Posts Tagged ‘New Mexico 2022’

All right, time for the traditional Where we went, why and where we stayed post.

Except life has changed, so, well, no “we” is involved. That has positive and negatives, which will be the subject of another post. This is more practical.

(Previous travel posts here. It’s not comprehensive, but it’s got most of the big ones of the past few years.)


The focus was New Mexico, with stops along the way in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.


I drove because I wanted this to be a more meandering kind of trip, I wanted to take stuff like hiking poles without having to worry about checking luggage, car rental rates and availability are problematic right now, and I bought and paid (completely) for this used 2018 Mazda 3 hatchback two years ago with the intention of driving the hell out of around the country for the next few years.

(Update: I am rethinking that now because of ground clearance issues and the Mazda3. I won’t do anything different for a year – until at least one of the two guys in college gets out – but I did find it limiting – for example, I didn’t go to the Monastery of Christ in the Desert because the way in (and out) is a 13-mile gravel road, which looked, at the beginning at least, more gutted than I’d expected. The car probably would have done fine – well, okay – but the journey would have stressed me out, especially considering what I’d experienced earlier in the week, tire-wise.)

Also – I should add that driving is not a chore for me. I can drive all day, take few breaks (much to the dismay of any passengers) and just….go.

I offer this simply as information that might help random readers plan a similar – or very different – trip.

Where and When:

Sunday, August 21: Drove from Birmingham to Subiaco, Arkansas

Stops: Oxford and Clarksdale, Mississippi

Monday, August 22: Drove from Subiaco to Tucumcari, New Mexico

Stops: Clear Creek Monastery in Oklahoma, Okemah, Oklahoma, and the huge cross off I-40 near Groom, Texas.

Tuesday, August 23: Drove from Tucumcari to Abiquiu, New Mexico

Stop: Santa Rosa, New Mexico, various small missions in New Mexico including San Miguel del Vado – and, of course, Discount Tires in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Wednesday, August 25: Taos.

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Thursday, August 26: Ghost Ranch

Friday, August 27: Towards Taos, again.

Saturday, August 28: Abiquiu to Santa Fe

Mass at Santa Rosa mission ruins, procession honoring St. Rose, tour of O’Keefe home and studio in Abiquiu, Santa Fe Opera

Sunday, August 29: Santa Fe, Las Vegas & Pecos

Monday, August 30: Drove from Santa Fe to Shreveport, Louisiana

Stops: Palo Duro Canyon, Capstone Canyon, Turkey, Texas

Tuesday, August 31: Drove from Shreveport to Birmingham

Stops: Mississippi Welcome Center off I-20 overlooking the river.

Arrived home around 2:30 pm

Where I stayed:

In Subiaco, I stayed at the guesthouse of Subiaco Abbey. It was lovely and perfect. I didn’t do any meals, but you can pay for those and eat in the refectory. Availability of rooms is, of course, dependent on the retreat schedule, but just email the guesthouse, and they will respond very quickly. I’d definitely stay there again.

In Tucumarci, I used the paltry amount of Choice Hotel points I had gathered over the years, and paid $17 for a room at the EconoLodge – it was shockingly clean and updated. I mean, the view was…the view. But the room was absolutely fine.

In Abiquiu, I stayed in this gem, about which I raved here.

In Santa Fe, I stayed at this, through Airbnb – it was nice – albeit with weak internet – and very well located for my purpose – near the Santa Fe Opera. Others might want to be closer to the Plaza and downtown, but I knew I’d be driving back from the opera at night, and I wanted to be close (although..nothing in Santa Fe is very far apart, as I discovered).

Shreveport? Does it matter? A Country Inn and Suites, if you insist. Let’s just say that the area near the Shreveport airport is crowded with hotels, but it’s an extremely sketchy area if that might bother you.

What I ate:

Well, food, of course. My life was not filled with great meals on this trip, mostly because when traveling – well, most of the time – I only eat one meal a day (I don’t do breakfast, for example, unless I’m in a place where there are good bagels and/or I’m with others), and for much of the time, I was in a place with few choices – and then my Santa Fe time was brief and weirdly timed.

But: two good meals I did have were at:

Rancho de Chimayo, near the Chimayo Sanctuary/Shrine – Carne Adovada.


