Tuesday, February 5, 2008

New Mexico Outhouse Adventure

It was early May 2004. Kathy and I were just a little over a year in our relationship, and both of us were brimming with excitement over the prospect of our first vacation together. We had the perfect plan... make it to her mom's in Ulysses down in Southwest Kansas, spend the night there, then head out to her mom's condo in Angel Fire New Mexico the next day. Relax in the Angle Fire/Eagle Nest area for a few days, then travel down south, meet up with Route 66 and head into the Texas Panhandle where we both have family. Kathy had warned me that it would take a while to get there, especially since she planned to do some photography for Legends of America on the way. I didn't mind at all. In fact, I was intrigued with the notion of seeing some history and watching my best friend do her work. By this time she had already written about so many ghost towns and old west legends, I figured this would be a great chance to see how it all came together.

So off we went, down I-70 to the highway 156-Ellsworth cut off, making great time until we discovered our first distraction, Fort Harker. It was a quick side trip, couple of pics, and back on the road. Through Great Bend (an old stomping ground for me back in my days on the radio) continuing down Highway 56 with a stop at Pawnee Rock (and that's exactly what it was, a rock, but with a lot of history and a treasure tale), through Larned, skipping Fort Larned due to the fact we were running out of daylight, then down to Dodge City. Spent some time at Boot Hill but overall I was disappointed. Though the history was there, it was a bit too commercialized if you ask me. Sure, the buildings were cool and all that, but it was definitely no Tombstone. Only spent a couple of hours there before heading off to Ulysses, spent the night, then up and adam for our trek to New Mexico.

Deserted highways and nothing but grassland for miles as we traveled through southeast Colorado. Of course, Kathy had her eyes peeled for picture opportunities. But now she wasn't looking for old ghost towns or historic sites. She was looking for....well, uh...Out Houses. Evidentially this had been an obsession over the previous months, and she had already started collecting quite a few shots. I don't know what troubled me more, the fact that she was on the search for shitters, or the fact that I seemed to step right in and look for them as well. Couple of stops here and there, but not a lot of out houses to see in southeast Colorado. Did manage to get a pic of Kathy working that she wound up using on her about us page. If people only knew what she was taking a picture of (LOL).

The Sanore (San) De Cristo Mountains are gorgeous in May...

Lush green with white snow covered peaks that melt into the clouds as majestic reminders that there's more to life than just wheat fields and city skyscrapers. Just being there was like taking a dip in the fountain of youth, and I immediately felt more relaxed than I had in a long time. Having Kathy there with me didn't hurt either. I could tell she felt right at home, and the tension of her own life seemed to melt away as we rolled past Eagle Nest to Angle Fire. As a child she spent many summers at her grand mothers cabin in Idle Wild, just outside of Eagle Nest. Her brother lives in the area as well, and family still come up every year for the peace and tranquility of the Moreno Valley.

After settling in we wasted no time getting around to exploring and adventuring. Stopped by to see her brother John and his family, took time to go visit her grand mothers cabin, and take pictures of, you guessed it, outhouses. By now though, Kathy had deputized me and my own camera...tasked with the responsibility of getting the perfect angle, looking for the perfect light, achieving the best possible picture of each and every crapper we came across. And oh my god were there crappers! Fancy ones, old ones, funny signs and various shapes. I had no idea just how popular outhouses were until I experienced New Mexico. Actually it was a blast, and by late afternoon, after hiking up trails and checking out the old Klondike Mine, we were ready to stop by the historic Laguna Vista Saloon for a drink to cap it off.

The Guney, as they called it, was built in the late 1800's and to this day is a watering hole of choice for many. Of course, on a Sunday afternoon in the off season, only the locals hang out, which is a great time to get stories and gossip. Lot of history in the Guney, from the painted ladies to some ghostly tales. Burt Clemens, the owner, had as much character as his watering hole did, and we enjoyed the atmosphere. Our visit with him about the history of the Laguna Vista Saloon would later make for a great story on Legends of America. And that story would wind up catching the attention of the David Letterman show, who paid a visit and did a bit on Eagle Nest and the Guney in 2005.

The Enchanted Circle can be romatic....

And as Kathy and I held each other on our make shift dance floor later that evening, swaying to the sound of Garth Brooks "The Dance", my breath was literally taken away by her beauty...by how much I love every part of her soul and mind..and by the high hopes and dreams of where this life was taking us. The remaining time we had in New Mexico was equally as wonderful. We made sure to visit the ruins of what used to be the roaring gold mine settlement of Elizabethtown, then day tripped over to Taos for some window shopping. One of my memories from childhood was a moment in some mountainous area, in a town with a square like Taos. I must have been old enough to begin liking girls, as I remember seeing a couple walking along the square..hand in hand. The look on their face drew my attention, and though I didn't fully understand, I felt a longing to be like them. As Kathy and I strolled along Taos' town square, she gently took my hand, and as I turned to see her face the memories of that day, long ago, poured over me like a warm rain. I wanted the moment to last forever, and in many ways it has. It was the perfect end to a perfect time in New Mexico.

Trekin down to Route 66...

Down from Angle Fire to just south of Las Vegas, NM is an old alignment of the Mother Road that we hooked up with on our way to Texas. Rugged country and plenty of ghost towns dotting the roadside along the way. One of my favorites was Glen Rio, right on the Texas and New Mexico border. I can't really say why, but I was fascinated by how close I-40 replaced the route there, and how Glen Rio still shriveled up and died as a result. Amarillo was our main target of the day though, and we had a ball with the quirky signs, horse statues and of course Cadillac Ranch. In fact, I made Kathy proud and got an incredible shot of the icon near sunset, with a good ol Texas Thunderstorm rolling in the back ground.

We both got to spend some time with family while we were there, but unfortunately didn't get to make the trip back to Kansas City together. I wound up flying out of Amarillo to Mexico City, Mx on business, and Kathy made one, of what would be many, adventures down Route 66 on her way back home. In fact, I think she has traveled at least the Oklahoma portion of the route six times since, and the entire route at least twice. Her work on the Mother Road is probably the most extensive on the web, talking about the out of the way places that once thrived, then faded away with the Interstate. Readers from all over the world have commented, and it surprises me to this day the traffic she gets, from Australia to the UK, all wanting to learn more about the historic trail that went from Chicago to Santa Monica, carrying hopes and dreams along with it.

That trip in May, 2004, would be the first of many "working" vacations with Kathy. It resulted not only in great stories of Eagle Nest and Route 66, but also
in one hell of a "Crapper Saver". Yep, by the time I returned from Mexico, Kathy had loaded up her out house pics in a computer screen saver. In fact, you can download it for free to this day. Luckily for me, it was a passing phase, and Kathy's adventures haven't included outhouses since. Although, she has been on a long kick of getting photos with me in old Jails for some reason. I'll take that over the crapper any day.

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