New Mexico & Colorado: so happy to be on the road again...10.23

Prior to Day 1….this trip was definitely a leap of faith with a generous sprinkle of courage.  

A brief explanation (which is still filled with many unanswered questions) of what’s transpired the past couple of months.  If you followed my “mystery illness” this summer, you know my Blood Pressure was randomly dropping into the 70’s (the top number) frequently, wreaking all kinds of havoc on my body.  After dealing with this for 5 months, I finally got a diagnosis…actually I had two within 8 days.  In late August I started to feel a little bit better.  But after a really weird appointment with my Cardiologist, where he told me he could do no more for me, took me off my meds (a high dose of something that was supposed to raise my BP but didn’t really work very well) & then he gave me a diagnosis of “Pure Autonomic Failure”…a pretty serious & pretty awful diagnosis.  

But 8 days later, an Electrophysiology Cardiologist gave me a very different diagnosis:  “An insult to my autonomic system, caused by a virus”.  The big difference was the outcome:  I would get better eventually.  I was already starting to feel better, & getting off the big BP meds was also helpful.  I was still having symptoms daily, but they weren’t as bad or as long lasting.  

Truthfully, I wasn’t sure what to think.  The whole summer had been a shit show & a horrible roller coaster ride.  At times, we thought this was really serious & life threatening, but in truth, no one really knew.  I ended up having about 20 tests…lots of cardiac, some neurological, & a couple of random nerve & other organ testing….& I passed every single one.  EVERY SINGLE ONE.  No one could figure it out.  Even with the last diagnosis, it was a ‘best guess’ because of what the testing proved “I didn’t have”.  As Sara said after both appointments, “we’ll just have to wait & see”; it would go one way or the other.  

The rollercoaster was a huge emotional nightmare in those 8 days…but I was going to go with the 2nd diagnosis & hope for the best.  I still had so many unanswered questions…was it Covid? (no one knows); would I get 100% better? (no one knows) Can it come back to trash my body all over again? (no one knows).  I needed to just quit asking unanswerable questions.

As I began to feel better, the discussion between me & Sara & Danny went to my traveling again…solo. All three of us were skeptical, & I can tell you my confidence after this summer was shredded.  But, I wanted to go so bad & try.  I knew with the beginning of Autumn, my time was running out.  And, so we made a plan.  I packed up my little 4Runner, made an itinerary, & hoped I would heal during this trip…both mind & body.

Day 1
I left as I always do…super early in the morning with hopes…big hopes, I could drive the whole 12 hours to my destination.

And while I might not have had my usual confidence when I take off on a trip, I felt so happy to be back on the road, headed toward somewhere.

And it was New Mexico!  

I made it to a campsite at 4:30pm Mountain time.  Unfortunately, there was no cell service.  We’d all hoped at least on this initial trip, that I’d be able to have service where ever I was, just in case.  But, I do have a Garmin inReach, so I was able to text Danny my coordinates.  I bought a $3 campsite at the Orilla Verde Recreation area, just south of Taos.  I was really tired when I arrived, but I made myself a cocktail & dinner, & sat & read.  No matter how nervous I was about going back on the road, I knew for this moment, I was over the moon happy to be here!

I walked down by the river I was camped next to before it got dark…the campground was a pretty busy place, but next to the river, it was super peaceful.  I sat on the ground & just felt so very grateful for this moment.

Day 2
I left camp fairly early & went to eat at a new place for me in Taos….Michaels.  I had the blue corn & Pinon Nut pancakes…pretty good.  I had originally planned to camp for two nights where I was last night, but with no service I went to Plan B. 

I have fallen hard for this state, its people, its food, its diversity geographically, & its wonderful beauty.  I knew there was so much more do to even if I couldn’t hike.  I was still hoping I could fill my days on trails, but I needed to be flexible more now than ever.  

One of the places I’d missed on my trip here last September, was a tour of Taos Pueblo; a UNESCO World Heritage Site & National Landmark.  It had been closed on that day I’d arrived in Taos, so I knew that’s where I’d begin this trip.  I was there when they opened & went on the first tour.  It was fantastic.  It’s shameful what we’ve done to the Native Americans, as is what the Spanish did too.  

It’s a beautiful place still filled with traditions & secrets & questions.  