An amazing green chile stew at Cafe Sierra Negra in Abiquiu. I would have returned there the next night, but I didn’t get back into the area until about 7:15, and they close at 7, understandably, but sadly.

I would also like to say that my one goal in travelling through Texas (twice in a week) was to have smoked brisket. It’s all I wanted. But what I discovered is that more barbecue places than you might expect outside of large cities are closed on Mondays – and both days I was in Texas? Mondays. So I was basically out of luck there.

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Bags unpacked, laundry done, southwestern dust washed off and vacuumed out of the car, and so here we are:

Yesterday, I drove from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Shreveport, Louisiana, with a few stops on the way. Today I drove to Alabama from Shreveport – a hop, skip and not even a jump. I was open to taking another day along the way initially, but as time went on, I started getting antsy – my usual end-of-trip I hope the house is okay hope the pipes didn’t burst for some reason hope no one broke in…and I just want to get back to make sure everything’s okay.

(I have neighbors who are apprised of my comings and goings and who watch out for me – as I watch out for them – but still. They wouldn’t necessarily know if there was a water issue inside or if someone had broken in. So…I get antsy.)

(Plus September is going to be quite busy, mostly with family-related things, not empty nest shenanigans, and I was also feeling the need to be alone in my house before all of that began.)


So let’s do this. I’ll briefly survey the last couple of days Out West, then tomorrow or the next day, I’ll do my usual summary of where I went, where I stayed, and why. Perhaps I’ll have More Thoughts as well. Excited yet?

Where were we?

Oh yes, Sunday.

Sunday morning, I went to Mass at the Cathedral downtown. It’s quite lovely. I’ll refrain from playing the dreadful Mass Critic game, as well.

(For now. Just know that if in time, you read a post that begins, A few weeks ago, I was at Mass – oh, not here, but somewhere far away – you might be able to connect some dots.

After Mass, I wandered around the Plaza area a bit. My plan had been to go to the Georgia O’Keefe museum directly after Mass, but when I arrived there, I saw a sign sternly telling me that RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED.

Oh, okay. Dutifully, I opened up the phone and made the first available reservation – 12:30, and commenced wandering.

Shopping with the Native American vendors who sell at the Palace of Governors, chatting with a few, going into a few shops and then the Loretto Chapel and, of more interest to me, frankly, San Miguel Chapel – the oldest Christian structure in the United States. The story of it is rather interesting – it’s owned, not by the Archdiocese, but by a St. Michael’s High School, which is in turn a Christian Brothers institution.

(The TLM was celebrated there until…well, fill in the blanks. I’m sure you can.)

I was very impressed by the San Miguel situation. It was opened at the designated time, and there was a docent in the chapel, talking, explaining and being very helpful in general – and there was a lot of signage giving the background of the structure as well.

That was great to see – and rare in terms of historic Catholic structures. As you have heard me say too many times before.

Finally – to the O’Keefe museum. I was extremely annoyed (but quietly so) because ahead of me in line when it was time to check in were two women who DID NOT HAVE RESERVATIONS but were allowed admittance anyway. Well, that just goes to show – usually I’m assertive about things like this, and find that it pays – and I guess it would have, as it turns out.

There on the far left is one of the paintings of the black door which I wrote about before. The middle painting, I think, is my favorite of the O’Keefe works to which I’ve been exposed on this trip, especially after seeing the landscape and hearing the docent’s insights about it on the tour last week.

Anyway, the O’Keefe museum is nice, but. It offers a good overview of her life and career, and features one of my favorite of her paintings, but the collection is quite small, especially considering the normal price – $18. Too much – way too much – for the size of the collection.

After this, I got back in my car and decided to finish up what I began on Tuesday, the Day of the Tires – the Pecos National Historical Monument.

I began, though, by going out further, intending to hit Pecos on my way back towards Santa Fe. I went out to Las Vegas, New Mexico, which was supposed to be an interesting little town. There were a few well-reviewed restaurants out there, all of which were either closed or closing by the time I arrived, so oh well, who needs to eat anyway. Not me, for sure.

The downtown area is certainly picturesque in that Western-town kind of way, although most of the storefronts are dusty and empty. Also in that Western-town kind of way. What’s interesting though, is that chunks of the film No Country for Old Men were filmed here – most of the “town” sections – while most of the country sections were filmed around Marfa, Texas. So, for example, the hotel scene was filmed in and around this, yes, hotel.

