Sunday, October 26
Himself's conference is over and we pick up Bill and head towards Taos. We traverse the Carson National Forest and stop at the Sanctuario De Chimayo. Himself and I were there years ago and there was only a tiny chapel where people left offerings and collected healing, holy dirt. The site, which figured prominently in a Breaking Bad episode, has expanded and there is now a gift shop and a number of other buildings. The sanctuary is filled with photographs of loved ones, mainly men, a lot of soldiers and a few guys in prison uniforms. There is a wall lined with crutches, ostensibly of those healed by the sacred dirt but I notice that there lots of single crutches and almost no matched sets which Bill attributes to the supplicants hedging their bets.
From the Sanctuario we continue to thousand year old Taos Pueblo, dramatic red adobe structures surrounded by jagged mountains. There remains a ruin of a church that was the center of an Indian rebellion against the Spanish during the 17th century. The Pueblo has no electricity or running water but there are still over 100 full time occupants. There is a small Catholic church which seems to now coexist with the native faith. There is no written language and the heritage and ritual are passed from generation to generation orally.
We return to Santa Fe and dine at another recommended New Mexican Restaurant, fittingly called Chimayo. This restaurant has no liquor license and instead of margaritas, they offer “ritas” which are made with agave wine. I guess I'm no connoisseur of tequila because I can't really tell the difference between the supposedly primo version from the extensive menu from the night before and the ersatz tequila free version. Both are equally inebriating. After we stroll the plaza, mostly deserted except for a couple of guttersnipes begging for change. We walk around the modest state capitol building and explore silent residential areas, free of streetlights.
Monday October 27
Bill and I explore the newish Railyard area. The old Santa Fe Depot is preserved and surrounded by art galleries, boutiques and performance spaces. There is a beautifully landscaped walking trail and an innovative park, all relatively deserted on a Monday morning. We have a nice breakfast at The Flying Star Cafe and then Himself and I bid Bill farewell and hit the Turquoise Trail toward Albuquerque. We've reserved a room via Air B&B that's been excellently reviewed by other travelers. My friend Rachel who lives in Albuquerque tells me that the house borders the barrio and tells me to expect lots of low-rider cars and neon, which isn't all that different from where we live. We have to switch rental cars, from the one paid for by Himself's employer to one we've gotten a good deal on for a long term rental, at the Albuquerque airport. There is a bit of drama of the sort one expects during such transactions and then we get caught in lots of traffic when we make our way cross town to the Auto Club to pick up maps. There is more traffic and road construction when we make our way to our accommodation. We arrive and notice that the front yard is torn up and there are various piles of rubble surrounding the ramshackle stucco house. Two workers are digging in the front yard and the second I step out of the car one emits a loud belch.
Our room has a private entrance, through a partial bathroom with a toilet beside an uncurtained window. The shower is through the kitchen. The sink is filled with dirty dishes and the counters are covered with plates of food and open jars of condiments. There are piles of dirty laundry in the living room and the whole place doesn't smell very good. A million years ago in Dublin, after navigating for over an hour in a terrible rain storm I refuse to stay at an otherwise charming guesthouse because there is no private bath. Himself still hasn't forgiven me. I am literally trembling when I tell him that I cannot stay at the Albuquerque AirB&B and he is a remarkably good sport about it. Online I find a barebones motel that is less expensive than the icky room and actually includes a free breakfast.
We meet fellow Johnston alum, Rachel, who despite being on crutches (actually a single crutch, perhaps the other one is at Chimayo) and she takes us to a swell neighborhood Mexican joint. We catch up and talk about music. Perhaps the little remaining feminist credential I have left will be rescinded but I have very few women friends with whom I can talk about music. Rachel is a dj and has broad eclectic tastes and a wide realm of knowledge.
After we drop Rachel at home we head to the Baymont Motel. The check-in guy has greased up spiked hair. I guess I look reputable because he doesn't ask me for id or a credit card, although he admits that last week someone stole a TV. Hip hop blares from a couple of room as we make our way down the hall to our room. The room however is enormous and clean. And the TV is so large that I admire that ingenuity of anyone who was able to remove one.
Tuesday October 28
Breakfast at the Baymont is the usual commercial muffins and sweet rolls. I try the wafflemaker but even if there had been real butter and maple syrup instead of margarine and “maple flavored” it wasn't really edible. There are some foreigners and a number of large families. I suspect that the Baymont may serve as a welfare residence because a lot of folks are barefoot and in pajamas and seem to have made themselves at home. One large lady is very concerned about her kids' manners. She tells us that she is half black and warns us against ever putting your fork on a black person's plate. When a group of European's leave their breakfast table strewn with wrappers and styrofoam plates and cups she is disgusted by their arrogance.
We bid farewell to Albuquerque and head northeast to Pecos National Monument. This is another site where the Indians went at it with the Spanish and there are the remains of another red adobe church overlooking a vast expanse of verdant mountains. Pueblos stood four to five stories high and fragments and bits of foundation remain. Himself climbs down a ladder into an underground ceremonial kiwa but I take a pass. There is a plaque commemorating a Civil War Battle and the adjacent Gloriana is referred to as the “Gettysburg of the West.”
Miles of juniper and ponderosa line the road from Pecos to Las Vegas. Years ago my father visited New Mexico. He took a road toward Las Vegas and was surprised he didn't end up in Nevada. We find a sweet Mexican restaurant called Kochina de Raphael and here the diet goes off the rail when I order a chicken taco plate. I suspect that they will be fried but “forget to ask” and devour the lovely greasy crunchy things.
We veer off the main road to visit the memorial of the Ludlow massacre. John Dos Passos U.S.A. Trilogy is our audio book so this is a good fit for stories of the labor movement and Ludlow is actually referred to in the novel. Eleven children and many men and women died in a gruesome standoff against the mine owners. The notoriety at least helped the unions make some inroads in improving mine conditions.
Our final destination is the Travel Inn Motel in Canon City another spartan, albeit comfortable motel room. We buys some snacks and breakfast fixings. Being on a budget and knowing we'd be staying in modest surroundings I pack a small electric kettle. This is, if you should ever travel with such an item, better packed in checked luggage as the TSA agent informs us that when sent through an x-ray machine it sort of resembles a bomb.