Thursday, February 20, 2014

One train and two windshields

Riding the rails.

Finally got the chance to ride a train in New Mexico.  I fell in love with train travel when I was living in Asia and traveled in 4 countries by rail.  Here in the US it's a bit trickier since we Americans have a love affair with our cars.  Whenever the opportunity arises I do love to hop a train, so recently I drove north of the Bosque to the southern terminus of the Railrunner.  It's a commuter train that travels daily between Belen at the southern point and Santa Fe at the northern end.  Of course I could have drive to Santa Fe but the train offered me the option of taking the journey at a slower pace and sitting by the window at a raised elevation with great views of the scenery.  In fact, a large part of the travel goes through Indian pueblos and gives the rider a chance to view areas not normally seen except by the residents. 

The weather was great in Santa Fe and after browsing in the depot (the original building) in downtown I picked up a rental car and drove up along the Rio Grande to Taos.  All was going great until just before I reached town.  A truck passed.  A rocked pinged across my windshield, and then the ping turned into a long crack right in front of the steering wheel.  I had no cell service at this point so I drove slowly into Taos where I was able to return the car and leave in a different rental with an intact windshield.  That extra $15 for the vehicle liability insurance made things a breeze.  Sure glad I took it.

 After visiting a few places in Taos I decided to head east toward Las Vegas (the one in New Mexico, not Nevada). 
This meant going up and over the mountains, past the ski resorts and all their buses, and coming out on the other side all while enjoying some really gorgeous views.  There was snow on the mountains and even right up to the sides of the road, but I was thankful to be driving on clean, dry surface all the way across.  In Vegas I made a short visit to the wildlife refuge there.  Not much to see since the drought had made it impossible to plant crops the previous year and very little water was available.  The wildlife was taking refuge somewhere, but not here.

View of a visitor entering the cemetery in the village
of Wagon Mound with the famous "mound"
in the background.
My name on the log as I perched high above
the gorge at the cache.
The next morning I drove into the village of Wagon Mound, a sleepy little place that once had been a very important stop along the Santa Fe Trail.  The large rock formations were trail signs for the travelers that here they would find shelter for a night or two of rest on their journey.  Today it offers a view of the wagon mound rocks and a truck stop along I 25.  All around me the land was flat except for the mounds. I could see why travelers focused on this spot.  But turning east on state highway 120 I found the Canadian River Gorge and some breathtaking scenery.  Of course I also found a few caches along the way including one that offered a 360 view of the valley and gorge.  Very impressive.

By lunch time I was back in Santa Fe returning my rental and having lunch near the train tracks.  The trip back offered a full rail car: full of UNM students heading home on a Friday with their duffle bags of dirty laundry for Mom to magically turn into clean clothes.  Once again I enjoyed a window seat with panoramic views.  I followed the journey with an app that helped me learn about the areas I was cutting across.  Back in Belen I loaded my bags into the little orange car and after running a few errands I heading back to the Bosque where only I could turn my duffle of dirty laundry into clean clothes.  All was good until about 10 miles from my exit off I 25 when I heard a rock ping the corner of my windshield and then saw the crack formed across the passenger window.  Now how about that!  Two windshields in two days!  Sure did make for a memorable trip.

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