Every day has been an adventure. Some more than others. Today was heavy on adventure. I went on an Easter Egg hunt of sorts. More about this later.
I stayed at the Loco Motel (better known as the Roswell Comfort Inn). According to three absolutely delightful ladies that I met at the checkout counter at the motel, when they had their carpets cleaned, it was written up in the paper, and it said “loco motel” rather than “local motel.” Ana, JoJo and Betty Boop (Veronica) were a hoot. All work at the “Loco.” Veronica gave me a really cute handmade rabbit with a colored egg inside. She wanted to go on the trip with me in the worst of ways – stuck her leg out and pulled her pants leg up a little feigning a Marilyn Monroe hitchhiker pose as I drove off.
Fun ladies. A great way to start the day. I’d hate to guess how many times in my life I have checked out of a hotel or motel and just paid my money without saying a real word to anyone. I asked about UFO’s or mentioned my beads or something, and the next thing you know, three of us are having a ball telling stories and talking. I think we all need to talk to each other more. It makes for a more enjoyable life.
I’ve certainly found that folks in smaller towns are much nicer than folks in larger towns. I’ve also found that the folks who work in smaller places tend to be much nicer than folks who work in larger places. Folks who work in less expensive places tend to be much nicer than those who work in more expensive places. There’s a lot to be said for small. As we learned on Day 1, there is a kinder and gentler America, and it is alive and well in small towns.
Roswell is cool. I really liked it there. The city (47,000 people makes it a big city on this trip) appears to be much more prosperous than most of the towns I have seen since April 1.
The first adventure of the day was UFO’s! I passed the New Mexico Military Institute on the way to UFO Central, which is right in the middle of downtown Roswell. I absolutely loved the way so many merchants – even fine furniture stores and investment companies – had aliens and UFO’s in their windows. Nothing like getting with the spirit!
It was June 24, 1947 when Kenneth Arnold saw a UFO near Roswell. It was big news all over. On July 5, 1947, Mac Brazel found debris. The Roswell UFO incident is the biggest and best documented of the various alleged UFO sightings.
I began my UFO education at the Crash Down Diner where I met Richard Hesse and his daughter, Melissa. Melissa owns the Diner, and Richard and his wife, Randhi, own the Starchild Gift Shop right next door offering a truly incredible selection of alien and UFO gift items. It would make The Shell Factory proud! I had a wonderful alien-shaped pancake for breakfast, smothered in caramel sauce and topped with ice cream, whipped cream, and nuts. Yummy. I met Carl Schlach from Michigan at the Crash Down.
Richard Hesse believes there is life out there. He says “do the math.” There are millions of stars, and the odds are that there is something out there somewhere. It certainly seems possible to me.
I met two nice ladies who work at the UFO Museum – Phyllis and Wanda. The museum is really well done with all types of displays about the Roswell incident and others — even has an area representing the position of those who do not believe. The museum was free, but I made a donation. I wish I had spent more time reading what was available. I will return to Roswell with Bozzie Jane; we’ll make a vacation of several days doing Big Bend, Marfa, Roswell, and points in between. Phyllis said she looks forward to meeting Barbara.
I was delighted to find an Office Max and a Target in Roswell. I had been on the lookout for days for a place to get a new tape recorder. I pulled up, and they were closed. Easter. I didn’t stop to think that this would be a factor throughout the day. When you live in places like Dallas, Cleveland, and Atlanta, you expect to be able to buy virtually anything at any time.
I saw what I was sure was a spaceship as I headed out of town. I snapped a photo. Upon further investigation, it was the top of a grain silo, but it sure had the right look in the right place. Maybe it is a spaceship masquerading as a grain silo. I choose to be a believer.
Richard Hesse told me to be sure and check out the Roswell City Limits sign. It says “Dairy Capital of the Southwest.” What?! UFO’s put Roswell on the map, and the city fathers are promoting dairy. Those folks haven’t learned the important lesson that most small towns know: Celebrate what you got!
Today is 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 Café 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 roll 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 deviate of some type.
Since I left Del Rio way down in South Texas, I have essentially been without cell phone service. New Mexico is 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 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 is 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 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. 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 picture 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. 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 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 have 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! 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 Café. 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 café 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 are 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 land line 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 $2.89 per gallon, 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 rocks 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’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 fun story to tell.
The lessons of the day include these: Maintain a positive attitude. Hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst. Realize that life in small towns and remote spots has its trade-offs. It’s unlike life in the big cities where many of us live. For the most part, life in small towns seems gentler and happier to me, but there are always trade-offs, and one of the biggest is learning how to adjust for a limited number of places to shop and get essentials such as gas. Unless you are crazy and/or really into pie, I don’t recommend a visit to Pie-Town. It’s just too far.
Thanks to those of you who have emailed to say you have joined the trip. I’m sorry I’m behind on the Daily Journal, and I’d love to email back, but I just don’t have the time. There are 570 emails in my In-Box, and I haven’t even opened 127 of them that appear to be business-related. The only business I have time for these days is sightseeing, pie eating, writing, photographing, and driving.