Time is really starting to fly by! I’m already 8 days behind with updates on our trip and, truly, there is so much fun still to come! We left you last in a hotel on the other side of Amarillo, Texas after an exciting night of attempted communion with nature. The next two nights we were planning to sleep in a tipi in a little town near Taos, New Mexico, so I didn’t feel too bad about giving up on camping in the wee hours of our nation’s birthday.
The morning after the fireworks, I let Eli sleep in a bit and I traipsed down to see what goodies the Days Inn provided as part of their “free breakfast with stay” deal. They had omelets, I was surprised! I grabbed a cup of coffee and an omelet and started heading back to my room. In front of me there was a woman who I had seen eating breakfast with her husband and two children. She stopped at the room right across from mine and we spoke for a few minutes about traveling with kids. I’m not sure what started the conversation, though I probably spoke first. My kids tell me I embarrass them by talking to strangers all the time. I tell them that it is my job to embarrass them!
It turned out that they were on their way back home to Georgia from a shooting competition in Salt Lake City, Utah and they had already been many of the places in Utah that we were planning to go. As the mother, Mary, and I were talking, the whole family walked up and Mary introduced me to her husband, Joe, her daughter, Alaina, and her son, Joseph. Joseph told me about their dog Lump, which stands for something that I can’t remember (guys, if you read this PLEASE share! I do remember that it made me laugh!). They told me about the places they had been that were off the beaten path. Mary actually ran back to the car and got all of the information they had used on their trip and gave it to me! I have used that national parks book you gave me a LOT already! It was so generous of you to share all of that information with me! Thanks so much!!
After Mary and family drove away, I woke Eli up and gave him the exciting news that we had five hours to drive before he could sleep in a tipi. He was thrilled beyond words, see the picture above for an example of his enthusiasm. On today’s itinerary…New Mexico!
Since it was still the 4th of July, it was only fitting that we have lunch at a Dairy Queen on the way out of town…hot dogs and DQ blizzards…what could be more American?!
On the road to Taos I had to resist the urge to stop and take a picture every 5 minutes. The scenery turned more lush, more green, and the temperature seemed to drop a little. It was 86 degrees, but Eli and I rode with the windows down for the last hour of the trip. The air was pleasant and fresh, not the slightest bit hot or muggy, as 86 degrees would have seemed to us in Charlotte, NC. We drove through pine forests that reminded me of home. We passed huge mountains that seemed to appear out of nowhere in the flat, sage dotted prairie. We drove through scrubby little towns that brought to mind some of the small mountain villages that surround Mexico City. Indeed, there must have been a reason why early Spanish settlers called this area “Nuevo” (New) Mexico. The variation in landscape from desert to forest, from mountains to plain has the feel of Mexico, and the Rio Grande flows from deep within the new to join borders with the old. I love Mexico. I studied there a bit while in college, and so I found this state simply beautiful, from its geography to the people I saw and met along the way. The laid back atmosphere, the landscape, the people of all colors and shapes and sizes…simply wonderful!
We drove through Taos, NM and into a small area outside the town called Arroyo Seco de Taos, where we had reservations to stay two nights in a tipi at Snow Mansion. Snow Mansion is a hostel/hotel that caters to skiers during winter months.
When we drove up, I must admit that I wondered if I had made a mistake. It was so different than any place I have ever stayed. It seemed almost like a hippie commune. As much as I like to think I have some trace of hippie attitude within myself, this was way out of my comfort zone. There were about six young men lounging in a shaded area next to the outdoor kitchen. There was a girl sitting on a log just beyond the tipis with her back to the others, dressed in a traditional Swedish costume, complete with ribbons wound in her long blonde braids. She was playing the guitar and loudly singing without using any discernible words. There were people milling in and out of the building who looked a little scruffier than I’m used to in my upper middle class Charlotte, NC neighborhood. Eli and I stuck out… REALLY stuck out! As Jorell, the guy from the front desk, took us on a tour, I had a sudden flashback of the fear of being different in middle school, the age Eli is now, and I wondered what he was thinking. After Jorell showed us to our tipi and left, Eli turned to me and said, “Let’s leave!”
I flinched at the screech of the strange girl singing her unearthly song near the tipi, and the image of a comfy, quiet hotel room with a view popped into my mind, but I would not be deterred from my goal of experiencing new things on this trip! I promised him that if we didn’t feel better by the next day we could stay somewhere else the second night. This was a test of the words I wrote in my post, “Fear Itself.” If I allowed myself to fear people simply because they are different from me, I would be a hypocrite.
In less than twelve hours, though, I would find that our attitudes about the place and the people there would morph from discomfort with a trace of fear, to genuine acceptance, appreciation and a kind of love for the people staying at Snow Mansion.
That night, since we had already had hot dogs for lunch, we decided that Mexican food would be a great way to celebrate the evening of the 4th. We went to a place called Orlando’s where I had the grilled shrimp and chile relleno and Eli had a beef chimichanga. It was delicious and the service was fabulous as well!
As I was drifting off to sleep, listening to the quiet, sweet sound of guitar playing and people humming softly around the campfire out back, I heard a disturbing sound from Eli’s side of the room. I jumped up and ran over to him. The hot dogs and Mexican food had been too much.
I was getting Eli out of his bedding and trying to figure out what to do next when I heard the voice of Beth, a woman from Asheville, NC who I had had met earlier in the afternoon, “Are you okay, Angie?” She and her husband, Bob had been out by the campfire and heard me talking to Eli. Eli and his bed were a mess. She came in and helped me get him out of the sleeping bag and into the showers in the kitchen area. While he was in the shower, Sam and Jorell, who had also been out by the fire, helped me clean the tent and moved our things inside the hotel. I’m sure there were others who helped, because it seemed like a community effort. Before I knew it, we were both clean and tucked in a comfortable room inside the Snow Mansion. Eli got his wish to sleep inside yet again, though I don’t think that he would have chosen to go to such lengths, and I gave up on the tipi for the rest of our stay. Maybe we weren’t meant to sleep outside?
Sam, on the left, is a writer for the blog, driftersguidetotheplanet.com. Jorell is a ski instructor and works at Snow Mansion in the off season. These guys were awesome! Thanks!!
Song of the day: You’ve Got a Friend by James Taylor. Because I now count the people mentioned in this post as friends and Arroyo Seco de Taos seems like a great place for a James Taylor song.