Day 7

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Today we will finally made it to Santa Fe. It seemed strangely anti-climactic thus proving that it’s the journey and not the destination that counts. We keep forgetting that we still have nearly 1,000 miles of driving left. We checked out the site where William Becknell, ‘the father of the SFT’ met up with Captain Pedro Gallego and his 400 troops in 1821. The meeting was friendly and it officially opened the trade route. Who knew where that was going to lead (?!) San Miguel del Vado, established in the 1790s, is the first town the traders would have encountered, though they were well across the border of Mexico by the time they got there. The town is on the Pecos and to say it is a town today is a bit of a stretch. Aside from the church, there’s not much going on. Although it has been remodeled many times, the outline of the facade remains basically the same as when it was built in 1805.

We were impressed by the formal elegance and double irony of the railroad spikes. San Miguel flourished in the SFT days, but lost it’s prominence when the railroad was routed to nearby Las Vegas which then became the trade hub. And to fashion Jesus Christ from oversized nails….well….

Further down the road is another small town called San José del Vado. Ginny used to live there and still has a post office box so we stopped by to check her mail. Check out the bus stop.

Chele parked in the far left spot and Ginny told her, in all seriousness, that that spot was reserved for the postmaster. Whoa. Except for the church across from the PO, there are no other commercial buildings in San José and this parking lot was undifferentiated from the street. There are, however, some very old adobe houses from the original plaza that are still inhabited.

On the way into San José we had passed a yellow house onto which the sun was casting a beautiful glow and Chele wanted to stop and get a photo on the way out of town.

The light had changed so the photo-op was not as enticing. But we noticed this curious sign, and as we stood wondering what it was about

a truck pulled up and we met Sugar

and Roger, the creator of the Habitat Rescue.

Roger invited us in to walk around. He owns about five acres along the Pecos River and is presently working on, among other things, building a Buddhist temple surrounded by a heart-shaped moat. The moat is just about done and the temple is in the works.

excellent outhouse design!

everyone is welcome…

We talked to Roger for a couple of hours about the state of the state, the environment, what it means to do good work, the insistence of fleas, the luxury of travel, and the importance of art. We talked about poverty, drugs, and failing social infrastructure (both Ginny and Roger had been employed by the state as social workers and though they had never met they kept coming up with mutual acquaintances). We talked about notions of progress and how things can’t stay the same, no matter how romantically attached we are to the idea that the past was better/simpler than the present.We taped much of our conversation and if we ever get caught up with this blog, we’ll post some of the meandering conversation.

After a while, Roger said that the guy we should really be talking to is Russell Means who lives up by the post office in the old plaza complex. The same complex, in fact, that Ginny used to live in. We walked back to town to see if we could find him. Russell is an activist and early leader of the American Indian Movement (AIM). (We checked him out later online and learned that he was also in The Last of the Mohicans…)

Alas, no one was home. One more indication that we need to do this trip a second time. On the way back to Roger’s house we soaked up some details we missed earlier:

(We both ended up taking a picture of this porch. There was just something about it.)

Vigil? Really?

We explored a possible shooting (with cameras, that is) location.

The scale of these eroded embankments was interesting. A western landscape in miniature.

Roger showed us a great way to avoid getting snagged by the barbed-wire fence. Though he demonstrated this stop:drop:and roll (also useful if you happen to catch on fire) technique several times,

BA still needed more practice.

We met one of Roger’s neighbors

and  we both could swear that he called out, “I love you guys” as we all walked away.

And that moment kind of summed up our afternoon with Roger. It’s difficult to express in a string of snapshots how we thoroughly loved meeting this new friend, and how simply being present felt like such a gift. Ginny, who had errands to run in Santa Fe before getting back to Las Vegas by five, had long given up on her ‘planned’ day. And at some point we both separately came to the same conclusion– that Santa Fe and the other sites on our itenerary could wait. Over the course of the afternoon, in several unrelated contexts, Roger said “You have to take the time.” This was mentioned in reference to understanding: landscape, people’s motives, problems, travel, art, and, most of all, we think, friendships. In those unplanned moments we catch glimpses of the thing we did not know we were looking for.

We gave him a camera and as we bid adieu, Ginny and Roger were still talking. They receded in our rear view mirror as we turned the wrong way down hwy 25. How embarrassing.

We are both missing our dogs and it is for this reason alone that we are posting two more pictures of Sugar. This is her cow skull.

Don’t ask her to share (though she was so sweet, she’d probably let you gnaw on it for a while).

We had originally planned to seek out a civil war memorial site built on private land north of Santa Fe, but the sun was already starting to set and we weren’t too sure of where it was. We decided to double back from Albuquerque and find it the next day. We were running late to meet up with our friends John and Stacey (in ABQ) but we had to at least visit the Santa Fe Plaza to “officially” conclude the SFT chapter of our trek. In the center of the plaza is the Memorial to the Indian Wars, an obelisk shaped monument with text on all four sides. This curious plaque was attached beneath the text on one side:

On the other side, we saw that the original text had been edited–and indeed, with some attitude:

Power to the people.

We were getting cold, and decided we’d better hit the road. As we walked back to the car, we spied a group of people sitting at Starbucks. We plotted for a moment about how BA could run interference while Chele stole a picture, but when we walked in we lost our nerve and Chele simply fessed up. She told them they were beautiful like a snow-drift which was just strange enough to make them smile.

We didn’t ask any questions so we have no idea what their story was…but leaving it a mystery seemed like the right thing to do. Just a group of people with amazing crystal brooches sharing some coffee. What could be more American than that?

We were off to Albuquerque and the next chapter of The Grapes of Wrath in which the Joad family learns that being called an ‘Okie’ is not meant as a compliment.

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