Line, the Santa Ana Reservation. Interesting country. To my left, hills rise up out of the desert then drop off at 45 degree slopes to the desert. 3 peaks of the Sangre de Christos Mountains ahead of me have snow on them, but there are a lot of 16 others without any. There's rolling desert with yellow grass and the usual green bushes, sagebrush, whatever, on both sides of the road, a mini Badlands on the right, houses to my left, one with a red roof. The Santo Domingo Reservation, the San Felipe Pueblo, the Santa Fe County Line at 9:44, Rio Galisteo, Cochiti Pueblo, Waldo.
I stop at a rest area----"First gold placer mining west of the Mississippi began with the discovery of the precious metal in the ragged Ortiz mountains south of here in 1828, 21 years before the California gold rush. Since then the district had produced more than 99,000 ounces of placer gold and gold is currently produced from lode deposits." Turquoise was also mined by the Indians. "La Bajada. The descent marks the division between the Rio Ariba or Upper River and the Rio Abajo or Lower River sections of New Mexico. The steep and dangerous grade was long an obstacle to caravan traffic going from the Rio Grande valley to Santa Fe." La Cienaga.
Santa Fe at 10:05. Scattered low houses in the desert. Definitely an adobe town, all those square buildings with rods sticking out, parapet-type at the top. ("The city created the idea of imposing a unified building style - the Spanish Pueblo Revival look, features borrowed from many old adobe homes and churches built many years before and found in the Pueblos, along with the earth-toned look (reproduced in stucco) of the old adobe exteriors. After 1912 this style became official: all buildings were to be built using these elements. Many contemporary houses in the city are built from lumber, concrete blocks, and other common building materials, but with stucco surfaces (sometimes referred to as "faux-dobe"." --Wikipedia)
US 285 at 10:10, Route 14 (Cerillos Road), the Best Value Inn at 10:28. No rooms available till 11:30 so to Denny's for coffee and ice cream. Into the motel at 11:30, 44 degrees, still a clear blue sky, 113940 on the odometer.
The room, on the second floor, at the end, a bit of a walk, is a lot smaller than the one in Albuquerque. And colder. The bed dominates the room, 2 bedside tables with lamps and a clock, a floor lamp, 3-drawer dresser with an empty space between the last drawer and the top, desk & chair with a table lamp & phone, no overhead rack, just hangers & a foldaway, not a lot of sink space, the fridge smaller than usual, TV on the wall the facing the bed.
Dinner was an Arby's steak fajita sandwich. Bed at 10:45, bored.
Sunday, December 6
In 2000, I performed for the first time at The Year of the Rabbit.
Up at 8:40. Pretty chilly but not too bad. I had 2 minibagels, apple juice, coffee, a hard boiled egg, and cereal at the motel.
On the road at 10:37, temp 41, clear blue sky day, odometer 113952. Down Cerillos Road, past Chihuahua Tires, to I-25 at 10:47, 40 degrees. Coming down from a hill, I can see rolling hills with sagebrush dotting the sand and yellow grass on the slopes.
The exit for NM 16 and the Cochiti Pueblo at 10:58, temp 44, still pretty much blue with a contrail to my left. Past red rock at the exit, out into desert at 55 mph. Tetilla Peak Recreation Area. Entering Cochiti Reservation at 11:05, temp 44. Cochiti Elementary School on my left, trailer homes, light blue cylindrical tanks, very tiny, on the slope of the mountain ahead me, much tinier and you wouldn't be able to see them.
To Route 22 at 11:08, temp 43, over the Santa Fe River, dry as a bone. A small house to my left below the road with a couple of sheds, just roofs with timbers holding the up, an old pueblo-type house apparently now being used as a shed, another large shed with a shallow V roof held up by timbers, totally open, a road sign for elk or some kind of antlered animal, fields being farmed. The Rio Grande at least has water, though not a lot. A couple of irrigation ditches, an actual tree. The blue tanks are now on a hill to my right at Cochiti, 11:13. A scattering of houses similar to eastern ones, a couple of adobe Southwestern ones.
Indian Service Road 92 at 11:14, temp 45, past a cemetery with a lot of crosses. Into Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument at 11:23. My Golden Eagle pass gets me in for free and the Native American ranger fills my canteen, which I have a hard time finding, 45 degrees, still a clear blue sky. It's 5 miles from the ranger station to the parking lot, 25 mph, and when they say DIP here, they really mean it.
The cone-shaped tent rock formations are the products of volcanic eruptions that occurred 6 to 7 million years ago and left pumice, ash, and tuff deposits over 1,000 feet thick. Tremendous explosions from the Jemez volcanic field spewed pyroclasts (rock fragments), while searing hot gases blasted down slopes in an incandescent avalanche called a "pyroclastic flow.”"
Precariously perched on many of the tapering hoodoos are boulder caps that protect the softer pumice and tuff below. Some tents have lost their hard, resistant caprocks, and are disintegrating. While fairly uniform in shape, the tent rock formations vary in height from a few feet up to 90 feet. --www.blm.gov
To the parking lot at 11:42. My cameras won't work so I am unable to document this incredible area. A cliff to my right has what looks like a pawn up there while ahead of me there's what looks like a chess castle. There are wonderful cliffs to my right with mushroom-shaped rock hoodoos, desert to my right. I go back to the parking area at 12:15 back with no working camera and start hiking without them.
I meet some people from Maryland on the trail (one has on a Catoctin sweatshirt). There are rock sentinels on top of the cliff, one tent rock on top, a large dead tree in front of some cliffs, a tent rock with a boulder on top, another tent rock to my left, a little cliff rising up to my right. Into a narrow canyon now, walls rising up steeply, not quite 90 degrees, rock alcoves, a formation that looks like an Easter Island statue, the rock full of indentations more or less circular. The path is sand and a bit hard to walk on. It becomes very narrow, barely enough for one person, and I begin walking like a little child, the same feeling I had in Muir Wood 49 years ago. A couple of pinon pines, a piece of deadwood lying on a rock slope. Lots of rounded domes going up, a small one with a rock on top, some with onion domes at top. Large volcanic rocks in the middle of the path, really nice hoodoos rising up to a point, like a turret, one ahead in the middle of the trail has a big rock on top, some with cones on top of cones, a large one ahead of me but above me. I come to what looks like a cul-de-sac but I crawl over a pile of rocks to my right and the path begins, much steeper, heading up to a ridge with a rock like medieval castle dead ahead and tent rocks to my left but the ridge looks uninteresting so I turn around but a couple with two little girls keeps on, talking about how there'd been snow the last time they'd been up. It's a lot colder up here, glad I had on a sweater although it had felt too warm below. It's rougher climbing back down to that cul-de-sac than it was going down.
As I hike back down, five university kids come down, running up and down slopes. There are hoodoos to my left as I walk down, rising up like beehives but slanted at top, some with a rock on top. Coming into where the narrow section begins. It seems ominous as I walk toward it. I reach the cleft in rock where it really begins at 1:19. Oh God, it so much better this way, like entering a cave, a wall straight of me, with rocks piled up underneath it, which I hadn't noticed coming the other way; way up there is blue sky and the sound of a raven, which flies overhead. I leave the narrow canyon area at 1:23, still in canyon but not such a tight squeeze. I leave the entire canyon area at 1:28 and get back to the car at 1:40.
Onto I-25 at 2:08, temp 51, some cirrus clouds in the sky. You just want to pull over in this country and start taking pictures everywhere. Spectacular country. Back to motel 2:49, temp 49. More clouds coming in but it's still mostly blue.
