Genealogy Road Trip 2021 - Vol 13
“You’ve got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going ‘cause you might not get there.” -Yogi Berra
“It’s not too far, it just seems like it is.” -Yogi Berra
“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”-Yogi Berra
Janice- Ok. I need to be transparent. Texas and I DO NOT get along. Their ultra-conservative politics have led me to the opinion that if they want to secede from the U.S., well, don’t let the door hit them in the butt.
Our destination was Santa Fe but to get there we had to drive three days, mostly through Texas. I felt like we were in a super spreader event as we often were the only ones in the gas station stores wearing a mask. Throughout our travels, outside of the cities, most people were not wearing masks. Most who did wore them below their nose or as neck warmers. It was heartening to see them protect their necks from getting covid.
We did find people in the South to be polite. I was “yes ma’am-ed” everywhere.
The part of Texas we drove through was miles and miles of flat, desiccated land. (See TX is desolate pic). Throughout the South we saw a lot of poverty and Texas was no different. All over, the billboards were saturated with ads for personal injury and Social Security lawyers, and online betting. (See Clarksdale bench ad for SSI lawyer). There also seemed to be a lot of pawn shops and payday loan store ads. We felt this preyed into people’s dreams of getting out of poverty quick and easy and we began to feel their pain. I can’t blame folks and it was disheartening. Throughout this trip we recognized how incredibly fortunate we are, that in the Big Picture we lead a privileged life.
We frequently saw ads for adult toy superstores, a restaurant that serves a 72-ounce steak, and one for “Herdwear”, a bison clothing shop. There were billboard ads for cattle antibiotics.
My absolute favorite signs were for the Bates Motel. (See Bates Motel 1, 2 pic).
Always looking for weird attractions and experiences we visited The Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo. Planted in a corn field there’s a line of upended Cadillacs with their butt ends firmly in the ground. The public is invited to spray paint the cars. You can bring your own but there is also a concession stand where you can buy paint, T-shirts, magnets, and other stupid and very overpriced stuff.
An aristocracy of roadside attractions has been raised over the years: glorified in photo essays, calendars, blogs, and social media fiefdoms; spotlighted in video and film; instantly recognizable as icons. These Great Monuments, we are told, represent America's hopes and dreams, art and commerce, materialism and spiritualism, folly and fame.
Cadillac Ranch is one of them. Professional authors and screenwriters know a pre-baked, easy-to-get symbol when they see it. Who are we to buck the trend?
Standing along Route 66 west of Amarillo, Texas, Cadillac Ranch was invented and built by a group of art-hippies imported from San Francisco. They called themselves The Ant Farm, and their silent partner was Amarillo billionaire Stanley Marsh 3. He wanted a piece of public art that would baffle the locals, and the hippies came up with a tribute to the evolution of the Cadillac tail fin. Ten Caddies were driven into one of Stanley Marsh 3's fields, then half-buried, nose-down, in the dirt (supposedly at the same angle as the Great Pyramid of Giza). They faced west in a line, from the 1949 Club Sedan to the 1963 Sedan de Ville, their tail fins held high for all to see on the empty Texas panhandle.
That was in 1974. People would stop along the highway, walk out to view the cars -- then deface them or rip off pieces as souvenirs. Stanley Marsh 3 and The Ant Farm were tolerant of this public deconstruction of their art -- although it doomed the tail fins -- and eventually came to encourage it.
Decades have passed. The Cadillacs have now been in the ground as art longer than they were on the road as cars. They are stripped to their battered frames, splattered in day-glo paint splooge, barely recognizable as automobiles.
Yet Cadillac Ranch is more popular than ever. It's become a ritual site for those who travel The Mother Road. The smell of spray paint hits you from a hundred yards away; the sound of voices chattering in French, German, and UK English makes this one of the most polyglot places between the UN andLas Vegas. We last visited just after a Texas-size downpour, and yet a steady procession of acolytes trudged through the ankle-deep mud to make their oblations. Many were barefoot, cheerfully slogging through the muck of livestock pee and poo (and parasites) and spray can trash, happy to be there.
Despite its exposed location in an empty field, Cadillac Ranch seems to give its art-anarchists a sense of privacy and anonymity, like a urinal stall in a men's room. Individual painters take a stance facing one of the cars, then let it fly. Surrounding visitors keep their distance, perhaps less out of courtesy than from a desire to stay clear of the spray cloud. The Europeans really seemed to enjoy attacking the cars during our visit, maybe because they've lacked a good graffiti canvas since the toppling of the Berlin Wall.
Tourists are always welcome at Cadillac Ranch. If you bring spray paint, make sure to snap some photos. Because whatever you create at Cadillac Ranch will probably only last a few hours before it's created over by someone else.
Reaching Amarillo at 5 pm, we were jonesing for awesome Texas BBQ. Google highly recommended “Tyler’s” restaurant. Now, great BBQ places usually run out of food early and often have long lines to get in during the day. A call to Tyler’s revealed they were out of food. Bummer.
A close second was “Dyer’s.” A call to them, ‘yup, we have food.’ That should have been our first clue. Our takeout order was cold, arrived without BBQ sauce, the meat was tough and tasteless, and Safeway has better beans and cole slaw than they did. Tired and not wanting the agita, we threw most of it out and ate leftovers out of the cooler.
On the way out of town we stopped at The Second Amendment Cowboy, a 22-foot-tall statue with a plaque quoting the amendment and a quote from George Washington. It also has an overpriced gift store. (See Second Amendment Cowboy pic).
After what seemed an eternity, we yelled “HUZZAH” as we passed the New Mexico state line marker.
