5) New Mexico Part Two: The Journey of the Fool
– Dec. 18 – 31, 2013
[note: about 4/5’s of this entry was accidentally deleted and had to be rewritten; hopefully this was for the best]
Dorothy lived in what turned out to be the actual middle of nowhere. We drove an hour from Las Vegas around and over mountains, until we reached a town called Mora. Were we to drive another hour or two we would eventually hit Taos, New Mexico, a popular ski destination just south of the Colorado border. A few minutes outside of Mora was Holman, and we met Dorothy at the Holman Post Office. From there, Kat rode with Dorothy as Midge and I (the Toyota Yaris has now been lovingly bestowed with the name Midge) struggled to follow behind. Up we went through mountain roads where at one point, well behind and out of sight of Dorothy and Kat’s auto, my foot was to the floor on the gas pedal and I was driving only 40km’s/hour and decelerating. Eventually I came to a dirt road where Kat and Dorothy had been waiting for me and a tired Midge (she had been doing all the work, really), and we drove another five miles or so up and down an icy dirt road with only a few driveways before Dorothy’s. There was a turn and then a final hill, one which would prove too much for the road-weary Midge and I.
Good news: we now know the actual limitation of the Toyota Yaris, we found it. Though exceeding mechanics’ expectations, and naysayers’ boorish doubts, we now have a place to pinpoint, a high water mark of maximal performance, where the Yaris would go no further. Yes, as it turns out, an ice-laden dirt road of steep grade through mountain terrain at altitudes of over 9,000 feet above sea level while towing a trailer of over a thousand pounds with ordinary albeit fairly new all-season tires, is all that Midge would give us, and where she finally said ‘no more’.
I had to reverse with the trailer down the hill, almost a mile, which took some time because I was also on the side of a steep mountain, one which if I ended up at the bottom of, I might walk away unscathed, but which Midge would not. After reaching the bottom of the incline, I gave a second and final go at the hill, and reached a little bit further than the last time, but it was no use. We were not going to make it up the hill. I reversed again, and this second time I hit some ice and found myself sliding towards the edge, and it was only by 50/50 chance that I came to a close stop on the road instead of a late one at the bottom of the valley.
The plan became that Dorothy would drive up to her home with her car, come back with her pickup truck, tow the trailer up to her house, and I would follow behind without the excess weight of the trailer. This worked to the extent that we all made it up to her house, except for the trailer which made it up to Dorothy’s driveway but no further. Even the truck could not tow the trailer that final few hundred feet, and the mountain and us agreed to disagree, as we left the trailer at the edge of the road by the driveway, hoping a strong gust of wind would not blow it off the side of the hill as it sat precariously with all four legs planted to wait for our return some eight days later. At 9,000 feet above sea level, strong gusts of wind are apparently a usual thing. We left Emma (the trailer’s name now is Emma) at the side of the road and the Yaris and the truck and all the peoples were able to make it up Dorothy’s driveway and to the house. Dorothy had told us that only a couple of people lived further down the road from her, and would be able to drive past the trailer without nudging it off the cliff. Here was for hoping.
Our host for the week, while Dorothy was to fly out of Albuquerque to Chicago for a week to spend Christmas with family, was a three year old pitbull named Rosie. Rosie had shown up on Dorothy’s doorstep shortly after Dorothy had moved there, and had been a permanent resident ever since. As it turned out, Rosie also had lupus, and was to be fed a special diet twice a day of chicken, green beans, brown rice, dog food, oatmeal, and a pill each of antihistamine for dry skin, and niacinamide for extra vitamins. This dog, we would joke, ate better than both of us. We were also to administer eye drops to Rosie each night. She was a cute dog who mostly slept all day, either on the couch in the upper living room, or out the door on the upper balcony with a full view of miles and miles of scenic mountain-scape, except, as Dorothy had mentioned, when she would just “come alive” in the evenings, jumping and running around and howling. It was then that we would put her outside where she could bark into the void for a few hours until she settled down and would come back in again to rest up.
This house was to be our creative space for the next week, and I had set up the lower recroom with our keyboard and melodica and harmonicas and guitars for a music space; the upper living room with Kat’s jewelry-making equipment; and the upper dining room area (even though the kitchen was on the lower floor) with scrapbooking materials that I was using to make a scrapbook for Charlotte of her first five years in these bizarre dimensions, to give to her as a gift at “Christmas” when she would fly in to see us in early January. We also used this room, I guess because of its windows with fantastic views of the surrounding scenery, for sitting at our laptops. I would be making, in addition to the scrapbook, a video out of five years’ worth, and over five hours of, footage of Charlotte that I had accumulated over the years, a project which I ultimately whittled down to one hour and twenty five minutes (and then later lost due to some technical error – I have started over again from scratch but to this point have not finished).
