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It was hot the next morning, hard blue sky revealing the tough little Las Cruces neighborhood we were indeed in, unwatered or overwatered lawns and functional cheap homes, two of which are for sale across the street. We hit the road, ditching the as always hopelessly inaccurate MapQuest directions and finding I-25 north by instinct and asking at the McDonald’s. Northward in a gentle ascent through wide vistas of desert scrub, similar but different from our familiar Mojave flora, basalt capped ridges ringing our horizons, canyons half filled with ancient gravel on this 1500’s Spanish ghost trail.

We’re hungry. Paul Marshall felt a powerful draw from Hatch, a farm community in the basin of the here not so big Rio Grande, nestled a mile west of our highway view. We took a chance, wandered the half abandoned old streets of another declining rural town, found the Pepper Pot, a solid Mexican food place. We ate solid rellenos in small chiles, enchiladas and tacos. Headed back to the highway past little shops and stands selling braided red chiles, past chile fields and the muddy river.A beautiful drive through brown hills and small towns, some perfectly level sedimentary strata, more lava flows and jagged mountains on the horizons. We reached Santa Fe 10 minutes early for sound check at The Gig, a performance space run by Bruce Dunlap, who plays jazz on a nine string guitar and has played with Warren Zevon and other heavyweights. Bruce is gentle and kind and master of his domain, a great sounding little room with about 60 chairs and Bag End speakers and high quality mics.

We set up, played a few songs, headed for the old style Kings Rest motel on Cerillos, which we highly recommend as a taste of old Route 66, stucco Santa Fe classic low buildings with wood arches and blue doors, and cheap. Back to the gig at the Gig as the sun was setting. New Mexico specializes in beautiful and constant cloud formations, with a brilliant blue canvas. Next to the Gig is a hip coffee shop owned and run by teenagers (not making this up) who cheerfully announce that they’re not very good at making the coffee drink you’ve just ordered, and prove true to their word. But it’s a sexually charged scene, young adults on a mission, age specific and exclusive, unless you’re a country rock band on the road and oblivious to local boundaries.

Donald Rubenstein is a very talented free spirit and musician, singer songwriter, chaotically virtuoso pianist, who has scored movies for Ed Harris and others, escaped Los Angeles about four years ago for this clean dry land in an earlier stage of being killed with kindness. Less gifted artists strive to cultivate the eccentricity Donald was born with. He opened the Gig show with some beautiful new songs, and then the Hawks did a short then long acoustic set before a small but very appreciative audience. The room sounds just great.Our good pals Craig and Cynthia, aka The Believers jumped up and roared through “Subterranean Homesick Blues” with the Hawks, then joined us on “Humboldt.” Donald played piano on “Duty to Our Pod” and that was that. We said farewell to Donald and wife, Believers, who will resume their 16 month wandering, headed for California, and Bruce, who says come back any time and we will. Late night feastette at the Atomic Café with Rob’s witty artist friends Todd and Ede, a choreographer who has been hobnobbing with Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed in NYC.

There was much discussion of names for Ede’s dance troupe: she’d settled on 3-D, which all agreed was a terrible name. Rob had suggested Bunny Bunny Bunny Cake Cake Cake, which probably would have launched the troupe in a direction they could not have dreamed of. We all reminisced about the great Dot Com scare of the 1990’s-2000’s, when absurdly affluent Silicon Valley startups would try to outdo each other, hiring the Neville Brothers or the B-52’s as backdrop for CEO and code writer nerd dancing, and more importantly, video gaming in giant tents flanked by the uibiquitous air pump driven giant semi-inflatable dolls with screaming faces and flapping arms, and dance troupes and circus performers doing their ignored art in the shadow of the flapping semi-inflatable dolls. The last era of innocence in America, and good riddance.

Back to the Kings Rest, the two Pauls watch a poker tournament, not as riveting as the one they had to abandon for the gig Gig, but still pretty great.There have been many coincidences on this trip: the first four days of the trip at two Hawks were wearing identical articles of clothing; Eve of Destruction played on the Hotel Congress, right after our last Coles show with PF Sloane performing the very same. Paul M and Paul L were playing “Ghostriders in the Sky” while waiting for the Yukon to be repaired, and that night at the Deming haunted diner Johnny Cash performed the same on the video big screen; and last night we hung out with two couples who are wandering the country, ToddEde and CraigCynthia. Todd and Ede are journeying in a converted school bus, and Craig and Cynthia wander this earth in a Honda Odyssey, aptly named, their only link to the square life an unloved abode in Nashville.

And we Hawks wander, gazing northward as we head 25north85south, down to a red earth valley covered in pines, gashes of barranca spelling sentences through the desert color print. Shawn is wearing a red wife beater in honor of the red rock and the soil it becomes; he’ll wear it until we hit white sands, which will be somewhere between here and Lubbock.