Round America Trip – Pie Adventure

The trip ‘Round America covered 50 states and over 2,500 towns.

There are a number of interesting stories about our pie trip.  We call this one “The Great Pie Adventure.”

Day 20 was to be a big day.  I am detouring several hundred miles out of the original path for the trip in order to see one and only one thing: Pie Town, New Mexico.  The place got its name from a lady who baked pies for the ranchers in those parts.  It has grown over the years from one lady to where it now has a population of 60.  I learned of it several years ago when someone gave me an article about great pie, and the Pie-O-Neer Cafe in Pie Town, New Mexico was featured.

A “Pie Trip” could not possibly be valid without a visit to Pie Town, so I carefully charted the course.  It’s literally as remote a location as is Big Bend – nothing of any consequence for 100 miles or more.  So, another adventure begins as I rolled out of Roswell in anticipation of great pie – multiple pieces of delicious pie!

I saw some surprisingly interesting towns en route.  Lincoln, New Mexico is a neat little mountain town.  Lots of history.  Buildings are restored or are being restored.

Just after noon, I got my first glimpse of snowcapped El Capitan Mountain.  10 minutes later, I was in the cute little town of Capitan.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Capitan is the home of Smokey the Bear, and he is buried there.  I stopped at the Smokey the Bear Museum.

I also stopped at the Shell station to fill up and grab a Coke.  Corinna said “nice beads.”  As I’ve said, women smile and may comment.  But men tend to think I am a deviant of some type.

Since I left Del Rio way down in South Texas, I had essentially been without cell phone service.  New Mexico was no better, except in Roswell.

Most states had sent me a map, but New Mexico did not get one to me before I left, so the map I got from Cody and Erica was very much needed.  According to the map, I was to be passing near part of the White Sands Missile Range.  That’s neat.  So when the sign said it was just five miles off the highway, the little white car just headed there automatically.  I had to see it.

All of a sudden I realized where I was!  The Trinity Site – the site where the first Atomic Bomb was tested on July 16, 1945.  This was a serious deal.

I pulled up to the main gate where I was met by Gus, the security man.  His badge looked a lot more official than Dr. Doug Blackburn’s.  I asked if I could go in, and Gus said I’d have to come back in October.  I told him I was just passing through, writing a book, and on April 20, October just didn’t work well for me.  Gus didn’t think I was very funny.  He said: “October.”

I got the message, so I went to Plan B.  I asked if it was okay to take a few photos.  “No.”  I was wishing Rose was with me.  She knows how to get photos of forbidden stuff.  To Plan C, “Gus, may I take your picture?”  “No.”  Gus was a man of few words.  Perhaps I should always remove my Mardi Gras beads before approaching men with guns at military installations.

So, I hopped back in my car, hooked a U and went into Plan D.  I drove quickly away and snapped a few photos from a Distance while Gus went back to reading the Sunday paper.  Rose would be proud. 

On the road again, my next stop was Magdalena.  Never heard of it, but it is a nice little spot that is undoubtedly a small artist’s community.  Probably just a few hundred people there.

I met two nice boys, Daniel and Chris.  They were excited to have their photo taken, and then they got into the spirit of the trip and kept coming up with ideas of spots in Magdalena that I should photograph.  They followed me on bike.  I saw an Easter Egg Hunt in a park area with some great sculptures apparently done by a local artist.  I liked Magdalena.

I kept checking the map as Pie Town didn’t appear to be getting much closer.  I discovered there was a HUGE error on my Excel spreadsheet itinerary.  The number 100 was in the mileage column, but it was more like 300.  I decided I had to press on.  I just kept driving and driving and driving. 

Pretty scenery, but you know how it is when you are mentally programmed for one thing and your system gets thrown off.  The next thing on my handy Cody and Erica map was the “National Radio Astronomy Observatory.”  I stopped to take a quick photo from a distance.

As I looked back at it in the rearview mirror, I realized what I had just passed.  THAT was The Array!  The site of the Jodie Foster movie, “Contact.”  Excellent movie!  Had I realized and known they had a video presentation, I would have driven over.

