Saturday, December 23, 2006

Abducted by Aliens?

Is this a photo of:
a) Eventful Woman first thing in the morning?
b) Sleeping Beauty turning into a frog after being kissed by the handsome prince?
c) an alien?
d) all of the above?
e) none of the above?

Answer at bottom of this post

I love waking up in our little adobe guesthouse with the sun shining onto the orange tiles. We can make a cup of tea, sit at the little dining table and look out at the desert and high hills in the distance. As I’ve said before, this would make a great summerhouse for a writer.

Today we dressed in our Land Rover official uniform. Matching shirts and jerseys. The same ones we had been wearing when asked if we were twins.
(Refer to entry for Friday, July 22, 2005 Shoes and clothes - what more does a gal need?)

We wore our jeans as well. I laughed when I thought of Land Rover’s marketing manager back in New Zealand. He had said that we should always look smart in our corporate jerseys and never wear jeans on official business. Yeah right – this is the man that did NOT know that older Land Rovers were made of aluminium and offered us magnetic logo signs to put on the sides of our Land Rover.

We took the main road through the desert towards the Land Rover dealer in Albuquerque. I loved the sound of this name and rolled it around on my tongue. It was sycophantically named after Francisco Fernández de la Cueva, 8th Duke of Alburquerque, Viceroy of New Spain. That was in the glory days for Spain when they ruled at least half of the world and all of New Spain (now North and Central America). Over time, there was some rebellion and the first "r" was dropped in the spelling of modern day Albuquerque.

We were going to see Bob Johnson, a sales representative for this dealership.

We had contacted Land Rover North America before we left New Zealand to advise of our plans and route through USA. They must have circulated the information, and our contact details, because Bob found out we were on our way. I can still remember the day he rang us up in New Zealand to invite us to call into Land Rover Albuquerque. He was excited by the sound of our adventure and wanted to give us a warm New Mexico welcome. He asked about our route and whether we were going to tackle higher altitudes. I was very taken with his expression "naturally aspirated engines" and that he hoped that the mountain passes might not be too difficult for them.

Bob was hoping to lure us to call into Land Rover Albuquerque. We were certainly attracted to his warm friendliness and enthusiasm. Did he know that I would fall in love with his Home State, as well? Meeting Bob just reinforced what a great place it was.

The whole team at Land Rover Albuquerque made fuss of us. The receptionist, who was the mother of the dealer owner was "over the moon" at our visit. She cooed over our Land Rover articles and said she had never met celebrities before.

We spent quite a bit of time there. The sales people were busy but, in between sales appointments, there was always someone wanting to talk to us. The show room and garage servicing area were clean and modern. There was a big New Mexican desert mural in the Service Reception area. The showroom had New Mexican art works and wall hangings. Above the museum, on a high wall, was a museum-like display showing Land Rover’s heritage from older Britain, the redcoats in the New World, the USA outdoors country of kayaks and shooting, right through to the more modern era of Land Rovering.

Around the perimeter of the outdoors sales yard, was something called "The Ride". This was a rocky, paved demonstration track, with curved and hilly sections designed to demonstrate a Land Rover’s ride ability. It was possibly the only time some of the yuppie Santa Fe Land Rover owners would be close to anything off road.

However it was a great sales tool. It had been cunningly designed to fit a Land Rover Discovery’s specifications. Some of the hills had break over angles that didn’t suit American Jeeps or the Japanese 4x4’s, and the Land Rovers would confidently roll up and over them, whereas other so-called "off road vehicles" wouldn’t.

Bob drove me on "The Ride". It was very tame for me, but his commentary was most interesting, as he described various clients who clung to the door handles and shrieked in excitement.

We cruised back to Santa Fe for a look around in daylight. Although there were a lot of adobe buildings, the place had a clean and sophisticated look. In a nod to its history, I felt it appeared more like a New Spain than a New Mexico.

Santa Fe was totally different to anything we had seen in USA to date. The street names were mainly in Spanish. I’ve heard tourists to New Zealand sometimes comment that the Maori names sound/read all the same and they have trouble navigating. Now that we encountered so many Spanish names at once, compounded because they were so long and that I had trouble pronouncing them, I finally understood what they meant. I would be reading the map to TH and garbling that he had to take a left onto "Carmen Rhinoceros" when he would be reading a street sign called "Carmina Rancheros".

Sarah and Joe had invited friends to dinner and we had a lovely farewell night with them. We would be moving-on in the morning and I felt sad.

