Days 4 & 5
Starting/Ending Point: Bernalillo, New Mexico
Miles Driven: 61
After the long drive from Omaha, it was gratifying to spend two relatively chill days in Bernalillo)) (a small town North of Albuquerque). I didn’t even bother going into Albuquerque proper. It’s a wonderful city – one I’ve visited several times before – but I didn’t feel the need this time. This stop was all about spending time with family and friends.
I spent the bulk of my free time visiting my grandparents, who live in a cozy retirement home in Bernalillo. My grandfather turned 90 this year and this visit was in part a belated birthday gift (I must say, for a nonagenarian he’s doing quite well. In fact he’s a heck of a lot sharper than the President 10 years his junior).
We spent two full afternoons talking about everything from family business to politics to the problems of social media and climate change and other ills of the modern world. We all basically agree that the country and humanity in general are facing a possibly irreversible decline into catastrophe.
It all sounds quite depressing when I put it that way, but honestly the conversation wasn’t nearly as dark as it sounds. My grandfather and I both share a genetic trait of masking uncomfortable emotions with dry wit. For my grandmother’s part, she adheres to some alternative philosophies and feels deeply connected to the Earth, which she believes will eventually erupt in a series of extirpating catastrophes (volcanoes, tidal waves, etc.) which will remove her human oppressors. Good for her; I wish I could be that optimistic.
Seriously though, I love my grandparents. They live an analog lifestyle that honestly makes me jealous. My grandfather has never touched a computer in his life and my grandmother only turns on the WiFi for one hour a day to check her email and read the Washington Post online. I can’t fathom the thought of turning off my WiFi. That’s like turning off the water. As much as I like to imagine Ghost on the Highway to be this bold journey the fact is I’m completely dependent on technology and like everyone else I know subject to the endless anxiety that comes from being plugged into social media all the time. I admire them for resisting the encroachment of Big Tech.
My grandparents were also kind enough to share a collection of priceless old family photos, some of which date back to the early 1900s. I was completely enamored with these documents; if this had been the only attraction I’d seen during this trip it would have been worth every mile. Out of concern for their privacy I won’t share any of them, but it was truly enchanting to step into a this long-forgotten world and get a sense of one’s history.
I did manage to sneak in an outdoor adventure or two. On Friday morning I hiked some of the trails near Placitas. These weren’t particularly difficult hikes, nor were they even that visually spectacular, but I’m badly out of shape and I needed to start with something light before I get into some real treks (as I’m sure I will later in this journey).
I ran into a man named Chuck and his two wolf dogs; Sammy and Zora. He talked about these dogs for a good 20 minutes straight. In a different context this might have annoyed me, but I had plenty of time, Chuck was incredibly nice, and gosh darn it those dogs were as beautiful as could be (out of concern for their privacy I didn’t snap any pics of them). I wish I was passionate and charismatic enough to simply wax my love about anything in front of a total stranger. Instead I have to bottle it up and put it up on the internet for people I’ll never see.
On my last night in Albuquerque I had dinner and drinks with some good friends. Like my grandparents I don’t see them that often but as we all agreed that night it was like we picked up right where we left off. Again such real-time interpersonal connections make the whole thing worth it many times over. I have to remember to treasure these moments and keep them in the bank for those stretches of the trip that get long and lonely.
I wish I could stay in New Mexico longer, but alas the ghostly spirits beckon. Tomorrow I head off for Arizona where undoubtedly more desert treasures await (assuming, of course, that I don’t just blow a tire, get bit by a rattlesnake and die).