“When you begin to doubt yourself, doubt your doubt.”
Average Gas: $2.50/gal
Slept: Original EarthShip, Truck Stop, Pink Pelican Inn
Taos is home to the original Earthships–completely sustainable, recycled housing that works with the Earth. Lucky for me, a close friend from my college days at UCSC lives in the ORIGINAL Earthship. This means it is not as sophisticated as the newer ones, and has a few kinks to work out, but is still utterly amazing and cool and inspiring and OMG can you tell how badly I’d love to live in one?
New Mexico has relaxed building codes, which makes it prime for experimental housing like this. And Taos is full of artists, hippies, travelers, and others of consciousness, making it home to many Earthships.
The typical structure involves a front room that doubles as a green house, a wall of many colors built out of the bottoms of glass bottles, and walls consisting of dirt-packed tires. Many of the newer Earthships have solar paneling, compost toilets, and grey water collection. It was such a treat to get to stay in one!
Now that you know where I’ve stayed for 5ish days, lets dive right into the amazing town of Taos.
Taos is connected to Taos Pueblo, which I intentionally did not go to in an attempt to respect a culture I do not fully understand. As I mentioned in my blog on AZ, I found myself judging the ruins and lack of pristine in the Navajo Nation. It is not American in my sense, and that is great, although it doesn’t require my confused eyes. Taos Pueblo is the OLDEST community in America, inhabited by the Pueblo people. There are small windows of visitation hours during the day, but after accidentally driving there around 2:30pm and receiving a sharp face telling me to turn around, taking advantage of the visiting hours felt like trespassing, or infringement upon a tribe’s little personal space. So the most respectful thing I could do was stay away and admire a Native people’s ability to maintain space.
The first night in Taos proper, Kate (my good friend) took me down to the river–the Rio Grande! We hiked down and found a private spot where her, her Pitbull, and I set up and relaxed in the river with some fresh brews from the Mesa brewery. The weather was warm at 6pm, the water was cool, and we were comfortable. I was so surprised to find out how wet New Mexico really is. There are access points to the Rio Grande all over the state, not to mention many other water ways. And little to my then-knowledge, Taos has a famous bridge that overlooks the Rio Grande. It’s a hot spot for tourist visits, so of course Kate showed this to me.
Unfortunately, I had missed Kate’s day off and she had to work during the days I was in town, which left me to explore the town on my own. I ate at Gutiz’s (a French/Spanish inspired cuisine), stopped in Tea-o-graphy (hilarious shirts there read “A different way to tea bag”), shopped at Cid’s, perused Vagrant Heart (a MUST SEE art gallery), collected winter wear from Spotted Bear, saw the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial (read separate blog), drove past other Earthships, checked out thrift stores, supported the Farmers market, and chatted with a lady in a metaphysical shop. I also re-organized my CRV (I had gained a sled from the day on the dunes that didn’t have a designated place) and caught up on rest and nutrition. I also asked way too many questions about the underground tunnels there, to no avail. These tunnels were built before the famed anglo Kit Carson “founded” the town. The mystery factor had me yearning to run through them, yet the city has every entrance sealed off–most completely nailed shut.
The evenings when she was free proved to be full of fun, excitement, adventure–all things I’ve learned to expect when hanging out with her. Our first full day together led us to the ashram where fellow travelers gather to eat delicious food in exchange for cleaning and other work around the temple. There were so many kind people there, and a peacock that paraded around, trying to snag food when the people weren’t looking. What a site! And what delicious food. Not great for those with food allergies, but a great place to gather and meet like-minded people all the same.
The last night I was there, we went to a concert at Taos Mesa Brewery. It is located on the outskirts of town, and the outskirts of the Mesa, making it the hangout spot for an eclectic group of people. We danced with the crowd, waved to the band, and socialized with everyone willing. Delicious beer on tap for reasonable rates, yummy food, and the dome-shaped architecture make this brewery truly one of a kind.
What do you mean an eclectic group of people?! My first night there, Kate warned me not to go to the Mesa without her, even if I met a chill person who said they lived out there. Apparently, it is a pocket of lawless land, where police are hesitant to go, and blondes are currently targeted by the criminals who live there. Naturally, I became intrigued by this (limitations? How do I push this? How thick are boundaries, really?). You know we went while I was there.
