The Legend of Stoney Gilliam
In the rear view mirror, what once was referred to as a cold front, then redefined as an arctic blast, has now morphed into a Polar Vortex. The weather media have fallen into the exaggeration trap of their newsy colleagues who have given us the fiscal cliff, quantitative easing, the dreaded taper and the nuclear option.
Embarking on a four day, mid-winter, cross country trip over the Great Plains is always an adventure. I make my first overnight stop, a popular, cheap hostelry that rhymes with No Tell Kix (to avoid being sued). This in memory of my dearly departed dog, Jack. This chain allows pets because they place you in a room with linoleum flooring. The bath towels, roughly the size of a diaper, have the absorbency of a sheet of cellophane. R.I.P. little Jackster, it’s only for one night.
Miles southwest of Albuquerque, I’ve taken an L-shaped route off Interstate-25, the hard right turn westerly on lonely U.S. Highway 60, which slices through the heart of parched, west-central New Mexico. The loneliness from Socorro, NM to Springerville, AZ, 154 miles, is palpable; should this desolation escape you, do not drive, get breathalyzed.
These San Agustin plains were chosen for a radio astronomy observatory because the isolated location away from large population centers, and the partial shielding effect of the surrounding mountain ranges. This is peculiar to New Mexico, the state known to issue driver’s licenses to extra-terrestrials. Locals of every ilk, perhaps on uncontrolled substances, enjoy regular visits from inter-planetary friends. This gives credence to the state motto warning: Land of Enchantment.
I have, however, taken a personal turn for the worse. A three course tamale dinner at an upscale Mexican restaurant in Albuquerque has tasered my gut lining from the tonsils south, septum to the rectum. Urgency rhymes with emergency. From the glove box of my aging Silverado diesel, a spare roll of TP and bottle of hand sanitizer become my two best friends. With only a single passing car every 1/2 hour, the entire county has become a personal port-a-potty. Toxicity without vanity, I harbor some shame that this is not a ‘best practice’ health and sanitation policy. Here, however, only the neighborhood rattlesnake population would issue an APB, a toxic intruder alert.
Saying grace, PieTown, 1940, before dessert
I pass on America’s favorite dessert. The combination of red chile, tamales, clostridium difficile, and cherry pie might translate into the first nuclear disaster since the Fukushima tsunami. I opt for a single bottle of Coca-Cola to ward off dehydration.
30 miles west, in truly, the middle of nowhere, the worst is yet to come. The dreaded “check engine” light illuminates the dash………..
…to be continued