In New Mexico the license plates tell you this is the land of enchantment. And it is so. The land stretches out from the west in otherworldly shapes, brushed in colors that are special to the Southwest. Artists will tell you the light itself is different. Perhaps this is why the artistic center of the West is a wide canvas with Santa Fe at the midpoint.
In spite of heat far more oppressive than I ever experienced in my years in the Caribbean or Florida, I spent nearly 60 June/July days here. Yet, after a month-long cool-down in the Bay Area, when I headed east, I slowed for some extra days in ABQ and Madrid. Finally, after bidding Madrid farewell on a Monday evening, I overnighted at a rest stop twenty-five miles south of a town with the intriguing name of Las Vegas.
And so I stopped for a coffee and a WIFI break to collect some thoughts about Madrid, the strange little town that had found an affectionate resting place in my soul.
But Las Vegas is more than a pit stop or a WIFI fix. It is easy to tell the difference between the two Las Vegases. The one in New Mexico opens at 9:30 a.m.; the one further west in Nevada opens at 9:30 p.m.
In Las Vegas, New Mexico, the 120-year-old Plaza Hotel, on the corner of the old town plaza, is more understated and more elegant than any hotel in the other place.
Here, the plaza is lined with shops displaying the wares of local artisans–and also a tanning salon. A tanning salon in New Mexico? I may stop in just for the lessons in salesmanship.
At the center of the one-square-block plaza is the duty gazebo shaded by the town’s senior citizens—tall elms and leafy aspen. A monument near the gazebo dates from 1910, when New Mexico was still a territory.
There are eight crosswalks onto the plaza, each with a ramp built in to the curb, which is outlined in swimming-pool blue. The stylized wheelchair icon is stenciled on the pavement. Everyone stops for pedestrians in the crosswalk, even the teens driving pickup trucks.
It is places like Madrid and Las Vegas that make New Mexico the Land of Entrapment.