Walsenburg, CO, to Deming, NM (with a Stop in Santa Fe)

Another very, very, very long day, but it was the last big one. It’ll be a short haul tomorrow, then three days of sort of rest, then 2.5 reasonable days to my Mexican casita.

I had an okay night of sleep and was on the road by about 6:45 because I had plans to meet John for brunch in Santa Fe, 3.25 hours away. It being the crack of dawn on a Sunday, the espresso bar I’d been hoping to get my coffee at was shut tight, but there was a fresh pot of decent coffee on a the 7-Eleven, where I had to get fuel anyway.

It was still quite dark out when a car passed me honking madly. It wasn’t until the passenger rolled down his window and yelled, “GO RIDERS!” that I realised they were fellow Saskatchewanites!

I paused at a rest area and caught a Colorado sunrise.

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Next rest area, probably in New Mexico at this point, had markedly different vegetation than what I’d been seeing up to that point:

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I’d asked John to choose a place not too far from the interstate and he suggested Cafe Fina, which was right at the on and off ramp to I-25. Very convenient! You order at a counter, get a number to place your on your table, and then your meal is brought to you. John had Tex-Mex brunchy food and I had lunch food. We both had a very delicious coffee. We ate outside and the weather was perfect for it!

Vicki has requested photos of food, so here is the yummy chicken, bacon, caramelized onion, and cheese sandwich (hold the mayo) I had with a really good salad:

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John and I had a quick catchup, then it was time for  me to head off again. I was due for fuel, so I asked him where I should go and he said that if I wasn’t desperate, I should wait to get fuel at a pueblo a short distance down the road. He was right. I paid less than $2 a gallon!!! AND they gave me a free coffee. 😀

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My next stop was Socorro, where I paused to do some hotel research and scored another deal on Priceline. From there, it was a very long 2.5 hours to Deming, where I am hoping to get a good night’s sleep. I’m in no rush tomorrow and probably won’t get going till mid to late morning. There’s a Walmart almost right next door, so I might do my shopping there instead of stopping in Benson. Perhaps I should check the sales tax rates before I decide!

I’ve been seeing Mexico tourism-related signs for a bit now. I can’t believe I’m already essentially at the border!

Off to find a cold beer. It is HOT out!

Santa Fe, NM, to Walsenburg, CO

I’ve decided to split my day up into two posts. The more interesting one will follow. 🙂

Unfortunately, I got to bed very late last night, a combination of having dinner with John (I cooked and he can attest to the fact that I can cook, even with a very limited pantry! 🙂 ) and the File From Hell that would not finish. So it was a slow and molassy kind of morning for me. My to-do list felt daunting — finish packing up the fifty billion bags I brought into the rig, schlep them all the way to my truck and repack it (John fixed my tailgate again, btw, THANK YOU!!!), and then clean the rig and throw on laundry. Of course, it all came together very quickly. I was ready to pull out at about 9:30, an hour and a half later than I would have liked, but still a half hour ahead of my ‘this is the absolute latest I want to leave’ hour.

John and I both tried to figure out how long I’d been there and drew a blank. I later figured out it was 12 days!!!. My Santa Fe stay really felt like a moment out of time. I am really grateful to have been there as it enabled me to recharge my batteries and my bank account a little as well as do loads of touristy stuff. It was definitely time to move on, but John said I was welcome to return if I wanted to tonight since my day’s fun was to be had not very far down the road. It’s nice to feel that welcome. 🙂

After getting fuel, it was time to head to Bandelier National Monument, the subject of my next post.

It's unbelievable the places my life takes me...

It’s unbelievable the places my life takes me…

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Right to Bandelier!

Right to Bandelier!

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After several hours of fun that I am convinced Disney World couldn’t rival, I decided to go to Los Alamos for lunch and a bit of tourism.

Los Alamos has great significance for me. Judy Blume’s book Tiger Eyes was one of the defining stories of my adolescence. I must have retreated to this story set primarily in Los Alamos more than a hundred times. It painted a world that was absolutely alien to me and I promised myself that if I ever was in the area, I would check out the town and its environs.

I thought I’d done my research and that Los Alamos is now open, with no more guard houses and plenty of museums and other touristy things to do. So imagine my surprise when there was a checkpoint coming into the town. A surely woman asked me where I was going. I told her the truth, going downtown to have lunch and visit the museums. “You’re on government property. I need to see your ID,” she replied. I handed her my passport and she told me to turn around and go the way I came. So, that was that for Los Alamos. Can’t say I didn’t try. 🙂 But I did see the canyons that Judy Blume paints so well with words and they were exactly as I expected. I’m not disappointed about not seeing the town as I doubt it would have borne any resemblance to the the 1970’s town she described.