BUT WE WERE SAFE. We went to a hiking spot she knew about, and explored it in the same way we explored the abandoned Slaughterhouse in Antioch, CA that I took her to (see what I mean about fun, excitement, and adventure when we meet??). How did we explore it? With a balance of logic and imagination, careful steps, consideration of the nature around us, and light conversation.
To get there, we traveled down miles of bumpy, grated dirt “roads” amidst sage brush and plots of housing, passing interesting structures with mountains in the distance. She knew the markers to land us in the right place, and almost immediately after parking, we stumbled upon an abandoned well, hidden by bushes. We sat there looking at it, knowing that it holds too many secrets of crime, fear, accidents. At one point, it was just a well. At this point, it exists on land where criminals are free to do as they please. A few years back, a burned and mutilated teenager was found in this spot, discovered by brave hikers like us. Police didn’t want to go out there to retrieve the body. HOW DOES A PLACE LIKE THIS EXIST? Apparently, there are a few places like the Mesa throughout the USA, and I’d love to see more of them. It’s like stepping back in time to the wild west. Or maybe its just a pocket where the Wild West never died.
Either way, this land of lawlessness was an unique experience that only added to the intensity and enlightenment of this trip.
But is it art??
Santa Fe is the epitome of an artist town: full of events, points of interests, and people who dance to their own tune. I’ve heard about it several times while at the farmers markets in California–it has been referred to as a retirement community, as a bougie city, as a conservative bubble, and of course as home to Meow Wolf. It also has a Trader Joe’s, and some cool thrift stores. However..I wound up driving through during Labor Day weekend, which meant I could not find a place to sleep. With that in mind, I cannot begin to express the amazing spiritual, connected time in my short time there.
My first stop after gathering groceries and a few vintage wears, was Star Dreaming Temple. If you’ve ever watched the Netflix show “Chambers,” I’m pretty sure this is what they loosely base the cult off of. Although, by saying this, I may be cheapening just how enriching this place truly is.
Star Dreaming Temple was built by “The Rainbow People,” using 800 tons of stones to erect several temples, each representing a unique initiation (I LOVED Temple of the Sun, Temple of Magic, and Temple of the Violet Flame). Each temple is spaced out, and laid across a large plot of land. Most involve labyrinths with a meditative center made from exquisite crystals and places to make offerings. All have weeds sprawling from the packed dirt, which interferes slightly with the still-worthwhile journey. Walking through each temple seemed to bend time, as I would spend what felt like 5 minutes looking at each one, only to find out the exploration lasted 20, 45, or even 60 minutes! Each temple is like stepping back in time, diving right into the self, and exploring crevices and traits that have been long overlooked. It’s a great place to self reflect, find forgiveness, and for me, a great way to feel the power of my Saturn Return. I would love to go back soon. I spent a few hours there, grateful, happy, and a little dehydrated (it was 105 degrees out) before leaving to go to Meow Wolf.
Star Dreaming left a meditative, pensive feeling. On it’s own, it is powerful enough to be the big thing to attend for the month, maybe even the year, but I had already purchased tickets to attend Meow Wolf, which was recommended several times by trusted sources.
At first, it felt uncomfortable. There was a long line of people of all ages, and everyone arrived in a group. Standing there alone felt almost isolated as the wait was 15 minutes. Everyone was too busy speaking with their group to pay any mind to the solo lady. So I breathed in deep, trying to receive this experience fully.
The lines were not clearly marked, so each new attendee to arrive asked the same thing “um, is this the start or the end of the line?” After 10 minutes or so of this, they finally let us in. Once inside, there is no time limit, and there is unlimited access to the jungle gym/exhibit until closing.
The walls leading to the restrooms and exhibit are brightly painted, “graffitied” in blacklight-enhanced paint, with positive messages. A few of my favorites include: “When you begin to doubt yourself, doubt your doubt.” “Who is your guardian alien?” and “In a past life I was a tether ball but now I am just a divine baboon witnessing a solar journey.”
