Greetings From the Land of Enchantment, part 1

My mother-in-law lives in Santa Fe, NM with her husband and their two dogs and two cats. We live in Western Massachusetts, so it’s a pretty long journey to visit. There’s no direct flight and Slava always says, “If we’re going to fly for six hours, we’d better be in Europe!” We visit every few years.

This trip, we woke up at 2:30 in the morning (ha ha, usually I go to bed at 1am! But I was sick so I went to bed at 10), packed the car, fed the cats, and remembered to put the heater under the chicken’s water dish so it wouldn’t freeze while we were away. We got to the Hartford, CT airport in time to catch our 6am flight out. The TSA spent a lot of time inspecting the food items in my carry-on and made me open the can of peanuts because the silica pack looked suspicious. They were all friendly enough, though, which was lucky since I was pretty darn tired. Did I mention I’d just come down with the flu?

Today I figured it costs the same to travel by train, although it’s two days each way. But no TSA, lots of leg room, better air, interesting scenery the whole way, a bar…. Our flight was pretty miserable – packed into the last seat of the plane on a *horrors* United flight. I almost couldn’t fit my carry-on under the seat in front of me and we didn’t have overhead storage. I tried to sleep but merely dozed. I bet the lady next to me was happy to have me coughing and sneezing the whole way. Gah, I was THAT PERSON! Plus there were a shitload of empty seats in “economy plus.” Walking past all those empty seats made everyone extremely grouchy.

So here we are for our third Santa Fe visit together. We’re here for a week. Two weeks ago I was in The Sunshine State, where it was hot, humid, and extremely sunny. Here it is cool, dry, and extremely sunny, so I don’t have a runny nose, I have a crusty nose. Plus I’m exhausted by five pm. SUCH A GREAT HOUSE GUEST! Maybe next time I’ll stay home if I’m getting sick. But I’m happy we’re here, regardless.

DAY ONE: I had to sleep for a while when we got to the house, then Slava and I borrowed his mom’s car and went to his fave ex-ghost town, Madrid, which is only about 20 minutes outside Santa Fe. We tried three types of mescal at his fave bar and walked around downtown.

DAY TWO we went to Los Alamos, one of three sites of the Manhattan Project. I don’t know if you know this about me, but I’ve had a bit of an atomic obsession since my 80s childhood, when Reagan had his finger on the button and my mother was in the Nuclear Freeze Movement. For over a decade I had nuclear nightmares. This is how I expected the world to end (surprise!). Atomic disaster films were (and are) a fave genre, (although I think modern ones are kinda lame compared with 70s/80s ones). I’ve become an atomic tourist. I’ll make a post later about that.

Anyway, this was our second trip to Los Alamos. Last time we got there late and everything was closed. I’m sad we never made it to the old Los Alamos thrift store, where one could buy weird technical items from the labs. The first time we visited NM, we went to Trinity!

In any case, we drove up there on what turned out to be a chilly, overcast day. First stop, breakfast. Second stop, two church thrift shops. Slava informed me Los Alamos is one of the wealthiest cities in the country, median income holding at over $100k. Seems like a good place to thrift.

Next stop, the local historical museum, where we got a long, very informative guided tour of not much physical space. I made us take it inside due to the weather, my cold, and our third tour taker’s obvious shivers. Interesting history, but heavy on the pro-Japan bombing propaganda. We certainly learned more than we would have if we’d taken the ten cent self-guided tour.

We had lunch and headed over to the (free) science museum for more atomic info. We would have walked around town more if we’d been prepared for 49 degrees F, but we didn’t bring our coats. We found a good liquor store on the way home and tried some mescals, finding a good, relatively affordable one (same price as 4 shots in Madrid!).

DAY THREE we headed north with Slava’s mom to a town we always visit that sells chiles. Slava stocked up on chipotle and we walked around a bit. I was feeling pretty under the weather today and was NO FUN.

We ate at our usual, delish, restaurant outside of town and headed to Taos to visit the Earthships, where Slava and I had never been. We pony-ed up our $8 each and took a quick tour of the visitors center and surrounding lot. The Earthships are pretty, but dark in the back rooms, and unappealing to us. We hate hippie community! But do love eco living. It’s difficult to compromise.

We headed back toward SF (sort of) and went to another regular stop, Ojo Caliente. This resort, built around natural hot springs has several types of mineral baths, which makes it very special. If you just want to come in and soak, it’s $30 and they lend you towels, no time limit. BYO bathing suit and hat, leave the sunscreen behind. The tubs are various heats, but if you start at the back and move forward, it’s very comfortable even in chilly weather. Slava opted out this time, so his mom & I went for it. There are changing rooms and lockers for non-resort guests, BYO lock, which we did. You need to shower before you go into the tubs, thank you. I always forget to bring sandals and a robe.

I don’t have an awful lot of public hot tub/hot spring experience (OK, this is the only place I’ve paid to soak), but I’ve been here three times and have noticed some trends. The resort wants you to “whisper only” so you won’t disturb anyone trying to relax. Signage abounds. At other visits, people have observed this rule, but this time there was only “inside voice” talking, which I found much less irritating (HERE COMES THE JUDGE!). Whispering, after all, implies secrets. It also tends to make you try to listen in. Actual talking hides nothing, irritating as it may be. Hey, let’s not kid ourselves, we are not alone here.

There are always a few ultra-annoying exhibitionist couples who are all entwined and cooing at each other. Gross! Are they having sex under there? We’ll never know because we just don’t want to look. There are also always older men trying to hit on young ladies (where is this not true?). Also Gross! We wind up the Regulars Section with middle aged ladies trying to stay true to their Mind Body Relaxation Yoga Namaste lifestyles. The remainder of us are schmoes off the street, just trying to relax. The smart peeps bring books so they don’t have to interact with anyone. Note to self: experiment with reading a book in a ziploc bag.

This spa is worth visiting because it has so many different mineral baths. Soda, Iron, Lithium (!!), and Arsenic. I thought it had Sulfur but I guess not. Probably not too appealing to the peeps who associate sulfur with farts and Satan. As of this year they no longer allow kids under 13 at Ojo Caliente. Probably too many “accidents.” The tubs are outdoors, although the Soda bath has a roof, and my glasses fog up in there. The mud bath is only open until dusk, so we missed it.

When we go here, I always imagine if I lived locally I would be very angry that this natural wonder has been walled off and monetized. Having to pay does mean it’s clean, but it still seems wrong. I hope they offer locals a discount for a soak. There are other open air, unmanaged, free pools in the area. We’ve been to two but they are warm springs, not hot.

Slava’s mom showered after our bath session, which I thought was weird. We just paid $30 to soak in these special mineral baths! Why wash it off? So I’m still covered in the Arsenic water. Hope the cats don’t lick it off me in my sleep!

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