Number Forty*: New Mexico

*We haven’t done any biking yet in the ‘Land of Enchantment’.

We planned around several cold, blustery days to be in Albuquerque for the two nice days of the week. Then we could do the fifty miles riding the Paseo del Bosque and connecting trails. We didn’t count on getting colds and sleeping through the 60° temperatures. We hear it is a very nice trail. We’ll pass though southern New Mexico on our way back east in a week or so. They must have roads there too.

Leaving Oklahoma City on our way to New Mexico, we woke up to 20 mph winds from the northwest. The 20s didn’t last; they increased to the 30s with gusts close to 50. Or as the locals say it, “The weekend.”

We never intended to bike Sante Fe, even before considering the weather this week. The hills, narrow streets, cars driven by east coast transplants and people who expect wide open spaces, and lack of separated bike paths were enough to make motorists out of us in self-defense. Not to mention the milling pedestrians wandering from gallery to gallery.

We managed to find our way to and to park near the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, the New Mexico History Museum, and the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. I know that a cathedral is the home base of a bishop and a basilica doesn’t have a bishop (which is why St. Peter’s in Rome isn’t a cathedral) but I don’t know what a cathedral basilica is other than a big church. Although God seemed to be satisfied with a bit less in Sante Fe than in most European cities.

St. Francis was kind to animals, but he left some rather curious comments that are decidedly anti-curiosity, anti-knowledge, and anti-science in general.

Georgia O’Keefe was born in Wisconsin; her parents were dairy farmers until her father went bankrupt. (Not from dairy farming; he had a get-rich-quicker-than-milking-cows plan.) O’Keefe studied art at the Chicago Art institute (as did Doré’s mother), worked as an illustrator in Chicago (as did Doré’s mother), taught art in Illinois, Virginia, Texas, and South Carolina, studied more art at Columbia.

O’Keefe was unhappy with the ‘mimetic’ tradition she had been trained in (works for illustrators) so she invented American Modernism.

(Doré’s mother got married and had six kids.)

In New York, O’Keefe met and eventually married, after he ditched his first wife, a gallery owner and photographer, who was instrumental in making her commercially successful. Their home was New York City but she spent a lot of time in up-state New York as well as the Southwest. After some illnesses, treatment for depression, and an unfaithful husband, she moved permanently to New Mexico when she was 62, three years after her husband’s death.

I don’t think she particularly liked the City but did some cityscapes that contrast with the extreme close-up, brightly colored flowers we generally associate with her.

She also collected and painted bones.

The New Mexico History Museum talked a lot about the Sante Fe Trail and the Harvey Girls, which have nothing to do with each other but do say a lot about transportation before Route 66, which would have just as important without the TV show. From 1821, when Mexico separated from Spain, New Mexico was the northern most state in the Mexican Republic. For the next twenty five years, the US had very little to do the region, being so far away from Sante Fe and all. There was also the reasonable concern about immigrants from the north. In the late 1840s, someone realized that Missouri was only a couple months away by wagon and St. Louis was a better trading partner than Mexico City. That led to the Sante Fe Trail, which was all about goods, not settlers. Women and families came later.

About 1880, the railroad arrived, ending the functional life of the trail. Shortly after that came families and, OMG, tourists. The railroad owners discovered their passengers wanted places to eat and sleep. Enter Fred Harvey. Harvey built inns, and hotels, and restaurants and staffed them with adventurous young ladies from the east, places like St. Louis and Chicago and the farms surrounding them. They had very strict standards of dress and conduct, but they got room and board, a good salary by the standards of the day, and the chance for a new life. The Harvey Girls were an institution well into my lifetime.

Is it odd that I’ve been talking about women in the American Southwest?


One thought on “Number Forty*: New Mexico

  1. Hi you two world travelers,
    I know i’m late in reading this but it was well worth it. I never knew so much about Georgia O’Keefe and Santa Fe but now do thanks to you and your experiences.
    So, it’s after the new year and I wish you both a belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Hope you weren’t in Times Square with the torrential rains and diapers?!? Holidays went so fast for me. Friends and family did a great job with keeping me busier than ever which is why I’m starting to catch up this weekend.
    Please let me know how you are doing and how you are staying warm??? You must be close to home by now?


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