Tag Archives: New Mexico

FST : Day 7 – Santa Fe NM to Shamrock TX (370 mi)

Today, our eyes turned east as we wrapped up our stay in Santa Fe. Once again, we traipsed downstairs, expecting another zoo-like experience in the “free” breakfast arena at the hotel. As it ends up, there were no kids running around, and there was more on the agenda than just breakfast.

Remember the photographer Beck met in the hall? Well, he was at breakfast this morning, and I got a chance to talk with him. His name was Simon Biswas, and he’s in the midst of an 8-week cross-country trek. He was stuck in Santa Fe with a broken-down vehicle — one of the dangers of the road, I suppose. We talked about cameras, especially the Canon G10, and had a great conversation.

We asked Simon about his lodging, and he mentioned that he wasn’t using hotels (much), and was relying on the kindness of strangers through a site called CouchSurfing. My understanding is that folks announce their willingness to put up a stranger on their couch, and travelers sign up, and sleep on their couches. There’s a whole bunch of trust in that model, and I’m just not sure I’m trusting enough to either be the couchsurfer or the couch supplier. Still, it does sound like a cool way to meet a lot of folks, and see how folks in different parts of the country live.

All good things must come to an end, and our time to depart came. We said our goodbyes to Simon and went to load up the Jeep. I wish him well on his quest!

The highpoints on the travel leg today were the Cadillac Ranch and the Big Texan, both near Amarillo TX. We’ve been to both before, and both needed revisiting.

The Cadillac Ranch is a collection of ten classic Caddies, all buried nose down into farm land outside Amarillo. Passers-by are encouraged to stop, bring their spray paint, and leave their mark upon the classics. And mark they do. I’m not sure there’s a part of these cars — inside or out — that hasn’t been painted at one time or another. We brought paint, and left our mark, although we learned a few things in the process. First, our paint was waaaaaay to thin. Everything we sprayed ran miserably. It’s hard to make good characters and symbols when the paint is running like water down the car surfaces. Secondly, we need to bring Sharpies. There were loads of Sharpie-based scribbling on the Caddies, and that really seemed to work quite well. I think Sharpie makes a chisel-point marker that’s in excess of an inch wide — that oughta do.

Last time we visited, the weather was nasty, wet and muddy, and because of that, we had the place to ourselves. This time, the weather was hot and basically clear, so there were loads of folks around. We were there about 45 minutes, and ran across thirty other pilgrims to this site. That was cool. It was a neat community feeling. Each of us knew why we were there, and there was some camaraderie from that. Every now and then, someone would happen by that didn’t bring spray paint cans with them. Usually, they could find someone leaving who still had paint in their cans, and would pass ’em on. That was cool. We donated ours to a family that had stopped by, and had just finished dumpster diving at the site for cans with paint in them. To say the least, they were thrilled to get our leftovers.

Beck and I both shot quite a bit, much as we did last time. Almost everyone there had a camera, and were shooting not only what they’d painted, but other notables from the Caddies. You see, what was there today would be gone in a week or so as fresh paint replaced the old, so capturing what you saw while you were there was way important. There was even a pair of girls shooting with an old Polaroid SX-70! That was cool to see, although I don’t know how in the world they’re still finding film for the thing. I’m pretty sure the camera was older than they were.

Our next stop was the Big Texan, just 20 minutes down the road. This restaurant advertises both east and west on I-44 that they are home to a free 72-ounce steak… and that’s kinda true. The deal is that you have to woof the 4½ pound steak down — along with a salad, baked potato, dinner roll and shrimp cocktail — in an hour, and the meal is yours for free. No one was on the clock this go around, but we did ask about the cost of failure — $72, or a buck an ounce. And now, if you need inspiration, their web site has the records of the folks who’ve done it, and their stats (age, weight and time). Right now, one of the hot dog eating champions holds the record at just under nine minutes. That’s half a pound a minute, or two ounces every fifteen minutes. Sustained. Wow.

Last time we were here was an Easter a few years ago, and things were a little peculiar — Easter brunch was the rule, rather than normal steak operations. This time, we had a normal meal — for me, an 18-ounce ribeye — along with the fixings and some fantastically sweet tea. Great eats, even off the clock. 🙂

We continued our drive to Shamrock TX without much incident, aside from loads of road construction. The one bad thing that had crept up on us as we moved into the southern plains was the temperatures. Along with the cloudless skies and sunshine came ever-increasing temperatures, and by the time we got to our room in Shamrock, the Jeep was reporting that we were back to 100°… again. Fortunately, the room was palatial, and once again Shamrock presented itself as an oasis in the crazy heat.

FST : Day 6 – Santa Fe

This morning, we planned our day around being at the Old Towne Square most of the day. The best way to start a day of exploration is with breakfast. We’d been selecting hotels with continental breakfast included. I know that “free” ain’t free — TANSTAAFL, ya know — but it’s just more convenient to not have to strike out in search of breakfast. However, this morning, we’d likely have been better off going elsewhere. There were kids everywhere, doing what kids do, and the community TV was tuned to Spongebob Squarepants. Urgh.

