Of all the restaurants we ate at while Hazel was here, Rancho de Chimayo was the biggest challenge for me. In the first place, it took more than two hours to wind our way along the picturesque Route of the Churches (also called the High Road) south from Taos almost to Espanola. Each country village has its irresistably photogenic church or chapel shrouded in antiquity and lore, starting with San Ysidro Chapel near Ranchos de Taos. Every spring this pious saint of the farmers is carried through local fields to bless anticipated crops. God loaned him an angel to help with San Ysdro's plow and two yoked oxen, neglected due to his habit of non-stop praying. The High Road ends in Chimayo, an old village famous for its weaving, fruit orchards, and miraculous healing dirt in the Chimayo Sanctuario.
I was therefore tired when we at last arived at the historic Jaramillo homestead, now a restaurant called Rancho de Chimayo. It has two wings that look like identical houses joined by two rooms in the middle. In back are indoor and outdoor porches runnning the width of the adobe building. Every fall, bright red chili peppers are strung in four feet lengths all along the front roof. Below, a statue of St. Francis serves as official greeter in the front patio. Unfortunately, he does not warn that the handy bathroom once directly opposite the entrance door is now tucked the width and length of the building away from the front door. Once there, a long line of washbowls precedes two lines of toilets, only one reluctantly fitted for the handicapped. You have to understand the walking problems of a person in my condition to appreciate what a woeful state this is.
First is my characteristic PD shuffle, probably caused by decreased extension of muscles surroundiing the hip, knee, and ankle joints. Decreased movement of the trunk and pelvic areas lead to a shorter stride and steps. Then comes my habit of toe walking, which narrows my balance platform. And then there's "freezing," where my feet feel like they're planted in cement. With this comes the extreme mental fatigue of WILLING them to move. When they do, my forward stoop throws me into a fast set of running steps, called a festinant gait, in an effort to regain my center of balance. Finally comes the multi-tasking effort of coordinating all this with a quad-cane held in the left hand matched with a right-foot forward step followed by a quick left-foot step. "Quick"? Nothing is quick in the world of a Parkinsonian. Come to think of it, that trip to the bathroom felt longer than a mile.
But eventually I was back! Eating at one of our favorite spots, shooing away the bees divebombing our honey for heavenly soapapillas and remembering the late September afternoon in 1984 when Frank and I and the Kishbaughs crashed Greer Garson's eightieth birthday party, with her permission. We hadn't known the whole place was reserved this day for her party. Gallant as ever, "Mrs. Miniver" tossed her red hair and welcomed us with a laugh and warm recognition for Frank's superb writing. They seemed of a like creative temperament. Born two years later than he, she would die a millionairess in 1996 less than a year after he.
Except for their present bathroom, Rancho de Chimayo is a place of many happy memories.