One week from today (eek!) most Americans will be safely ensconced in whatever town they’ll be in to celebrate Christmas. The scramble to arrive in time belies the adage, “Getting there is half the fun.”

People always seem to be getting away. Last week someone smashed a window in my car while it was garaged in San Francisco and “got away” with my briefcase and iPad. That’s not what I mean by “getting away.” I’m thinking about recreational getaways, such as Susy’s and my occasional forays to Lodi or other bird photography and vineyard regions, or even farther away. As much as we enjoy road trips, getting there is never half the fun, though it may be a quarter of the fun. 

We get away from a place that many people want to get to, the Northern California coast. We don’t get away from our place, but get away to a change of scenery, after which we get back to the beauty, peace and routine of Half Moon Bay, rediscovering upon arrival why we came to, and stayed in, our little town.

Not having been raised in these parts, getting away and getting back home can sometimes be the same thing for me, if the destination is my home state, New Mexico. The state has changed a lot, tripling in population during the 47 years that I’ve been hanging my hat in the Bay Area, losing some of its unique character to generic, could-be-anywhere commerce, and experiencing a wetter (though still dry, by most standards) climate. 

I can’t say that Taos, the skiing and artistic mecca in North-Central New Mexico, remains unchanged, but it is certainly less changed than some other parts of the state. Taos has always marched to a different drummer, mainly by ignoring drummers altogether except at Taos Pueblo. It’s a long drive from anywhere to Taos, but worth it. The twisty but stunning “High Road” to Taos makes getting there half the fun. It’s 105 miles from Santa Fe by car, but a two- to three-hour scenic drive, without snow closures. There is a tamer highway to Taos along the Rio Grande Gorge, also worth seeing though less adventurous.

As I’m writing this, my mind’s eye is seeing the High Road, the Plaza, the Pueblo, the historic buildings and the galleries. I’ve mentioned before that writing Quip Tide is a mental vacation for me — a chance to think about something else. This time it’s also about somewhere else. I realize that I’m sitting here smiling, though there are no jokes in the column this week. I’ve gotten away for a little while.

Outside it’s one of Half Moon Bay’s sunny respites from wintry rainstorms. It’s a sparkling clear, 40-something degrees out there, with a view out to the Farallon Islands, 30 miles distant. The ocean is dark blue, the hills green and tan.

Someday I’ll be vacationing in Taos, writing a Quip Tide column for the Review. My mind’s eye will be seeing what my real one is seeing today. And I’ll be getting away, smiling.

louie@hmbreview.com hopes you’ll take a mental vacation soon.

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