The end of this trip was anticlimactic as I came down with the flu and simultaneously experienced altitude sickness as I arrived in Santa Fe. I spent the next two days mostly in bed, managing one short side trip to Madras, N.M., a small artists' community in an old coal mining town south of Santa Fe where I salvaged some vintage iron pieces from the original dump on the outskirts of town.
My birthday was spent with a view from my bed of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and much reflection on recent events, and in between trips to the bathroom, I experienced an upwelling of gratitude for still having my feet on such a beautiful planet. I drove home to Santa Cruz in two days, not really feeling up to exploring, though I was blown away again and again by sunrises over the desert, 100 mile distant mountain vistas, and the feeling of freedom in being able to spend some time like this.
Most Prolific Wildflower Display goes to the stands of wild mustard cascading down the foothills of the Tehachapis where Highway 58 runs out West toward the backdoor of Bakersfield. Other Trip Awards go to Louisiana for Friendliest People, Texas for Best Drivers (helped along by state law: Keep Right Except to Pass), a tie between Arizona and New Mexico for Sweeping Vistas of the Wild West, and to California for Most Beautiful State, downgraded slightly for Most Inconsiderate Drivers.