We were caught by daylight saving change overnight, with the clocks being put forward. So, we left at 11am, later than we’d like. I had a dry, sore throat. Sarah had warned us to drink a lot of water because of the dry air at this elevation, and I thought I had been too lax about that.

We turned the Land Rover’s nose south. We were planning to "crash" into Roswell that night. South of Santa Fe and coming down from the high desert elevation was a different sort of New Mexico. Flat desert, scrubby tussock and nothing but the road and power lines stretching out far in front of us, forming an infinity "V" in the distance. The tussock was a little lighter in colour than the dirt. There was nothing to relieve the dullness. Even the sky was a flat blue, without clouds to provide contrast or show that at least the heavens might be alive. Still life. We seemed to be the only thing crawling on the face of the earth.

Periodically, we would pass through almost deserted and abandoned towns like Encino and Vaughn. Boarded up buildings and graveyards of big, old yank-tank cars from the 1960’s and 70’s. An ancient tow truck was still connected to one old wreck. The tow truck driver’s door was ajar. It looked like the truck had hauled in this one last load, and then the driver had just stepped out of the cab and simply walked away.

I wondered whether this is what "Sleeping Beauty" would deteriorate too, if she had pricked her finger here, instead of in Fairyland (or Hollywood)? Probably the handsome prince would not think to come here. No one would find "Sleeping Beauty" amid the tarnished chrome and oxidised paintwork, stretched out in the back of an old black Cadillac hearse.

The road runner birds relieved the boredom. Heroes of the "Road Runner" cartoons and the official New Mexico State bird, we were on sharp look out for them. However, we never actually saw one – only nebulous dust squirts as they zoomed away from the roadside. These could have been the elusive desert jellyfish and not roadrunners at all, of course.

Later in the day we stopped at Bitterroot Road, about 30 miles out of Roswell. This was where the UFO was supposed to have crash-landed in 1947, in the famous "Roswell Incident".

We stepped out of the Land Rover and waited. A tiny wind had got up. It ruffled our hair ever so slightly. Apart from that, nothing happened. There was no searing lights, "Close Encounters" music or little green men. We didn’t see any shiny alien metal bits masquerading as a weather balloon. No bureaucrats or "spin doctors" materialised to deny that anything significant had happened. We hung around for awhile, but it was no use. I guess we’ll have to find our own accommodation tonight instead of being abducted by aliens.

We pulled into Roswell visitor centre just before 6pm. The very helpful staff gave us brochures and all the information we needed on aliens and other tourist attractions. The International UFO Museum and Research Centre would open at 11am. The art gallery opened at 9am and had some excellent Georgia O’Keeffe paintings. There was a campsite nearby, which turned out to be amazing – it was one of the few campsites in USA that had flat grass to camp on, no trees overhead to drip water and no stones underneath to bend tent pegs, or make for an uncomfortable night lying on them.

My sore throat was now scraping painfully at each swallow and I was starting the "sneezel" stage of a cold. We turned in early.

There is nothing like the seeing the wide canvas of a Georgia O’Keeffe painting to bring all the glories of high desert New Mexico back into mind. She had such an eye for colour and detail. Just a small detail in her work can mesmerise. As well as desert scenes she painted incredibly detailed flowers and native flora. I wanted to stand and look for hours that morning in the Roswell Art Gallery

But, in the quiet of the art gallery, my sneezes and snuffles seemed extra loud. We finally decided to give the gallery patrons some peace and quiet and we headed for the UFO museum. Maybe they had a cure for a cold?

The International UFO Museum and Research Center was established by an enthusiastic team of volunteers in 1991. These volunteers had realised that key witnesses - whether protagonists or antagonists - were approaching old age, and they set about recording and videoing their statements. Since 1991, time has taken its toll and several of these witnesses have died. Fortunately, their stories were recorded and are now preserved in this museum

It is not a flash, interactive place for bored teenagers with a 5-minute attention span. Instead it had panels of information, transcripts, photos, all laid out in a sequential, time line. The museum presented both the claims and counter-claims of whether aliens had landed at that site on Bitterroot Road.

I have no idea what really took place that night in 1947. However, one thing I am damn sure of, is that something happened involving the crash landing of an aeroplane, space shuttle, experimental aircraft, or even an alien space ship. Then, something went even more wrong with the survivors (whether human or alien) and there was a huge cover-up. There was too much "spin" in the official reports and denials, as well as obvious tampering with evidence. There had to have been a cover-up of some sort.

But what really did happen? Hopefully the truth will be out one day. In the meantime, all power to the volunteers who have done a magnificent job with this museum.