There was this striking statue in the square, erected for the intentions of those impacted by addiction, especially the mothers of the addicted – Our Lady of Sorrows.

Which is, incidentally, the name of one of the parishes in town, and this was the highlight of my brief Las Vegas trip (no, not that Las Vegas) – the interior of Our Lady of Sorrows parish which was, honestly, breathtaking.

Above the original altar were statues representing the crucifixion, above them were electric lights in a blue painted sky, and behind them, painted on the wall, were other figures associated with the crucifixion narrative – the two thieves, the soldiers and so on. I’m sorry my photo didn’t capture the background, but I found it charming and moving. Cheesy, some might say, and sure. But of a time and place – I’m guessing the 20’s-40’s, since using electricity in this way in churches became popular in the 20’s – of its own, and I am very grateful that the parishioners and ministers of this parish over the years have chosen to keep it as it was. When I opened the door that afternoon, I was surprised by two things: first, that the doors were unlocked – and secondly, at the impact of this tableau. Lovely.

Time to circle back – to Pecos this time, at last, with just a bit of PTSD as my emotions revisited the place of the Tire Bubble. It was a relatively quick walk around the site, with the typically excellent NPS signage, respectful of all the cultures and tensions represented here.

Before leaving the area, a quick trip up to the gates of the Pecos Monastery – had to! A monastery! But I didn’t attempt to visit because it was getting late. Pecos was famous back in the day for being one of the centers of the Catholic Charismatic Movement in the US. I don’t know what it’s like now, but at least it’s still there!

I knew I’d want to do computer work when I got back, but as I’d discovered, the internet in my rental was not great. It was in a nice part of town, and the place was good, but they had my internet operating off of a booster from the main house, and it just wasn’t enough.

So, thank you Whole Foods, for having a place where I could work and have a beer without feeling like I was taking up unwarranted space. Me and the three young women, whom I suspect were studens at St. John’s because they were studying the Odyssey and cursing up a storm as they did so, incidentally. It was…entertaining.

Let’s finish this up.

Monday morning, time to get going and head back east. Good-bye, cute casita with the bad internet!

I won’t bore you with my thought processes during the Day of Driving – let’s just say that while Shreveport was a general goal, I had no place in particular in mind to stay, and, depending on how the day went, actually contemplated…going the whole way home. Seriously.

But no, that didn’t happen. I did make a couple of wonderful stops – they were brief, but satisfying.

First, Palo Duro Canyon.

Miles and miles of the landscape on the left..then…BOOM.

Looky there. It’s a whole in the ground.

It’s the second-largest canyon in the United States (you can guess the first), and a state park, south of Amarillo. I didn’t go to the state park, having read that good views of the canyon could be had by driving on 207 between Claude and Silverton. It would add time to my drive, but it’s all about the journey, isn’t it?

Since I wouldn’t be hiking or dawdling, I decided the drive would be good enough – and it was. A beautiful descent and ascent into the canyon, a drive popular with motorcyclists for obvious reasons.

Continuing just a few miles east of Silverton, I arrived at Quitaque (pronunciation helpfully offered on the sign) and the short road up to Capstone Canyon State Park. I thought this canyon was even prettier than Palo Duro – plus it has the official Bison Herd of Texas or something, and prairie dogs. It would be a great canyon in which to hike – but not on a late August day when it was 95 degrees and you were the only person in sight in the whole park except for an older couple that had just parked their RV in one of the campsites, after a lengthy discussion with the visitors’ center attendant about which spot would have the best views.

And just a few miles beyond that was Turkey, Texas, hometown of Bob Wills. And don’t you forget it!

After that point, I only got out of the car once – to get gas somewhere north of Fort Worth – until Shreveport, and I’m telling you, when I did emerge in Shreveport and enter my hotel room, I have never felt such a dramatic change in atmosphere. After being out west for a week, I walked into that room and thought Why is everything WET?

It was weird and not pleasant.


Here’s a nice view of the Mississippi River from the I-20 Welcome Center.

Of course, I have reflections on various aspects of this trip, including the meta-empty-nest aspect, but guys, let me just upload these photos and call it a night, okay?

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That’s about all you get today:

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Coming to you from Whole Foods….

