Summer Odyssey – 2002 III

The next day’s plan was to have dinner at John and JoMarg’s house instead of an afore-mentioned rendezvous for lunch in town. That suited me just fine. It gave me the whole afternoon to pursue my favorite pastime, that is, biking around the neighborhood and pan the indigenous residential architecture. I never tired of this venture, having done it numerous times. I even took a new route east of the busy Carlisle Avenue. One thing struck me that hadn’t before – you know you’re in the southwest not because you see an adobe house now and then, but because of the native vegetation in the front yards!

I ventured south to Central Avenue (old Route 66) to catch a glimpse of the infamous Gas Lite Motel. I had heard about its demise on the local news talk station KKOB on the way into town. It seemed the “palace” had been shut down because of what they euphemistically called health code violations. In laymen’s terms, it had become a den of prostitution and drug dealing. Ah yes, another landmark of scenic America had vanished by the wayside. I pedaled over to the UNM campus and back to the arbor of elms at Bataan Park across from the Farris house. I was definitely in a bike-friendly part of town, I guess mainly due to the proximity of the university. I felt exhilarated. What a great afternoon it had been! The Duke City was one of the best.

We took off for John’s house in the North Albuquerque Forty Somewhere via the “High I”, the proud new four-level interchange of I-40 and I-25. Marshall was quick to point out that the massive project had come in under budget and ahead of time, and that people can speed through town at 65 mph! It was always an adventure riding with Marshall – he was constantly talking to strangers in other cars: “What’s this guy going to do? Why doesn’t he use his blinkers? Is this guy going to pull in front of me?” And so on and so on. You gotta love the guy. With all that posturing over the “High I”, the traffic was backed up for miles headed north on I-25 with a major traffic jam at the Paseo Del Norte exit to Rio Rancho, a super suburb in north Bernalillo County. I thought: “What a sham!” I couldn’t help voicing an opinion, saying, “Look at this mess! A lot of good your new interchange is doing. Why doesn’t this town have a light-rail system, as if that would help any?” My comments seemed to fall on deaf ears. Well, bless them. I figured it wasn’t really their concern since this was an extremely rare event for them.

After countless lefts and rights, we finally arrived at 9303 San Diego NE, literally at the base of the Sandia Mountains. John had appropriately laid out on top of the pony wall in the entry foyer the color prints of the Great Sand Dunes and Glacier Park I had given him the night before (I had presented the same to Marshall and Joan). Dinner was served in a most civilized setting – at a round dining table with a revolving circular centerpiece replete with a center bowl of a beef dish with smaller bowls of condiments on the periphery. Just spin the wheel and stop at the onions or cheese. “What a great way to serve a dinner,” I commented to JoMarg. She graciously acknowledged my compliment. Afterwards, we were treated to a spectacular sunset over the far western horizon which included Mt. Taylor (11,301 feet) at an incredible fifty miles in the distance. It was an incomparable panorama. I said to John, “I bet you can almost predict the weather by being able to see the frontal clouds rolling in from the west.” Not much of a meteorologist, he still was able to grasp my meaning.

We waltzed back to the inner city through a myriad of avenues. I had time to reflect on how the demographics of the two Farris families differed so much. I likened it to a trade-off – having an unprecedented view of Bernalillo County out in the barren boondocks versus living in a close-in mature neighborhood (with all those great trees). Personally, I preferred the latter. Having to drive five miles for a carton of milk was not my cup of tea. It was another perfect night to bed down in Ol’ Blue with the temperature in the low 60s and the moon full. I thanked The Lord for a beautiful day.

The usual fare for breakfast – crisp microwaved bacon, toast, and orange juice – awaited me the next morning. I noticed a small jar on the table labeled: “Lemon and Pepper Seasoning Salt” I unscrewed the top and took a whiff. Wow, what a titillating aroma! “This has gotta be the ticket!”, I exclaimed to Joan. She graciously offered to give me the condiment, saying, “Take it as a gift. I have another jar.” Before leaving, I made a call to Richard Schalt who was the local coordinating architect when I was designing the John Farris house back in 1997. We had a long talk, refreshing each other on past activities over the last five years. Marshall gave me an unused Road Atlas (a 1998 edition) after I mentioned how torn and tattered my old Atlas had become. When you giveth, so shall you receive.

Instead of the usual west exit out of Albuquerque on I-40, I decided to head south to Socoro, staying most of the 67 miles on rural NM 49 in lieu of I-25. There was a method in my madness for taking such a circuitous route. First of all, I simply wanted to take a new road out of the Duke City and I had plenty of time to get where I was going – somewhere in eastern Arizona. Secondly, both Rick Schalt and John Farris had suggested I check out the “out-of-this-world” satellite dishes located on the road west of Socoro. They claimed it was the most sophisticated system for viewing the universe yet devised. Sure enough, as I was headed west on U.S. 60 just past Magdelina (what a beautiful name!) there appeared out in the vastness of the “Land of Enchantment” an out cropping of at least a dozen gleaming-white, twenty-foot diameter dishes lined up in perfect order facing northwest. I sped on past, not being in the mood to stop for one of those guided tours. Besides, the sun was getting low in the sky and I wanted to find a comfortable spot to pull off for the night before dark, not knowing exactly where that was going to be. I didn’t have reservations at the Best Western, you know.