Liralen Li (liralen) wrote,
Liralen Li

From Tucson to Taos via Truth or Consequences

I am traveling through lands where there are cities named "Why" or "Gunsight". I spent a peaceful night in "Truth or Consequences" and soaked for half an hour in a hot springs bath lined in stone and old mesquite wood that scented the heat humid air and soaked out the aches and pains of the old year in order to tackle the new.

Heading further north the snows are back, as is the high altitude dryness and piercing sunshine of the high desert. The jutting prows of mountains sail by in all directions in blood red, sandy gold, and watermelon pink. We're heading north now, through Albuquerque to Taos, after being so close to the Mexican border we could see another country over the next hill rise.

And ended up where hundreds of luminaria still light the snows, corrals hold tiny burros watching creches, old half fallen-down churches are named after all the saints, and a wood fire is at home in a hotel room.

We headed straight east on I-8, going for Tucson, partially because John had never been there, and also because at this time of year, the southern route is rarely stopped by snow. We just drove six hours, stopped at at Super 8, and went to dinner at an Olive Garden as we were just so tired, but the restaurant was just jammed with people, as it was New Years Eve, and we took a walk around the mall right across the parking lot from the restaurant. That was when we discovered the grocery store, which was fascinating to really wander around and see just how many thing were truly Mexican, like entire piles of lard in the butcher's Styrofoam trays, an entire row of Saint's candles, and two rows of chilies. The fresh pineapples were actually ripe, and the tomatillos were plentiful even this late.

The next morning we went to Sagauro National Park, and on the way in, we saw more cactus than I've ever seen in my life. Even the mansions on acres of land were "landscaped" with cactus, everything from prickly pear to saguaro, barrel cactus to agave, and boojum trees to Mormon tea trees. And thousands I couldn't identify.

We took a two mile walk along the trails through the cactus 'gardens'. Problem was that we hadn't brought our sun hats, just clear forgot about them when we'd remembered the fur hats for the snow and cold, since it was just so cold at home; and the Arizona sun is unforgiving. The walk itself was well worth doing, we saw all kinds of things, even how the dead saguaro shed their skins and leave a barrel of hard sticks as framework. The sticks are amazingly smooth and hard and dry, and were used to build the stick house of the three little javalinas in one of Jet's books. He remembered that. *laughs*

We walked down the soft sand of Javalina Arroyo, knowing it was a wash, but there was no rain in any direction. It reminded me of an underpass in Tucson proper that read, "Do not enter when flooded." Not "if" flooded, "when" flooded. I loved that.

I ended up with a severe headache after the walk, that even water and a rest in the shade of the A/C'ed car didn't help.

The Mescal Bar and Grill
We also stopped at the Mescal Bar on the way further East toward Las Cruses. It turned out to be a biker bar, and was completely filled with leather-clad Harley Davidson fans watching football, downing a few brews and eating the place out of tacos. *laughs* Jet watched in fascination while we waited for our food. The place was filled with smoke, something that I haven't experienced for a few years since Colorado went smokeless in public venues. It didn't help my headache any, but it certainly lent itself to the ambiance.

The food was excellent, too. Jet really loved his BBQ sandwich and my cheesesteak sandwich was juicy, well peppered and the onions were good and brown.

John's brother Walt had recommended a by-pass from I-8 to I-25 that was more scenic than just the straight highways, and it went along 152 (you can follow along on Google maps if you wish... I'll wait here until you're back), but John took a wrong turn where four highways came out of a town, the GPS didn't want him to take the scenic route. I was kind of passed out in the passenger seat due to the headache, but when I woke up we talked it over, saw a bypass back to the way Walt recommended and took that.

It was just gorgeous. It went up into the mountains between the two freeways, and twisted and wound its way around. If we'd hit it the first time, it would have been perfect timing, too, as the sunset happened while we were on the bypass back, even as it was, we got to snowy peaks we wouldn't have otherwise seen, and at night, when it was full dark, it was impressive to see the absolute blackness of stone and around its edge the silver glitter of stars and the half moon in the night sky. Snow lined the road at some of its toughest curves, and the roadway in the headlights was blood red from the redstone sand they'd put for traction.

It was a little hair-raising, though, to be on the edge of a cliff at night, with nothing but blackness below. *laughs* John did good about not hanging me too far out over the abyssal depths, and we made the whole drive in half an hour better time than the GPS predicted. Still, it was nearly 3 hours of winding curves, and by the time we got back to I-25 we were happy for the long straightaways.

