Discovering Pie Town, Part One

The first time I heard of Pie Town was in 2006, when Dick and I were intrigued to learn about the Very Large Array. We read about it in an article in New Mexico Magazine which spotlighted worthwhile road trips within the state. This highly scientific place with a highly ordinary name is located in the San Agustin Plains, 86 miles west of Socorro. It consists of 27 radio telescopes, each eighty-two feet in diameter, arranged on tracks in a “Y” formation. Their purpose is to probe deep space, not to find aliens as their presence in Jodie Foster’s film Contact would lead you to believe. Used by astronomers around the world, their studies reveal information about the Milky Way, black holes, and pulsars, for example.

The scene is dramatic as you approach; you can spot the telescopes from miles away. Once we arrived at the visitors center, we were in awe not only of the science that surrounded us, but by the unusual animals we saw across the road. Zebras with horns, I thought. We learned they were oryx who roam this vast area along with “the deer and the antelope.” Visitors are allowed to walk right up to one of the telescopes, and as we stood with our necks bent back, beholding this behemoth, we heard a low, stifled groan. Turns out at that moment the dishes  – all 27 of them -were rotating verrrrrry slowly in unison. I often feel as though being in New Mexico is akin to being on another planet and this was a quintessential moment in that regard.

Eventually we wandered into the small gift shop stocked with t-shirts, bumper stickers, you know, the usual tourist tchotchke. (No snow globes though. A snow globe would have been nice.) Above the book shelf was a sign that gave the mileage to various cities.
Santa Fe: 225 miles.
Albuquerque: 163 miles.
Las Cruces: 233.
Pie Town: 45.

Pie Town? Are they serious? Amused, I walked over to the counter and asked the clerk “What’s in Pie Town?” She looked me square in the eye, paused a moment, then said “Pie.” We didn’t even ask any more questions, we just drove farther west into the adventure.

Coming into town, we wondered “This is it? Really?” There was the “Pie-O-Neer” on the right,  and “The Good Pie” on the left. Not much else. Dick was completely disoriented and asked how we were supposed to know which cafe to patronize. Being far less confused, I reigned him in. “Are you kidding? BOTH!”

To be continued…