Well, for the first time on this trip, I’m staying at a place with less-than optimal internet, which is ironic since this is the most expensive place in which I’ve stayed (which is not saying a whole lot, but still. It’s in a somewhat chi-chi part of town and the owner has the rental casita on a booster from the main house. Even if I plant myself right next to the contraption, photos still don’t load. Let’s see if Whole Foods comes through.)

Update: It did.

(And you wonder – why not just wait until tomorrow? Because I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow – I may not have internet all day, at all – and I don’t want a huge backload of this type of writing. I have other things I need/want to do when I get home.)

Saturday morning was my last morning in the lovely, perfect Tiny House outside of Abiquiu, New Mexico. Here’s the listing – it’s not on the normal rental sites, but on a site geared more towards campers. Hipcamp features campsites, yes, but also lists lodgings that are perhaps on campsites (yurts, cabins, treehouses) and spots like this. It’s also on VRBO. I do believe that the gentleman who owns the property built the house and probably designed it as well. It’s cunning, smart, and cozy – and as you can see, the location can’t be beat.

Good-bye Tiny House!

I cleaned up, packed up and headed out to Mass.



As I mentioned somewhere – perhaps it was on Instagram – I’d discovered a couple of days before that since this parish, now St. Thomas the Apostle, was originally founded as St. Rose of Lima in the colonial period, her feastday (which was Monday) is celebrated with a fiesta, that begins with Mass in the ruins of the original mission.

Not something I’m going to miss, amiright?

There were probably 75 people there, mostly Hispanic. The Mass was in English, with all music in Spanish and the Agnus Dei in Latin. The priest was Vietnamese. It was a lovely Mass, in a beautiful, moving setting.

I was standing in the back, and there were probably twenty people behind and around me.

Followed by a procession – not Eucharistic, but with images of St. Rose and the Blessed Virgin – into town. It was escorted by folks on horseback and the fire department. It’s about a two mile journey, and I wasn’t going to walk it, so while I waited, I headed down to the Chamo River for a bit of a break.

The procession arrived – my position was from the parking lot of the famed Bode’s General Store – which is the main shopping stop in Abiquiu.

Up to the fiesta. The church, St. Thomas was open, so of course I took a look. As you can see, it’s peppered with images of both St. Thomas and St. Rose.

I understand the mayordomo is a common role in churches down here. Don’t you think it’s a good idea to have an official parish mayordomo instead of the unofficial jockeying for the spot that’s inevitable anyway?

To cap off an already very interesting morning, I discovered that the O’Keefe house and studio was doing special tours from 1-3. Abiquiu residents were free, and non-residents were asked to give a suggested $20 donation, which would then go to benefit the church. I’m in!

It was not the full tour, of course – more of a walk through with a docent, who gave the basics, but didn’t go in depth. I didn’t get any photo of her studio because there were a few people in there already. But I did get photos of her perfect mid-century mod sitting room – the rocks on her window sill are just part of O’Keefe’s rock collection, which she enjoyed rearranging and studying. The black door is a subject she painted quite a bit.

The setting is….unbelievable. And yes, inspiring.

And remember, it’s just around the corner from the Penitente Morada.

Time to hit the road south to Santa Fe. I stopped in Romero’s fruit stand to pick up some chile powder and some chili-sprinkled dried fruit, then kept going. My rental wouldn’t be ready until 4, so I continued to the Plaza, walked around a bit, got my bearings, saw the Cathedral exterior, where folks were arriving for Mass. Then back up to the rental, through clothes in the washing machine, and then….to the opera!

This was the last night of the season for the Santa Fe Opera, which is performed, of course, in this quite stunning setting, open to the west, so the setting sun provides a backdrop for at least part of the evening, and then twinkling lights for the rest. It’s a gorgeous place.

As I considered attending this performance, I noted that tickets were somewhat scarce, and of course, not cheap. I was willing to pay a couple hundred bucks for the tickets, but then read somewhere about standing room tickets – for $15. How to get them? It’s not on the website. Are they available just on the day? Is it a lottery? What’s up? So, I did the radical thing – called the box office.

“Oh, you can buy them now, over the phone,” she said.

Well, that’s a done deal, then.

There are maybe two dozen standing room spaces, and understand this is not a Globe Groundlings situation where you’re just standing in a crowd. There’s a designated area all along the back of the Orchestra seats – the mixing board is in the middle – with stands on which you can lean, and which also have the little translation screens. Really – I would definitely do it again.