In the evening, I have huevos rancheros and flan at the Cafe Castro. It's pretty damn cold at 8:30.
Monday, December 7
In 1879, Thomas Edison demonstrated the phonograph.
Santa Fe to Los Alamos to Taos
Up at 7:50. Coffee, juice, cereal, minibagel with cc, toast with mixed fruit jam, waffle with butter but no syrup (it was there but I didn't find it until I was done). On the road at 9:58, temp 42, odometer 114030, past the sign to Saint Johns College, out on US 285 (the El Camino Real), speed limit 65. At 10:09, temp 43, outside of Santa Fe, those snow-covered mountains slopes sure look good. Bridges have Navajo type designs, yellow, dull red, and aquamarine, retaining walls have birds (cranes?), frogs, lizards on them. I come over a rise down to a valley, to my left a ridge with a stone tower like a chess castle. Tesuque Pueblo. Retaining walls have pseudo Indian motifs--bird, frog, lizard. There is a group of leafless gray trees down in the valley, leafless, clustered around a group of houses. A building that looks to me like a big ocean-going ship with yardarms and davits and masts sits on top of a ridge just off the road. Aa blue-roofed home is some distance down there some, up ahead green-dotted rolling tan hills, off in the distance a ridge that rises from the desert then falls off at a 45 degree angle. Tesuque Pueblo, Buffalo Thunder Road, Camel Rock Road, the Camel Rock Casino, Cuyamunque. Most of the buildings are still in the square southwestern style, to my left little hoodoos rock formations rise out of the hills that rise out of the desert, a rock mushroom off to my left. An overpass with deer, corn, and a woman painted on it. An abandoned gas station, the Nambe Falls Casino (there are a hell of a lot of casinos out here). A small hill rises up from the desert to a rocky top. The freeway ends, 45 mph, row after row of square apartment buildings, one looking just any other, just like in the east, except these are in the Southwestern adobe style. An RV park with lots and lots of RVs.
NM 502 west to Alamos at 10:24, temp 35, 55 mph. Pojeque Community, the San Ildefonoso Reservation, Jaconito, a couple of semi-demolished houses, one with the back almost half gone open, one with the side half grown, interesting country. The road goes between 2 places--one slopes upward to a sheer rock cliff about 90 degrees, something on top (natural or man made? I can't tell), the Rio Grande, a small white house up there, a tan round house, rock formations rising up from the sand-covered slope, rock formation like a dam between 2 slopes to my left, another rock slope rising steeply but not 90 degrees. Puye Cliffs. There are some magnificent cliffs rising up now, reddish-yellow stone, a sheer rock formation totally impossible to describe, like flutes (or maybe the pipes of a pipe organ) of straight-down yellow-red rock. A slightly rounded top that leads to a straight-down cliff. Some pines don't seem to be pinons but what do I know? At 10:38, temp 35, I hit a winding twisting highway with incredible land in front of me.
"Los Alamos, where discoveries are made!" at 10:48. "Speed limit in Los Alamos County 25 mph unless otherwise posted." It's 50 mph on this road right now. The Canyon Rim Trail Head. The Los Alamos Airport with a helicopter and lots of small planes. I reach the Visitors Center at 10:52, temp 44, odometer 114055. I go to the Arts Center and buy a card with horses for Penny. In the wall of a shopping arcade is News from Mars, a TV screen embedded in the wall showing photos from Mars. I pass the Romero cabin, built in the early part of the 20th century, the remains of the Ancestral Pueblo Dwelling: "Around 1225 C.E. this site was home to a group of Tewa-speaking people, ancestors of the pueblo groups." and the houses where Hans Bethe and J. Robert Oppenheimer lived during the Manhattan Project. There are turtle, horse, and dragon sculptures in a shopping center. The Bradbury Science Museum (named for Norman Bradbury, not Ray Bradbuy) opens at 1:00 and I leave at 1:51, a bit disappointed--there wasn't as much as I would have liked. It's time to leave in my filthy car, 59 degrees, some cirrus in the sky, back out on 502, the snow-covered Sangre de Christos ahead of me, not sure where the labs are, behind a fence, the scientists now working on the Mars rovers among other things. It's a small quiet town. I drive past an empty guard tower--is that left over from the Manhattan Project days?
J. Robert Oppenheimer and the general in charge of the Manhattan Project
Route 30 to Espanola at 2:32, temp 56. Entering Santa Clara Indian Reservation. Onto 68 at 3:11, temp 56, 55 mph once I get out of town. $13.60 of $1.739 gas at the Ohkay Travel Center (Alon gasoline) in Espanola. The Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, the sky full of clouds but the sun shining, some blue sky, about 60% clouds, pretty high, mixed cumulus and cirrus. Some interesting carved canyons to my right, a ridge dotted with a lot of green (instead of scattered sagebrush) to the left; up ahead another ridge with lots of green coming up out of the desert, a lot of green on a ridge ahead, stone formations to the right, the snow-covered mountains behind them, to my left a collection of various houses including trailers, a 2-story Spanish style house with a red tile roof, a house with the inevitable rusted tin roof, Lyden and La Canova, a shed, Club Lumina, a yellow house not bright but not adobe pale yellow, lots of houses down there, a big stack of wood or hay, a cliff jutting out from a hill covered with sagebrush. Velarde, houses along the road, what looks like a motel with 2 stories no sign I can see, Casa Cristal Pottery, a winery with 3 metal tuns in front. I enter a canyon, with grass sandy hills on either side dotted with sagebrush. A winding road, pretty nice country but not photoworthy, although there may be some interesting rocks on top of the hills. A rock horsehead way up there, a pretty good-sized river to my left. It almost feels like I'm somewhere in New England driving between mountains covered with trees instead of sagebrush and lichen-covered rocks. There are a couple of houses with massive hills behind them, a collection of 20-30 houses and trailers at Embudo, houses alongside the road on both sides, the Espresso Gallery. "Congested area." Hah! A graveyard with a massive rock outcropping behind it with crosses on top. Rinconada. "Outsider art, junk art," rafting, Blue Heron Brewing Company, a few houses and businesses alongside the road, one abandoned, stone carving classes at Southwest Stoneworks. 3:50, temp 49, the sun behind clouds but plenty of blue up ahead mixed with cirrus. A photo of a rock jutting up with a tree in front of it on NM 68. 4:02 temp 50, pretty much blue sky up ahead, big cirrusy looking cloud, the sun shining, rock cliffs above me on the right, one up ahead, a hill with rocks and sagebrush, not massive upjutting cliffs. Rio Grande Gorge Visitors Center. Carson and Pilar. Cliffs leading up to kind of dome shape on top with sagebrush, behind them another row of cliffs, to my right short cliffs next to the road, 4 or 5 horses in a field, white, gray, piebald. Yee-haw! A 180 degree turn, snow patches on the slope just above the road. Llano Quemado, heading northeast, 4:16 temp 48. A couple of big tepees in front of a factory outlet. Gas is $2.059 here.
I stop at the Indian Hills Motel in Taos at 4:45, temp 44, odometer 114133. The sun has set but the sky is still light blue. 2 beds, a table & lamp & phone between them, opposite them is a dresser with a TV, there's the standard overhead shelf & hangers & a foldout suitcase holder, not a lot of counter space (but still more than I had in Santa Fe), a table with 3 chairs and a lamp, large piece of furniture with a big base then 3 drawers, a large opening where a TV normally would be, and a shelf above that. The windows open out onto an open space between the two arms of the motel. There's no fridge or microwave.
