It took a while to really hit the open road. We left Albuquerque to return to Las Cruces for our house sitting gig. Then one more tune up from Michael Elliott, our VW mechanic in Organ, before he gave us his blessing to head for California.
So Saturday we stopped off to share a meal and say goodbye to Mary E, Phillips, my peace activist sister-at-arms, then topped off our tank at $1.22 a gallon, up from $1.16 just three days before, and off we went.
There was no transition from all the hurly-burly of last minute details to our first destination hardly. We pulled out of town and within the hour there we were at Exit #49 off of I-10 and onto Highway 146. Bam, we were there, the black ribbon of a two-lane road, a complete circumference of mountain ridges all around us. It was almost too sudden. The sun was setting, the temperature was perfect, and after all this planning we were living our fantasy.
We turned onto Highway 9 and went a few miles past Hachita. There we camped and walked into the old ghost town of Old Hachita. We spent about four hours walking about. Beatlick Joe snatched his binoculars from his back pocket to survey the landscape. He looked in every mine shaft, every abandoned adobe structure, hop, skip, and jumping all over the place. He has planned this particular ghost town search for over two years.
So we encountered our first Border Patrol guard at the first juncture of our trip. We were in such a remote area on Highway 9, on the other side of a fence, and during the night a huge Hummer Border Patrol vehicle past us about 9 p.m. They were all over this place, some pulling a trailer with four-wheelers behind them.
There was a border patrolman in Old Hachita, out there in that lonely stretch. We stopped to chat. I had some trepidation about what kind of person he would be, stern perhaps, and authoritarian. But he turned out to be friendly, with a kind face, and young looking. He said he stays out there 10 hours a day, all alone. I asked if he could read books but he said no. Guess he is supposed to keep his eyes open. But he can listen to football games on the radio. I told him it looked like a lonely existence, but he just shrugged and gave us a smile. So our first encounter with the border patrol went well enough.
We stayed out there two days, getting more acquainted with the van, where to best store everything and all. We had anticipated a leisurely breakfast enjoying our little table and chairs outside, but we woke up to snow on the ground. We packed up fast and headed for Douglas, AZ. We put a towel across the passenger and drivers seat and placed the little stadium heater between us. Finally, we got warm.