Saturday, April 14, 2007

Santa Fe

I made it in to Santa Fe alive, although barely. The flight from Denver into Santa Fe was on a two-prop plane that couldn't resist its blaring alarms every time we hit a patch of turbulence, and we hit those a lot. Anyway, I was in Santa Fe for a health care conference and was hoping to get a few hours of climbing in before coming home. I tried, I honestly did, but Santa Fe is an odd town that seems to tell you what to do instead of the other way around.

I landed at the tiny airport (about the size of my apartment, I swear!) at about 4pm on Tuesday, rented a car and headed to the Eldorado Hotel to check in. My plan was to check in, change and head out to White Rock to get an hour of climbing in before checking in for the night. Before I left, I checked to see how far White Rock was from Santa Fe, and it looked like it was only twenty miles away. Piece of cake right? Apparently not. When I arrived at the hotel I asked the valet how long it took to get to White Rock, and he told me it was about an hour's drive.

"An hour?" I asked. "But it's only twenty miles away."

"As the crow flies," he said, which, as I think about it, that expression sounded so appropriately mid western for the first time in my life. "It's up in the mountains. The roads to get there are winding. It'll take a while."

Odd, I thought, considering the sign at the airport said "Santa Fe, Altitude - 6532 feet". I thought about this and did some math. "Four-thirty now, ten minutes to check in, ten minutes to crap a day's worth of airport food...nope, make that twenty minutes, five minutes to change and get my car out of the garage. That left me a little after five o'clock. Then we're talking an hour to White Rock. So that's six o'clock. Probably getting dark. Twenty minutes to find the damn crag. Now we're talking six-thirty. Ten minutes at least to find a way to keep from getting freaked out by evil, hiding-in-bushes snakes. That's a bit before seven. Nope, not happening tonight."

That was disappointing, but OK. I ended up walking around town in search of some decent food (found some at Del Charro - a must if you're in town. It's cheap and good). The city is much smaller than I thought it was; only sixty-thousand people. I swear one can walk from one end of town to the other in less than an hour.

Oh yeah, and the Santa Fe River is a puddle in the city. I wish I had a picture (no batteries for my camera and didn't buy any - too lazy, sorry), but this one will have to do. It's not much different than where this guy was standing. Forget about what's behind him.

There are art galleries everywhere. They make Dunkin Donuts in Boston look like hidden treasures. I did spend a little time at the Georgia Okeeffe Museum and bought a couple of prints. I don't like her flowery stuff, but her landscapes and building paintings are eye-catching. It's interesting because I think of her in the same way I think of Jack Vettriano, as a great artist who makes paintings that may not be considered art. It's pretty and nice to look at, but is it provocative and conceptual? I think it's art, but not everyone does.

Anyway, you didn't come here to read about art (though I should start an art blog and maybe put some of my own work on it). You came to read about climbing and I decided to head out to White Rock after the conference on Wednesday. In fact, I planned on leaving after lunch to get some good old crimping in before the snow set in that evening.

Well, as it turned out, the conference was pretty damn good and I came back with good information for the first time in a couple of years. The conference also ran a bit late, getting out at 4pm, too late once again to get to White Rock (that and Dice K's Fenway debut was a 5pm local time - I know, I'm a sham. Go ahead and tell me so, just make it painless and I swear I'll behave better). Instead, I hiked a couple of the hills in the area and browsed some more galleries before I headed back to watch the game. Two hours later I was downing my second Jack Sour at the conference dinner.

That left Thursday morning. I was to fly out at noon and, considering the size of the this airport, there was no need whatsoever to get there two hours before take-off. I asked for directions to the ski resort and hoped there'd be an outcrop or two that I could scurry up on the way. Guess what I found. Nothing. Nada. Rien. There was a lot of snow on the ground (I'm glad I'm from Maine and can handle driving in the pretty, white stuff), but that was it. Even the views were disappointing. Bummed, I drove back down to the airport and realized I was going to make it to the airport two hours before takeoff anyway. I should have gotten up early and headed to White Rock, despite the threat of heavy snow in the area. At least I would have seen the Rio Grande.

But I didn't go down without a fight. I was committed to not arrive at the airport early, so I spotted an Arby's at 10am on the way there. But a stop at a fast-food restaurant that I haven't seen since driving through Augusta, Maine on the way home to Bar Harbor isn't enough to kill an hour, so I missed the driveway and had to turn around. You'd think that would piss off someone who drives in Boston, but again, no one lives in Santa Fe. So turning around took all of two minutes. I didn't even bother to go in the damn restaurant. Five bucks for a frigging roast beef sandwhich with extra horsey sauce and I was at the airport fifteen minutes later.

Two hours, three national guard fighter jet take-offs and two conversations between locals that would make anyone kill themselves later, I was on another bumpy plane ride to Denver, then to be delayed in Charlotte before landing without my luggage at Logan. Good conference, bad everything else. And now it looks as if my North Conway trip next weekend is going to flop (nor'easter coming through tomorrow that's sure to dump snow up there, making the cliffs unclimbable for folks like me).

Oh well. There'll be better days. Stay tuned.

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