While I was in Albuquerque, I cut the tip of my right index finger on a razor blade. Finger cuts tend to heal fast but it's making finger-picking difficult. When I got to the motel today, I blew my nose and there was blood in the mucus. But that was the end of that.
I go to the open mike at the Alley Cantina. I have a hard time finding it--I have to walk down an alley after parking the car on a square with a lot of Christmas lights. It's a collection of small rooms, 4, maybe 5, plus the kitchen. There are only 4 people at the bar and the emcee, who looked like a 6'2" Tom Hanks, is setting up. While he's doing so, his partner, Brett, comes in. There are a couple of people in the other rooms and 3 women sitting at the back of the bar room. Later the bar gets up to 8-10 people. After the emcee and Brett do about 5 C&W songs, a belly dancer performs. Then it's my turn. "This Old Van," "Four O'Clock on the Highway" (which I finger-pick despite my cut finger), "St. James Infirmary," "All Night Diner," and "The Bag I'm In," with the emcee on bass and Brett on drums, doing very well. A couple of people at the bar seem to enjoy it but no one's taking a chance on spraining a wrest. One guy in particular intrigues me--he looks like a 50-year-old rancher in cowboy hat and boots, dividing his attention between me and the football game on TV. Later another rancher-type comes in but he's chunkier than the first guy. Then Wayne gets up, a chunky guy who plays bass and sings one song. While he's performing, Joe come ins, taller than the MC. He plays a resonator guitar and harmonica as more people get up and jam with everybody else. Chris, probably early 30s, sings about 5 songs, including "Friend of the Devil." As I'm leaving, somebody is doing Pink Floyd. It was an evening for the good old boys. They were polite to me but this is what everybody came for.
Bed at 12:05.
Tuesday, December 8
In 1980, John Lennon was shot.
Had a dream in which JR was upset because I didn't do an E F G walkup in a song. I drove away in my old 53 Chevy, picked up Dave Grossman, where some girls made fun of my dirty old car. Dave took his guitar off the roof of the car and began driving my car and I woke up. (Dave does not play guitar.)
I got up at 8:50 for a bagel and cream cheese, and orange juice at the motel. There was no coffee left or bread for toast. There was French toast to be put in a toaster but I passed.
Walked up the Caseo del Pueblo past lots and lots and lots of galleries and a lot of square adobe buildings with fake wood coming out of them. Martyrs Lane and Bent Street, named after an early governer, also "the home of Long John Dunn, gambler and stage coach driver." The 1932 Taos County Courthouse, with the jail under the courtroom. Little Place Boutique, Coffee Company ("Dressing well is a form of good manners"), Mariposa Boutique, La Fiesta Mineral Gallery, Taos Cowboy, Mesa's Edge, Taos Trading Company Curios and Sundries. The Mercado, Taos Mountain Candles, Taos Mercantile Company, Hotel La Fonda, the Coyote Club, Don Fernando de Taos Plaza. I mailed a package to Burrie at the post office at the far end of the Caseo del Pueblo.
It was an overcast day with the sun shining through, totally cloudy in the late afternoon. I had Copper Don's Eggs (overpriced scrambled eggs with green chiles, potato, biscuit, coffee) at the Taos Diner II. I decided not to go to Taos Pueblo because the charge was too high (not a big surprise) or into Kit Carson’s home for the same reason, although the charge was a lot less.
I wanted to go to Arby's but couldn't find it so settled for a cheeseburger and a "frosty" at Wendy's.
Wednesday, December 9
1980: JOHN LENNON SHOT TO DEATH.
It was like a kick in the stomach.
Why, why, why?
Taos to Colorado line
Up at 7:15 for a bagel with cream cheese, yogurt, coffee, OJ. On the road at 8:30, odometer 114147, a bit of a hazy blue sky, quite a bit of cloud, 27 degrees. After picking up flavored water at Smith's across the street from the motel and mailing a package to Penny, I take US 64 past the Kachina Lodge at 8:51, the sun shining, horses and cattle sharing pastureland, quite a lot of businesses as I leave Taos--Mexico Cafe, El Prado Plaza, Video Casa, Laughing Horse, Taos Diner & Market, mountains off to my right, houses, businesses, mostly Southwestern style, Casa Cristal Pottery, Cisneros Sheetmetalworks, El Pueblito Methodist Church, open country, rangeland to my right, mildly spectacular mountains in the distance, a big rambling house, Overland Ranch, a lot of different buildings here, horses out in a field on my left, scattered houses across the prairie, quite a few scattered houses, "Music on the Mesa," a caboose (with "Frisco" on it), 64 takes sharp left, more houses, some standard eastern style some southwestern, to my left a range of mountains with haze underneath it (Taos?) A collection of sticks or poles in the shape of tepee, civilization finally left behind except of course for this road, desert on either side, mountains on all horizons, a big empty country. With fences on it, of course. At 9:06, I cross the Rio Grand Gorge and for once there's a place to pull over. Elk crossing ahead, 55 mph, still desert with some outcroppings to my left. Earthship Biotecture, strange buildings out in desert, a green triangular dome, strange scattered buildings across the desert (living structures?), a green ship out on the desert with open spaces under arches and strange protuberances, turrets popping up out of the roof, seems to be built out of the desert itself. (If you're curious, check the internet.) Double D Ranch, what seems to be a dry empty lake bed with buildings on the far shore. I'm now out on high empty prairie country, to my right solid snow cover on one of the mountains, the others with scattered, stretches of empty rock as well as snow. To my left, prairie stretches out to small mountains. I pass another ranch sign, a dirt road over the hills, not a building in sight. They're really anti-social out here. Another ranch, but this time I can see a red tile roof nestled between some hills in the near distance. Patches of snow alongside road to left, a nice-looking gully. Scattered houses to my right, trailer style, trucked-in, several ravens, mobile homes on my left with a school bus and other vehicles, one house on my right being assembled after being trucked in, scattered houses along 64 after miles and miles of desert, 9:37, a rock outcropping to my left. Entering Tres Piedras. Another outcropping to my right and a pink pueblo.
Carson National Forest at 9:45, temp 42. Many stands of naked aspens. This is pine tree country, no longer stage brush, a big 180 degree turn, a snow-covered dirt road, snow on the southern slopes now pretty regularly. Dark wooden sheds down there as I come down out of the mountains, yellow territory with a fair amount of snow on the banks. This is scary country. But beautiful, which is part of the reason why it's so scary. A deep fall-off to my right to grazing country, wooden cattle pens, a couple of horses share the range with 20-30 dark cattle. More cattle, a couple of brown ones, a tin roof open shed, a dummy hanging alongside the road, a shed falling in upon itself with timbers going every which way.
It's just such beautiful country and no way could you take a picture that could begin to give any indication of how beautiful it is because the beauty comes from the size of it, the scope of it. Green trees on my right marching up the hillside, to my left expanses of wide expanses of prairie and grassland, naked trees, small bushes, pine trees, but open so you can see for a long distance, and there is no way you can begin to capture this with a photograph. It's not a startling spectacular kind of beauty but a calm beauty, running along between hills of pines, just very calm.
