About Me

Tired of the mundane and craving an adventure, on Saturday, May 22nd, 2010, I embarked on the ultimate American road trip through all fifty states. After nearly a year and a half on the road, on a budget of less than 50 bucks a day, this is my story...

New Mexico Chapter 4: Scenic Detour to The Opera

Santuario de Chimayo

Monday, ‎July ‎27th
This morning I awoke fully rested in the quiet wilderness of the Carson National Forest of El Rito. I took my time packing up the tent and having my fruit and granola breakfast, among the birds and trees, before heading though the lovely little village of El Rito, where I found a sense of curiosity and "home," though there were only farms and old buildings; nothing especially of interest to boast about. I would like to note that like many tiny towns, the townsfolk all waved as I passed by. All it takes is a simple act of acknowledgement to make a stranger feel welcome :)

After a relaxing day at Ojo Caliente Mineral Hot Springs Resort (see previous blog post), I drove back to Santa Fe, where I picked up Highway 76 heading north, as I previously did when I traveled up to Taos. This time, I was prepared with a stop I unknowingly passed by last time, and it was certainly a major highlight of the scenic drive. It was Santuario de Chimayo,"a beautiful Roman Catholic shrine adorned with folk art-style statues and other decor. In 1970 it was made a National Historic Landmark, famous for the story of its founding and as a contemporary pilgrimage site. It receives almost 300,000 visitors per year and has been called no doubt the most important Catholic pilgrimage center in the United States."
"A small room called el pocito (the little well) contains a round pit, the source of 'holy dirt' that is believed to have healing powers. An adjacent Prayer Room displays many ex-votos as well as photographs, discarded crutches, and other testimonials of those purportedly healed. One version of the legend says that during Holy Week, Abeyta (or a friar) saw a light shining from the hillside and dug the crucifix up with his bare hands. He turned it over to Fr. Álvarez, who took it to the Chimayó church, but the crucifix mysteriously returned to the spot where Abeyta found it. After the third time this happened, Álvarez and Abeyta decided to build a chapel on the spot to house the crucifix."

I took in the wonderful detail of the beautiful sanctuary, grabbed some dirt from the little room with the well, took an insert that explains the importance of the dirt and how to use it (don't eat or drink it, lol), and toured the landscaped grounds and gift shop, before heading on my way.

View from Highway 518

Once on Highway 518, the scenery dramatically changed from dusty desert to green valleys and trees as I entered Santa Fe National Forest. I stopped at a few overlooks of the beautiful, tree-covered mountains and valleys below, and loved driving through the tiny towns that dotted the highway, all with their own unique, country feel. Holman's abandoned churches, the diner in a trailer in Mora, shimmering Storrie Lake, and the beautiful historic buildings of Las Vegas, will all hold fond memories in my mind for years to come :)

I hopped onto Interstate 25, arriving at the Santa Fe Opera House at 8:30pm, in time for the production of Menotti's "Mad Men"-era piece called "The Last Savage
," an over-the-top, cheesy comedic opera that "follows an ambitious young Vassar anthropologist on her journey to capture the last savage. She succeeds, they fall in love, and both discover that American 1960s suburbia is far more savage than life in the jungle." I paid $15 for a standing row seat, which was not what I expected at all - the theatre isn't huge, without a bad seat in the house, the standing row was actually quite comfortable-looking, with a nice table to rest your elbows and a bottle of water, complete with an LED screen that displays the closed captions or subtitles for the show - something that came in quite handy; even with the show sung in English, lol. Even more surprising was the fellow that came and gathered all of us in the standing rows and brought us to the seats in the balcony at no charge! Let that be a tip for you folks that might get out there one day - this was a Wednesday, so the theatre wasn't full! :) Had I reserved a seat at the opera it would have been $69! 

Opera Time!
Better yet, I scoped out an empty seat, down near the middle of the FOURTH row from the stage, and grabbed it for third act. Perfect! It was there that that I met Marla, who sat in the seat to my right, a kind, conversational woman in her older years, who was happy I moved up to the front. She said she used to do that all the time in her younger years. She's been coming from her home in Illinois to the Santa Fe Opera with summer season tickets with a friend of hers for many years now. Unfortunately, her friend passed away this past year, and her family has let her seat go empty every show. We enjoyed each other's company, and I wished I could attend with Marla every week.

Oh, and by the way, it's an interesting contrast, watching the opera one hour, and sleeping in a car the next, lol.

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