FIRST STOP, COCHITI LAKE
That is not exactly true. My very first overnight stop was in Belen, New Mexico at my favorite sports bar/restaurant, Fat Sat’s. It was an overnight stop to avoid drinking and driving, and eat the most delicious hot wings on the planet, made with their own secret recipe sauce that will make you sweat just a little, but after washing that bite down with a crispy cold beer you will hardly be able to wait for another bite. Oh yum!
Belen is a few miles south of Albuquerque so I waited until after rush hour to leave in the morning. It was hot the day before which made the cloudy morning sky look rather pleasant and inviting, even though clouds bring humidity.
Humidity in the desert southwest is nothing like the swamps and bayous of the southeast, and no place on Earth holds a candle, a very dripping candle, to Houston, Texas. I once told a pastor he could forget about threatening me with Hell because I had spent a sweltering summer in Houston. Believe me; the humidity here makes a tough Texan laugh because when it gets above 30% we whine.
Nevertheless, the drive up I-25 was delightful, except for one stretch of road that made me wish my RV had four-wheel-drive. It was not a ruddy dirt trail through the outback that made the RV buck and stutter, slam over sudden drops and shake the inside contents into a mass of clatters, bangs and …, do you remember the movie “Chitty, Chitty, Bang-Bang?” Well, this was one Chitty road; the I-25 freeway running right through Albuquerque. It could be that the military used it for shelling practice, but thank the Lord and Governor Martinez the road is being rebuilt. I often wonder how the New Mexico state government manages to keep this state running as well as it does on a budget that would not be sufficient for a Ted Turner afternoon soirée. This is the west; let us call it a hoe-down, though I doubt that Mr. Turner even has a hoe.
Continuing northeast on I-25 only a few miles beyond the halfway point to Santa Fe, New Mexico is the Santo Domingo Indian Reservation and Pueblo on SR 22, well-known for silver and turquoise jewelry, and traditional Green Corn Dance held in August. SR 22 heads north to Cochiti Lake at the Cochiti Pueblo where ancient crafts are celebrated such as pottery, jewelry and the making of Cochiti drums, made from hollow tree trunks. Their sound is rather unique, although it is doubtful that bees, termites and woodpeckers enjoy it.
If ‘reservation’ and ‘pueblo’ are unfamiliar, allow me to explain. A reservation is Indian land and recognized as a sovereign nation. They have their own laws and regulations. A pueblo is a community within the reservation. If you would like to read a little about reservation life as told in novel form pick up a Tony Hillerman book. He tells terrific mysteries that take place in tribal country. You will get hooked.
Once at Cochiti (pronounced: Coach-eh-tee) a campsite with a good view was easy to find. From the northeast the legendary Rio Grande flows into the lake through a carved-out canyon. At this latitude the river is impressive. It comes into the lake as a powerfully wide watercourse. The lake is small, but the campground is remarkably big, well-maintained and beautifully designed. Every site has a covered concrete pad with a picnic table and standing barbeque. It is the patio cover that immediately got my attention. An arched roof of what appears to be polished bronze gleaming in the sunlight would get anyone’s attention. The weather is a bit cooler up here at 5,520 feet.
The first morning in a new area calls for a hike. Only a short distance into my hike I meet a group of the most venerated meteorologists in the world, ants. Look at the photo. They are clamoring to get inside. It is going to rain. The sky is bright with cumulous clouds and there is little breeze. Yet, I start working my way back to camp. I rarely believe politicians, but always believe my little formic friends. Moments later the sky changes to an ominous dark rolling mass of cumulo-nimbus clouds heading my way. The wind kicks into gear and the sweet smell of rain wafts through the air. Not many things taste as bad or smell as good as juniper during or after a warm spring rain. As the first drops begin to fall I am at the door of my RV. Moments later rain pours. And people wonder why I am so fond of pesky little critters.
This is a short-lived monsoon type rain even though the season has not officially started. Perhaps Mother Nature did not get the memo.
When the rain lessens into a gentle shower I cannot help enjoying it on my face. It makes me smile. It feels like tiny butterfly kisses on my cheeks and as it pools and streams down my neck my only thought is to move before it goes down my pants.
Opting for a site with no hookups, as usual, is economical and makes me feel more like a camper than an RVer; an illusion I know. My solar system (which does have tiny little planets and it’s own gravitational field – in my mind) is perfectly sufficient to provide the electricity I need. Operating on ‘clean, non-consumptive power’ as much as possible is important to me. My fossil fuel consumption is already way out of line driving ‘Mr. Thirsty.’
Tomorrow morning I will be off to see something new.