Day 75 (2016-11-09): Amtrak to Santa Fe
The alarm wakes me at 4:00, just a few hours after I finished lamenting Trump’s victory with my new acquaintances. I packed the night before so I dress, eat, and leave quickly to ride to the Amtrak station in the cold black of morning and catch the Southwest Chief to Santa Fe. I cannot see the road conditions for most of the way but I am glad I skipped this section. We pass through Holbrook, Chambers, Gallup – all the little towns on my route – and I see nothing but tiny towns with few services in an otherwise remote desert. Taking the train also gives me a little more flexibility to enjoy stops along my trip and still get to NOLA in time to take Amtrak home for the holidays.
After about 8 hours I depart in Lamy, the closest station to Santa Fe. Amtrak was pleasant – a pretty smooth ride with spacious seats (compared to bus or plane) and opportunities to visit the lounge and dining cars. Lamy is tiny – just the train station and one other building. I change into riding cloths and go a mile or two up the road to where the railroad trail begins. Uh-oh…this does not look appropriate for me. I try to ride and make it maybe a quarter-mile before the sand and rocks become too much for my ride. Backtracking, I return to the road and take the longer, paved option into town. The outskirts of Santa Fe are similar to other small towns – wide roads, well-spaced houses, and pockets of business. This all changes after I cross Paseo de Peralta and enter Oldtown.
Crossing into the historic district the decades of carefully regulated architecture is apparent: the pueblo style is in full effect for everything from houses to hotels and all businesses in between. The streets are narrow, traffic low, and many people walk about. The iconic central plaza reveals Santa Fe’s Spanish influence, as it was once the capital of the northern river province. I find myself in a square filled with trees, benches, and a small statue marking the center of Oldtown. All around people sit, chat, shop, and meander between shops lining the square. It’s beautiful here surrounded by this architecture and the peacefulness of streets with few cars. I sit for a while, chatting with my Seattle friend Bry and watching folks go about their afternoon.
As the sun sets and the chill begins I ride to Sprouts and walk around snacking on dark-chocolate covered almonds as I revel in all the produce. I could shop here and get everything I need, at a decent price, and enjoy high-quality produce and good brands. In this moment I realize just how important food and a good grocery option are in my daily life – they can make or break a city. From Sprouts I return to Oldtown, stopping at Mellow Velo. The bike shop sells everything from fat bikes to Italian titanium racers but the employees are down to earth and tell me about the biking culture, point me towards some mountain biking options, and overall impress me with their friendliness and openness to indulging my questions.
I finally make it to my host’s house, where I briefly meet Scott – a previous Warm Showers guest who has returned to town and stopped by to say hello – a good sign. Matt and I chat and I prepare Portobello’s stuffed with pre-made chili verde rice (not my best effort) while talking about Santa Fe. I learn a bit about the housing and job markets and realize Santa Fe may provide more options to someone like myself because it is the state capitol and has many government jobs. Afterwards we venture to The Pink Adobe, a New Mexican restaurant, for a night of trivia with his friends and Geeks Who Drink. I never actually catch people’s names – Matt just introduces me to “everyone” and they all say hi. I share my story and ask about mountain biking and learn some more about Santa Fe during a fun, relaxed night of trivia. The theme is “I Will Survive” after the day’s terrible election news.
Day 76 (2016-11-10): Exploring Santa Fe
Here at 7,000 feet it is freezing (literally) in the early morning so I enjoy a slow morning with tea before leaving to explore Santa Fe. I wander back to the central plaza in Oldtown where I check out merchandise from the local Native American vendors.
I continue wandering town, heading southwest away from the historic district to a much more modern, suburban area. The juxtaposition here is severely off-putting with big box stores and fast food chains ruining the historic, small-town feel. Along the rail trail adjacent to Railyard Park I examine a photography exhibit then head towards La Choza, a New Mexican restaurant, for lunch. The blue corn tortilla burritos, baked with beans and cheese and smothered with green chile, are excellent. The side of pozolé and Spanish rice come right on top and I wash it all down with a beer. I sit for a little while longer, working on “Why We Cannot Wait” by MLK.
I try to go to the MeowWolf exhibit (an interactive art house where you are discovering a story through the experience) but it was closed for a private event. Damn. Instead I continue riding through the ‘burbs and eventually take the bus back to downtown. Santa Fe is pretty cool if you stay in the historic area but beyond that I found it a little disappointing. Sure, it has better job options than Flagstaff and a nice, peaceful feel to the artsy Oldtown but the sprawl is a disaster and I found the contrast to be too much. Still, a cool place.
“Where, in the days of slavery, social license and custom placed the unbridled power of the whip in the hands of overseers and masters, today – especially in the southern half of the nation – officials are clothed in uniform, invested in authority, armed with the instruments of violence and death, and conditioned to believe that they can intimidate, main, or kill Negroes with the same recklessness that once motivated the slaveowner.”-MLK in “The Sword that Heals.”