In 2006 I took a Road Trip from San Francisco to New Mexico and back over the course of a month, writing and taking photos all the way. Two years later I had a show of paintings based on those photographs. This is one of a series of twenty-nine posts of those paintings accompanied by the relevant diary entries.


KAO Campground, New Mexico, oil on board, 9 x 8 inches (approx.)

21. May 14th, 2006.

I had driven as far as I was going to and now was turning back west…

Left at 7:30 got to Santa Fe just before 9:30. Landscape hot dry scrubby. 

Breakfast in the Plaza restaurant. A real diner and I sat at the counter. A guy called Gene was sitting beside me, a regular, who works in the fine art museum. Told me all about himself and his daughter-5 and a half years old. He was just really nice. Thanks Gene.

Georgia O’Keeffe museum was nice but the experience was marred by my second Indian encounter, an aggressive security guard. I had left my back pack slip to my back by accident and was approached and told to rectify it in no uncertain terms.

This guy maybe wanted to be a detective like me because I felt like he was accusing me of murder…

…and for the rest of the time my nemesis and the other the guards were tracking me through the galleries.

A taste of what it may have been like to be stalked through the badlands back in the day…

I didn’t stay long in Santa Fe. It had a lot of adobe stuff going on but the well-heeled version. It all seemed to me a bit posh and as such no place for me.

Carried on and stopped off at the Acoma Pueblo or Sky City, which is supposed to be a striking pueblo, perched as it is on a high, rocky outcrop out in the desert. I couldn’t bring myself to go in. Felt depressed even in the gift shop..

I remember the gift shop being a cavernous, modern, air-conditioned horror..

-$10 for a camera permit-its not so much the money as paying it. Does that make sense?You’d need to pay $1000,000 to photograph my home…

That’s just a lie Clare…

Got another Sherman Alexie book though.

I had been really looking forward to the Acoma Pueblo, it’s a settlement on a raised mesa surrounded by scrubby desert, a sort of Taos Pueblo multiplied by ten but I just couldn’t. It is unfair really, my complaints about the Pueblos. I knew there wasn’t an answer. The people who live in this arid land need to make a living and why not make it like this?Why not fleece the invaders, after all the invaders did far worse. It just made me feel…depressed. But that’s my problem I guess.

I then nearly had my first ever car accident as I was driving back to the highway. The road was raised from the desert and there was nothing for miles around so I knew I was safe enough to go looking for my sunglasses which had fallen on the floor of the car…

Leaving the pueblo, driving along a raised road in the middle of scrub land I went off the road in my car and nearly hit a speed limit sign (45mph) but swerved just in time…doh!

Typical when there wasn’t another obstacle around for miles.

Then I got to Red Rock State campground (not the same Red Rock at had been to the previous week) which was closed for Mothers Day!Closing a campground for a holiday, that’s a bit Irish. But I pitched the tent anyway only to find the toilets were locked. A European couple nearby just smiled, smugly, at my consternation, happy with their RV, no offer to use their bog. Another man didn’t reply to my question about the toilets so I shouted hello until he did. Two little girls playing told me to go to the nearby convention centre and get a key but there was some Indian function on and reception was closed. Still, I would’ve stayed except there were signs warning of aggressive dogs roaming the camp site, wild domestics I think. I’d rather face down a wild animal-domestic ones are not afraid of us. So here I am at the awful KAO campground-no table, chair or power outlet and hard gravel ground underneath. And I can see the Red F**king Rocks in the distance past the freeway and the tram tracks.

Had fish and chips in Dennys’. A heavy, Indian girl with pock-marked skin served me. It was her first day, she was lovely but Pocahontas she was not…

Ow kitty…

I’d rather be here than wandering around pueblos. This culture we live in fascinates me. Trying to make sense of it all-fast food, fast cars, mass production, mass movement, constant yearning, nostalgia. All surface. And I’m part of it.

Said goodbye to motorbike man this morning. Still don’t know his name. He was from North Devon. He reminded me of Pesky…

Pesky is another biker friend from Devon.

Dead animals of the side of the road. Dogs?Coyotes?Victims of our speed. Passed the Continental Divide again. RVs everywhere. 

Patty was wandering around outside the hostel last night, locked out. I told her to go around the front and knock. I don’t think she did. She was very drunk.

x14 diner, gallup, NM.JPG

Dennys, Gallup, NM, oil on board, 9 x 8 inches (approx.)


6 responses to “ROAD TRIP : SANTA FE & GALLUP

  1. Love these paintings. Hope Patty survived the night 🙂 So weird, this time 3 years ago I was ‘doing’ USA, or parts of it and my Facebook ‘memory of this day’ keeps churning out the mobile phone photo’s I was posting along the way so am getting both our trips daily, quite different as I was not alone, and in a different part- Rochester -Nashville-New York, but some of my shots have the same feel as your paintings (not as good!). I did like their diners, they know how to feed people out there! I had a look up of O’Keef’s paintings and you were right I have seen them before, very striking work especially the flowers, but man that sky above clouds was a bit bonkers! 🙂 Have a fab Sunday x

  2. Oh it would be great to see your trip too!Funny we were there at the same time…the diners are great, I am a sucker for Americana…I think O’Keeffes sky Above Clouds was a later work…I think her later stuff was weird and not very good, it seemed to lack any originality of depth. She has other landscapes with flowers and skulls in the sky too I think which look like a school girl did them. Still, her landscapes of the desert were very striking. Have a fab Sunday right back! x

  3. I did a couple of USA posts back in ’14 after I came home, not sure I knew you then. I’d love to go back, always fancied the Route 66 trip even though it’s a bit of a cliche. One day! 😊

  4. I like those two paintings, although I was annoyed with myself when I realised that the striking colours I liked so much in the first one were a Coke machine.

  5. That’s one of my favourite paintings…and I think that’s what I was aiming for, to see elements of the culture we live in in a different way…Thanks April.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s