Leaving the Grand Canyon on Day 2, we drove most of the night to try and keep up with our schedule. We didn’t want Melissa to miss any more days at work than was necessary.
After a few unsuccessful attempts at finding a hotel room in small towns (the rodeo was in town,) we pulled into the Acoma Reservation at 1 in the morning. The large casino and hotel there had plenty of rooms, and we were happy to occupy one for the night.
Day 3: Sky City, NM, Santa Fe, NM and Amarillo, TX
The next morning we awoke to another day of cobalt blue skies filled with mile-high cumulonimbus clouds. These were the kinds of clouds – so rare in Chicago in recent years – with intensely defined edges, that make you feel as if you could just reach out and break a piece off.
There was a lot of ground to cover today- but with cool weather, a sparsely populated freeway and the car behaving like a champ, we were on our way and within a couple hours we crested the top of a hill that overlooked Santa Fe, nestled below in a green valley. Practically my aunt and uncle’s “second home”, according to my mom, I thought of calling to ask for a good recommendation for lunch. However, Melissa had already picked the place from the Route 66 guidebook: Café Pasqual’s and before we knew it we were seated at a communal table in the noisy, quirky restaurant.
Stepping onto the sunny street after lunch, we could see why my family in Denver visits Santa Fe. As far as the old part of town is concerned, the clock may as well have stopped a century ago. Modern, beautiful galleries and unique shops are tucked inside authentic adobe-style buildings, and the old cathedral sits at the end of the street overlooking the public square.
This day, the whole town seemed to be celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum with music, arts and crafts tables, free bottles of water and chocolate cake. Thin, bearded homeless men people-watched from benches, children ran in every direction… and beneath the long, deep awning of the Palace of the Governor sat dozens of Native American artists in a row. Their silver beaded necklaces and turquoise rings were spread out on both traditional, native blankets and cheap, modern fleece from Walmart.
Perhaps I assign too much importance in considering how these peoples ancestors were treated by mine, and the effect it has in today’s world. Maybe I project too much romance and an almost mythical status on what are, today anyway, just other people. But walking past these artists, sitting on plastic milk cartons after driving long distances to be there… made my heart break for some of them. Deeply resilient and proud, they sit up straight and smile as you walk past. They’re not asking for pity or a handout, but I’ve heard enough about some of their living conditions to know they aren’t on an even playing field with the rest of us. Their aura of both pride and peace is inspiring, despite the fact they were likely some of the poorest people there that day.
Heading over to a photography gallery, we browsed original signed photographs as if we were in a museum, yet all the pieces are for sale. Edward Curtis, Ansel Adams, Alfred Stieglitz… and modern masters including Annie Leibovitz and Jack Spencer all framed and lit with great sensitivity.
Spencer’s work was especially exciting, as I don’t think I’d seen it before. It was the most viceral, moody photography I’ve seen in a long time. The price tags on his large scale pieces were just as incredible – a couple thousand dollars, hanging just a few feet from a $60,000 vintage Ansel Adams photograph. I could have spent several days just in that gallery, but we moved on to the O’Keeffe museum.
The O’Keefe Museum was fantastic, and off the first gallery they play a 12-minute documentary on a loop. Filled with interviews of the artist, period footage of her home and studio, and shots of her paintings, it filled us with a desire for that freedom, that independence and solitude that she carved out for herself – against the odds, in the 1930’s. O’Keeffe was an amazing woman and the exhibit of at least a hundred of her paintings, dating from throughout her career, was equally impressive.
Entirely too soon, it was time to head back towards the freeway. So with the wonderful taste of huevos rancheros still in our mouths, we pointed our 120 horses towards Amarillo, Texas. And just like the previous evening, Day 3 would again be capped off by an hour of tiredly driving from one full motel to the next.
But I s’pose when you mosey, you never know for sure where your Happy Trails will end that day. Right lil’ Buckeroos?