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I’ve been on retreat.

I won’t get into the details of why, when, or how I ended up in this sacred place called “Callanish”, deep in the mountains of British Columbia. But I will say that, although I don’t look for signs in my life, like a cloud shaped like “The Giving Tree”, there was some unknown force that pulled me there.

I spent a week with a group of women living with breast cancer, in most cases metastatic, some of them young, like me, with elementary school-aged kids at home. We explored a range of difficult subjects – identity, love, isolation, and fear. 

The experience was beautiful and painful, a re-birth in many ways. Only through great physical exertion do we bring forth our children into the world, and as such, I had to pant and sweat and whack at the underbrush to clear a path for this baby-soft new me. A “me” who doesn’t want to shut herself off from the world. A “me” who no longer dreads making plans for coffee with a friend. Lets her text messages pile up. Doesn’t respond to email. Can’t mention her kids in her blog posts because it’s just too painful to go there.

I’ve had many happy moments over the past few months. The kids’ nightly tuck-ins and discussions about their day, long walks along the Hudson with Jackson, whose quiet and loving company I’ve come to appreciate more than ever. 

As much support as I’ve gotten for the honesty in my recent posts, the fact remains: I am scared. With data at my back that suggests that I won’t be here in five years, I’ve had many hard days.

I’m not playing red or black at Roulette. In fact, those odds would thrill me. Without my consent, the universe has put all of my chips on a single number, and as the wheel spins, I am powerless to control where that tiny ball will jump, skip, and ultimately land. I know that eating well, meditating, and all of my new-aged “integrative” habits will serve me well. But even when you do everything that is required to heal yourself….even then… the odds will terrify.

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“Do you smell it? It’s the smell of millions of pennies.”

It was the first thing that I noticed after pulling the car off the road on our way to Truth or Consequences.

We’d seen the mines on the way into Silver City but with our pending lunch reservation and sputtering tank of gas, didn’t feel that a close inspection of the mine would be a good use of time.

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Now, there we stood, facing a magnificent expanse of copper and stone, the Santa Rita copper mine; a mine used by Apaches, Spaniards, Mexicans, and Americans since 1800.

There’s something eery about a mine of this size. There’s the smell – familiar yet different; copper tinged with the industrial smell of truck exhaust and smoke. But more surprisingly, there’s a stillness in the air. There are no people, no visible machines, just a few trucks, the size of ants, groaning imperceptibly beneath their heavy loads.

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We took in the immense view, squinted at the Kneeling Nun rock formation at the northern tip of the mine, and then climbed back into the Beetle. Next stop, Truth or Consequences.

After the popular NBC Radio program of the same name promised a yearly festival to the town that would change its name to Truth or Consequences, the town formerly known as “Hot Springs” made the switch.

Our destination in Truth or Consequences, or “T or C” to the locals: the Sierra Grande Lodge and Spa, a property recently purchased and renovated by Ted Turner Enterprises. Although the natural hot springs have always been the main event in Truth or Consequences, the town and surrounding areas are readying themselves for a new frontier in tourism: space exploration. Spaceport America, home to Virgin Galactic and SpaceX, lies 20 miles to the southeast.

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The hot springs in Truth or Consequences are known to be some of the best in the country, without the distinctive sulphur smell that accompanies so many other hot springs locations. We arrived at the hotel and booked private tubs – each one situated in its own soaking room. Some of the hotel’s soaking rooms are minimalist while others are designed like Turkish baths, with extensive tiling and wall murals.

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Welcome to part 2 of the food tour of Southwestern New Mexico.

Last time I recounted our harrowing road trip through the Gila Forest on a thimbleful of gas.

We made it, clawed our way over the finish line. Which, I imagine is how Silver City’s bike race contestants felt the day before.

Silver City hosts The Tour of the Gila bike race every year – where the world’s toughest athletes come to compete before they head to their next big event: the Tour de France.

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Having made it through the forest with a conventional gas tank, I can hardly imagine the muscle and fortitude that it takes to climb those mountains on human energy alone. Riders are a different breed and we were lucky to see a few trucks packing up their bike gear on the day that we arrived. If you’re planning a trip to Silver City, make sure to put the race on your agenda.

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Silver City is a town with its roots firmly planted in the 1960s. Many people who came to Silver City were looking to get off the grid but still have some culture at arm’s length. There are museums, cafes, boutiques carrying New Mexico’s famous silver and turquoise, and most surprising for a town of this size – consistently great food. 

Our first meal of our visit was at local hangout Diane’s. Strung with lights and framed with cheery vintage curtains, Diane’s is as comfortable as a worn leather couch. We arrived after 1PM, greeted by an all-day breakfast menu full of bacon, eggs and Hatch chiles.

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“Where are you folks coming from?” our waiter Kevin asked.

With a half ton of photography gear in tow, it was clear that we weren’t locals.

We answered Santa Fe and then asked where exactly we were in New Mexico. More explicitly, in which direction had we just traveled?

That’s like driving from New York City to northern Maine, hauling your road-weary bodies over to the local luncheonette, ordering a Bloody Mary and then asking whether you’d just driven north or south.