There's snow cover on both sides of the road. Leaving Carson Nat Forest at 10:11, temp 35. There are far distant bluish snow-capped mountains to my left, a lot of snow, piled up about a foot along the road, solid snow cover on either side. A horseshoe curve to a view of the valley below, stretching out quite some distance to the mountains beyond, no way can you photograph this. What looks like a fox crosses the road. Down in the flats now, so to speak, although the road is a bit of a mild roller coaster, the snow hasn't disappeared but it's mostly on north-facing slopes, practically none on south-facing slopes facing south, prairie and desert on either side now, pine forest behind them. What looks like a magpie and another one, flashes of white, some swallows flying in front of me briefly, catching my updraft. Tierra o Muerte, Combres and Toltec Scenic Railway, Three Ravens (a store?), a greenish building. Wonderful steep cliffs to my right like those of Bryce Canyon. Tierra Almarilla at 10:40, "Wifi From Space," El Vado Lake, a Spanish style church off to my left after a string of houses on a road perpendicular to the highway. Los Ojos, Heron Dam and Reservoir, snowcapped mountains in front of me, the Boxcar Cafe, the Brazos River with a little water in it, Los Brazos to the right. 20-30 dark cattle to my left, a few more later including a white one. And still more dark cattle, definitely cattle country. Welcome to Chama elevation 4700 at 10:47, temp 41, Timberline Gift shop, Elkhorn Lodge, Elkhorn Restaurant, Spruce Lodge, 11:00.
I stop for toast and coffee at Fina's Diner, a very small place, a much larger place across the street (High Country Restaurant and Saloon?). A bunch of men and one woman at one table, only one other patron at the 4 other tables, 11:26, temp 42. Back on the road, past Patsy's Restaurant, River Lumber and Garden Center, Branding Iron Motel and Restaurant, Church of Christ, Feliciano's Home Run Pizza, Family Dollar, Ed & Mike's Body Shop, Chama Station Inn, another restaurant, Chama Community Church, past the scenic railroad station. A nice little canyon to my left. "You are now leaving New Mexico. Hasta la vista." 1:41.
Friday, December 11
Arizona state line to Truth or Consequences
Into New Mexico at 10:05, temp 53, on US 491. "Welcome to the Navajo Nation." There's an upside down car in the desert on the other side of the road, a police car pulled over beside it. Serious rock formations, a big conglomeration with rock outcroppings sticking out all over it to my right, a mesa-type thing to my left, cliffs behind it, off to my left something more rounded rises up out of the desert with something square, very unnatural, on the top of it, another mesa type thing to its left. A thing with double-pointed peaks pretty far off to my right. A very strange sky, a dark cloud up ahead, white clouds below it, bluish clouds down to horizon, the dark cloud extending over and off to my left where it fizzles out before the horizon, nothing like that to my right, cirrus clouds streaming away from that dark cloud, seeming to move. Shiprock at 10:18, 57 degrees. That thing to my right is probably Ship Rock. Rocks painted in bright solid colors, blue, yellow, in Navajo design on the retaining wall. US 291 merges with US 64 and passes over the San Juan River, which has water, on a girder bridge. I am confused by the lack of signs for 291. I have another near miss when I pull over to left to make a U-turn without checking my side view mirror. Ship Rock off is now some distance off to my right. There's an awful lot of squarish flat roof buildings adobe buildings, people living in them, a Southwestern version of an Eastern building development. I'm lost again, trying to find where 291 goes south, back and forth several times in Shiprock trying to find US 491, back out into the desert for the 3rd time. South of Shiprock somehow I'm on 491, 64 has disappeared somewhere, I never saw where. Incredible territory, rock formations popping out of the desert, rock canyons, mostly desert but every so often a rock formation will pop out of the desert, ravens flying over the road.
Little Water at 11:15, temp 59. 4 homes, a trailer, off to my right. And that is Little Water. A couple of shiprock type formations popping out of the desert on either side of the road in front of me. Tumbleweeds crossing the road in front of me. Naschatti, Tohatchi. Nakibito. Looks like it's rained here, wherever here is. 13 miles north of Gallup, 55 mph. Upjutting rocks, sort of like chess castles, some even have little crenellations on them. A wonderful rock canyon to my right with some hoodoos. Yah-tah-heh, Sacred Wind Communications, the road to Window Rock goes off to my right. $14 worth of $1.849 gas at Gas Max in Gallup at 12:39.
I-40 East at 12:48, temp 54. Back into red rock country, a peak rising off to my left with some not-so-little hoodoos, a bunch of cliffs like waves on a beach, one after another, rising up, falling down, rising up, falling down. Fire Rock Casino, Iyanbito. Pretty much desert off to my right, trailer-like homes, yellow prairie, low hills covered with snow in distance, desert to my left now, the red rock hills moving away from road a bit, but still ahead of me as far as I can see, rising up, falling off, an occasional mesa-type thing, one angles up from the desert to a ridge then rise up steeply to a mesa, then fall offs steeply and angles down to the desert. Cattle grazing. It's a very gray day. It looks very threatening to the south, to my right, but up ahead it's just gray. The Continental Divide at 1:19. Rain at Thoreau, fairly light and brief, the red cliffs to my left keep going on and on, yellow and green to my right, yellow grass and sagebrush, whatever. A little outcropping with some gray rocks on it, one that looks like they just piled sand on it and compacted it, a train with gondola cars, the Sandia mountains up ahead rising over everything. I stop at the Bluewater Outpost at 12:49, 54 degrees, very windy, but there's just a DQ there. I buy some decals for Penny. Pretty well out of that red rock country now, dark mountains way off to my left, a raven fighting the wind. Exit 89, Quemodo at 2:05, as far west as I had gone from Albuquerque while searching for Acoma. I stop at the Sky City Casino at 2:51, very overcast, for clam chowder and coffee. To the south it's bright but still cloudy. Ravens flying everywhere. Here I am on I-40 in the middle of nowhere New Mexico and there is a line of traffic behind me.
Now comes a leap of faith. At 3:13, I leave I-40 for NM 6 on the assumption it will bring me to I-25. A sign also says this is Historic 66. There's a big semicircular hole in the desert dropping down in the red rock, a crater inside of that, a tiny dirt road visible down there. I come over a ridge to see below me a large valley, all the way up to Albuquerque and beyond and down the other direction to who knows where. It's not particularly colorful, just pale brown with a little bit of green, but the vastness of it, the way it extends from north to south from one horizon to the other, is striking.
I-25 south at 3:53, overcast, but there's a white glow in the clouds where the sun is and a couple of patches of blue.
Another close call, this one scarier. I'm in cruise control and, before I realize it, I'm coming up fast on a guy who's moving very slowly. People are coming up on my left and I miss the brake pedal (my foot was not on the gas pedal) and I'm going to slam into him. The only thing I have control of is my steering so I pull into the shoulder, which fortunately is very wide, and speed past him on the right before I finally get out of cruise control and have my feet on the right pedals.
I pass an old pickup truck with stuff piled very high, including at least one mattress and a bicycle, looking like an Okie family on their way to California.
There's great country off to my left, with the folds and wrinkles of Mother Earth, all these little indentations and little canyons and things, highlighted by the shadows cast by the setting sun. At sunset there's a white streak of cloud in the west, but it in the east there's pink and gray, pale purple to southeast. The swirls in the eastern clouds remind me of the swirls in the clouds of Jupiter, gray and pink, swirling about in a strange pattern of dark and light, tailing off into a very pale yellow. I don't remember ever seeing a sunset display in the east.
Into Truth and Consequences nearly dark, a little redness in the west, to stop at The Desert View In at 5:52, 63 degrees, the odometer 115075. A strange motel--a metal frame sofa with a large Navajo blanket folded over to act as a pad, a space heater (electric not gas), a small desk with a chair, double beds with a bedside table, a different kind of small table with a wind-up clock and a coffee maker, a narrow bathroom with a shower and a narrow alcove for the toilet, not a lot of counter space, another alcove for shelf and hangers (no foldaway), another table, fridge and microwave, two overhead lights with fans, one desk lamp, one floor lamp, and 2 lamps on the headboards of the beds. Some of the lights don't work.
