Taking the Long-Cut


There’s a surprising amount of road rage in Santa Fe.

Surprising because there really isn’t that much traffic and, at about 70,000, the city isn’t large. But people drive fast and they honk and they curse.

Yesterday, a man in a glossy white pickup on the interstate behind me became so enraged that I wasn’t passing fast enough in the left lane, pulled around me to the right and wedged into the barely there space between me and the car I was passing. He rolled down his window to slip me off, to ensure I could see, since he had tinted windows.

I thought: he’s had practice at this.

I confess that it distressed me. People who know me well know that I am not a slow driver or an oblivious one. On the one hand I’d say that all he did was anger himself and ruin his own day, but as I watched him zoom up to the next left-lane lagger and ruthlessly tail them into submission, I knew that he also bit a little chunk of happiness out of my day.

One of the guys I’ve been working with in downtown Santa Fe on this project we’re doing for my day job, lives in the same rural community that I do. It’s a 15 minute drive to the Plaza from here and you can pretty much take either the interstate or the two lane that parallels it, Old Las Vegas Highway. You can take Old Las Vegas Highway to Old Pecos Trail to Old Santa Fe Trail and it spits you out right into the Plaza.

On a blizzardy day, wondering which was the better bet, I asked this guy which route he’d taken, if he’d come down the interstate or Old Santa Fe. Right — I meant to say Old Las Vegas, but I got mixed up and can you blame me?

He said, “Oh I refuse to go down Old Pecos.” Shaking his head in disgust, he added, “I take St. Francis in.”

This is the next exit down and a big four-lane divided road. I understood that he was telling me he doesn’t like the slow winding of Old Pecos. And there are slow drivers on it. Tourists, too. You can see above how it curves in narrow twists between the adobe houses. This is where Old Pecos ends and Old Santa Fe merges in and takes over.

(When I stopped on my way home yesterday, to take this picture, a man came out of the house to see what I was doing. I said, oh, I just want to take a picture of Old Pecos and he shouted back, actually Old Pecos is behind you and now this is Old Santa Fe. I just gave him a cheery wave.)

The thing is, I love to drive down Old Pecos. Even after it ends. I love the winding and the adobe and the wooden signs. I don’t care that the drivers go slowly.

(Okay, this one day, a woman driving an enormous SUV with Texas plates drove very slowly and pulled into not one, not two, but three different little entrances, stopped partway, and backed out again. None of us could pass her, of course, cf. narrow streets. By the third aborted attempt I lost my patience. Not that she ever knew it.)

Yesterday I stopped to take this photo, because I knew I wanted to talk about this. Our early morning meeting had been unpleasant in several ways. People are facing difficult decisions. I still smarted from getting the finger. So, since I was already pointed that way, I drove back on Old Santa Fe Trail. I thought I’d see where it went.

It wound back through the hills, past lovely houses and ended up back on Old Las Vegas, way far down, and just before the turn I need to make to get to our community.

It soothed me.

I know I can’t run away from conflict. But I must admit, it felt good to be where the aggressive people weren’t, if only for a short drive.

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