I’m especially glad that I only paid $15 because…wow, this production was not good. This review expresses my reaction in a much more knowledgeable way than I could manage. It just did not work, although the second act was better than the first.

But you know what? It was 12 minutes from my rental, and hearing the singing and the music in that setting for that price is not something I’m going to complain about.

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My favorite thing about Wide Open Spaces is the sight of rain in the distance. Lots of that today.

Not because of it, but just because I needed to, I took most of the day for writing and catching up, not venturing out until 3-ish. At which point I got back on the high road to Taos, intending to make a couple of stops at places I’d missed the first time, and then going to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge – then circling back down this way.

Well, I didn’t make all the stops because I was trying to outmaneuver those thunder clouds much of the time. I enjoy watching them, but I didn’t particularly want to be in them. I don’t begrudge them their rain at all – they need it badly, and it’s great to see the “Forest Fire Risk” gauges at “low,” which they are right now.

So not a lot of photos today. But:

From my front porch this morning.

Then at the bridge, there was a huge storm that I’d skirted while driving, but reached Taos while I was there. My poor photography can’t capture it, but it was massive, with lots of lightening – quite fascinating to watch – from a distance.

The bridge is the…fifth highest in the US.

On the way up, a stop this establishment in Dixon – it seems like a good place to shop and get quality food. The folks I saw in and around reinforced my sense of the artsy/boho/alternative quality of the demographic around here. I just grabbed a pastry from, I think, a Santa Fe bakery. Ah yes – this one. If I had a freezer, I would have definitely gotten a loaf of the green chile bread.

Then closer to home (for one more night) in El Rito, a church and…something else.

That’s it, that’s all, watch out for that rain!

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What inspires you?

Here’s what inspired me on Thursday.

Mass, of course. Not only the Mass itself and all of its components, and the encounter with the Lord, but also having this encounter with others, past and present, in a simple, beautiful structure built by human hands, standing in this place for centuries now. A testimony, as was the presence of the couple of dozen folks there in that early morning hour, bringing whatever they have – burdens, joys – to the same Lord, not knowing how any of it will turn out, but trusting nonetheless, in the presence of the saints.

Considering creativity at Ghost Ranch, learning about Georgia O’Keefe. Hearing about a complicated woman living a complicated life, but also knowing herself and her own mind, and living it out. The tour I took was the “landscape tour” – on a bus (you can also do hiking and horseback tours – I was into efficiency yesterday) – on which the docent narrates O’Keefe’s life, especially in New Mexico, and compares images of her paintings to the landscape subjects.

To consider how she saw, how she worked, her focus, her self-understanding of what she needed to do and how she needed to live in order to share what she saw. Challenging and yes, inspiring.

The hike to Chimney Rock. There are several hikes originating at Ghost Ranch, and this is one of the most popular. It’s not a difficult hike, but the challenges are twofold: some scrambling up to the mesa near the end, and then the fact that it’s unshaded, except for some scrabbly junipers along the way. Maybe this was not the best choice for an August afternoon when the temperature, according to my car when I got back, was 93? (It hadn’t been that hot all week, so I hadn’t even considered that in my trail decision.

Other than that, it was a good hike, with spectacular views at the end. I had paused about halfway through at a point when I was high enough to get a good view of Ghost Ranch and the surrounding landscape from above as well as a picturesque view of Chimney Rock, and I thought…that’s good enough….right?

(Because it was hot.)

But then I heard the voice of my youngest, with whom I’ve walked and hiked countless trails, including at at least one on which I thought I just. Might. Die. He’s far away now, living life, but just as with every other of my kids, his personality and his interests enriched mine, and I doubt I would have even been on that trail if it weren’t for him. You’re not gonna stop now, are you? Keep going. It will be worth it.

It was.

Some of the voices that live in our head can be destructive, limiting, and should be exorcised. But others – so many, voices of those we’ve known well or who lived far in the past – where would we be without them? How impoverished our lives would be if, however unexpected, they had never snuck, barged or strolled into our lives, even for a moment.

A tiny cafe with a beautiful, perfect, green chili stew. To sit in a place so lovingly, carefully created to be a unique spot in this small town, the design and the food intentionally and purposefully crafted with care and vision?

