New Mexico road trippin’

I’m a New Mexican. It’s a big part of my identity. I have been living in the Northwest for years, but I still feel like a stranger in a strange land. I am a scrappy, outgoing, loud white girl with a big laugh. See? New Mexican, through and through. And there’s nothing I love more than to be out driving on the open road, music blaring, hair blowing in the wind.

Here comes trouble!
The sisters

Growing up in New Mexico, we road tripped all the time. We had family all over the state, it was how we saw each other. A four hour drive was pretty standard. That’s how long it took to get from Las Cruces to Artesia. Or Santa Fe to Las Cruces. A five hour drive can get a bit long, anything under three hours, feels like nothing. (Hello, Albuquerque to Cruces goes so fast!) Of course it helps that we average 85 mph on I-25. It’s can’t be helped, we all have lead feet when it comes to New Mexico highways.

Allsups: the alpha and omega of NM roadtrippin’

Let me start this by saying nothing goes with a New Mexico roadtrip like an ice cold Dr. Pepper from Allsup’s.   I never drink soda but DP on hot summer road trips is mandatory. Nice and chilled from the Allsups cooler, it’s so sweet it makes my teeth hurt. All the better when it’s from a bottle, not watered down in a giant watery tallsup.

It all starts here, esse.
It all starts here, homie.

Load up the cousins, it’s time to GO

So every July growing up, my mom, sister, aunt and cousins, would pack up the truck and roadtrip to camp in Texas. We would start in Santa Fe and drive the back highway through Moriarity to Clines Corners. Dear God, Clines Corners in all it’s timeless creepiness!

It never changes.

It never changes.

Then south to Santa Rosa and Vaughn, along two lane highways. You can go for miles without seeing another car or anything else for that matter. It’s a long hot drive, not that we noticed. The cousins were having the time of their lives in the back of the truck, hopped up on doritos and dr. pepper.

Artesia, July 1977
Artesia, July 1977

We would spend the night in Artesia at my grandparents house. They would always have the tent set up in the back yard to air it out. To this day, I love the smell of hot canvas tents, it instantly makes me feel happy and ready for anything.

The cousins LOVED to be together, we had such a rich inner world. We explored the cotton fields, built forts with Granddaddy’s wood pile and were always down for a slip and slide. We were outside constantly, often bare foot with feet toughened from years of goat-head filled yards. We could entertain ourselves for hours, only noticing the parents when we needed food or permission to go somewhere.

Church and then on the road after lunch

The next morning, after church of course, we would drive the second leg of the journey from Artesia to Lubbock. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: Dear God, Lubbock Texas in July?! Yes it’s true and they are some of the best memories of my childhood. But we’re talking about the roadtrip, we’ll save the Texas talk for another day…

Always church on Sunday
Always church on Sunday

Southeastern New Mexico is a whole different vibe than Northern NM. In the southeast, there’s oil, pecan orchards, cotton and dairy farms. The land looks sparse, but it isn’t as harsh and sharp. Think of brown cotton fields and ranchland rolling by, as opposed to the looming rock formations along the I-25 corridor. There are many faces to NM. I have lived in Las Cruces, Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Artesia and they are all VERY different, but equally cosmic. (Okay, Artesia isn’t that cosmic, but it’s a relic of better days.)

It’s a state of being

Driving in New Mexico feels timeless. As soon as you get away from the towns and cities it’s sparse and dramatic. You can see for miles in every direction. Long mountain ranges looming far off in the distance, big skies that are so blue it almost hurts your eyes to look. The landscape makes you feel very small and insignificant. But it also feels like you are a part of it all, giving this amazing perspective in time and space. It’s nothing like you have ever experienced. New Mexico is not just the Land of Enchantment, it is a state of being.

Cotton fields.
Bonita in the cotton fields.

New Mexico changes people, draws them to it and keeps them there. It is cosmic and natural. It’s why people go there when they decide to just pack up everything and start over. It’s why Carlos Castaneda spent years in the desert tripping balls. It’s why Georgia O’Keefe came and stayed. It’s why all the hippies came to Taos and Santa Fe and never left. It’s why Santa Fe locals fight desperately to preserve their city. Why do you think I turned out this way? And this is me reigning it in!

Our own road trippin’ traditions

Today we road tripped up to a state park here in Washington. It was green and lush, with pine trees, moss and ferns everywhere. It was warm but not too hot and the camp site was well managed and very organized with the cleanest bathrooms you could hope for at a campsite. We walked down to the river and had a refreshing dip, passing waterfalls along way. These are all reasons I came here and stayed.

The Applebums hit the open road.
The Applebums hit the open road.

My kids will grow to love different landscapes,  but they will know roadtrips. And they will do plenty of long drives in New Mexico. We go back about once a year for a wedding, funeral, graduation, whatever. My big family can always find a good reason for a great party. And I love every minute of it, the laughter, the living in the moment, the laid back sensibility.

I heart New Mexico. And I will pour a little DP on the ground for the great summers in the 505 next time I hit the Allsup’s Conoco Shell station around the corner. Here’s to cliff jumping at Abiquiu, summer concerts at Paolo Solari, drives through Madrid, trips to white sands, beers outside on the patio anywhere in Las Cruces after sunset and a million other cherished memories from my land of enchantment.

This view is etched on my soul.
This view is etched upon my soul.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Audrey
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 19:40:27

    I heart New Mexico! Great descriptions. I just put Ashlynn on a plane with Uncle Mike earlier this evening to spend the rest of the week at HP. It’s Tuesday night, 10:00, time for Taps!

    Reply

  2. Mandy
    Jul 28, 2009 @ 10:53:02

    Next time you decide to Road Trip thru NM, let me know and we can meet in between. It is a shorter drive than Seatlle. 😉

    Reply

  3. Mandy
    Feb 28, 2010 @ 19:29:39

    Saw this post on FB and I didn’t realize I’ve already commented! A great read nonetheless.
    I too, ❤ road trips. I've only been on an airplane 3 times in my life because we always drove to our vacations – usually a 6 hour drive to Galveston from Fort Worth. Now I look forward to the annual drive to Leah's place on the way to HP.
    Funny about summer in West Texas – it's a dry heat. It really is not all that bad when you compare it to the humidity dome that is Dallas/Fort Worth.
    I ❤ Allsup's. Their version of an Icee is the bomb. Do they still make those?

    Reply

  4. Sugha
    Feb 28, 2010 @ 22:11:48

    Aaah. So nice to read and feel like someone is speaking my language. Must be the NM in this other white girl. A chunk of my road trips were with you, my friend. My favorite memory would be the Siberian desert confusion and especially slow Cruces to Alb. trip. You’re bound to know the one…. I am joining you in spirit and will think of you often next week. Hasta, amiga! Y vamanos a la Nuevo Mexico!!!

    Reply

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