Let me start by saying Wow?! Today has been one of those days that seems like two or three but in reality its only been one. Where do we start….Black Kettle National Grasslands….a full moon over the lake, coyotes yipping and howling over the grasslands and seceda’s crawling up and emerging from their exoskeletons on the screen for the tent. It was quite the show. I rose at 5AM Georgia time, which I believe was 6AM central. It was dark and it was beautiful. A cool, quite morning over the lake. A wonderful stillness was in the air. I broke down camp, got cleaned up; lets start the first side note here. So I’ve been toting this squishy bowl around in my camp sack for a year and a half now. It’s orange and was designed to pack down and then you could eat out of it at camp. I have never used it. When I eat, I eat out of the pot or my camp cup. I just didn’t have a use for this bowl. Until this trip, it has become my morning wash bowl. After heating water for coffee I pour the remaining hot water in the bowl along with some Dr. Bronners soap and voila! I am ready to wash my face and shave. This ritual and bowl now have a place in the camp sack. It works….ok, back to the story line.
I left Black Kettle around 6:30 and made way towards Cheyenne looking for breakfast, no go. I remembered seeing a coffee shop when I stopped to photograph the Sayre County Courthouse so that was the next location to hit. Along the way I stopped to admire what looked like a never ending plane of wind turbines. They were hypnotic, spinning slowly with a colorful sunrise backdrop unfolding behind them. Once in Sayre I was informed the coffee shop did not do breakfast (outside of muffins) and the only local breakfast options were Denny’s, Sonic and McDonalds. Needless to say I pressed on and enjoyed a Cliff Bar, some nuts and berries.
I wasn’t sure exactly where I was going yet other than I thought it would be cool to hit New Mexico today. So I pulled onto 40 and started driving. It’s a long, straight haul. I did stop by the Cadillac Ranch outside of Amarillo, Texas. In some ways it has changed a lot and in other ways not much at all. For instance, there are still a pile of Cadillacs nose down in the dirt covered in spray paint but now there were lots of families from what looked like a variety of diffirent backgrounds all gathered around spray painting Cadillacs. If my memory (and the photos I have) serve me correctly, this had at one time been a rather fringe experience. There might be few other college kids or artist types hanging around but never a slew of moms and pops with a handful of young’ens running around spraypainting Cadillacs. I took a few family photos for people and then moseyed back onto 40. Again, a long and straight stretch of road that eventually landed me in New Mexico. I stopped at the visitor center for a map….let me tell you people, if you’ve never traveled cross country with a map thats nearly 10 years old…you should because it is an experience. I’ve spent as much time realizing the map is off as I have utilizing the map to get me from point A to point B. It’s a hoot. By the way..the visitor center was fresh out maps.
I thought I had remembered seeing the town of Santa Rosa close to the border and then I knew that I could head South for the desert and Billy the Kids grave or North for the moutains and the artists. Well, an hour (or maybe even a little longer than that) or so later I landed in Santa Rosa. Home of the Blue Hole. I had to stop, and let me tell you ladies and gentlemen if you have never seen it….you should know that it is blue. I mean an unbelieavable brilliant, beautiful blue. I parked the car, saw some fellow travelers from I 40 that had also stopped; and then I walked around the blue hole. There were locals and tourists playing in the water. Swimming, diving from the rocks and having an all out good time. It looked like a blast but those you that know me well know that I am not one for riding wet in the car. I enjoyed the space, stopped by the vintage Route 66 Sun and Sand Cafe for a grill cheese and fries and hit I40 (after getting turned around….using my map.) Eventually I hang a right off of I40 to NM84. That’s another long and empty stretch of road. I almost sent a message home letting them know where I was at when I expected to have signal again. It was on 84 that I passed through Dilia and spotted the Sacred Heart Church of La Loma, New Mexico. I turned around to check it out and it was beautiful.
After Dilia the next stop was Las Vegas, New Mexico (insert misdirection once again) and then 518 through the Cerro Vista Mountains and the Carson National Forest. This stretch of road is amazing. I wanted to call everyone and share the beauty with you, the trees, the peaks, the valleys, the smell…the smell was intoxicating. And then in the middle of it all was the town of Mora. And this gorgeous stream runs beside the road for what seems like it’s entirety (although that is not the case) and the kids with their dogs heading out to play in the stream. It was idyllic. At one point though, I realized the true danger of fire in this area. I have two spruce trees in my yard back home and I use the branches for kindling becuase it burns so fast and so hot….and here I was on a tiny winding road through mountains of kindling. Fire is the hurricane of this region. What?!
