Jeepin’ the Peak

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Cabresto Lake, above Red River, New Mexico
(click any image for a bigger, sharper version)

On Friday (the 13th) we finally rented a Jeep, and Dad humbly displayed his offroading skills. We had the Jeep for four hours, which should have been plenty of time for us to make it to Greenie Peak, reportedly New Mexico’s highest point one can reach by driving or riding a vehicle.

Should have.

As a child, I spent many hours riding double-barreled shotgun in my Dad’s International Scout (that’s when there’s a bench seat, allowing more than one person to accompany the driver in the front, and I think I just made up that term). Later in life, I went offroading once in Missouri’s Mark Twain National forest. Whereas my rides with Dad were mostly on flat, muddy delta forest roads, the latter was on roads that featured rocks requiring what they called “crawling” the Jeep.

Our ride in New Mexico was more like the “crawling,” except my neck didn’t ache for several days afterward.

Shannon, Benjamin, and I stuffed ourselves into the back seat of the Jeep. The main catch here was that Ben was in his big, fancy kids’ car seat with armrests and full padding. You get the idea. He ended up taking up more room than either of us.

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I’m sure that some would have made an exception to the car seat rule (well, LAW in most places), and in that case Ben probably would have remembered the ride as a special treat. We weren’t going to be on roads requiring street-legal vehicles, so maybe the laws didn’t apply. With the potential for tipping over, though, and the lack of any way to secure Ben in a seatbelt, we were willing to sacrifice our comfort.

The first few miles found us on the same road we took in Homer earlier that week. The road was about 1.5 lanes at the widest, with the possibility of falling rocks to our left and just plain falling off the mountain on the right. That was the harrowing part.

The rest was just very bouncy.

Once we reached the top, we extracted ourselves from the back seat and walked around to stretch our legs. Ben and I ran a bit, but the large rocks made me nervous enough that I discouraged him from running too fast. Fat lot of good that did, but he proved sure-footed enough that he didn’t fall and shatter a kneecap.

The clouds blocked the sun enough to keep it chilly up there, and played hell on my photographic opportunities. In two directions I could see mountain tops with snow still hanging in there. The lack of same on our peak disappointed me a bit. We managed to pose for a few shots and used the tripod to get the whole gang.

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We decided to press our time limit luck and take a side route to Cabresto Lake on our way out. For Shannon said this was the highlight of the day (see opening photo). This time, instead of a hail storm driving us away from a mountain lake, it was Fast Eddie’s Jeep rental. We had less than an hour to get it back on time, and at least an hour’s drive remaining. I was glad Ben had stayed awake to enjoy the whole ride.

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This time with a log instead of people.

On the nice, wide, gravel road farther down the mountain, we saw a structure made of what looked like two underground tanks. Nestled amongst the evergreens, they were connected together, and were far enough off the ground that a stairway had been built. Round portholes were the only windows. We agreed it could be a space ship, and then moved on.

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The following video contains highlights of the Jeep ride, without any accompanying music. Just the sounds of us and Nature. (give it a moment to start after clicking the play button)

The guys back at Fast Eddie’s didn’t sweat our tardiness, and all was okay.

That afternoon, Dad and Mom watched Ben while Shannon and I checked out a few shops in Red River. We grabbed some gifts and a toy Jeep for Ben that looked exactly like the one we had driven that morning.

This is when you get those good stories that you just have to share. So, here goes:

We ducked into the photography studio that puts a photographer on the ski slope to take pictures of riders as they hover past (she was the mysterious person in my ski lift video). We didn’t figure Mom and Dad would want theirs, so we were going to purchase theirs for a later surprise. While Shannon flipped through the photos searching for ours, I struck up a conversation with the friendly lady behind the counter.

“So, does the lift photographer send the photos back here wirelessly, or does someone run them down here throughout the day?” I asked.

“Oh, we have someone bring them down here on the memory card. We’re looking into wireless options, though.” She smiled. “You know, several years ago we tried using pigeons to bring the film back to the lab. It never quite worked out, but they looked so cute with their little backpacks.”

