Chasing the Seventies and the Sunset

Reluctantly, we left Santa Fe. We were there for five days, but two or so, not feeling so hot. There’s so much more to see in the city and for miles around. We’ll just have to return.

We took the Turquoise Trail, highway 14, south rather than I-25, for its scenic beauty. It did not let us down. Along the way, we stopped in Madrid (pronounced Mad´-rid) an art colony where one leaflet mentioned a ‘chance to see great jewelry, weavings, and hippies’. How could we resist?

Parked in a wide spot off the narrow two-lane road, in front of a closed wine bar, I waited with the truck, dog, and ePod, while Bruce went to inquire about the appropriateness of our parking.

A bit later he returned with a lovely woman who looked over our situation, and gave our parking her blessing. So, we popped Sprocket into the ePod and began to explore the town, starting with her gallery.

She, Diana, and her husband Mel Johnson had settled in this faded little coal-mining town in the 70s, and as their gallery expanded to include more artists, an artists’ community had grown around it that now includes some thirty galleries and is now the highlight of the Turqouise Trail. It’s still funky and fun, although one block was purchased and upscaled to mimic Canyon Road. They have mixed feelings about that.

Mel‘s paintings, which are currently hung as a one-man show, are aerial imaginings of clustered houses, or trees, or desert terrain. He gives the viewer the gift of flight, of orthographic perspective. We loved them! Some were delightful cut-paper repeat patterns of multiple houses in stark light and shadow; all roof angles and chimneys, or gables and porches. There was even one where a whole colorful colony of similar cottages had simply taken flight into a strong blue sky. Diana and other fabric artists had filled one room with wonderful clothing designs along with some fine Indian jewelry.

At a gallery up the road called the Gifted Hand, the owner (once a 70s resident of a houseboat in Sausalito) admired my old turquoise necklace and showed me a contemporary greenish turquoise necklace that was also from the Santo Domingo Pueblo, was reasonably priced, and complemented the greens in mine. Bruce had suggested I get some turquoise while in New Mexico, so Mother’s Day came a little early.

The turquoise Trail joins I-40 in Albuquerque where we checked in and set up at the Albuquerque KOA. We hadn’t planned on a stop in Albuquerque, but heard of two irresistible attractions; one a ride on the world’s longest tramway and the other, attending a Pow-Wow.

About sunset we drove to the Sandia Peak Tramway, got on with about fifty others, without waiting, and began an exciting 15-minute ride to the top of Sandia Mountain at over 10,000 feet. We wore some layers,
knowing it would be cold, but as we crowded into the tram, which held 50 people, an L.E.D. displayed the temperature at the top: 37º, and that was with the sun shining!

It was a beautiful ride with the raking light of the setting sun. We soared over massive granite upthrusts, gorges of ponderosa pines and oaks. Without our guide telling us, we would never have known that one slender granite finger of rock was actually eight storeys tall. Despite our difficulty of truly grasping the scale of the mountain-scape, it was thrilling to have a hawk’s-eye view of the crags and canyons, and to feel the gentle, but disconcerting sway as the gondola rose over one of it’s towers, and then stabilized in the slight droop that followed. The wind, which had blown a dusty haze into the air all day was now blowing thermals around the mountain and howling as we stepped out onto the upper station. Cold! Very cold! We enjoyed taking pictures, but when our hands grew numb, we went over to the restaurant to warm up.



At the restaurant called ‘High Finance’ (I don’t know why, they thought it clever, I guess), we had a balanced meal of chips and salsa, beer, and a very good blueberry cake while waiting for the final moments of the sunset.

When we returned to the upper visitors’ center, the sun was going down and the wind was whipping up, making a steady stance difficult for camera work. We would periodically venture out into the wind and cold to snap a few more photos. The final throes of the sunset were shot bracing one’s feet, holding on the railing to keep from being blown over, freezing hands, and thinking ‘What the hell am I doing?’. Guesstimated wind-chill of about twenty degrees.

We popped in and out of the building to shoot pictures and then warm up until the sun disappeared. Then we huddled with a mass of 48 other frozen people into the tram (remember ‘The March of the Penguins’?) and dropped swiftly into the dusk. Altogether exhilarating!

The ride down was equally exciting¬¬–this time with addition of city lights below.

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