Monday, September 3, 2012

New Mexico Dreams

Monday Mystery Tour
September 3, 2012
Labor Day

This story written and previously posted in 2005.

The Colorado experiment was good for the most part. I had lived my whole life in the Midwest up until then with just a little time out, when I lived in Chicago, to visit Southeast Asia at a place known as French Indo-China. Shortly after that I moved to Minnesota and it was from there I made the sojourn West to Grand Junction early in 1993.

Why Grand Junction? It’s simple, really. My teenage daughters refused to go to New Mexico. When I fell in love with New Mexico in the early 1990’s, I had been living in extreme Northern Minnesota running a lodge in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. We lived literally on the Canadian border in a cabin. I’m still in love with that area, too.

But it was time to go. I was working at a YMCA camp that was situated on West Bearskin Lake. A very unique setting made this place inaccessible by land. You had to cross the lake, about a mile of water, to get to it. I’ll save describing that experience for another time. This time, we’re going to Silver City, New Mexico.

Since Camp Menogyn was across the water, it was hard to get there when the lake was in Fall freezeup or Spring thaw. I was scheduled the months of April and November off because of this. So, it was in November of 1992 that I took the old Chevy pick-up out of the storage garage and turned it South.

It was a grand old truck. Under 50,000 rounds on the motor and clean as a whistle. It drove great and as I headed South to escape Northern Minnesota’s icy grip, I remember going all night and waking up, near Wichita, Kansas the next morning, from a nap I took in the front seat.

I rolled around down there through the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles and into New Mexico. The air felt good. It was warm for November and what I’d been used to at this time of year back on the Canadian border. I cracked the window to let some of the sweet wind into the cab of the old truck. I‘m sure I was blastin’ something good on the stereo. Probably the theme song from the Magnificent Seven movie.

In Tucumcari, I had breakfast at Del’s, a place that is still around today, and I had my first taste of Chile Verde on my Huevos Rancheros. I was hooked. I rambled on, still headed Southwest. I didn’t have a destination or a roadmap. You see, I didn’t believe the signs that told me “you can’t get there from here”.

The stage was set. Warm sweet air, beautiful vistas of sage spotted high plains and rounded rocks, new virgin scenery for my eyes and thoughts of adventure in my mind. The road took me to a small town that lies on the Southern end of the Gila National Forest, Silver City. 

I wandered back to the North along the West slope of the Rockies, and then home after visiting with some friends. A great trip. I wanted to go back to Silver City, and I did, about a year later. This time with some idea to stay a little longer.

New Mexico panarama

The elevation is 5900 feet above sea level. The terrain is hilly with oceans of sage. South, the land drops off into Deming or Lordsburg into a deep and broad sandy rocky trough. To the North is the Gila National Forest. Pines and elevations as high as 10,000 feet.

The town itself was smallish with copper mining the main industry. Like other mine operations, it ebbed and flowed its economic virtue to the area in spurts. Signs of prosperity mixed in with failed bankrupt endeavors. The downtown had its share of empty storefronts. Rent was cheap and so was  a spot for the RV at the city park. I pulled in and set up the 1960’s era camper and started to explore my new surroundings.

The coffee shop was found right away. Called A.I.R. for Artist In Residence, it served a top-notch Americano. The proprietor moved to Silver City from Seattle. Now Seattle is known for it’s coffee and she brought the craft of roasting and serving full-bodied drinks to this great little spot in New Mexico. She also brought her artwork and gave the place a special feel. It was here, in the mornings of January and February, that I sat and enjoyed many of the 308 days they average in sunshine per year. 

The temps were moderate. Some days it was in the 60’s and pushed into the 70’s. Others, it stayed cool at the mid 50’s. Winter nights could see a drop into the frosty range with an inch of fluffy white stuff, but it melted quickly. 

I do miss my old Jeep

I explored the area with drives in my jeep, picking up rocks as I stopped to hike around. I met small towns in the mountains and highway stops, both abandoned and working, as I trolled. 

The Gila Cliff Dwellings, outside.....

