Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Twighlight Zone

New Mexico is an altogether strange place.

We drove through the Jemez Valley. This is a beautiful valley just outside Albuquerque. After the dryness of most of New Mexico the valley - and the mountains on either side of it were a welcome change and really beautiful. We could see for miles down the valley and back towards Albuquerque. After all the various shades and hues of desert, the mountains, the trees and the creeks running through them were a welcome change.

So we moseyed through the mountains. it's about a 70 mile drive, so that's about 120 kms, each way.

At the end of the mountain drive, we were hungry. It was around midday, and lunch seemed like a good idea. At the end of the mountain road, there's a choice: keep driving into national park, or drive into town. Town seemed good, so we took the turn to Los Alamos.

Los Alamos has history. Research and testing for the first atomic bombs took place here. It still has huge research and development happening and at 10,000 people is the biggest employer in New Mexico.

Coming into town we were stopped. There's a guard booth and gateway. This is just to enter the town. We needed to produce ID and tell the dude on guard duty why we were coming to town.....'we're hungry – we'd like some lunch, please?' He let us through: 'You can go downtown and get lunch'.

It was hard to find downtown. Usually we can find McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, et al really easily – they're hard to miss. Unless you're in Los Alamos. Any takeaway or lunch type places were right off the beaten track and we needed to ask Ken where they were. It was just as well that we had Ken with us – there was no-one on the streets. There were plenty of cars and trucks and buses – including the Atomic Bus Service – but no-one walking. On top of the guard coming into town, it began to feel a bit creepy.

Eventually we found Maccas and got some lunch from the impossibly polite stepford-like young men working there. Then it was onto Sonic for more takeaway.

We couldn't get out of Los Alamos quickly enough. Literally. Leaving town was just the same as entering it – except this time there was a wide row of guard booths across the road, we needed to account for where we'd been and what we'd done, so that we could get out of town.

We drove back towards Albuquerque, taking the long way through the Jemez valley again, hoping to regain the peace and quietness that Los Alamos took away.

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