One week, five hotels, and twenty-six hundred hilarious and harrowing miles after leaving Oklahoma, we arrived in Portland. Two days and three apartment buildings after we arrived in Portland, we leased an apartment. Five days, four trips to the shopping center housing Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Home Depot, one welcoming Thunderstorm, and three (or is it four?) six packs of beer later, we are mostly settled into our new place, if not our new lives.
That’s the short version, anyway.
The long version might be titled, “In Which Our Heroine Discovers That She Actually Hates Driving” or “In Which Our Heroes Discover That Oklahoma Isn’t the Only Godforsaken Wasteland Between the Mississippi and the Pacific” or maybe “In Which Our Heroes Discover That There is No Food on the Last Two Hour Stretch of the Drive from Las Vegas to the Sequoia National Forest and As A Result are Forced to Eat a Meal Consisting Only of Beer, Potato Chips, and Sour Gummy Snacks”.
It went like this.
We left late. And not just a little late, not a piddling half hour, or a two-hour trifle. No, if we’re going to do something, we’re going to do it properly. We don’t mess around with lateness, no siree. We left Oklahoma approximately eight hours behind schedule. Thus, our leisurely drive to Santa Fe was replaced with me rocketing across the desert at 80 mph, staring into the setting sun.
It’s not as glamorous as it sounds. Perhaps, if we had been participating in the Gumball 3000 rally, driving a fancy Ferrarri across the American West, it might have been a little glam. Dragging a reluctant Honda Civic, laden with electronics and clothing, however, was nothing approaching posh.
Miraculously, we made it to Santa Fe in time both to check into our hotel and grab a drink in a basement dive called the Red Matador or Minator or Matinator or something. It was loud and crowded with people drinking PBR and invading my personal space. I drank my Modelo and beat a hasty retreat for a stroll around the square. In the shops surrounding the square, I learned that people take cow skulls and mosaic them with flat pieces of turquoise. From my observations of the wares in the window displays, I decided that Santa Fe fashion is what you would get if you took one or two aspects of my personal style and followed them to their natural conclusion. I am not sure it ends up as anything I would wear, although I have to give an appreciative nod to that much turquoise.
In addition to shops selling all manner of knick-knacketry, jewelry, and rustic art, the square was ringed with participants in the Gumball 3000 rally. Back in the day, the Gumball 3000 was a proper cross-continental race. These days, for legal reasons that are probably obvious to people who abide by speed limits and traffic signals, it’s less of a race and more of a mobile festival. It takes place on a different continent every time they have it, and folks with far fancier cars than mine gather sponsors and make for the open road. I had never seen so many expensive cars in the wild ever, much less up close and in one place. Porsches, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Bentleys… it was quite a collection.
We retired to our hotel, the St. Francis, which was decorated in something like “monastary chic”, with rustic wooden furniture in simple lines, and simple gray woolen comforters. Our room was oddly shaped, squished and angular. The complimentary toiletries were all purportedly based on Native American herbal wisdom. I found this to be pretty hilarious, considering the hotel’s monastary theme and the Catholic church’s historical treatment of native peoples.
In the morning, we had breakfast at a cafe across the street, which according to the internet was one of the best breakfast places in Santa Fe. It was brightly colored and busy. No tables were immediately available, so Zack and I took seats at the communal table in the center of the cafe. My chair was solidly built, and bright green. Much of the furniture was brightly painted. I could get behind that color scheme. Breakfast was fabulous. I had grilled polenta swimming in red chile sauce, topped with chorizo and corn nibblets and a fried egg. Zack had a monstrous breakfast burrito. I sipped a giant mexican hot chocolate (served in a pint glass) and we made awkward small talk with the other folks sitting around the table. Breakfast was so delicious that I bought both of the cafe’s cookbooks. I want to make practically every recipe included in them; I suspect they will quickly become favorites.
We took a wee stroll to a fossil and gemstone shop that I had wanted to see, though we left pretty quickly when I realized I could neither afford nor justify purchasing most of the wares within. But someday, when I need to buy rubies in bulk, or a giant blue stone obelisk, I know where to go.
When we left the hotel, I noticed that my car was pulling to the right, significantly. At first I thought I was imagining it, but I resolved to check my tires when we stopped to get gas. Just because I’m paranoid about my car falling apart beneath us didn’t mean that it wasn’t going to happen, after all.
Sure enough, my right front tire was flat. We had passed an auto shop just moments before turning into the gas station, but alas the poor tire was so flat that driving even that far would have been only slightly better than driving on the rim. So Zack took the bicycles off the rack, unpacked the trunk which he had packed as optimally as I have ever seen a trunk packed, and set about applying the ridiculously tiny half-spare to my car. We decided that when getting the tire repaired, we should also invest in a full spare, in case this sort of calamity befell us in the middle of the desert, hours from meaningful civilization. Rather than repack the trunk, Zack sat in the shade of the only tree at the gas station with two bicycles, two computer towers, six boxes of electronics, two boxes of kitchen accoutrements, and one mandolin, while I wheeled nervously off in the direction of the nearest tire place. (Turns out, the auto repair shop next door to the gas station didn’t do tires.) The boys at Discount Tire got the tire fixed up , admired my bike rack, and in no time at all Zack and I were back on the road, heading towards Vegas.