…chasing Apollo, Leg #9. Santa Fe Trail.

  • Sunday, April 20, 2014


…chasing Apollo, Leg #9. Santa Fe Trail.

City of Rocks pops out of the flats of the Chihuahuan Desert, a surreal landscape of igneous rock millions of years old. We climbed over, under and through what looked like anything one's imagination could think up: city streets surrounded by rock houses and chimneys. We found petroglyphs (etched) and pictographs (painted) left on rocks by ancient peoples and lovely blossoms and prairie dog colonies all around, but no rattlesnakes, thank goodness. The wind still howled and the dust blew suffocatingly, so we gave up and ran from it, hopelessly trying to escape. We stopped in Silver City and prowled up Bullard Street and its side streets of artsy shops. My favorite was SYZYGY where local artisans, including students from local schools, cut, press, paint and glaze by hand the most unusual and lovely tiles and mosaics. We ate Ooxana (chicken mole) at the Curious Kumquat Beer Garden (since nowhere else would seat us with the pups) and then strolled back down their take of the Riverwalk, except they call it “The Big Ditch Park.” It was really quite cool and lovely. Leaving City of Rocks, we understood why so many stories have cropped up about this remote area over the years. We passed the largest open-pit copper pit mine in the world, The Chino, a travesty of incredible dimensions on an already blighted landscape; “Trinity Site,” where the Atomic bomb was first exploded in July 1945; “Very Large Array,” the site from sci-fi films of acres of satellite dishes aimed at outer space (except it really is real!); and Roswell, supposed site of the July 1947 landing of “extraterrestrials” and of the infamous Area 51. No one could or would live in such a dimension and we could not get away fast enough.

Next stop was Elephant Butte, waterfront site: you could see the largest recreational lake in New Mexico from a butte, but couldn't get closer than 2 miles…quite a difference in the terms “waterfront” from here and home. Boy, are we thirsty for water! Alberqueque we liked despite its recent accusation of police brutality and mismanagement. We were downtown. There is an old town and a modern, new town; both seem clean and friendly and artsy to us. Jim had the world famous green chili cheeseburger at The Owl, but I just got a kraut and swiss dog, both with homemade milkshakes. All the places we eat have been recommended multiple times by foodie books and taken national awards from people like James Beard, and we haven't eaten a bad meal out. The modern roadways have adobe colored walls with mountain scenes etched into them…all salmon colored and very pretty.

And finally, we saw the attached photo: snow peaks and trees in the Sangre de Christo mountains behind Santa Fe. We have stopped here for a week and rented a car to explore the Four Corners areas. Weather is lovely 70s in daytime and 30s at night, however the wind is still with us. Our Yorkie, Grits, will no longer go out for walks because of the wind and dust, and when it howled last night she was so scared, she left my side in the bed and went to hide under my co-pilot's chair. We washed everything inside: sheets, bedspreads, towels, clothes, rugs, trying to shake the dust. We drove the old Route 66, which is also the old Sante Fe Trail and Pecos Trail into the Santa Fe Railyard for the Farmers' Market and Artists Fair. There were a couple of bands playing and someindividual musicians playing and singing on curbsides (as they were in the Old Town Plaza). Though crowded everyone moved slowly, stopped to listen and dance to the music, and seemed friendly and in high spirits. Dress is blue jeans or hippie chic, a lot of funky goods and people. We had lunch at Clafoutis, a French Bistro, on the other end of Guadalupe after touring the old Mission of Statuaria de Sante Maria from 1600s. We left Clafoutis with fresh baked breads and pastries for the week. After touring Canyon Road galleries (dragging Jim reluctantly), we went to Old Town and he refused Georgia O'Keefe's museum which also had Ansel Adams' photos of Hawaii, waiting on the street while I toured. So we skipped museum hill and did some of the shops around the plaza. Jim and I do like the Basilicas (blessed by the pope) and the one on the plaza for which Santa Fe was named is the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assissi. We also had to see the spiral staircase at Loretto Chapel, the oldest house (1600) with Indian artifacts underneath that dated back to 1200…the same with the San Miguel Mission which has plexiglassed windows in the floor showing steps from the 1610 chapel and then the Indian flooring and artifacts from AD to 1200.

My best buddy then bought me a beautiful set of Navaho Indian jewelry necklace, earrings and ring which I wore to a fine dining experience at Coyote Café, the best dinner we've had since Charleston…but a much needed break in the camping routine to prove to ourselves that we could still act appropriately in an elegant setting. We started with summer squash blossoms stuffed with Dungeness crab, blue tortilla corn fingers. Entrée was capered halibut in a cognac butter sauce, Crimini mushrooms and asparagus. I've forgotten details…too much “Senorita” Rita…but we brought home enough for a second night with the varied truffles they gave us since we were too full to order the extravagant desserts they offered. Needless to say, we love Santa Fe…the whole town is flat-topped adobe that blends into the hillside.

On Sunday we drove our little rental, a chevy Eclipse, through the Santa Fe National Forest along the Pecos River scouting for fishing sites for Jim, seeing some wonderful countryside with rushing waters, green trees, and giant mule deer grazing calmly roadside, twitching those burro-sized ears. We explored the Pecos national Monument, 2000 year old Pueblo church and ruins. Monday, despite an evening of rain, snow and rain we headed into the Jemez Mountains and again saw beautiful countryside, hot springs, and ancient pueblo sites.

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