Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Turquoise Trail

Cerrillos, NM
And again
More metal sculptures, Madrid, NM
Old advert, Madrid
Easy Riders

How apt that the final drive of our roadtrip should take us down the Turquoise Trail. One of the most scenic US highways, the route links Santa Fe with Albuquerque, our ultimate destination. I say apt because the 52-mile stretch is famous for its mining history, making it the perfect illustration to the book I'm reading - or trying to at least. 

Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose is about the West's 19th century colonisation by miners hoping to strike it rich by exploiting what lay underneath the land rather than on top of it. More specifically, it's about the battle they faced trying to tame the Wild West by imposing Eastern standards on vast swathes of nothingness while making peace with their surroundings.

Driving down the Turquoise Trail, so named for the blue stone that has been excavated from the area since 100AD, we stumbled upon Cerrillos, an old mining town largely untouched since the turn of the last century. All but deserted, its unpaved streets, adobe houses and shuttered up old bars and hotels make it the ultimate ghost town. There is even an old opera house. Shut your eyes and you can almost feel the bodies of yesteryear wandering the streets. It is exactly like one of the towns that Susan Ward, the heroine of Angle of Repose, would have lived in back in the 1880s. 

Unlike Cerrillos, the next town we stopped at, Madrid, which all but ceased to exist following WW2, had reinvented itself as a(nother) artists' retreat. Cue yet more metal sculptures. Still, it was keeping the passing bikers happy: the Turquoise Trail is a prime destination for the Easy Rider crowd. I'm not sure how many of them were carrying their copies of Stegner but I guess the themes of discovery at least overlap. 

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