Written May 29, 2017 and posted June 5.
We left home this morning for 4 nights away at the Bison Ranch Resort timeshare in Overgaard, AZ. We left Belen and headed south on I-25 to Socorro for 50 miles then made a right turn onto US Hwy 60 and drove west 220 miles through the middle of New Mexico and eastern Arizona to the timeshare. Highway 60 is all a good 2-lane – speed limits are 55 and 65 except through the several very small towns along the way. The highway rises in elevation to 6,000 ft quickly after leaving Socorro, and varies between that and nearly 8,000 feet for most of the 220 miles. We passed through Magdalena and then drove by the Very Large Array. I stopped and took a picture – don’t have the ability to both show the vastness of this desert valley and the huge size of these dishes – the array is quite impressive, 27 separate, 25 meter-diameter radio telescope dishes sitting out in the middle of nowhere on a high plain with nothing else in sight. We had stopped at the visitor center about 11 years ago on a trip to Silver City. The work done here is very interesting – looking into deeps space not through a lens, but by analyzing radio waves that the celestial objects project. Look at that Western sky – cirrus type clouds above and 3 dimensional, cumulus clouds below with the dark grey, wet undersides turning to pure, fluffy white at the tops. Then there is that clear, dark-blue sky poking through here and there. Of all the beauty of New Mexico and the West it might be the sky I love the most.
A few miles down the road west from the Very Large Array as the highway rises over the continental divide at 7,900 ft is the tiny settlement of Pie Town. Wikipedia tells me the town has a population of 186 from the 2010 census and got its name from a small bakery established in the early 1920s that specialized, and became famous for its dried-apple pies. Today there are two small cafes in the town and not much more – one on each side of the highway. Eleven years ago, on a whim, we stopped at the one named The Pie Town Café and had lunch and a piece of pie. The nice waitress and the pieces of pie left an impression, and so we stopped again eleven years later, today, and each had a piece of pie ala mode and a cup of coffee. My piece was New Mexico Apple and had, along with the tasty apples, mild green chiles and pine nuts. We left with full bellies and a smile on our faces.
Darlene looks full of pie and happy, doesn’t she?
Highway 60 traveling east and west through New Mexico and eastern Arizona is sparsely populated country. The landscape varies from sage to pinyons and cedars. It is dry country – the only significant commerce is ranching and the cattle must be spread thin over the vast acreage because the vegetation providing food is sparse. I love this western high desert – the sky is huge and the vistas with the bluffs and ravines and rolling hills with mountain peaks as a backdrop give the sense that the wild west lives on, untamed. That might seem a little inconsistent with riding down the road at 70 mph in air conditioned comfort, in leather captain’s chairs with the radio turned up, listening to the SiriusXM Beatle channel – but there’s a little bit of pretend cowboy in a lot of us that this scenery brings alive. By the way, this new Beatle channel is reminding me that there’s some Beatles songs we’ve forgotten about over the years (it’s scary, but it’s 50 years). Do you remember The Octopus’s Garden?
“I’d like to be under the sea
In an octopus’ garden in the shade
He’d let us in, knows where we’ve been
In his octopus’ garden in the shade.”
Small towns out in the middle of nowhere exist in a vacuum in large part. The buildings are old – often rundown – as you drive through you wonder when did history pass them by – how many years ago. Their character is nostalgic and there is a sense of romance to that. As we drove through Magdalena and Quemado today I wondered how It would be to live there. I stopped, and took a picture of a Catholic chapel and its adjacent cemetery in Quemado. It’s old (except for maybe the sign out front) and small and unchanged for how many years? The rest of the town is the same – everything is old, much of it run-down, and some boarded up. How would it be living miles and miles from a Wal Mart and a Sonic, in a place incredibly quiet that never changed except everything keeps getting older. Would it suffocate the spirit, or would it free it to focus on things that are the most important?
Crossing into Arizona we drove through the slightly larger towns of Springerville and Show Low. The landscape changes as Show Low is reached with Pinyon and Ponderosa pine predominating. Turning onto Highway 260 at Show Low we reached Overgaard at 2:00 in the afternoon. The landscape at our destination of Overgaard is beautiful. The town along with its sister town of Heber is a second home and weekend retreat for many from Phoenix to escape the summer swelter there. We sighted elk several times during the stay. The guest at the unit across the way saw a mountain lion at the edge of the resort clearing while we were away to breakfast one morning. I’ll attach a couple pictures of the timeshare resort and then try to post some separate pictures and description of the landscape and Mogollon Rim country later.