Black Mesa -> Phoenix, AZ

Look how far I've gone

Greetings from Chula Vista, CA where I showed up on April 25th. This post will encompass the 11 days it took to get from Black Mesa in Oklahoma to Phoenix, AZ. My next post will cover the rest of the journey. Or as much as I can get done before I head to Hawaii in 4 days (Wheeeee!).

Leaving Black Mesa, I took back roads through Kansas and Colorado to Sugarite State Park in New Mexico. I thought it’d be fun to be in 4 states in one day and see a bit of Kansas and Colorado – I was totally and amazingly wrong. It was a long, long drive through flat, flat land in a gale-like wind. I think this describes it well (minus the wonderful part) – “Terrible winds and a wonderful emptiness.” -Georgia O’Keefe, Lovingly Georgia (ed. C. Giboire, 1990), Simon and Schuster, New York, NY. I have a deep respect for those who lived in these lands and the settlers who crossed them. I don’t know how they did it and stayed sane ( I’d like to give a shout out to show tunes for keeping me alert and singing during this long day of driving, specifically – Avenue Q, Buffy the Vampire Slayer the Musical episode, and Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. And to the prairie dog colony I saw in the AM which made me laugh out loud. The day ended well with drinks and conversation with my campground neighbors – retired RVers are a very nice and helpful bunch!

Acting on a tip from my neighbors, the next day I headed toward Capulin Volcano, a 60,000 year old extinct cinder cone volcano ( It was super cool! Before I even got there, I traveled empty back roads with great views and fences anchored by stone filled cylinders (used because trees are non-existent there) and passed through Folsom ( of Folsom Man fame. And I saw a herd of bison on the plains – Awesome!!


At the volcano, I was able to walk into the crater vent and around the entire rim. From the rim the ruts from wagon wheels on the Santa Fe trail are still visible as was Black Mesa where I’d been only a day before. Time and $7 very well spent! I left the volcano and headed to my next state park then kept driving as I didn’t like the look of it. I ended up in the Snow Mansion, a very old school hostel just north of Taos, NM.

Met some interesting ladies at the hostel and we breakfasted together. They suggested a walk along the Rio Grand which I took – great views and I saw a herd of wild goats.

The Rio Grand

Next I checked out the Earthship which is a building that “ achieves a harmony between the various elements to create a sustainable home using recycled materials, that generates its own water and electricity, conserves and reuses water creatively, generates it’s own food and heated and cooled itself in a passive manner (from their website).”. Very cool! I landed in Santa Fe at the Silver Saddle Motel. A throwback to the 1960s, this classic motel is adorable and will be my home for two nights. Santa Fe is chock full of history, museums and interesting folks. I visited the historic old town (such great adobe architecture) and took care of mundane chores (oil change, haircut, laundry) during my two days. On my way out of town, I headed South to the Broken Saddle Riding, Co. for a two hour ride through the New Mexico hills. I had a fabulous ride with an informative guide and rode on the smooth and well trained George. It was great to be on horseback again. From there I explored Los Cerrillos and Madrid, both little cow towns that have been seen in various films. I ended my day at Storrie Lake State Park in LAS VEGAS, nm.

I started my day taking in the varied architecture in Las Vegas, NM (some seen in the TV show Longmire) and visiting their Carnegie Library. There is a lot of history in that little town – Next I went to the Pueblo National Historical Park – (from their website) ” In the midst of piñon, juniper, and ponderosa pine woodlands in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains not far from Santa Fe, the remains of Indian pueblos stand as meaningful reminders of people who once prevailed here.”. It was a stark reminder of the deleterious effect of the Spanish and Americans on the native peoples in this area – equally interesting and depressing. On the road again I thanked NM for the 75mph speed limit, as I drove to El Mapais National Monument in Grant, NM. There I stayed at a wonderful BLM (Bureau Land Management) campsite, but more importantly got to play on the Sandstone Bluffs just down the road. It was like playing on the rocks by the ocean in Maine, but with a much farther way to fall. Great views & great fun!

Then it was time to head South to the Phoenix area for some visiting. By day’s end I was in the land of saguaro cactus and hot, hot weather. But before I got there I had one must see destination – Pie Town, NM. Ummmm…….because PIE TOWN! Pie Town, NMUnfortunately (or luckily as it turns out), I wasn’t quite on the right trajectory to get there, so I had to drive down a state maintained dirt road that was practically on the continental divide a good part of the way. I saw prong horned antelope, and a big coyote or a small wolf (hard to tell it was going fast) and other interesting things (see the pics). In Pie Town, I had a wonderful second breakfast at the Gathering Place. I sat at a communal table and got to know a Canadian couple back from working 10 years overseas – fascinating folks. In answer to your burning question (seriously, I can feel your inquiring minds!) – I did not have pie. They looked good though. 🙂 My plan to stay the night at Lost Dutchman State Park took me from Pie Town through the Fort Apache Reservation, Tonto National Forest and the Superstition Mountains. It was a beautiful ride through canyons with twisty roads that I did not expect but throughly enjoyed.

The next four nights (and 5 days) I got to catch up with my former step-sister on my father’s side (I’ll wait a moment while you work that out) whom I hadn’t seen in at least 6 years and with a great college friend I hadn’t seen in much, much longer. The joy I felt at being with friends and family who got jokes and references no one else had in ages cannot be overstated. Home is where people get you (in a good way).

Stay tuned to find out what I saw/did in the 6 days it took me to go from Phoenix, AZ to Utah to Nevada back to Arizona and finally to Chula Vista, California.  🙂

Click the pic for a fabulous slideshow.  You can always pause the slideshow if you need get a better look at a photo.  Enjoy!

Lost Dutchman State Park, AZ