Leaving Las Vegas

On August 7th I caught a morning flight on Southwest, OAK-ABQ direct, and
began one of the great adventures of the year. Shannon met me at the gate
and we went off searching for a convertible. Half an hour later after
considerable sweet talking and a little badge-flashing (“oh! You’re in the
Service…”) we left Budget in a Mustang convertible. We had lunch in an
adobe barbeque resteraunt with no windows before before heading north into
the desert with the top down and the sterio turned up just a little too

First stop: Santa Fe. Santa Fe is a
cute little artist town-turned-tourist destination which, through an
accident of history, happens to be the state’s capital. The Marriot Hotel
is faux adobe and the Indians turn a brisk business selling several
hundred dollars of topaz and sterling jewlery from their blankets in The
Plaza. People come from around the world to buy jewlery and art in the
home of Georgia O’Keef and D.H. Lawrence. Some of it’s nice, but I’m a
picky art buyer. We dined on Brazilian barbeque and stayed at some funky
pink-cowboy roadside motel halfway out of town.

The next morning we checked out and headed west into the mountains towards
Bandalier. If, by some accident of fate, you find yourself in the area I
really recommend Bandalier National
HREF=”http://www.danheller.com/nm-bandalier.html”>pictures). Shannon
and I had both been before, so we skipped it for lesser names and the joy
of the drive. New Mexico has some of the most beautiful weather on the
planet: the annual count of sunny days is somewhere north of 300.
Somewhere along the line we chased some kids into the mesas but lost their
trail and turned back rather than navigate the Prickly Pear Cactus’. White
Rock’s overlook of the Rio Grande… The Machine Gun Men (read: security
guys) at some turned us away when we tried to take a short cut through
some Los Alamos
tech lab.
…a Los Alamos museum… A good part of the country is still involved in
top secret Manhattan Project-like work, so much of the land is fenced in
with Area 51-type warnings about felonies, land mines and summary
execution of trespassers. I suspect some of the signs have been forged by

I had a tremendous spiritual experience at this power spot when I was 17
so when a choice had to be made from our photocopied map, we skipped Taos
and took the route less traveled.
HREF=”http://chimayo.org/”>Chimayo is a little town built up around an
adobe church, which was built around a religious shine, which was built
around a puddle of water that saved some Spanish padre’s life when he was
wandering around delirious in the desert. It doesn’t take much to make a
miracle in New Mexico, but they leave a mark. [

Miracle Staircase of Santa Fe (PDF) at

HREF=”http://www.lorettochapel.com/”>Lorretto Chapel] Chimayo blew my
mind once, and I was eager to give it another chance. We lunched on
tamales and headed east into the mountains.

After a day and a half of cruising the New Mexican mountains foot hills we
rolled down out of the Sangre de Cristo into

Vegas and thru to
Montezuma. The
reason for being in New Mexico in the first place was a high school
reunion. The UWC is the kind of school which can’t be adequately explained
and the addiction to experience is never really kicked. People really want
to go to their five-year reunions. ‘nuff said.

The following three days had more booze and less sleep than any other
period of my life. To be in that little valley with those people was pure
magic. Each day was glorious and each night was Graduation Night. Sunday
night went so late there was no choice but to continue we left, at six.
Worn down and burned out, we spent the last hours in rocking chairs under
a desert sky listening to Pink Floyd. Shannon and I packed up the Mustang
and rolled out of Montezuma before daybreak. We stopped at a gas station
in Las Vegas for a breakfast consisting of orange juice, chicken fingers
and coffee. Then, as light broke across the desert we hit the highway
going south by southwest, as if fleeing the dawn in a vain attempt to make
the weekend last longer.

I’ve been gone for a week

I’ve been drunk since I left

these so called vacations

will soon be my death

I’m so sick from the drink

I need home for a rest


“Home for a Rest”,
HREF=”http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B00005NWID/”>Spirit of
the West