Mimbres Valley, Faywood, Fort Bayard, Santa Clarita, Tyrone. The Gila Cliff Dwellings are a sight to behold. The Magollon populated them high above the river for shelter and existence long before recorded history. Well worth the hike to view the caverns from the inside. Pinos Altos and its abandoned mining camps, the massive working copper mines with their mountains made from stratified tailings. And the endless forest roads through the Gila, miles and miles of them, leading to lakes and panoramas, a place to spend hours gazing and listening.

And inside

Nowadays, Silver City has hit a stride. The old storefronts are filled with galleries and art studios. The retail and work space, once in abundance and had for cheap is in demand and more expensive. Tourists make it a destination to shop the galleries filled with pottery, paintings, sculpture and jewelry. 

Your truly in front of my old storefront workshop apartment in Silver City, NM

In 1998, I rented one of these storefronts and used it as a workshop with sleeping quarters in the back. For a couple of Winters, I set up my operation making my crafts and handiwork. The miles and situation made me give it up. Now, I just visit Silver City and enjoy the weather.

Over the years, I have experienced many ways to travel and live. Most of the habitat experiments were first tried in Silver. The RV trailer, motorhome or tent at the City park or up in the mountains, the motel suite complete with kitchenette, (microwave and small fridge), renting a house for a month at a time and the aforementioned storefront/apartment. None better than the other. I still play it by ear when I travel and crash where it happens, all the while searching for the holy grail of a diner. Nancy’s is Silver City’s breakfast spot, with El Paisanos the dinner favorite. Both Mexican, both muy bueno.

Beautiful rainbow over the Silver City shop

Last February was the last time I was there. I stayed in another area about 75 miles away, but made my visit to Silver City. I go back at least once every year. This year holds a plan to venture down that way around Labor Day to the annual Apple festival in Hillsboro and the Chile affair in Hatch. I’ll have to give you specifics when I get back.

Thanks for letting me bend your ear today. 


I wrote this story and posted it many years ago. I still get to Silver City often when I am traveling. I am about to leave on a motorcycle trip to Taos, NM tomorrow. I’ll meet up with other Triumph motorcycle enthusiasts in Taos for a few days, then use a few more days on my own, to visit and explore. Silver City is always on my list of places to get to and enjoy again.

More recently, I have been traveling to and staying in Truth Or Consequences. T or C, as the locals refer to their unique town name, is about 100 miles away from Silver City and involves a great ride over Emory Pass in the Black Mountain Range, not to mention the annual chile harvest being in full swing and the edible delicacies available at every diner, restaurant and taco cart.

Last time I was in New Mexico was last September. I left there fully anticipating the idea of returning and spending much of the winter in the warmer milder climate. That didn’t happen as I was reeling from a heart episode and placement of a pacemaker.

I will attempt the trip, starting tomorrow, the day after Labor Day, on my motorcycle. I’m not totally sure I can make such a journey, but I am going to try. If I fail and fall short of my destination, so be it. I simply turn around and return home or call a friend and have him pick me and my bike up with his trailer. But I must try to make an attempt at one more adventure.

I plan to live until I die, not just be alive

Thank you for joining me on this journey from the past here at Round Circle.



Anonymous said...

Have a great trip Joe~~ an adventure!! Doesn't really matter how far you get~~ just that you GO!~~ maggie moonbeam

Jeannie said...

Have a good trip - hope you make it. I can understand the draw of this locale - very magical if that is the right word. Probably not but I'm sure you understand. I think I would love the food as much as you do. There's a new Mexican place downtown here that I've been meaning to try. None of the Mexican places seem to thrive for some reason even though the food is good.

Kim Mailhot said...

Safe and peaceful trails to you, Man. Go slow to go fast, as my Momma says.
Much love !

Mel said...

Oh boy.......

I understand. Forgive me for my concern, it doesn't seem that long ago, yaknow?

I'll pray.
G-d's taken very good care of you, no reason to not entrust you to His care now!!


Safe journey, sir.
I mean that.......

gma said...

Silver City is one interesting place. My Mom grew up there so we often visited when I was a child. Now I like to go see the old places they lived and visit the Mimbres River Valley. Lots of family memories great historical stuff. Also LOVE the old adobe churches.. awesome.
Hope you are having a great trip.