This was Valentine’s Day in Coldwater:

A love note written in dry-erase marker on the bathroom mirror and a delicate half-and-half heart with baseball stitches etched into the sides, floating atop a decaf macchiato, from Grant.
A lopsided construction-paper heart decorated with Necco sweets and a lot of glitter from Joey. Message: “Happy Valentine’s Day. I’m glad you’re my Sissy. Love, Joey.”
A sunrise hike up Sangre Mesa.
A spirited softball practice in which Lil Miss taught the rest of the team how to slide under a tag. I love that kid. She’s the scrappiest little thing I’ve ever seen — no bigger than a minute, but she puts on that catcher’s mask and scares the living crap out of everybody who even thinks about crossing the plate on her watch. Funny girl.
A couple from Tularosa celebrating the holiday by coming back to the room at the Tumbleweed where they spent their wedding night 50-odd years ago.
A pack of coyotes singing somewhere out on Hank Freed’s back 40.

Hope you had a good Valentine’s Day, wherever you are.

— Sierra

State of emergency

February 1, 2011

Five. It is literally five degrees outside. The state came by and plowed 66 this morning, and Grant took the laundry up to the laundromat in the truck stop to wash and dry because it’s obviously too cold to line dry anything, and we’ve got a lobby full of people.

Joey cleared and salted the paths from the rooms to the lobby, and Lil Miss appointed herself activities coordinator for the children stuck here as a result of the weather. Just about every flight in the country has been grounded, and the roads are still too dicey for most people to attempt — especially with blowing snow and the threat of highway closures farther west — so we are obviously packed.

I could do without the cold and the hassles, but I’m enjoying the little kids’ artwork that now graces my lobby. Lil Miss has kept the kids busy all afternoon with fingerpainting, tissue-paper suncatchers, Shrinky Dinks, and I don’t know what all else. She assures me that the glitter and scraps of paper will be removed from the lobby before she leaves.

Meanwhile, Grant won’t let me outside, lest I slip and fall on the ice, so I’ve spent most of the day in the kitchen, making the usual short-order breakfast, then a kid-friendly lunch of mac and cheese, PBJs, and carrot and celery sticks. A very sweet, very funny gay couple from Missouri took over cleanup duties when I started to run out of steam after lunch. Mike was raised by his Italian grandmother on The Hill in St. Louis and owns his own catering business, so he and Bill promptly commandeered the kitchen and announced that I would be taking the rest of the day off while they whipped up dinner for everybody. I’m not sure what we’re having, but it smells heavenly.

This place never ceases to amaze me. No matter who’s here or what the situation is, we always seem to end up with the perfect combination of talents, personalities, and ideas to keep things running smoothly. I am beginning to suspect that the Tumbleweed is some sort of odd wormhole through which blessings enter the universe. It’s certainly worked that way for me.

— Sierra

Winter travelers

January 26, 2011

We had an unexpected deluge of guests this evening: A Japanese travel writer, a young mother from San Bernardino with a toddler in tow, and a 3-foot-tall Elvis impersonator from Milwaukee who saw my copy of Veeck — As In Wreck on the coffee table and immediately began trying to convince me that he is a direct descendant of Eddie Gaedel.

I love this place….

— Sierra

Full house

December 1, 2010

Freezing fog — which is, for the record, the weirdest weather phenomenon I have ever seen — forced five couples off the road and into the Tumbleweed tonight.

I don’t think anybody was crazy about spending Christmas Eve in a motel, but a big batch of green chile stew warmed them up (and, oddly, settled my stomach; you know you’ve spent too much time in New Mexico when you can’t keep down anything except Hatch chiles), and their spirits seemed to lift when Joey put a Christmas movie in the DVD player in the lobby and started making s’mores over my fondue burner. I made kettle corn and hot cocoa and hot mulled cider, Sandy made brownies (quit giggling), and we’re just having a little impromptu Christmas party in the lobby.

Hope you’re safe and warm, wherever you are this Christmas Eve.

— Sierra

Giving thanks

November 24, 2010

I have a million blessings to count tomorrow, but the one I’m savoring the most at the moment is the simplest: a flock of brown construction paper hand turkeys decorated with tempera paint and embellished with gold glitter and red, orange, and yellow marabou feathers. Sandy and Lil Miss helped Joey and a pair of 4-year-old twins from Minnesota make them as decorations for the lobby this evening.