It was then time to head northeast.

Last chance to go back to John's for the night!

Last chance to go back to John’s for the night!

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I put Mount Rushmore into my GPS and it plotted out the same route I had to I-25 and beyond, so I followed its directions, heading northeast through mountain passes. Traffic was very slow through the tourist town of Taos and I had no desire to stop.

Quesnel Road! I wonder how they pronounce Quesnel here.

Quesnel Road! I wonder how they pronounce Quesnel here.

From the mountains, I eventually emerged into a plateau as I entered Colorado. I went to three places in 1996, Quebec City, Colorado, and New York City. If I had known then that of the three, Colorado is the first one I would return to a second time, I would not have believed it.

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Colorado was looking a lot like Florida the last time I was there. :)

Colorado was looking a lot like Florida the last time I was there. 🙂

Snow capped peaks in the distance.

Snow capped peaks in the distance.

I didn’t want to drive too much today and hoped to stop around 4:00. But motels were far apart and expensive. I decided that I was stopping in Walsenburg, CO, no matter the prices. By the time I got there around 6:45, I’d seen about four roach motels wanting more than 80CAD a night. Google told me that the average price in Walsenburg was about that. So when the first place I stopped in was clean, neat, and 60CAD, my maximum budget, I was done for the day! BTW, it’s cold and rainy; not truck camping weather at all!

Having done so much exercise today, I needed a proper dinner, so I walked the block to a sit down Mexican restaurant. I ordered a beer (Budweiser!) and wasn’t asked for ID. Mexico officially aged me! 😀 The menu was uninspiring, just your typical ‘Mexican’ and American fare, so I ordered the two enchilada special (opting for chicken with green sauce). It was tasty enough, spicy as hell, and a good deal for the price ($7). The beer brought the tab up to $10.30 with the tax, still a very reasonable price. The enchiladas were topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and… black olives. Strange. I started to eat olives last summer and haven’t had them since I left home, so I tried one and didn’t hate it, so I ate them all. 🙂

It was a good day on the road. I could easily get to Mount Rushmore tomorrow, but I’d rather split it up into two or even two and a half days. We’ll see how the weather is. 🙂

Pecos National Historic Park

John pointed out to me yet another national monument/park just a short distance from Santa Fe, the Pecos National Historic Park. Yesterday promised to be, and was, a gorgeous day, so I decided to go check it out. I got a late start because I was working on the project from hell (most projects of that type would have taken me three hours and it took seven), so I only arrived around 12:45.

The website made it seem like there was a lot to do, with two trails and two tours, but they were still on their winter hours and their Civil War trail was closed. There was a tour at 1:30 of a ranch house owned by Academy Award winner Greer Garson, a benefactor of the park, but that didn’t interest me. Despite that, even if I had had to pay the $3 admission fee, I would have come out of there feeling that I got my money’s worth. If you like history and are interested in ruins, Pecos is a must-do for Santa Fe!

The drive there felt longer than it was because there was a bike marathon thingamabob along a good part of my route to I-25 and instead of being able to drive 50MPH, I had to drive 25MPH. But I eventually got there!

Made it!

Made it!

Look at what I found in the parking lot, a car with a license plate from ARGENTINA!

A license plate from *Argentina*!!!

A license plate from *Argentina*!!!

I’ve heard that Argentinian Spanish is very different from European and Mexican, but this was too interesting to ignore, so I went up to the couple and said in Spanish, “Wow, big journey! How long have you been traveling?”

This is Spanish speaking territory, so they weren’t shocked by the Spanish and replied, “Two years!”

We then had a bit of a chat about their trip. They are arriving in Alaska this summer. I gave them some suggestions (do not miss Dawson City!) and answered their questions about the Alaska Highway. We could understand each other just fine! And just as I was leaving some time later, they came to grab me to act as an interpreter because they were having trouble with a Ranger’s accent. I’m really starting to feel like I speak Spanish now that I’ve communicated with folks from four different Spanish speaking countries (Spain, Mexico, Chile, and Argentina) and been understood. So cool!

But enough about that, you want to hear about Pecos!

Pecos is one of the most important Native pueblos of the area, home to some 2,000 people.  Archeologist Kidder found here perfectly preserved layers of history that enabled him to sort out timelines, tribes, and categorize pottery with methods that are still used today. He considered Pecos the place that helped to make sense of the until then scattered and conflicted information about the peoples of the region and work out a plausible chronology.

A 16th century report of the pueblo describes it as the “greatest and best” of the Indian pueblos, and is, “most thickly settled.”

