The Santa Fe Experience

October 11, 2013 Comments (0)

I have enough Frequent Flyer Miles now that when I board a flight the stewardesses salute me, kick some rich soul out of first class and tell me when the Captain is “looking peaked” so that I can be aware that they may soon ask me to take over. If they only realized that I suffer from a rare and merciful disease called Flightus Dormantis. I am generally asleep before takeoff and  awaken only when the cleaning crew shakes me as they are rifling through my pockets in search of the unopened peanut packs.

The Santa Fe Experience

photo credit ©Tim Considine

But landing in Santa Fe is different. Due to thermal updrafts, Santa Fe is heaven for glider operators but hell for commercial pilots.

But landing in Santa Fe is different. Have I said that already? Well here is why. Upon deplaning one walks to the terminal (the choice of that particular word to describe the building from which one launches oneself into thin air, shows a lack of consideration) and two things become immediately apparent, first this place feels like 1960. I assume the TSA have been too busy elsewhere to lobotomize and surly-ize the good people of the Santa Fe airport. And once inside the doors, guess what? You are in a museum! And a fine one at that! True, it isn’t a large collection but anyone who has visited the Dutch Painters Collection at the Met in NYC knows that the long dead burgher in the twentieth Rembrandt in the row isn’t the only one that is glassy eyed. These pieces, though few in number are exquisite and oddly, they are not behind glass or being guarded. Is it possible that they are not being stolen because you could never leave Shangri Fe. Oops! And that is a clue to your Santa Fe Experience.

In the 1937 Frank Capra movie, Lost Horizons, the hero, played by Ronald Coleman, (my mother’s favorite actor) is kidnapped. His plane crashes in the Himalayan Mountains and he is taken to Shangri La, a small village on no existing map whose inhabitants are very happy and seemingly live forever.

All that Santa Fe and Shangri la have in common, other than the fact that you virtually have to be kidnapped to end up there, is that all the people seem very happy to be there and in the one year since I first met them, none appear to have aged, or very little. Natives chat it up incessantly.

Though unquestionably a city, it plays more like a town, and is nestled close to what appear to be friendly mountains and a friendly sage colored desert. (I was once in a friendly harbor side bar in friendly Annapolis with a business friend, we were both on the wrong side of several scotches and he was chatting up the girl next to him. He was telling her about his 40' Sea Ray boat and she seemed rightly skeptical. She asked about the interior and the color of the interior. He said “sage” and turned to me for confirmation. I nodded. It was the most I could handle.) I remembered that color and story as I looked out the plane window as we approached the landing. Friendly mountains, sage colored desert, a Whole Foods Market and a Traders Joe’s, oh, and one more thing, by law every house in town is done in the Spanish Pueblo style and painted an approved color. Perfect.

The Spanish and native Indian influence is everywhere and not at all hard on the eyes.

Santa Fe is best known for its artist colony and more recently its Santa Fe Opera. Similar in concept to the Baths at Caracalla, patrons enjoy Santa Fe Opera performances outside, framed by the Sangre de Cristo and Jemez Mountains. In town, galleries and antique shops are everywhere.

But locals feel, quite rightly, that Santa Fe should be equally recognized for its food. From a humble place like Back Street Pizza, to the Chocolate Maven bakery, both in an industrial section, to Café Pasqual’s, a breakfast delight, to Harry’s Roadhouse, a busy highway café where I had one of the finest salads of my life, Santa Fe is Food . And like many other aspects of Santa Fe, rooms etc, it is reasonably priced. The local merchants have yet to learn what Monterey and Amelia now celebrate as flexible pricing.

But we are here for the 2013 Santa Fe Concorso. Purportedly hatched at the kitchen table of transplanted Michiganites Dennis and Beverly Little in conjunction with Denise McCluggage and Phil Hill, it is ahead of itself in many ways. In this, its fourth year, it drew several spectacular cars and those that weren’t, were not shabby at all.

The roads surrounding Santa Fe run out in all directions. The Concorso Tour, held the day before the Concorso offers participants an opportunity to drive their treasures in the company of fellow enthusiasts on roads that are in excellent condition and sparsely populated. Our friend Royce Rumsey has provided us with some excellent shots of the tour participants in motion.

This year, world famous glass sculpture artist Dale Chihuly installed a sculpture of slim red reeds on the field near his black 100/4 Healey marrying the art of glass and metal sculpture to the manicured green fairway and a nearby sand trap. A brilliant display, the depth of which was really quite difficult to convey as an image.

Along with the Honoree, Denise McCluggage, other celebrities in attendance included artist Dale Chihuly, Sir Stirling and Lady Moss, Al Unser Sr. and Jr., Norman Dewis of Jaguar fame, photographer/publisher Michael Furman and actor/author Tim Considine, whose image of the RS Porsche is shown in our Newsletter.

The class winners were all worthy, particularly a 1907 Renault racer which participated in the previous day’s rally and the 1928 Chrysler Dual Cowl Phaeton. The current owner’s grandfather won it in the New York Stock Exchange raffle and toured Europe from 1929 to 1935 with it and his family. A great story!

The winners, as reported last week, were a 1933 Delage Sport Coupe and a 1967 275 NART Spyder. The latter raced to a second in class finish at Sebring in 1967 by Honoree Denise McCluggage. Both rare and spectacular cars.

The organizers have rightly seized the opportunity, provided by their location, to not only field a broad array of noteworthy vehicles, but also provide participants and spectators with a Santa Fe Experience. Tough to find...other than in the Himalayas of course.

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