Day 4 & 5- Sante NM to Tucson AZ
Updated: Oct 20, 2020
The Road to Tucson, 2012
Awoke out of a travel stupor- the previous day had been a long haul, the second day in a row. It probably didn’t help our progress that we veered off I-40 into the small towns along the Mother Road, Route 66. As you can tell by the photos, I am in love with neon signs, which have been rapidly disappearing from the North American landscape.
Neon signs are a form of authentic Americana art. They were designed to attract travellers to the businesses lining the Mother Road (and other highways across North America). They were a unique canvas, evoking a sense of style and whimsy with their flair for the kitchy; as a graphic artist I appreciate the artists’ incorporation of typography, the blending of shapes, patterns and colour. At night, the neon glows beckoned, exposing the designers’ final creation in all its glory, warmly inviting the weary traveler to enjoy a meal and rest their weary bones.
Back in Centro Santa Fe, we toured some shops to clear the fog. Santa Fe is an upmarket destination, replete with all the trappings: galleries, boutiques, upscale hotels and restaurants. Once a haven for artists and counter-culture types, the bohemians who colonized what were essentially a backwater places, Santa Fe may be one of the most famous. Georgia O’Keeffe is probably the most famous artist to connect with Santa Fe, but there are many others. The southwest is home to many places similar to Santa Fe as the desert and mountains seem to attract and support the muse.
For our part, the day was cold and dreary. As we drove into the Centro, we saw two cars coming down from the mountains covered in snow- it seemed to be heavy in the nearby mountains. Bundled up, we strolled into the section of the square reserved for natives hawking their crafts, mostly silver and turquoise jewellery and some artworks. But the wind was raw, it felt like snow in the air, so we decided to get out of town.
South of Albuquerque things began to thaw, although the day was overcast. As we rolled south into the desert, we decided to made a side trip to the White Sands National Monument. According to the map, our route would take us deep into the desert- supposed no-ma’s land. So we stopped at a grocer, stocked up on water and some road food, and headed east and then south. Imagine our surprise when this supposed backroad was filled with cars traveling in both directions. A further glance at the map revealed that we were travelling around the White Sands Missile Base, which is the home of the first ever nuclear explosion (we’ve all seen the video clip). That would explain all the traffic.
While we were hoping for sun at White Sands, the day remained rather gloomy. According to the propaganda, the park is 275 square miles of gyspsum sand, the largest in the world. The dunes live up to their namesake, snow white even in the gloaming, constantly being reshaped by the winds, roads covered like ice only not. It really looked like a Canadian snowscape, although the temp outside was 65 degrees. Fun to see but not sure it was worth the effort- probably would have been more fun to go up to Flagstaff and down through Sodona to Tucson.
But that is the road- ever full of forks, opportunities, twists and turns, unexpected surprises and sights for sore eyes. Aint’ it just like life!
Rain in the desert- not expected yet still a surprise. We arrived in Las Cruces after dark, decamped (to the new Holiday Inn Express) and by the next morning were ready for the final leg of our trip. Las Cruces is very close to the Mexican Border, and the previous nightdown highway 70 out of the mountains we witnessed a Homeland Security checkpoint, miles from the border, allegedly searching for illegal aliens.
On our way out of Las Cruces, we had to run another checkpoint on I-10; they knew we were Canadians before we pulled up, and were waved through without incident. These checkpoints appear to be a violation of the U.S. Constitution; not sure what right the Border Services has to set up permanent roadblocks within American borders, what is essentially a police state.
Having lived on the border for so long, I can appreciate the challenge facing Border Agents along the Mexican Frontier, but imagine if roadblocks were set up for travellers into Windsor or Detroit before they reached the border. Not good.
Soon the sun was back up, the temperature rising, skies crystal clear from the rains which had dissipated. We rolled west, stopped at the ghost town, Shakespeare, which was closed (!) and decided to take a detour to Tombstone, the old mining town famous for the shootout at the OK Corral.
Wasn’t expecting too much but actually really liked it. Although there was some tourist traps, it had an air of authenticity to it. The town seemed to have preserved itself fairly well, lots of relics from the big shoot out and of course the various movies regarding the legend of Wyatt Earp and Doc Watson.