The main exhibit itself is the enterprise of 400 artists, some well-known, some up-and-coming. It caters to all ages, as it is engineered to resemble a 2 story house that plays upon the fantasy of a child. The premise: a child lost their hamster, and it is up to the visitors to find it in the inter-dimensional house. The setting: this house is like no other. Go into the kitchen, and you might find yourself walking into the refrigerator. Go into the laundry room, and you may slide down the dryer into a star room. Walk into a bedroom, and the closet will lead to another universe of underwater, space age, candy, forest (there are several). The backyard leads to a jungle and then an abandoned ship. All around is fantasy. At first, I was overwhelmed by the crowd, numb to the kitchy cartoonish designs. And then, I found a hidden room.
This room held a “Warning: strobe light” sign on the closed door, and when I walked in, it was completely empty. It lit up when I stepped in, like it was celebrating its discovery. All around were statues of tribal-like animals with buttons and lights on them. I began pressing the buttons and discovered that each one created a sound. After a few minutes of tinkering, I found that it wanted to be interacted with in a pattern. Once that pattern was initiated, strobe lights began flickering, and loud dance music began to form. By the time I got it going full blown, crowds began flocking in. My heart smiled as I realized that this was a gift–the isolated room meant for me to indulge the inner child. I checked back in it several times before leaving, and each time thereafter, it was FULL of families laughing and dancing and lights bumping to music full blast.
I left dancing along, and wound up in the abandoned ship. Inner child indulged, I felt as though I was being taken on a mirrored journey–one that replicated my own life. At first I was confused, lost, but then when I began to dance and play, each step led to new excitement. I span around, looking at the abandoned ship in all of its glory. Only, it reminded me of Santa Cruz–the city I moved to at 18 for college, and didn’t leave for 7 years. I was instantly taken back, reminiscing on all the fun times with my friends, all the laughter, all the excitement, all the connection. I realized that all of my longtime friends were thousands of miles behind me. Kate now hours behind me. I began to cry, feeling even more alone than I did waiting in line. But then I began to laugh. For the first time of this trip, I honestly missed the life I had left behind–and that, no matter how it is spun, is a profound symptom of healing.
I continued through the exhibit, walked through a tunnel poking at the idea of television being a broken reflection, and felt lighter. I was ready to leave after waking through about 4 times (I also found the hamster the first round, within 10 minutes of arriving).
I stopped in the gift shop, bought some post cards for my old college friends and some feminist-artist-made shirts for myself (as a reminder to check out an ongoing display in New Orleans), and left.
It was dark at this point, and after an hour of checking out all the open camping spots, to find them full, I drove off to Albuquerque. The place Kate told me not sleep at for the night.
After missing home, Albuquerque felt like a treat. It was full of people dressed in baggy clothing, and actually had ethnicity. It also has the highest crime rate of the state, almost matching Oakland per capita. I found a safe truck stop to sleep at, and quickly drifted to dream land with the sounds of honking and other languages.
That night, I found deep healing as my dreams took me down a journey matched with the two of that day–nostalgia. I went through almost every romantic relationship I entered into, and found absolution. I woke up feeling lighter, and confused. Was it the reminiscing at Meow Wolf that brought me to this subspace? Was it the temples of prayer and crystals that aligned me with my heart chakra? Was it the green opal I put under my pillow that night to hide from theft? No matter what, I sighed in deep gratitude, pondered the lessons of the dream a bit longer, and continued to rest for the night.
The next morning, I went to the gym, and this is where I believe the universe began demanding that I do not flee further from home. While flossing my teeth, a filling (from 2015!) fell out! It hurt–it was a big filling! The lady at the gym counter looked up emergency dentists for me, and I met a dental assistant who gave me advice and warned that there would be no dentist available for another 2 days thanks to the holiday. After calling 8 phone numbers, the assistant was right.
To make the most of it, I just kept going the path and stuck to a liquid diet for a couple of days. My first stop was to see a familiar face from Santa Cruz, an awesome lady who makes jewelry (look up Bronwizard Jewelry). I supported her, satisfied my need for familiarity, and was fortunate enough to chat with some locals she had over. They sent to me to what is called “The Sandea Man Cave.” This place contains a legend: As it goes, a man lived in this cave for 400 years, living off of the land and summoning his own deep healing to survive. When he passed, scientists attempted to study his remains, but couldn’t find what allowed him to age so gracefully. So they left the man cave open, in hopes of one day discovering his secret to longevity. The Sandea range was on my list before this, so I hightailed over there.
