Friday, May 05, 2006

End of the Road Trip, and Preparations for Another

It's time to finish up my series about my trip to New Mexico two weekends ago, and to tell you what I think I'm doing tomorrow.

This picture is pretty representative of what I saw for a good part of that last day of driving, Monday along US 60, before I got back on I-25 South, bound for I-10 and home. The road itself was mostly straight, mostly flat, but with mountains in the distance on both sides. A lot of Arizona is like that, too.

This is one of three buildings of a derelict business in the middle of nowhere on US 60.

Here's more of the same place - not "Water Can," but "Water Canyon Lodge."

Magdalena again. This time it's the former train station. A lot of the late 19th century railroad stations in this part of the country looked like this.

And here is the sightseeing destination I was making for with all that driving on US 60. It's the Very Large Array (VLA), a radio telescope consisting of 27 large dish antennas laid out more or less in a giant Y shape. The combination of movable antennas makes for a much larger, more sensitive device for picking up the relatively weak radio signals from space than would be possible with a single, very large antenna. A system of what amounts to railroad tracks is used to move the antennas as needed to follow the signals of current interest.

The VLA is about fifty miles out from Socorro, and by the time I got there it was too late to catch the gift shop open. Too bad. I would definitely have made a purchase.

The reason I wanted to buy something at the gift shop is that it's impossible to really get a good look at the VLA at ground level. You can't really see all of the antennas at once, even when they're all around you, much less make out the pattern in which they're arranged. In fact, it probably took me close to an hour to find the side road that led to the visitor center. Even that was kind of interesting, though, as I drove to the entrance of an elk refuge (?!) and down a dirt road to somebody's farm. And of course, leaving the area that late in the afternoon probably made my encounter with the pronghorns possible, or at least more likely.

When I eventually made it back to I-25, I started to notice that the interstate was parallel to the Rio Grande. A narrow part of this river was up in Los Alamos with me - well, below it, anyway. The really wide part is the Texas-Mexico border. It was the section in between that I was following now.

Just after sunset, I came upon the Hatch exit off I-25, leading to NM 26, billed as a shortcut to I-10 via Deming. For the last twenty minutes, I-25 had been veering east, definitely not the direction I wanted. So I took the shortcut. It was the hypotenuse of the triangle, and probably saved me many miles. Even so, the shortcut was not short! It was nearly fifty miles, mostly on curving two-lane highway, behind at least one other vehicle. I think there were six vehicles immediately in front of me by the time I reached Deming.

Once I got to Deming, fabled home of the duck races, I tracked down the steak house I'd seen advertised on a billboard a hundred miles before. If you ever find your way to Deming, I recommend Rancher's Grill. The steak itself was just okay, but it came with corn and great mashed potatoes, and a soup and salad bar. Yum!

From Deming to Tucson turned out to be only a couple of hundred miles. Frequent warnings about winds and dust storms were not accompanied by any serious winds or dust storms, and the construction zones were no big deal. At roughly 75 mph, I was home by midnight, almost to the minute.

Now, about tomorrow. This is the weekend of the Nebula Awards, handed out by the SFWA. This used to stand for Science Fiction Writers of America, but now it means Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. I expect to be a member someday. Anyway, this weekend the SFWA is giving its Grand Master Award to my old acquaintance and matchmaker, Harlan Ellison. I haven't seen him in a few decades, but I did speak to him on the phone a couple of times last year. And the ceremony and related events are in Tempe, a suburb at the near end of the Phoenix megalopolis.

If I get up early in the morning, I can attend a reception, followed by readings by numerous writers, and a panel with Harlan on it in the late afternoon. I can't afford the banquet, but I can theoretically attend the awards ceremony. All this for $50 + gas + driving time. There seem to be no obvious opportunities to market my writing to agents or editors.

Is it worth it, just to see "Hello" and "Congratulations!" to Harlan, attend readings by writers whose work I haven't read, attend a panel or two, and hear Harlan's speech at the award ceremony? I kind of think so. Then again, I wanted to get a good night's sleep first. It's past 2 AM now. I will probably decide that sleep is more important than the reception, but I'm not quite sure about the rest of it. I'll have to decide when I'm conscious again.

On the sleep thing: yes, I know that dreaming takes place during REM sleep, and that it takes a while to get there. Two hours would probably have done it, but it took me a long time to actually get to sleep last night. If I remember correctly, REM becomes a proportionately larger part of the sleep cycle in the course of a full night's sleep. Unfortunately, I seldom get a full night's sleep, which is why I occasionally get hypnogogic effects - stray thoughts and waking dreams, such as the brief impression - not a hallucination, just a mental image - of a fleeing woman. Earlier today I was obsessed with the linguists' pet phrase "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously." I've worked out how it's possible to sleep furiously, but the colorless green ideas are trickier.

See what you miss out on, having a brain that's functioning on adequate sleep? And do you understand why I'm blowing off the morning reception to sleep in?

Yeah, I knew you would.


Update: I misread the online program. There's nothing much going on in the morning anyway. I can sleep until noon without a scheduling conflict!

Saturday afternoon: okay, I'm going, leaving now. And I've updated the entry below this one with a dream. Excelsior!

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julie said...

Of course, it's worth it to go! I only wish I could sneak along for the ride.

Becky said...

Hope you didn't forget your camera!! Have a good weekend!

Bea said...

That's what I like about can share photos immediately as events unfold. Even what looks like common images are really uncommon for someone not living in that area. I'm looking forward to our RVing someday, heading west and north to see the beauty of our continent. Maybe in the next couple of years. Your photos made me want to do it this year.Bea