My memories of New Mexico used to include visions of parched high deserts, old adobe homes, fighting in Santa Fe because someone missed the road to Farmington, and a rather disgusting stay at a motel in San Jon a few years ago.
Let me talk about that stay in San Jon for a moment. It was dark and it was late. We had already lost time that day driving, because we had unsuspectingly gotten stuck in high water in Childress, Texas during a frog strangler, then before Amarillo been slowed down by high winds coming from the north. Once we got into New Mexico we searched everywhere for a hotel, finally settling for an out of the way motel in the lonely, dark desert.
The price tag per night: just $19.95.
It was a bargain I couldn't appreciate. I was furious with my husband, but alas I was tired and didn't care that he had told the manager that it was only him staying for the night and that no, he was not hiding a wife or three small children in our 1991 red Pontiac Transport van with him.
That night was the worst night of my life vacationing. He checked in at 11 PM and from there our attempts to get sleep went downhill faster than a fly on a cowpattie. The bed was lumpy--covered in an old blanket that I was sure hadn't been washed ever. I refused to pull down the blanket and instead lay on top of the top blanket all while imagining bed bugs crawling on me. We made a pallet on the floor for our oldest two and put our youngest in the playpen to sleep. Between the loud snoring of the man in the room next to us which could be heard through the paper thin walls and my youngest crying, we got up and showered in the two foot by two foot shower and were on the road again by 1 AM.
It was the shortest hotel stay I have ever endured.
Imagine just how surprised I was when I discovered Rockhound State Park in southwest New Mexico...beautiful cacti, extraordinary flora, interesting wildlife, and the deepest blue skies I have ever witnessed. Each shot perfect for a postcard.
To one who lives in New Mexico, these cacti and flowers may seem like ordinary objects--seen often and mundane. However, to me, these plants were stunning, interesting, and other-worldly. Almost alienesque...or rather like an underwater landscape in the middle of the desert.
This trip, there were no hotels stays. We camped most of the way, staying with friends in Arizona and family in Utah. What stuck with me the most though were the interesting things I found along the way as we took our time to explore new areas. Whether it was collecting rocks and thundereggs at Rockhound State Park near Deming, New Mexico or discovering the homes of the Sinagua Culture at Montezuma's Castle in Arizona, each place brought with it something undiscovered and new. Ultimately, I left with a greater appreciation for those parts of the world which I had traveled through before, but had never taken the time to marvel and recognize.
Already, I am planning my next adventure...even if it won't be for a long time.