I drive out in search of dinner, past the Rocket Inn, Belair Inn, Oasis Motel, nice Christmas decorations, Raymond's Lounge and Package Goods, Ace Lounge, Los Areos Steak and Lobster. I thought I had seen an Arby's coming in but I can't find it (internet later tells me there is none) so I stop at Denny's for sausage and gravy, egg, potato, coffee, and a talk with the dishwasher. Bed at 12.
Saturday, December 12, 2015
1970: "The snow drifting lazily down on Lynwood Place. Memories of Hopkins Street.
A surly twenty-year-old kid in Olivia's. Reading The Universal Baseball Association.
Somebody whistling down Lynwood Place: 'Ah! It's beautiful out!'"
Truth or Consequences
(If you don't know the story of Truth or Consequences, NM, check it out on the internet. It's not all that interesting.)
I had a dream about a talking cat. At the end I let it into this room which had reporters in it and all it would say was "Hi."
I decided to stay here an extra day to try to get things in order.
Up at 8:45, rainy. By the time I got out at 10:15, the rain had stopped, there was a bit of blue to the south, and it was 45 degrees. A couple of miserable-looking ravens and a sparrow sat on a wire. A big range of hills rises over Truth or Consequences.
I had scrambled eggs, 2 slices of ham, toast, potato, coffee at El Faro's. The Museum, BarBQ on Broadway, Gentry Finance & Loans, Studio de la Luz, A&B Drive-In and Diner, The Club Teen Center, Desert Wind Boat and RV Storage, Paws & Claws Thrift Shop operated by the Sierra County Humane Society "Antique to Unique," Hot Springs Trading Post The Everything Store, Sierra County Administrative Building (formerly a public school), Yucca Plaza, community Loans and Finance, Our Lady of Perpetual Health Catholic Church (very Spanish architecture), Trail Motel, the Black Range Mall, restaurant for rent, Tierra Del Sol Mercado, Sunset Grille open. A little bit more blue sky, breaking up, a lot of blue at 1:10. Later I went out for a vanilla cone at McDonald's and drove around a little. It's pretty windy out there. In the evening, cheese ravioli, salad, garlic toast, coffee at the Sunset Grille. I had hoped the stars would be out tonight but it's clouded over.
Sunday, December 13
Samuel Johnson died in 1784.
Truth or Consequences to Alamogordo
Up at 8:15, sunny and blue. I leave the motel at 8:56, 41 degrees, odometer 115097. The Desert Inn is really a funky little place, an adobe type structure, red circular tile and doors with a basketball net with a small backboard at the end of parking lot. It would be hard to play basketball here, dribbling on the uneven cracked parking area. There's an adobe style house on the hill behind the motel.
I get $10.50 of $2.079 Circle K gas then have French toast, an egg over easy, and coffee at Johnny B's Home Run Cooking. I leave at 9:44, 41 degrees, a perfectly clear blue sky day.
I-25. There are nice mountains to my left with a lot of antennas on top of a ridge but not on the peak nearby. To my right, it's rolling rock country, low hills with a rock base. To my left, a fairly large lake (Caballo Lake?) at Hillsboro, houses down to my left, rolling country. 10:08, to my right, there's a twisty (dirt?) road between rock hills, snaking between the hills. There are some pretty good-looking mountains many miles away (Arizona?) There are houses down there between I-25 and the mountains. There are still mountains to my left, though the antennas are past, a lot closer and so probably much lower than those to my right. The sun is in my eyes. I'm doing 70 and being passed regularly. A small collection of houses closer to the road, farming country, Garfield and Salem, New Mexico Route 456, Dona Anna (with a tilde over the n in Dona) County line at 10:12, temp 46. Nice country as I approach Rincon, on the left, very close to the road, there are hills and rock outcroppings, a rock ridge. It's not spectacular but it's nice. There are distant mountains, real mountains in the distance to my right, 10:26 temp 47. Journada el Muerte Historic Sites at Upham. Desert on both sides of road, a low hill on my right, mountains ring the horizon, all around me, in the rear view mirror, right, left, dead ahead, a range of peaks ahead, more distant ones in blue behind them. Fort Seldon Rest Area, pueblo type adobe shelters for picnics etc. Radium Springs at 10:48, the dark mountains on my left closer, like a cluster of upside-down icicles, an adobe-style ranch house, some good size eastern-style mountains to my right, rounded, covered with sage brush instead of trees. A lot of trucked-in small homes off to my right.
US 70 at 10:52, temp 49, still clear blue sky, a lot of adobe square buildings off to the right at the ramp. There's supposed to be a ghost town around here somewhere but I finally give up trying to find it, turn around, and take US 70 east, stopping for 7.42 gallons of $1.789 gas ($13) at a Circle K in Las Cruces. Further one I see a no-namer at $1.749 but Shell and Valero are $1.899. The mountains to my right are really something, row after row of jagged peaks, light gray on top, grayer below, probably sagebrush covered. US 70 is the Bataan Memorial Highway. A big rock rises out of an already high level hill to my left. I stop for the Space Mural Museum and Gift Shop but it's closed at 11:45 on a Sunday.
San Augustin Pass, 5719 feet. I pull over at a large area just past it where there's a Nike Hercules missile. There seems to be a small observatory or radar dome way out in the desert. A black dog (desert fox?) wanders around, wary but not skittish, examining every place where I've been.
"You are entering White Sands Missile Range Home of America's Missile and Space Activity." A long drive across the desert with no legal exits. Small Missile Range: a bunch of buildings to my left, most of them one story, a couple of towers, a guard entrance. Half a mile later, way out in desert under the shadow of some low mountains, there's a lot of other structures out in the desert. Mostly it's just desert or prairie, one long stretch of flat road, a raven sitting on a high tension power pole. (Why are there so many ravens now? In my other trips out here, I've only seen a few. Of course, I never saw ravens in the East either until recently.) I stop at the White Sands Visitors Center (a pseudo-pueblo type building) at 12:31. At 12:48, temp 49, "You Are Now Leaving White Sands Missile Range." There's snow on the mountains in southern NM. Alamagordo, elevation 4336, at 1:06.
I go to the New Mexico Museum of Space History at 1:23, temp 45, buy a ticket for the planetarium at 3:00. Sitting in the car, a road runner comes close enough for a close-up but, by the time I get my camera and roll down the window, he's gone. I stalk him around the parking lot. When I stop, he gets curious and I get at least one fairly good photo. I walk back to the missiles and other spacecraft associated with the White Sands Missile Range, where I see a prairie quail. "The engines of the F-1 rocket which was used on the Saturn V rocket, 5 of them." There's a daisy track, some unmanned spacecraft that apparently were fired from White Sands. "This single-stage aircraft was flown 8 times at White Sands Missile Range 1993 to 1995." The planetarium show is mediocre but I learn that, when Mars reaches its closest distance to the Earth in May 2016, it will appear to be 3 times larger than it appears now
I check into the White Sands Motel at 4:20 and go to Arby's for a roast beef sandwich. Later I go to the Rocket National Buffet, an Oriental buffet, where I go back for 4 plates, something I've never done before.
I drive out into the desert a bit at 11. There's till a lot of light pollution but it's very bright, the Great Square setting, Vega, Altair, Deneb overhead, the Big Dipper low in the north, Mars rising, Orion in all its glory, Sirius, Procyon, Castor and Pollux, the Pleiades, Cassiopeia. Milky Way though is still faint. Bed at 11:30.
