Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Pagosa Springs, Colorado – February 17-21, 2023


It started out with me only getting two hours of sleep before heading out to the airport. I should have slept only one hour. I missed my 5:18 AM flight, which got in at 10:30 AM with only one connection. Instead I took three flights, and got in at 10:45 PM. I did manage to see some fun fiber art in the Philadelphia airport. No dinner out with Jim, but we ate together at the house he’s renting in Albuquerque, where he’ll be until September, working on Duster. See IMDB for details, but it’s about a getaway driver who uses a Plymouth Duster as the getaway car. (Note that Jim is not listed as part of the crew because they still have the information for a pilot which they shot but are not going to use.)

The next day, Saturday, we went to check out the petroglyphs from what used to be known as the Anastasi. Apparently that word means ‘ancestors of our enemies’, so the correct name of those peoples is Ancestral Puebloans. There are three locations in Albuquerque that contain petroglyphs, as was explained to us by a wonderful woman, who clearly was originally from New York – that was not a New Mexico accent. She described one of the locations as The Hotel California because so many people go to that location and can’t find their way out. She was a hoot. Another location required some fairly serious climbing over boulders. We chose the third location, Rinconada Canyon, which was a soft sand path of about two miles each way. I was following Jim and cursing myself for having let myself get so out of shape that I was really out of breath and struggling to keep up – and it was basically flat. I felt like a 90-year-old. I continued to beat myself up about how lame I was until we were almost done with the walk when Jim alluded to the altitude. Doh! I was actually pretty relieved that I wasn’t as much of a crock as I was feeling that I was.

Data from the app My Altitude, to which I became a bit addicted on this trip. This is a screenshot from Albuquerque. Note that water boils at a different temperature at different altitudes. Who knew??

So the altitude or elevation in Northampton is 190 feet. So, yeah, not acclimated to 5,000 feet. Don’t let anyone tell you that going from 190 feet of elevation to 5,000 feet doesn’t affect you. Such a strange feeling. Doing something that is normally simple, like opening a bag of crackers that is not as easy to open as it should be, but really isn’t a Herculean task, becomes, well, a Herculean task. And my legs were really sore from hoofing 5000+ steps in the airport from the day before. There just isn’t the oxygen to get them fixed up even after such a small effort. Slight nausea, shadow of a headache, coming and going and reminding me to do some deep breathing, which helped a bit. The next day we had cannisters of oxygen called Boost, and taking a few hits of that helped for a hour or so, not completely, but enough to make walking up a slight incline be less like climbing Everest.

The petroglyph site was DIY in terms of finding the things. Some were really faint, some quite obvious. And there were quite a few aliens depicted. I’m already perplexed that the aliens would find it amusing to help build the pyramids, make some crazy patterns in the corn fields, and feel compelled to help the Druids create a circle of rocks. But they also went to New Mexico and hung out with the Ancestral Puebloans??? Well, if that’s not the case, what the hell are these?

There were many more earthly petroglyphs as well.

Note the ancient emoticon next to the things that look like chess pieces (Spanish crosses). There were a bunch of these but I seem to have captured only one.

That afternoon we drove up to Santa Fe and wandered a bit around the old town and then went to Meow Wolf, which I will describe later. Jim bought tickets and then discovered we really didn’t have time to go through it because we had a dinner reservation about 45 minutes north of Santa Fe. What was most memorable about that part of the day was climbing a small incline, K2, from where we parked to Meow Wolf, only to have the effort wasted. (Santa Fe is at 6,000 feet.)

Our dinner was at NOSA, presumably named for North of Santa Fe. We didn’t take pictures of the place or the food. That felt a bit pretentious and we were just enjoying our dinner rather than preserving it for posterity. You can see pictures of the restaurant at their website. We were seated near a fireplace, using real wood, not gas, which was lovely. There were only six or seven tables in the room, five of which were in use, 12 diners in all. There is only one seating since it is a five-course dinner. We opted for the wine parings, half a glass of wine with each course. This was really the best part of the meal. The wines were really interesting, all very good and all different from the usual we drink at home. The one with the ridiculous name (Don’t Forget to Soar) was one that I really would like to find, but all were wonderful.

The food was very good and somewhat inventive other than the dessert, which was basically a lava cake with whipped cream. I know it says dulce de leche, but it tasted and had the consistency of whipped cream. We didn’t remember to specify gluten-free when we booked, so we couldn’t eat much of the dessert, but we were accommodated on that front in every other course. It’s nice to eat somewhere where they don’t treat you like a freak if you request gluten-free.

The duck was cooked to perfection and served deboned with a lovely sauce. I’d never eaten persimmons before, and they are lovely. The beets were amusing because they were very small and in graduated sizes. Were they able to pick them out at a farmer’s market or did they shave them?