Time went by fast at this cabin. Luxuries are taken for granted until lost or given up, and ours had included showers, hot water, continuous internet use, a full kitchen, private bathrooms, and even simple space. It had now been almost two full months without the space of an entire house. We had had the four days at the motel in San Marcos, and the two days at Joedy’s house in San Antonio, but this was the first time in two months that we had a full house all to ourselves, and we took full advantage of the opportunity. Every day went by quickly, and soon enough, our week was up, Dorothy to return on the 26th of December. We were able to Skype with Charlotte a few times, including on Christmas day and Boxing Day; when she would open up the door to her new room at Scott and Lisa’s; and with the whole Montague family at G.G. and Steve’s house. We had also purchased $20.00 worth of Skype calls, and Kat was able to talk to her mom on Christmas. We called Dave and Sandy to say “Merry Christmas”, and because we would be arriving at their house about a week after leaving this one. Our Christmas eve was spent watching The Polar Express on Netflix while drinking hot chocolate with a fire burning in the fireplace.
Dorothy was not expected to arrive back home until after 5pm at the earliest, but we figured she would be later than that. We had told her that we would leave a bit earlier than that in order to get back to the paved road before dark. We said goodbye to Rosie and left the house around 3pm. We made it down the big ice hill, slowly but surely, but it was after the turn that we had to descend uphill on another dirt path, where we once again found ourselves stuck. We tried a couple of times, but it was of no use. I decided to ride my bike, mostly uphill, for what was probably a few miles, to the paved road, with the hopes that I could flag down a pickup truck or SUV who could tow our trailer up to the road so that I could drive behind. Vehicles of all kinds passed by intermittently, one by one, but after attempting to wave down about ten or so big trucks who could have helped, and who refused to stop, I turned around and headed back to the trailer. By this time it was about 4:30pm and it would be dark by 5:00pm. We had to make the decision to stay put and hope that Dorothy would see us on her way back home (there were two ways to get to her house, so this first option was of the presumption that she would actually take our path instead of the other one where she would totally miss us), or hike a mile or more, mostly uphill, back to her house, and wait for her to arrive and then tow us out to the main road. We decided to hike.
The “to-go bag”, or “bail-out-bag”, is an emergency kit of sorts designed for usually sudden and unexpected exits of emergency. It can also double as a wilderness pack for cases of survival necessity. It is said that in states of emergency, one should be prepared to survive for up to 72 hours before the government should be able to jump in and assist, with the caveat ‘should the government still exist in such emergency’. Luckily Kat and I had recently fashioned our own to-go bags, still in the works, but almost complete. They had come in handy during recent nature hikes and would surely be useful in hikes to come, though hopefully would not be required beyond that. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.
Each of our to-go bags are modelled using Camelbak backpacks, the kind with 2 litre bota bags and plastic tubes for drinking contained inside. In our bags are contained, in no particular order:
matches, lighters, and bits of paper for starting fires; whistle; compass; signal mirror; emergency blanket; mini hatchet and knife; extra underwear and socks; protein bars and dehydrated food; rope; wasp spray (works like pepper spray but with better accuracy and is legal to carry in any city); hand warmers; toothbrush and toothpaste; solar and hand powered flashlight; candles. We have recently ordered three types of portable water filtration systems each to Dave and Sandy’s and will pick them up when we arrive at their house in a week’s time.
By the time we grabbed our to-go bags, along with a can of soup, and headed back to Dorothy’s house, it was about 4:45pm. We walked for a few minutes before needing a flashlight, and then walked some more, for almost an hour. It was totally dark on the dirt path leading up to her house, but eventually we saw a silhouette of her home in the otherwise surrounding forest-scape, and made it inside. I heated up the soup while Kat called Dorothy to let her know what had happened. Dorothy was on her way back with her sister from Albuquerque (about a two and a half hour drive), but was going to stop for dinner and to get groceries in Santa Fe first. She probably wouldn’t be back home until 9 or 10. We waited and eventually Dorothy and her sister did arrive shortly before 10. We crammed into her truck, Rosie in the back, and headed back to where we had left the car and trailer. With some final amount of energy we hooked up the trailer to Dorothy’s truck, she towed it to the paved road, while me and Midge made the drive successfully without the extra weight of the trailer. By the time we said our thank you’s and goodbye’s and headed down the road back to Las Vegas, NM, it was after 10pm. Thank you, once again, Dorothy, Rosie, and the unreachable cabin of creativity, for the two days of effort in reaching you was well worth the week of simple space we received.