Monday, December 14, 2015
Tycho Brahe was born in 1546.
Alamogordo to Carlsbad
Up at 815 for cereal, Danish, yogurt, bagel & cream cheese, coffee, and OJ at the motel. Toast was also available. Chilly, another clear blue sky all day long. Leaving at 9:09, temp 44, odometer 115265. White Sands Boulevard is quite a long street, very wide, lined with a lot of motels and franchises, Domino's, Radio Shack, Alsup's (gas stations found all over New Mexico), Sprint, State Farm, another pink pueblo, Bahama Mama, My Mother's Place ("a restaurant"), Classic Inn Motel, Hacienda Mexican-American food, El Camino Restaurant, Wells Fargo, Asian Garden, Kings Treasure Thrift Store, Dollar General, CC Noir Mexican Restaurant ("always good"), Budget 7 Motel, Ciro's Tattoo and Pierce Studio, Desert Sun Motel, Ace Motel, Dollar Boots and Jeans, State Farm, Affinity Real Estate, Pepper's Grill, Super 8, Ace Motel, Alamo Pancake and Steakhouse Grill, K-Mart, Home Depot, Re/Max, Taco Bell.
To my right is a snow-covered mountain. There are some nice little arroyos here on route 58, Alamaroso at 9:42, temp 47, turning around back to US 82 east at 10:02 temp 49. (I was trying to get to Three Rivers Petroglyphs and gave up after 25 minutes.)
Lincoln National Forest at 10:07, 48 degrees. Interesting rocks to my left, snow on the slopes to my right. A car with a lot of snow on hood and roof going the other way, definitely into snow country now, a bit patchy, not solid cover but still plenty of snow. US 82 is a neat road, massive cliffs on either side, really something, going down far below the road, damned impressive, High Rolls, elev 6750, Saldo Canyon Trail. Mountain Park, 6750, The Old Apple Bar. The spectacular country is gone but it's still nice, with lots of snow alongside the road, Spring Mountain Trading Post at 10:26, lots of pines or evergreens of all sizes, a few rock outcroppings but pretty quiet, quietly beautiful, the trees coated with snow. Vista Drive, a triangular cabin with a roof goes right down to ground.
Cloudcroft Village, elev 8650. Once again, I'm on a road that just keeps going on and on. New Mexico's Finest Mountain Inn, Allsup's, Mountain Top Barbeque, Family Dollar, Cloudcroft Ice Rink, Tall Timber Cabins, Aspen Motel, Alta Vista Motel, Big Daddy's Diner. Going down now, Sleepy Grass Picnic Area, a little scary not the fear of going down into a steep canyon but fear of black ice, temp 36. 55 mph, snow everywhere but probably not that deep. Pretty much level at 10:42, temp 43, past Cloudcountry, Double Nickel Storage. 10:50, temp 53, out of the snow belt. Mayhill, between hills rather than mountains, dotted with pines, not completely--there are empty spaces and bands of trees across some of the hills. The sky is so blue, so blue, it's incredbile. Brief stretches of rock cliff to my left, the rock cut through this rock only on my left, nothing but prairie to my left. Brown stocky thick cattle. Leaving Lincoln National Forest finally at 11:02, 56 degrees, into Chaves County.
Running between fairly low hills now, brownish in color with sagebrush everywhere. 16 Springs via Elk Canyon. A small valley with scattered houses, most of them with inverted V roofs, a sort of Swiss chalet off to my left a bit. Temp 58, 11:07. Goats. 11:31, temp 58, out in the middle of the desert once again with nothing else, just a low ridge of mountains or hills to my right, nothing in my rear view mirror, nothing to my left, just sagebrush and sand, a bit of rolling country. I have gone from incredibly spectacular and interesting to incredibly boring. Still out here on the prairie desert at 11:35, 59 degrees, passing the road to Roswell. Eddy County line at 11:41, 65 mph, temp 59. Hope City Limit at 11:45, temp 60. A large empty building wide open, Alice's Treasures. Eagle Draw, quite dry of course, there;s a lot of cattle out here, mostly black, some brown ones, a few whitish-gray. Artemisia City Limits at 12:03, temp 64, still in prairie land, desert. Signs aren't very helpful, I need to find 285 south to Carlsbad. I get directions at a convenience store. There's some kind of very fenced-off place, seems to be militarily involved.
US 285 at 12:30, temp 65. A big refinery off to my left, Wakefield Oil Company, I guess. Pecos Diamond Steakhouse, Starlite Motel, Artesia Inn, 60 mph. 12:46, 67 degrees, an oil rig pumping away, several storage tanks next to it. Maybe it's pumping water. They definitely need that out here. Brantley Lake off to my left and the dam that creates it (something about 7 rivers on the plaque).
Welcome to Carlsbad New Mexico at 1:06, temp 69. The Caverns Motel at 1:45, temp 72, odometer 115456. I head south looking for Carlsbad Caverns and finally turn around at 2:14, temp 70, 15 miles out into the desert. The Visitors Center tells me it's 27 miles to the caverns and the last tour starts at 3:00. It’s now 2:35. I go to Barry’s Place, the barbeque place across the street from the motel, for a pork barbeque and a very large very good sweet tea.
This is a very small room, one small round table with two armchairs, a shelf coming out of the wall next to the bed, phone, one wall lamp next to the bed and one overhead, a wall TV. But lots of plugs. Not a lot of counter space at the sink in the alcove outside bathroom but enough, another alcove with microwave and minifridge, an overhead and hangers but no foldaway.
In the evening, I went out to look at the stars but didn't go far enough. Back to Carlsbad to get gasoline, buy a new bathroom scale at Giant, and then a waffle at IHOP. When I came out, it had apparently clouded over. When I got to the motel, I could see Sirius and one other star.
In 2015, the Geminids will peak between December 13 and 14.
The internet says the sky is clear over Carlsbad, so I go out again around 11, drive out toward the caverns this time, stopping to see one shooting star, then drive a couple miles further. The stars are even brighter. The Great Square is setting and I can't see nu Andromedae, much less the nebula. Pleiades, Hyades, Aldebaran overhead. Taurus, Orion, Sirius and Canis Major so clear, Gemini, Procyon, the Big Dipper rising, Cassiopeia. I get out of the car just as a very bright but brief meteor appears. A bright star to the south might be Fomalhaut. I can see a lot more stars now, especially to the south, where they're faint anyway, the Milky Way brighter, another bright star pretty much on the southern horizon, another meteor, a third one, a fourth, I don't know what that constellation is under Orion. Seven shooting stars, one to my left as I'm driving back and one dead ahead. I could've stayed out longer; it's only 55 degrees. Bed at 12:05.
Tuesday, December 15
In 1968, Bob Clayton took me to an Ian & Sylvia party in DC.
Carlsbad to Las Cruces
Up at 7:40 and down US 180/US 62 at 8:08. A day of mixed clouds and sun, temp 47, odometer 115522. Breakfast was 2 iced donuts from Sarina's Donuts. Past the airport (Cavern City Air Terminal) out here in the desert, lots of military type buildings leading up to it, mostly businesses. Was this an airbase at one time? A long landing strip, a lot of space. Out on desert, past a large collection of storage tanks, some horizontal rather than vertical. Apache Canyon Trading Post, Brown, gray, and black cattle.
