2003-07-25 - 7:21 p.m.
OK. I started to type up my trip diary and add comments. Here's what I have so far. Let me put in a disclaimer, though. There is some negative stuff about places we didn't like. Obviously, we were barely IN these places, so if you have had a different experience I'm sure it's just as valid. If I insult anyone's hometown, I apologize.
We decided to take my little truck because hers is brand new and she didn't want to put any miles on it. Fine by me.
After some dithering, we hit the road. I'm driving. Historically it has been my task when on road trips to get us out of Texas. Since that involves an entire day of driving, no one ever fights me for the job. We turn off at Junction and head through San Angelo toward Lubbock. The plan is to enter New Mexico through Clovis, right on the border, and return through Roswell, further south. In Lubbock we decide on a whim to go to the Buddy Holly Museum. It turns out to be a really wonderful place --- far more than just a small town museum to a dead rock and roller. There are several galleries inside with show up of contemporary Texas painters and photographers. Turns out they also book local and traveling bands and offer arts and crafts classes. The place is devoted to promoting the arts in Texas which I think is a really cool legacy for Buddy Holly.
On to Clovis. Sadly, about twelve miles from the border a Texas Highway patrolman passing on the other side of the divided highway shoots me with his radar and pulls me over. $100 for going 79 in a 70 mph zone. Bastard. I don't even try to get out of the ticket - no way am I going to crawl and grovel to a dirty dog like that.
Once in Clovis, somewhat deflated, we find a hotel. The town is pretty much laid out along a railroad track and we stay at a hotel right on the main drag/ highway. Verona, using the skills she has developed through frequent business travel, asks the clerk at the front desk to recommend a restaurant. That's how we end up at Poorboy's. The food is good - though the waitress was astonished and somewhat disbelieving that I would want a vegetable plate. We also order chips and salsa and rediscover the puzzle that is New Mexico chili. Not hot at all, subject to intense disagreements about whether to have red or green, and of the consistency of watery paste.
As we pass through Fort Sumner (which both of us persist in mistaking for Fort Sumter --- if you aren't into the Civil War the reference will mean nothing to you), we see a sign for the Billy the Kid grave site and one for (?) the Atomic Admiral. I think Billy the Kid was actually buried there and then dug up. We didn't stop. Viewing the desolation, Verona remarked, "No wonder Billy the Kid resorted to stealing." It was pretty grim there. Just outside of Fort Sumner we saw a jackrabbit poised on the edge of the road. It ignored us.
About 73 miles from Albuquerque, we came to an abrupt halt on the highway. Ahead of us, and very soon after behind us, stretched a vast line of semis, cars, trucks, and motorcycles. People were out of their cars standing on the shoulders, talking, etc. I rolled down the window and addressed the trucker next to us.
"What's going on?"
"There was a bad wreck. They're sending the Air Life helicopters."
"How long have you been here?"
"Just a little while, but they say it'll take at least two hours."
We hung out there for a little while, and then Verona said, "We're finding another route." She did a Uy across the grass median and we headed back the way we'd come. We found a turn off and took a LONG detour (about 70 miles) over a tiny little backcountry road to Encino. There were no shoulders and no cars on this route. What there were were thousands of tiny little suicidal birds that continually burst out of the bushes on both sides of the road and did daredevil flying maneuvers mere inches from the truck's grill and windshield. On this route too we saw the first of many puzzling "Engine brakes prohibited" signs.
There were also salt flats off the road to the north and we later found out that the portion of Encino to Willard contains the Salt Mission Trail.
Finally we hit 25 north. The first sign we saw apart from the highway marker was one which read ominously "Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers. Prison Facilities." We were to see many such signs on our trip. Near the Isleta Reservation we passed a subdivision wherein every fourth house was an "adobe" - it looked odd to see three so-called normal houses, fake adobe, three so-called normal house, fake adobe. Or maybe real adobe, who knows. We also saw signs which warned us that our "Speed [was] Monitored by Aircraft." And? If we sped, were they going to land on the highway in front of us? Then again, New Mexico is the land of enchanting top-secret technology and spooky stuff. Maybe they have ways …
My other favorite sign for this stretch of road was "Gusty Winds May Exist." It's so delightfully poetic and philosophical.
