Our adventure has kicked off splendidly, despite a small series of unfortunate equipment failures.
As planned, we picked up our van at airport parking, where the couple we had loaned it to to make the one-way trip down to the southwest had left it. They left us a sweet note and some small gifts from their adventures, which made for a happy start, somehow distilling the joy from their trip and jumpstarting ours with it.
Our flight arrived in Albuquerque around 9:30 pm, so, as planned, we headed just 20 minutes east of the city into the Cibola National Forest in the Sandia Mountains. Like all national forests and grasslands, you’re allowed to camp anywhere without a permit as long as you’re not blocking a road. We’d pre-scouted the Three Guns Trailhead via Google Maps, and, after a quick pit stop at Whole Foods to rustle up provisions, we headed to our first night’s camp.
It made for a beautiful, quiet night’s sleep, but upon waking in the morning, we discovered that the trailhead was as far as we were going to get: the extreme drought our changing climate has brought forced the forest service to close the entire forest due to extreme fire danger.
So after a brief breakfast and coffee in the van, we headed north to Santa Fe to see an old friend.
Michelle and I met in Seattle, but she’s waxed nostalgic for her hippie life back in Austin, when a revolving cast of characters would wander in and out through an open door living room, impromptu jam sessions in the backyard would stretch into the we hours of the morning and a dining room table overflowing with food (cooked by Michelle) would welcome whoever came by for extended and leisurely dinners.
Michelle’s friend Felecia Ford played a central role: they traveled and camped together, stayed up late nights gabbing, planning and cooking up adventures.
But that was more than twenty years ago, and now Felecia is a musician living in Santa Fe with her partner Lou, her black hair blonde.
But old friends are old friends, and so when we rolled our van up to her adobe house on the outskirts of Santa Fe, we were welcomed with open arms and spent a relaxing couple of days with me playing digital nomad and Zev playing with the cat Henry in her home. As Michelle put it, “when someone had a special place in your heart, it doesn’t matter that twenty years have gone by, you see them again and that special place just opens right back up.”
It felt like slipping into a new home with Felecia, easy to see to how Michelle and she shared a welcoming community years ago. When Zevin sat down at her grand piano for his daily practice, she slipped down next to him and gave him absolutely the best lesson of his life. Where he’d been resistant and slow to advance in his lessons at home, with her, he was ecstatic, at one point hopping up from the bench, rubbing his cheeks with his hands and saying “my cheeks hurt I’m smiling too much. I love the piano!” Thank you, Felecia!
As an added treat, Felecia was singing along with Joe West’s band for a couple numbers off of Blood on the Tracks (Simple Twist of Fate and Shelter from the Storm) at the bandstand in Santa Fe plaza, a quaint, tree-shaded respite from the New Mexican heat.
Santa Fe, Lou told us, is the oldest capital city in North America, dating back 400 years, once serving as the capital of Mexico. The old Spanish architecture is still very much on display, and lush, courtyards filled with interesting shops and restaurants are hidden behind the block-long adobe walls.
The crowd at the performance was cheek-pinchably cute, Oil of Olay softened hippies. There’s something about people in their batiks and colorfuls, gray haired pony tails swaying back-and-forth while they dance that just warms my cockles. I generally shrug off the “Seattle Freeze” people talk about, but sometimes I find myself surprised at just how friendly people in some other places are.