Neal: We chose to end our trip in New Mexico because it is after all “The Land of Enchantment.” That is true for us. Shortly after we began dating in 2016 we spent a long weekend in Santa Fe during the September Fiesta. Ah the romance! In the fall of 2017 were went to Taos. There is something about north New Mexico that leaves you breathless. Perhaps the deep blue skies with clouds you don’t see anywhere else? (See New Mexican mountains as we left Taos). (See New Mexico sky pic). Or maybe it’s because these two cities are among the oldest cities in the continental United States dating from the 1600’s. I think it’s the deep blend of Hispanic and Native American culture invested in the architecture, art, music, and dress of people. Most of the buildings are built to look like adobe. (See Adobe hotel pic). So, of course this is where we landed for our last stop before home.
Our top priority in New Mexico was to get back to hiking. We both felt a little out of shape after so many weeks on the road so we picked an easy hike. The “Dale Ball Trails North” trail system fit the bill perfectly. This 4.4 mile trail a few minutes north of the city had a large parking lot that was only ¾ full at 10:00 am when we got there. Beautiful views and easy elevation (567 ft). Here is the AllTrails link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/new-mexico/dale-ball-trails-north.
The next day we attempted to get to two other trails by 9:00 am. No dice. Parking was only available for perhaps 5 or 6 vehicles by the side of the road. Evidently this is a chronic problem similar to many trails close to western cities (especially Denver). If you want to hike a trail near Santa Fe, get their before 7:00 am, preferably 6:00 am even on a weekday.
In Taos we had better luck. We elected to go 20 to 30 minutes out of town, hoping for a less traveled trial. Paydirt! The Rio Grande Gorge Trail – South Trailhead fit the bill perfectly. It’s also referred to as “The Slide upper trailhead.” You can start at the top above the rim of the gorge or go down to the river and walk up. Nothing but spectacular views either way of the gorge. An easy hike with about 500 ft elevation gain. We hit the fall colors perfectly. The gold and rust leaves were at their height. Aspen, Dogwood, Vine Maple, Red Oak, and others dotted the canyons. (See Rio Grande Gorge ). Looking up through the trees from below against the deep blue of New Mexico sky took our breath away.
Both Santa Fe and Taos are desired destinations is for their Arts and Crafts. Santa Fe’s hundreds of galleries are a feast for the art lover. We are definitely members of that tribe. We spent one afternoon walking through the galleries on Canyon Road and got to meet Sir Elton John and Molly Ivins, two very friendly gallery dogs
. If we only we had unlimited funds, the paintings we would collect! Taos galleries were much more accessible and generally less expensive.
In Taos we again stayed at Case de Benavides, a family-owned adobe style B and B. The same employees have been there, some for more than a decade. The rooms are beautiful. The breakfasts are delicious. We took home 4 lbs. of their homemade granola.
Janice-There’s one artist that just blew us away Bruce Cascia. Most of his paintings have a tiny house overwhelmed by outrageously beautiful clouds. If we had the cash, we would have bought one. That said, we’re planning on a liquor store heist and are looking for a driver. All interested should complete the attached form. (See liquor store robbery driver application).
APPLICATION FOR LIQUOR STORE ROBBERY DRIVER
My Real Name________________________________________________________________
Name by which I was teased in grade school________________________________________
Street corner, median, or brothel where I can usually be found _________________________
State(s) where I have outstanding warrants_________________________________________
Circle all that apply:
· I have a valid driver’s license.
· I don’t have valid driver’s license.
· Why the f—k do you care whether I have a valid license!
· I am on parole.
· I have a court-ordered ankle bracelet.
· I have a court-ordered ankle bracelet and a parole officer who, for a price, will look the other way.
· I am willing to relocate to South America.
Please read and sign the following disclaimer:
I understand that I am being hired to be an accessory to felony aggravated robbery. I understand that legal representation is not part of the provided health/dental/401k package, and I will have to provide my own criminal attorney should things go badly.
In the Santa Fe Plaza, we met a young Taos Pueblo man who sang and drummed for everyone. Sadly, we also met a world-famous hot dog vendor whose been on the Plaza for decades. The city just raised his rent, so he has decided to go out of business. (See hot dog man 1).
Neal has a friend who has a niche art gallery in Santa Fe. He deals in antique Samurai armor from 1450-1868. . A full set of such armor retails for upwards of $22,000. It was closed but we got some good photos through the window, armor, and poetry. (See Samurai pic)
We also went to the Santa Fe Museum of Contemporary Native Arts and saw the exhibit “Exposure: Native Art and Political Ecology.” Throughout the world, native lands have been used for uranium mining, nuclear bomb testing, and nuclear waste disposal. The illness, cancer, and genetic abnormality rates are far and above what is expected. Out of college I had a Oglala Sioux friend who grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation. She grew up playing on the mounds of uranium mine tailings. She, herself, developed cancer in her early twenties. The exhibition was sobering.
Neal-Oh, and then there is the great Mexican food! You can spend a lot of time and money in restaurants in Santa Fe, but we kept it simple. Bumble Bee’s Baja Grill is our “go-to” local. Janice had their Squash and Chicken quesadilla all three days. This local “slow-food” take-out and eat-in chain is legend. (See World’s Slowest Drive-In pic).
We arrived home on Thursday, October 28th after nearly 12 weeks on the road. Turning off I-25, west to Lakewood, was met with mixed emotions.
We will be composing one more travelogue summarizing our trip, providing helpful travel tips, and a lodging and food critique.
‘We’re lost, but we’re making good time.” -Yogi Berra