Monday, July 29, 2013

Of TEXAS and New Mexico

Last week the urge to travel just became too much, and with the help of a Groupon special plans started to crystallize: A trip to the production of TEXAS in Palo Duro Canyon (just south of  Amarillo) was to be followed up with a four-day road trip through New Mexico, where the temperatures promised to be lower than in sweltering Lubbock.

So, on Tuesday my friend and former colleague from the English Department, Angela, packed up the Miata and headed north. I have lived here for almost 36 years, and I have never seen TEXAS, a theatrical production that is in its 48th season. The setting for this musical drama, which runs from mid-May through mid-August and puts more than 50 actors on stage every night, is simply spectacular. Palo Duro Canyon is the place where all those Marlboro ads were shot, when there was still advertising for cigarettes. Remember the Marlboro cowboy looking over that fabulous landscape? That's Palo Duro.
Chris, our guide for the backstage tour, answers dumb tourist questions
Our two-for-one tickets included the backstage tour, which mercifully was run via a small trailer pulled by a tiny tractor. We learned about the special effects guys (every night, somebody gets "set on fire"), saw the train that used to be a school bus, and met Jack, the donkey. Pretty much all of the actors are theater students who congregate on Canyon, TX, home of West Texas A&M, for the summer to participate in this production. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take any photos during the performance, which starts right at sunset with a rider carrying the Texas flag appearing at the canyon rim, but let me tell you: It was spectacular! Even at full price I would recommend this play to anybody who happens to be in the area.
That's Jack
We spent the night in Amarillo, with Angela working until the wee hours on an urgent editing job that had fallen into her lap at the very, very last minute —professors never sleep. The next morning we headed west on I-40, heading for Tucumcari from where we took NM 104 toward Las Vegas, not of the Nevada kind, though. It was beautiful driving with the Miata's roof down. I had been on that road only once before, and the vistas are stunning. New Mexico must have seen some pretty good rains recently because there were large swaths of green—but of course, there were also those deadish-brown tracts that were missed by the precipitation.

That afternoon we ended up in Santa Fe, where the Hilton once again came through with the much-coveted casita upgrade. We soaked in the hot tub and enjoyed dinner across the street at Il Vicino's. That's about all we did since my leg is still in the same state it was weeks ago: stiff and swollen and not in any mood to go for walks. This was going to be mainly a driving vacation—active adventures are somewhere in the future, I hope.
Two of Ojo Caliente's seven pools
The next morning we did walk the few blocks to the square and even had a good-bye beer at the Marble taproom that overlooks all the action below. And then we were off to one of Angela's favorite places, the spa at Ojo Caliente. Isn't it strange that I know most of the wild hot springs in the area but hadn't even heard of that place? For the better part of the next 24 hours we soaked in warm and hot pools and simply enjoyed the serenity of this wonderful place. I can't tell you how happy my leg was!
Angela getting ready to take a dip in the 104-degree soda spring
Our last night we spent in Taos, but we didn't really do much more than go out to dinner since we had spent almost the entire Friday at the spa. Still, we found our way to the relatively new Taos Ale House where we were treated to nice live music, in addition to good beer, gourmet tacos, and a bunch of artwork on the walls.
Albert Simpson played for gas money, and the mandolin player just sat in
On Saturday morning it was time to head back to Lubbock. The initial miles through the mountains surrounding Taos were a last reminder of what cool means. In Mora, which celebrated its own Fiesta de Mora with a superb traffic jam thanks to horses, motorbikes, and street vendors, it already got hot. Once we hit Santa Rosa, Angela was wrapped up in long sleeves and long pants and a cap to keep the sun at bay. And once we crossed into Texas (yes, at Texico), well, it was murderously hot again.
La Fiesta de Mora
And so it continues. Today the thermometer once again got close to 100 degrees, but at least the nights cool off. Yesterday I cleaned off my back porch from the Sahara-like sands that have accumulated over the past months and had my dinner outside. Maybe, just maybe, my leg is going to come around sometime soon—but let's not hold our breath. Patience, patience. Still, if I go for a little field trip like the one last week, things definitely are a little more bearable.


No comments:

Post a Comment