And it’s not just this boho-hipster spot in the desert. It’s every person who’s taken a spot on the land, a spot in time, and made something of it, not knowing what will become of it, just knowing that this is the time and place to do this thing that’s rumbling inside, wants to get out, and might just add something that the world could use right now. Another inspiring nudge.

Georgia O’Keefe lived and worked at Ghost Ranch, but eventually she purchased a home and created a studio in Abiquiu proper. Tours must be booked far ahead of time (they’re booking October now), so that was impossible, but I drove by the gate anyway, then continued up the curve of the road to the Penitente Morada – the structure that the Penitente brotherhood uses for meetings and ceremonies. You may associate Penitente with re-enacting the Crucifixion, and I don’t know if they do that in this part of the world, but what they do engage in are charitable acts – they are, it seems, essentially confraternities.

There’s a couple of small museums at Ghost Ranch, one of which features a display of santos by a local artist named Max Roybal, who was a member of the brotherhood. If you click on the photo below, you can read more of an explanation.

How striking. O’Keefe, whose unique way of seeing expresses a sort of spiritual vision and who, while not tempted to convert at all, was a visitor to the Monastery of Christ in the Desert – lived and worked just a few yards from the simple structure where men gathered, seeking to deepen their own spiritual vision and the living of it.

The juxtaposition, the differences, but trying to work out the commonality, living and breathing out here in light of the same mountains, under the same heavens. It will never stop being fascinating – and yes, inspiring – to me.

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Let’s backtrack and finish off Wednesday.

Sidebar: It’s crazy to me to think that I’ve only been gone since Sunday. Einstein was right.

We left off in Taos, but let me backtrack a bit from that.

As I mentioned in that post, there’s a “low road” and a “high road” between Santa Fe and Taos. It’s generally recommended to take the low road up for more spectacular views and then the high road back for the small town stops on the way. I’m not in Santa Fe right now, but the advice still applies, so I took it.

I reached the Rio Grande Gorge Visitor’s Center, took in the situation and decided that there was another road that looked really interesting and would probably bring me to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, at which point I could head over to Taos and then back on the high road. Oh, yes, I’m so smart.

So I did this. I turned off the main road at Pilar and meandered up along the river, past campgrounds, until I reached the historic bridge. How interesting. I read about the origins of the bridge, how a camp had been established nearby in the hopes of finding gold, and so on. Some folks were kayaking on the river. I crossed the bridge and started up the winding road, confident that I’d be meeting up with the other road that would take me up to the Gorge bridge.


No wonder no one else was on the road. Huh.

All right, so I “wasted” about 30 minutes, but you know how that goes – nothing is wasted. We can learn things along the way. In this case: Don’t be stupid, and maybe once in a while, just do what everyone else is doing.

It was pretty, though. It was.

So up towards Taos, the first stop being the historic in Rancho de Taos. You know this. You recognize this – photographed by Ansel Adams, painted by Georgia O’Keefe, and for clearly good reason. The interior is beautifully preserved, and it’s not a museum. It’s a living parish, clearly.

Into Taos, which is Tourist Central, completely unappealing to me. It must be a nightmare during ski season. I walked around for about ten minutes, stopped in the gift shop run by some Benedictines – a nice shop – and then decided I’d had enough.

Time to hit the high road.

The drive takes you through the Carson National Forest, and the difference in topography and flora from just a couple dozen miles to the west is astonishing. I stopped at a few churches along the way – as I explained yesterday, all were locked, and this time, I’m not mad about it. Given the historic and precarious nature of these structures and – I’ll add – given the number of interesting characters who are commonly seen on all roadsides in this state – it’s not a hard decision to keep these places locked up when they’re not in use.

I am storing up my thoughts on all of this, be assured.

It is amazing to be in a place where you can take in thunderstorms on your left and sunshine on your right.

This cemetery was an absorbing sight to me – full of sunflowers, several freshly-dug graves and unique memorials.

Keep going…to the shrine at Chimayo. We were there on our trip 10 years ago, but why not revisit? It was strangely empty, but perhaps not so strange for a Wednesday in late August. I did not get any dirt, as I still have a little pillbox-type thing full from last time. I was moved, as I always am at such places, by the images of loved ones to pray for or to give thanks for. I was interested in not one, but two areas devoted to Our Lady of Lavang, a devotion with Vietnamese roots.

