Four nights at Walmart. Conventional wisdom holds that's a stretch. With the decision made to go north, all that was left was to turn the key.
We crossed more of New Mexico, as the distance to any interstate grew. We stayed on smaller two lane roads as the scenery became vast, and the traffic sparse.
By the time we reached Chama, the sun had been extinguished by a blanket of gray. I put on a sweatshirt, and switched to real shoes for the first time since before Key West. As a light sleet began to blow sideways, I wondered if perhaps Madrid was a better choice.
We went to the bar, and decided a few Buds would help us find a place to park and sleep. Two others were in the bar - one lady was eating, and the other was serving drinks. I thought the other patron was there for a burrito and some water, but it turned out that she had been drinking all day. She was from there. She hadn't returned in many years, but she was back today with a hint of trepidation. My word not hers. She is a fierce individual. She is stubborn, forceful, and today she felt alone.
I joined her outside. I took my green-chilli-smothered burrito and my newest pint, and we talked while she worked on a Jager Coke and a fresh cigarette. We each had time to say what we were thinking, and we didn't dwell on the weather for long. In fact, the precipitation stopped and the sun got one more chance before setting early behind a distant peak.
As I returned from the bathroom, our new friend was explaining to Kristin that we would be welcome in her home. I like to answer yes. I won't ask, but I like to go along. Better to accept an invitation than wonder. We were offered tacos and a hot shower, and the calculus seemed easy.
We drove twenty minutes in the direction we came from, and turned off on a dirt road. The craters were deep, and our belongings jumped and swayed as we proceeded slowly past a ranch gate. We arrived at the home she had built herself. It was simple and secluded. Faced with compliments, she focused on flaws. Not a real foundation; steps are not to code. A split in the floor reached across the kitchen. I saw beams and sawmill lumber, and felt at ease. I could see that the structure was practical and strong. I could imagine myself swinging the hammer.
We drank more beer, and eventually had those tacos as well. The TV was left on, and wood was added to the stove preemptively as the house began to cook.
We had our own house outside, but thought a refusal of the guest room might be rude. We slept in blazing heat, and I woke up with a dry mouth and a headache before pissing off the unfinished deck. As unsteady as I was, I felt pristine next to the hangover our host was battling after a solid day spent drunk.
She never invited strangers home before, and wasn't exactly sure how it worked. I've been in homes and on roads many times, and I felt comfortable showing that her instincts were correct.