Our tour began in this church…which is both Catholic & their native religion.  So fascinating & interesting that they practice both….when the Catholic religion was forced on them, & yet our guide admitted that so many in her tribe are still afraid of ‘not being Catholic” from all the threats made upon them during the Revolt, but yet still practice their own religion. 

The tradition of blue doors is to ward off evil spirits.  

This is the river & their main water source.  It comes from the run off of Taos Mountain, which is owned by the tribe.  They’ve been drinking directly from this source for so many years, it doesn’t effect their body the way it would yours & mine.

Fascinating their customs on burial.  They never used caskets before the Revolt, but were forced to when they were forced into Catholicism.  But, they have returned to their ways of burial…directly in the ground.  

Visiting places such as this & learning more about their history, past & current culture, is always moving & thought provoking & I walk away feeling ashamed of my cultures participation in the Native American’s lives (I feel the same way when I’ve toured a plantation & see what we did to the humans we made slaves). 

I went to a shopping district I’d not been to before in Taos, called John Dunn.  I got into a nice conversation with one of the shop owners & she was kind enough to suggest a place for lunch.

I walked to the Alley Cantina….the oldest building in Taos, built in the 16th century.  At one time it was Governor Bents office & is supposedly haunted by his daughters ghost.  It’s been a restaurant since 1944.

I had the Chile Rellenos appetizer & a margarita…YUM!

One thing I’d planned on this trip….was to eat!  This is definitely my favorite state to eat in!  I love Green Chile everything & there are so many family owned little places to eat in this state.

I decided to drive north to camp at Wild Rivers recreation area, where I’d camped last year.  It was more crowded than I anticipated, but it was still early in the day & I found a spot in the Little Arsenic campground (there are 4 or 5 campgrounds here with about 10 sites or so in each campground…all spread out).  I love the views of the canyon & the Rio Grande River you get from these sites.   Last year I’d hiked down into the canyon from camp, but that wasn’t going to happen today.  I pulled my book out & enjoyed the wonderful weather & the great views…just so happy to be here, camping in my 4Runner & back on the road!

I was going to be here for two nights & had my ‘paid receipt’ stuck on my camp post.  But, weirdly, while I was over sitting behind a tree that had a better view of the river, an old man wandered into my camp.  He’d stopped his truck camper by the road, but walked all around my 4Runner even checking out the inside.  I walked over to him & asked what he was doing?  He asked if I was camping in this spot….& I said yes.  Then he came back with “well, it looks temporary & I need a place to camp”.  I followed with a “it’s not temporary, I paid for this site & theres my ticket”.  He said, “well it looks temporary”.  Oh brother!  Then he left.  So, I put up the tent I’d brought with me, then got back to the business of looking, reading, & enjoying it all.

Day 3
This morning the plan was…LAZY.  I just wanted to enjoy this perfect weather, the peacefulness of the camp, the birds, the view …just everything.


Mid morning, I headed to Red River…a town I’d missed on my trip last year.  I’d heard it was pretty & today they were having an Octoberfest Celebration.  While I don’t love that style of beer, I wanted to see the town & thought this was a fun way to do that.

There were lots of artists, vendor booths & several breweries there too (I guess that was the point).  You got so many taster tickets with your entry fee.  I struggled to find the kind of beer I liked, but did find my favorite winery.  You all know I’m a huge stout drinker…big barrel aged stouts are my preference.  An OK back up is an IPA or Scotch Ale.  But, I love Noisy Water’s Green Chile wine.  It’d been on my list to buy more bottles (I’d bought a couple when I was here in the spring) when I was in Albuquerque on this trip, but here they were in Red River with a special deal just for Octoberfest.  I also bought Danny a mixed 6 pack  (2 Dunkels, 2 Octoberfest, & 2 Pilsners ) of his kinds of beer from one of the breweries.

I’m also not a huge fan of German food but I bought a brat on a tortilla…pretty good.  I might prefer this to a bun!  I listened to music & people watched.

Somehow, I ended up at another winery’s tent.  This one was called the Rio Grande Winery (RGW) & somehow I ended up buying a $45 bottle of Tannat wine.  The people working the booth asking me where I was from, what I was doing, etc. & when I said camping & that eventually I was heading to Las Cruces (where the winery is located), they invited me to come camp there, saying “We’re part of Harvest Hosts!”.  I informed them that I was not…more to the point…Car camping is NOT allowed to be of that group.  It’s a really cool program where you pay about $80 bucks a year & you can camp for one night at all sorts of different places: breweries, wineries, alpaca farms, organic farms, ranches, golf courses, etc…whatever business signs up to participate.  But, they only take self contained RV’s…you have to have a bathroom & a kitchen.

