At first, I wasn’t crazy about Albuquerque. Miles and miles of strip malls, empty lots, parks with highway roar. Although the city’s Old Town is atmospheric, most of the stores sell junk, and the Old Town’s “best” café served me a greasy chili rellano with a side of canned spinach. Wasn’t canned spinach banned in 1959?
Woo hoo! This week I am exploring New Mexico’s Rio Grande Valley between the Sangre De Cristos and the Jemez Mountains in the northern part of the state. The region’s largest cities are Taos in the north, Santa Fe in the middle, and Albuquerque in the south. But forget about them for now. This is about a few of the little guys.
I arrived in Farmington, New Mexico, on Sunday hoping to convince myself to go to Chaco Canyon. I have wanted to go there forever, but a solo trip felt like a teensy bit of a stretch for me. It’s 80 miles from a city, and 13 of those miles are on dirt roads. The weather has been unpredictable, and my car had a minor episode this week that could be a big problem if it happened again in the wilderness.
But I went! By myself! It was not a big deal! It was amazing!
I left Sedona on Monday, headed for Louisiana. Slowly. I’d originally planned to make a bee-line for Louisiana through New Mexico and Texas, from big city to big city. I now know that would be silly. What’s the rush?! And I love cities but, during the pandemic, they’re mostly not going to be much fun. Museums are closed. No festivals or performances or tours. I’m not a shopper. And there’s so much to see that’s not cities!
So I’m taking a circuitous route to see whatever seems interesting. So far there’s been plenty of that, along with a few challenges…
After my too-short detour to Monument Valley, I returned to the Sedona area last week to visit my friends, Belle and Bill. I’ve known Belle since the 6th grade. We were (and are) horse girls, although not the Pony Club new-jumping-saddle-for-Christmas variety. More the I’m-shoveling-manure-in-trade-for-a-ride type. One time when we were twelve, we rode out to the two-lane highway into Scottsdale, and got our horses to buck and rear for the people driving by. Thrilling! Dangerous! Belle’s idea!
I left Arizona on Sunday, half-safe after my first Covid shot, and headed east to Monument Valley in Southern Utah. If you haven’t been to Monument Valley, you’ve probably seen it in films. It was first featured in “Stagecoach,” 1939, with John Wayne. Since then, the Valley’s spectacular sandstone formations have been the setting for more than a dozen classics, including “Thelma and Louise” and “Forest Gump.”
When I was 20, my then-husband and I drove from Colorado to California in a Volkswagen bus. One moonless night, we stopped at the end of a dirt road, laid our sleeping bags out on the ground, and went to sleep. When we woke the next morning, we were about 3 feet from the edge of a sheer cliff overlooking this:
In the mid-19th century, the Mormons left New York to escape religious persecution. They kept going west until they found a place of peace in a spectacular canyon. They settled there and named the canyon Zion — a holy place of refuge. Before the Mormons, Native Americans believed Gods inhabited the canyon.