Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mesa Verde, Aztec Ruins, and Truth or Consequences

I woke up wet this morning. Though I first attempted to blame it on Kristie going to the bathroom behind the tent last night, the reality was that we’d been rain gods and brought water to this drought ridden Mecca. The only problem is that I didn’t line the tent properly so the water had run under it and under me and made it and me wet. Somehow Kristie escaped unscathed. The tent was soaked. So, what we decided to do was leave it to dry while we take the tour. After stopping at the camp store to pick up a bite for breakfast, we drove to the Cliff Palace site. On the way, there was a good deal of construction.

I began telling Kristie about how it’s fun to talk to the people who stop traffic while you’re all waiting to be allowed to pass. As a child I had stopped and spoken with a guy on the Navajo reservation who was intrigued by my UCONN shirt and asked if I liked basketball. He ended up being an IAABO referee and it was a fun conversation. Back to today, we were the first people stopped at a paving site. The guy came up to us and asked if we happened to have an IPod charger. We did! So we charged his IPod for about 10 minutes while we waited and talked. Apparently he too finds it funny how many people stand around while others work on a site and he gave us impersonations and the like. When we gave him back slightly charged IPod, he dropped it on the pavement. I hope it still works!

We arrived early at the tour site, so we decided to loop around to try to see other ruins. We’re bad at this. We could not spot any of the ones that the signs told us were right there in front of us. When we started the tour, the guide appeared weird. She moved people off the rocks they were sitting on, made them stand, then stood on the rocks herself to address the crowd. We headed down into the Cliff Palace (and recorded most of the tour for posterity’s sake). There were some tight squeezes and it was quite fun to walk through these narrow passages. Once we got into the site, the two of us decided to hang back towards the edge of the group so that we could take the most pictures and go at our own pace. Basically all of the round buildings are religious buildings – sun, moon, stars, etc. The square buildings serve functions. Most of the round ones are called Kivas. It is believed that Cliff Palace was built communally buy the different tribes of Anasazi people as a shared religious center. That’s a really cool and advanced structure! As it turns out, our guide (ranger) was an adopted member of the Hopi people which are descendents of the Anasazi. I had always thought that Anasazi had disappeared but I guess that’s incorrect.

At the close of our tour we climbed up very narrow steps. To the right we could see where centuries of fingers and toes had worn the sandstone from scaling the steep cliffs. It was amazing. Then, we ascended two wooden ladders and completed the tour. Afterwards, we hiked about a mile out to get a perspective of the other large cliff dwelling. We saw a ton of lizards but again, no snakes. This was a bit of a tenuous walk because we did not have bottled water in the car to carry with us and it was very hot and dry out. Thankfully we were able to make it and we were sure to rehydrate when we got back to camp.

As we were approaching our tent site, a baby deer jetted right in front of the car. Thankfully Kristie slammed on the breaks and we JUST MISSED hitting the thing. It was an amazing close call. All I could see were the Bambi spots. The tent came down quickly and then Kristie bought a bunch of souvenirs and then we were off to Truth or Consequences, NM.

One of the souvenirs that Kristie bought was a 1000 Places To See Before You Die in the USA and Canada book. We were happy to have not died hitting the deer a few minutes prior and decided to look through the book and highlight everywhere that we’d both been. We’d like to make a bucket list of sorts of cool places in the book that we can travel to together. I, of course, loved this idea! We were also excited to be hitting some of those places in the coming days. One place that we discovered in the book was called Aztec Ruins. It appeared to be near our route for the day. In fact, it was ON our route. We had to stop. This was a very interesting site which was run by the National Park Service. Different tribes had occupied it at different times in history. A cool historical linkage of the day came from the fact that some of the people who inhibitated this site were Anazasi and that they brought some of the construction materials over 40 miles from the Mesa Verde area.

We stopped quickly to pick up some bread sticks at Pizza Hut and then hit the road for the 7:30 drive down to Truth or Consequences, NM. We decided to stay here because of the hot springs and the cool name. We stayed at Riverbend Motel and Hot Springs. A few cool things about this place. They gave us a two room suite for $90. This included unlimited time in the hot spring baths. What a cool place. Oh wait did I already say that? When we arrived the person who checked us in was from Rhode Island. She was very, very, very excited that the Maniacs had arrived. In fact she was so excited that she talked to us for about 30 minutes before checking us in. She referred us to a very nice Italian restaurant in the center of (and out of place in) Truth or Consequences. This place was chic. It felt like you walked out of a small run down Mexican town, and into mid-town Manhattan. I liked that they gave us fresh olives along with our bread. Plus, they had pesto! Tremendous! A bit pricey but still great. When we got back to the room, we quickly changed into our bathing suits and headed out to soak in the mineral hot springs. We started in the coolest – 101 degrees. It felt great, especially since the air outside was cooling off. I ran to get each of us a beer from the cooler but was stopped on my return by our friendly host from Rhode Island who instructed me that both glass and alcohol are prohibited in the soaking areas. Oh well, worth a try I guess. After soaking a bit more, we moved up in warmth trying some of the other pools. Finally we hit the 110 degree pool. Wow that is hot. It feels good but it is so hot! While in here, we got into a long conversation with our friend from Rhode Island. We were curious why she moved here and how she discovered it here. It turns out that she has lyme disease and her doctor, for some reason, told her that she needed to move somewhere dry and warm. So she looked for places that she and her husband could work and live in an RV (yes an odd combo we did not ask about) and discovered this place. She’s been working here for about 4 years now I guess.

To cool off we went into the 100 degree tub again and then to cool off even more (maybe too much) I went down the steps into the Rio Grande. It was chilly at first. Then Kristie asked me to hold on for a second so she could get some (pretty cool) photos and it became freezing! We hung out in the tubs for a really relaxing evening. Once we got back in the room we noticed that there was water in the camera. This is never good – even in a waterproof camera. Hopefully this dries out by tomorrow! Then, though I wanted to stay up, I passed out basically as soon as my body hit the bed.

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