But these guys that quickly & kind of sneakily sold me my wine, said to come anyway.  It would have been a good idea for me to actually get their names, but I didn’t.  I knew of a wonderful free place I could camp in Las Cruces if they changed their mind once I got there.

Lunch done, 7 bottles of wine purchased, a mixed 6 pack for Danny & a walk around Red River & then I headed back to camp.  I didn’t feel good enough hike today, which made me a bit sad, but I was looking at all the wonderfulness of my trip so far.

I love the Wild Rivers Rec Area….it’s so huge & gorgeous open space.  I had seen big horn sheep when I was here last year & sure enough, as I drove into the area, there were several on the road.

I made it back to camp to enjoy the rest of the afternoon & evening.  I had cell service so I was able to talk to Danny….which was comforting to us both.  I took down my tent & packed it in Camper; & read the rest of the evening, looking up frequently to take in the view, the sky & listen to nature sounds.

Day 4
I haven’t had my BP drop for over a week now, but what I do have are these waves of light headedness & nausea.  Sometimes they are fleeting, but sometimes last hours.  I hate the nausea!  And so this morning when I woke up, I felt sick.  I got all my crap together  & took off, hoping it would go away sooner than later.  

I listened to an audio book as I made my way to Abiquiu…a place I just love.  It’s not the town, but the drive between the Abiquiu Inn & Ghost Ranch.  I have driven that part of the road over & over along huge colorful rocks & unusual terrain.  I’ve been here a few times & it never gets old.  

I drove into Ghost Ranch, hoping to do a hike up to the pinnacle on a ridge that I’ve done before.  

They are now charging for ‘day permits’…evidently the church that owns them, doesn’t cover the cost of the place anymore.  I would have gladly paid it, but I still felt like shit.  I bought a t-shirt, felt disappointed that I wasn’t going on the hike & drove away.  I went down a road I’d been curious about before….it’s a pretty crappy road, but I wanted to check it out.  The Ampitheatre that used to allow camping is now closed.  I pulled in to the area anyway, opened up my hatch, sat in the back & ate a snack hoping that would get rid of the nausea (It seems weird to be able to eat while your nauseas, but I’d be in big trouble if I couldn’t.  I’ve spent alot of time this summer feeling that way….I hate it.)

I’ve camped at the Rhiana Chama campground before (a COE campground) & since the road I’d been on had camping but no cell service & the ampitheatre camping was closed), I thought I’d check to see if they had a site.  It was Saturday afternoon, so it was a long shot.  The camp host said the only site they had was the “overflow” tent camping area…no RV’s allowed.  It was perfect.  I’m not sure why it was the last site available…there were 5 sites back there & I was the only one there.  It was so quiet & peaceful with a view of the lake.  I’d had to reserve the site online (no reservation fee) & thought, I’d always prefer that spot if I was doing this again.  I love it when campgrounds have tent (or just car sites) or no-generator zones.

The other reason I loved this site, was I could see the Black Mesa from here.  It’s one of the famous mountains that Georgia O’Keefe painted.  I have a small print of it in my house; & now here I was able to look it all evening.

It was time to eat a mid day meal, so I went to the Abiquiu Inn Cafe for a green chile cheeseburger….YUM!  I eat here everytime I come to the beautiful area.

After I’d had lunch, I drove around the area.  There was an art tour of local studios happening, so I went to three of them.  There was also a drive I could do down next to the river.  I thought maybe there was some dispersed camping down by the river & thought it might be good to check it out for next time.

Then I just drove some random back roads trying to get closer to this Mesa.  The trees were so pretty too!  Autumn is here.

I was beginning to feel a bit better, but the nausea & light headedness had gone on for hours… makes me feel exhausted.  So, I went back to camp, settled in & enjoyed the lake view.  Near sunset & took a short walk to try to get an unobstructed view of the days end.

It hadn’t been a great day as far as how I was feeling, but I was outside, seeing beauty, hearing nature, & it was definitely better than feeling sick & being back in Kansas.

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