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 May 26 - Jun 1, 2011 
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Get Out!

Hunting Anton Chigurh—and Relaxation

By Elizabeth W. Hughes

View from the Montezuma Hot Springs
Elizabeth W. Hughes
View from the Montezuma Hot Springs
As a Coen brothers fan and a New Mexico transplant, I decided to do some location scouting of my own and visit Las Vegas, N.M., where most of No Country for Old Men was filmed. After work one Friday, I headed up I-25 to the town that played Del Rio and Eagle Pass, Texas, in the movie. As I drove north, I could not help but begin to feel slightly haunted by the incredibly sublime, yet totally creepy, Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh.

It only got creepier when I pulled up to the Regal Motel. I arrived at dusk and was immediately overcome by the feeling that there was a transmitter in my luggage and Chigurh was tracking down the satchel of money I’d hidden in the vent.

I never saw Bardem there, but I did cross Chigurh’s path again at the Plaza Hotel about a mile away in downtown Las Vegas.

The lobby and the creaky staircase at the Plaza were familiar because of the film, but the bigger, historical inn was missing the ominous feeling that was so intense at the Regal. It might also be that the modern fictional characters were dwarfed by the legacy of real-life cowboys like Doc Holliday, Jesse James, Billy the Kid and Wyatt Earp, who passed through Las Vegas when it was a crossroads in the late 1800s.

Back at the Regal, I slept pretty well considering I was ready for a maniac to shoot the lock out of my door at any moment. The next morning, I headed to the flea market across the street and scored some delicious homemade tacos for breakfast.

My adventures shifted from chasing down the legends of outlaws to pursuing peace in the countryside a few minutes north of Las Vegas in Montezuma. My business there was to find the natural hot springs by following the signs to the Armand Hammer United World College of the American West.

Shades and the room key for the Regal Motel in Las Vegas, N.M.
Elizabeth W. Hughes
Shades and the room key for the Regal Motel in Las Vegas, N.M.
On the hill on the southbound side of the road are the ruins of old bathhouses from the ’20s. Just past the school entrance on the right side of the road heading north are three pools. Down a short path through some tall grass, intrepid bathers will find a shallow L-shaped pool and two large round ones. Because of the close proximity to the school grounds (and the highway), bathing suits are required at these springs, and the rule is enforced. It’s not uncommon to meet school staff taking a quick soak between classes.

The water is extremely hot at these springs. The two deep pools were a scorching 120 degrees or more. I couldn’t do much aside from stick my toe in. The adjacent, shallow L-shaped pool was smaller, had flowing water and was a much more bearable temperature, about 110, I’d have to guess. After a short soak—you don’t need long when the water is that hot—I followed the path down to the frosty Gallinas River for a revitalizing cold plunge.

I began heading back toward Albuquerque on I-25 and turned north on State Road 63 toward Pecos and the hummingbirds of the Terrero General Store. The shop has many feeders, and hummingbirds are plentiful in the summer months. The Terrero General Store is also a great home base for anyone camping or backpacking in the Pecos Wilderness. It’s got laundry facilities and pay showers, and if you’ve been camping for a few days, you’ll be glad to have them.

Past Terrero, State Road 63 becomes more narrow and rutted. In my experience, the road to the most northern campground, Iron Gate, can be tough even in a truck with four-wheel drive.

Sadly, Terrero is where my adventure came to an end. I said goodbye to the hummingbirds and returned to Albuquerque, charmed and chilled by my weekend in Las Vegas.

If you care to look for Anton Chigurh closer to home, you might find him at the Desert Sands Motel (5000 Central SE). This was another shooting location for No Country for Old Men. While you’re there, try some tasty Vietnamese food at Pho Linh.

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Playlist

“Contrabando y Traición” • Los Tigres del Norte • Contrabando y Traición
“Blue Sky” • The Allman Brothers Band • Eat a Peach
“Perfidia (Perfidy)” • Kronos Quartet • Nuevo


Elizabeth W. Hughes can usually be found speeding away from Albuquerque with her dog Dixie Belle, windows down, music up, in search of hot springs, cold beer or both.
 
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