Vacation Time – August 1997 Part II

Back to the present,it’sWednesday, August6th, and John and JoMargarettehave arrived just in time for lunch at Marmac. It’s a bountiful spread of sandwich construction. Then it’s “eat and run” for John, as he’s off to purchase hismobile home. Every minute counts when John’s in town. I’ve grown accustomed tohis schedule. Now I have time to spend with Marshall. Knowing his affinity forgeography, I pull out the Shamrock map. Marshall has clear, over-sized eyes, buthis visual components became bulbous upon seeing the classic map. His reactionwas reminiscent of Uncle Allen’s, i.e., he noted that historic Route66 was theartery through the city center along which all commerce thrived.

Now, of course,I-40 and I-25 cordon off the city into four quadrants. Inevitably our conversationtakes the transitional route to the historical lore of NewMexico, which, accordingto my dear cousin, was fairly fortunate to achieve statehood in 1912 (the 47th chro­nologically) notwithstanding several centuries of confrontations between Spanishconquistadores, Mexican marauders, native Americans, and Yankee land barons. Andinclude all these land-greedy geopolitics with the disruptive dalliances of Billythe Kid and his likes, it’s a 20th century miracle that this territory becamea civilized state. No wonder that Easteners feel they need a visa to visit NewMexico, Land of Enchantment, no land for the agoraphobic. Ever notice the U.S.A.inscribed on their license plates? State officials justwanted to assurethenaive out-of-staters that they didn’t have to go through customs as they crossedthe state line. It’s a disturbing realization that so much geographical ignoranceand insouciance persists. Not so with Marshall and I. I revel in testing him ingeographical trivia, such as: “what U.S. capitalhas the highest elevation?”

Fairly easy for him…Santa Fe at 7,500 feet. Yes, I can say the three of us have becomeclose friends over the past three years. After all, I’ve spent many days and nightsat their casa blanca, converting several specific areas into my own office space.For instance, it’s calm, dry and 82 degrees outside and I’ve commodiously set upmy drafting board on a card table on the screened-in front porch (with a fine viewof Bataan Park across the street). Last winter I utilized the garage with a cobwebof extension cords for a space heater, my B/W TV, and shaver. I really had thatplace wired. I’m not a morning person, especially living alone, but I actuallyanticipated having coffee, toast and jam, and a stimulating conversation with mybed and breakfast company.

The morning newspaper was always on hand, so currentevents were the topic of discussion. Those were great mornings. And the impromptulunch breaks with Joan…those were special – straightforward talk, no mincing withwords. I tried to anticipate their needs like retrieving the afternoon paper andplopping it in Marshall’s lap as he was reposing in his easy chair, or moving thegarbage receptacle to the curb on the appointed day of pick-up. Mano a mano.

John, JoMargarette, and I meet with the local architect and the last woe begone contractor to hash over the unbelievable over-the-budget construction cost bid.When John and I simultaneously received the cost numbers via the miracle of FAX,a week before, I could have sworn I heard John’s screams all the way from Long island, New York. The meeting reeked of the netherworld. No red flags had beenraised in theprevious months as to the possibility of cost overrun. I was just relieved that my client had not succumbed to a myocardial seizure from hearingthis jeremiad from the contractor. There was a paralysis of analysis. We leftwith one alternative…a charrette of a one level plan for ballpark estimates.I retreated to my porch/office to draft a revision with some panache of theoriginal design. Marshall looked empathetically over my shoulder.I could feelhis vibes…his brother was disheartened. “I’m treating ya’ll to dinner at the Petroleum Club tonight” was his consolatory invitation. Thank you, cousin!

Where the elite meet to greet and eat, atop one of Albuquerque’s stratospheric structures, we are regaled withdelicious entrees, surf and turf. Bernalillo County is resplendent as far as the eye can see. The only exception is directlybelow us where a. semi-dark pall permeates the streets and sidewalks, a leitmotifof downtown necropolises. I’m remembering the front cover of the Amarillo phonedirectory with a classic-photograph (circa 1938) depicting an illuminated andprosperous main street. When I related this to Uncle Allen, his comment was:”Yea, our main street was proclaimed to be the best lit street in the country”. Well, so much for revitalization of city centers. That died 30 years ago.

The last day of our three-day sojourn is highlighted by the curbside arrivalof the Farris’ new RV, a brontosaurian battleship on Michelins, a veritable wheelestate. The two of them looked so diminutive in the “cockpit” behind an enormousexpanse of windshield. Beside all the usual amenities, the “Itasca” has stacked washer/dryer and a telescoping living room off the driver’s side (operable onlywhen stationary, of course). Ol’ Baleau is dwarfed next to this unwieldy Winnebago,it being two and a half times longer and twice the height (referring to the latter). Other than gas mileage and maneuverability, my compact mobile home has one distinctadvantage…a deep-pile, $20/yard, curl-your-toes-into-the-rug carpet! That’s it.

With a handshake and a hug,for Marshall and Joan respectively, I thank themfor all their hospitality and for allowing me to use their driveway asa legal and level overnight parking space. The other Farrises have just departed in theirbehemoth, and we’re praying they don’t bring down any utility poles or stop signsmaking right-hand turns. John has chosen the more RV accommodatingI-25north to Bailey, Colorado by way of Denver. I’ve opted for the more meandering and pictur­esque U.S.285. North of Santa Fe at Espanola, the divided four-lane is reduced to two lanes and still climbing. I glance east towards the Sangre DeChristo Range about 30 miles away and mentally visualize the Farris’ Winnebago cruising upthe Interstate about 30 or so miles farther east of the visible mountains as theyhead north to Raton.

The west is so three-dimensional with its wide vistas andgrand panoramas. I can’t count the number of times I’ve vicariously traveledformer highways by determining their approximation by way of distant geologicalfeatures. It may sound a little off-the-wall, but much of my enjoyment of travelis being sensitive to and aware of what is around me. Speaking of which, I knowColorado is just up the road…I can feel it, the state line never comes too soon.Finally, there’s the antiquated sign “Welcome to Colorful Colorado”, and I breathea sigh of relief and relaxation. I’m back where I belong.

I cruise the main street of Alamosa (pop.6,800, elev. 7,500) which has two movie theaters featuring summer block-busters (“Men in Black” was one). That’s amazing! I know I’m overreacting, but it still astounds me that Dallas’ main street has beenvoid of such pleasures for almost40 years! That too is amazing. Towns of thesize of Alamosa are all over Colorado, and they’re such a pleasure to be in…tostop and shop and look around at a slow-paced, uncontrived community. It’s refresh­ing, to say the least.

I stop by my favorite motel to fill up the cooler withcomplimentary ice …”Thanks again, Holiday Inn”. I have a fetish against payingfor frozen water and parking spaces. North toward Buena Vista on the longest flatand straight stretch of road west of the front range. To the east, I can see theGreat Sand Dunes National Monument,15 milesaway, I swear. I’m remembering trudg­ing part way up to the top 16 years ago. Now there’s a geological phenomena ….how did all those granules get deposited in that one particular spot?

Past PonchoSprings to Johnson Village, I take a right for several miles and climb about 500feet to one of my favorite rest stops for the night. It’s a scenic overlook witha magnificent view-the Arkansas River valley below and the Continental Divide inthe distance outlined by the Collegial Peaks …Mt. Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.Years ago I was inspired to delineate this incomparable view on sketch paper whichI eventually transferred to the medium of watercolor. It is truly Colorado.