The more things change, the more they stay the same. On the left,  the Bullet leaves Factory Place on his way to our Sandia Park, NM house (center). For the past 16 years the Bullet has been our family sedan, taking us to Ralphs, CVS et al. On the right the Bullet makes his first visit to the local grocery store.  Soon thereafter, he went to Walmart, the Pottery Barn, the Container Store, TJMax and — of course– our local bar.

After 34 years of marriage, I’ve learned the secret to not getting a divorce during a move is one simple phrase:  “Yes, honey, let’s take that as I’m sure  we can use it!”  And so, we have made the move from the streets of downtown LA to the gravel roads of Sandia Park with no casualties.

One would think that moving from a 600 sq. ft. loft into a 2500 sq. ft. house would be no big deal, especially if you think about what the reverse could be?  Well, I’m here to tell you that you’d be wrong, very wrong.  We…

  • spent 14 solid days without-a-day-of-rest packing up Factory Place
  • 80+ boxes, three or four pieces of furniture, one motorcycle and one car
  • Around $6800 for the moving truck, movers, auto transporter, etc.
  • 1  1/2 days of cleaning said loft and two days driving to New Mexico
  • We’re now in our second week of unpacking

Late on our first night in Laguna, I was sitting on the deck with a Corona in hand, gazing out at the stars and mountain shadows.  There were no sounds. Dead quiet.  Not of traffic, of people, music, dogs or the neighbor upstairs.  I started to panic.  What the f___ am I going to do OUT HERE?  No going to Tony’s for a drink or the Redwood Room for dinner.  No emailing Cindy and Peter to get together tonight in Grand Central Market.  No Starbucks three minutes away.  No saying hello to neighbors that I don’t know.  No walking the dogs to the dog park next to LACI.  No ….. pretty much everything we’d known for the past 11 years.

“The times, they are a changing”

Living on the mountain

We quickly learned that we live on the East Mountain as opposed to the side of the mountain facing Albuquerque.  East Mountain people consider themselves different from the Other Side.  There is no city civilization near by.  The one traffic sign on the Main Highway (The Turquoise Trail) reads, “Congested Area Ahead” and I swear I’ve never seen more than three or four cars.   Equally accurate road signs include “Fallen Rocks” (not Falling?), “Twisting Road Next Five Miles” after three miles of twisty roads, “Narrow Road, Keep Right” (what, we don’t keep right on less than narrow roads?) and “Watch for Deer,” failing to mention the wild turkeys, coyotes, rabbits and squirrels we’ve come across.  We hope the “Keep Trash Locked Away Until Pickup” with a picture of a Bear is equally accurate.

The West Mountain is full of rocks and boulders, it looks arid with few trees.  Views are spectacular, but of city lights, cars and people.  The East Mountain is like Colorado or Angeles Crest, totally green with Pine and Junipers, closely packed with the occasional field of grass.  Views are spectacular as well, but of mountain mountain range covered in forest, with a sprinkling of other houses tucked away down dirt roads.

Not the Lizard – Paako Golf Resort

The Lizard

Sitting in the Lazy Lizard (our favorite local bar — more about the Lizard later), it’s pretty evident that we’re new to the neighborhood.  Hints include wearing a shirt with a collar, not having a beard three inches past your chin, wearing boat shoes not boots, and no baseball cap or cowboy hat.  People fall into basic two groups:  the aforementioned East Mountain people and what we call the Paako Ridge Golfers. Paako Ridge is rated as the top golf course in NM and just a couple of miles further up the Tortoise Trail, but a world apart.  We’re beginning to fit in nicely, though I suspect people think of us as Paakos despite living more remotely that 90% of the people in the Lizard.   Since there is only one bar within 10 miles, the Lizard is the mountain’s melting pot.

When we describe where we live to our fellow East Mountaineers, they say something to the tune of  “You live way up there?”   They look at us with a bit more respect. Yes, we’re remote.  A couple miles north of the Lizard on Hwy. 14, take a left on La Madera, drive five miles up this narrow, twisty road to Canon Madera, left through the gate, and up another mile of gravel road and you’ve arrived at Walti’s Southwest Chalet.  It’s a lot like Little Big Sur, on the way you’re saying to yourself “Where the f___ is it?” and then once you get there, you’re thinking “This could be good, very good.”

