October 4, 2016 – Sun, 75 degrees
Miles Today: 84
Miles to Date: 17,377
States to Date: 45
Thirty-four degrees at 7:30 a.m. and the world stood still as a Watteau painting. I dug my thermal and windbreaker and heavy gloves from the bottom of my pannier and headed south in crystalline mountain air. By ten I was warm enough to stuff the jackets back in their bag. The wind picked up around eleven. Long descent into Questa and a steady climb back up through the pine forests. I was on the outskirts of Taos by 1:30 p.m., but didn’t go into town. Instead, I headed west to cross the Rio Grande Canyon Bridge and visit Earthship, a community of net zero permaculture homes on the high desert. Then I retraced my path and pedaled a few miles north to Arroyo Seco to stay at Snowmansions Hostel.
Earthship is cool, though I can’t imagine living in a place so consciously earthy. I cannot argue with the energy efficiency and sustainability, except that, as long as your vehicle burns petrol, living twelve miles from the nearest anything is unsustainable. The aesthetic works for some, but not many of us. Mostly, I felt the place would be an odd community. The low houses, paying reverence to the sun rather than each other, reminded me of guys sitting shoulder to shoulder at a bar, all looking the same direction, out of each other’s gaze. As one resident said, “People pretty much keep to themselves.” And then, as if she realized her oversight, she added, “Of course, unless you need them, and the then they’re the greatest in the world.” The whole point of an Earthship house is independence and autonomy. That they have built a collection next to each other seems like happenstance.
Snowmansions Hostel, on the other hand, is a very ordinary structure within which lies a community as well as a business. During ski season the place probably accommodates 40-50 people, but in early October there were less than ten of us, all men. Staff, however, was plentiful. They came to Snowmansions from all over to live and work in community with a level of consciousness I appreciated without being overbearing. Although I was the only guest taking dinner, Sam and Justine made a banquet of dishes. “It’s better to have leftovers then run short, and the staff will eat whatever’s left.” Sure enough, about 8:00 p.m. Snowmansion residents came out and devoured the beans, barley, quesadillas, soup, ravioli, grilled cabbage, and grapes I could not finish. I offered Justine the $10 donation requested of guests. “Don’t bother, it was mostly leftovers.”