June 26, 2006
Just got home from a very long drive. The day trip speedometer says 1,436.6 miles and I must say, I feel like it.
Took off from Lincoln this morning at six. It's about a nine hour run to Cave Creek. Tattered clouds still hung low over the Capitans as I took one last look at my favorite Old West town (lots of for sales signs, including the Wortley Hotel, which looks a tad peaked). Very cool out as I drove on the deserted two-lane road that winds its way through Capitan (home of Smokey THE Bear), and Carrizozo. Shot through the Valley of Fire (Malpais, referenced in Young Guns), then out across the Trinity Site. These are wide, lonely vistas and I stopped twice to take photos of the pale early lit ridges. Once again, the traffic was almost non-existent until I got to San Antonio, New Mexico, the home of Conrad Hilton. Yes, hard to believe, but the hotel magnate and genetic precurser to Paris Hilton, got his start in this little, dinky town. Today, it's known as the home of the green chile burger at The Owl Bar, but they were closed so I cruised up I-25 to Socorro. Didn't like anything I saw there, but did get some coffee just off the plaza, and shot out towards Magdalena. Kept going, past Datil (rhymes with saddle) and Pie Town (almost stopped but the idea of pie for breakfast is just too much for me). I got gas in Quemado (pronounced Kay-mod-oh) and asked the woman attendant if she could recommend any restaurant in town (there looks to be maybe three or four in the little berg). She gave me one of those, "It depends on what you want,' answers which I hate, so I yelled "Good food! Did I stutter?"
She mentioned "Mexican," and I said is it any good? And she said "My husband is just crazy about the place." And I don't know why, but there was something about the way she said it that I decided to give it a try. I paid for my gas, and turned around and drove back down the main drag to El Sarape Cafe. Parked right in front and went in. Cozy little building with elk heads and deer heads here and there (not in the booths, but on the walls). The pleated Old West ceiling gave the place a musty, but authentic feel. I was met by the owner, Irene Jaramillo and before she could even seat me or hand me a menu I said, "huevos rancheros, over easy, flour tortilla and coffee."
I wasn't disappointed. Homemade beans (so, so rare these days), great salsa, home fries (not frozen!) and good, thick coffee. The only gig I would give it is the tortilla was store bought, but everything else was so damn fresh and tasty I didn't care.
Ordered a pint of pintos to take home, took Irene and Terry (the other waitress who came in after I ordered) outside and shot a photo of them to run in a future roadtrip article in the magazine.
Not long after I hit Springerville, Arizona and the traffic increased dramatically. By the time I drove through Show Low, it was three to six lanes of bumper to bumper. I might as well have been in Phoenix. And actually, it was like that all the way home, with the exception of the shortcut I took across the Fort McDowell reservation, and suddenly I was back in New Mexico (traffic wise).
"The principal behind the timing of traffic lights is to trick the pedestrian into the middle of the street."
—Old Vaquero Saying
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