Tag Archives: new mexico

Running Down the Track

Running Down the Tracks

“Rail Runner, the coyote’s after you; Rail Runner, if she catches you you’re through!”

That’s the message from New Mexico Governor, Suzanna Martinez, who has threatened to cut the expense of running the Rail Runner train, to sell the trains, and count coup for her vastly conservative administration.  But it would hurt all who anticipate the future (with vastly increased gasoline prices), the government center in Santa Fe, and the community spirit of this stunningly beautiful, and remarkably liberal town.

It’s a cool run from Santa Fe to Albuquerque, past a prairie dog colony, down by the flat roofs and tiny windows of adobe dwellings, beside the old Santa Fe Brewery, travelling across the chamisa desert, passing rabbitbrush, juniper trees, and arroyos, cows, windmills, and solar panels along the way.  The Rail Runner, the train that was financed by Congress, connects Albuquerque to its richer, more famous neighbor to the north.  The round trip price is eight dollars and it takes roughly an hour to ride each way for the 300 or so people who regularly board; the riders travel in comfort on this train that the former governor supported with zeal.  As a visitor (I used to be a resident of Santa Fe), it is a pleasure to travel by train and to have the luxury of seeing the landscape that I’m visiting.  The train is more than a luxury though, for the riders who take it for transportation to get to their jobs and it runs through the Kewa pueblo, where native Americans can use it for connection to the rest of New Mexico.

The land is dry and windy across this expanse of the state, which accounts for the windmills bringing up water, as it is very, very hot and sunny.  The mountains, the Sandias, are a high dinosaur’s crest immediately out of Albuquerque and the mountains around Galesteo creep to the east, providing a lonesome look of the shadows-and-light, crenulated view of the parched New Mexican landscape.  There are also five locomotives for this short run.  The trains were built in Boise, Idaho, and occasionally run more than 100 miles per hour running on diesel and electric power.  The government is looking into running the trains on biodiesel.  

On the way back to Santa Fe, the sunshine warmed my shoulders in late afternoon, lit the Rio Grande like a coppery snake and the snarled and bent cottonwoods which graced the extended plain.  An arroyo cut through as we lifted beyond the river plain with purple, charcoal, and chalk colored cliffs that led to a juniper dotted mesa.  It was very scenic!  The short trip was full of surprises that ended with the Meep! Meep! call of the roadrunner, a gentle warning to mind the rail. 

I gotta think that the Rail Runner is going to outsmart wily ol’ Governor Martinez with little more than the sweet little Meep! Meep!, like the warning little buzz of a rattlesnake.      




If any are interested I will provide the financial and political analyses for you; just let me know.

The Gila Monster Arrives

The Gila Monster Arrives
I went to the Gila River in Southwest New Mexico on a search for a Gila Monster on Earth Day. Gila Monsters are pretty rare so I figured that I wouldn’t see one but what the heck, I might. I talked to everyone I could find, well, in the bars around Santa Fe and Silver City New Mexico and asked if they knew where a Gila Monster could be found. A biologist working at REI (go figure…) suggested a place outside Silver City, Turkey Creek, where she saw one last year. An amazing piece of luck!
Santa Fe was kinda boring and a bit high-brow for me to hang out looking for a single woman to dance with or drinking the $10 beer, so I took off to Silver City and found a drunk or two to ask about Gila Monsters. I found a drunk in Silver City who said “Sure, I know where you can find a Gila Monster because I’ve seen many of them.”
“Yeh, right,” I said.
“No, seriously, you go down to the Gila River and walk into the Gila Wilderness and along the river you will see Gila Monsters laying on the rocks beside the river, practically littering the river banks.”
That sounded like a tall tale, like the guy had changed the story from one with bikinis on the beach at Santa Monica to one that fit the thing I wanted to see, but you know, whatever, I had nothin’ better to do. However, the wilderness was up the Gila River from the point that he put his finger on, not downstream, where I was headed.
Another person said she hadn’t seen one and suggested going to search in Arizona. Another guy thought that they should be in New Mexico, probably around the Gila Wilderness but he was more interested in making a pathetic pool table shot and made one that flew off the table. (I told him that in my bar, in Idaho, that move wouldda cost him five bucks.) Arizona is a big place so I just thanked him, took his free beer, and headed out to the Gila River after sleeping in my car on the edge of a vast arroyo. It was a crap shoot to head out for the river, but I got a cup of coffee and drove through a uhm, slight hangover.

I walked along the river and combed the rocky banks for the elusive Gila Monster, feeling like I was on a goddamm snipe hunt. Then I crossed a water diversion and went up an arroyo that was full of big boulders and channels that water had built. It looked, well, kind of monsterish with enormous rocks cast about. About half an hour upstream I looked before me and there was a Gila Monster lollygagging accross the gravel bar. I almost stepped on it! I was incredulous and very excited to see this foot-and-a-half, poisonous lizzard that my father had told me about 35 years ago, crawling right before me! That’s a Gila Monster: it’s body was about as svelte as a sausage, its color was orange-and-pepto-bismo pink with stark black bands across its bee-bee studded body. Its tail was thick and its thick, black tongue slipped in and out of its wide mouth to sense the world like a rattlesnakes. The Gila Monster seemed a prehistoric character out of a comic book or a portrait from the artists in Santa Fe on Canyon Road, it just didn’t seem real.

I watched it for two hours during which he or she ate a birds egg under a bush that I’d scared it to. It swallowed the whole egg after chewing on it for a couple bites and found it impossible to break. What the hell, go for it Lizzie. I figured that my bothering it had resulted in its getting the egg, so I figured that we each had a good experience. My quest weekend was cut short by finding the prize of the quest, the lizzard that I would never have dreamed to find. But the weekend had its other high points: pronghorn antelope along the road, a rattlesnake in my trail, and a stunningly gorgeous mountain kingsnake along a road with red, white, and yellow bands on it. However, the Gila Monster was the best thing that Earth Day could provide me with: a seemingly mythic animal that was out on the earth and very much alive. We left in peace, the sweet little monster one way and me the other.