Egret and crab

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Taking the road not taken

Yesterday was one of those perfect pages that I will have to dog ear in life's book. Chock full of experience points, I will surely revisit it again and again in my dotage.

Of course yesterday was presaged by the day before yesterday and I must start my preamble with a short recount of the prior day in order to capture the totality of the affair.

The show got a bit better and turned out all right, selling a few paintings at the end to raise me out of the miserable grump zone. Pack out however was a bitch, access being a single door which one could not readily wheel large boxes out of, necessitating a little spin dance move and lift. I had to take each piece out one by one and it was hot and muggy and the wind was starting to blow. By the time it was all safely jammed back in the van, I was totally whipped and visions of cardiac care danced in my head.

The lovely promoter insisted that I join her for a meal and the whole group of us went back for a nice dinner at Yannis, the Greek restaurant with the pretty flowers, great steak and good looking hostess. I had a couple of vodka greyhounds, for medicinal purposes only mind you, and managed to salve some of the day's physical aches and pains.

It was getting pretty late when the whole pack left the restaurant, another meal which Terry picked up the check, not necessary but greatly appreciated. The plan was to head to southern New Mexico and visit the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge early the next morning.  I drove the hour plus distance to Socorro, utterly exhausted, slapping myself in the face with windows open and blasting cold air  and found a Holiday Inn. I choked when the imp at the front desk told me that the room would be $119.00 but not having any gas left in my personal tank, grimly gave her my am ex card, which for some reason was declined. Visa came through and I went up stairs to spend another hour arguing unsuccessfully with a polite but unhelpful customer service rep situated somewhere near Calcutta.

Three or four hours later, I forced myself out of bed and headed south to try to get a piece of available morning light, a photographer's best friend but watched it turn into intense sunlight right before my eyes. I confess to not knowing much about the southern reaches of the state having confined most of my travels the last twenty years to the more northern provinces. In the early sixties, I lived in Las Cruces, my stepfather being a drone missile designer at the White Sands Missile Base. Later my family moved to El Paso and my friend George Chu and his parents would occasionally take me fishing at Elephant Butte.  But I have never explored all of the nooks and crannies of this wondrous state.

I got off the main road and on to old Highway 1 and drove past the charming little town of San Antonio. Eventually I found my way to Bosque Del Apache. Bosque, meaning "Woods of the Apache," is a 57,000 acre wildlife sanctuary that is home to thousands of snow geese and sandhill cranes in the winter months. It is offseason but I still saw a lot of wildlife including herons, cormorants, deer, coyotes and lots of different birds. I only saw two other people there, a nice pair of birders from Spokane who were in New Mexico visiting their son, who was doing post doctoral work in Santa Fe.

I made a mistake this trip and neglected to bring my 300mm lens or a tripod and was severely outgunned, the event requiring one of those porn star lenses that allow you to get up close and personal. These nice people were kind enough to allow me to peer through their scope that with proper bracketing, could function as a 3000mm camera. She was quite adept, managing to spot a black crowned night heron idly scratching his neck in the bushes.

I hiked several nice trails around the marshes and lakes and was struck by a wave of peace and happiness. Wide open spaces and nature allow certain vestigial parts of my being to come alive with a feeling of total joy and contentment. I got back in my car and starting driving through every tiny dirt road I could spot in the preserve and a few that were closed to public traffic. I hearkened back in my mind to a photography/biology teacher at Desert Sun, Norwood Hazard, who once told me that a biologist's greatest tool and friend was a pair of wire cutters. Bad boy. I scared up a family of deer who bounded out of the tules at the sound of my motorcar.  Gazed at the farms and the birds and definitely made plans to come back in the proper season with my wife.

The only hiccough was some construction noise nearby. Apparently a couple locomotives derailed Tuesday and caused an oil spill that the proper authorities are trying to berm up before it reaches the water and marshland.

I reluctantly left and headed back towards San Antonio, stopping to take pictures of a dilapidated building and poke my head into a quaint old antique store. Luann the proprietor sold me a couple of smalls and walked me into her immense warehouse. Very nice person.

