Still on a quest to get me to a conference in Santa Cruz, California by the middle of October, we headed from Canyon, TX to Albuquerque, New Mexico (it took me several Google searches to realize I was spelling it wrong before) with a boondock at a Wal-Mart parking lot in between. Say what we will about the Wal-Mart conglomerate, they do come in handy for overnights while just passing through.
We definitely got off on the wrong foot with Albuquerque. Unable to find a decent (not exorbitantly priced) park and not planning to stay long, we decided to boondock a night or two while we looked around a bit and sought veg. The first Wal-Mart was a little too city for our liking and the surrounding area had a really low vibe. After passing on another and getting asked to leave (while I was roasting a chicken in the oven) from another because of a local HOA ordinance, we found one that suited us to squat for the night. By that time, we were really tired and really frustrated and, might I mention, not so fond of Albuquerque. In our excursions in the city, I have never been asked for money so many times- not by people sitting on the side of the sidewalk or outside of stores but by people actually approaching us in parking lots, knocking on our windows, etc. They were all kind enough but it really felt intrusive.
Enter serendipity: While text messaging with our friend Justin Wagner, Chris found out that they were just outside of ABQ up in the mountains of Tijeras, NM. We headed the 20 minutes up the highway and pulled our big rig in to the site next to them, put out the slides, levelled the RV, and began to hook up when we realized we couldn’t find a water spigot for our site. Can you say, “WTF”? Confirmed by the manager of the “we have full hook-ups” RV park, we then had to pack up again, back out, and pull into another site. I cannot overstate what a process this is. We shared frustrated hugs with the Wagners who had been having travel troubles of their own and what we planned on being a one or two night stay, turned into the better part of a week. We had a peaceful time with our friends at Leisure Mountain RV Park which was incredibly reasonably priced with our Passport America membership (highly recommend). The kids played, we worked, socialized, watched movies, walked dogs… Aside from continued RV repairs, it was a genuinely great time with friends high on the side of a mountain with a beautiful view.
I even met an online friend in person! We met up for a movie which, by decision of the children, turned into a park day instead. I’m so glad it did! Sylvia Toyoma and I talked and talked and the kids had a great time playing on the playground together. It felt really good to connect in person with someone with whom I have shared valued exchanges online.
Tara and I took the kids to Petroglyph National Monument to see 150,000 year-old art that had been carved into the rocks there by indigenous peoples. We could only guess what some of them were and what they could have meant but it was pretty darn cool to stand there where they stood and see the art that they created still present now.
The landscape in northern New Mexico is breathtaking. To stand at the top of the small mountain and look down on the landscape and see it littered with walled-in subdivisions looked like just that- litter. The kids noticed. I noticed. It made for interesting conversation for some time after, for sure.
Even more interesting conversation was to come. We decided to caravan on with the Wagners toward Las Vegas- their home and one of our destinations on the way to California. Oh the gorgeous mountains on our way! Oh the sadness we felt as we drove through and made a stop on Native American reservation land on our way out of northern New Mexico. The landscape was littered with run-down homes and we stopped in a literal shanty town which seemed to be upheld solely by fast food chains. Skulking stray dogs wandered the parking lots and cowered and ran when approached with food and water. The eyes of the people showed a deep sadness tempered in varying degrees with the robotic necessity of moving through life one step at a time. I considered the rich cultural heritage of these people and felt a loathing for imperialism and homogenization. New Mexico is famous for its landscape and justifiably so. I have to say that, overall, we were unimpressed by the energetics of the area of Albuquerque and the route that took us on our way out of New Mexico. It just didn’t feel good. We’ll be passing through New Mexico again on our way back through the southwest this winter. I’m open to suggestion as to things to see and places to go/stay. As always, there are many different factors that come into play in any experience and I know that we can’t generalize the whole state based on our limited experiences in one area. It did feel good to be on the road again….