Sunday, October 29, 2006

Westward Ho: Day 9

This was another driving day. We headed due east out of Durango on US160, enjoying the classic Colorado vistas of snowcapped peaks and evergreen forests. At Pagosa Springs, we turned south on US84 crossing into New Mexico in the backcountry where we watched some ranch hands load cattle onto trucks.

We were suprised at the altitude of the pass we crossed, which reached over 10,000 ft for a stretch. We weren't up there for long, but the effects of the altitude were definitely felt.
In New Mexico, we broke out into the broad Rio Grande valley. At the center of the valley the river runs through a very scenic gorge. We crossed the gorge once, then soon afterward the highway dropped into the gorge for some great views.

On US64, east of US285, we noticed a number of little houses -- shacks really -- that I thought must be the homes of some truly independent people. None of them seem to have any outside utilities. Then just before reaching Taos, we came across a wild set of houses. They had the kind of whimsy in their design that I enjoy about French movies (e.g. Fifth Element). It turns out that they were homes designed and built by an outfit called
Earthship Biotecture. You can even rent some of them for a night.

We didn't stop in Taos as it was Sunday and there were lots of folks there enjoying the bright warm day. On the way from Taos to Santa Fe, the access road to Los Alamos branches off to the west. The
Los Alamos National Laboratory is where the Manhattan Project got started, and I felt compelled to make the drive over the to see what we could see. To my delight, the Bradbury (not Ray) Museum was open, and we stopped for a few minutes to check out the exhibits. Neither of us realized that LANL is involved in biomedical research in additional to their primary mission of managing the health of our nuclear stockpile.

We completed the day with an easy cruise into Santa Fe. After a fine Mexican dinner, we retired to our room at the Hampton Inn and crashed. Mileage today was 444, trip total now 3,817.

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