Then I said shit, I've come this far and headed even farther south taking the King's Road, the El Camino Real, past Fort Craig and on to the New Mexico Monument. This is the oldest road in the United States, connecting Mexico City with San Juan Pueblo as far back as 1598.

It was getting warmer but the high desert chaparral was the greenest in memory, due to the recent rains. But I was definitely heading into no mans land and I had no water, or food, come to think of it, and decided to stop somewhere. I remembered that I had bought a loaf of wheat bread last week at whole foods and inspecting it for mold, put the dry tasteless slice in my famished stomach.

I found an old truck stop and my first glance saw a lizard slithering inside the front door. It was like walking into Bagdhad Cafe, with a strange and comical cast of characters who wanted to talk to me about avocados, me wearing a Fallbrook t-shirt and the proprietor sprouting a couple seeds on top of his old refrigerator. Very few items actually on the shelves, but the whole setup just ripe for a novel. The available water looked slightly suspicious and I bought a pepsi instead, deadly but safe. Heard they had a neat dining car in situ at one time.

I got back in my steed and decided to head for unknown higher ground, making my way towards Magdalena and the Very Large Array, a massive radio telescope site situated high on the Magdalena Plateau.  The countryside was just gorgeous and the road was spotted with lovely little plastic floral memorials, a New Mexican and hispanic tradition. Drove through some very neat old towns, a la Last Picture Show. Past the Alamo Navajo Reservation near the Magdalena Fault, the most eastern reservation for the Dineh that I am aware of.

The Array is a really spectacular site to see, these huge meal behemoths turning and tracking before your eyes.  Took the walking tour and visited the Information Center. I also snapped some pictures of nearby wildflowers. I left the place and realized I was about out of gas but figured I could probably nurse the van to the next little town to fill up and did, still much cheaper than California prices. The owner of the gas station saw that I had a Fallbrook t-shirt on and wanted to talk about our second most famous citizen, ex Dodger center fielder Duke Snider, the most famous being notorious racist Tom Metzger.

No sight yet of the dangerous prison escapee. Turns out that the woman who threw him the wire cutters was not only his fiancee but also his cousin. Hmmm.

Drove back through Socorro, then on to Albuquerque and finally up to Santa Fe, now nestled under some gigantic thunderheads, utterly exhausted. I called my friends Steve and Sue and they kindly let me recharge on their couch for an hour. Had a really pleasant dinner at Copa De Oro with Joe and Linda from High Noon and their good friends, the Sandronis. I had the always stellar duck in a raspberry glaze over polenta. Yum.

This has really turned into a beautiful trip. It is good for us to get off the main highway once in a while and take the turns that seemingly lead nowhere. All the best,  Robert.


Anonymous said...

Hey, glad to read that you had a good day bro! Go for 2 in a row!


Anonymous said...

nice post but it's a shame and a drag that you rarely enable comments any more, why is this?, i thought the idea was to get us involved...i've said it before, but you would make a great judge on the Food Network, watch Iron Chef sometime and you'll see what i mean...ciao and good luck in the Big A.

Anonymous said...

Who killed Davey Moore?

Anonymous said...

Nice writing, Robert. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Come over to my house and watch American Iron Chef sometime..I started watching when it was still a Japanese program and the voice overs were annoyingly Canadian. [Shudder]. The American version is acceptable but cannot say anything else as will come off as unpatriotic. Love your blog and the food reviews and for REPRESENTIN' Fallbrook Yo!

grumpy said...

"Bob is not authentic at all. He's a plagiarist, and his name and voice are fake. Everything about Bob is a deception. We are like night and day, he and I."

Joni Mitchell on Bob Dylan

this sidebar you posted is taken from an interview Joni did with the LA Times a few months ago, so it's a fairly recent comment of hers, and while it contains elements of truth, i feel it's a gross exaggeration on her part, and therefore falls into the cheap shot/sour grapes category; but then i'm a certified Bobophile, so que sais je?