Story Picture
Truth or Consequences used to be known as Hot Springs, NM, as downtown sits on a bed of quicksand and mud over a huge underground spring that spans 98-110 degrees Fahrenheit. There are hot spring baths all over the old downtown, and so the town was named after them, until the TV show had its contest. The city thought it would be a good idea for advertising themselves, and so they moved pretty quickly on the contest and managed to win! It's a nice town, bigger than I thought, but sleepy quiet this time of year, which suited us by the time we rolled in at 8pm, hungry for dinner and not quite knowing where we were going to stay.

Ended up at the Hot Springs Inn, not because they had a hot spring there, but because they were named after the town. Inexpensive, quiet, and clean, we just ate at the little steakhouse on the premises (adorable waitress who was obviously NOT the 'regular', who really wanted to please everyone with everything she did) and went to sleep.

Breakfast was good, as they had The Waffle Machine that the good places have, and real honey to put on them. My headache disappeared with my morning coffee, and Jet was happy as a bird in a bush about everything, which helped a great deal to make the morning brighter.

Indian Springs Hot Spring
The hotel beds and the van's seat was getting to my body, though, so I was pretty happy when John did the research on the hot springs themselves. We ended up at a small place that just charged $4 a person for half an hour, and we got the whole spring to ourselves. The whole thing was housed in a small wooden shack, with a wooden platform for changing. Stairs led down from the platform into the extraordinarily clear water. The pool was about 12 feet by 8 feet, so the 110 degree water had cooled a little by the time it collected. The pool itself was lined in stone, with loose smooth gravel on bottom that soothed the feet. It was about three and a half feet deep, so Jet was really comfortable in it. We just lounged about in the hot water like lizards, soaking up the humidity along with the heat. It eased travelling aches and pains and felt delicious against the cold desert morning air when we got out.

A wonderful way to start the day. *laughs*

I tried to get stamps in town, so I could send my postcards from Truth or Consequences, but everything was closed yesterday and today for the holiday, and the post office didn't have a vending machine out in the lobby. So no luck. I guess Truth can't be just mailed that way.

From there, we headed north again, and stopped in Albuquerque to visit with John's brother, Walt and his wife Cathie. Jet got a full out bench for his band saw, with adjustable heights so that when he gets taller the bench will grow with him. We gave them lemons, they gave us pears, and we ate tamales at their table, both festive red and green. Jet and LBC (the big black cat who was once the Little Black Cat) played with each other and I'm not sure if even they knew which had more fun. It was good catching up with them, and all their work and travels and plans for the coming year.

By mid-afternoon we were back on the road, and headed, once more, for the scenic route by Chimayo up to Taos instead of the broad ribbon of concrete that is the freeway. Chimayo is known for its museum and all the hand-crafted textiles on hand looms. It was all shut down for the holiday, however, and we were pretty late through the mountains again. Twilight on the peaks was haunting, however, and each layer of mountains faded into another all the way to the horizon.

We ended up at El Pueblo Lodge, on Paseo Del Norte, right above the Plaza. We'd stayed here before with John's parents, when they went skiing with Jet. The room rates are reasonable, especially since the snow here in Taos isn't so good, yet, this year. Given that and that it is a holiday, we tried our luck at Orlando's. It's a local restaurant that serves Northern New Mexican cuisine, and is very popular about these parts. So popular that we had to wait nearly an hour, the last time we were here around New Years. This time it was colder yet, I think, but there was no line. We were seated as soon as we got in and served nearly as quickly.

Orlando's in Taos
They have a 2 Cool local root beer, and Jet and I got those, while John got a beer. We ordered two Los Colores (three enchiladas with their three chilies on three types of enchilada, the usual red and green, and their very own chili caribe) and one Carne Adobada, which Jet wanted, as it had pork medallions marinated and grilled. All were served with their beans and posole, and Jet got a flour tortilla as well. It was all really good, not too spicy hot, but really spicy and flavorful with the kinds of flavors that befit the region. *laughs* Loved it.

We also really loved the brownie sundae we all shared after, as much for its cooling effects on the tongue as for the creamy delight of the ice cream and the nutty moistness of the hot brownie underneath. So well-filled we headed to our room, lit the fire in the fireplace, and played Zombie Fluxx for three hands. We have the other version of Fluxx, and Jet bought John the Zombie version for Christmas. Jet was especially intrigued by this version because the Monty Python version specifically said that it shouldn't be mixed with the Zombie version as it's just too insane. Now he wants, of course, to mix the two.

We're now within striking distance of home, and will likely make it there tomorrow. H-Mart, however, lies between here and there, and we may not make it past there without a visit. *laughs* It's been good to be on the road again, in a lot of ways, but it'll be good to be home again soon.
Tags: travel

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