(By the way, it’s not that going to New Mexico is all that remarkable, like going to Scotland or Japan or something…it’s just that I don’t get out of town much.)
I had to stop three different places in the Springs in order to get gas…everyone was out! The third place only had 85 left, at $2.89/gallon. (New Mex was about $3.09, Dad, before you ask.) I had to stop at a different gas station to vaccuum the car and get a map. But I had hit upon a gas station with no maps. Huh? So I stopped at Borders. They had a map. The cashier warned me that there were no rest stops along the way. (One of my coworkers told me there were no road signs the day before, too.)
The trip was pretty uneventful for two women with moderately-sized bladders and the ability not to leave the Interstate, although the jokes got a little much from the back seat at times. The landscape reminded me of Colorado at first, but became more and more like South Dakota (out by the Badlands), with sage. Lots and lots of sage. And round, tumbleweed-looking trees that looked about to roll over the landscape, this sinisterly cheerful invasion or infection of trees.
So. Santa Fe. My first impression was to laugh: it’s so artificial. Adobe as far as the eye can see, even the bad parts of town…it wasn’t until I went looking for a trailer park that I found one, albeit cleverly hidden behind a tall adobe wall. We found our way to a likely-looking motel and checked in. I may have to start looking closer at motels…the lobby was okay, but the room was creepy, water stains on the ceiling, no towels, an absolutely frigid swimming pool… (We left in the morning and went to a different motel, the Comfort Suites, and did fine there. The room at the first place was as expensive as the room at the second place. Both were overpriced, and I’m sure will be even more expensive after Memorial Day.)
But that first day, we lived with it. After pulling most of the stuff out of the car, we decided to find something to eat.
Here is my first major lesson learned regarding Santa Fe: do not, under any circumstances, leave without your camera or your map. Sure, the town is small. Sure, it’s very much for show. Nevertheless, you will see stuff that tempts you to drive just a little further…and then the streets get very narrow, very tangled, and very much one-way in a very short amount of time. And, once you’ve miraculously found someplace to park, you won’t be able to take a picture of the Cathedral Basillica of St. Francis at sunset, because your camera is still in the bag.
We spent, after leaving the downtown area, an hour and a half trying to find our way back to the motel, or to a restaurant, or to a gas station…after passing signs announcing that it would be a poor judgement call to stop for hitchhikers just outside a prison facility, we turned around yet again, found a gas station, asked for directions, and found ourselves only a quarter-mile from the hotel. We stopped at a Sonic and ate tater tots, because by then, even I needed a little familiar reassurance. (Please note: there were a sufficiency of signs; we just didn’t know which ones we were supposed to be looking for. “Oh…you mean Highway 14 is Cerillios Road? Well, isn’t my face just red.”)
Nine o’clock. Back to the hotel. Called Lee. Yawned a lot. But of course there had to be swimming before bed; otherwise, the parental code of ethics (as in, “I promise you, no matter how lost we are, you can still go swimming before bed”) would have been utterly violated. I talked to a nice couple from western New Mexico on their way to Las Vegas, New Mexico, who had decided they were giving themselves a night off. Ray is such the charmer that it’s hard to stay shy.
To bed, feeling very much regretful of having coming all this way to get faked out, ripped off, and lost. But things were destined to improve…