The only hydration pack I remember really owning was a Camelbak Rocket that my dad bought me when I was 19 or so, at my first bike shop job. My parents were upset that I was staying in Santa Fe to work rather than returning to Massachusetts, and I interpreted this pack as a peace offering, a gesture of love and support even though I was driving them crazy and breaking their hearts. I used that hydration pack for almost 15 years, and finally retired it when we moved out of our house in Pittsburgh to begin our great road trip adventure.
After spending time in Joshua Tree, Orange County, Los Angeles, Death Valley, and Grand Canyon (stories coming, promise), we are finally back in Santa Fe for the summer. We were going to take longer to get back here, but some opportunities presented themselves for us to arrive earlier and help out a friend with house sitting. In the spirit of saying YES to things, this was a good choice. We were asked by other friends to house sit for a week and they will pay us for our efforts, plus we found more stable living for the summer and fall in the childhood home of an old friend of mine. Evan already found two jobs, and I have some stability to focus on writing, which has been obviously lacking for the past few weeks that were spent in California.
We spent our first night in California at Pilot Knob, a BLM site just over the border from Arizona, outside Yuma. It was a vacant, dusty field, and we just pulled in far enough that we could have some mild privacy without getting ourselves stuck in the sand that got more loose the deeper we drove into the abyss. There was some black mass to the east, a burned out camper, and a lone RV parked the north, tucked way in the back of the field. There was some other debris spread about, between the black mass and the singular RV. Time passed as it does, I took some photos and did some work while Evan disappeared to explore. After a while, I got worried when he didn’t answer my phone calls or shouts into the empty space. I put on hiking boots and grabbled my knife and headed out into the settling darkness. He was just on his way back from the black mass, and took me over to see it.
In the desert, my eyes are tricked in their search for familiar. I see creatures everywhere: the tall saguaro cacti are tall, thin men looming on hilltops, staring down at me; prickly pear fallen from the barrel cactus before ripe is a gila monster sleeping trailside, soaking in the hot sun of this record February; driftwood becomes pronghorn, javelina, or some other, otherworldly creature.
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Living in a camper is really living the dream. A dirty, filthy dream. We do have a shower—that is, when we have water, which isn’t all that often. The shower itself is basically a bucket with a hose. I’m being a bit dramatic here, because there isn’t a much better feeling than, after no way to bathe for a week or two besides baby wipes and dry shampoo, standing in a plastic basin with water spraying into your chest and rinsing it all away into a drain. It took until Arizona to fix our plumbing issues, and we now have both running water and a working shower, but the water is fairly limited, compared to a house shower, and the hot not cold water lasts for only three minutes.
Evan and I camped out in the parking lot of McDowell Mountain Cycles, a bike shop in Fountain Hills, Arizona that’s co-owned by one of our former coworkers from The Bike Shop That Shall Not Be Named, back in Pittsburgh.
Maybe I’ve been avoiding writing about Santa Fe. I used to write poems for the City Different, for the people there, and the smells, mountains, the sky that swirls constantly into its folds like blueberries into batter.
For years, I’ve been wanting to stay at Riverbend Hotsprings, a modestly fancy resort in Truth or Consequences, NM. A room there is pricey, and in the times I’ve been down that way, either I haven’t had any money, they haven’t had any room, or some combination thereof. Evan and I had been talking about going there for a while, and conceded on spending the night boondocked outside of town and taking a dip in the springs.
Terlingua. Now that’s a town I could bug out in for a while. It’s a small town between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend State Park, and has two towns coexisting: the old ghost town remnants and the hippies who moved there to grow old in the early 90s and never left.