Tony Rizzo

Road to paradise quickly fades in rear-view mirror

Updated: 2013-08-06T18:36:48Z

I’m doing something wrong.

I know this because I just spent a week or so visiting people who are doing something right.

Sitting on their front porch, enjoying a cup of coffee as hummingbirds zipped around in the crisp mountain air, gave me pause to ponder that fact.

Of course, it’s natural when people are on vacation to think they have arrived in a paradise from which they never want to return.

But this year’s summer sojourn in a remote corner of New Mexico was with relatives who through vision and hard work have created a home in a place where others go to recreate.

They call their home/business the Wilderness Lodge. It’s a long drive from Kansas City. The final 20 miles or so are on a winding switchback two-lane “highway” through the Gila National Forest. You turn off the highway onto a rocky road, past a corral of horses on one side and grazing goats on the other, then turn left onto Jackass Lane.

My sister-in-law and her husband (my brother-in-law in-law?) bought a dilapidated old building in 1994 and have turned it into a comfortable bed and breakfast. Bookcases overflow with eclectic reading material. A large collection of movies and record albums (yes, albums) is available for the viewing and listening pleasure of guests. And I can’t even begin to describe how good the southwestern cooking was.

The icing on the cake was the natural hot spring-fed pools walled off in a private corner of their property. Imagine starting your morning on a cool, humidity-free day, with a luxurious soak in a hot tub lined with large stones and shaded with towering cottonwood trees.

This is their home.

And when it’s time to go to work, there are no traffic-clogged commutes for them. A walk across the yard from their separate living quarters is all it takes.

These people are doing something right.

If there is a drawback, it’s the distance they have to travel to get anywhere else. The nearest town of any size is a good hour drive on a twisting, narrow road. And getting to El Paso, Texas, to catch a flight is a good fer piece.

And speaking of long distances, at least the drive to their place is through a scenic and historically significant swath of the Southwest. We took in the aquarium, zoo and botanical garden in Albuquerque and visited Carlsbad Caverns, which if you’ve never descended 800 feet underground is quite an experience.

On the way home we spent a night in Roswell, N.M. They certainly embrace that whole UFO thing. A replica of a space ship was in the parking lot of the motel where we stayed and the lamp posts downtown were topped with light green globes shaped like the heads of big-eyed aliens.

And I swear, that as we drove into town at night during a thunderstorm that you would think would ground any plane or helicopter, I saw a red light moving across the sky.

But alas, all vacations must come to an end, and the road to paradise quickly fades in your rear-view mirror.

Getting back to the proverbial rat race brings with it a somber reflection.

Where did I go wrong?

To reach Tony Rizzo, call 816-234-4435 or send email to

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