The museum had lifted my spirits for awhile, but by early afternoon my cold had developed into a full-on heady fog in my head. We decided we would try to get to my cousin Susan in Texas that night. There was a long way to go. She assured us, when we rang, that they would stay up for us.

The countryside was not very interesting. The navigating was fairly easy in this open, highway travelling and I closed my eyes and let TH get on with it. My throat was on fire, my head felt like a pumpkin. I just slumped in my seat. At some point we drove over the State line into Texas. TH calculated we’d never get to Susan’s in time for dinner. He knew my constitution needed food regularly and suggested we find something quick.

Even with a sore throat, the thought of food perked me up. We came to a small, sleepy town. I spotted a fast food restaurant with a drive-through. There was a sign saying they closed at 7pm. It was 6:55pm by my watch.
Being the front passenger in a right-hand drive vehicle, I was nearest to the "place your order here" speaker. I waited patiently for "Can I take your order?" When it never came, I pushed the call button. After a little while a somewhat surprised voice asked if he could help us.

I said that we’d like fries and burgers. The voice very politely said that they were closed. I protested that it wasn’t yet 7pm. There was another pause and then the voice, still very polite said, "Sorry ma’am, but it’s nearly 8pm."

We had lost a whole hour. I just knew it - we had been adducted by aliens and hadn’t realised it. And then I thought, what say we’d lost more than an hour? Were we even in the same day, same year, or even the same century? My fevered fuddled brain grappled with this. I started to gabble about what day it was and whether we were still in America, when TH leaned over me and asked if Texas was in a different adjusted time zone to New Mexico. The voice affirmed this. TH then apologised, advised that we were tourists and asked if there was anywhere else open at this hour.

The voice said he didn’t think we were "from around here", but he was very happy to give us directions to another eatery. It turned out he was the manager and had stayed behind to finish some paperwork in his restaurant. He was curious about our "kinda different looking vehicle and accents" (and no doubt the mad female one) but remained polite and courteous throughout our conversation over the speaker. We thanked him and drove out.

We found the other restaurant and grabbed some much-needed tucker. The food rasped and tore at my throat, but I forced it down with lots of drinks. I felt warmer and less exhausted, now that I had boosted my energy levels.

TH stopped at a phone box to ring Susan again. San Angelo was still at least 2 hours away, she said. Of course, in our old Land Rover, TH estimated it would be more like three.

We rode on into the night. The flash of on-coming headlights lit up our driving compartment and sparked headache thumps inside me. I pulled my Land Rover cap over my eyes and curled up on the seat. The gentle purr of the Land Rover engine lulled me to sleep.

The change in engine speed and turning of corners woke me as we drove into the outskirts of San Angelo, just after 11pm. We had to ring Susan for directions on the phone a couple of times. My usually good navigators’ brain was too addled to work things out.

We finally drove slowly down Susan’s street. Her husband, Mort, was waiting outside to guide us into their driveway. He was still wearing his business clothes and seeing him waving his arms in welcome, his white business shirt gleaming in the street lights was the most wonderful thing to see.

They bundled us inside, cups of tea and coffee were placed in our hands. It felt like home and very safe to be in their embrace. Susan ran a bath for me with sweet smelling oils. I soaked in it, thinking this was what heaven must be like. Well, apart from having a headache and coughing. The sheets had been turned invitingly back on our bed and we slipped under the covers.

I’d like to say that I had a dreamless sleep and awoke all refreshed and healthy. But the next two days passed in a dreadful bout of diarrhoea and hot and cold sweats.

I got up and dressed each day, but spent most of the time lying on our bed or languidly lolling in Susan’s kitchen. I’d lost some weight on the trip, and my clothes seemed to hang off me, adding further to my distressed demeanour. Susan became more and more concerned at the dark circles under my eyes, the feverish brightness in them, and my long periods of listlessness and exhaustion. A bout of bronchial-pneumonia some years ago had given me a nasty sounding bark whenever I coughed. It sounded a lot worse that what it was, and I was used to it. She wasn’t, of course. I kept saying I was all right, and that I was just tired and had probably picked up some sort of bug.

On the second day Susan wanted to call a doctor. There had been so many exhausting moments on the trip, especially with F2’s horrible behaviour, that I just felt that I needed time-out to recover. We agreed that, if I was no better on the third day, I would give in and see a medic.

On the third day, the fog had cleared in my brain. As soon as I awoke I felt the immediate change. My body and brain were calm and quiet. The fever had gone.

Answer to photo/multi choice question: (b) Sleeping Beauty

© Eventful Woman, 2006
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