The entry to Carlsbad is White's City, a collection of businesses including a Rodeway, gift shop, restaurant, and post office, among others. The Visitors Center is 7 miles away, up a wonderful winding twisting road. I reach it at 8:52, temp 40, and enter the cave at 9:05. It's a huge entrance and the paved path is a bunch of steep switchbacks during which you can look down and down and down. Not a great hike for an acrophobe. It is pretty dimly lit and sometimes there is the sound of dripping water. I take many many pictures, thanks to the wonder of a digital camera. I would have run out of film very early.
There are "draperies and flowstone" as you go down down down down, knowing it's not going to be fun coming back up, but the further down the more incredible it becomes. Some of the lights are high up on the walls and and you wonder what idiot put them up there, obviously someone without a fear of heights. There's a very narrow passageway, rock on both sides, before you reach The Green Lake Room with a central stalactite or stalagmite hanging down. At the very bottom is The Big Room. "You are now in the Big Room, the largest known natural limestone chamber in the western hemisphere, 4 spaces measuring 600,000 square feet able to hold 14 football fields." The Hall of Giants. "Small creatures native to Carlsbad Caverns include cave crickets, spiders, beetles, mites, and springtails." (I see none of them.) The Crystal Spring Dome with an opening behind it. The Chinese Theatre, 3 stalactites or stalagmites. I'm told the round trip is about 3 miles and that it's 800 feet deep. It feels more like 8000. I see daylight again at 11:39. A canyon wren flutters on the path at the end then flutters up the wall at the end of the switchback. The switchbacks at the very end really get to me. I've climbed all the way up nonstop except to talk to a ranger and to take a couple of photos. At 11:43, I reach the mouth of cave.
It is incredibly huge in many places. There's a rock that the sign says fell from the ceiling (it doesn't say when). This makes me nervous and I see another rock that looks like it could break loose at any time. But there's no way this can be captured with a camera and I'm feeling like a broken record whenever I say that. But this immensity can't be captured with pictures or words. Maybe virtual reality will some day do it. The tiny little stone icicles hanging down like lace as well as the huge stalactites and other growths, up from the floor and down from the ceiling. It is absolutely incredible.
1. This is not a place for someone with acrophobia. 2. What goes down must come back up. 3. It's good to have a digital camera instead of a film camera. 4. I'd hate to be the guy who put up some of those lights (see #1). 5. No description no camera even a panoramic cameras could begin to capture this.
Outside I call Burrie and discover there's an incredible view of the desert I've driven through the past 2 days, sage brush and desert stretching out in a flat plain forever and ever and ever to barely discernible mountains in the way way far distance. I finally leave at 12:38, the temp 43 and windy.
At 1:05, 47 degrees, I reach US 189/US 62 to El Paso/Las Cruces. Texas at 1:23, temp 48. Rolling desert country, scrub brush dotted hills to my right, the Guadelupe mountains past them, a windmill in the desert to my left, an adobe house to my right, the sky fairly dark gray up ahead but not really threatening, the sun shining above the clouds, a blue sky to my left, Guadelupe Mountain National Park at 1:41, temp 39. Butterfield Stage Station, a cemetery, to my right a cliff that falls off at end of a range of mountains, past that a conical peak rises up from desert. Very imposing cliffs, through a rock cut, to right, really beautiful country right here. Coming down into some kind of a valley down there, pretty well clouded over now, blue behind me. Guadeloupe Peak, 8751 feet, highest point in Texas, cold and very windy, 37 degrees. Out of the mountains into prairie country, some kind of lake or river ahead turns out to be another area of white sand. I pull over to rest my eyes for 8 minutes, maybe even nod off a little. Since leaving Carlsbad, I have seen very little in the way of buildings, some 100 miles of prairie, desert, and mountain, making the 70-mile stretch of Nevada and Utah I went through about 10 years seem tiny. May's Cafe in the middle of the prairie is 62 miles from El Paso. There's a darkish cloud off to my left, blue sky ahead and to my right, sun shining, a fair amount of cloud behind me, pretty dark in rear view mirror. Heading due west, there's almost completely blue sky up ahead of me, just one long thin cirrocumulus, the rest totally clear. Into hill country, going through a rock cut, a canyon between two rolling hills.
El Paso County Line at 3:11, temp 42. Into Shea at 3:20. I'm on the same road I took into El Paso a month or so ago. I have no idea how that happened. Las Casitas, Huevos Buenos (good eggs?), East Montana Flea Market, Imports & More Auto Salvage, Michell's Auto Sales, Saddlery, Texas Motors, Montana Hideaway A Gentleman's Club girls, Desert Oasis, Saratoga Homes. Loop 375 at 3:30, temp 47, going around El Paso to the north. Into the Franklin Mountains, cool shadow and then sun dead ahead, blinding, can't read a thing, looking down into El Paso and its highways briefly visible to my left, lovely mountain country, numerous peaks and the gullies between them, a massif with multiple peaks, elev 5289 feet, down to another plain or valley stretching out to the western horizon.
I-10 at 3:53, temp 46. Exit 0. Welcome to New Mexico again at 3:59. I-25 at 4:15, temp 45. US 70 at 4:23, temp 45. Stopped at a CVS pharmacy to try to get my metformin prescription refilled. Looking for a motel, I find the Plaza Suites at 4:59 just off 1-10, 49 degrees, odometer 115749, $39.95+tax. The office is a mess with stuff piled everywhere and all the guy behind the desk needed was a cigar to make him seem like a Hollywood executive heavy. I wondered what I was getting myself into. It really is a plaza. I walk into a large room, to my left a closet with the shelf, hangers, and foldaway. Past that a long low 6-drawer dresser with a mirror over it. Then there's a kind of square archway into the bedroom, TV on a piece of furniture with 3 shelves, two bedside tables with lamps, another small dresser with a mirror above it. A small bathroom with a large alcove outside for the sink with fair amount of counter and 2 mirrors. Two nice but undistinguished pastel paintings. The two small dressers are in alcoves so it doesn’t feel like your typical rectangular motel room. It feels like two rooms, three if you count the alcove outside the bathroom. I am stunned.
I go back to CVS to get my prescription--55 cents. Back to motel at 5:31, walking to the IHOP in front of it for raspeberry crepes. Since they don't have enough change for the $20 bill I give them for the $7.09 meal, they charge me $5. Quite an interesting day.
Wednesday, December 16
1978: The view of the mountains, all gray and blue, from US 29 was fantastic.
Las Cruces to Socorro
Up at 8, another blue sky day. After checking out, I have raspberry cream cheese crepes again, and leave at 10:06, odometer 115756, temp 31. The field across the street looks like cotton but it's probably frost. I get $16 worth of $1.749 gas (9+ gallons) at Dylan's. It's $1.999 at the Chevron at 1-25.
I-215 at 10:30, temp 41. There are lots of square adobe buildings to my right as I get on the ramp. Truth or Consequences 71 miles, Socorro about 100 miles after that. Border patrol checkpoint at 10:38, temp 37. "Are you a US citizen?" That's all. Into desert with mountains and hills to the distance on either side, snow on the ones to my left. I get off looking for the Gila Cliff Dwellings but there's no further signs so I take the road parallel to I-25. Animas Creek has some water in it, maybe some ice. Mountains off to my right a jagged peak, a bunch of antennas, cliffs highlighted by shadows cast by the sun into folds and canyons. Seco Creek is dry as a bone. A rusted circular storage tank on its side in the desert covered by graffiti, mostly names. A lot of yellow rocky dirt hillsides with occasional sage brush at the top then yellow grass. The distant mountains to my left definitely have snow on them. A little bit water or creek off to my right.
