Thursday, June 08, 2006

Day Five

After such a day of adventures, it’s a shame I have no internet connection tonight, not so much as a telephone line! But I’ll write this post anyway and post it when I can.

I got up early and went for a run in Santa Fe. I only ran 30 minutes because the plan was that we would do some hiking later. After I’d cleaned up from my run, we loaded up, checked out and figured we’d get some breakfast. But first we needed to get Dan a water bottle for hiking later because he’d forgotten to bring one. The sports gear place was still closed, so we went next door to do a bit of “quick” shopping at a place called Jackalope, that had been highly recommended. Well, so much for quick! This place was kind of like a cross between a Pier One and a flea market. You could buy anything there, from a postcard to a dress, to rugs, furniture, baskets and knick-knacks. They even had free coffee, a prairie dog habitat, a donkey and some doves!

By the time we got done browsing and bought a few things, it was past 10:30. We went to the sporting gear place and made short work of that errand. Dan got his water bottle and I got a new pair of hiking pants.

By now I was shaky from hunger, so we drove into old town to have lunch at the Plaza Restaurant—a nifty little diner that’s been there since 1918. Dan had a green chile burger in a tortilla and I had a salad made with peppers and chiles. It was all good, but the best part was watching the people. Santa Fe tends to attract a wide range of people and it’s a lot of fun, after homogenized Houston. We saw a wild-haired man ride up on a bicycle—I’ve never seen hair do that before! I watched a young waiter periodically go outside to talk to the graying Indian woman selling necklaces outside the window by our booth. I watched the food vendors on the plaza and the goth street kids, as they came and went. A gaggle of Japanese tourists wandered in with cameras and all wearing hats. They looked around, taking in the stamped-tin ceiling and fifties-era diner décor, then wandered out again to see what the tamale vendor had to offer.

Most curious of all was a young couple who were working on preparing their own lunch. We saw them cross the street and head toward our café. The man was thin except for well-muscled arms, and he wore black pants, a black tank and a knitted cap of some kind. He carried a crock pot under one arm and a couple of cans in his other hand. The young lady was a tall, stunningly beautiful black girl. She looked to be from a good family because she wore fancy red cowboy boots, a flowing black skirt, a tight little denim jacket and carried an obviously expensive sheepskin Sherpa tote. She had wound a burgundy scarf over her hair and around her neck, like a fifties diva out for a drive in a convertible. The couple stopped outside the restaurant, the young lady came in, asked a question at the counter and was given a couple of takeout bowls. Then she went back outside and she and her boyfriend went back across the street into the plaza.

After lunch, Dan and I got some ice cream and went to hang out in the plaza for awhile and there we saw our mysterious couple again. They were lounging under the gazebo, their crockpot a little ways away, plugged into the outlet that would normally be used by bands playing summer concerts. From time to time the girl would get up and go stir something in the crock pot and maybe add a bit of seasoning, then she’d return to the gazebo and continue her conversation. All around them, tourists gawked at Indian jewelry, paintings and pottery. Parents walked by pushing children in strollers, goth teens skulked about and trendy girls flitted around weighted down by their silver, beads and fluttering skirts.

Dan and I finished our ice cream, watching the sky nervously. Dark clouds were moving in and we had plans to hike and camp! As we got up to leave, we noticed that the crock pot meal was ready. We walked away as our strange young couple settled in to eat lunch under the gazebo as heavy fat raindrops began to fall.

We went to a grocery store to get a few items we would need for our camping venture, still feeling a sort of misplaced optimism about the weather. But the rain began coming down harder and harder, to where by the time we left the store, water was running in rivers through the parking lot. The locals seemed thrilled, though. It’s been dry for a long time here.

With hiking and camping now out of the question, I suggested to Dan that we go with our second plan, which was a stay at a B&B we knew of in Truchas, in the mountains near Chimayo. So we called, got a reservation, then went on up into the mountains. The storm clouds swirled around, rain came and went, sometimes dropping the temperature into the fifties, sometimes moving away and letting the temps rise back into the seventies. It was very strange to see such changes every few minutes.

We got checked into our B&B, which is an actual working ranch just outside Truchas, which is itself such a remote town that only 25 years ago, everyone would come outside at the sound of a strange car. Now they have a few galleries and lodgings, but it’s still a tiny, primitive place full of crumbling adobe and abandoned buildings.

After putting a few things into our room, we went for a drive. We took some great pictures of the famous church in Trampas and we came across a group of pilgrims—real guys carrying a big cross and walking from some 60 miles away to make the religious festival at Chimayo by the weekend. We’d never seen anything like it, although I thought the whole pilgrimage effect was slightly spoiled by the way nearly everyone wore day-glo traffic safety vestw and they had a support vehicle following them.

Modern pilgrims.

It started getting late and it looked like the rain might move back in, so we went back to our room, changed into nice clothes and went to have dinner at Rancho Chimayo—a well-known restaurant in the area and the only fancy place for miles and miles. Dinner was great and we came home to find the driveway blocked by the owner’s free-ranging horses, who didn’t want to move off the drive and into the grass. Dan figured it was bad enough one had watched him take a shower (hint to spouse: close the blinds!) but finally the horses got our hints and allowed us to get up the hill to the parking area.

We went for an evening walk around the property, eventually making friends with the nemesis horses. From the back patio we could see the lights of the towns across the valley. It was all very rustic and peaceful.

We’re going to try again tomorrow to do some hiking. Hopefully it won’t rain again!

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