Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Ojo Escape

Who ya gonna call?

"Only trouble is, gee whiz,
I’m dreamin’ my life away."
-- The Everly Brothers

Ojo Caliente is the name of the town and the spa, about 35 miles south of Tres Piedras.  A little nearer to Espanola.  The name translates as "Hot Spring", and I gave it the hot eye indeed when I saw it on the map.  I was drawn irresistibly.  I spent two nights there, in lieu of the rest of my life.  I've discovered there's something besides air conditioning that will make me pull into a commercial campground, and that is the prospect of soaking in a hot spring.  The campground was $20 per night, about par, with water, electricity, and a dump station.  I thought I had a full hookup site, but it turned out the sewage line was clogged with what looked like...well... mud?  Other than a couple of tenters, there was no one else there.

The Daze at rest.

As for the spa itself, I made the mistake of arriving on a Sunday, when prices nearly double. Folks from Los Alamos, Albuquerque, and parts farther afield (some were speaking Russian) pay good money for a weekend of what is advertised as "the Ojo Escape".  And despite my native cynicism, it was that for me as well.  What they have here in abundance, besides the expensive restaurant and "cottages" that go for $199 a night, is something money can't buy.

They sell it anyway.  It's peace.

The "whisper zone".

This place should have been an ashram.  If you are staying at the hotel, you are issued long robes, which many people never seem to get out of except to descend into some pool.  Some robes are creamy white, and some golden.  I never did figure out the spiritual pecking order in that, but there is no denying that there's something in the dry air and the quiet here in these caliche hills that just unwinds you right back to zero.  Reboot.  Add in a couple hours soaking in a hot pool, and you are apt to come away woozy and wobbly and wanting a nap.

The naps here are glorious, like drifting on a warm cloud.  Whatever it costs, it has to be worth the money.

But as an RVer, the cost was minimal, at least as spas go.  Twenty bucks for the campsite and $17 for all day at the spa.  I defy you to use more than 3 hours of that.  You'd turn into silly putty, and flow off into the hills.  Speaking of which, I had my first experience with a mud bath. This is a matter of dipping both hands in a fine clay mud emulsion and rubbing it all over your body, after which you lay back in a lounge chair and let it dry and crackle and crinch up your skin.  They say it is good for you.  It certainly is interesting, and I can't say it did me any harm. The mud gives your skin a blue tinge, and the effect is of a bunch of B movie zombies, lazing about between takes.  After you are effectively baked en croute, you wash it off in a pool, followed by a warm shower.  It washes off easily.

There are 8 or 9 pools, not counting the "private" ones.  I made the rounds of all that were open to me.  My favorite was one of the hottest, with a pea gravel bottom that gave a good imitation of shiatsu massage.  I think they called it the "iron pool".  All the pools are named after various minerals, but I couldn't tell the difference between them, other than temperature.  They do tell you not to drink the stuff.

In the Iron Pool, I got to talking to a Taos Indian who told me if I liked it here I ought to memorize the Taos zip code, as there was a big discount for locals.  He filled me in on some of the intransigent local politics as well.  He used a curious phrase to refer to crazy stuff going on off the Pueblo.  You know, where the rest of us live. "The other side of the cattle guard."  I told him that would make a swell title for a book.  He tilted his head, looked up at the sky, and nodded.  "Yes it would," he said dreamily.

The best seat in the house.

They don't allow cell phones on the grounds, other than in the rooms, but they do have WIFI. Sitting on the big wide porch of the hotel in the long afternoon, trying to stay awake while sipping a pricy beer, I got in touch with Andy Baird, whose Lazy Daze was recently struck by lightning at El Vado State Park, a little north of here.  We arranged to meet in a campground in the Colorado mountains north of Chama, where he was waiting for an insurance adjuster to show up.  So, after two days, I managed to leave just before I gave up all worldly goods and began chanting in some two-tone warbling Tibetan dialect.  I loved every minute of it, but I didn't want to sleep away the whole summer.  I'm not sure why.

I drove back up to Tres Piedras, and then west over the mountains toward Tierra Amarilla.  I just love these Spanish place names.  They are so multisyllabically musical.  They all sound a little like the start of a love song.   All that loveliness leaches right out when you say it in English.  I mean, "Three Rocks"?  And "Yellow Earth"?  Instead of a caress, you get a mugging.

I spent the night up in the pass, with a view of forever.

And slept like a stone.



Ed said...

The name translates as "Hot Spring"..

Did you mean to say Hot Eye?

Bob Giddings said...

Ed: It was a joke. "Ojo" also means eye.