It’s been a long time since I’ve written about travel. Mainly because if I’ve gone anywhere, I’ve gone back to where I’ve been before and that’s boring.
This last weekend found me in AngelFire New Mexico. I’ve been to New Mexico a number of times, once in Albuquerque to teach a class, and the second time we stayed overnight on the way to Cortez Colorado for a mission trip. The scenery is spectacular, right out of a Clint Eastwood western. Probably the reason they call it “The Land of Enchantment”.
So, let’s go through the particulars. AngelFire is roughly 70 miles from Santa Fe. It’s about 10 hours from DFW. We decided to fly this time and let me tell you, the flight selection is paltry. There are two airlines that service Santa Fe airport – United and American. The United flight cost was ridiculous and the American flight seems to be the same flight that just simply goes back and forth between DFW and Santa Fe for most of the day. So we took that one. Getting there was pretty uneventful.
Although AngelFire is about 70 miles from Santa Fe, it turns out to be about a two hour drive, Taos is actually closer, but I couldn’t find a flight whatsoever to fly in there from Dallas. So we are stuck flying into Santa Fe and renting a car. As usual I chose Avis, but Avis had a split shift and didn’t reopen till 5:30 in the afternoon, Roughly an hour and 1/2 after landing. We planned on just hanging out and waiting but it turns out that as we stepped off the plane and into the terminal a dude was sitting in the Avis counter and handed us the keys to a Toyota Camry. And for the first time ever, they handed me a sheet with markings of previous damage and another sheet explaining why the car wasn’t cleaned. Had something to do with a drought.
I love getting Camrys as rental cars, especially when I rent a Corolla, and this one was no exception. It was super comfortable, and appeared to use no gas whatsoever. At the end of the day I drove it for the whole weekend to and from Santa Fe and all-around AngelFire and only put 20 bucks in the tank, which, at three dollars plus a gallon, was about six gallons or so.
We wound up staying at a friends vacation place. Places like these, which are owned separately by people as opposed to corporations, are used primarily by the people that own them, but they rent them out in order to pay for the place and earn a few shekels. They’re all about the same. What’s bad about most of these deals is that they lack any kind of decent cooking apparatus. Usually what’s there is cheap and burnt up. That wasn’t the case here. This place was actually quite cozy, and while the cooking gear wasn’t of pro-quality, it was decent and fairly new. The owner obviously is a tea drinker, because they had an absolutely bitchin hot water kettle.
AngelFire is about 8600 feet above sea level. Which caused a huge problem for my gimpy lungs. We would walk out of the condo, turn left up the hill, and herself would walk up the hill like nothing. I on the other hand, looked like I was about to summit Mount Everest. It took me about three days, nearly until we were leaving, to acclimate to the altitude. If you go to the resort and take the lift, it takes you up the mountain to nearly 11,000 feet. There, it was worse for me.
This is a place for your hard-core fit people. This time of year they’ve converted the ski resort over to mountain biking and hiking. So you can put your bike on the left and get on after, climb up to 10,600 feet, and blast down the mountain on one of the trails, which are marked identically to ski slopes – green, blue, black diamond, double black diamond. The hiking is actually spectacular, as is horseback riding, which we did. Saturday they had a bow hunting event, where you’d hike down the mountain and shoot at stuff. The place was rocking.
What’s nice is AngelFire has a lot of cool amenities such as food store, coffee shop, ice cream shops and the other touristy stuff. So we basically loaded up on groceries and didn’t go out to eat all week, pretty much. We did walk up to the restaurant close by the lifts, and had a really nice craft lager and a bowl of green chili stew, which is now an obsession of mine. I will absolutely make it this week.
If you ski, which I can’t, this is probably one of the best resorts that I’ve been to. Unlike Monarch Mountain CO, the last place I tried to kill myself on skis, AngelFire has tons of services close by the ski trails.
Coming back, we loaded up the car and took off for Santa Fe. Our flight was late in the afternoon, so we figured we mook about like tourists. Herself wanted to see the Cathedral and being a devout Catholic as I am, so did I. It sports a life-size depiction of the stations of the cross in an absolutely gorgeous garden. We stopped for lunch at a local place, then went back to the car to the airport. One of the funny things about Santa Fe, something I also noticed about Albuquerque, was that it was completely infested with retirement geezers of Boomer vintage as well as what appear to be hippies that gave up on California.
