We drove north through Arizona and started climbing steadily. The air began to get noticeably colder as we gained elevation. By the time we reached the outskirts of Sedona, AZ in the late afternoon the clouds had started to gather above the red cliffs and wind began to pick up with a bite. As the sun sank below the clouds it lit up the red rocks with long beams skirting along the ground and illuminating the cliffs from the side, making them seem to hover and glow above us as if on display. Dusk turned to dark and the waxing moon rose slowly while clouds politely cleared out of it's way, clinging to the horizon and leaving their chilly moisture hanging in the air until they returned with a slight mist as we parked in town and found a place to eat.
After a great meal and a few innings of the World Series (Phillies/Yankees) we decided to try and make it to Gallup, New Mexico--a few more hours down the road. With snow a possibility we made our way through some winding mountain roads and met up with I-40 to begin heading east again on old Route 66. About forty minutes west of Gallup we came to a dead stop and looked ahead at what seemed like miles of brake lights. It was coming on 10pm and the dropping temperatures had created black ice all over the road. In the two hours or so it took us to go the remaining twenty miles we saw a U-haul trailer with what appeared to be a family's entire belongings scattered across the freezing road, and a jack-knifed FedEx semi twisted, tipped, and laying forlorn on it's side in the median. A humbling reminder of just how dangerous these roads can be and how fragile our little flesh and bones really are.
We made it to Gallup around 1:30am, found a Super 8 motel off the interstate and quickly unloaded the instruments from the car, out of the frigid New Mexico night. Tired, but safe and thankful to have a place to rest for a few hours, we relaxed and quickly fell asleep with Route 66, frozen river of asphalt, waiting for us to hop back on in the morning...
The windows were frozen when we woke up and started loading the car early the next morning. A cup of coffee and cup of PG Tips tea warmed us up for the drive to Santa Fe, and a freight train let out a long pull on the air horn as we put the car in gear. Snow dusted the tops of red cliffs along the highway, making them look as if someone had spread icing over them, or powdered sugar. These deep red plateaus had started rising up in our sights the day before as we'd driven up to and through Sedona and we followed them all the way to Santa Fe.
We spent the night in a Motel 6 a few miles out of downtown and after a brief walk around the Mission we made our way to El Farol, the oldest bar in the city. A very warm and pleasant place with a fantastic little stage for music. Hopefully we can book something there the next time we're out that way.
With a four hour drive to Truth Or Consequences ahead of us, we spent the next morning wandering along Canyon Road, dropping into a few art galleries here and there. Gardens were filled with sculptures, abstract, realistic, modern, and even though it was about 28 degrees, the cold seemed to add a buzz to the morning somehow. Everything was crisp and clear, and the conversations we had with people we met were all up-beat and friendly. Several of the galleries had blazing fires in whitewashed adobe fireplaces. And everything seemed to have a touch of turquoise to set off the earthy reds and oranges. There may not be a more beautiful combination of colors on earth.
The highway took us due south for awhile, shuttling us along Albuquerque's outskirts, crisscrossing the Rio Grande several times, passing out of the mountainous north to the flatter and drier landscape of Southern New Mexico. The only trees were huddled in the flood plain of the Rio Grande as it wound it's lazy way through the valley to spill eventually into the Gulf of Mexico several hundred miles away.
But we set our sights for Truth Or Consequences; an ultimatum of a town on the banks of the river, in the shadow of Turtleback Mountain, named after the large outcropping of rocks at the top of a ridge that looks like a giant turtle climbed up for the view and decided to stay there forever.
Riverbend Hot Springs looks right up at the turtle from the west bank of the river and was our destination for the night. It was still a couple hours till our show's curtain so we checked into our room and went into town for a bite to eat. A brief description of the resort is warranted because we had no idea what to expect other than the few pictures on the website.
Rooms were tastefully painted with Southwest tones our eyes had become accustomed to over the past few days in the high desert. The six or seven Double-wides that made up the accommodations each contained varying numbers of bedrooms--some private, some shared, hostel-type lodgings. We were treated to our own two bedroom place, so our traveling instruments had their own bed. But they, and we, had a show to put on first, so we headed down the path to the outdoor patio where Misner & Smith would make their much anticipated Truth Or Consequences debut....