The Land of Enchantment
Stop number 7 on my journey was Santa Fe, New Mexico. I had visited Santa Fe twice previously, but both trips were long before my 50 Crapitol quest materialized out of the ether. I had only briefly stayed overnight on a road trip to El Paso, Texas five years ago, and I had played a show with my friend Stephen at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design back in 2015. Both times I stayed at the same very sketchy, yet very affordable Motel 6 on South Cerrillos road. This time would be different. I was going to celebrate my 36th birthday, and to explore all the precious old Santa Fe sites and attractions that I had always skipped, and to defecate at the capitol. Road tripping with me this time were my trusty sidekicks, Bruno*, Moose*, and Riann.
*The very first thing we did was take the dogs to the dog park to make up for our failure to do so in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Founded by the Spanish in 1610, it is the oldest of the 50 state capitals, and thus, every building was designed for the tiny people who lived 400 years ago. I'm very accustomed to watching my head, but in Santa Fe one must be much more vigilant than usual. The Loretto Chapel was our first stop, and it immediately put me on my guard.
The chapel is most well-known for its famous 'Miracle Staircase.' Legend has it that the sisters had no money to hire a carpenter to build a staircase to the choir loft. They prayed a nine day novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth day a nameless carpenter appeared out of nowhere with only a hammer and a carpenter's square and got to work. He completed the staircase and disappeared without a trace and without seeking payment. The wood he used is not native to the American Southwest. Or so the story goes. The stairs are quite a marvel and if you'd like to actually use them, you apparently have to rent the chapel out for your wedding. Otherwise it's not allowed. After that we made our way to the supposed "Oldest House in America." Another classic example of Santa Fe low-ceiling-dimly-lit-adobe-style architecture.
We wandered all over downtown Santa Fe, as it's a tiny little city. We hung out on the plaza and browsed the Native American jewelry and art vendors at the Palace of the Governors (technically a former capitol). We went to the superb Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. We ate gluten-free pizza for lunch, prime rib for dinner, and the New England Patriots lost Superbowl LII. It was a good day.
The following day, Monday, February 5th 2018 was my 36th birthday, and the day I pooped at the New Mexico State Capitol. It also happened to be the very first day of the 2018 legislative session, so excitement filled the air. It was like the first week of college when all the different clubs and organizations set up tables and try to recruit freshmen, except with environmental groups and agriculture lobbyists and their like. All of the New Mexico representatives and their staffs were there, all of the lobbyists in New Mexico were there, seemingly all of the state's fourth graders were there, and Riann and I were there. All of this commotion, and there was no security checkpoint. As we walked in I was doing the preemptive shuffling of keys and phone and getting everything out to go through a metal detector only to waltz right into the building. There were many state troopers on hand, but I was a bit surprised at the lax atmosphere, albeit pleasantly so.
The New Mexico capitol claims several distinctions. Among all 50 US capitols, it is the shortest, at only 35 feet high. It is also the only round building, just one big circle, commonly called "the Roundhouse." My strategy thus far upon entering capitol buildings has been to go to as a high a floor as possible as bathrooms tend to be more luxurious the higher one ascends. In this case (not very high at all) I found a bathroom on the top floor, directly outside the governor's office. I mean, I want to poop where the governor poops. Shit for the job you want. So I did.
Then we took the tour. If you guessed that adorable elderly volunteers give the capitol tours in Santa Fe, you're correct! There were many on hand that day to accommodate the throngs of visitors. We had a lovely lady named, uh, blllllaaaarthhhhh, I don't recall. Doris or something like that. I promise I'll remember the next one. She was lovely indeed, however, and showed us all her favorite pieces of art throughout the building. Like everything else in Santa Fe, the capitol is jam-packed full of art. We got to peek in on both the house and senate chambers as they were preparing to start the 2018 session. We even bumped into the Lieutenant Governor!
Having completed the capitol, we wandered across the street to the San Miguel Chapel, the oldest church in the United States, dating from 1710. We bought milagros in the gift shop and stuck them on the frame of original church bell, as was apparently the tradition. We got souvenir pennies galore on this trip.
We didn't stay long at the chapel, because we had reservations at Ten Thousand Waves, a majestic Japanese-style spa nestled in the mountains just outside of town. This is not to be missed if you're in Santa Fe. We got the private spa room, which is a gorgeous outdoor patio area with a sauna, those sit-down showers where you fill up buckets and pour them over your head, two personal-pan-pizza-sized soaking tubs, a cold plunge shower, AND A ROBOTIC JAPANESE TOILET. This toilet was sooooo cool. I highly recommend these if you ever get the chance to use one. I've never been a bidet fan, but this is a whole different experience. The seat goes up and down automatically, and there are different options for squirting warm water on your bung hole. A delightful experience, especially when followed by a nice long soak in a hot tub. I wonder if any capitols have one of these. Maybe Hawaii? I reckon I'll find out.
After the spa, we had to hit the road. We packed up the doggies at the motel and hit the road for Taos and the scenic route back to Colorado. We stopped at the Rio Grande Gorge bridge for some heart-stopping photo opportunities.
New Mexico is a truly magical place. One wants to just leave it all behind and live in a shack in the desert and just make art like Georgia O'Keeffe. I definitely see the appeal.
Oh, Meow Wolf was closed for updates by the way. Still haven't been. Guess I'll just have to go back.