UFO’s, White Sands, and The Array.  This is adventure at its best!

A few miles down the road, I realized I had been in a big adventure for some time.  I had been looking for gas, but the little towns either had no gas stations, or they were closed.  When I hit Datil, a town printed in slightly larger, bolder letters on the map, I began to panic when the only gas station there was closed.  The last open gas station I recalled seeing was the Shell I visited 172 miles back in Capitan.

I figured I was good for about 70 miles max.  I pulled out the Cody and Erica map again to see if there was any town that had larger, bolder type anywhere near Datil.  There were no options.  The best bet looked like it was in ARIZONA – a ways past Pie Town, New Mexico!  I knew I couldn’t make it that far.  I began to panic.  All I had wanted to do was eat some pie.

There were very few cars on the road.  No wonder.  There ain’t no gas.

I decided the only thing to do was keep going toward Pie Town.  I passed the Continental Divide the first time at 5:05 pm and pulled into Pie Town two minutes later.  That annoying “you are out of gas buddy” light was shining for the last I don’t know how many miles. 

Pie Town is really tiny, so I had no trouble finding the Pie-O-Neer Cafe.  Despite the gas situation, I was so excited to see it.  I took a few photos.  Then I went up the steps, and I saw it.  “CLOSED.”  No way I have driven 300 miles or so to eat pie and have Pie Town’s pie cafe closed.  Devastated was not the right word.

I knocked on the door.  A nice lady came.  They had just closed at 5.  I told her I had driven 5,500 miles to eat pie there, and I gave her my card and pulled the photocopy of the article out of my notebook to show her I was telling the truth.  She let me in.  They had just a few pieces of pie left.  I had Apple Walnut Raisin and Peach.  Very good!

I met the owner, Kim Bruck.  She and three brothers moved there from Chicago, so Pie Town had grown to population 65.  She told me that Coconut Cream, Oatmeal Raisin, and Apple Crumb were her best sellers.  I told her if it were not for the fact that I was almost out of gas that I would be in pie heaven.  She gave me a free slice of pie and a little pie-shaped magnet as a gift for Bozzie.

I enjoyed talking with her, but they wanted to close up and go home, and I wanted to see if I could find a landline to call AAA to put their service to a real test – delivering gas a million miles from nowhere.  Kim and her brother told me there might be a gas station open 22 miles west – usually open until 6, but not sure about Easter Sunday.

It was 5:45, so I said a quick goodbye and I drove very fast to Quemado where I could have kissed Robert, the attendant at J&Y Auto Service, when he was still open.  If it hadn’t been for two ladies and a flat tire in a huge RV, he would have been long gone.

Life was good again.  It is a shame that gasoline detracted from the visit to Pie Town, but thank heaven the Pie-O-Neer was even open on Easter Sunday and J&Y Auto Service.  I never thought I would be happy paying $1.00 more per gallon than I had ever paid for gas before, but I was.  Best gas by far.  Ain’t supply and demand grand.

Back to Cody and Erica’s map, I now had to re-route myself to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.  I identified a new way to go without backtracking, and I saw some gorgeous scenery in the many mountains of New Mexico.  Because I was driving in the mountains, the sun was shielded, and it became dark much earlier than it does out in the desert where I’ve been for a few days. 

As it got darker, the mountain roads became less enjoyable.  I passed the Continental Divide again about 9:30.  226 miles from Quemado, I pulled into the Best Western in Truth or Consequences.  The last 40 miles was spent hugging the yellow line as I circled a mountain with the rocks of the mountain to the left and black space to the right and no guard rails.  It was the only time I was glad Bozzie Jane was not with me.

When I told Tyler at the Best Western the road I had come in on, he said: “You drove that AT NIGHT?!” Yep.  I didn’t tell him I had just been out for a piece of pie.  I’m glad I couldn’t see; it was too dark to see, and my left eye was hurting the whole day.  At least there were no other cars.

I’m sure most of you are thinking that no one in their right mind would drive that far for two pieces of pie.  You’re absolutely right.  But it will be a special memory and fun story to tell.

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