As we dove into the back seat of the Toyota Prius, the car’s wiper blades lashed madly at the splatter of raindrops on our Über driver’s windshield. But we were good. What with the rain, and now having a few minutes to spare before our dinner reservation, it had been a good call to arrange for the Über to ferry us to Radish & Rye, a restaurant over a mile from our hotel near Santa Fe’s historic plaza. One thing about Santa Fe’s high mountain desert weather patterns: when it rains, it pours. Moreover, it was a smart move. The restaurant we were headed to focused on whiskey pairings, so why tempt fate and drive?
The nice thing about Über is you don’t have to deal with cabbie machinations, answering questions about the whereabouts of your destination. It’s a done deal because you’ve entered all that information on the app when you ordered your driver. Über is the cabbie barista for the latte generation, exemplifying a streamlined process of marketing a product, without sacrificing the essential foam.
But then the driver asked Siri, Apple iPhone’s Director of the Earth, for directions. This prompted Dr. K’s standard joke: “Hey,” he queried our driver. “Have you ever asked Siri to marry you?”
I cringed. The question is so tired, the response so predictable. Siri gets a bit huffy, and the whole topic is boyishly juvenile, in my opinion.
But our driver picked up and ran with it. “Hi Siri,” he asked. “What’s your nationality?”
Siri didn’t miss a beat. “I’d rather talk about your dinner plans and the weather,” she informed us.
Isn’t that what life is all about? Don’t dissect a topic too deeply. Keep conversations on the surface to be polite. We’re all just passing through.
Against my protests, we’d driven my year-old Tesla the 450 miles from our house to Santa Fe. I was tired; it’s the first vacation we’ve taken in over five months, and I didn’t want to worry about having to do a Fred Flintstone and pedal the car myself.
But Dr. K was excited about the challenge. What better use of his time than to plot on the map for spots to charge the electric car — at designated Tesla charging stations — and find other charging destinations while in town? I preferred the time-proven method of fossil fuels, but he gave me a few days to chomp on the idea, and I relented.
Even so, I worried.
We would have to stop every 130 miles at designated Tesla chargers to feed Toothless, the name of my car. Every Tesla has a name. It shows up on your screen when you power up your laptop on wheels. The rationale behind mine is two-fold: with a 0 – 60 acceleration rating of 4.4 seconds and a dark blue-black color, the car reminded me of Toothless the dragon, a Night Fury who becomes tamed in the movie, How to Tame Your Dragon. But Toothless means more to me than simply the fastest car I’ve ever driven; he’s a tame car and being electric with zero emissions, he doesn’t bite the Earth.
Toothless can drive as far as 270 miles or so on a charge, but why worry? And in spite of Tesla’s wildly successful release of their mainstream Model 3, charging stations are few and far between points.
I’ve stopped worrying about running out of gas — it’s called “range anxiety” in electric car-speak. I haven’t visited a gas station for a year now, and I don’t miss the fumes, the jockeying for a spot at the pump, standing in the cold feeding my car. Much like my collies, Toothless contently eats his meals at home when I plug him in.
We reached Santa Fe about an hour later than if we had driven a gas-powered car, but we had also stopped for lunch, instead of eating fast food on the road. We’d also taken a half-an-hour walk. Instead of feeling stressed out and cooped up, I was relaxed and ready to absorb the surroundings.
There is something earthy and raw about Santa Fe, and I’m not talking about the adobe structures. It’s a mindset of getting back to our roots.
I think it has to do with the spectacular red rock panorama that spreads out in a radius wherever you look, once you get a bit away from the town, once you climb in elevation. It’s a primordial land, one with wind-chewed pink rocks pushing up from the ground, reaching for intense, blue sky.
The pulse is slow and steady, the way life has continued for millennium. A long line of Native Americans sit under the shady arcade in front of the Palace of the Governors, selling their handmade creations much as did their pueblo ancestors. Inside the thick adobe walls of the Palace museum, artifacts of human life centuries old have meaning simply because they demonstrate how little people have changed. The “Arte de Cozina,” a seventeenth century cookbook belonging to an early governor of the New Spain territory of Santa Fe de Nuevo México, Don Diego de Vargas, lifts the lid off the cooking pots of the people who came before us. There is cracked and delicate blue-and-white Majolica ware under glass that is exactly the same pattern as the new ones for sale around town. It reminds me of the enduring popularity of the color blue, and the fact that everyone has to eat.
From the carved out cave dwellings over 11,000 years old at Bandolier National Monument to the stark reach of rock outcroppings at Ghost Ranch near the village of Abiquiu — site of the prehistoric Tewa Pueblo that dates back to the 13th century —there are reminders of those who have lived here.
We may have developed technology and become an industrialized peoples, and our definition of civilization has widened. The human urge to live hasn’t changed.
Maybe in 500 years tourists will gawk at my all-electric car, marveling about how slow travel must have been in those days. But at least there will be people to consider the past. And I guess if that means it takes me a bit longer to get from Point A to Point B, it’s okay.
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Award-winning author Emily Kemme writes about human nature, illuminating the everyday in a way that highlights its brilliance. Follow her on her blog, Feeding the Famished, https://www.facebook.com/EmilyKemme, or on Twitter @EmFeedsYou . Life inspired. Vodka tempered.