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In 1968 I took a suitcase and a viola and flew half-fare from New York to Albuquerque.  It was my first time outside the northeast.  I found a rooming house in the yellow pages and took a cab there.  The next morning I walked around downtown and saw men in suits, Stetsons, and cowboy boots get out of pick-up trucks with their briefcases and walk into modern office buildings.  Whoa!

I was 20 at the time, and I didn't drive at all.  I went to Santa Fe next and fell in love with the place.  But I couldn't get out to the pueblos or into the mountains.  I almost moved out there that summer, but changed my mind at the last minute and stayed in the Boston area.

So here we are in 2012, and though the century is not in its sixties, I'm in mine.  So there I was picking up a car from a kossack in the Denver area and driving it back to Tucson, where I now live.  It's a 96 Honda Accord, and it replaces my 84 Toyota Cressida that had become too dangerous to drive without putting serious money into it. The car came to me in response to a diary asking for help.  The trip was paid for by Kossacks who generously donated money towards fixing my car trouble.

That was the first part of this adventure.

I gave my car to a young man who works at a local Brake Max, who agreed to drive me to the airport at 5:30 on a Sunday morning.  I was picked up at the other end by Kossack ImAFrayedKnot, and taken back to her home, where her husband sat down with the necessary papers to transfer ownership of the car to me and with a road atlas to discuss the best route back.

We tried to reach Nurse Kelley, who lives on the way back, and sent her my cell phone number so we could arrange to meet.  So I get to Colorado Springs and look for my cell phone and cannot find it.  I get off the highway and take everything out of my tote bag and put it all back one item at a time.  No cell phone.

I had a moment of panic, then realized that that was crazy.  People have been travelling for years without phones.  I decided to email my sister every day so someone would know where I was and that I was okay.  I stopped at a McDonalds near the New Mexico border, emailed about my phone.  Soon after passing the border I saw a sign at an exit for Rte. 64 which went to Taos.

Taos was one of the places I hadn't been able to get to all those years ago.  On impulse I got off the Interstate, and headed on the state road to Taos.  

The road led through miles and miles of state park and state forest land.  Mountains, pine trees, snow on the ground (not the road).  It was an absolutely beautiful ride.  I got a little anxious that I wouldn't reach Taos by dark, but I got there around 6 and found a McDonalds where I almost didn't make it to the bathroom, and a motel that fit my budget.

That night I checked the road map I had with me and realized that the road to Santa Fe led through Espanola, where thefatladysings lives.  In the morning I went to Taos Pueblo and walked around, looking at old buildings and newer ones, seeing a place I have wanted to see since 1968, before starting the day's drive.

It was another lovely state road, and much of it ran along a river.  I can't begin to tell you how wonderful it felt to drive along beside a river with water in it (in southern Arizona, they only have water during the monsoon).  

I was taking breaks at McDonalds along the way to use the restrooms and wifi and to drink iced tea.  When I reached Espanola, I did the same.  My laptop battery is dying.  I asked a worker if there was a place I could plug it in.  A woman across the aisle saw that she did not understand, and offered to translate.  We began to talk, and I said I knew someone in Espanola, but didn't have my phone or her work number.  But I knew tfls worked for the county, and with her daughter's phone managed to find tfls.  

Did I mention that this adventure started with the people here, and continued to be about people along the way?  I was lucky to find so many helpful, friendly people.

So I got to eat my New Mexican Mexican meal with tfls, and we talked about everything.  The food was good, the company better.  And she took me to the restaurant Robert Redford eats at when he's in town, which is built around a huge old cottonwood tree.

I had said I would get to Flagstaff that day, and by the time I got there, I was exhausted.  I love driving along I-40, just south of the Navajo reservation, past the red rock formations - such a different landscape.  It didn't get dark til I was past that part of the ride.

It snowed overnight while I was in Flagstaff, and was bitter cold and windy.  I thought about staying an extra day.  I had hoped to be able to see the Grand Canyon, but road conditions there were not good, so that will have to wait.  Then I began to think that I'm from Massachusetts, and should be able to drive in 3 inches of snow.  I drove all the way home that day.

I discovered I really prefer the northern landscape, even after 15 years here.  But my sister and my son are here.  But I will not go so long without travel again.  I will have to see the Grand Canyon, and go back to New Mexico.  And I will see more Kossacks next time, and take more time.  But this was a great start.

So that's the end of the story that began with my diary about needing a car.  Though of course I am just at the start of living with this car, which is a pleasure to drive.

Originally posted to ramara on Thu Mar 01, 2012 at 11:17 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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