No, I don’t mean “just desserts”; I mean we drove from Scottsdale to Las Cruces, New Mexico on Thursday, and it was mostly just deserts, with a lot of rocks.
The landscape is very different here. It reminds me of how weird it all seemed when I moved from Phoenix to Minneapolis nearly 28 years ago. After living in Arizona for a year it was almost overwhelming to see so much green everywhere and all at once. It was probably a good thing that I arrived in Minnesota in June, however; if my first impression was 12 degrees with an icy wind I might have turned down the Minny job and stayed in Phoenix, and who knows what effect that would have had on my life (not to mention the lives of my wife and daughters)?
We drove the scenic route from Scottsdale, which took us through the dramatic, rocky passes around Superior and Globe. The rugged slopes converge at different angles around the highway, almost tilting your perspective and perception, especially when the horizon is blocked and the road is twisting. The Reverend Mother rode through here on Wednesday with the motorcycle gang she joined (I’ll leave it to her to post that story) and said the effect was even greater on a bike than in the car. I wouldn’t say it was beautiful, exactly, but it was very distinctive, unusual and fun.
The purpose of the trip was to visit the Reverend Mom’s cousin and her family, but we were also looking forward to seeing New Mexico, which we’ve heard is beautiful. Actually, I know it’s beautiful, because I’ve driven through the state before. Apparently the stretch we drove through today, however, is not going to make it into the brochures. Right at the state line the pavement changed to a darker, more rumbly surface and the scenery began to take on certain moonscape qualities as we drove along state highway 70 toward Demry.
It looked as if a nuclear bomb had gone off — nothing grew that was more than 3-feet tall and there were no buildings or structures for miles. In fact, if we came across a structure it was most likely dilapidated – windows missing, roof fallen in, or possibly an abandoned, sand-pitted mobile home. All it would take to complete a classic “desolate West” scene would be a bleached long-horn skull or two. Instead we saw the modern equivalent: rusted out frames of an occasional vehicle, including an old 1930s or 40s-era pickup that had been left where it died on the ranch, stripped of tires and interior and left to rust and blow away bit by bit. Given the age of the vehicle, I wondered how long it had been sitting there within sight of the highway.
Amazingly we even saw occasional small herds of cattle, including the dreaded black ninja cows conducting desert manuevers. Most were eating the desert scrub grass and foliage. Somehow, I don’t think these cattle will make it to Kobe-beef status on the Bourbon Steak menu.
Even the first town we came across, Lordsburg, looked dessicated. Good Lord, Lordsburg. Literally half the businesses and buildings along the main drag were boarded up, and the windows to the lobby of the Luxury Hotel revealed metal folding chairs for furniture. One dedicated car-dealer featured about a dozen new cars and trucks aimed at the road, prices marked on the windshields in optimistic neon colors. I think the marketing theme for the dealer should be, “Leaving town? Why not do it in a BRAND NEW CAR!”
Other than that about the only maintained structures we saw until we got to Demry was a series of about two dozen billboards placed close together Burma-Shave style promoting the Continental Divide Trading Post. Each billboard promoted another rare, not-to-be-missed product; everything from snake eggs (not sure if these were pickled or not) to saddles, whips and, probably, mounted jack-a-lopes. They probably had beef jerky, too, and out here I bet it comes directly off the slaughtered local cattle without need for drying or processing.