The next day we went to Meow Wolf in the morning. What is Meow Wolf? It’s hard to describe. Check out @meowwolfsantafe on Instagram for the best set of pictures to evoke what it is. Here’s their description:

Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return is a mind-bending, explorable art experience for people of all ages in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Suffice it to say that our minds were not bent except by one out of the 70 rooms. One wanders through rooms, some like rooms in a somewhat creepy house, where you can go through the fridge, for example, to another room. Others are just painted weirdly or have huge plastic constructions. There were teenagers looking in a mailbox or a teapot or any other type of containers, presumably for clues to some mystery hunt, but Jim and I just walked around underwhelmed. Until we came to the room where everything was covered in everyday stuff, much of it obsolete, like floppy disks. Zoom in on the circle at the top of the picture of Jim and me and you’ll see vampire teeth around the outside with bread bag clasps inside them. Who knew prescription bottle tops, used toothbrushes, and even empty birth-control packets could be so beautiful.

This room felt like an artist had created it. Other than this, the rest of the place seemed like a warped, dingy Disney, with no feeling of a person behind the creations. A fun house, not an art house. But people are lined up for every timed entry. You gotta give it to them for raking money in with it. We both tried to not think about the fact that we could have gone to the Museum of International Folk Art instead.

After that odd and disappointing experience, we drove up to Pagosa Springs, Colorado, to go to the mineral springs. It is a 3-hour drive from Santa Fe. Albuquerque is lots of beige sand with little round bushes scattered about and snow-capped mountains around it. When there aren’t any man-made structures, it is quite beautiful, but most of it is just bleak. Santa Fe is pretty much the same. But the drive up to Colorado was truly amazing. I have never been out West except to LA and San Francisco and a brief time in Phoenix for a conference. What I remember about Phoenix was the green-grass-with-hundreds-of-sprinklers resort where the conference was held and acres and acres of gray sand with an occasional cactus.

A good bit of the drive to Colorado was through the most amazing rock formations. I kept thinking of the Egyptian statues of Ramses and Gaudi’s cathedral. They were immense. The photographs cannot capture their grandeur. We passed Ghost Ranch, a place Georgia O’Keefe’s stayed/visited?/definitely painted, on the way. I had always imagined her desert time as being in acres of beige sand with a scattering of cacti. I totally get why she chose to paint in that place.

Colorado was covered in at least a foot of snow, very green and beautiful. We got to the Springs Resort at about 3:45, with check-in being 4:00. I was hoping we could check in a bit early but instead we were told they were short-staffed so our room wasn’t ready. I was fuming. We had massages scheduled for 5:30 and I envisioned us taking a dip in the baths and then showering before our massages. We didn’t get into the room until 4:45, so no baths that day. (We could have gone after dinner, but we were too full and tired.) Jim successfully headed me off from using my full-on bitch voice at the front desk, but I was still fuming when we got to the massages.

But I got the most incredible experience. It wasn’t just a massage, at least the masseuse, Kristine, used a bunch of techniques. It was therapeutic as well as bliss-inducing. She figured out the places on my right leg that have been somewhat tweaky since the half marathon I did in April. And that my jaw wasn’t right. (I fell and really jammed it to one side three years ago and it’s not been right since.) She put on gloves and manipulated my jaw from the inside. It was sore afterwards, but my teeth were aligned for the first time in years. She was a true magician. When I asked her to move to Northampton she said she’s asked to move to people’s towns frequently. Jim got a nice massage, but unfortunately for him, not from a magician.

We had dinner in Pagosa Springs, not at the Resort, in town at the Alley House Grille. Jim was brave enough to order the elk tenderloin. I was worried that it would be gamey. It wasn’t. It was fantastic. I had lamb shank, which was very good. If I see elk on the menu again in my life, I will order it.

The next morning Jim went to the front desk and got us an extra hour before we had to checkout. because we had to wait to check in. (I think he was still worried that I’d inflict my bitch voice on the staff.) The normal check-out time is 10:00, which is really early if you want to get in the baths before checking out. So we had until 11:00. In the end I was glad to have had the hour the next day instead of pre-massage and Jim was spared my bitch voice.

There are 25 pools all sourced from the mother spring. The mother spring is way too hot to get in, but feeds all the pools at the resort. It is right outside the main resort building. You can see that Pagosa Springs is over 7,000 feet high. We were both sucking on Boost oxygen canisters before and after our baths.

We started out in a 100 degree pool, which was the most beautiful since there was a wall of stalactites created by the minerals, and the steam rising off it was absolutely magnificent. Then we moved to a pool that was 102 degrees and after a while to one that was 101. Yes, a degree or two does make a difference. The pool that is 106 degrees is called the Lobster Pot. We didn’t try that one.

The pools are along the San Juan river, and across the river is the main street of town, where there are other resorts and lots of restaurants. There were ducks in the river, which let us know that, even though the hot water was flowing into the river, it must not have raised the temperature too high.

It was absolutely delicious soaking in the pools. There were other people in the pools, but only one had a group that was taking up the entire pool. Most had one other couple in it, so it didn’t feel crowded at all. It was a little hard to leave, but we were fully soaked at the end of a little over an hour.

We had breakfast at the Rose, huevos rancheros for both of us, and I bought myself a souvenir from Goodman’s Department Store, over 100 years old. I couldn’t resist the donkey.

Then we headed back on the four-hour drive back to Albuquerque. Jim made us a nice dinner and we had an early night so Jim could go to work at an ungodly hour. He took me to the airport for my basically all-day trip home.

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