It was cold and dreary in Colorado. I needed to run from the weather and my mind. So I loaded up Annie (my name for my rig I travel in) and headed south towards warmth and freedom. New Mexico, The Land of Enchantment or Entrapment? I still have yet to decide…..I had no real destination in mind. Only escape.
Set in a red rock valley sits the Village of Jemez Springs. It really is impressive and quite beautiful! A funky little town of about 300 or so. Named for the nearby Pueblo of Jemez. The village and surrounding area are the site are of some great hot springs and also several retreats. I had been here several years prior with “Messy Missy” from my earlier post “Trying to Untangle My Mind,” read it if you want that story. It’s a doozie! When we were there we stayed at a swanky Bed and Breakfast down the road. We were still in the honeymoon stage at this point and I was trying to impress her. Now I think I should have just left her there for the Indians to massacre!
I rolled into town around 4 o’clock and decided to sit my ass in some hot water to unwind from the drive. Being an avid hot spring fanatic I know nothing alleviates stress like some water filled with minerals that I have no clue what they are. I only know that after I get out I feel calm and relaxed. So in my mind it was just what I needed. Warmth, water and serenity……So, I rolled into the first bath house I saw, paid my 18 bucks and got naked.
Town is full of these bath houses. I usually prefer my hot springs to be outdoors, but in the village there are no natural tubs, so you gotta take what you can get. There are a couple of natural pools several miles up the road but I knew the hike in would be snowy and treacherous this time of year. Spence Hot Springs is the name of it, but last time I was there it was kind of a party scene. A little dirty and trashy…….not really my jam…….So this time I opted for the in town route……
After soaking for an hour or so I got dressed (obviously!), returned to Annie and set out to find something to eat. In Jemez they roll up the sidewalks at around dark. The only place open was the joint right across the street. “The Los Ojos Bar and grill.” In English that translates to “The Eye Bar.” I didn’t “see” anything else open, so I ambled in.
Being a sober guy in a bar is not always easy, but to blend in I always order a “mocktail”, usually a coke with a lime or a soda water with the same. Looks like a drink, and you can fool all the drunks at the bar. Make sure you get it in a “Rocks” glass. That way the illusion is complete. They think you are “one of them.” The Los Ojos is straight up old New Mexico. All the way down to the adobe walls, big fireplace and pioneer day antiques adorning the walls. Just my type of joint. I don’t do well with “the bearded hipster” crowd, but for some odd reason I get along well with cowboys, derelicts and deviants that usually frequent establishments just like this one! Imagine that, a reformed derelict who gets along with practicing ones……..Go figure!
The bartender and I exchanged pleasantries and introduced ourselves. Chris meet Kris. One male and one female. Whenever I go to a new establishment I always ask the staff what they like on the menu. Kris told me their green chili cheeseburger was “the best in New Mexico!” Now I’ve heard that before, but it was definitely in my top three list!
After dinner I returned to my home for the night. Right in front of the Police Station. I asked around and the general consensus of the locals was it was totally cool and the cops would leave me alone. Which they did! Well f**k me! There’s a first time for everything! Usually I try to avoid cops, but tonight I slept right under their noses! I slept well even though I froze my ass off……. I think it got down to 27 degrees……Cold to be sleeping in a camper without the heat on. The furnace depletes my batteries to much to leave it on all night. I need to figure out an alternative heat source for when it is this cold. Maybe I’ll try one of those Mr. Buddy portable heaters that use the little green propane bottles down the road……..Oh well, I guess freezing my ass off is a small price to pay for freedom of the mind!
The next morning I awoke early around 6 AM……. Sans coffee since I did not stock up on supplies prior to leaving Colorado. I figured that I’d stock up on the road. Well it turned out Jemez Springs has no grocery store or even a convenience store. Tough s***……. Oh well, guess I’m screwed. But as luck would have it the owner of the local cafe was out walking his dogs and graciously offered to let me in the cafe early while he was getting ready to open for the morning! I was stoked! COFFEE AND HEAT!
His name is Michael, an old dead head hippie obviously hiding from the world in his blissful little village of Jemez Springs. We sat watching the news, bulls***ing about music and all the dead shows we’d seen……..Turns out we’d seen quite a few of the same shows back in the day! I told him that since Jerry’s dead and Phish sucks I got a job, took a bath and cut my hair. He looked at me blankly and said ” Well that’s a shame.” Whenever I go someplace new I always enjoy talking to the locals. And this guy is just the type of local character I enjoy meeting on my travels!
If you’re ever in Jemez go see him at The Stage Stop Cafe. It’s got a great vibe and great food! The green chili stew is out of this world and the breakfast sausage was the bomb also!
After breakfast and COFFEE I headed up to check out the Pueblo ruins and the mission. The valley is thought to have been inhabited for at least 4500 years. The mission was constructed in 1621 but was abandoned in the 1640’s after the Indians revolted. I assume because the Spaniards used brutal tactics to convert the Indians to Christianity. The Indians were having none of that and decided to kill whitey! They had no interest in taking “The Opiate of the Masses!”
And neither am I ……..DON”T DRINK THE KOOL AID as we would say now! They figured that out about 300 years before the Jonestown folks did!
After visiting the ruins I fired up Annie to make the short drive on the next leg of my journey. ABQ baby…… Albuquerque.The land of “Breaking Bad,” and also the home of one of my oldest friends from “the island” where I grew up. He and his wife live there with their three boys and I always try to make a point to stop there when I’m in that neck of the woods……..Old friends are hard to come by, and I’ll take everyone I’ve got!
Jemez Springs. A land frozen in time. Good vibes and good people!And just what I was looking for at the precise moment I needed it most! J’ah does provide!