A Road Trip in the Nick of Time

In early March we took a New Mexico road trip. We had to give up a trip to Frankfurt and Rome to visit my sons for obvious reasons, but wanted to take advantage of the big hole carved out in our schedules. It was a wonderful trip, especially in retrospect, because as soon as we got home all hell broke loose.

Puerto de Luna, camposanto
Roberto’s relative

But back to that innocent time of four weeks ago:  Our first stop was Puerto de Luna, a tiny place on the Pecos River in the east part of the state. This was the home for  Roberto’s relatives before they fled to Albuquerque during another crisis, the Dust Bowl. We wandered the camposanto (cemetery) and found gravestones of those who were surely great great somethings. The names were so evocative, the stones so varied, some slick and polished, some hand hewn, maybe in a hurry, maybe with no alternative. It was eerie and powerful to stand there knowing that below us was the DNA of Roberto’s people, whoever they were. And what would they think of us, standing there decades, a century, later?

Next destination was Inn of the Mountain Gods, a resort on the Mescalero Indian Reservation in south central New Mexico. Out our window was snow-capped Sierra Blanca and a small lake ringed with huge Ponderosa Pines. We stayed an extra night just to soak in the luxury.

“working” at the gift shop

I have a confession. While Roberto was napping I found myself in the gift shop of the hotel-casino. A quick tour revealed that there was nothing for me to buy, but I did spy one of those tall twirling racks that hold souvenir key chains with your name on it, if your name is one of several hundred they deem worthy. I immediately saw that “Jane” was on the hook for “Frank” and “Ellen” was on the hook for “Beatrice” and because I have a little touch of some disorder I set to work. The key chains were in complete disarray. Like a person possessed I moved the misplaced ones to the proper hook. Hardly any hooks had only the proper names on them. I might be pleased to see that the Robert hook had a “Robert” on it, but if I looked behind that top “Robert,” there was an “Anne,” a “Vivian” and an “Edward”! So, I would pull off all of them and put each on its correct hook….but every correction revealed more imposters. You can tell by my animation as I write this how exciting it was for me. An hour or more flew by as I hooked and unhooked, twirled the rack, bent down for the “H’s” which were on the bottom row, stretched high for the “J’s” on the top row, then down for Morgan and up again for Walter. The next morning my thighs were screaming. They had not had a workout like that since I quit aerobics. When I told Roberto what I had been doing for an hour and a half he asked what the people who worked there thought and did they say anything. And true to my disorder, I had no idea if anyone saw me or what they thought.

Heading west is Tularosa, home of Yum Yum’s, famous for barbecue, donuts, and probably barbecued donuts. They seemed to offer everything in a place the size of a walk in closet. The breakfast burrito was the best ever and then, of course, for dessert a coconut frosted donut.

We were riding high as we pulled into the Three Rivers Petroglyph Area, a BLM national site we had always wanted to see. The day was perfect as we hiked through the boulders, one image more astounding than the next. They date from at least 1,000 years ago, some much more. We call the people Jornada Mogollon, now disappeared, but who were they?  What were they thinking? Did they witness disasters, like pandemics? Or were lightning and drought the biggest threats?

The next night was at the Blackstone Lodge in Truth or Consequences. T or C, as we New Mexicans call it, gave up its original name Hot Springs in exchange for an onsite broadcast in March 1950 of a radio game show called “Truth or Consequences” hosted by Ralph Edwards. You, the husband, might say that you always pick up your socks, but your wife would have told the truth that you don’t, and when you lied, wham, you got a pie in the face. This is probably totally lost on younger readers, and so I include a footnote below on the origin of the name and birth of the annual fiesta to memorialize the moment. Those were very innocent days in a lot of ways. (wikipedia has a nice history of the name change)

Anyway, T or C is now a very small, funky artists’ colony and is still blessed with abundant hot springs. Our room had a waterfall shower in the bathroom.

bullet filled ornaments at antique store, T or C

Turn a big lever and out shot a roaring hot waterfall. There were also hot baths which Roberto really enjoyed. I am not so much into hot soaks, and was disappointed there was not a gift shop attached to the motel, or I would have had my time happily filled with organizing something or other.

And then a turn to the north and on to The Very Large Array, a remarkable display of radio telescope antenna dishes an hour west of Socorro, in the middle of nowhere, for a very good reason. There is minimal radio interference from the hums and beeps of our digital lives. These  27 dishes 80 feet in diameter are aimed skyward, listening for the tiniest sound waves that might be unfathomable miles and years away. The messages they receive have made it possible to map black holes and learn more about the structure of universes. It is really amazing to see them on this vast mountain-ringed plain, straining skyward, always working. We were told to turn off cell phones and any other electronic, digital equipment because of the potential for interfering with  these fragile filaments of light and sound. The day was cold and windy as we held our jackets close and walked among them.

