Monday, July 12, 2010

South through Colorado, then across northwest New Mexico

Believe it or not, almost all of the driving on this road trip so far has been done by tireless spouse H, except for a 60-mile stretch in Iowa along US 6, during which H (and the kids) slept. This is because H doesn't like being a passenger, and, when not sleeping, conveys this dislike through fairly regular criticism of the driver (usually silent criticism if the driver doesn't happen to be a spouse, whom one can freely criticize...)

But today H flew home on account of having a real job and having to get back to work (3 driving comments during the 30-minute trip to the airport), and we are leaving the kids with H's mom for the week, so I am off to New Mexico, for a little bit of solo travel and a little bit of organizational exchange with the South West Organizing Project in Albuquerque.

After leaving the airport, I drove south on I-25 through the seemingly endless exurbs of Denver, then the suburban-religio-military complex that is Colorado Springs, which was kind of a depressing way to start the day.

South of Colorado Springs on I-25 comes Pueblo, a small industrial city which still has some signs of industry, believe it or not. One of those signs is a bit south of the city, an oil refinery with one, prominent wind turbine displayed out front:

After Pueblo it is pretty empty out there on the plains, and I got pretty bored of driving on the interstate. In part because construction made it difficult to see and access the exit, I failed to stop in Trinidad, which is too bad, because, at least from the interstate, it looked like it had a nice downtown, and I was definitely needing to get out and stretch my legs. Instead, I drove across the Raton Pass into New Mexico, and stopped at the New Mexico Vistor Information Center in Raton, which was kind of out in a strip of Denny's and Sonics and such like, and not such a great place to stop.

On impulse, while looking at the map and thinking about another three hours on the interstate to get to Santa Fe, I decided to cut across on US 64 to Taos instead. The first thirty or so miles were easy driving, a nearly empty two-laner across nearly flat plains:

But then, past Cimarron, the highway started snaking up into the mountains, and I think between all the curves and everything I maybe averaged 30 miles per hour, taking two hours to get up and across and over to Taos. It was beautiful, though. I even stopped at the Palisades Sill, a layer of igneous rock that the Cimarron river has cut into:

* * *

I'm not sure what possessed me to go to Taos, other than perhaps the lyrics of an obscure Jules Shear song:

On his eighteenth birthday, Jimmy Taylor rode to Taos
With his girlfriend Lucy, to rob a bank and buy a house

The ubiquitous adobe architecture in the downtown area makes Taos look a bit like if Stowe had been built by the Barbapapas — or at least by Barbapapas who were primarily interested in selling art and a kind of art/nature lifestyle to rich people rather than creating an eco-anarchist paradise.

Instead of browsing the expensive art, I paid 25 cents for some parking time and wandered around downtown for awhile, then found a grocery store and had a lunch of yogurt, apricots, crackers and lemonade for $5.75. Taos on six dollars a day.

Clearly, rain is not a problem in Taos. Designing your roofs so that rainwater pours out onto your customers' cars would not fly in Vermont:

(incidentally, that Durango from Texas parked next to me was running its engine — someone was napping in the passenger seat — during the more than an hour that I was parked there)

It was interesting, but I wasn't sad to leave. On a final note, even the Walmart in Taos has an adobe look to it:

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