Sunday, April 27, 2014

Route 66 - Albuquerque, New Mexico

Yesterday, April 26, 2014, marked the second of twenty-three journeys to be taken for our art project, Walking Enchantment. We are so excited to be doing this project that it's hard not to do the happy dance every time we do a photo shoot.

So this week was Route 66 - at least the part that goes through Albuquerque, New Mexico. We chose this section partly because we want to highlight the urban neighborhoods of our town, but also because Route 66 is, for the most part, no longer passable through some, if not most parts of New Mexico. Believe me when I say that if I could, I would do the coast-to-coast trip.  Nothing like a road trip to get the creative juices flowing. However, currently the original Route 66 is not on any road map, anywhere (at least what we could find). In addition, it has not been maintained and for the most part is impassable. That said, we hit the road at 5:45 a.m. to see what we could see of Route 66, armed only with a highlight map that is who knows how old, my camera bag, tripod and two smart phones.

First stop...the La Puerta Lodge. Some very cool signage here, however, that's where it ends. Like many of the motels along Route 66, it is run down and in dire need of some TLC. These old hotels would be so cool if renovated and the grounds maintained. As it stands, they represent the ghetto of Albuquerque. Neither I or my project partner, Carey Rose, wandered very far from the car or each other. Thankfully, I have a telephoto lens so we didn't have to. I believe we both felt a very uncertain vibe being in this part of town.

We ventured further down the road to another of the "highlighted" stops on Route 66...the Pioneer Motel. Again, very cool signage, but not much else. We actually came upon one of the other motels on the highlight map that advertised having - wait for it - phones! Those images will likely be in the actual exhibit at the end of the year, so if you want to see them, you'll just have to come to the exhibit. Christmas in New Mexico is like nothing you've ever experienced!

As our trip progressed, we eventually made it to the rail/bus station. As most rail/bus stations are wont to be, this one was full of very colorful characters. The architecture was typical southwest and we did go to the tunnels over the underpass and there were colorful lights and pictures of old Albuquerque within the tunnels. Awesome shots there. Also, likely in the exhibit.

We left the station - by car, not rail or bus - and moved on to the "the purest Route 66 motel surviving", "open 24 hours". The problem is, it wasn't - pure or open.  There were "No Trespassing" signs everywhere, but being the rebel photographer that I am (not!) we parked and began our sojourn around the building(s). Sadly, it was surrounded by chain-link fence and was definitely showing every one of its 70 years.  It's a shame too because it would be killer if it were renovated.  As we walked around the property, we noticed that it is actually in the process of being either purchased or renovated - the latter I  

hope - because it's very cool. Like I said previously, loads of TLC.  The one bright spot was that it had an amazing, old Yucca tree on the grounds that was blooming and beautiful.  I hope it gets to stay since it's the state flower and contributes to the authenticity of the place.

Onward ... to the beach!  Wait...did I say beach?  Yes!  Actual water and ducks and trees and everything. Beautiful! When Carey Rose told me about it, I was stunned!  How did I not know about this place?  Where have I been for seven years!  Under a rock apparently. Tingley Beach is part of the city rejuvenation project and it's been there for a while.  Who knew?  I can hardly wait to do a return visit - with my dog this time. He will love it! It's more like a park with a lake and fishing and paddle boats, etc., but I'm good with that. Loved it!

Island in the middle of the lake.

These two didn't want anything to do with people!

A gorgeous little waterfall.
All aboard!
Last stop on the agenda was headed out of town to where the sign announcing Route 66 is suspended over Central Avenue on the way into or out of Albuquerque. There are so many other landmarks along this route that it's hard to keep track.  Mostly places to stay, restaurants announcing New Mexican cuisine, vintage cars, and businesses trying to make a go of it. The diversity, friendliness, and camaraderie in this town is amazing and I, for one, hope it remains so. Route 66 is a stunning example of Americana at it's best.

Please stop by and visit my galleries at, and  I'm also on Facebook and Twitter @kmessmer53.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Walking Enchantment

Saturday, April 5th, began the first leg of our first trip of our photography project, "Walking Enchantment". This project encompasses 23 locations throughout the state of New Mexico and culminates with the exhibit of 36 pieces in the Romero Street Gallery in Old Town, Albuquerque during the Christmas holidays with all of the proceeds from the sales of the pieces benefiting our local children's cancer center.

This visit took us from one extreme to the next...emotionally and physically.  We arrived early at the Trinity Site where the first atom bomb test happened.  It was devastating.  While there were thousands of visitors to the site and we didn't really get to see much other than ground zero (which is still radioactive, by the way), the ground around the blast site simply cried out that it still had not healed from the crushing, melting death that was the atomic bomb explosion.  The air was hazy, making the mountains surrounding the blast site even more sad than they looked already.

It was parched, dry, crunchy, spiky and harsh, as is much of the New Mexico desert.  But this felt different. My logical mind wanted to scream "what were you thinking?"  Even Albert Einstein thought it was a terrible idea to develop such a weapon, but did we listen?  The explosion literally melted the sand into its own stone that is now known as trinitite and it litters the site. Tourists by the thousands enter the gate, walk to the very spot of the explosion and stand around in awe of its terrible destruction. All that remains is a stump of steel, six inches in diameter that was one of the legs of the platform they placed the bomb on. What draws us here? It's like a train or car wreck that you want to look away from, but can't.  It's such a surreal experience that I can only describe it as other-worldly.

From the harsh environment of the Trinity Site, we moved on to the White Sands National Monument. It was a complete 360 from the site we'd just visited.  If you've never been to White Sands, the beauty of it is astounding.  It is a living force of nature that moves on a daily basis. So much so that if you visit every year for the rest of your life, you will never see the same thing twice.  The "sand" is actually gypsum though it does feel like sand running through your fingers. It sparkles. And if you dig down an inch or two, you'll discover that it's wet - beach wet.  The has a high water table.

The starkness of White Sands makes your mind wander and personally, I was worried on more than one occasion that I might get turned around and be lost for days out there.  For while the beauty is amazing, it is also deadly if you happen to get lost.  There are no facilities (other than restrooms - and only on the perimeter of the road), but if you're out there for any length of time without water, there won't be any need for a restroom because your body will be trying to retain any moisture it can to keep you alive.

All that scary stuff said, there is a serenity about White Sands that I have never experienced anywhere else. It's almost as if you can hear it speaking to you, through you, around you. It is calming and peaceful and puts you in that space as well. It isolates, embraces and surrounds you and all you can do is accept it. Amazing! 

So I would hazard a guess here and say that our first photographic and poetic journey on the road to "Walking Enchantment" was a huge success!  I hope you enjoy these posts as much as we enjoyed our visits and sharing it with you.  We would love for you to visit for more information or to donate to this incredible project.

Please stop by and visit my galleries at, and  I'm also on Facebook and Twitter @kmessmer53.