For now though our immediate goal was Taos, New Mexico, transcendental meeting place for hippies of all types and home to the latest sustainable living must have, Earthships. And like i said we were hitching and it was working. Catching rides through the Rockies on the twisting and turning Red Mountain Pass was, in fact, easier than it ever had been before. At the end of the first day we caught a ride with an ex-welder who took pity on us standing on the one intersection in Ridgeway with night closing in and drove us to Ouray hot springs where we splashed about for a few hours absorbing the minerals in the naturally warm water. Following this surprise spell of indulgence we walked to the town's bowling alley, the place our new chauffeur Kevin had been whiling away the time on the two 1950's vintage lanes there, where the pins were set by hand by two boys our age with tattoos, piercing and hairstyles and where a lady sat in the corner keeping score on a type writer receipt type machine. Having had time to mull over his options and draw enthusiasm from his friends excitement over the British Boys Kevin had decided to let us spend the night at his, in the wooden house he built himself, and seeing as he was headed for Durango the next day anyway he could drive us all the way.
I awoke that morning to the hip sounds of the 60's and 70's on the radio and burgers made from an Elk Kevin had shot in the woods behind his house following a 3 day hunt. I felt reinvigorated as I sat there listening to songs I always knew but could never name, there had been a wholesale reinstatement of our adventure and of our faith in weird luck and the kindness of people to get us to our destination. We were once again free to travel the roads with nout but a vague goal and no time frame. I was ready for anything.
We got dropped off just outside Durango and trekked through a gap in the Rio Grande mountain range trespassing on a lot of land and being in constant fear of some paranoid fucker sitting on his porch, itchy finger on the hair trigger of his perfectly polished colt .45, chock full of bullets, just waiting to take advantage of Colorado's 'Make My Day' laws and shoot us dead without fear of repercussion, we were of course on his land after all. I never did find out if the actual law was called Make My Day or if it was just a colloquialism that everyone used but it fit so perfectly with a law that gives a person free reign to attack and kill someone who is in their house without their permission that I didn't even see the need to question it. At the end of this walk we reached the house of another Anarchist collective whose info we been given in GJ. We chilled for a while and smoked weed and watched cartoons, as seems to be the custom here, before heading into town to meet another friend and drink some beer.
We left early the next morning and got a ride from a guy who was putting up lost dog posters and who, as it turned out after a 30 minute trip to the casino for food, was a gambling addict. As we weaved through the maze of slot machines you could see his eyes get drawn to each one, his brain violently tearing his heart away from dropping yet another quarter into the hole. It was a sight to see, droves of pale people sitting all day in windowless rooms pouring their lives away 25cents at a time trapped inside one of the last visible remnants of indigenous culture in this country. A grim spectacle for sure. Our dog less friend dropped us in Bloomfield, a nothing town in the middle of the desert on the Northern edge of New Mexico with just one road running through the middles of a mess of chain stores and trailer parks. The state boundary was invisible but immediately we could feel the difference between Colorado and New Mexico. This was the desert, home to Sage brush and the Navajo people, the point at which every liberal weirdo who ever had to escape from where ever they were for whatever reason ended up. Sandwiched between two of the most Republican and most racist of the 50 States, Texas to the East and Arizona, where recently racial profiling of job applicants has been ok'd by law, to the West it seemed an unlikely place to find the milieu that call it home but for the people that migrate there I think all roads always led to New Mexico and that’s just how it is.
In Santa Fe we met two travelers at the start of a month long road trip out to Vegas and back. We spent some time helping them plan their route and giving them tips on couch surfing which in turn granted us accommodation for the night in the place they were staying. It was gratifying to be the ones giving advice for once, only two months in and already we felt like kings of the road, riding high on the success of the last few days. Taking full advantage of the cheap transportation we took the bus to Taos and entered one of the most confused and meandering places on the planet. Initiating the standard routine we started talking to everyone about where to stay and what to do, we talked to a variety of washed out hippies who had clearly been too stoned for too many years, a BBQ ribs seller who wore purple sun glasses, had been sent here by God and apparently had nothing to sell and a retired music mogul from NYC who sure as hell was determined to by some of those elusive ribs. From a mess of mostly useless rambling we managed to piece together a few key things, firstly with regards to Earthships we should hunt down Mark Reynolds, the man in charge, and secondly there was a place called The Mesa on the way where we might be able to find somewhere to stay.
The Mesa is a dystopian commune of sorts, a scene straight from the reels of Mad Max. After a failed development project in the 50's the land ended up being divided up into acres and auctioned off at exceptionally low prices and even 15 years ago you could get an acre out there for a poultry $500. This led to an influx of hippies and dreamers all leaping at the chance to build their own home, a plan that from what i could see no one ever completed. Today what’s there is acres and acres of sage brush dotted with caravans, old busses and freight containers, the makeshift homes of The Mesa People. The roads are all but unusable, the police never venture out there, there is no water and no power and generally the people keep to themselves. It’s nice if you want to live a quiet, isolated and simple life well away from the grim realities of the modern world. The saddest thing for me about The Mesa is the lost potential, seemingly an almost free autonomous zone the possibilities here are many and with a little organisation and dedication a really promising alternative living project could flourish. Unfortunately this isn't the case and there are barely even neighbourhood meetings, there is just angry individuals living in proximity to other angry individuals all escaping the same woes but doing so alone.
As if it were foretold we got picked up, after only an instant of trying to hitch, by Sam a girl who lived on The Mesa with her boyfriend Mark. Sam was pretty and blonde and a fantastic alcoholic, she would drink Bloody Marys from morning til noon and then beer into the night. She used to be in the Navy and led a pretty acceptable life but she hit some sort of pre-midlife crisis and left it all behind searching for something new. What she found was Mark and he was just what was needed. Anarcho-As-Fuck, Mark new his social security number and his inmate number off by heart, he respected nothing that hadn't earned it and there were very few people left in his wake he hadn't said fuck you to and meant it, on principle more than anything else. We slept a few nights on the floor of their bus, jubilantly agreeing about things and swapping stories about how we fucked the system and smashed the state. We were basically best of friends.