I cannot begin to explain why construction paper turkeys made by tracing around children’s hands delight me so much. They just do.

— Sierra


November 7, 2010

Early November is supposed to be well past the end of tourist season … but don’t tell that to the eight Corvette enthusiasts who showed up Friday night in five gleaming machines, ranging in age from a candy-apple-red 1959 model to a screaming yellow 2011 ‘Vette with all the bells and whistles, or the half-dozen bikers who pulled up Saturday on roaring Harleys after taking advantage of a gorgeous afternoon in northern New Mexico.

It won’t last, but I’m really enjoying the glorious weather — not too cold, dazzling skies, and plenty of sunshine.

— Sierra


November 2, 2010

Sorry I haven’t posted in a couple of days; our Internet service got all jacked up the other night, and it took me a while to sort it out with the tech-support guys.

Sunday was the best Halloween ever. Grant is a giant kid when it comes to holidays, and he and Joey and Lil Miss sat on the floor in the lobby all afternoon Sunday, assembling 150 treat bags. They weren’t skimpy, either. Grant bought good stuff to put in them: little Snickers bars, plastic spider rings, shiny Halloween-themed pencils, snack-size Reese cups, SweeTarts, and I don’t know what all else.

Joey and Lil Miss stretched polyester fiberfill “cobwebs” all over the porches outside the rooms and hung rubber bats and pumpkin party lights and LED-lit nylon ghosts all over the place, and then Grant helped them carve elaborate designs into a half-dozen pumpkins and roast the seeds to snack on later.

I was sure the treat bags were overkill — after all, there are only 258 people in Coldwater, and that includes all the adults — but I think Lil Miss must have spread the word at school, because we saw a LOT of teenagers with younger siblings and cousins in tow, and by the end of the night, we had less than a dozen treat bags left.

Highlight of the evening: Watching Grant try to keep a straight face when a 4-year-old dressed as Tiana from The Princess and the Frog tugged on his hand and said, “Hey! Are you listening to me? Tell me back what I just said!” after he failed to look serious enough while she was explaining how princes turn into frogs. I wish I’d had video of that, because it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

— Sierra

Still alive

October 26, 2010

OK … I promise to give a full report on the wedding in the very near future, but right now, I am busy watching a big, grizzled biker from Detroit teach a 5-year-old Japanese girl how to make s’mores over the fire pit in front of the Tumbleweed. In case you are wondering, it is quite possibly the cutest thing I have ever seen.

— Sierra

How to make a biker cry

October 9, 2010

A half-dozen bikers from Las Cruces checked in tonight, having taken advantage of the utterly gorgeous weather to hike the dunes at White Sands in the morning, cruise up Highway 54 all afternoon, and then pick up 66 from Santa Rosa to Coldwater this evening. They’d called from Alamogordo to tell me they were coming. I told them I’d give them a discount on their rooms if they’d stop in Tularosa and pick up some green chile pecans for me. They showed up with two pounds of pecans and a little package of pecan brittle. I managed to get one piece of the pecan brittle before Grant and Joey descended on it like locusts.

Our guests were in the mood to socialize, so Grant and I let Joey and Lil Miss hold down the fort while we headed down the street to Casa de Jesus. As usual, Jesus fired up the karaoke machine as soon as I walked in. I am playing a very dangerous game with this karaoke nonsense, but Grant loves it, and the little snot knows I can’t resist when he turns those dark eyes my way and whispers, “Please?”

If you ever need to make a big, tough biker cry, I have the secret:

1. Sing “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
2. Follow it up with “Old Violin.”

After I’d made everybody in the bar sniffle, I roughed up my vocal cords with smokes and bourbon and then tackled “Kozmic Blues,” which about drove Grant up a wall.

I really ought to be ashamed of myself for teasing that poor boy so mercilessly.

Two weeks….

— Sierra

No vacancy

September 13, 2010

Wow. Just when I thought tourist season was winding down, a couple from Michigan pulled up in a 1968 Volkswagen Microbus with a Partridge Family paint job. No sooner had I checked them in than a family from Australia — mom, dad, and 4-year-old daughter — arrived in a rented Land Cruiser. An hour later, six French bikers roared up on Harleys and filled up my remaining rooms.

They’re all gathered around the fire pit, toasting marshmallows and making s’mores. I’d join them, but I’m so sleepy I can barely keep my eyes open, so I think I’ll just call it a night.

— Sierra


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