Road Trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico

Trip Start Sep 17, 2006
Trip End Dec 23, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Texas
Friday, October 17, 2008

Having spent the last few weeks in Lubbock I decided it was time to do some exploring. Early in the morning I arranged a car rental, one of the ones where they pick you up at home, which was handy in my situation. By lunchtime I was in possession of a blue Pontiac. I did a small drive around town to get used to it, this was the first time I’d driven on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.

Now in previous weeks there had been some talk of going to Mexico. Whitney was encouraging this proposition at every opportunity. I wasn’t that keen on going for a number of reasons. The key reason being that Juarez (the border town that we’d have easiest access to), is considered one of the most dangerous places in the world. This is apparently due to large drug gangs who have an addiction to killing people. Whitney was in no way concerned about this, however her mum, an adult friend Diane, plus the US media made it clear that the common perception was that going down there was a very stupid idea.

Whilst I was looking for good car rental deals I saw a list of ‘most popular news articles’ for the day. Top was ‘Juarez violence kills tourism’. This sealed the deal! Not that I was ever seriously considering going. Apparently the University of New Mexico has banned its students going, and the US Army even now tells it soldiers based nearby that they shouldn’t cross the border. I also read that there have been more murders in Juarez (450) in 2008 than in Baghdad (430), and the number of arrests in Juarez for these crimes is 0, compared to about 40 in Baghdad. The government of Mexico even admits that the police aren’t in control of the area.

Don’t fear however, your blogger has no interest in visiting such places! Instead I hoped to visit Roswell, New Mexico, which is famous for a UFO incident in the late 1940’s. Whitney however was rather disappointed at not going to Mexico, and so a compromise was agreed where we’d travel to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I quickly realised that driving in the USA is a piece of cake. The roads are 99% straight, junctions are pretty much all controlled by traffic lights, and where traffic lights are missing it’s a fairly simple STOP sign mechanism. The only slightly tricky things are 4-way stops, where the first person to the junction gets the right of way, and the way you can turn right at junctions at any time, with a few exceptions.

Once out of Lubbock we spent hours on straight roads with flat scenery. We didn’t have any accommodation booked, but were confident that Santa Fe would have adequate rooms. After an hour or so we entered New Mexico, another new state for me. New Mexico like Texas loves Mexican food, in fact I think there are more Mexican restaurants here than non-Mexican restaurants.

The sunset visible through my rear-view mirror was stunning. For some reason the colours were totally different to Europe, I’m not totally sure why. I would have gotten more pictures but for the fact I was driving, and my camera was out of battery! The realisation of this immediately depressed me, I hate going to new places without a working camera. So sadly the next couple of blog entries will largely be joined by ‘library photos’. This is even more sad as the New Mexico scenery is top notch.

After a small map reading error we arrived in Santa Fe at about 9:30pm. Whitney insisted that it was better to eat first then get accommodation. Something about restaurants closing if you get there too late. We ate at a... yes you guessed it, Mexican themed restaurant just off the main highway on the outskirts of Santa Fe. I am not a massive fan of Mexican restaurants as the food they serve is predominantly spicy. The free refills of drink (almost universal in America) helped cool my sweating face. I think I should travel with mini milk cartons as anything dairy cures a spiced up mouth.

We stayed at the La Quinta hotel on the way into Santa Fe. In the distance I could see some mountains. I have left the flat terrain of west Texas for something more varied in this part of the world. The direct route to Santa Fe is 312 miles, however we got partially lost near Albuquerque, so I would estimate that we drove about 335 miles today.

Not once did I forget to drive on the right side of the road, and junctions were easy as well. The vehicle is an automatic, which is slightly dull, but with so many miles to do this weekend it’s not the end of the world.
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