Sunday, 17 November 2013

Through New Mexico

We got up and left Gallup after breakfast, and got on the highway that would lead us to Albuquerque, where Mark was waiting for us. The drive into the city was easy, and the built-up area lay in the shadow of an enormous mountain. All I knew of Albuquerque, or ABQ, as it's known, is from the hit TV show Breaking Bad, which I've watched all apart from the last few episodes – so no spoilers please. We knew of nothing to do in town, I don't think it has all that much to offer, so we decided to visit the locations of the TV show for a few hours over lunch time. 

Driving into Albuquerque.
I drove around the city, which was fairly big, but fairly low rise, and all based on a grid system. Traffic was fairly heavy, so it wasn't fast moving from block to block, with lights at every intersection, but it was easy to navigate. First of all we hit up Walt and Skyler's house, which is just a normal house in a suburban street. A woman who lived there was leaving as we arrived outside, so we offered an awkward and embarrassed 'hello', before waiting for her to drive off before taking a picture. We also went to the offices of the attorney Saul Goodman, the car wash and Los Pollos Hermanos, in which I had a piss. Los Pollos Hermanos, is actually called 'Twisters' in real life, but is still a fast food restaurant. I only had a coke, as we'd already eaten Mexican when stopping off in the old town for a spot of lunch and shopping. The old town was more interesting, though whether it was old or a modern fabrication remains to be seen, but old Mexicans played pan pipes and locals went about their business.

Outside Walt and Skyler's house. No pizza on the roof.
Better call Saul! The big man on the roof is no longer there.
The Octopus carwash was busy.
Inside Los Pollos Hermanos.
In the old town, nice autumnal trees.
We only stayed in Albuquerque for a few hours, and then got on the road for Roswell, the home of aliens, UFOs and all things weird. We took a highway to Santa Fe, and then headed south across desert, scrub and endless dry grasslands. The road always raced out to the horizon, seemingly stretching to infinity as the straight black tarmac with yellow lines crushed into itself in a tiny point as far as the eye could see. Driving with cruise control and straight roads meant it was hardly driving, I sometimes didn't use my feet for over an hour, and just enough steering to keep the car straight was all that was needed. We passed through some ghost towns. Proper crumbling, deserted, dilapidated towns. It felt post-apocalyptic, or it could've been the set for a zombie film. I loved it. I wanted to stop and explore, but some people, unbelievably, still lived in these remote and dying communities. I would've felt like a depression or poverty tourist if I'd suddenly been waltzing about with my camera, so shot it from the car window instead. I didn't want to offend anyone or intrude; plus they might have guns. One town, called Encino, was incredible. It was proper dereliction porn. I later read online that the town built up in the 1920s when a rail depot was built, and then when the depot closed in 1965 the lifeline was cut off, and the town crumbled to dust and rot. Still some families lived here. I can't fathom why. All along the road were abandoned and crumbing farm houses, lone shacks collapsing into the earth, and the remains of trucks rusting into the ground, just an orange mound gives clues to what was there before. It's like an easy form of archaeology. I'd love to return one day with more time and have an actual explore.

Driving across New Mexico.
Crumbling stores.
Encino Motel has seen better days.
Forgotten homes, soon to be gone.
Everyone's gone.
Redundant gas stations.
We arrived in Roswell a few hours into the night. We checked into a motel, and headed to a bar opposite. It was pretty busy, but not that stimulating. We'd hoped for some kind of alien themed bar, but apparently they don't really exist, generally locals are either 'believers', or embarrassed by the town's association with Extra Terrestrials. After a bit we got briefly chatting to some locals at the adjacent table to us. They were an odd mix of ages and styles, and the most noticeable was a flamboyant but scruffy gay guy in his 40s called George, and he was as camp as show-business and entertaining with it. It was hard to work out what unified them as a group, but the only thing I could think of was drugs. It's the only thing that could keep such a rag-tag group together, they were a real mis-match, but that must've been their social glue. I'm pretty sure the woman from the group was hitting on me. Her conversation was relentless and George was teasing her for it. She kept mentioning how she was divorced, but she also had brown teeth. She's only been to 6 states in her life, I'd been to 8 states in the past 5 days, but I didn't mention this to her. She was a pleasant redneck, and I politely maintained conversation whilst looking for an exit strategy. Fortunately it came when the rest of the group went off to get high, and she went with them. There was the unifying element I had been wondering about. I don't think they were pot smokers though, one of the guys had no teeth but black gums, I'm sure it was crystal meth that was getting them high. They were nice enough, and provided entertainment for us, if a little weird.

The bar in Roswell.
The next day we got up and drove a few blocks downtown, to the UFO museum. For those of you who don't know, apparently in 1947 a UFO crashed on a ranch near Roswell, and was taken away and covered up by the government. I don't know whether it's true or not, probably not, I didn't see any evidence for it in the museum, which was overly wordy and lacking artefacts, as are most conspiracy claims. The main strand of the story to dispel the claim, is that what was found on a ranch in 1947 was a crashed weather balloon. The counter claim is that in fact it was a spaceship, and the government put out the weather balloon story and photographs as a cover up. As no one had a camera to take a picture of what came down in that field, we'll never know. Still, it was fun to visit the museum, and the people in there – clearly massive UFO enthusiasts – were more entertaining than the exhibits. The best people were those who worked in the alien tat shops on the street. They were proper nut jobs, as they'd moved to Roswell from other parts of the country due to their love and belief in aliens. I was hoping for better tat in the shops though, I only bought two mugs. After soaking up the alien stuff, we got back on the road to get out of New Mexico, and headed towards Texas.

Inside the UFO museum.
Alien autopsy.
Matt delving through the files in the archive.
One of the many alien shops.

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