We woke in the same visitor’s centre parking lot in Las Vegas, NM, that we had slept in a night prior to arriving at Dorothy’s. We had spent two nights in this town now, but this was to be our first daylight experience of it all. The woman working at the visitor’s centre had told us that originally the town had been settled by the Mexicans, but when the English colonials eventually arrived, the Mexicans sold them what they considered the less preferential land to one side of the river (I think the east side), while keeping the other side to themselves. For years there existed East Las Vegas and West Las Vegas, also called the City of Las Vegas and the Town of Las Vegas (but I forget which was which), but at some point in the 1960’s both sides merged to become one, now called The Town Of Las Vegas. Even today, fifty years later, there is still a distinction of two towns on either side of the river, though both are scenic and worth visiting. We rode our bicycles throughout the entire town and took it all in.
Another aspect of this visit included a five mile drive to Montezuma, to some natural hot springs. Montezuma may be known for two things, including the hot springs, as well as the only U.S. campus of the United World College. The UWC, of which I had been hitherto unaware, was a college preparatory school, and was basically self described by being a school with different campuses around the world. This particular campus, which again was the only campus in the United States, recruited 200 elite students from across the country for their 11th and 12th grades of high school in preparation for college and presumed successful careers and lives thereafter. The campus was strangely yet beautifully located in Montezuma, New Mexico, in the Montezuma Castle, an actual historical castle, and on whose property was located the Montezuma hot springs. We were not able to visit the castle/campus, but we did however bask in the relaxing hot springs coincidentally located on the campus property, some dozen or so hot spring baths with varying hot temperatures up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, just barely hot enough to tolerate, but in which we warmed our muscles amidst drifts of snow and slightly-above freezing temperatures. When the sun went down we drove to Santa Fe to find a place to sleep for the night.
We knew little about Santa Fe before leaving home, but along the way many had told us to visit. Luckily for us we had woke on a Saturday morning, just in time for the weekend-long farmers market, and adjoining flea market, located in an area known as the Rail Yard District. We spent up our day in this area; Kat had found some jewelry as well as some turquoise pieces for making jewelry (turquoise abounds in Santa Fe, but finding it at a decent price is another thing altogether), and I a copy of the novel Brasyl by Ian MacDonald, and a beautiful box set of the Lord of the Rings trilogy in paperback printed in 1970 for only $10.00. We found some gift ideas for our upcoming Christmas event to happen in Scottsdale starting January 5th, ate lunch at an attached restaurant within the market, met a local vendor named Andre who sells organic honey with his mother, and gave us more tips of places to visit throughout the southwest than we could possibly achieve. We had exhausted the market place just as it was shutting down for the day, and so rode our bikes in to the downtown, a beautiful square surrounded by gift shops and with the Cathedral Basilica of St-Francis as its centrepiece. Just around the corner, too, is the Loretto Chapel where exists a miraculous staircase, a double spiral with no vertical supports of any kind, and physically should not be able to support its own weight. It was built by an unknown carpenter who appeared at the church looking for work and then disappeared, and who is believed to be the biblical Joseph reincarnate. People up to this day walk the staircase which has existed in tact since 1878.
Santa Fe is a beautiful and culturally and artistically thriving city. There are something like 250 art galleries, and dozens of museums. The local architecture relies almost exclusively on low-lying adobe style with its flat roofs and soft edges. We discussed how long we might stay, and would have stayed longer than the next two days if it weren’t for the cold. Santa Fe sits at the highest elevation of any American capital city, higher even than Denver, Colorado. There was also a time constraint, to get to Scottsdale, Arizona by early January, less than a week away at this point, but the cold weather was a heavier factor probably, with it only being comfortably warm a few hours of the day in mid-afternoon. On Sunday night, to escape the cold, we thought we might to see a movie, largely to get indoors for a few hours at night. We watched a pointless film called The Book Thief, (and were disappointed that the latest Coen Brothers’ film ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ was a week away from release). I give The Book Thief 2 out of 5 stars, the only thing saving it from a single star rating being that its creators somehow convinced Geoffrey Rush into playing the lead, and his magic made brief moments of the film watchable. It all sprang from the premise that one of the writers must have had to wonder, what if there was a WWII story that showed the perspective of the German citizens instead of the Jewish people?, which might have been inventive to an extent if it only had been well written, which it was not. I might have left this alone, but to really drive it all into the ground, added to the wandering plot was a narrating voice who was to be “Death” himself, the grim reaper, a stilted gimmick which stripped away any ability to take the film as a whole piece seriously. I felt like I was watching a war film aimed at ten year olds, and wondered if ten year olds would watch it and consider it a children’s movie aimed at adults. Somebody get me a job in Hollywood, because I could write a better screenplay in my sleep. Death as the narrator. Ha!
