Day 7 – Amarillo to Santa Fe
Who has not heard of Cadillac Ranch just west of Amarillo? My colleagues and I stopped by today to pay homage to one of the most amusing and bizarre art projects of all time. Several decades ago the Ant Farm (a collective of artists) decided to take ten classic Cadillacs, dig ten deep holes, and then drive the cars in the holes, engine first, one after another. Stanley Marsh offered the land and passers-by have offered their graffiti and comments freely through the years. Some of us can identify the automotive icons built between 1949 and 1963 by their respective body types and fins. It is impossible to see this exhibit without smiling, especially since spray paint contributions are actually encouraged.
Our goal was to reach Santa Fe in time for an afternoon interview. Fortunately we also had time to explore another roadside diner along the way. It sold a brand of Route Beer (correct spelling), a deep fat-fried item I could not identify, and some of the best chicken fried steak I have ever experienced. I think a fat-free Route 66 tour is not practically possible.
I arrived in Santa Fe and met with the Honorable Cindy Padilla, cabinet secretary for Aging and Long-Term Services. Secretary Padilla went out of her way to make this interview possible and the La Posada resort in Santa Fe generously offered a room for our interview. Hospitality in New Mexico is most impressive.
Secretary Padilla will probably be the only cabinet-level official with whom we will meet. It has been terrific to visit with teachers, parents, school superintendents, preservationists, and small business owners. Cindy Padilla represents a government official who can make a difference in the lives of senior citizens and those who may need long-term care in this part of the country.
Any voter would be encouraged by Secretary Padilla's approach to the position. She listens and cares deeply. Important to the conversation was the fact that she is positive about the future and the role of higher education. Her own college experience was at a small, private college and her world has broadened considerably from there. Education was very enabling for her.
Going forward, education needs to offer attention to not only young people but also seniors. I say that for reasons beyond the fact that I will be a "senior" in the not-too-distant-future (indeed, AARP is already in earnest contact). I am heartened by the spirit of volunteerism among today's students and I hope that more public/private partnerships can be created to respond to those who are "at risk" in society. I am confident Secretary Padilla joins me in this aspiration. I was impacted by her use of the word "hope" and the importance she assigned to that word. We all need hope. Young people need hope to persist in high school, in college, and in life.
Secretary Padilla and I are both optimistic. There is a lot of good news out there if we will turn our attention toward it. Encouraging our nation's young people, giving them hope, is an investment in the future.
Our merry band of travelers ended the day by discovering and dining in one of Santa Fe's many traditional, and might I add excellent, Mexican restaurants. There we reflected on the journey thus far; the things we've seen and experienced, and the terrific people we've met – some we planned to meet and others we encountered along the way.
In his preface I think to Travels With Charley, John Steinbeck's autobiographical account of a road trip he took with his faithful standard poodle Charley, Steinbeck noted that sometimes we take journeys and sometimes journeys take us. On that note, we look forward to moving further westward tomorrow and see where our journey leads.