Food here – it was very good.

Upon returning, there was enough daylight for a short hike – this one, not far from my rental. A half mile takes you up to a mesa where a puebla once stood hundreds of years ago. The views, of course, are marvelous, and it’s a gift to be able to take it all in.

And yes, I did get up this morning to see the interior of one of the churches at Mass….

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Got to Mass (at 7:05). There were 20+ folks in attendance. The church is quite lovely inside – bigger than my photo indicate because there are two side areas (cruciform) with a lot of seating as well.

More later. Got to go.

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…and I’ll take the low road. Or maybe I’ll take both

…except I wasn’t in Scotland, but in New Mexico of course.

Today, I got Taos out of my system. Again it’s late and I’m tired and I just got off the phone from a (good) 1-hour convo with new College Guy, so blogging all of this for you people is not my priority, especially since today I decided if I’m going to see the interior of any of these cool colonial churches I’m just going to have to – you know – go to Mass – and the closest one has Mass at 7am, and I’m 30 minutes away…well, this is going to be mostly a photo dump. Sorry, not sorry.

(Later: Not even a photo dump! Too tired. Sorry not sorry still)

I will say, though, that one of my many motivations for taking this (and other) trips is to figure out where I might want to establish a base in a couple of years – because, sorry Birmingham, Alabama, you’re not it – northern New Mexico, after two whole days, is looking pretty sweet.

There are two roads between Santa Fe and Taos: the low road and (surprise) the high road. The low road climbs up and the high road descends. It’s generally recommended to take the low road up for better views and then the high road coming down for the interesting stops along the way. So that’s what I did.

(If you want more photos and videos, check out Instagram, especially Stories at this point.)

Most of the photos I have to share are of churches. And that’s not just because religion is my jam. It’s because while the landscape is primo and the main attraction, the next most interesting thing to see are the churches.

Sorry, atheists.

My interest in seeing and recording these churches is not just because of a general “religion is my thing” or “history is cool” thing happening, eithre.

My deep interest is in faith, evangelization, truth, goodness, beauty – and also inculturation, colonization, and oppression. I think a lot about all of that historically and in the present. Going to these places, contemplating the history and trying to get a hold on the present – those are essential for me as I try to understand it all.

But for a blog post like this, you’re going to have to settle for the travelogue.

Oh, before I begin, let me say: I saw the exteriors of a lot of churches today, but the interiors of only two, only one of which I was allowed to photograph. Almost all of the churches I saw were locked – and that’s not something I’m going to complain about in this context. As I said on Instagram – these are fragile historical edifices in remote communities, all of which are still living parishes. If they are only open for liturgies and prayer times, that is completely understandable. You cannot leave 250-year old historic structures open to everyone and anyone with no security in this day and age. You just can’t.

Even before I left the area where my rental was located, I had the chance to consider some mission ruins.

My first night here, I’d gone out to the Family Dollar to find something to eat – my Tire Drama had left me no time for food, and while I normally don’t eat much anyway, I knew that if I didn’t get something in my system, there’d be trouble. So crackers and cream cheese from Family Dollar it was.

(I asked the guy – who looked like he’d know – if there was anywhere nearby to buy wine or some such. He told me about a nearby place [I didn’t go, by the way] and a customer, obviously a friend ,offered that he’d heard that some Family Dollars were starting to sell alcohol. “Not on my watch,” said my guy, who was also the manager. “I’ve got enough trouble with normal thievery, I don’t need people trying to steal booze….”)

Oh, yes.

Well, anyway, on my way out there, I noticed a cross by the side of the road, a cross lit up with a light on top. Nice, I thought.

Well, this morning I saw what the darkness of night had concealed. The cross stood with the ruins of the ancient St. Rose of Lima mission.

And then it was up to Taos:

Iconic, yes?

Well, I’ve got to call it a night with that. Let’s see if I can make that 7 am Mass….

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…and how it’s going:

With a bit of a mess in between.

That was a day!

Some good, some not so great, but I got where I needed to go and, as we like to say….learned an important life lesson.

Actually, I knew the life lesson and usually try to live by it, but this time ignored it, and yes, paid the price.

Although….things might have turned out the same no matter what. But I doubt it.