You learn all of this in the visitors’ centre little museum, which does a good job of setting you into the context of Pecos. Then, you head outside to see the ruins.

From the visitors’ centre, there is a trail (accessible) that takes you around the ruins of the pueblo all the way to the ruins of 17th century and 18th century churches built by the Spaniards determined to bring Christianity to these ignorant savages.

I was surprised by how much there was to see. The pueblo had been like a large fortress, made of 700 rooms, four to five stories high, around a central courtyard, with the upper stories linked by balconies and walkways. It must have been quite a sight!

The pueblo would have had a wall all around it.

The pueblo would have had a wall all around it.

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The church in the distance.

The church in the distance.

The trail is a bit of a treasure hunt if you are loaned the trail brochure, several sheets of laminated paper with tons more information than you find on the sparse placards scattered throughout the site. I had fun looking for all the numbered markers.

I was loaned this trail guide.

I was loaned this trail guide.

Snow in the distance.

Snow in the distance.

Wheelchair accessible path.

Wheelchair accessible path.

Kivas were circular holes in the ground accessible via ladders. The entrance led to a ceremonial chamber where much of daily living, including weaving, was done. There are two kivas on the tour that you can actually enter!

Entrance to a kiva.

Entrance to a kiva.

Hey, you can really go down!

Hey, you can really go down!

I can never resist stuff like this.

I can never resist stuff like this.

Surprisingly light down there.

Surprisingly light down there.

Ceiling.

Ceiling.

This hole represents the journey of the Pecos people to this world.

This hole represents the journey of the Pecos people to this world.

Masonry of the kiva walls.

Masonry of the kiva walls.

Foundations are all that remain of what were four or five story buildings.

Foundations are all that remain of what were four or five story buildings.

Kivas.

Kivas.

There was a trash heap here.

There was a trash heap here, a goldmine for archaeologists.

So much open country.

So much open country.

You could have seen all around from up here.

You could have seen all around from up here.

More snow in the distance.

More snow in the distance.

This sign made me laugh.

This sign made me laugh. See how uneven the word uneven is?

Up a few stairs for a view!

Up a few stairs for a view!

Looking from the top of the stairs across another kiva.

Looking from the top of the stairs across another kiva.

Contemporary descriptions make it sound like a medieval castle, both in its construction and occupation, with all manner of trades, such as weaving and pottery, being practiced, and there being music.

What the pueblo might have looked like.

What the pueblo might have looked like.

Then, you get to the churches. What we see are the foundations of the 1625 church and the ruins of the 1717 church walls. The first church was destroyed in a 1680 revolt by the Natives, but they didn’t keep their independence for long.

Approaching the church.

Approaching the church.

What remain are bits of the newer church.

What remain are bits of the newer church.

It would have been white washed.

It would have been white washed.

Foundation of the older church.

Foundation of the older church.

You can see a lot of details of the construction.

You can see a lot of details of the construction.

The grass is trying to reclaim it.

The grass is trying to reclaim it.

The Pecos leaders gave each pueblo a knotted rope. Each knot represented a day. When there were no more knots, it was time to attack the Spaniards.

The Pecos leaders gave each pueblo a knotted rope. Each knot represented a day. When there were no more knots, it was time to attack the Spaniards.

I was shocked that we could enter the ruin and walk around! This is where I spent most of my visit, admiring the architecture.

I couldn't believe I could go in!

I couldn’t believe I could go in!

More foundations of the old church.

More foundations of the old church.

Entering the newer church.

Entering the newer church.

Narrow passageway...

Narrow passageway…

...into a courtyard.

…into a courtyard.

Another doorway to explore.

Another doorway to explore.

And another.

And another.

Look at the two angles of the masonry joining together.

Look at the two angles of the masonry joining together.

This buttress is perfectly preserved.

This buttress is perfectly preserved.

I like how the park uses these wooden fences to gently corral guests.

I like how the park uses these wooden fences to gently corral guests.

I should have asked if the flagstone is original or at least a replica of what would have been used.

I should have asked if the flagstone is original or at least a replica of what would have been used.

Also curious about the stairs.

Also curious about the stairs.

You can really see the detail of the masonry work here.

You can really see the detail of the masonry work here.

Vigas (wooden ceiling beams).

Vigas (wooden ceiling beams).

The construction is just like that of a medieval keep, with a flared base to distribute the weight of the building (and I thought my medieval history degree was never going to be useful in the real world!).

The construction is just like that of a medieval keep, with a flared base to distribute the weight of the building (and I thought my medieval history degree was never going to be useful in the real world!).

Two-toned masonry.

Two-toned masonry.