While we were in the area we had some really funny things happen, which turned out to be explained by the newspaper, of all things, as I sat waiting for my flight. Turns out New Mexico is dead last in education. Makes sense. We were at a coffee shop to get some caffeine, and there was a dude in line getting iced coffee. He got a cup of what looked like coffee, with no ice in it. When he asked if he could have some ice in his iced coffee, the girls running the counter looked confused. Dude, picked up his cold, non-iced coffee, and walked out. Not a minute before, one of the girls came out with a large drip coffee that apparently nobody had ordered. Herself rolled her eyes and walked out the door, saying she’d make coffee back at the place. She has no patience with the mid-wits of the world.
We went to the ice cream store on the way back from horse riding. Herself had to use the facilities, as she did I mooked around trying to look interested in the tacky shit that they were selling. At one point I looked up at the girl that was manning the place, and she just stared at me like I was some sort of weird old Fart apparition. No “Hello”, no “Can I help you?”, no nothing.
When we were on the way to the airport, I got a text telling me that my seat assignment had changed. So I did the right thing, and ignored it. Didn’t get any notification that the flight was actually late. Two hours late as it turns out. So when I checked in I went to look at alternate flights, and while stabbing the screen, inadvertently picked a flight for the next day. This was a disaster.
So, up to the counter I go to try to un-fuckup what I had fucked up. Only to find that the gate agent was a trainee. Yay! She called HQ and they sorted things out . We got on the flight, which turned out to only be an hour late when all was said and done.
Santa Fe airport is the smallest airport I’ve ever been in. It has zero amenities other than a sad snack shop outside security. It’s literally tiny, with only a hallway separating you from the ticket counters and the rental car counters. Of course with the stupid signs to tell you the social distance, in an area that it is impossible to social distance. I reasoned, wrongly, that the sad snack shop had an opening to the secured side. It doesn’t. What’s there is a rather small waiting room with a couple of really sad vending machines, which appear to be only about 1/4 full. Luckily there was free Wi-Fi.
So I kept myself amused by reading, until they came over the PA system telling us that forget what you see on the screen, they were loading the DFW flight first, so you had better get in through security if you were on that flight. That was the siren song for the amateurs to stampede the gate. And stampede they did, choked up in a big knot right in front of the one and only gate. A large party asked if they were boarding yet, to which Herself said this was all bullishit. The plane was even here yet and why were these people all standing around in front of the gate? That was enough apparently to scare them off they went back into the temporary tented area that they installed to expand the pitiful waiting area.
Having traveled forever, I got the six sense when it’s time to start moving towards the gate. And when boarding they called three groups at a time. To which we simply tag onto the last of them and checked aboard. If the dude had challenged me that it wasn’t my time to board, I’d have reminded him that he was about to call my group.
The flight itself back was uneventful. We landed, pit-stopped, picked up our car, and went home to three dogs that are beside themselves that we were back.
We learned some important lessons. One I already knew.
With the COVID silliness, the decision point whether to fly or drive has been moved out. Here in Texas, it was about six or seven hours. Now it’s ten. For instance, if I had to get to Midland, I’d probably drive. Because between getting to the airport, flying, picking up a car, and driving, you pass the time it takes to just simply drive. With this trip, we saved a paltry two hours flying there. Keep in mind, that herself just bought a stunning new SUV. So those 10 hours would’ve been like sitting in the living room.
On the way back, the flight was delayed. Had we simply drove home when we left AngelFire, we have been home before the plane took off. I’m happy my wife realized this.
I’d have preferred to maybe drive five or six hours, stay a night, and then move on rather than sit in a tiny airport staring amateurs packing into a tiny gate. The whole thing put me in an absolutely hateful mood, worse than I normally would be while traveling. What made this worse is I had dental surgery so I couldn’t drink even if there was anywhere to drink. There is no alcohol in the Santa Fe airport to be had, nor was there any on the plane unless you are first class which was a joke, since first class was just simply a dozen seats in front of the plane.
I also learned how god-awful out of shape I am. I have lung issues anyway, thanks to cancer therapy and a destroyed throat, which is collateral damage. Basically, the trigger to swallow doesn’t work well in my throat. So if I reflux, acid will goes down into my lungs, painfully damaging them. This is why a struggle at 8000 feet. That said, I can exercise, and make the best of things. Something I need to do right now.
The other thing was how much I missed my dogs. They were beside themselves that we were back. The puppy has been clinging to me all day today. We’ve had a couple conversations about rehoming him, because he’s a bit on the wild side and three dogs are a bit much. The dude we had looking after them while will we were away, when I told him this, said “Why would you do that now? You’ve already been through the tough part of raising a puppy”. He’s right. I’m not getting rid of my dogs. None of them.
The next trips we take will be short, In-Texas trips. And I’ll probably bring my dogs.