So we’ll begin in the morning. I know that view does not look enticing, but view was not the purpose of the stay. Sleeping was. And at almost free because of points, even though the brand was not high end, the room was immaculate and even updated, so no complaints from me.

(On the points: I do not have a massive number of hotel points with any one brand, but small amounts with several. It’s never enough to get a room for free, but I can usually swing a pretty good “Money + points” deal. Which was the case here. I mean, Econolodge is not going to be expensive anyway, but if I can pay almost nothing and it’s a good room, that’s what I’ll do.)

My goal for the day?

Santa Rosa – Pecos National Historical Park – Chimayo Shrine – New Place.

I had considered throwing Las Vegas (NM) in there, but eventually decided it would be too much. As it was, there was no point in stressing about it since most of the plan didn’t happen anyway.

I won’t keep you in suspense. I ended up spending 2.5 hours in a tire shop in Santa Fe, that’s what happened.

My tires are were mismatched and probably worn – I bought the car used two years ago, and at least two of the present (well recent past) tires came with the car. Maybe three. Anyway, it was kind of mess, and my instinct had told me, “Get them checked out before you drive across the country, idiot” – but – you got it – I didn’t listen.

That was the only piece of advice my mother ever gave me that I took seriously: Always trust your instict, she’d say: about people, about the answer on a multiple choice test, whatever. She was right, and I’ve preached the same to my own kids. And didn’t listen this time.

So Monday evening I was speeding on I-40 W when I hit a pothole. On the interstate where the speed limit is 75. I immediately listened for wobbling and kept my eye on the digital tire pressure monitor, but..nothing. Okay. That’s good.

Then late this afternoon, I did notice a wobbling. I stopped, looked – and yikes. A big old bulge popping out of that tire. I was able to safely get to a tire store, which told me that Mazda calls for weird tires and they didn’t have any in stock which was the same message given to me by the next tire shop – and the next. I was starting to think I was going to have to get a hotel in Santa Fe for the night while waiting for tires to come in from Albuquerque, which is apparently where all the Mazda tires live now. But then the third tire shop came up with a workaround which I still don’t understand: Your Mazda calls for this weird size tire that we don’t have but here’s a list of ten other tires that would fit.

Well, okay.

Just replace all four. Go ahead. It needs to be done. Take my money.

I was, of course, not a priority, being a walk-in, which is fine. I caught up on my phone calls. The only thing I worried about was getting to my new place before dark – which I was obviously able to do.

I might try to hit Pecos and Las Vegas on the way back.

So what did I see?

On the feast of St. Rose of Lima, I went to Santa Rosa and saw the gorgeous little St. Rose of Lima Church. I mean – gorgeous. It just shows what love and faith and, I’m sure, sacrifice – can accomplish. A small church can be quite beautiful.

The main attraction of Santa Rosa is the Blue Hole – a naturally occurring pool that is quite deep and incredibly clear. People can swim in it (there’s a limit to how many at a time), but its main use is as for dive training. There were a couple of guys practicing there this morning:

All right! Time to go to Pecos! Drive along, enjoy the scenery, stop at small churches along the way. When I’m less tired I’m going to retrace my steps digitally and see if there is any interesting history associated with any of them.

Look at the beautiful doors on this tiny church. St. Anthony, of course.

This is San Miguel del Vado in the village of the same name – which was once not a village at all. A really interesting history: after Mexican independence, this was the first entry point to Mexico for traders from the East – the first point where the Mexican government collected taxes. At one point it supported 3000 inhabitants. Not any longer….


That wobbling definitely feels…like wobbling, not the road.

Ah well.

All I can say is that I had probably driven 150 miles or so since I hit that pothole, so I am extremely grateful that it held as long as it did, especially since for a big chunk of today I was driving through fairly desolate landscapes.

But here I am for a few days, and it’s lovely, and hopefully I can get this head cleared and my mind opened up.

Oh, and the other benefit of arriving three hours later than I’d planned? I saw the impact of the setting sun on the area around Santa Fe, and it is stunning. Since it had been raining off and on, I also saw the most impressive rainbow – instead of seeing so far off, as rainbows usually do, it was huge and seemed very close – so close that I imagined I could see where it reached the ground. Is that common here? I wouldn’t be surprised. It was gorgeous.

(No photos – I was driving, folks. Obey your instincts.)

Keep up at Instagram Stories and “Highlights”

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