Saturday, September 16, 2006

The theme for this summer seems to be long drives. Or maybe just cars. First India. Then California. I didn't even blog about the drive to California. I'll tell you a little about it in a minute. Today I drove from Tucson to Santa Fe. Tomorrow and the day after, more driving, and then I get to fly home, which will be nice (the home
part, not the flying part).

The purpose of this particular journey is to deliver a car to Claremore, Oklahoma. This is complicated by the fact that the car that needs to be delivered is in Fort Collins, Colorado, which is decidedly not on the way to Claremore. If we'd only known at the *beginning* of summer that we were going to be doing this, life might have been a bit less complicated, but then again I probably would have stopped in Tucumcari instead of Santa Fe, so maybe it's worked out for the best. The way it's going to work is that I'm driving to Santa Fe, trading the Civic for the Rav, and then driving the Rav to Oklahoma, where it will stay in service to my mom, who needs a car there. We'd give her the Civic, but it's a stick. Chu likes sticks better than automatics, so hopefully this will make her return drive fun in some way.

As I write this I'm sitting alone in the Blue Corn Cafe (well, a Blue Corn Cafe - there are several) in Santa Fe. For all that we complain about the intrusions of modern communications technology, it's been a boon for me today. Not that I'm online or anything - the wifi they mention on the web site isn't actually available as far as I can tell, which isn't surprising - this is a weird place to whip out a laptop,
and I've gotten a few amused glances.

The reason I'm alone is that we have a good friend staying with us who has some health problems she's trying to get taken care of, and it's not going as quickly as we'd hoped. Andrea and I were planning to drive together, but we couldn't abandon our friend alone in a house with a fever. So after doing some work this morning, we said our tearful goodbyes at around noon and I drove off into the sunrise.

Google said it was a 9 hour, 22 minute drive from Tucson to Santa Fe. I drove it in seven and a half hours instead. Dunno what the discrepancy was - I wasn't going appreciably above the speed limit. Since I have a nifty bluetooth headset and there's cellular coverage on pretty much every U.S. interstate, I had the good fortune of having a nice quiet drive when I wanted it quiet, punctuated by several visits with Andrea, and two visits with my mother, plus a brief hello to my father. All without having to look away from the road or do much more than touch my headset or hit redial.

When I decided to stop in Santa Fe, Andrea kindly arranged for a motel, and found the restaurant at which I just ate. I can report that the food is very good. It's Mexican, so as a vegetarian there was more cheese than I necessarily would have preferred, but the chile relleno wasn't harsh, which is unusual, the enchilada was yummy, the tamale was tender, and the guacamole was excellent. The limeade's a bit sweet, but who's counting? This beats the crap out of the usual road restaurant that you get when you don't have your sweetie looking out for you with her trusty web browser.

The drive was almost uneventful. There was a really bad intersection in Deming, where I stopped to take a shortcut that probably saved me a half hour of driving by bypassing a weird acute angle between I-10 and I-25. I don't think it saved me two hours, but maybe it did - who knows? I made it through the intersection, though, and made it to the cutoff. The cutoff was nice - very, very rural, gently rolling hills, a railroad running alongside the road most of the way with trestles about every quarter mile across what I guess is kind of a flood plain, then some hills that I could admire without driving over, a place called the Middle-of-Nowhere Cafe, which really is in the middle of nowhere, and the lovely town of Hatch (about 30 miles past Nutt, coincidentally).

Hatch has a chile pepper festival. I saw a lot of red peppers growing as I went through. Huge plants. I've never seen anything like it. There are also a lot of Mexican restaurants, several of which looked really nice from the outside, but I was too wimpy to stop and try one, plus I wanted to get to Santa Fe before midnight. But who knows, maybe the pepper in my chile relleno came from Hatch. It's possible.

The trip to California was a spontaneous thing, triggered by Andrea's Aunt Charlene passing away. I'd met Aunt Charlene only three times, twice at weddings (one ours) and once when she and Eliot stayed with us one evening on the way from Texas to California. This was probably less than a year ago. It was a nice visit - they couldn't stay long, but we got to set them up with a comfy bed, and I made scones the next morning (I'd been planning to make scones for weeks, and they finally gave me the excuse I'd been waiting for). That was the last time I saw Charlene. She liked the scone, and the coffee. It's nice to have that as my last memory of her, if I have to have a last memory of her, which, it seems, I do, at least for now.

Of course it's easy for me to think back fondly on an incident like this. For her family it's a different story. Fifty years, and then bam. Melissa Lafsky has a nice article on the whole aging schtick. Sigh.


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