I haven’t done much travel-blogging in a while, because … well, because we haven’t done much traveling lately. Hellooo, recession.
But I had decided that I wanted to get out of Phoenix this weekend and see some stuff. So we went on driveabout and ended up seeing a surprising transplant from Easter Island, and a 15th century ghost
town villagepueblo. Oh, and a little Mexican place that knows what has been missing from the tortilla chips all this time. We went to Globe, Arizona.
We wound our way east of Phoenix and got to that fun part of a one-tank trip where you know you’ve gone bye-bye because the scenery has changed. Less houses, malls and strip clubs — Phoenix has LOTS of strip clubs — and more dust, saguaro cactus, dust and dust. Along with hard-bitten plant life shocked to find that it’s still alive. And covered with dust.
Probably sounds a bit unexciting, but we all have driven the long, lonely miles occasionally. It may almost feel like a cheat to do them in an air-conditioned car with the radio going, but there’s enough there that’s ancient and uncivilized and uncompromising that it tends to permeate anyway. I invariably think about walking on foot and by wagon, and wonder how early Americans and pioneers did it.
And I wonder if they looked around when they got to canyons and thought the rocks were kind of impossible, but amazing. That’s what we thought. We hadn’t intended to stop, but as we went through a canyon, the rock walls just begged to be gawked at, so we did. The canyons rose up black and shattered on both sides, looking like slender shelves of bubbly iron sticking out at gravity-defying angles. (There were rock climbers suiting up, but they were braver by half than I’ll ever be.) One 40-foot-high monolith had come almost completely loose from the cliff. It was just waiting for one good push to break off and come down right side up, looking for all the world like one of the giant heads from Easter Island and ready to answer any questions you might have.
But all of that isn’t what we came to see, and so with a little trepidation that the Easter Island rock would choose this minute to drop, we got back in the car and pulled into Globe.
We didn’t see a lot of the town, and not because it would’ve taken us a long time. It is one of those great Old West towns with the fabulous names — like nearby Superior, which takes longer to say than it takes to drive through, or Show Low, named for a card bet between two citizens that settled a bet (loser left town). But it’s not exactly a bustling metropolis, So we could’ve made the rounds of shops and museums easily, and we’ll do that on another visit. But that’s my fault — on our way into town, I had already gotten all the ‘gee whiz!’ for the day by seeing the Indian ruins called Besh-Ba-Gowah.
Besh-Ba-Gowah is the Apache name for that whole area around Globe, and it means “Place of Metals” — a reference to the mining activity that got Globe going. That doesn’t have anything to do with this particular Salado Indian village, but that’s because we really don’t know what the Salados called it, or even if they called themselves Salado (probably they didn’t, since that name comes from the Spanish word for salt) . The ruins of the village, an elaborate pueblo with three-story buildings in places and room enough to house over 300, was abandoned by the Salados in the 15th century, and there’s a lot that isn’t known about them. The area was remote enough that the site wasn’t built over, and although the elements and vandals have reduced it some stone walls with very little else, I still found it fascinating to wander around in.
The area has been restored in places and the decay arrested, as you’d expect. There’s a nifty museum that has some of the striking pottery and other finds that archaeologists found and restored, along with a recreation of what the pueblo might have looked like. But once you wander — especially if you’re lucky enough to have it to yourself, as we were — it just becomes a quiet place. I looked at the tiny areas of walkways, courtyards, storehouses and the recreation of the multi-story structures where they lived. It’s just interesting to think about people having their lives in a set-up like that. Of course it seems a tad idyllic if you’re feeling harried by modernity to think about getting around in your stone village, climbing up ladders to the second or third floor, meeting together in the meeting place for a ceremony. I’m not very poetic on the whole about the appeals of the hunter-gatherer life. But it was a quiet place, and I was glad that I saw it.
And that would wrap up my little tour of Globe very nicely, if I didn’t have to end on a somewhat less elevated note of debauchery. Greg and I had a recommendation from a friend to look up a little Mexican place in town called Libby’s El Rey. It’s a fine thing sometimes to get these kinds of tips, because we probably never would’ve given it a second look. But Greg knew only one thing about it, and that was that it was a magical fusion of good Mexican home-cooking and … butter.
Yes, it’s true. When we walked in, the waitress asked us if we wanted butter on our chips. While I was still processing that unusual question, Greg answered enthusiastically in the affirmative. And so it began.
I don’t know how Libby’s El Rey came to be a little oasis of tacos and butterfat, but may I just say, it’s just a dandy idea. The enchiladas, tamales, burritos that Greg and I tried were all good, but those crispy fried tortilla chips glittering with melted butter were just impossible to stop eating.
Well, that’s probably a good place to stop, since it’s making my mouth water and it’s a long time until the end of the Apostle’s Fast so I can give it a try again. But I’ll just end by saying that for a little place, Globe certainly managed to give us a lot of good times. Well worth the calories!