My day began with waffles again, for the third day in a row, fortifying myself for a drive south on US 84 from Pagosa Springs to Santa Fe, New Mexico. On my way through the dry Carson National Forest I saw some beautiful sandstone formations and then a sign for “Echo Amphitheater” – which certainly demanded investigation.
Two bucks bought me the privilege of walking up to a massive concave erosion in a sandstone hillside. Little lizards darted across the concrete sidewalk leading up to the formation, and I paused to admire the hillside both to the left and the right of the amphitheater itself, and then walked to the reflector and tried out the quick, faint echo.
Leaving the area, I passed some buttes near Ghost Ranch, the summer home of artist Georgia O’Keefe and now a retreat for the Presbyterian Church. This portion of US 84 was quite scenic, prompting me to pull over at picnic stops and admire view after view after view of the fascinating red sandstone formations. It is no wonder O’Keefe loved it here. The road soon passed by the Rio Chama, a tributary of the Rio Grande, and on through the tiny town of Abiquiú, where scenes from the latest Indiana Jones movie and City Slickers were shot.
I had a long traffic delay in Española, a town of 10,000 or so which claims to be the First Capital City in America since it was designated as one for Spain back in 1598. I began to wonder if US 84 would be a 35 mi/h drive for the entire 25 miles to Santa Fe, but after surviving some construction funded by the Recovery Act of 2009, the road finally ran back up to highway speeds until I hit Santa Fe.
I followed a 1961 Bonneville convertible through much of Santa Fe, bound for a recommended Mexican restaurant, only to find that it was not open on Sunday. My iPhone was being far too sluggish to try and ask Yelp or Urbanspoon or the like for another recommendation. AT&T had little data service around Pagosa Springs and often no phone service at all along the highways in south Colorado and north New Mexico, plus my iPhone 3G has been very sluggish ever since I upgraded to iOS 4. I’m very glad my new iPhone 4 is waiting for me back home – my TomTom GPS navigation app on this trip has been agonizingly slow to both boot and respond to commands. Plus I hate having to exit out of it to adjust audio playback, search the internet, and so forth.
Anyhow, I located lunch by the tried-and-true method of looking for a packed parking lot. I found it at Los Potrillos, a converted Pizza Hut. I wondered about that, but the place was humming and sure enough, my fajitas were excellent and accompanied by two thick handmade tortillas. I now find an online review agrees with my assessment (and the money I saved on lunch I later spent on an absurdly overpriced lemon tart and $2.50 Sprite in the downtown Plaza district).
I then drove over to a railroad station and parked, catching a shuttle bus up Museum Hill to the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, which is billed as the world’s largest such event. It began in 2004 and this year had 170 folk artists from 52 countries for the three-day market. I like to visit art museums, yet I’m no collector of folk art. But after several days of solitary trail hikes, I was ready for a crowd and expected there would be some interesting international entertainment.
It wasn’t long before I was staring into the face of a live Vietnamese lion…as enacted by members of the Quang Minh Buddhist Youth Lion Dance Team, that is. Soon I spotted some African drums up on the event stage and found a seat for a performance by Agalu and Friends. This drumming group is led by Akeem Ayanniyi, the ninth generation of his family to play the traditional Yoruba talking drum. He hails from the Western Nigerian town of Erin Oshun and settled in Santa Fe in 1993, founding the group in 1998. Other group members include Nigerian percussionists Ayo Adeyemi, Tunde Ojeyemi and Gasali Adeyemo, who play djembe, djun djun, ashiko and bata drums.
Their performance was invigorating in the heat of the afternoon. Soon after they began a gent in tight biker clothes was up by the stage wiggling to the beat. Then he was joined by a tall red-haired lady, with a silly Dalmation dog bag slung on her back. I didn’t get to giggle for too long, because the performers want an active audience. They would teach us the words to a song and have us sing along with them, clapping our hands with the beat. It was grand fun and I made sure to catch a few snatches of the event on video.
Later I managed to locate their booth and, while I resisted purchasing a drum, I did buy a CD. After a couple of hours in the bright sun at the market, I was glad to board the shuttle, where I visited with a lady who has homes in Roger Mills county back in Oklahoma as well as in Odessa, Texas and Taos, New Mexico – an interesting assortment. Back at my car I drove to the historic center of town and parked near the Plaza, which was founded in 1610.
My first stop was the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, a yellow limestone Romanesque Revivalist building built between 1869 and 1886. Out in front of the cathedral a statue of Saint Francis was joined by one of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first North American Indian to be declared a saint. She was Mohawk-Algonquian and lived from 1656-1680 in what is now New York state. The towers still lack their originally planned steeples – maybe Frank Keating can campaign for them since he managed to finally get a dome put on Oklahoma’s capitol building.
I admired the cathedral’s bronze door reliefs, the nave, the sanctuary with its altar screen, its large crucifixion sculpture, the La Conquistadora statue of 1626 in her elaborate chapel, and the version of Our Lady of the Rosary in stained glass. Then I walked over to the Plaza itself, with its fairly plain American Indian War Memorial monument. The nearby Palace of the Governors, the oldest continually occupied public building in the United States, had Indian vendors lined up along its portico who were selling primarily turquoise and silver jewelry.
Adjacent to the plaza was the New Mexico Museum of Art, which had an odd exhibit of decorated cowboy boots and accompanying painting and drawings, some of which was a bit risqué and both hetero and homoerotic (a classification one must base on the gender and intent of the artist, I suppose). I somehow doubt that exhibit would be shown intact in Joklahoma, just as at home I never overhear folks talk as I do in these parts, discussing ways to reduce their environmental impact and do their share to inhibit global warming. Maybe when I retire I’ll move to a liberal area and bask in the ambience, as it has been a refreshing change. My favorite pieces at the museum were Cui Bono? by Gerald Cassidy, The Game by Deborah Hamon, and Rolls Royce by Henri Silberman.
I wandered over to the La Fonda hotel and, braving sprinkles, went up to its outdoor Bell Tower Bar. True to my teetotaling, I ordered a horribly overpriced Coke and gazed down at the Loretto Chapel, which some dinner companions in Pagosa Springs had mentioned for its supposedly miraculous spiral staircase, an impressive work we now know was created by Francois-Jean Rochas. Unfortunately the chapel was closed, so I did not get to see it, only the chapel’s exterior.
The nearby Sage Creek Gallery had various bronzes for sale, including a version of arrow skyward, an odd merhorse work, a bronze of a girl which looked best when she was looking away from you, and some storks with gold highlights. The humans worked better for me than the animals.
Strolling about the area, I purchased some selenite at a rock shop and noticed red peppers hanging on a balcony and the elaborate exterior of the Lensic Theater of 1931. Then I found the French pastry shop where I had my pricey lemon tart and Sprite while gazing at a mosaic on a wall across the street, which turned out to be of the interior of the Lensic.
I was satiated and footsore, so I made my way through sprinkles to my car, passing by a sculpture at the Radio Building which had a solidity and mass reminding me of something by Henry Moore, but more representational than his work.
I drove over to the Super 8, pleasantly surprised that its stark exterior was offset by nice subdued southwestern interior stylings. I made good use of its in-room WiFi for this post. What a treat it is to have fast WiFi in my room again, something I sorely missed back in Pagosa Springs.
Tomorrow I’ll rise and skip the motel breakfast (they’re featuring waffles…no!) and spend my day on the interstate, bound for my hometown of Oklahoma City for a brief visit with my parents. Then it’s back to Bartlesville for a two-day inservice training. I’ll try to be attentive, but my thoughts will likely drift westward in fond remembrance of this July Escape.