By Ed Martley
There’s something about the combination of a powerful car, a warm night and a beautiful, empty highway that compels you to cruise hour after hour at more than 100 mph, windows and radio wide open. That’s how my decades-long love affair with New Mexico began.
In the late 1970s; I was operating a clothing store in South Dakota, and a good friend was working in Las Cruces, N.M. So I drove down to visit — after all, 1,000 miles is nothing to an old road warrior in an Oldsmobile 98. Las Cruces was a nice town of about 35,000 then and has grown to more than 100,000 today. Anyway, I decided open a branch of the store there. Which I did, got tired of the commute after a couple of years, and sold out. But in the years since, we have traveled throughout New Mexico, always finding adventure, always finding something new.
Our most recent visit, in early December of 2016, was to attend a feast day observance of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the pueblo of Tortugas, which adjoins Las Cruces. You can read Suzanne’s observations about the fiesta in last week’s Rapid City Journal. More on the rest of that trip in a subsequent installment of this series of stories.
That is only the most recent adventure. Early during our years of discovery roaming the Land of Enchantment, I took my daughters, ages 12 and 15, to Santa Fe, state capital and one of the great towns on the planet. There is a downtown square of a block on each side. In and around the square are handcrafters, artists, jewelry makers, fortunetellers, acrobats, musicians and dozens of delightful characters doing weird things — all hoping to relieve you of some of your money.
We stopped at one table of handmade jewelry where youngest daughter was examining a nose decoration. The idea was, you shoved a little magnet up your nose to hold a jewel to the outside of your nose. She tried one out, and after much grimacing and contorting, was up to the second joint before she got the hang of it. The magnet didn’t hold well so we didn’t buy it; the vendor wiped the magnet on his sleeve and tossed it back in the box.
As we walked away, oldest daughter asked, did you notice that guy who was watching you? Youngest daughter said no, who was it? “Eric Clapton,” oldest daughter replied.
On that same trip, we visited the museum at Los Alamos where we got an education on the atomic bomb, which was designed and built there.
Not far from Los Alamos is wonderful Bandelier National Monument, where you can crawl around in some ancient cliff dwellings. The girls were delighted when they looked into one of the cave-like rooms and saw a pair of elderly women on their knees, crying and reciting unintelligible words, perhaps praying to or for the spirits of the long-departed residents? The so-called great mystery of the disappearance of the original Anasazi residents has filled popular books and TV shows. (According to current theories, they moved out when their water source ran dry. Their ancestors live in communities down the road, making pottery and silver jewelry in the same designs as artifacts found at the site.)
We will be offering several more stories and many pictures about New Mexico travels in subsequent weeks. This coming spring, we will be in New Mexico again, although briefly. We plan to drive a portion of fabled Route 66, heading westward out of Albuquerque.