Tuesday, August 04, 2009

1424.4 (223.3) Miles to Bernalillo, New Mexico

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Woke up in Gallup. One of the highlights of the (city? town? place?) is this statue of a code talker used by the Marine Corps during World War II to keep communications secret from the Japanese.

Just down the road from Gallup sits the Continental Divide, the dividing line that sends rivers on the west side to the Pacific and on the east side to the Atlantic. I sat for a few minutes to write some notes and thoughts:

I don't feel like I'm at the center of the continent. I still feel like I'm way out west, even after 1200 miles or more. But it is this point here that divides the continent in two, where rivers and rainfall split east and west.

North of me, the Rockies rise up into the sky. I just see the red cliffs of northern New Mexico. Maybe this means I go downhill from here. We've been climbing since leaving the coast, now perhaps a descent to Texas is in order.

Or just another long flat road through Indian country.

Sky City at Acoma Pueblo is an impressive place. Situated on a mesa over 360 feet above the valley floor below, the stucco, adobe brick, and sandstone houses form a community that has lived for centuries under constant attack from other tribes, Spanish conquistadors, and the constant encroachment of a modern life that is ever threatening to wipe away the last vestiges of an ancient tradition.

Looking out across the valley at Sky City, I had the chance to talk to a man who grew up there, and has seen the area change over the decades. He talked about a time when water was so plentiful they were always swimming. He talked about riding his father's horses with his brothers. Now, the horses are gone and water is restricted to the necessities of life. He was proud of his culture, but there was a sadness in his voice, as he waited hopefully for someone to come along and buy the trinkets and pots and bowls he had spread on a table next to his truck. But the life they have built over the centuries is impressive, from the large Spanish style church to the cisterns and prayer buildings that doubled as defensive fortresses when raiders and other attackers came.

In short, Acoma Pueblo is an incredible place. The last time I was in New Mexico I crossed 90% of the state in a blitzing half day on 40, and then the rest of the way early the next morning. This time, I spent my first full day in New Mexico looking at the state's cultural and industrial history (I also visited the New Mexico Mining Museum in Grants). Tomorrow, it is up to the top of the Sandia Peak in Albuquerque and up to Taos Pueblo as I finally explore the Land of Enchantment.

And then, a big long drive to and through Albuquerque, including crossing the Rio Grande three times before landing in Bernalillo for the night.

Pictures: Code Talker. Me at the Continental Divide. Sky City Acoma Pueblo.

1 comment:

ben said...

You gonna hit up the bix texan in amarillo? 5 lb steak contest sounds pretty appealing right? check it out. Also of note in amarillo (and there isnt much) Wonderland Park, a somewhat disheveled but still fun old theme park/fair thing, which has a twilight deal and is pay-by-the-ride so its pretty easy on the budget, and some cowboy boot shopping (ok i didnt do that).