I'm late with this entry. I've been moving, moving, moving but also not feeling tip top. I think, sometimes, that I'm moving way too fast through certain places. Then, other times, I find myself really enjoying the pace. I haven't hit any sort of stride, necessarily. I just do what I can to plan for the next place. Sometimes, I'm very intentional about it. Other times, I find myself Googling about the next place as I pull into town. I think I tend to approach life that way, too. Sometimes, I am beyond prepared. Other times, I scramble to get prepared at the last second.
New Mexico is, for sure, a new favorite place of mine. I love New Mexican cuisine. Enchiladas? Yes, please! I am all for the arid climate. My body, hair, and skin have never loved humidity. And the casual, breathtaking beauty of so much of the state really charmed me. After Albuquerque, I drove up into Santa Fe for four days. My first stop in Santa Fe was at an art installation I'd read about months and months ago. An artist collective called Meow Wolf has created an installation called The House of Eternal Return. Entering, you appear to be inside a well-loved Victorian home. Clues begin to
emerge, though, that this is no ordinary family dwelling. The refrigerator in the kitchen serves as a portal to a bright, white hallway. The fireplace transports you to a strange, glittering forest. The dryer, glowing with blue lights, deposits you in a kind of time-travel way station. Each closet in the upstairs bedrooms were just as mysterious and the world on the backside of the Victorian house was both familiar and completely fantastical. It's a very cool, fascinating exhibit and I really enjoyed about two hours of wandering and exploring. The place was packed, too, with people of all ages. It was great and all that it promised. I left feeling a little bit dazed and a little bit thrilled.
The next day, I explored the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. For whatever reason, I've always had a sort of bad impression of O'Keeffe. At some point, I think I decided she was just the wife of an artist and that's why she was taken seriously. What I learned at the museum was that she was a lifelong study, an unrelenting scholar, or art and of understanding her own work. I came away with a whole new perspective on her and I think that if a museum can achieve that, it's done its job.
One of my most anticipated stops in New Mexico was Los Alamos. You'll be used to this story by now (as I've told it in the previous two posts, also), but I've wanted to see it since I was about 10 years old. That was the year I read Judy Blume's novel Tiger Eyes. I'd read plenty of Judy Blume by that time, but Tiger Eyes felt different. The protagonist, Davey, has recently lost her father to a violent crime. She and her family travel from Atlantic City to Los Alamos to visit with family in the aftermath. Davey learns to hike and explore and trust her own voice again while she's there. I re-read it last week and it holds up. It's still good. And it still moved me. So, I drove myself up to Los Alamos to see the Atomic City and to experience what I'd read about. It's funny, really, because what I wanted to see there was Los Alamos
High School, Bathtub Row (the row of homes where Oppenheimer and his crew lived while working on the Manhattan Project), and the exterior of the Lab. I didn't even get out of my car. I drove around town. I saw places I had imagined. I took a few photos...then, I drove back down to Santa Fe. Perhaps the very best part of this visit was the drive up. Los Alamos was chosen for its isolation and it is still very isolated. The last half mile into town is a single lane (in each direction) of twisting road that shares one shoulder with a steep rise of rocks and the other with a sharp drop into the canyon. In my van, it was pretty exhilarating to drive.
In an effort to wait out the Federal Government shut down, I took myself from Santa Fe all the way to Bisbee, Arizona. Bisbee sits very near the Mexico border and is absolutely a hidden gem. I chose it for two reasons: In L.A. Confidential, Kim Basinger's character tells Russell Crowe she grew up in Bisbee, and there is a "hotel" there called The Shady Dell that is really a compound of restored old canned ham campers and trailers decorated with period-appropriate decor, record players, and even old TV sets. I booked the Spartan Royal Mansion for two nights and drove the nearly 8 hours from Santa Fe to do it. To say it was worth it would be an understatement. The Shady Dell is a ding dang delight and sits next to what was formerly Lowell, Arizona. Most of Lowell was swallowed up by the local copper mine, so now only the Main Street remains. The locals work hard to keep this main drag looking just as it did in, say, 1948 or so. It's truly like stepping back in time. Only one storefront is occupied there. The Bisbee Breakfast Club serves up some pretty enormous biscuits and some delicious gravy. I ate there two mornings in a row.
Bisbee, just around the bend of the copper mine pit, is a lovely little outpost with a variety of adorable old hotels, bars, restaurants, and shops to thrill any kind of tourist. I shopped up a new handbag and a Bakelite cake knife. And the weather is absolutely a miracle. On January 21, it was approximately 68 degrees in the sunshine.
In Tucson, I passed through Saguaro National Park (the kind lady at the gate made sure I had a map but could not collect my entrance fee due to the shutdown). I love succulents
and cacti and to see so many amazing, huge, beautiful Saguaro in one place was like a dream. I loved it. I drove the loop and debated driving it a second time. It was dreamy and lovely and I learned a lot about Saguaro (did you know their centers are made of woody-like spikes around which the fleshy succulent is built?).
I also made my way to Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West, which was a place on my big list. When his health began to fail him, Wright's doctor suggested he get out of the Wisconsin winters and go somewhere warm and dry. He chose Phoenix and set up a homestead for himself and his students. The tour was full of surprising facts and the campus still serves as an active school of architecture, which filled me with a weird joy. Most of the FLW places I've visited have been preserved carefully and stand now as museums. Not Taliesin West. It is a working environment and it feels like it. So beautiful!
Mostly, I love the weather in Arizona. It's warm enough to sit outside for dinner. No rain. No snow. I know it's probably hot as the surface of the sun in the summer, but this is the best time of year to visit. So, so temperate and sunny. Why aren't we all out here from October to May?
*I drove through Tombstone but found it to be just mostly touristy (I'll always have a soft spot for Doc Holliday, though) and I made a quick visit to the Phoenix Museum of Art which has a really great collection of contemporary art. Check the Photos section for lots more!