Monday, August 29, 2011

Here in New Mexico

This trip has turned into an adventure already. The battery in the van suddenly died at the Winslow truck stop. Changing out the battery in the van can be a trial because of the small space and the contempt the hold down has for socket wrenches. But eventually it was done, and I was on my way again. Batteries, I've found, have an annoying tendency to give out completely, suddenly, and without any warning at all, and almost always long before their supposed expiration date. Luckily I was at a truck stop, AAA was close by, and apart from getting stuck in the middle of the parking lot, blocking egress to the giant Land Yachts that fill up there, and apart from the annoyance and expense, all was well.

It was raining heavily in New Mexico, pouring just east of the Continental Divide, with periodic squalls the rest of the way. There was a wonderful rainbow as I neared my destination -- about two hours later than I had expected to arrive. The rainbow situation around here can be extraordinary (they say, "Stay for the Sunsets," and they're often spectacular as all heck, but the rainbows are amazing.) This one was an almost 2/3rds arc, bright, double, in the east. I've seen them in the north do a complete arc several times, and often there will be brilliantly colored "spots" I call them; they aren't rainbows or even partial ones, they are just multi-colored spots against the clouds, seeming to hang there or to travel with you.

Then at night there are the stars. If the sky is clear, the night sky is lit up with multitudes of stars all the way to the horizon. The Milky Way is brilliant, it's easy to pick out globular clusters, and it can be difficult to locate constellations because there are so many additional stars and clusters and galaxies to contend with. The view through binoculars or a telescope is knockout. We went to a star party at Chaco Canyon a few years ago that made the local skies in the East Mountains seem dull and tame by comparison. Yet you see nothing like this kind of night-sky anywhere in California, even in rural areas, unless you're very high up in the Sierras, lost in the Mojave or somewhere on the backside of the mountains.

The only other place I've seen this combination of celestial phenomena was Florida, surprisingly enough, or maybe not. I think it was in Florida that I actually first saw the Milky Way on a beach one night and knew what it was. Like here, we'd sometimes go out and applaud the sunsets. And of course the cloud formations, the rain and the rainbows, and the brilliant blue of the sky all have their evocations in both Florida and New Mexico. I'm sure there are other places where the sky spectacle is as extraordinary, but these are the two I'm most familiar with!

I've posted the picture above before. It was taken along the route I travel up to Santa Fe. It's a beautiful and rather calming drive on an almost deserted highway. It is forty five minutes direct to the Plaza. With little or no other traffic to contend with until you get to the outskirts of Santa Fe itself, it seems to take no time at all. I've seen herds of pronghorn along the way, something that is not all that common in most of New Mexico (or anywhere else for that matter.)

There's much to do while I'm here. Many projects got sidelined when I was here in June because of the heat -- much hotter than is usual in the area, at least in my experience. Forecast says not so hot while I am here this time (not much over 90) but there will be thundershowers. There's been some rain here, obviously, but not as much as I expected, and things are still pretty dry. It's not as bad as Texas, but this part of NM is still in drought.

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