A night in Socorro and we head for home, but not without a significant dip back into the real world. We stopped at the Albuquerque Costco to pick up a few things. The parking lot was beyond full. We found a cart and began our struggle upstream against the flow of carts full of Kleenex, packs of two dozen boxes, as many of those shrink-wrapped blocks as could possibly fit in a cart. I was slow to catch on. Then, aha, this is the next best thing to the treasured toilet paper. I am amused, and a little excited. This is some kind of fascinating phenomenon. I think of the plumbers who will be very busy in a few weeks.

And now, sequestered at home we have our memories and our pictures of our last great adventure. And what a span of civilization it was! From the petroglyph artists of 1,000 years ago to the astrophysicists of the Very Large Array, with stops in between to visit roots in Puerto de Luna, eat the world’s best breakfast burrito, have a hot soak, and even get a little work done at the gift shop.

And what of the virus? Before the petroglyphs there were viruses, and after the giant satellite dishes there will be viruses. The blue sky, white clouds, cold winds, rain, snow, sun and probably a good number of creatures will prevail, as they have for millennia, before we ever made an appearance.

Three Rivers petroglyph


24 thoughts on “A Road Trip in the Nick of Time”

  1. A salve for our days sheltering in place, renamed by someone quoted in the Washington Post as “Situation in Place.”
    Magnificent road trip well told.

  2. When covid 19 accomplishes it’s work & people are cooperating (because we MUST) and mediators are no longer needed (what planet am I from?) YOU will have another job you love! Picturing you organizing was LOL funny!

    Seriously – you have given us some great ideas for a staycation!

    1. Yes, no shortage of work for the Organizer! Thanks, Pam, and I have the same fantasy of a post covid 19 world as you do. It will be interesting to see if there are any longterm shifts as a result. I feel it personally, that I will not go back to the frenetic pace I had before. Love to you and Ken.

  3. thank you Lucy — it’s a time that we all much need to smile about the simple pleasures that life has offered us and we took for granted.
    Thinking of you both. Perhaps a phone visit soon?
    Love and hugs Zenia

    1. …yes, and to appreciate the luxury we have now. I am so grateful to be able to actually enjoy this down time, and so aware that for many, many people it is a living nightmare.

  4. Lovely road trip.They are indeed the perfect panacea and if you bring you own food there’s only gas to contend with in terms of you know what. In the last month (before all hell broke loose)we took visiting relatives to White sands (where Jim was raised) and last weekend little villages around Villanueva we hadn’t seen before and dog walk on a high mesa. New Mexico offers many safe cures for the soul.

    1. Good point. We can keep moving around with care and a box of sanitizing wipes for the gas pump. On our road trip we stopped at White Sands (March 10), hoping to visit and play in the sand, but the crowds were huge, long line of cars. Went in the visitor center, fortunately no rack of key chains, but we were elbow to elbow with tourists, all of us touching objects, looking at prices, putting things back. We apparently lucked out. How quickly things have changed.

  5. Mrs Wellgan (?) would be proud of your descriptive talents! I loved your obsession with the key chain rack! I wouldn’t have had the patience!
    Have you ever heard of Castle Hot Springs in AZ? My Dad used to take us there for Christmas vacation. I loved learning about all the desert rocks and stars (clear skies!).We’d leave the day after Christmas. There was a stable so I rode out on the trails everyday.
    Mat and I have a place in La Quinta,CA. Go figure! Guess the desert has its hold on me!?❤️☀️?

  6. Thank you for making me laugh today! and for making me remember great road trips that I have taken in NM and other parts of the world.

  7. Mahalo for your road trip stories. Envisioning futures of wandering beyond our homes.
    Sending loving encouragement from our home to yous guys. Please be safe, be well.
    With love,
    Tom & Laurel

    1. Love and safe wishes to you two! Hope your distractions are fun and fruitful…. I’m still hooked on Words with Friends…

  8. thanks Lucy for the virtual road trip… This would have been my week to spend with Navajo colleagues so happy to get a taste of the southwest. I can relate to your organizational need for order disorder (NFOD?) but tend to see it as a one of my extraordinary Virgo superpowers.

  9. Thank you Lucy for your descriptions. You captured a bit of that amazing beauty and ancient history of the Southwest. As I shelter in place here in Virginia , I find myself rueing the possibility that I might not be able to take my annual retreat to New Mexico later this year. Your images remind us that our time here is just a pinprick in the timeless expanses of earth and cosmos. And it is hard to lose a part of what I have left, sequestered away as we all must be for the long haul. As our ancestors , may we adapt and find sustenance in deeper ways. Again, thank you so much.

  10. Loved reading about your trip and laughed out loud at your organizing gig. I love to do what I call making order out of chaos whether it is detangling a mass of yarn or a gigantic jigsaw puzzle. Always a bit embarrassed about the delight I get from that kind of thing.
    Thank you thank you thank you for your blog,
    Love to you and Roberto

    1. A sister! I’m so glad you understand….not everyone does, as you have probably discovered. It’s interesting because I actually tolerate other kinds of chaos (the world, for instance) pretty well, and chaos inside my house is very comfortable, but I have a certain calling, and yes, it includes puzzles and untangling yarn.

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