Friday, March 13, 2009

March 12: Denver, CO to Flagstaff, AZ via Taos, NM

We left Denver at 7:45 AM. I know what you're thinking if you know me; this seems like a very late start. But, the drive from Denver to Flagstaff is made up of a mere 10.5 hours and I felt we had a little time to spare.

A Tiring Experience, Part 1

After stopping in Pueblo, CO for a restroom break I noticed, while walking out of the gas station, a piece of plastic protruding from the hubcap of the front tire on the driver's side of my car. To my immediate interest, this piece of plastic - which appeared to correctly be part of the tire's anatomy, though incorrectly placed - had worn a 1'' long and 1/8'' deep gash in the side wall of the tire. Feeling fortunate to find this when we did, we proceeded to a conveniently located Big O Tire shop preparing to hear how immediately this tire would need to be replaced. I approached the front desk with caution, wallet tightly gripped in hand. A genial young man we'll call Jose suggested he take a look at the tire to assess the damage. We walked from the building to the parking lot and he bent down to take a look. "Oh, that's only cosmetic," Jose said instantly, "You don't need to do anything. You've got a good 1/2'' before there would be any problems." I thanked him profusely and we were on our way, with my wallet's weight no less than when I entered the tire shop. I include this passage as a reminder that we're not always going to get screwed, even when we think we know what's coming.

Taos and the Rio Grande Gorge

With some time to spare, Dudley and I decided to descend on Taos, NM, a town I had been interested to visit for some time. We entered the town by way of the battered Highway 64, though the battery did not really begin until the last few miles before Taos. The road remained in this condition throughout the town, which did little to improve upon my mind's eye perspective of an artisan community made up entirely of rustic adobe dwellings set against the impressive Sagre de Cristo (literally "The Blood of Christ") mountains. The center of town fit more to this picture - the adobe dwellings were surely there, if one forgives the fact that nearly all in the town center exist today to cater to a meandering crowd of tourists, skiers, and transients. With a little spit and polish Taos could really be made into a great experience. As is, which is what the sign should read for many parts of town, it provided a pleasant excursion for 1-2 hours. I was drawn to the chili peppers hanging from wooden rungs clung to the adobe; Dan and I entered a store which appeared to have some for sale and $29 later, I walked out with my own strand. Before leaving, however, we had to endure the psychobabble of the storekeeper, a Caucasian female transplant from northern Washington who had lived here for "a long time" and referred to white folks who do not live in Taos as, I kid you not, "gringos".

15 minutes later, we re-entered the car and drove the 8-9 miles to the Rio Grande Gorge bridge, which is evidently the 2nd highest suspension bridge in the United States - to this I cannot attest, as I left my measuring tape at home. This was quite an enchanting view, as long as one can stomach walking along a raised sidewalk with a mere, 3-foot rail on the Rio Grande sides of the bridge and absolutely nothing on the sides closest to oncoming traffic. Either way, it was worth it. The Rio Grande meanders some 600 feet below surrounded by a jagged cataract which breaks through the surrounding basin and range and continues on towards the Sangre de Cristos.

On the way back from the gorge, we stopped at another shop that sold a variety of items which appeared to be procured mostly from Old Mexico, perhaps using NAFTA agreements. Lining the outside of the store, in addition to weather-worn wooden chairs, a horse made of various scrap metal, and a sign promising 50% off for a "Summer Sale" (Spring begins 1 week from Saturday), were rows and rows of chili peppers. We entered the courtyard and began to peruse. A kindly Hispanic gentleman inquired about our purchasing interests, at which point I asked the prices of the small-sized chili strands. "$9.95," he responded. "How about the larger strands," I asked. "$9.95," he responded. I now immediately thought back to our friend at the shop downtown and perhaps may have cursed her existence under my breath, I simply can't recall. I decided to purchase another larger strand to hang in the window of the backseat of my car; the previously purchased strand, you see, had been boxed in a fashion which made its access difficult, though this service was apparently worth an additional $20. I paid for my new strand, had an extremely pleasant and unimposing conversation with the Hispanic gentleman and left. We hung the $9.95 strand in the window, spat on the impenetrable box containing the other, and left.

A Tiring Experience, Part 2

After leaving Taos, we approached Santa Fe and rejoined I-25 to head towards Albuquerque. This was easier said than done, however, as the entire drive between the two cities involved a chain of cars in the left lane of the interstate whose speed unaccountably varied within a 25 mph range (60-85). It seems a magnetic force attracted these incapable drivers to one another and a symbiotic relationship developed between us whose apparent purpose was the provocation of, as time progressed, frustration, anger, and ultimately a blind hatred. Why not simply move into the right lane, you ask? Well...it wasn't that simple, my friend. The right lane contained a smattering of occasional vehicles which the left lane was simply not content to follow, but was also seemingly incapable of passing. It is fortunate Dan was not video recording during this time as the edited version would surely be made up of one extended, 30 minute "expletive deleted" sound. This may sound crazy, but I have never become this frustrated even in California traffic. Alas, these days may well be ahead.

We arrived at the La Quinta hotel in Flagstaff at 8:45 PM PST, tired and road weary, frazzled and beat. You may be surprised to know that both Dan and I were looking forward to monkeying around with internet connections (wireless and wired, variously) for the next 30 minutes in what will surely cause me to give this hotel a bad review. Finally, as I write now, some peace is gained with the knowledge that tomorrow brings an exciting day: the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and Alan in Phoenix. Better days ahead, indeed.

1 comment:

Mom said...

The whole trip budget will be spent on chili peppers and you'll be broke before you hit the Grand Canyon!