How could I not fall in love with a place that had pink giltter stools? I've stayed at the Shady Dell five or six times now, and for various and sundry reasons each time, the spiffy diner that sits on the property, Dot's, has always been closed. This time, however, I was in luck and I would finally get to have some breakfast there Tuesday morning before I started on my long, long drive home.
On the short walk over to the diner, I struck up a converation with several couples that had stayed the night in the trailer park and were headed over for some breakfast as well. By the time the five of us took a seat and were joined by a nice pair from Colorado and a few other assorted characters, the tiny diner was completely full. It was impossible not to be intimate as we talked and laughed over our coffee, watching intently as our lovely waitress Cha-Cha made us freshly squeezed orange juice that tasted like liquid pleasure. She was a great hostess, affecting a hipster Mae West persona that felt very gritty and real. She made herself a glass of orange juice after she finished working on all of ours'.
While the biscuits and gravy looked awfully tempting, I opted instead for a croissant breakfast sandwich paired with crispy home fries which resulted in a delicious and amusing breakfast, fueled with damn fine coffee and plenty of personality.
I rolled out of Bisbee around 8:30 in the morning, ready to get home and willing to engage in a long day of steady driving to try and make it to Austin before midnight. Well, that is, with the stop or two I'd inevitably need to make to investigate anything intriguing I saw.
Not long after I finally merged back onto Interstate 10 in western New Mexico, I saw a sign for a rock/fireworks/cheesy souvenir store just ahead and was by then ready to stretch my legs a bit...well, that and I might just be persuaded to buy some pyro too! And it turns out the Continental Divide Historic Trading Post in Sepah, New Mexico was just what I wanted - packed to the gills with cheap consumer fireworks, tacky souvenirs and grave horrors of capitalism.
Suddenly, it dawned on me - surely they'd have a good jackalope here! I'd been on the lookout for one with some spunk for well over two years now. I'd scoured Wyoming, the supposed epicenter of jackalopes, and even there I wasn't able to turn up anything but the standard issue wall mount made in China.
I asked one of the gals behind the register if they had any jackalopes and she simply motioned toward the front counter with a wry grin. "That's the last one! We can't keep those things in stock!" When my eyes connected, the world stood still for a nanosecond. Of course they couldn't keep them in stock - it was the perfect Jackalope! A tad scruffy, but with a distinct look of mischief in his eye, sporting a respectable little rack and a nice fluffy coat.
I fell instantly in love. He seemed to like me, too. Let me scratch him right behind the ear. It wasn't long before we had the cute little fellow wrapped up and in a nice tall box so he could ride on the seat behind me all the way back to Austin. Turns out he's very well behaved and hardly makes a peep. I asked him his name several times, but he hasn't chosen to reveal it to me yet.
Before resuming my pell-mell journey to Austin, I decided to take a stroll out to the ancient roadside attraction teepee at the entrance to the trading post that served as a once-compelling invitation for passing travellers to pull over and come inside. Now it mostly looked like a poorly designed disintigrating sheetrock pavillion, only vaguely western in theme.
As I walked around and then ducked into the dark interior of the shabby old teepee, I found myself feeling a bit mournful, thinking about how the age of roadside relics is quietly drawing to a close. The entertainment quotient is so much more sophisticated these days and that's if you can get people out of their cars for more than some jalapeno Cheetos and a Big Red after they use your bathroom. People want Vegas or Branson, and have no tolerance for hand made concrete brontosauruses.
When I opened the door to get back in the car and head out, I glimpsed the tall box that rested snugly on the back seat and it gave me an instant feeling of relief. By gum, as long as there are still fiesty jackalopes to be had in this world, the spirit of the road cannot be pronounced near death. Especially at exit 42 on I-10 in western New Mexico.
Then, I drove into the sunset and lived happily ever after.