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Eye Candy

Posted Oct 21 2011 12:00am
I wanted to take a thousand pictures over the last four days as I travelled from Dallas through Cache, Oklahoma, across the Texas panhandle, and through the mountains of New Mexico, but my camera was tucked away in my suitcase, which was buried in the tightly packed trunk.  So I have only pictures of the beautiful park in which I am currently spending my days:  a park in SW New Mexico known The City of Rocks.


Here’s how I got here:
My Dallas visit was aborted after the Marriott Residence Inn, which had promised me a green room, failed again to deliver close to the 3pm check-in time on Monday.  Angry and desperate for a place to sleep, I headed north on I-75 because it was the closest highway without construction near the hotel.  And construction-caused traffic jams in Dallas are ‘big’, like everything else in Texas, as I learned in the 25 minutes spent on a single exit ramp from I-635 in the misplaced hope that a personal visit to the Residence Inn would catapult action.  

About 45 minutes after running from Dallas, vistas of shopping malls turned to vistas of open pasture and undulating hills.  And they were hills, steep rounded hills, covered with green and yellow grasses and a few bushy trees.  When I paralleled the highway on a local road as I searched for my turn, the road hugged the hills like a roller coaster, climbing at grades of 9 -10% and dropping at the same steep rate.  The interstate running alongside smoothed out all the bumps, creating that seamless look of American uniformity which makes Walmart and Home Depot look the same in across the nation.

A half hour later, I turned onto I-35.  My plan was to go to Chickasaw National Recreation Area, just off I-35. where I would spend a day or two recovering and making plans to head west.  Divine had something else in mind, however, for as I crossed the border from Texas in Oklahoma, I jammed on the brakes and joined a long line of stopped cars.  On the right, was a long line of idling trucks.  Every now and then we inched forward, often because a pickup with 4WD had the good sense to cross the grassy divider and turn back into Texas.  My 2 WD sedan was not cut out for off-road travel, so I stayed in line while 5 miles ahead, police took their reports and ambulances rescued the bodies (survivors?) of an overturned semi blocking both lanes.  Unable to enjoy the delightful breezes on the prairie without the stench of diesel and gasoline, I rolled up my windows and took a car sauna.

Two hours later, I floored the accelerator and enjoyed going 75 mph for about 40 minutes.  Striking white cliffs and deciduous trees, some starting to turn color, ravished my eyes.  In the distance, black clouds and lightening bolts warned of dangers ahead.   Before long, I was driving through a thunderstorm with fierce winds arrived.  Passing the turn-off for Turner Falls (another lovely park I hope to see one day), I prayed the storm was local and small.  It was not.  And as it was pouring when I reached the exit for Chickasaw, I exited and headed West toward Cache, OK, with the intention of pulling into my old campsite and being welcomed ‘home’ by a familiar face. 

The route doesn’t look long on the map, but driving at sunset in rain with gusty winds, it turned into a very long drive.  Divine must have wanted me heading back there, for when I stopped at a filling station for directions, the person I asked said, “We’re heading there, just follow us.”  I did, and the rest of the drive went more quickly (helped by the fact that the car I was following liked to speed) with my leader taking me all the way to a familiar route 62.  I pulled into the station near the Wildlife Preserve just in time to receive the Monday night blessing from Guruji. 

No rain had reached this dry area, but the gusts of wind were fierce, at least 30 mph, perhaps more.  Dust and pebbles pelted the car windows.  I had organized my car so that, in an emergency, I could sleep on the backseat.  And that’s what I did!  I was so tired I didn’t care about stretching out my legs.  By morning, I felt well rested and had no sense of PEM (post-exertional malaise.)

The wind was still fierce the next morning, and the temperature had dropped into the ‘40’s and low ‘50’s.  It was easy to decide to head west.  But which way?

