Alien crash landing sites, broken lettered neon lights and wild-west cowboy fights feature in our road trip dip into New Mexico and Arizona. Let’s begin with Roswell, more economically declined than my last credit card application and more ‘go to hell’ than fairy dell! The $5 UFO museum, along the lines of a village hall exhibition, has a life size alien landing scenario, played out with more smoke than Orson Wells puffing on a cigar in a sherry advert and there are moving alien models – be it only their heads!
We arrived on a bitter cold morning driving through aeroplane breaker yards, bleak dismembered plane part cemeteries; a plethora of disparate propellers, a clutch of dead engines, a brace of landing wheels. Eventually we parked up and walked along the main street. More shops were closed than open and it was hard to believe this uninviting little town was the epicentre of the TV shows and films exalting Roswell as something a bit special.
A lad pulled into Alberto’s supermarket car lot with what little was left of his Mustang rear window hanging jaggedly from the rubber seal and not a lot of room in his bashed up boot for the beer he’d purchased. The wind whipped waste paper into the air with the mastery of a puppeteer and snow bright as sparks burned our faces.
We stumbled into Martin’s Capitol Grill on 4th Street slightly stunned and without expectation, but were immediately aware that the jolly, vibrancy of the people in this full to capacity café told a different story. Chirpy as sparrows on speed they were upbeat and charmingly curious about our arrival that wintry New Mexican morning.
There was Kate who explained to us what a ‘biscuit’ was – ‘a cross between a bland scone and a bread roll bathed in gravy’, who was producing an alien film and was having a working breakfast with her staff. I heard her mention Jesse James and Tilda Swinton. Then there was Sash, who kept calling me Ma’am and diverting the subject matter back to English muffins and jam with the certainty that the choice between raspberry and strawberry would be influential in reducing the National Debt and slash the price of gas.
‘Where do people go for entertainment?’ I asked the girl in Dollar Mart. ‘Well there’s Farley’s.’ she hesitated. A quick look at Trip Advisor assured us that home-made Margarita’s and a king size bed were all that was really needed in Roswell for an extra-terrestrial experience!
Next stop was Las Cruces, where we nearly booked in to The Imperial sky Motel. As sinister as ‘Hostage’ and ‘Psycho’ without the glam of ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ we decided the holes in the wall, sticky carpet and receptionist speaking from behind a Perspex divide were enough to turn down the room. As if to clarify matters a pristine, cream, soft topped pimpmobile parked up outside as we were leaving.
Fortunately we discovered the old Mexican village of Mesilla in the centre of Las Cruces, all adobe buildings, mosaic pathways and flowered archways. This is where Billy the Kid was tried and convicted for murder, though he later escaped from his jail in Lincoln and was eventually shot by Pat Garratt. We had burritos and cold beers in Emilio’s, and found ‘The Royal Host Motel’ – clean, spacy and comfortable.
The next day we explored the flea market – Witney Woman’s Institute cross Blunsdon Market with Burrito burgers and skinny chai tea specials. And to add to the eclectic vibe we met Art, the Vietnam Vet selling dash board rosaries and Oliver with his vast Matchbox and Hot Wheels car collection, including a model Anglia which Mick snapped up with the voracity of a hungry crocodile.
Our next port of call was Bisbee, Arizona where it was snowing as we drove into town. A lot of dollars were made mining copper here and expert excavators were brought from as far afield as Cornwall. The museum displays a very unappetizing pasty in the ‘Worker’s Food’ glass case. Not Gingsters I might add. It’s now a bohemian district, expensive, artistic with a sprinkling of anachronistic. Grumpy, lumpy Victorian furniture and 60’s and 70’s kitsch rub shoulders with a sense of ‘vulgar but valuable’ bonhomie.
We take a wander down Brewery Gulch and sup a few pints in St Elmo’s with the Blue Ribbon drinkers – not an equestrian rosette more like a drink for a bet; the poor man’s alcoholic hit. But this quirky, wood floored, high mirrored, friendly as a Western politician in China public inn has the edginess of a high board diver about to jump into a pool of piranhas coupled with the friendliness of an over affectionate un-spayed springer spaniel. Full on!
We stayed in the perfectly presented, brass bedded, ivory linen sheeted, 1930’s Jonquil Motel where the lovely Linda lowered the price by $30 dollars on our second night because no one had booked in. I love Bisbee it’s like a psychedelic Frisbee, the spinning epicentre of centrifugal craziness. The ‘Occupy Bisbee’ brigade broadcasting their message with arty posters and trash sculptures, the health food fads and yoga classes fly posted on lamp posts, the paradox of the good humoured homeless tucked into their sleeping bags on the playground on the hill overlooking the ‘decorate your house on the outside’ overkill. It’s thought provoking in this probably dope smoking, Mexican border toking community. And the hot chocolate and homemade tomato soup are a delight, even if they make your trousers tight!
There’s more to say about the US of A, but I think I’ve said enough for today…and anyway, this week I’m off to Kilimanjaro…so wish me well - at least it’s not Roswell!