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Monday, 01 September 2014

Plaza Blanca, New Mexico

Written by  Tom Molanphy
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“Anyone who doesn't feel the crosses simply doesn't get that country.”

- Georgia O’Keefe

 

My phone scuttled like a beetle across the dash of the Subaru. Expected in Santa Fe hours ago, we don’t know where we ‘re headed.

 

Our mood was worn out but content. We had just completed a southwest loop through Chaco Canyon, Canyon de Chelly , and Mesa Verde.  In Chaco, we saw remnants of macaw bones that suggested trading from lands as far as Peru. In Canyon de Chelly, a Navajo guide drew four sacred peaks in the rich valley mud to show the boundaries of “his” people. And the drought in Mesa Verde allowed us to walk right up to cliff dwellings usually blocked by four feet of snow. The memories were as pungent and satisfying as the desert sage that stained my boots.

  

But a tip from a hotel clerk outside Chinle had put us on the hunt for Plaza Blanca, a little-known spot that had particular inspiration for Georgia O’Keefe. Instead of sleepily savoring the taste of a Navajo taco, I was madly pumping the brakes every time my wife thought she spotted the correct turn-off.

 

 

Her slim hands and bright eyes were transfixed on her I-Phone, which insisted we “turn right onto 554 for about 0.6 miles then turn left onto Country Road 155 which is a small but paved track through the desert.” But the blue dot of our car kept passing a turn on the screen that never materialized on the actual road. It was like searching for our ghosts before our deaths.

 

My brother was in the backseat with his laptop, looping away his long brown hair to get a better read on our coordinates. A cross-referencing of my brother’s Google Maps and my wife’s Yahoo Tips brought on an anxiety that made me lurch for the road map.  Much crinkling, cursing, loading and refreshing of maps and pages ensued.

 

Our travel-tested unity unspooled as fast as streaming gigabytes. We became three people in one car going separate ways.

 

“Wireless out.”

 

“Pull over here for a second.”

 

“Are you sure it’s called Plaza Blanca?”

 

As the bottomless wisdom of the internet toyed with us, our growing exhaustion created an impossible humidity in the high desert winter. Back and forth and back and forth we searched for the “small but paved track through the desert.”

 

But the growing impossibility of finding Plaza Blanca only pushed us on. The crinkling got louder, the manic pushing of buttons faster, the conversation a bit more heated. The less likely that we would find the place, the more encouraged we were to pursue it. It was a madness that fueled the Subaru faster than any gas. It really is amazing what today’s technology can accomplish.

 

“Are you using Safari or Firefox?”

 

“When was that page last updated?”

 

“Somebody crack a window.”

 

But even the worst madness burns itself out, and our anxious chatter ebbed as we simply lost curiosity. We came to the junction of US-285 one last time, the road back to Santa Fe.

 

It was when we put our screens away that we noticed Mamacita’s Pizzeria. We had passed it nine times.

 

“I’m going to ask for directions,” I said.

 

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Last modified on Saturday, 25 October 2014

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