I’d scheduled a full day to explore the Very Large Array and planned to stay local, but when I found out there was a local ‘ghost town’ named Pie Town, I just had to visit!
DATIL, NEW MEXICO
Datil is the closest town the the Very Large Array (VLA) and I struggled to find any hotels. Louise found me a place eventually, and I booked into 2 nights at the local gas station. Really. The room was basic and I had no internet. The gas station is the only thing in Datil. It also serves as the bar, restaurant and village store. Staff were lovely, food was crap and petrol was about 15% more expensive than the more populated towns. It served a purpose as a place to rest my head.
As I filled with fuel after having breakfast, a jeep pulled into the petrol station with a deer draped and tied over it’s spare tyre still dripping with blood onto his bumper. I went to have a chat with the driver. Apparently, today is the last day of the hunting season and he had shot the deer from 100 metres away just an hour earlier. It wasn’t a sport to him, it was a way of life. This prize would feed his family for the next 2-3 months. He said he’ll prep it himself as he doesn’t want to pay a $25 fee to a hunt processing company and offered to show me how to skin and gut it. I declined and made my excuses to depart, it was putting me off my pie.
PIE TOWN, NEW MEXICO
Not sure how I missed this one when planning my trip; I’d been looking for a Ghost Town to visit and this one had my name all over it. Literally.
It was a 20 mile drive west from my base in Datil and I knew the ‘town’ was just made up of a pie shop now, aptly namely the ‘Pie-O-Neer’.
The location looked great and there were several abandoned buildings typical of a western ghost town. I took a few photos around town, then thought I’d visit the Pie-O-Neer and get some lunch. Unfortunately, today is Wednesday and the shop is only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Today it really was a ghost town and Pie Town has no pies.
VERY LARGE ARRAY
Instead of spending the day like the previous night, lying on my back on the roof of my car listening to Pink Floyd, I paid the entrance fee and did the official visit to the VLA.
Staff were really helpful and eager to educate and the display, although limited, was very informative.
Mobile phones and all electronics had to be switched off while in the facility. A sign also warned that ‘Microwave Ovens Must Not Be Used’ either. Fortunately I’d left mine back in Manchester.
There was a pathway out to the dishes but due to the current configuration, they were spaced very far apart so you could only get right up to one antennae. I had a drive out to the giant hanger which is used to repair and maintain the dishes.
While exploring the display, I met a photographer from Colarado, Ben, who said there was a once a year event this evening where, for a fee of $125, you can stay in the visitors centre for 3 hours after sunset. I enquired with reception but all 30 places had booked up a long time ago, and thankfully I’d spotted a dirt track that would probably give better night photos without a 3 hour time limit…
I drove down the dirt road for about 2 miles and parked up right next to a dish. The only downside was about 2 dozen large buffalo type animals. The grass wasn’t too long which made me feel a little more comfortable; rattlesnakes and scorpions were a big worry. It was a much better position than yesterday but I’d have to be really careful in the darkness. I pulled my car right alongside my camera; and used a remote control to change settings from the comfort of my warm car.