New Mexico has some glorious sights: White Sands National Monument is probably my favorite, where the landscape looks snow-covered (and which allows for “sledding”), and Carlsbad Caverns National Park is the best cave system I’ve ever been to. And I love cave systems. New Mexico was “the end of the line” for the great Jeff-and-Leah road trip. We started in Oregon, where my parents live, and ended in Albuquerque, where I was going to graduate school. We didn’t go to those previously listed places on this occasion, but we did make it to a lot of cool things around ABQ, and most importantly, we made it to Santa Fe.
You could almost call Santa Fe a “hidden gem” of the Southwest, except it is famous. I just think since it, and New Mexico as a whole, are considered “out of the way” by many Americans, many people just don’t go there, thus “hidden.” The city looks unique, because zoning laws ensure that every building, from houses to grocery stores and McDonald’s, all have uniform construction; think stucco and tile. And compared to ABQ (have you noticed—this is what people “in the know” call Albuquerque?) streets and neighborhoods seem laid out a bit better. But most importantly it’s really is the art hub of the state, and their Saturday markets are stellar.
Ever heard of Meow Wolf? It’s technically an artist collective, but most people use the name to refer to the gigantic “House of Eternal Return” art installation in Santa Fe, and I bought tickets to go there for Leah’s birthday during our trip. In 2015 George R. R. Martin, Santa Fe’s most famous living resident, donated nearly three million dollars to the collective, and along with grants from the city, artists renovated an old—but very large—bowling alley. The whole thing is best described as a Chucky Cheese mixed with a house of mirrors mixed with a fever dream. It’s sort of like walking into a different dimension, and you can spend hours exploring it.
In the center is an actual house. If you piece things together by using inside the house computers, films strips, diaries, and by calling numbers left around, the structure was supposedly caught in a science experiment gone awry. Different rooms take you to space ships and alien back-alleys, but also inside the house there are trap doors and passages like the stairs you access via the refrigerator. So things start off almost like weird escape room. The area around the house is larger, and runs the gamut from prehistoric landscapes to Avatar-like forests and everything is complete with glowing pant, M.C. Escher-inspired pathways, and trippy music and lighting.
That’s Santa Fe in a nutshell—not afraid to be funky. So Leah had a great birthday, our big trip ended with some BBQ’s with my graduate school friends and visits to both Santa Fe and ABQ’s Old Towns, after numerous weeks of driving, hiking, and camping, we both finally showered. Since we weren’t minding each other after all those stinky weeks, it’s safe to say that the writing was on the wall; we were bound to know each other a long time. Leah invited me to stay in Boston with her over the summer, where she was going to graduate school, I gladly took her up on the offer, so thus Massachusetts is where the next part of our story takes place.
–Jeff and Leah