Pain— intense pain. I was clenching down upon a wad of paper towel in my mouth. Somehow overnight the gum surrounding a partially erupted wisdom tooth became inflamed. I could feel it swollen. Only the pressure from clenching down offered the slightest of relief, but that only addressed localized pain. The stress of the inflammation caused tension in all of my head, giving me a considerable headache.
I was on my way to Albuquerque to visit my cousin Rachel and her family after having visited Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Carlsbad, New Mexico was the closest significant town. There I went to a Walmart to buy some things to address this situation. I was determined to fight this infection. I bought a standard mouthwash, and then a hydrogen peroxide mouthwash. I also bought salt to swish around in my mouth with water as an antiseptic. I bought Emergen-C packets, thinking a boost of vitamins may benefit me. I then began to consider foods rich in antioxidants that could fight infection which I could easily take in the car. I bought some oranges and some sweet bell peppers. I also bought cherry juice which I believe to be well…pretty much magical in addition to its immune boosting properties. Here I also found myself a souvenir t-shirt bearing the title of the state.
The drive to Albuquerque was nothing notable. New Mexico for sure has some amazing and diverse sites, but it seems that in traveling from one place to another in much of New Mexico there is not much to see. I did pass, however, by Roswell New Mexico. I kick myself for not stopping for a brief moment. From what I’ve read, the place is adorned with UFO and spacecraft iconography and it is the home to the International UFO and Research Center. It’s fame largely comes from the crash site of an alleged UFO in 1947. Although it is a complete conspiracy theory and the United States Army Air Force claims it was one of their balloons, the UFO conspiracy has lived on and brought theme to the city. I, though, was anxious to get to Albuquerque, so I took the bypass around town.
At one point I found myself on old Route 66, I drove by numerous abandoned hotels, but found one notable stop at Clines Corners Travel Center circa 1934. This is one of those places hard to put into words. On their website they say “Clines Corners is committed to providing our travelers with the finest handmade Native American jewelry, amazing gifts, first class hospitality, and the best food in the Southwest.“ But now let me paint a picture, brown carpet, streams of white fluorescent lights. All the amenities of your average travel center plus a large selection of fudge, snow globes with aliens and chili peppers, Route 66 souvenirs of all sorts, t-shirts with your run of the mill snarky sayings on them, panchos, dream catchers probably made in China, taffy, jewelry, retired elderly couples on road trips, bison taxidermy, and a machine to get your fortune told for 50 cents. Oh, and not just one but, as advertised, “2 mini-marts”! Now don’t get me wrong, I am not criticizing the place by any means. At the time, I was unimpressed. I found it to be displeasing tacky and a tourist trap. But now I’ve become fond of the over-the-top tacky. I find it charming, and a part of the American road trip experience. You never know what “treasures” you can find in such places.
Out in the parking lot I organized my car a bit. After having slept in my car the night before and then stocking up with supplies, my car had become a disaster. I wanted to be somewhat put together rolling up to my cousin’s house. I didn’t want to spend my time there organizing my car when I could be visiting, so I knocked it out ahead of time and took advantage of the trash receptacles at Clines Corners.
Two summers prior I was able to go camping and exploring Yosemite National Park with my cousin Jonathan. The following summer, I met Jonathan along with my cousin Paul, his wife Ines, and my Aunt Mary in Colorado for a hiking trip. My cousin Rachel in Albuquerque is part of that crew. She is Mary’s daughter and Paul and Jonathan’s sister. All of them originated in Illinois, as myself. I hadn’t seen Rachel in the longest time out of all of my cousins. I had seen her too long to remember when. I had not met her son Malcolm yet who would be starting kindergarten. I’d met her husband, Alex, a few times when I was much younger in Illinois. I have fond childhood memories with my cousin Rachel, but she is five years older than me and so as a child I was more often running around with her brothers when I was around, but nevertheless she is in that circle of dear family.
I was impressed by Rachel and Alex’s home and neighborhood. They lived up on a mesa in a planned new neighborhood called Mesa del Sol with nice walkways, a small park and playground, and even a center hub of the community with a cafe eatery. All of the homes were beautiful moderate sized multilevel adobe structures. Also located aside this mesa community was the Albuquerque Studios, a stretch of desert, and the Sandia Mountains in the distant.
After a friendly welcome from Rachel and Malcolm, I was shown to a nice guest room with my own bathroom, got a load of laundry started, and took out my rain-soaked sleeping bag, and pillow to dry on their back patio in the scorching sun. It was a relief to have somewhere comfortable to sleep after the monsoon the night before. Soon Alex came home from work with some Peruvian roasted chicken and fried yucca. We ate together and then I went for a walk around the neighborhood with Rachel and Malcolm learning about their life here in New Mexico.
The following day to my delight Rachel, Alex, and Malcolm would introduce me to the sites and tastes of Albuquerque.
Read my previous episode “Guadalupe Peak: The Top of Texas?” here: https://joshthehodge.com/2020/03/01/guadalupe-peak-the-top-of-texas/
Check out my new book “Canyonlands: My Adventures in the National Parks and the Beautiful Wild,” here: