Back to Real Life?

Like so many, especially those of us who live alone, to me life has felt in suspension for the last two years. So it’s fantastic to get back to doing all those things I did in pre-lockdown days, although I know that the pandemic is not quite over and this newfound freedom may be temporary.

Happy Mystery Authors at Left Coast Crime Conference 2022 Banquet

Last week I attended the Left Coast Crime Conference, in person, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There were challenges. The hotel had recently changed hands and the staff seemed surprised to have a conference on their hands, although the contract had been in place (with the old owners) for two years. The hotel bar closed at 9pm, which, if you’ve ever hung out with authors, you’d know is a crisis, and the surrounding areas in Albuquerque seemed to be occupied now mostly by the homeless and drug-addicted. The only food venue in the hotel was understaffed and under-supplied. But the Left Coast Crime organizers had intelligently required all attendees to be fully vaccinated, so we felt reasonably safe and oh, so happy to see and talk to all our fellow mystery authors and mystery lovers. Left Coast Crime is not a writers conference but a fan conference, so many attendees are not writers, but readers and leaders of reading clubs, which makes this conference all the more special. And of course, we are all mystery fans.

It’s impossible to take a good photo at Carlsbad Caverns without professional gear, but here’s a hint of the scenery.

After the conference, I went on a little exploration of southern New Mexico. First, to Carlsbad Caverns, which turned out to be much more spectacular than I anticipated. Rather than taking an elevator, I walked down the spiraling path into the caverns (1.25 miles and a descent of around 750 feet) to get to the Big Room, which has a 1.5 mile path that encircles the cathedral-like structure. The experience was magnificent, and I loved the cool, quiet, uncrowded walk down so much that I walked back up the same way.

I also went hiking at Dripping Springs Recreation Area near Las Cruces, where I visited ruins of an old ranch, asylum, and mountain lodge wedged back among the rock formations. The park volunteer told me there is an oryx (!) in the park, and I kept a sharp eye out for that African antelope, but he stayed hidden. I felt so sorry for the poor oryx, an exotic import from a previous landowner who favored shooting rare species. What does an African antelope think about being stranded in a foreign country with only free-range cattle for company?

Lodge Ruins in Dripping Springs Recreation Area, New Mexico

I explored the area as a solo adventurer this trip, happy just to be outdoors and seeing new sights. And it was marvelous to be in the company of all the creative authors and appreciative readers at Left Coast Crime.

Is this real life again? I’m cautious, and I’m fully vaccinated, and oh, I so hope we can all share in many good times to come!

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