“Really?” I said, a bit incredulous. I had heard of birds carrying messages, but I figured this woman was just having fun at a tourist’s expense.

“Yeah, we kept them in little cages. You know, one time when a tourist saw the pigeons, she looked at me funny. Then she said, ‘Oh, well, I understand you probably use them for religious purposes, right?'”

A younger woman also working there laughed out loud. “She thought you were going to sacrifice them?”

“Well, she knew there were a lot of Native Americans around here, so I guess she thought we were into that.”

Remember the friends of Mom and Dad who came to eat pot roast without au jous (because Shannon’s pill keeper spilled in the Crock Pot)? We went to their camper on the other end of town for supper. If you like hearing stories, then hang out with six 60-somethings for an evening of dinner and drinks. They’re to the point that they really don’t care what people think and storytelling hilarity ensues. It does with my parents and their friends, anyway.

Nobody spilled drugs in the food. Unless you count the brandy that Belle A put in the ice cream.

One of them taxied us back to the cabin, where we put Ben to bed and then packed for the trip home.

Next up: Ben, Bungee, and a Bull fill our last morning in Red River.

10 thoughts on “Jeepin’ the Peak

  1. Does Shannon have a thing for hippos, or am I not reading her shirt right?

    I bet that lady was totally having fun with you. Pigeons with little backpacks?! This vacation is taking a lot longer in the telling than it did in the doing, eh? Not complaining, mind you. But there’s only so much content you can stuff into a post a day, right? A full vacation is a sign of a good vacation.

    Ben, Bungee and a Bull up next? An alliterative climax!

  2. Great video, Mark. I loved listening to Ben make all the little ooof noises as the Jeep bounced around. I have to assume that with all the super padding and strapping he had that he was just having fun with the sound effets ;)

    I’m still not exactly sure what to think of the pigeon story. I guess she was serious…but I, like you, would have assumed she was just pulling my leg. Very strange.

    And I totally want one of those spherical shacks. I think they’re hunting shacks…saw a thing on then on tv once. Chep and durable with no real upkeep needed. I just think they’re bizzar enough to be cool. Did a quick search and found this cool Ewok inspired one as well.

  3. Boy the video really made me long for 4 wheeling in Hawaii. Can’t believe we ever sold our Jeep.

    The lake photos make me think of mother earth. For some weird reason, the “layout” reminds me of watching the birth of our first child. I stayed up top for number two after getting dizzy during number one’s birth.

  4. Did anyone else immediately think of Bespin’s Twin-Pod Cloud Car at seeing those funky structures in the forest?

    No?

    Well, I did.

  5. Simon – No…but I should have.

    I wonder if Mark is gonna have time to talk to us when he gets back to his hotel. It’s oddly quiet here…

  6. What an adventure! Loved the video. The scenery is great and it looks like you all had a good time.

    We just got back from the Smokies and boy you talk about a crowded place! Makes your mountains look really good!

  7. Dave – A great time, indeed.

    Simon – I figured Shannon would answer you in my stead, but since she didn’t — her shirt indeed says, “I love Hippos,” (with a heart instead of the word “love.”) It’s a long story, but it’s the nickname that her core of four girlfriends gave themselves. They were at a cabin for a weekend, and some young guys called them, “Hip ol’ women,” to which one of them said something like, “Hippo women? What’s that supposed to mean?” Or, something like that. Anyway, they’re now Hippos. They’re the same crew who got tattoos together.

    The telling is taking much longer. And it promises to continue more than just one or two more posts.

    Simon and Moksha – Ben said the spherical cabins looked like space ships, so you’re on the same wavelength.

    I’m not sure about the pigeon story. She didn’t seem disingenious.

    Yes, I was at a customer site all day, and then we whisked ourselves off to see the Oakland A’s lose to the Detroit Lions. We were close to the action, and pics will follow at some point.

    Mike – Thanks to you (and everyone) for dropping by even when I haven’t had much time to see your latest posts. I’ll get back in the saddle soon.

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