July 1, 2011
Last night when I walked up two flights of very long stairs I thought I was going to pass out when I got to the top. I was sucking for air like a trout out of water. It seems that I am at 6400 feet of altitude and that is what did it. Being 30 ponds overweight, having had three beers and a pound and a half of enchiladas for dinner had nothing to do with it.
Las Vegas is a quaint little town with a rich history out west. It is on the eastern slopes of the Rockies and was one of the stops on the Santé Fe Trail. This hotel I am at was the first meeting spot for Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders Reunion. When the train came in, the town of East Las Vegas grew up around the train station and the two towns remained independent of each other
until 1970. They are now combined but easily distinguishable as two small distinct towns on each side of the river. At 14,000 people it is considered one of New Mexico’s bigger towns. It is 17th. It is three times bigger then Taos though.
Las Vegas has a rich history of outlaws holding up here. Doc Holiday and his girlfriend Big Nose Kate hung out here. Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp and the Durango Kid also spent time
here. No mention of their girlfriends or whether they had any body parts that were larger than one would expect.
Lot’s of movies are made here either entirely or in part. I believe I counted 27 of them. verything from Easy Rider to Wild Hogs was shot in part here. There is a large motorcycle element that invades the town at the end of this month.
But today it is Fiesta Day and I am sorry I am going to miss it. I watched as they filled the plaza
with sound equipment and surrounded it with fried stuff to sell. Kids were running around underfoot all excited and it had a real Americana feel to it. I also got to listen as Plastic Lid Man did his solo drum routine. He was much better than Ukulele Man in Hawaii but then he probably has more time to practice.
Since I had spent a lot of time walking around town I decided to take the hotel shuttle back to the train station. When I told the desk clerk I wanted the shuttle she said she would get Louie.
Well Louie appeared in short order and asked me if my tetanus shot was up to date. I assured
him it was but had no idea why he would mention that until I saw the shuttle we were taking. It was Jeep Chickaree with a half million miles on it and apparently Louie had picked up and stored every piece of junk he had ever come across inside this vehicle. I threw my luggage on top of a pile of greasy looking bits of metal and then cleared a spot for my feet to fit on the
passenger side. And off we went the short distance to the railroad station with paint flying off of the Jeep and Louie giving me a history lesson as we went. This free ‘shuttle’ is actually mentioned in the hotel literature
Las Vegas, Raton, Trinidad, CO, La Junta, Lamar,Garden City, KS, Dodge CityKS,
So after cheating death with Louie the Bomber Driver I visited with some people at the station and then got on the #4 Southwest Chief headed to Chicago. I was surprised at how many people were on the train but it is a summer holiday this weekend. The lady in the seat behind me insisted that I eat in the dining car so I went up and a reservation. Then I settled into the observation lounge and watched the parched high desert of New Mexico go rolling by.
In Raton we picked up a whole bunch of Boy Scouts as this is the train stop that is close to Philmont which is a 137,000 acre plus Boy Scout Ranch. As luck would have it I sat with three of these young men and got to hear about how they had been backpacking for 12 days at up to 12,000 feet of altitude. I did not tell them about my big adventure of climbing two flights of stairs in Las Vegas. They were a delight to dine with and gave me hope that all is not loss
in this country.
But they tired me out so I went to sleep.