I have this theory that to connect with the soul of a place you have to escape its cities. Don’t get me wrong, cities are awe-inspiring, fascinating places that glitter and glamour with sharp edges and bright window panes reflecting multitudes of light. But cities to me seem very much what we create and not so much what is, what has been, and what will be. There is an energy much older than our historic buildings, far more expressive than our museums, and far more informative than structured guided tours or carefully gleaned travel books. And to find it, you have to go outside. Not far, but just far enough so that the sound of cars and voices and doors slamming drops away and the pulse of the earth can rise up to greet you in its stead, like meeting someone for the first time that you feel you already intimately know from some half-remembered past.
By no means am I claiming that in four-turned-three days (yes, United Airlines, I’m giving you a dirty look) I managed to get “a taste of true New Mexico,” or that I even received such an experience. But as I moved between artistic Santa Fe and the somehow abandoned-feeling rugged sprawl of urban Albuquerque I caught myself caught in a familiar feeling.
Its when your body tingles and all your senses somehow drop away and rush forward all at once, and whatever it is that surrounds the heart expands to the point of breaking with joy, as if reaching wide open to absorb every possible sensation of the precious moment that you’re in. Roads carried names like Wild Dog Road, Rainbow End Lane, Whispering Spirits Ranch. Cielo de Oro. Camino los Abuelos. The mountains ahead (or at least the closest thing to mountains I’ve ever seen) echoed in the rear view mirror as if to head straight for them and leave them behind all at once, simultaneously nodding hello and waving goodbye. A reminder that all things run full circle, and at every moment we are caught in the cycle of rebirth.
Tracing the lazy way along I-14 past little Madrid with its thousand silver shops and reluctantly passing the turnoff to the town of Sedillo (my rare last name!) I could only drag my eyes away from the jagged distances to drink in that blue, blue sky. No wonder many Native American peoples believe Creation ascended to current existence through a hole in the roof of the world. Smiling upper lips of snowy peaks rising from every horizon like some strange, still wave, I could easily believe that cosmic hands were drawing them up like the seams of a great cloth bag, catching us all up in the heart of a terrestrial bowl painted with desert colors before being tucked away in a galactic pocket. Perhaps that’s what earthquakes are. A collection of landscapes shoved absentmindedly in a pocket and jangling about like pebbles gathered from the beach as some giant strides about beyond our perception.
In the end, I did miss out on quite a bit. We greeted Albuquerque in a hailstorm and woke up the second day in a snowstorm, But if it hadn’t been snowing and I hadn’t abandoned my hopes of a snowy hot springs soak I wouldn’t have been padiddling about downtown Santa Fe just in time to hear the bells toll at St Francis de Assissi. A romantic at heart with a love affair for churches, this alone would have brought tears to my eyes and a dreamy smile to my lips. But combined with a sudden rushing wind that scattered flower petals and snow alike into a frenzied whirlwind about the newlywed couple stepping out into the cold at that exact same moment, cheeks pink and smiles broad as they leaned in the share a kiss as family and friends poured out from behind them?
= The Nitty Gritty =
This trip was a bit more expensive than I’d have liked, since I was travelling with another person (I treated my amazing mother to her trip outside California in over 26 yeras!) and had to accommodate for her comfort and style. But what with the snowstorm that blew in, I was really grateful for the extra money we’d spent on hotels and Air BnBs!!
Airfare: $315 per person round trip || This wasn’t too bad and is actually a pretty standard lower-ish end flight cost, but could have been cheaper if we’d booked right away rather than juggling alternating pay periods (my mother does not like to fly, so we had to be sure we were on the same flight).
Car Rental: $130/3 days + gas || I’m SO happy we rented a car (Note to those of you considering New Mexico: you WILL need one if you want to explore outside Albuquerque and Santa Fe)!! Plus it turned out super affordable for me since my mom offered to pay if I agreed to do all the driving and cover gas. DONE.
Lodging: About $100/night for four nights (two modest private home Air BnB’s and one hotel) || At first I wanted to save money and just do hostels or just book a single room Air BnB, but my mother wanted more privacy. I was glad we splurged- what with all the snow and driving, it was really nice to have your own quiet space afterwards! Our hosts at both Air BnB’s were wonderful, and it was a great first experience with that agency!
Food: $13/meal || I’m vegetarian so meals are usually cheaper, and breakfast (when I remember to have it) is something simple. A tea, smoothie, or latte will hold me over just fine in the company of a bagel or pastry. Lunch and dinner always seemed about $9-13, and were pretty filling. Portions are big so if you’re a light eater you can definitely share.
Entry Fees: $10-20 || Due to the weather we weren’t able to get out into the countryside to see the natural sites, but from what I could tell everything seemed about $10 to enter a reservation. We also paid $60 each to enter the Gathering of Nations for one day, which was a special event and the main reason for our trip (exploring volunteer options is always a good idea if you have more time!). On the flip side, art galleries and leisurely strolls along the Rio Grande are completely free and totally recommended!
ALSO. Eat sopaipillas drizzled with honey at The Patio (I ordered them as often as possible), and my mother (generally gluten free) indulged in a blue corn donut that she discovered somewhere in downtown Santa Fe. Crumbly and delicious and KILLER.