I was up several times in the night. I made a note to get more bug spray. I slept for about 8 hours and woke up at 5:40 AM Thursday, September 5th. The breeze was chilly. The sunrise hid behind some clouds, but it came out blazing. I cooked some breakfast and boiled water for tea, a civilized way to get up in the morning. Except for the mosquitoes, the Homolovi campground was a nice place. Where were they coming from? It was a desert, for crying out loud.

 
I took a shower, brushed my teeth and changed into some clean clothes. Before leaving the campground, I stopped at the dumpster and threw away the camp chair that broke on the playa. I shooed a stowaway mosquito out a window as I got on Interstate 40. It was four hours to Albuquerque. There was one pickup at Jackrabbit Junction. A train loaded down with shipping containers was eastbound parallel to the highway.
 
It was right at 8 AM when I pulled over at the Geronimo Trading Post. I couldn’t remember ever stopping there before. It had an extensive gift shop and a large display of petrified wood. I bought a Christmas ornament. 
 
It was 8:26 when I went through Holbrook. Dinosaur statues stood guard outside the Hopi Trading Center. Construction slowed traffic down near the Painted Desert Indian Center, across the highway from Stewart’s. Three big black birds sat on a sign watching the progress. My sunburned arms were peeling; I needed to put more aloe on them. It was 9:38 when I crossed the border into New Mexico. A sign for a Gallup motel advertised “No Train Noise.” I drove on into the mountains and pulled over for a pit stop at the Continental Divide. 

On the Mexican radio station, the news was in English. It faded away by the time I got to Grants, where I could only find Christian stations, country western stations, or Christian country western stations. The Sun was bright when I pulled off the highway at Exit 108. I wanted to check out the Dancing Eagle Casino, where I almost stayed for the night. The RV park was simply a parking lot, no trees, no shade, but it was within walking distance of the casino. I treated myself to lunch in the restaurant. I had the pork chops & scrambled eggs special, and it was really good. I would eat there again.

 
Back on the road, it was 49 miles to Albuquerque. There were lots of vehicles stopped at Laguna Pueblo buying goods. There always seemed to be construction around the Route 66 Casino. It was just after 1 PM (Nevada time) when Albuquerque came into view. I got off I-40 and headed north on Interstate 25. The highway was eight lanes wide until I got out of town. This was a highway I’d never been on before. Traffic was pretty steady. Big industrial sites lined the highway. All the housing additions were built adobe style. Outside of town, dry, rolling hills had scattered houses. A dark ridge to the west gave way to dark mountains. Steep grades rose to greet me. Traffic got heavy. I passed a truck with a smiley face on the back; one of its tires was flat. The road topped off and headed down into a wide valley.
 
At Exit 282, I got off an headed north on Highway 285 into Santa Fe. I passed a light rail commuter system called the Rail Runner. There were several places I wanted to see in Santa Fe. I had a map. It was a busy, modern city, with KFCs, McDonalds, and a coffee shop called Pony Espresso. I figured the Plaza would be the easiest to find, so I headed that way. I made the mistake of thinking the streets would be laid out logically, but Santa Fe had been around for hundreds of years, and had tons of short, narrow streets that made navigation for strangers a nightmare. I found myself on a highway headed north out of town. When I found an exit, it did not lead to any place where I could get back on the highway. 
I found myself wandering around residential streets, up and down hills and down twisty roads for a half hour. Finally, I got back on a highway headed south, and was lucky to spot a sign for the Plaza. I passed the emerald lawns of the Veteran’s Cemetery, a green oasis among the somber tones of the city.
 
Going down the tight, congested streets, I spotted an empty parking place and took it. Luckily, there was still 45 minutes on the meter. Downtown Santa Fe was like a college town, with lots of young people on bikes, tourists, and folks with backpacks. There were plenty of homeless people in the parks, too. I headed for what I thought was the Loretto Chapel. It turned out to be Mission of San Miguel. Built around 1610, San Miguel is the oldest church in the United States. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1968. I took a moment to get my bearings, then turned north. A block and a half down the street, the gothic lines of the Loretto Chapel came into view. I paid a small fee and went inside.
 
The interior was beautiful. The staircase itself is a wonder. I remembered the family trip we took, way back when I was just a wee lad—we came here. I don’t remember much more than not being able to see much over the pews, but I remembered the staircase.  It was hard to believe how small the chapel really is, considering all the detail and workmanship. Even with the choir loft, it couldn’t hold more than 100 people. The carvings and stained glass were inspiring. It was truly a labor of love. 
 