I chose the back roads, taking  OK 62 straight across the state of Oklahoma, where I enjoyed beautiful views of the mountains, golden pastures and green farmed fields.  Then I hit Texas.  The landscape turned flat.  I saw brown fields, yellow fields, and a few spots of green.  Cattle and horses.  More vast fields.  But soon I arrived at the foot of Palo Duro Canyon, the 2nd largest canyon in the US.  It runs 125 miles in length, NW to SE.  As I approached the SE corner, I enjoyed spectacular cliffs of red clay, and then finally, at a high point, a scenic view deep into the canyon.  The air was clean and fresh, but still very windy and cool.  Someday I will take the road up alongside the canyon and enjoy one spectacular view after another. This time, I needed to cover some miles and make it into New Mexico so that I could find a warmer, less windy place to sleep.

I didn’t realize southeastern New Mexico was so very industrial.  I arrived at Bottomless Lakes State Park, NM a couple of hours before sunset after driving through much commercial and industrial land.  It was a relief to find the park a considerable distance from houses and factories, even if it was SE of town, with the winds tending to come from the north and west.  The park is set among striking cliffs which rise above gently rolling hills covered with brush, and the altitude is slightly higher than the Roswell industrial valley.  Not surprisingly, the “bottomless lakes” had bottomed out and looked like oversized puddles.  From a distance they reflected the deep blue sky.  I took a site as far as possible from the lake at the highest point in the campground and pitched my tent on the concrete patio next to the picnic table.  Then I rushed back into Roswell for dinner and wifi and supermarket. 

As I returned to my campsite, my heart sank.  The factory was spewing sulfur-laden vapors into the air and it was floating towards the state park.  Light sparkled across the fields like a string of Christmas lights laying low to the ground.  I couldn’t figure out what the lights were for, but the risk was that it was something toxic.  What was I getting into?

Then I arrived at the campsite to find the raccoons had made a mess of my things.   Two sweaters had been unpacked from a zippered compartment in my suitcase, my toiletries were scattered everywhere, and the absorbent pads that I use for coffee enemas were strewn across the table, some chewed through, some nibbled at a corner.  How could I have been so careless!  I’d seen the open trashcans everywhere and assumed raccoons were not a problem here.  Perhaps the park deliberately leaves them open so that the critters can eat people’s garbage.  Whatever!  This coon must have sniffed out some fragrance in the pads, or my suitcase carried the residue of scent from a distant trip when I carried food in one of the pockets..  How disappointed the coons must have been to get a mouthful of absorbent cotton.  At least they didn’t gnaw holes in my sweaters.

I slept less well that night, every rustle sounding to me like raccoons hunting through my suitcase or my pots and pans – things I could have put back in the car but chose to leave out due to the late hour (past 10 pm) and the cold.  But thanks to the Trivedi blessing, I woke feeling well.  My nose was clear for once too! 

I headed further west, taking 380 from Roswell past a very cute town in the Capitan mountains, the first place I’ve seen in New Mexico that reminded me of little mountain hamlets in Europe.  From there, I headed towards Socorro and passed through an interesting area of lava rocks, where I stopped an enjoyed a fabulous view at the Valley of Fire Recreation Area.  The picnic tables are perched high on the side of a mountain which looks out over fields of lava rocks at distant peaks.  I met a couple from Snowflake, AZ, a locale which has an MCS community that I was planning to check out, but he told me that anyone with allergies to dust should keep away from Snowflake as they often have dust storms.  One less place to visit…. But also my options are narrowing down.

Others have written on “the Location effect” that they felt good in Socorro.   Consequently, I arrived there with great expectations, ready to turn west into the Gila National Forest and settle in.  But as I got off I-25, I was greeted by a smokestack belching black fumes into the air.  The Socorro valley has water, and therefore quite a bit of industry and farming.  The mountains of the Gila National Forest looked forebodingly high, and the wind whipped across my face blowing my hair into my eyes.  I made a U-turn and headed south, a Klondike ice cream bar in my hands.  Even before I’d finished the ice cream, I could feel my nose getting congested, and although this congestion lessened as I headed south into the higher temperatures of Southern New Mexico, it still hasn’t fully cleared up.

