Road Tripping USA #3, Day Two

Posted by: elraymundo at 6:59 am on Wednesday, July 8, 2009
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Euphoria, Lotus Blossom, Travel, Jeep

In the early afternoon on Tuesday, on I-40 just west of Gallup, New Mexico, we finally exhaled.

That’s when Genelle called with the news that our house sale had finally recorded. The loan had funded, the title transferred and we were no longer responsible for the property. The last hook this idiotic year had in our lives was gone.

We’d held our breath for almost four months, from the day in mid-March when I lost my job and we knew we had to sell. Given the way the rest of the year had gone, we only wanted to get rid of the financial obligation before some other shoe dropped and screwed us further. Two offers fell through on the same day, less than a week after the house went up for sale, and the final offer - the one that closed yesterday afternoon - was riddled with delays. Final close, for example, was seven days after the contracted date of June 30. But with that one phone call we felt the burden of the house slip away. We high-fived in the Jeep, laughed and whooped and celebrated as we drove, knowing that now we can really truly get on with our lives.


I smell like figs this morning.

We left Flagstaff late yesterday, not getting out until 10:00am, and after stops at Meteor Crater and Petrified Forest National Park we ended up on the short end of time and decided to take the Interstate to Santa Fe to have dinner with Soledad and Jovan instead of making the long, scenic drive across the top of the state to Taos. I’m glad we did, not only because it was great to catch up with Soledad and to meet her man, Jovan, but because Santa Fe is coooooool.

Soledad took us downtown, where we ended up at The Cowgirl BBQ on Guadalupe Street, drinking margaritas and mojitos and eating appetizers for dinner to celebrate our house closing. The downtown area is built around a central square like many of the South American cities we’ve seen, and the architecture is consistently southwestern, which was great because it gave the downtown area a well-defined sense of place. Cowgirls starts with an open courtyard, jammed with tables and backed by a bar, with an indoor dining area off to the side. The crowd was eclectic and funky - lots of dreadlocks and biker leathers and some mohawks and body piercings - and when I asked Soledad if the crowd was locals or tourists she said, “Both. But if they look a little strange then they’re locals.” The city is filled with art galleries and performing arts centers and seemed very walkable and I was surprised when Soledad told me only 80,000 people live in Santa Fe. I guess I got used to much bigger populations in the LA area, where someplace like Fullerton has over 100,000 residents. Anyway, I’m making a mental note to keep Santa Fe in mind if and when we ever decide to move again.

Oh, one other thing. Soledad and Jovan’s shower: awesome. Great water pressure, heats up quickly, and well-stocked with shampoo and other shower stuff, which is why I smell like figs this morning.


My iPod died as we left Meteor Crater. This did not please me. I reset the stupid thing over and over and all I could manage to get from it was a frowning iPod icon with a message in tiny font telling me to visit Apple’s site on the web. The Debra tried to get me to de-grump by playing ABBA on her iPodĀ - her logic being that no one can be grumpy while listening to ABBA. (I bet Jeff Watson could, though.) So we rolled across the desert listening to Dancing Queen. Miraculously, the iPod started working again at a gas station in Gallup. Unlike a previous well-known resurrection, it only took three hours, not three days, for my iPod to come back to life. And I’m glad that it did. It made celebrating that phone call from Genelle much more fun.


Meteor Crater is HUGE. You can see the rim of the crater as you approach from the north. It looks like a low ridgeline off to the left, but it is actually where the rock and sediment settled after being thrown into the air when a massive meteor impacted 50,000 years ago. The place is privately owned and cost fifteen bucks a pop to get in, but it’s well-maintained and the visitors center has a museum, with a small movie theater and several displays describing meteor impacts, how and why they occur, and the incredible amount of energy and devastation they release when they kiss the earth. The crater itself is 4000 feet across and the sediments around the bowl of the crater were flipped upside-down by the impact: the really-old-stuff is on top, near the rim, and the less-really-old-stuff is near the crater’s floor.

We took a spin through Petrified Forest National Park and Painted Desert after leaving Meteor Crater. Since we were there at midday the light was no good, but it was worth the drive - especially for the roadside views of Painted Desert, which stretched northward in tumbled red hills and canyons. If you’re into rocks, there are plenty of petrified trees scattered all over the park, with a huge collection at Crystal Forest. Apparently the area used to be low-lying wetlands and when trees fell there, they were instantly immersed and minerals seeped into the wood and what you had left afterward was a petrified tree. I’m no geologist, so having seen one petrified tree I had pretty much seen them all, but it really is interesting stuff if you can catch a ranger talk and explanation of the petrification process.


Debra had a nice moment yesterday. We were driving between Gallup and Albuquerque when she looked backward out her window and suddenly asked me to stop. I took the next exit, for a town called McCartys, and she pointed to a mission built against the north face of a cliff on the south side of the interstate. The church was Mission Santa Maria and I drove along a frontage road until we were directly across from the building with a field between us. “I saw that church seventeen years ago when I came through her with Wendelin,” said The Debra, “and I always wanted to take a picture of it, but I couldn’t then.” She had been watching for the church ever since we crossed the state line and she just happened to look back at the right moment and see it settled on the hillside against the cliff. The light was perfect - it was late afternoon - so I drove among the roads of the ghost town until we got to the base of the hill. Debra happily took pictures and then we returned to I-40 and continued east.


We have a long drive today through eastern New Mexico and the Texas panhandle and into Oklahoma. It doesn’t look like we’ll get an early start since the beautiful wife is still asleep. I’m sort of hoping we can catch one of Oklahoma’s famous late-afternoon thunderstorms.

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