Once we hit the road, things got a little quieter, and we found ourselves near the Old Towne Square pretty quickly. The area was friendly, full of great shops and restaurants. A few stood out.

One of the first places we found was the Monroe Gallery. I’ve not been in too many galleries that focused specifically on photography, so finding this place was a real treat. The Monroe’s current exhibit, A Thousand Words, focuses on photojournalistic images, which is a little outside my normal experiential sphere, however, there were plenty of times when I had to blink back the mistiness from my eyes as I gazed upon some of these wonderful pieces. There were images by photographers I was familiar with (Eddie Adams and Joe McNally, for example), along with iconic images that I’d seen my whole life. These were serious prints too — values in the thousands and tens of thousands — as contrasted against what I print. Truthfully, this was photography as it should be… moving, emotionally, telling a complete story with no caption necessary. No epiphanies about my work from this — my photography is far, far away from photojournalistic — but I was touched, humbled and inspired to view a collection of masterpieces like this.

There were jewelry shops everywhere. Beck was “gentle” on only took in a few of them, and they were interesting. Plenty of nice pieces, unusual cuts, and not too terribly out of line pricewise. And there was everything you could want — rubies, moonstone, coins captured as jewelry… a very big selection. I think it’d be pretty easy to spend a full day just touring the jewelers’ shops, enjoying all the play-pretties.

For lunch, we stopped at the Atomic Grill. This place was a nice surprise. After wandering around in the 80° weather, we were ready for something light for lunch, and finally chose these guys from among the many choices downtown. They had loads of different beer (although surprisingly they didn’t carry Red Stripe), which under other circumstances would’ve been intriguing. However, after all I’d been through in the last few days, it was iced tea. 🙂 Beck and I each ordered a gyro, and man was it great! I was really surprised how light and flavorful it was. AG’s definitely a place I’ll revisited when I get back to Santa Fe.

After we returned to the hotel, and while on a search for a soda, Beck ran across a young guy and an older gentleman discussing photography. Had I not been so tired, I’d like to have joined them. The young guy was a Canon shooter, using a 5D and a G10. He sang the praises of the G10 to Beck… only a day after I’d done the same. You see, I’ve been finding it hard to pull out the 40D during the trip. The G10 is so small, easy to carry, and aside from superwide or super telephoto situations, it’s done everything I’d needed and anything I’ve asked. Folks looked at it, and weren’t intimated by the size, thinking it was just a point and shoot. And yet, I could do almost anything with it that my 40D would do. The young photographer basically said the same thing. Great minds, I guess.

FST : Day 5 – Moab UT to Santa Fe NM (407 mi)

By comparison to yesterday’s infirmity, today I felt dramatically better — albeit still not quite normal. To get a sense of the temperatures we’ve been dealing with, you only have to look at this morning’s weather. When we got up (right around sunrise), the temperature was about 66°. Two hours later when we left the motel, it was almost 90°. It gets hot out here, and quickly.

And once we’d gained 1000′ of elevation above Moab, we got a little rain. Maybe enough to get the windshield wet, and then it was gone. Just a reminder of the water-hungry nature of this environment.

Shortly after we left Moab, we ran across Wilson Arch, which is outside the park, and right on the side of the road. Again, I was tempted to hike up to it — I hadn’t been inside any of the arches we’d encountered yet — but I still wasn’t quite up to the task. Kinda unfortunate, as this one would’ve been easy.

The rest of our trek southeast was largely uneventful, and an exercise of watching the outside temperature to confirm that we’d made a good decision to move in this direction. Through most of the afternoon, our trek across SE Utah and SW Colorado let us stay in reasonably constant temperatures in the 80s. This was a nice change. However, as we moved toward NW New Mexico, our temperatures rose as continued toward Bernilillo NM, where we found temperatures in high 90s. Between the higher-than-expected temperatures and hitting I-25 at rush hour, my spirits sank. However, the closer we got to Santa Fe, the more the traffic thinned, and the lower the temperatures sank. By the time we arrived at the hotel in Santa Fe, our temperatures were in the low 80s, and dropped quickly into the 70s as sunset approached. What a welcome change!

So why’d we pick Santa Fe for recharging our batteries? Well, we’d been through Santa Fe a few years ago, and didn’t get to spend much time looking around. We’ve heard so many good things about the city — especially the downtown area — that we thought it deserved another shake.

Our hotel was a bit of oddity. Apparently, the two-story hotels in Santa Fe don’t have elevators, which left us lugging our impressive pile o’ stuff up two stories. Not the most fun I’ve had. Add to that the room. Our room had a king bed, but had obviously had been designed with two queen beds in mind. You’d think that the hotel would fill some of that dead space with furniture — a table and chair, perhaps. Nope. We had the biggest deadspace I’ve ever seen in a hotel room. There could’ve had a massive game of Twister had on all that carpet.

Tomorrow — wandering the streets of Santa Fe.