And it is.

Enough with the descriptions, let’s go to the video and pictures!

The Videos

  1. The Approach.  What’s it like getting there:   Driving to 87 Laguna
  2. The House.  First time as owners:  Laguna Tour
  3. Outside Tour Start:  Exploring the five acres  Outside Tour Start
  4. The North:  Lots of cacti and a bit of flat land.  North of the House
  5. Fire Roads:  There are fire roads to the north and above the house  Fire Roads
  6. Driveway South:  It’s a long walk  Driveway

The Pictures

Packing UP

Alex and the SOS crew begin loading up Factory Place at 7:57AM on July 29th.. Despite reading dozens and dozens of horror stories about moving, the SOS crew did great.

Now Voyager II gets packed away

Three hours later and the SOS truck leaves Factory Place.

Karen spent a day and a half scrubbing FP clean in order to get our deposit back. I admired her will power…

Every good husband knows when to get out of the way. I decided to get out of the way at the Girl and the Goat restaurant. Very good

The Move

First stop on the way to NM was Barstow, a sorry town indeed. Most of it is deserted or about to be deserted. We were staying in a Motel 8 and the motel across the street was tough competition:  “Motel 7”. This was the best shot I could find, and its of a laundromat.

While Gallup NM isn’t much better, it has the El Rancho Hotel, which is a gem of a place. One of the best hotels we’ve ever stayed in.

Shot from the patio of the El Rancho through the lens of a Corona

Karen and the dogs at said patio.

The lobby. The El Rancho is worth going to Gallup for.

The Arrival

The Bullet in his new home. In the 16 years we’ve owned him, he’s never been in a garage. He doesn’t realize that he’s going to have a much bigger brother in there as well.

Mr. Handy Man tackles another tough job of putting together shelving. Even Bogart is wondering how long can a guy take to put together a shelf?

Karen immediately begins the never-ending job of trimming trees and other green things

Life on the Mountain

Every morning we walk the dogs down the driveway.  Most of our 5.1 acres is yet to be explored

7300 ft. elevation makes going back up a hike.

This is where we have morning coffee every day

Karen’s newest passion is Hummingbirds. At this point, we have six Humming Bird Hotels and two “Wild” bird hotels.

New arrival — Karen’s first wheel barrow.

Big night at the Lizard — Susan Clark and her band play a couple of sets. She’s the most famous singer from the area and only occasionally does the Lizard. She lives “up the street”.

Perfect timing. After 10 months, LowBuck finally arrives on the scene. LowBuck (as in cheap) is an 87 Jeep Grand Wagoneer who has undergone some significant upgrades by the premier Wagoneer restorer — WagonMaster. I can’t wait to rumble into the Lizard in him: )

My new office. About the same size as my Office in a Closet at Factory Place, now I look at the mountain rather than an alley.

Not sure it gets much better than this — LowBuck, the Bullet and Now Voyager II are all together for the first time.

6 replies
  1. Gregg Power says:

    Well done, you have chosen to live in a land of expansive beauty and you both have the time and freedom to explore it. Look forward to the next installment.

  2. Teri Andrews says:

    Looks like you’re getting comfortable with your new digs🏠
    What a great part of the country!
    Can’t wait to visit😊 xox Teri

  3. Mitch says:

    My wife and I have looked at the Sandia Park area. Beautiful country being just close enough to a big city for medical, shopping etc and just far enough away. You get a lot for your money compared to Boise. Paako has a community water well. What water are you on? Congratulations on escaping the cement jungle.
    Mitch

  4. Peter Carlo Paccone says:

    Good read. Looking forward to someday soon seeing your east mountain hood up close and personal.

  5. Richard & Kioko says:

    Couldn’t be happier for you. As we live at the top the 405 we also admit to being a bit jealous. Keep the updates coming please.

  6. FHW says:

    We have our own well. While it was tested and had “good” pressure, wells are always an unsure bet when you’re around others with wells. fw

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