I saw some amazing scenery when I took Rt. 152 West to head into another part of the Gila National Forest, and steered through some pretty tight turns.  It was a slow ascent up to Emory Pass at 8228 feet.  If I’d read the map carefully and noticed that the high figures were the pass height, not the height of the surrounding peaks, I would never have thought about camping along that road.  I learned my lesson in Colorado:  don’t go into high elevations until you’ve had lots of time to adjust.

I tried to enjoy the mountain scenery.  There were evergreens and shrubs, a totally different look from the mountains East of I-25.  Both the foliage and shape of the hills reminded me much of the mountains in Tuscany where I lived for two years before I got sick.  However, the Italian Apennines and Chianti hills are punctuated with villas and villages, while the Gila mountains are completely uninhabited by humans. 

As the sun began to drop in the sky, creating a glare on my windshield that made it hard to see, I began to get nervous.  I would have to do the entire descent and then drive another half hour south to read City of Rocks State Park.  The State Park was my back-up location as I’d researched it in advance and knew they had electric and showers.  The challenge would be to get there before dark!  This was the hardest part of my trip so far!  It’s the first time I’ve felt anxious, but as I drove into that wilderness area, wondering when I’d get out, I found myself creating an inventory of what food I had.  Was it enough for 1 day, 2 days, 2 ½?  I reassured myself that I wouldn’t starve.  I didn’t have enough water to wash my hands and my dishes, but I did have enough to drink.  Every once in a while I’d remind myself of the beautiful scenery, then focus on the road again as it curved through 10 mph and 15 mph switchbacks.  When I came down the hillside and saw my first house I felt such a sense of joy and relief!  Civilization.  How wonderful.  Lights and telephones and modern conveniences.

I made it to City of Rocks in time to enjoy a magnificent sunset and a cold dinner.  I set my sleeping pad on a concrete pad, spread my sleeping bag over it, and tried to go to sleep.  To add to the tension of the day, an abusive man in a pop-up camper at the end of the RV park was yelling at his woman and cursing for over 2 hours.  I despaired of ever sleeping, but he did eventually shut his foul mouth and I dozed off under a dark, starry sky.

When I woke, I was congested and blowing and nearly incapacitated with PEM.  I rested during the day as much as I could, and felt a lot better in the evening.  But as the temperature drops, I find myself getting congested again. 

Allergic to the night?  Huh?

I’ve been reading in Dr. Wm Rea’s book about indoor and outdoor toxicity.  At night, the cooler air is denser.  Pollutants settle.  In afternoon, the toxic level is lowest.  Hence, my daily cycle of feeling clearest in the afternoon and getting more and more congested as the night progresses fits perfectly with the total toxic load of the outside air.  At night the wind also dies down around here.

What still seems strange to me is waking free of symptoms in the toxic air of Bottomless Lakes State Park.  Are natural pollutants such as terpenes from evergreens worse for me than industrial pollutants?  

Is this payback for 4 days of indulging in candy (eye candy) with all its stress?  

Am  I witnessing the pattern of masking and unmasking?

Masking is what happens as the body gets more toxic.  It ceases to react to toxins and pollutants.  Unmasking is what happens as the body releases toxins.  It becomes instantly reactive to pollutants.

As much as I miss wifi around here (I’ll drive 35-40 minutes to find a place in Silver City), I think it makes sense to stay for awhile here in the desert to see if I start to improve.  I had a lot of toxicity in the past week, with the mold, the driving, the industry, the lack of sleep, the stress, and the inadequate nutrition as I moved from one locale to another.  While I’m impatient to get into the Tucson area and check out two possible ‘safe for MCS’ rentals, I know I’ll get a more accurate sniff test if I’m in a less reactive state. 

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