Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Day Ten

I woke up at 6 am ready for adventure, but Dan was sleeping so peacefully I decided to leave him be and go back to sleep. He woke me up around 8:00 and we heated coffee for breakfast. We were breaking camp when a park ranger came by and informed us that there was a fire ban. Now, we were aware that there was a ban in other camps, but we’d seen no signs and other campers had told us fires were okay here. They had iron pits surrounded by rocks, dust and more rocks. You couldn’t start a forest or grass fire on a bet out there! But we had already shoveled over our fire and doused it with water for good measure, our camp was neat, no trash, and we were polite and suitably contrite, so the ranger just gave us a warning. Man, we felt like schoolkids getting caught chewing gum in class or something!

On or way out, I took a quick shower at the main building, but the water was so hard that I couldn’t use soap. Heck, the water all by itself felt kind of weird and slimy. But I felt better afterwards and we headed toward Silver City. The day’s plan was to go to the Gila Cliff Dwellings, but we only got as far as Pinos Altos.

We stopped at a little café, where we were told that the road we wanted was closed due to a forest fire. The townspeople recommended a different road, so after eating lunch and perusing the local museum, we headed back into Silver City to pick up our new route to the cliff dwellings.

Well, we got as far as Mimbres, where a sign said the travel time to the cliff dwellings was about two hours. That was a long way to go and then backtrack, and with great clouds of smoke from the forest fire not too far away, we decided that the Gila Cliff Dwellings were perhaps better left for another day.

Then we got the idea to go to the ghost town of Shakespeare, outside of Lordsburg near the Arizona border. What a dumb idea that turned out to be!

Not only was the place closed except on Sundays, but Lordsburg is perhaps the most ugly, improbable excuse for a county seat in the United States. It sits at the end of a barren dessert of cactus and dust devils, half-obscured by haze in its ugly little nest near the Pyramid Mountains.

From afar, seen through the obscuring dust storms, it looks like a nightmarish mirage. Then you get closer and see all the sad, poor buildings, one after another, aimlessly scattered about the dry desert floor, and you wish the town would go back to being a mirage. It must be impossible to live there and not drink, do drugs and dream constantly of escape. You leave the place shaking your head in wonder, and asking, “Why?”

Totally at a loss, we headed back east toward Deming. Deming wasn’t much, so we continued to Las Cruces where we got something to eat at a Mediterranean restaurant and admired the Organ Mountains. Then we pushed on to El Paso, where I made my first and only princess request of this trip. I’m not usually a picky person, but dammit, I wanted a hotel with an exercise room and high-speed wireless internet. I had been in a car all day with no exercise, and had been without internet since Sunday. I was going to find a place to work out and get online, no matter how late, how hot and how tired we were. And I did.

Tomorrow we’re going to check out a museum or two and visit my cousin Chris, who lives here. And then I think we’ll continue east, although that plan could change. We might camp in the Davis Mountains. Or we might come up with a totally different idea. We have no idea, other than that we plan to be home by the weekend.

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