It wasn’t long before I reached Taos….I say it wasn’t long….it was nearly 8 hours or more. It was a long time and I was beat. I went straight for the Abominable Snow Mansion Hostel wich is a little North of the city. The first thing I noticed was how much Taos had grown in 20 years. Now you could find every big box store/food joint your heart desired. It had become what so many Main Streets are trying to avoid- the line up of standard anywhere USA corperations. I was bummed and I tried to rationalize it in my head…first and foremost I don’t live here so why does my opinion really matter? Not that all of the funky eateries were gone…they are still here and appear to be doing well. And none of these corperations (with the exception of Patagonia) seem to have infiltrated the area around the Zocala. So it took me a minute to get past the Taos I remembered (and so desperatly wanted to find) and embrace Taos for what it had become. A new experience, a new Taos. Back to the Snow Mansion for let down numero dos. Tony and I had stayed here in the mid 90’s, we stayed in a teepee and all of the guests gathered around a fire at night and played guitars and sang and talked about Earth Ships and journeys. And this experience had a big impact on me. And here I was, 20 years later, trying to get into a locked front door. I wandered around back and then wandered some more passing some people hanging out in the kitchen area twice. I then went back to ask them for help. I don’t want to get into it…..but it wasn’t working for me. The teepees were still there…they looked like the same ones, faded and worn, with three matresses in the interior. Again, let me just say that it wasn’t working its magic on me and I was bummed. A) I was set on staying there. Once I decided to make Taos happen I bypassed the campgrounds in the Carson national Forest (which is amazing by the way) and B) I was just bummed about the state of the place. The warmth seemed to be gone from it. Again, I don’t want to dwell on the negative. I hope it was just an off day for them. So back to town to find a coffee shop and some Wi Fi. I landed at the The Spot, they had coffee, WiFi, a kitchen and a host of interesting characters lingering around. I ordered up a Cafe Cubano (biggest Cafe Cubano I have ever seen…it was Texas big), vegan tacos (they were amazing- so flipping good….with a red chili sauce) and Wi Fi.
Emily and Corey (from Black Kettle) had mentioned how much they had enjoyed using Air Bnd B so I thought I would give it a spin. I sent word to a potential room and waited….and then decided to go make photos at the Pueblos and the Rio Grande Gorge. Well, the taos Pueblos didnt take long as they were closed (8-4) so it was off to the gorge. The gorge is awesome…it’s an amazing work of nature with an amazing work by man spanning its distance. the height of this bridge never fails to amaze me. How do we build somethign like this? It’s realy impressive. A little pop culture triva for you…this is the bridge where Mickey and Mallory from the film Natural Born Killers were married. Crazy movie/ amazing bridge. All this time I am checking the email and hoping this Band B thing is going to work out. Nothing…so back to The Spot. I sent out another request on Air B and B and this time I updated my profile. It’s my first time using this site so I am figuring this out as I go. Waiting, waiting and nothing. It’s getting late (for me) and I am getting tired and starting to think of back up plans.
I head town to the Zocala, grab some ice cream (pecans and caramel) and sit and people watch. Eventually….ding! my phone goes off and I have heard from one of the Air B and B peeps and they basically say it’s a little too last minute and it’s just not going to work. I totally get that and am just happy to see that everything is working.
I then meet Frank, Frank is from Taos Publo and is the only artist from Taos Pueblo that paints en plein air at the zocala. We talk and he explains the symbolism in his work and a speaks a bit about his story and then I mine. I pointed to a work I was interested in and he said it was an image of the little shaman, carrying a bowl that held our harmony. We talked some more about the work and now it’ll be coming home with me. He inscribed the back in a beautiful manner for me and I feel like all of the errors of the day led to me running into Frank at the town square. It would be great to run into Frank again but he told me he is like a ghost.
I gave in after that, tired, worn out and ready to know where I would be laying my head. I ended up at El Pueblo Motel in Taos. The service is great and the room is phenomenal. It’s more like a flat than a motel room The selling point was a laundy room where I could freshen up my clothes and blankets. So here I sit, it’s late and I am tired and I am not sure what tomorrow is going to bring. Oh yeah, I also heard back from the other Air B and B person. They were super nice and apologized for the response saying the message had just come through. With the way my phone has been acting I am sure it was on this end where the error occured. They went ahead and opened the space up for me tomorrow so if I decide to stay another night I’l lhave a spot. This evening has brought me to the new Taos that I know and love. Thanks everyone for helping to make it happen. Until tomorrow..goodnight.