This drain is original! The holes in it are perfectly round!

This drain is original! The holes in it are perfectly round!

Oodles of foundations.

Oodles of foundations.

Another kiva.

Another kiva.

What is it with me and pokey places?

What is it with me and pokey places?

Oh, just like the other one.

Oh, just like the other one.

This would have been a turkey coop, with a cobblestone floor for easy cleaning.

This would have been a turkey coop, with a cobblestone floor for easy cleaning.

The directional signs made me laugh.

The directional signs made me laugh.

This would have been a 16th or 17th century residence or part of a farm.

This would have been a 16th or 17th century residence or part of a farm.

One last glimpse of the church.

One last glimpse of the church.

Pecos’ last inhabitants left the pueblo in 1838 and joined up with related tribes nearby in Jemez, where their descendents live to this day.

This boardwalk goes over the Santa Fe trail.

This boardwalk goes over the Santa Fe trail.

The visitors' centre had lovely architecture.

The visitors’ centre had lovely architecture.

Pecos pueblo taught me a lot about the geography of the region, the local peoples, the influence of the Spaniards on the development of the region, and more. I am leaving Santa Fe with a much better understanding of the history of this region and how it ties in to the history of my part of the continent. Thanks for another great recommendation, John!

Now, it’s time to move on. Work kept me up very late, two hours past my bedtime, last night, so I am up very late this morning and nowhere near ready to hit the road yet, but I am going! Next stop is Bandelier National Monument and then I’m pointing Moya towards South Dakota. I doubt I will get out of New Mexico today, but tomorrow will be a driving day.

A Four Letter Word Falling From the Sky

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It’s really blowing out there and it’s COLD! Well, it’s cold outside. I’m cozy in the RV and barely having to run the heat. And I’m trying to figure out why I left my coat in the truck instead of having it in here with me. Not that I need to go out. I was thinking of going to a museum this afternoon, but things will have to change dramatically for me to go out there. 🙂 It is pretty, but considering that I was walking a coconut palm beach just three weeks ago, this is hard for me to wrap my brain around!

Home is much warmer right now and dryer and I’m ready to get to a lower elevation. I’ve been monitoring the forecasts through Colorado and I’ve decided to just take I-25 through Denver even though I swore I would never go through there again, at least not behind the wheel. But when it’s 27F in Breckenridge at 12,000′ and 57F in Denver at 5,000′, the decision is logical. I’m just not equipped to get trapped in cold snowy conditions since I don’t have proper footwear (no closed shoes, just sandals!!!!) and my truck handles poorly in snow.

Thankfully, the weather in the Black Hills appears to be clearing, so I should have a nice stay there. Just need to get through this final hump. Once again, I’m glad I have such cushy digs for riding out this weather that I knew was going to happen. May is such a fickle month for travel.

Preparing For the Final Push

John is graciously allowing me to stay through Monday. I am so grateful to have had this stop since the weather has been dire through Colorado, Wyoming, and southern South Dakota this past week. My host near Rapid City even got snowed in, or just about.

When I was planning the trip home, it was always my intention to spend the bulk of May in New Mexico, then pretty much canonball to the Black Hills as soon as the weather turned. So I’m actually right on schedule and about where I hoped to be on this date. I just didn’t expect to get such great digs in Santa Fe that would allow me a little breathing room to have so much fun!

I’ve got a few more outings planned for the weekend as well as a small project. I’m leaving not too late on Monday and have an excursion planned. Then, I’m driving. I have a back roads route planned through Colorado and Wyoming that will get me to the Black Hills by Thursday morning, even if I have delays because of weather. I really want to do the mountainous western route, even if it will mean worsened gas mileage, because I’ve been through the Denver area before. But I’ll monitor conditions and head towards an interstate if I need to.

But if the weather cooperates, this is what my route to the border looks like:

My clients are busy and I already have work for Thursday and Friday since my host will be working, too. Then, I’m taking the weekend off to go exploring with her and a friend (Mount Rushmore and Deadwood are on our list). Monday, I plan to head for the border, stopping at Devils Tower in Wyoming. And then Tuesday, I will hit the border when it opens, 8:00 a.m., and be home by 10:00 a.m., which should coincide nicely with Charles and Caroline’s morning coffee break. 😀

The weather in Santa Fe hasn’t been great, but the weather ahead of me is much more terrible, so I’m actually not that eager to get going again. I’ll need to pack my overnight bag for winter conditions and have resigned myself to the fact that I’ll be moteling it all the way to South Dakota. But thankfully, I have free accommodation through a very expensive weekend. My blog readers are awesome. I need to tell you guys that more often!