Everybody should know about The Space Lady. We met The Space Lady as a busker, or as her business card I am holding here reads, “Ethereal Street Performer”. The Space Lady sings into a headpiece microphone, her voice saturated in ambient delays, while playing one of the first-ever Casio keyboards and drum machine, run through a couple of effect pedals, probably another delay and a phase shifter, would be my guess from memory. She has been using this set up, which she originated in San Francisco, for about thirty years, and does not play original material, but takes popular songs and completely rewrites them in the style of her setup. To top it off, her spacey psychedelic sound is accompanied by a silver toy hat made with wings on the side and a little blinking red light on top. She caught our attention with a space-age rendition of ‘Domine, Libra Nos’. Also included in her repertoire, remade very much in her own style, are: Major Tom, Ghost Riders in the Storm, Fly Like an Eagle, Born to be Wild, Radar Love, Twentieth Century Fox, All Shook up, and Shakin’ All Over, just to name a few. She stopped to talk with us for a while, and I purchased her Greatest Hits which had been converted recently from cassette tape to CD by Night School Records based out of Europe somewhere. http://www.thespacelady.net
On Monday, December 30th, we drove to Albuquerque, a functional and normal city, where we saw nothing of interest. Albuquerque marked 8,000 kilometres for us on the road since leaving southern Ontario two months earlier. If we had stayed in Ontario and continued with our lives as they were, I would have driven at least 6,000 kilometres in that span of time without having really gone anywhere, so for the sake of an extra thousand kilometres per month tacked onto Midge, we are racking up experience and adventure for maybe an extra $100/month in gas (gas being cheaper here), but minus our old rent payment and internet bill, putting us very much ahead in our cost of living. This also marked our return to Route 66, which we had abandoned six whole weeks earlier in search of warmer weather, which brought us through Texas, then up into New Mexico by Carlsbad, after which we overshot The Mother Road to head north for Dorothy’s. We drove west to Gallup, putting us close to the Arizona border.
We had slept in Gallup, New Mexico and on the last day of the year two thousand thirteen, we crossed from New Mexico into Arizona. We drove west down the I-40 to the Petrified Forest National Monument. The road through PFNM runs for almost 30 miles, and is also situated in a part of the Painted Desert, something which is much larger, extending for hundreds of miles. Across these 30 miles are stop-offs to view the Painted Desert (a small part of it anyway), ancient pueblo village remains, large pieces of petrified wood (fossils of entire tree trunks from when the area would have been a forest thousands and thousands of years ago), the blue mountains, and the old Desert Inn Hotel – something that is now a museum to itself but a place that once housed up to six rooms for vacationing couples, for a few dollars per night, when the old Route 66 actually passed through there (that part of the road unfortunately does not exist anymore). Each room was maybe 10′ x 10′ at most, and consisted only of a fire place and a sink. I’m sure there was a bed and maybe dresser originally in each room, but not anymore.
When Kat and I were in Sauble Beach, ON, earlier in the summer time, we had bought two sky lanterns, or Chinese lanterns, and they had been sitting in the trailer ever since. At dusk, on New Years Eve, we pulled over to the side of the road just after leaving the Petrified Forest, and lit them, one each, watching as they floated up into the air. We then drove highway 87 in a south-west direction, where the desert seemed to disappear and was replaced by forest in all directions, looking not unlike northern Ontario actually, to a town called Payson, Arizona. We didn’t count in the new year, but from where we were parked and laying in bed, around midnight, we could hear shouting and cheer coming from somewhere or other around us, and figured that we must have somehow made it in to two thousand fourteen. What, there, was waiting for us? Where would we go, and what would we find? The Tarot outlines the journey of the fool, from his inception and then through various stages of growth which brings him to his ultimate wholeness. He experiences times of both joy and sorrow, of pleasure and pain, being at times forsaken and others welcomed, feels at moments loved and others despised, he makes mistakes but has moments of wisdom, and through it all, in the ups and downs, the peaks and valleys, the highs and lows, whether beaten or victorious, the fool can not help but feel gratitude in any experience, for each extreme defines its opposite, and all parts of the journey are reliant on one another for harmony. We leave it all to chance, with cunning, impulse, the five senses and intuition. Where we go will not matter; how we get there will be our story.