Surrounded by familiar symbols of my youth, I felt at peace. It reminded me of a simpler time, when the world made sense and there was order in the universe. I wondered if other people felt the same way. I told the man outside it was just as I remembered it from when I was a boy. “That’s our goal,” he said. 
 
I walked through the gift shop, and asked the sales lady for directions to the Santa Fe Plaza. It was just a couple of blocks away. It, too, was much smaller than I remembered it, not even the size of a football field. The view was disrupted because of some kind of festival they were having. The area was choked with booths, sales people and tents. I remembered walking through the Plaza when I was a little kid. A boy not much younger than me came up and asked if he could shine my shoes. When he saw my tennis shoes, he left disappointed. I rememberd recognizing the Plaza in a scene during the movie "Billy Jack" when I first saw it years back. I wandered around, but didn’t stay long. It was already mid-afternoon, and I had a long way to go. A nice lady at Red River Mercantile gave me directions back to the highway. When I got back to my car, the meter still had 1 minute left. I didn’t see half the things I wanted to see in Santa Fe, but I figured it would just be stuff to see next time. (I was saying that a lot this trip.)
 
I circled around the narrow streets and made it back to main road. I stopped for $30 gas. The girl at the counter got mixed up and thought I was already pumping the gas. No, I’m right here, I said. She even went outside to be sure I wasn’t there. It was hard to get turned back onto the main road. Everyone in Santa Fe drove with big city impatience. Interstate 25 was clear when I got back on the highway, headed north. I had never been in this part of New Mexico before. The mountains were very impressive. Many had the shape of volcanic cones. It was like I’d crossed over into Colorado. It was 61 miles to Las Vegas.
 
The road had many hard grades, and Satori was not liking them at all. High bluffs loomed past Glorieta. The mountains were beautiful, covered in cedar forests. It was kind of a surprise to see that much forest. Traffic was very light. 
 
I passed San Jose at 4:45 (Nevada time), right before crossing the lazy Pecos River. The rest area at Mile Marker 325 had no facilities, or tables. I passed shallow ponds of muddy water. 
 
At pointy Starvation Peak, the highway turned north. 

My goal for that day was Clayton, New Mexico, but I figured out I was not going to make it before dark. I had already been on the road for 9 hours. I was afraid I had miscalculated the distance across New Mexico. To be fair, the mountains were an obsticle, and I spent way more time in Santa Fe than I intended. I needed to find a place for the night. 
 
I had not seen any RV parks since leaving Santa Fe. Just past Tecolote, I passed the exit for Santa Rosa. All roads led to Santa Rosa, in New Mexico, at least. 

 
There was some road construction at Las Vegas, “Home of the Cardinals,” so I pulled over to check my bearings. My smartphone wasn’t finding any RV parks nearby... but just north of Las Vegas was little Storrie Lake State Park. I had not planned to stop there, and indeed had never heard of it, but at that moment it sounded pretty good. I exited the interstate and headed north, but it soon became apparent I was on the wrong side of the highway. I backtracked and went through the city of Las Vegas. It was a big, busy town, but traffic was polite on the wide streets. It took a while to find the park, because there were no signs for it until you were barely a mile away. I stopped at the Walmart for some supplies.
 
The Sun was very low in the sky when I found the park. There were still people at the visitor center. They were very friendly. I was relieved they had open campsites. A non-hookup site was only $10 for the night. Several sites with covered picnic tables faced the lake. Pit toilets were across a wide gravel lot. There were no showers. I didn’t think I could go any further. I drove 428 miles that day, but calculated I only traveled an average of 47 miles per hour all day. The mountains slowed me down.
 
I set up my stove and cooked a big pot of soup. The water faucet at my site didn’t work, but I found one that did, so I was able to wash up. Fed and cleaned, I tried to relax as darkness fell. There were several other campers at the park that evening. One looked like they’d been there a while; they had tarps pulled up over their campsite. I called home. As it got dark, everything slowed down. Even traffic on the road next to the park stopped. A guard light lit up the gravel lot, so it never got completely dark, but I was able to curl up in the shadows and find some peace.
 
  
 
Prologue  Aug. 21  Aug. 22  Aug. 23  Aug. 24 
Sunday  Monday  Tuesday  Wednesday  Thursday  Friday  Saturday  Sunday  Monday 
Sept. 3  Sept. 4  Sept. 5  Sept. 6 & Epilogue
 BurningClam.Com        Original material (c)opyright 2013 by Tim Frayser     tapestry01@yahoo.com 
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LINKS: Storrie Lake State Park  Loretto Chapel  Mission of San Miguel 
Last updated: September, 2013