Albuquerque. Finally. I have to say it was ugly to drive into. Very flat and colorless and industrial looking. I know we are both partial to San Antonio and I also know that it is a gaudy Gomorrah of advertising and chain restaurants when you cross the city limits, but Albuquerque failed to impress either of us at all. Then it was impossible for us to find the poorly posted visitor center. The blue "Visitor Center" signs vanished, leaving us adrift in the cultural district, and morphed into brown signs which said "Convention Center." There was also no notification that the Visitor Center was in the Convention Center. Except it wasn't. It was closed. And the woman knew there was another one, but didn't know where it was. And anyway, the cultural district was closed for the day (it was about 3 pm). Sigh.
We went to eat at a restaurant called Silver Moon and had New Mexican enchiladas. Mostly tasteless. But we did get a map. We decided to hit three attractions. The Atomic Museum, the Pueblo Indian Center, and the Tram at the Sandia Mountains.
The Atomic Museum would've been great if we had been in the right frame of mind. As it was, we were grumpy and tired and disgruntled with Albuquerque. It was chock full of Cold War stuff. The standout items in the gift shop were the Fat Man and Little Boy keychains. We listened in for a while as an old man with a lot of historical knowledge told an avid teenage boy all about the development of the atom bomb.
The Pueblo Indian Center was also disappointing. First, we discovered that we had killed one of the daredevil birds (I prefer to think of this as a suicide). It was wedged into the grill of the truck. When we took it out we saw that it had lost its head. The horror! Seriously, we both felt bad, but it's hard to feel responsible. It is impossible to avoid animals that throw themselves in front of you with no warning as you travel at highway speed.
We went into the center and saw that it consisted of a large gift shop, a small museum and arts display, and a plaza where several Native Americans in full powwow regalia were dancing for a small crowd of mostly white folks. In the museum we noticed that there were some differences to traditional museums. About half the space was devoted to sections on different tribes' contemporary arts and quite a bit of the material both in the museum and arts sections was from non-Pueblo tribes. The introduction at the beginning of the museum half stated that this museum intended to tell the story of the Pueblo peoples from their perspective. This resulted in many information cards on exhibits which began "Our people…" The only major difference, though, in the way the information was presented compared to, say, the Witte Museum here in SA, was that there were references to Pueblo religion in semi-scientific contexts. In other words, a card read, "After our people emerged from the ground, they began to make stone tools …"
The Tram at Sandia Mountain was another story. As you drive part way up the mountain through an impossibly affluent neighborhood you see this fabulously retro (50s? early 60s?) looking building with two giant sets of cables leading from it up to several progressively higher towers. The cables are at a very steep angle. Terrifying. Or exciting. Take your pick.
The trip up was inspiring. Except for people talking in the tram it was so peaceful and still. Looking down at one of the peaks we saw two men, hikers, lying down on the ground. One of them was taking our picture. At the top it was 64 degrees and beautiful. Vero and I left the crowd at the main observation point and went hiking along the rim of the mountain. You could see all of Albuquerque and for miles on all sides. It was so quiet there that all you could hear was the wind and the sounds of the birds. We sat on a rock face and just enjoyed being alive. I sometimes think that not enough people do that. We're so busy trying to discuss and analyze everything and react and always be on that we don't just exist in the moment. The afternoon progressed and the wind picked up. We hiked back to the observation point and watched a disappointed hang glider pack up all his stuff. We also saw a man who got motion sick on the tram throw up over the edge of the railing. Hopefully he missed the chipmunks below.
The clouds blew up to the south and we could see rain slanting down over the city. Then the lightning began to strike, more and more frequently. Finally Vero and I decided we needed to descend. A very few people were with us on the tram ride down. The wind was so strong at that point that it blew the tram from side to side. But it was a beautiful ride.
We had dinner at Pizza Hut and slept the night in Albuquerque after writing out our postcards.
More later if you're good.
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