Back on to I-25 at Williamsburg at 11:37, temp 42. Layered rock reminds me of Egypt, the appearance of the stone in the pyramids. A small dome shape rises out of desert, not terribly tall, has houses in its shadow; a similar one has 2 storage tanks on top of it. Truth or Consequences at 1:41, temp 41, a nice little ranch type place down there under the freeway. Quite a vista off to my left, the distant snow-covered mountains now closer to the road, quite a long range, going on and on and on, uncovered ones to my right. A nice view coming down out of a rise into an arroyo or valley, the road curving one way then the other in a backward S snaking down into the valley then back up the next ridge. A red sand hillside off to the right is spotted with sagebrush at its top as I come to Mitchell Point, after which the road is straight ahead as far as the eye can see. Very rough road in the next county. An arroyo with nice rock formations to my left. Red Rock, Exit 100. Socorro County Line at 12:02, 39 degrees. A big wide wash empty of water. Those mountains are closer now, the snow in streaks, most of it on one peak in the middle of the, a tiny patch on another, none on the mountains to my right. A wide green plain in the near distance to my right at Carrizozo and San Antonio, Smoky Bear Historical Park and Lincoln State Monument, 12:44, temp 42. There are now a handful of clouds in the sky, but it's still mostly blue.
Socorro at 12:51, temp 41, the clouds gone and a clear blue sky again. The San Miguel Inn, 1:10, temp 43, odometer 115908, the opposite of where I stayed last night, small and cold like nearly all of them are until you turn the heat on. I had to unplug one lamp and use my extension cord in order to use my computer.
Very small but a good heater, fridge, microwave, small bathroom, the ubiquitous shelf, hangers, and foldaway inside a very cold closet. Two armchairs, small round table. Two unmatched bedside tables, overhead light, 2 lamps, 4-drawer dresser. Little counter space, no free plugs. But it has a great shower with separate controls for hot and cold, something you don't find much in motels any more. It was hard getting out of it.
Oriental buffet nearby pretty good.
I go to the Twisted Chile in Socorro. It's songwriters night. The emcee and his wife, Ben and Valerie, start the night with 3 songs, she singing, he playing, the best guitar player of the night. Then I get up and do "New Kid in Town," "An Anonymous Alba," (having a little trouble with both of them but surviving fairly well), and "The Last of the Outlaws." Then a fair guitar player with 3 songs, one humorous, the 2nd starting out like it's humorous but is not. A guy with a ukulele, playing his own ukulele songs. Ronna, a middle-aged woman of fair looks, whose songs I can remember nothing of. A guy who plays electric guitar fairly well, not too loudly. Then we go around again. "That's the Blues," Here," "This Old Van." Most of the people, including Ronna, come up and talk to me, the new kid in town. Very friendly and very complimentary, but these are all somewhat older people, 30s, 40s, 50s. No one says I'm awesome although someone once again says I remind them of Johnny Cash. The night ends with 3 by Ben and Valerie, then I do "Spam Chowder" (which gets the best reaction I can ever remember it getting) and "Paisley Highways." I could have done another one but I figure the better part of valor is digression. As I get off the stage, someone at the back of the bar yells, "One more!" Then Ben and Valerie close out the night with two more. All in all, a very satisfying night. It would be a good place to settle down in if it weren't in the middle of nowhere.
Thursday, December 17
1903: The first flight at Kitty Hawk.
Socorro to the Arizona state line
I went to bed last night at 10:30 and didn't get up today until 9:00. Breakfast at the motel--cereal, coffee, toast. On the road at 9:37, odometer 115911, temp 36, another clear blue sky day. I get $10 of $1.849 gas at Valero and hit US 60 at 9:51. There's a big M on top of one of the mountains over Socorro, that snow-capped mountain dead ahead, desert to my right with a collection of houses in the distance, houses to my left, a red rock mountain and cliffs to my right. The outskirts of Socorro look like a great big junkyard, A-1 Quality RediMix, an empty pueblo-type house in good shape, The Ark of Socorro Vet Clinic, a very squat short storage tank on top of a small scrub brush hill, over a dry wash with cement walls. At 10:02, mountains to my left, hills and prairie to my right, some nice rock canyons. 10:07, temp 38, 65 mph, a bunch of houses to my right out here in the middle of nowhere--4 shacks, red, blue, yellow, and purple, next to a living house, off to my left another house, 2 families out in middle of nowhere. Snowy hills to my left in the near distance have snow but they're not covered by the snow on them. They're not that far away but it's hard for this Easterner to judge distances. Sign says Water Canyon Campgrounds, 4 1/2 miles. I can't believe those mountains are 4 1/2 miles away thought it must be at least one. 2 more houses at 10:11, one way off in distance, to my left one with a windmill some distance behind one closer to the road. 10:15 some kind of shed or animal shelter out in the desert off to my right. I have this lane to myself, no one in sight ahead of me or behind me, although every minute or so one goes the other way. A rounded dome, Buckminster Fuller?, out in the desert, with several UHaul trailers, a regular trailer, Quonset huts. A ranch to my right, another one up in the hills, some kind of tower on the hillside.
Magdalena Village Limit at 10:18, temp 36. Not a lot of houses, Blue Cannon Gallery, Magdalena Food Gas Legend, Historic Magdalena, Magdalena Area Arts Council. A house with a colorful creche in front and Navajo type blankets, a bulldog type dog out in street by itself, sun symbols on a house and its board fence, High Country Lodge, Rock Shop, Western Motel, 2 strange houses with 4-sided slanting roofs, the Wells Fargo office straight out of the old west, Eagles Nest RV Park and Motel, a pinkish-yellow house, a tin roof, Coffee House and Gallery, Back Country Propane, a dry wash, a place no longer in business, Alamo Navajo Reservation off to the right 29 miles away, a square pueblo-type building with logs sticking out, another without logs, reddish. A little bit of snow alongside the road, that snow-covered mountain now behind me. Up on high desert, yellow grass & sagebrush, rolling country, a structure of some kind, like a power transformer but there are power no lines out here, we’re outside the grid. 10:25, temp 35, 107 miles to Arizona. Coming down from a ridge I have somebody behind me now, how about that, somebody way ahead of me also, the road straight as an arrow across the desert, snow out there, mountains ahead, pieces of snow in them.
Passing National Observatory's Very Large Array out in the desert. Catrop County Line at 10:55, temp 35. In snow country again, snow on both sides of the road on the prairie on the hillsides, tracks in the snow, hillsides pretty well covered with snow, a house with tool shed like a small barn, a large building of some kind off to my right, more buildings on my left and right, a lot of outbuildings, hillsides on either side, hill country, a state highway building.
Datil, the Eagle Guest Ranch Cafe, Bed and Breakfast, Cibola National Forest at 11:05, temp 30. Leaving Cibola Forest at 11:21. The Continental Divide, 7796 feet, at 11:24, temp 26.
Pie Town. Pie Town Rodeo, lots of windmills for sale, Pie-O-Neer, The Gathering Place, StoolBus.Com (I don't want to think about that one). Omega. It is the end, just a junkyard full of smashed cars. The desert now well covered in snow, not deep but basically totally covered.
Quemado at 11:45, the temp still 26, Back in Time Elaine, Breakfast Lunch Dinner, Rito Quemado's C Store, Furs & Skirts Kim's Corner, Allegre Motel Apartments, Laggo Motel & Restaurant, The Country store, a restaurant.
The Arizona state line at 12:19, odometer 116051, temp 32.