After parking, I found the proper trail, and somehow managed to crawl past all the poison ivy without gaining a rash. The trail became crowded with people celebrating a successful soccer game, so after the caves were in site, I turned around and walked a few other trails. Sandea is truly beautiful, and the highest point offers a great view of the sunset.
Before leaving town towards Truth or Consequences, I stopped at what is now called “The Route 66 Open Space.” Originally, this plot of land held a Western-themed amusement park called “Little Beaver Town,” which closed down shortly after the comic strip it was based on stopped selling (sometime in the 50’s). Today, there are still remnants of bases of buildings, sprinkled with broken glass and cute graffiti. If I hadn’t read about it before hand, it would have been all too easy to just drive by what looks like a desolate lot.
Truth Or Consequences/T or C
T or C, originally called “Hot Springs” changed their name in response to a talk show host who offered money and a live show to any town that would change their name to Truth or Consequences. This town was (and still is) full of people quirky enough to jump on such an opportunity! The town motto is: “We are all here because we are not all here.” And it fits.
While friendly and kind, everyone I encountered in this town had a rich, colorful past and an inclination to discuss it. Most clutched to deep spiritual beliefs, and the only pawn shop in town is actually a crystal shop! I received a surprise medium reading and learned of the Lemuria people while here.
The buildings are brightly painted, the shops are cleverly named, and there is water on either side of the town: To the West is the Rio Grande (connected to a dog park), and to the East is the Elephant Butte Reservoir. Oh, and there are natural hot springs everywhere, the lifeline of the town. Every hotel in the area boasts about their “private access rooms” to the hot spring water.
I was fortunate enough to rent an apartment hotel (by accident**) for the week. **I say by accident because it was extremely affordable to where I thought it might be just a twin bed. But nope, it came with free hot spring soaks and it had an office, kitchen, backyard, and even an outdoor shower.** I used it to rest through the discomfort of the missing filling and to complete my first week’s worth of homework. While there, I saw a centipede for the first time–those bugs are way cooler than they are creepy, and are apparently common as an infestation. The Pink Pelican was not infested with them, but offered multiple access points to the outdoors, so bugs were more or less expected (especially with my “Let fresh air in” attitude).
My original plan was to stay for 2 nights and then head to the Carlsbad Caverns, but that got changed when the only Dentist appointment available was for Thursday. That made it so I stayed 4 nights, until Friday (you try sleeping in a vehicle with tooth pain. Call me weak or call me wise, I don’t care).
Waiting to see Dr. Coyne was a fantastic decision. When was the last time you met a dentist that you actually didn’t mind seeing? He’s one of the greats! Thorough work, generous, kind, with excellent communication skills. I was actually sad that I couldn’t have him as my go-to dentist. I’m pretty sure this filling will never fall out, and he even offered me advice on how to choose a better dentist to redo the other fillings that were done all too-sloppily in 2015.
The night before leaving, I interacted with older hippie women who suggested I stay in town for awhile, but it was through hearing this that I knew it was time to move on. This may be the land of Entrapment, but I have a goal to meet. Friday morning rose, I packed my belongings, and began to drive to what would be my last destination for this leg of the journey. Before leaving NM, however, I created a deal with a friend that I would come back to skydive somewhere around T or C.
Thank you for following my journey! Unfortunately, a family health scare had me hightail back to CA, and I am currently sitting at the farm I’ve spent my youth at. There is still another adventure blog to come, and then it is decision time for me: to stay in one spot and focus on school until the warmer weather of spring, or rush out to the Carlsbad Caverns and complete the first half of this journey before snow hits? If you have input, you’re welcome to leave it. Although, at the end of the day, this blog will continue to contain adventures either way.
As always, please reach out with any comments, suggestions, or writing gigs. A few of you have called to offer the ultimate compliment: This blog has made you feel as if you were beside me on this journey. Thank you if you feel this way, and thank you if you continue to read regardless of not feeling this way. Love and gratitude to you, my community.