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4 days and 600 miles through New Mexico in a cherry red VW Beetle. From Santa Fe, the highest state capital in the United States, to the untouched wilderness of the Gila National Forest…all the way down to Silver City, first stop on the Continental Divide trail. A night in Truth or Consequences with a dip in the natural hot springs, an afternoon at Ladder Ranch and at long last, a return trip to Albuquerque for a well-earned Cinco de Mayo party. I brought my Mum along for the ride; a pre-Mother’s day trip that we’ll never forget. Today, and in two more upcoming posts, I’ll share our stories from the road.

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We were invited to visit New Mexico as part of a food tour that brought me together with some of my peers in the food blogging world. I asked my Mum if she’d like to join and she answered a resounding “yes!” before we knew the itinerary; before we learned, for instance, that we’d be trekking through mountains and valleys and desert and rain in a car that could fit inside of our family’s SUV.

Living in New York City means that I’m not much of a driver, and when I do drive to our lake house, it’s an hour door-to-door; nothing like the open road in New Mexico where mirages form and tumbleweeds blow.

This trip – never mind the meals we’d tackle, booze we’d guzzle, hills we’d hike, and art we’d view – would be a navigational feat in and of itself.

But we had the right ingredients: enthusiasm and a sense of adventure.

We drove long hours, passing a changing landscape, each view more beautiful than the last. We met restauranteurs, chefs, winemakers, distillers, tour guides, biochemists, and hoteliers. We learned their stories and marveled at the deeply-rooted history that so defines this region.

Two kinds of people live in New Mexico – those who are born there, and those who visit and never leave.

The state is filled with transplants – people who came in search of solitude, beauty, inspiration, and the great outdoors. Others came by accident but never looked back.

“Don’t ask me how I ended up here”, we often heard.

“It’s a long story.”

There were tales of ex-lovers, work assignments, destiny and fate.

“I feel more at home here than I did in Florida…Arizona…Texas…Ohio.”

It’s easy to understand – after just four days, I felt a similar pull. The food was surprisingly sophisticated – from the nuanced molé that we ate at the Santa Fe School of Cooking, to the bubbling dry ice-encased custard at our hotel, The Sierra Grande, in Truth or Consequences. The locals were salt of the earth – generous with their time, eager to answer questions, passionate about their state. 

There are too many images to include in one post, so over the course of the next few weeks I’ll share more images from our adventure.

We started out at the Albuquerque International airport after picking up our Beetle. My Mum’s confidence in my driving skills dropped sharply after I fumbled with the keys, lost them for several minutes, and needed help unlocking the trunk. All of this happened before I’d placed the key in the ignition. We kept talk to a minimum, both of us sensing that this would be a very. long. trip.

It didn’t help that just off to the south was a fast-approaching wall of rain; mountains and indigo clouds illuminated by the occasional bolt of lightning.

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My mind churned. Both of ours did, guiltily. Our families were safe in their routines; and here we were getting ready to tackle this stormy terrain in something other than a 4-wheel drive off-roading machine.

That is, until a rental attendant pointed out that Santa Fe is due north. We sped out of Albuquerque and one hour later, pulled up to our hotel on a hill: The Lodge at Santa Fe.

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After a brief tour of the hotel, we hopped in a cab and headed to Santa Fe’s historic center: a cluster of blocks brimming with artwork, turquoise jewelry, and green chile everything.

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If you were to think about large-scale efforts – mapping the human genome, searching for monster prime numbers, developing the TESLA, you would be wise to add planning a family Caribbean vacation to your list.

There’s the organizing, packing, passport-checking, last-minute snack shopping, the rounding up of coloring books, crayons, headphones, medication, sunscreen and whatever sand-caked plastic shovels that can be found from the last vacation.

Rodney imposed house rules against me asking him to exfoliate my back and apply sunless tanner the night before a trip, so now I leave that job to the professionals. Which of course never gets done. Time, who? what?

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This year I got my act together and scheduled an appointment that I promised I wouldn’t break. I stuck to my guns, shed my clothes in front of a woman whose name sounded like Mary but wasn’t, and stepped into the booth. After a few passes of her spray gun, she declared that I looked “owa-some” and I skipped back home, a burnished shade of bronze.

My kids weren’t impressed. Over the sobs of one child, another demanded to know what happened to my “other skin”. The third was found later, hiding in a closet. This pre-tan effort, I imagine, won’t happen again.

It was the least I could do to get ready for what promised to be the trip of a lifetime.

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When traveling with kids, Rodney and I have always leaned towards big hotels with big pools, big restaurants, and a bigger set of amenities. The kind of place where a kid can race around and find plenty of entertainment.

This year though, we booked our trip through Inspirato. After looking through their list of properties, we found a house that seemed like it would be a great fit for our family: our own pool, an empty beach, ocean-facing bedrooms, and the icing on our Tortuga rum cake….a well-stocked kitchen.

I’m not sure how many times the word “idyllic” was dropped into the conversation during our stay, but I’m pretty certain that were in three-digit territory.

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