I’ve always wanted to go to Santa Fe, but the main draw there for us was our friend, Judith. Kate met Judith while volunteering at a teen parent program in Eugene back in 1990, and our families became good friends. A few years later, they moved to Africa to work with US-AID. They lived in several different African countries over the next 20 years: Kenya, Eritrea, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, and Zambia. Their life abroad was wildly different from the norm and sometimes dangerous. When a border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia turned violent in 1998, Judith and Mike were given two hours to gather their belongings and four children before being airlifted away. In the Ivory Coast, a rebel uprising held them under siege for days over Christmas, huddled together with other families at the English school.
When they lived in Zambia, Kate and I visited them in 2009 for what was the most memorable vacation we’ve ever had. Judith drove us for 10 hours on rutted roads to the Congo border where we stayed at Chimfunshi Chimpanzee Sanctuary and got to take young chimps on a jungle walk. She signed us up for a 3-day canoe trip down the Zambezi, but she had to drop out at the last minute when a monkey bite required a trip to South Africa for rabies shots. Kate and I went on a weeklong road trip with their family to Namibia, where we slept in treehouses, went on a game drive, and had to buy black market gas at the Botswana border to get home. We visited orphanages in Lusaka where Judith volunteered, and we experienced Africa on a level that most tourists never get to see. (For more details on this unbelievable trip, go to www.tributewebdesign.com/africa.)
Three years ago, Judith moved to Santa Fe to allow her youngest daughter finish high school in America. Next month, she will rejoin Mike in South Africa. So this was a narrow window of opportunity for us to visit our much loved friend.
As soon as we were settled in the RV Park in Santa Fe, Judith drove out to meet us, bringing along her little purse dog, Sergeant. (Quite a change from the three mastiff-like dogs her family had in Zambia.) We hadn’t seen her since 2009, but she was just the same, and we sat in Bessie talking a mile a minute like we’d never been apart.
Eventually, Judith remembered that this was our one day to see Santa Fe, and she drove us downtown. She suggested that we just walk around town with Sergeant and Bailey and check out the sites, that Santa Fe is so dog friendly we’d be accosted by people wanting to pet the dogs. And it was true. We were stopped by people right and left wanting full-on love sessions with the dogs. One woman left Bailey with pink lipstick smears all over her muzzle. A group of Navy cadets leapt from a park bench to rub Bailey’s belly. Another woman practically crawled under our dining table to scratch behind Sergeant’s ears. It was really kind of hysterical, and we loved it.
We walked around the plaza, by the Catholic Church, museums, the opera house. I loved the Southwest architecture, the butter smooth texture of the adobe walls, the rich earthy colors. Most stores allow dogs to come in, but we preferred to window shop. It was a beautiful day, and we were just happy to stroll along in Santa Fe with our friend.
Later in the afternoon, we went back to Judith’s house and she cooked us dinner. The next week, her house would be filled with Mike, the kids, and relatives for her daughter’s graduation. But this day, with her daughter away on her senior trip, we had Judith all to ourselves. And as much as we would have loved to see Mike and the kids, it was wonderful to have this leisurely stretch of undistracted time with Judith. It was after 10:00 before we forced ourselves to say goodbye.
When we drove from Durango, we reached Bernalillo, a small town southwest of Santa Fe, just before sunset. There was a sweet little campground there outside the Coronado State Monument, right on the Rio Grande. Coronado Campground is owned and run by the University of New Mexico, and it’s not only reasonably priced ($17.50 for water only, $20 for electric), but it’s beautifully maintained, with little adobe pueblos over each site’s picnic table. We got one of the last sites available, with a great view of the Rio Grande.
The next morning, we drove into Santa Fe and checked into the Los Suenos RV Campground right in town. It’s a funny little oasis behind the Penske truck rental place on a main strip of malls and stores, but the people were friendly and it suited us well for the day.
The morning we were leaving, we noticed that Bailey was limping and acting a bit lethargic. Kate found a large lump and sore on her upper hind leg. Both Judith and the woman in the campground office recommended Smith’s Animal Hospital, and they were able to see her pretty quickly. It was a bad abscess, possibly from a spider bite. The vet lanced it and sent us off with antibiotics, pain pills, and instructions for care. Poor Bailey was a sad puppy for a few days before the antibiotics worked their magic, but she is nearly healed now.