WanderlustBy Sam Lepore
(see all photos from this trip)
Subject: WanderBlast 4 - Socorro, New Mexico
Date: Fri, 01 Oct 1999 20:56:53 -0700

    What a wonderful day this has been. In "Me and Bobby McGee" Kris Kristopherson penned he would give up all his tomorrows for a single yesterday, but for me today made up for a dozen yesterdays. I guess it all depends on the yesterday, eh?
    Today was a day of fun, food, and fascination. Part of the fun -and- food was the breakfast I found in the Apache Balloon and Bakery in Globe. By now you may have noticed I am partial to pastries in the morning? How could I pass up a donut shop that is also a balloon delivery service? While I was there enjoying my chocolate-covered with coffee, they got an order for a big party. It is a small place. By the time I left I had to walk out hunched over because the entire ceiling was covered with green and white orbs waiting to be delivered. It would have been a little less chaotic in the place if they thought to turn off the ceiling fan while they were "stacking" deliveries :)
    Definite fun is Route 60 between Globe and Springerville. Put this on your *I gotta do this someday* list! Would you like to drive though the Grand Canyon? No you can't do it in northern Arizona, but you can do it in eastern Arizona. The Salt River Canyon is every bit as spectacular as the Grand, except for two differences: 1) the canyon walls have a veneer of scrub trees so the rock face doesn't look as sheer (it IS), and 2) there is a perfect road right down one side and up the other. I have a couple of stunning photos to post with this report later on my web site. The road itself has been resurfaced this year and is a dream. Even with the occasional traffic, it is a real nubbie scrubber. There aren't many roads that make me want to turn around and do the same stretch again ... this is a candidate. (Randell, you takin' notes?)
    This part of Arizona is surprising unlike any other part of the state. It is high altitude pine forest and meadow, reminding me more of some of Wyoming. Already the cooling weather is making the hills beautiful with swipes of aspen color. Some of the stands have balanced chromatics of green and gold that fluctuate in the wind like a digital pixelated fractal ... shimmering on and off and on and off. Mesmerizing. Then too is the fine carpet of fresh fallen leaves which leap into the vortex of your passing. Giving the illusion of speed but marking only the passing of time, they grasp at where you were with a softness that whispers shhhhhh yessssssss.

    On a previous trip I commented how drivers in another state seem to speed up as you pass them. I noticed a different auto-moto interaction today in Arizona. Arizonans are sloppy passers. Because I was enjoying the scenery around Salt River so much, I was at or below the speed limit and was frequently passed. After the first few cars "clipped" my comfort zone on returning to the lane, I began to play with position. It became apparent that if I was anywhere except in the extreme left of my lane, they would not pull completely across the dividing line, but instead do a half-pass. Also, if I moved to the very left edge of my lane, they would pass 'faster' and get back in a directed move rather than a drift. No great lesson here, just something to keep in mind, although I may discuss it in a MSF class.

    Fun, food, fascination. More fun food is the namesake in Pie Town, New Mexico, at the Pie-O-Neer Cafe. (Would I make this up? Photos available.) In 1922, Clyde Norman opened the Hound Pup Lode gold claim. He never got rich from it, but after a while people began to stop at his house on the highway and ask for gas. He brought gas in to sell, and one day he had a box of doughnuts. They were worth their weight in gold. After a while, the baker in the next town refused to sell him doughnuts for resale, and since Cylde couldn't make them himself, he switched to the only thing his mother taught him ... pies. Soon people were coming FOR the pies instead of the gas. He decided to name the place Pie Town, but when he applied for a post office in 1927, the postal department refused saying a town named Pie Town, quote: "was beneath the dignity of the department". Clyde was persistent. There is a post office in Pie Town, NM 87821. And the cherry pie is damn good! Too bad I missed the annual Pie Festival held the second Saturday of September, but if you're passing this way and you like pie ... they're open every day.
    One nice thing about Pie Town, like a lot of rural America, there is still trust. They were rather busy, so I cleared my table and asked to pay. She said 'why don't you take a coffee and go sit a spell on the porch'. I did. Half an hour later I reminded them I still hadn't paid. And I noticed that when the locals pulled up to park, they left their keys in the truck. May their faith in people continue to be rewarded.

    Enough fun and food, the fascination came on the San Augustin Plain. Ok, so I am a slut for science, but my geek thirst was whet and sated by visiting the Very Large Array, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. There is a nice concise visitor center, and a self guided walking tour that takes you out to the base of one of the dishes. While I was lost in thought, leaning against the fence as the sun was inching down in the late afternoon, suddenly there was a whirring and I turned to see the entire array of dishes track and tilt to follow the sun. It was chilling to watch them all angle toward me, 'ears' to what might be spoken. I could almost *feel* the signal arrive when Jodi Foster heard the thump thump signature from Vega ...
    Although the movie "Contact" was filmed here, the VLA is not actively engaged in SETI - the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence. Those recordings occur at Aricebo in Puerto Rico, but did you know that YOU can help complete the Search? Really. SETI has more radio traffic recorded than there is official computer time available to analyze, so UC Berkeley created a distributed parallel process where anyone with a pc (or mac or linux or you name it) can help. There is a free screen saver available which you install on your pc. Then you connect to SETI and get a packet of radio tracking data. While your machine is idle, the screen saver analyses the packet. When it is done you connect again and send the results ... you may be the first person to really find ET out there. I am currently running this on my machines - if you are interested, complete details are at http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu

    What a wonderful day this has been. The warm sun at my back, the competent BMW humming beneath me, and the Land of Enchantment stretching out before me.
    On to Socorro, and on tomorrow to contemplation of the innocence of the world annihilated in a flash.

307 miles, 5:38 hours
Globe US60 AZ260 US60 Socorro
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

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