Thursday, August 9, 2007

Into the High Country

After coffee and breakfast Danishes compliments of the Bonanza motel, we were on the road toward Santa Fe via the old Route 66. Arriving in Santa Fe, we headed straight to the town square. We were headed for a meal of the world famous Carnitas that are sold at a little stand on the square, but unfortunately, they were not there, so we partook of the next best thing, some fajitas.

After a bite to eat, we headed for the mountain above Santa Fe to the campsite we had decided to stay at. After speaking to the camp host, he informed us we had claimed the last available campsite. We made camp under threatening skies. We went into town to dine, as we didn’t take any provisions for meals, not wanting do deal with pots and pans at the camps we would make. Returning to camp, the threat proved real as the skies opened up on our campsite. It rained most the night.

Home away from home before the rains. This is as dry the tent will be for a week.

The next morning, we had an excellent breakfast at Tecolate Café, a well-known diner with the locals and traveling foodies.
Deciding to head north to Taos, we decided to forgo the famous high road to Taos and took a much less traveled road. There’s some spectacular scenery on this two-lane road. We had decided to take the scenic highway loop that encircles Taos, though this section of road is not part of the official loop. Taos was not our destination, but the loop of road that encircles Taos. On the way to Red River, we noticed from the road the Laguna Vista Saloon's swinging doors that’s welcomed (and evicted) thirsty cowboys since the mid 1800’s.

An old prospector at the saloon showing some of the precious metals his sluice gave up and the jewelry he made from his finds.

An Altoid tin, a small treasure chest. The prospector displays with pride his find of platinum and iridium he has wrenched from the earth.

We were pondering seeing Michael Martin Murphey (he wrote and recorded “Wildfire”) who is playing at the Cowboy campfire series August 7, 9, and 11. They have Chuck wagon steak dinners and live music and horse rides. We went by there to check out the facilities on our way to Red River. We wandered around the facility but no one was home.

Dave ponders which trusty steed to ride off into the sunset with.

So we moved on to Red River where the prevailing architecture is a mix of Swiss chalet and hunting lodges for some reason. Again, we got the last campsite available near the city as a mudslide created by a 3” per hour rain the previous night had eroded an enormous section of mountain that buried the road out of town in 8-foot debris. The mountain looked not unlike Mount St. Helens after it’s infamous eruption.

What remains of the mountain face after depositing 8 feet of debris on the road below. This was above the camp site outside Red River, New Mexico.

The mudslide had also closed the two nearest campgrounds near the city, so we were fortunate, as again, we had the last campsite available for miles. That night we had to sleep with one eye and one ear open because a torrential rain had threatened to create a mudslide right near our campsite as the previous nights rain had done.

Normally clear, these rafters navigate a very muddled Red River, compliments of the previous nights landslide.

The rain cleared and the late night and early pre-dawn morning skies revealed a clear sky full of stars and a blazing moon only available to those fortunate enough to be away from city lights. Morning broke, and we decided to leave camp up, to dry in the morning sun. We headed into Red River where we decided to do a poor Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid impersonation by renting horses for an hour and ride the trail above the hills of Red River, New Mexico.
We passed the “you must be this high to ride” test, so off we went. The ride was fun, though uneventful, but that’s probably the best scenario for green horns on horses for the first time. Our nags were very docile and personified (if that’s possible for a horse) the term horse sense.

Augustus 'Gus' McCrae and Woodrow F. Call making the Wild West safe for school marms.

After our bowlegged indoctrination to the equine species, we broke camp (finally dry in the morning sun) and continued with our loop around Taos, this time on the backstretch heading south on the western side of Taos.
We headed towards the evening destination, Santa Fe, were we snagged (again) the last room at the Silver Saddle Motel. We’ve stayed here on previous visits and were glad to have a place that we didn’t have to erect in the rain and that had hot and cold running water (and a much needed shower!). We planned on playing golf at the Cochini golf course, which is a favorite in the middle of nowhere, 30 minutes from Santa Fe. Supposedly Hollywood’s finest have snuck out here to play away from their adoring fans. Unfortunately we decided to play on a day when a tournament was in progress so no golf for us. Since golf was 86’ed on today’s menu, we drove down the road to Tent Rocks National Monument just outside the Cochini reservation.

A mysterious spirit resides here.

Sister city to Remulac, South France?

My fascination with dead trees continues unabated.

Climbing rock is not quite the same as playing 18 holes on a wonderful course, but it was an adventure anyway. Kinda like hitting your ball in the rough and looking for it for a v-e-r-y l-o-n-g time. After the obligatory climbing of rocks, documented again as followers of these yearly blogs will attest, it was back to the Silver Saddle for us. We are hovering from the approaching evening storm in the “Buffalo Bill” room, one of the western themed rooms at the motel. This welcomed respite from the wilds of camping hasn’t changed much from the heyday of Route 66 other than a new sign out front.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Jahova's Whitness and the Tourquoise Toilet or a Little bit of Vegas in Vega

Left work about 3:45. Had a relatively uneventful drive to Amarillo. Although seeing a herd of camels on the side of the road was a bit surprising.

Though we did see a herd, this specimen is the famous "Camel Rock" north of Santa Fe.

Got a little rain on the road to Amarillo that washed off the bugs on the windshield, only to repeat the process with their 6 legged cousins. Circle of life.

Stopped in the Golden Light Cafe, in Amarillo, our usual first destination. They were kind enough to grill us up some excellent burgers 10 minutes before closing time. We remembered the staff from last year and they remembered us. Then we crossed the street to the Blue Gator to have a beer and update the dollar bills we have on the wall with todays date. We were there 366 days ago. Pretty good timing. Then back across the street to the cantina to listen to some live music. Not a bad band. But we were getting a little weary, so we decided to find a room for the night. As luck would have it, there was a Jehovah's Witness convention it town that had taken all hotel rooms in Amarillo. The night manager at the Comfort Inn kindly phoned ahead to the Bonanza Motel in Vega to secure us a room. 30 miles down the road and we were ensconced in turquoise and pink tile. So the reason for the title: we have a turquoise toilet.