Eco-Road Trip – City of the Sun Pt. 2

City of the Sun Pt. 2 – Summary:

  • Who: Sheila Bjeletich
  • What: Toured the City of the Sun in Columbus and met other residents; Drove to northern New Mexico through various cities; Arrived at The Commons on the Alameda
  • When: Sunday, April 8
  • Where: Columbus, NM; Hatch, NM; Santa Fe, NM

Quick Resources:

My Route:

Planning my Eco-Inspired Road Trip Blog Post


My Travel Story:

The following morning in the City of the Sun, I woke up to the sounds of dozens of dove cooing above me, and flocks of desert quail running around under my hammock and in the gardens. So it was an interesting morning alarm.

We started the morning touring one of her neighbor’s homes, which was a round hand-built building, with a mermaid themed bathroom that was undergoing repairs because a storm and water damaged knocked down part of the wall.

After Sheila’s neighbor’s home, we went with another resident and looked at the exteriors of several other buildings. These structures commonly used car tires, glass bottles, papercrete, cement mortar, and other reclaimed materials. A good majority of the buildings had very private residents or had been abandoned and fell into disrepair, so we didn’t go into these buildings.

This is the only earthship onsite, however, it was in disarray and also dark so we avoided going in. in case of rattlesnakes, collapsing supports or broken bottles.

This was an occupied residence, so we respected their privacy and avoided this home. But it too was built by the resident from reclaimed and salvaged materials.

This is another structure in disarray as the dome roof has collapsed in. This building was made primarily from papercrete blocks.

A side view of a rammed earth car tire building and it’s glass bottle wall!

This dome was inhabited by a seasonal homeless man, which the community was having issues with in terms of his stability interacting with others.

He invited us in and we descended the spiral entrance into the heart of the squatter’s structure – which had a beautiful glass bottle light show coming from the dome roof!

Here’s another papercrete residential building, with the shape of the blocks fairly visible since they aren’t covered in plaster or cement.

This is the neighbor’s residence directly across from Sheila’s trailer compound! Its fairly new and well built.

These are some more sunken structures that we walked by, but couldn’t explore for fear of snakes, spiders, collapses and broken materials.

I was very impressed with this ‘almost entirely bottle-built’ building, which unfortunately caved in years ago.

We circled back to Sheila’s compound for lunch. She took me through her gardens and told me about the native plants she grew for food, how she grew some of the gardens just for the quail to feed, and showed me the cactus she grows for food and preserves as cactus jerky. After a simple meal of how she typically eats like the natives, rice and beans, I met up the other resident and he took me to the “off-grid” part of the community.

We strolled over to the community guest houses and bathrooms, then across a dried up river basin that separated the on-griders from the off-griders. I was told that in rainy season, the river basin would fill up during flash floods. It had already washed away most of the sediment and rocks to the solid hard-rock layer.

Next we went past the Buddhist monk’s compound. I was told he wasn’t very popular in the community because he was righteously petty and was suspect for burning down a neighbor’s complex.

Across the way was another compound, which was very artistic with sculpted spires and surrounded by a privacy wall made up of painted car hoods. The resident, Steve Zobeck, came out and talked to us. He had a voice like a radio sports announcer, and formerly worked in the mental health departments of hospitals with patient care. Not only did he made art of this compound, but he also had been featured in the news for decorating trees.

Steve hand-painted all of these car hoods that are a part of his art compound privacy wall!

Our tour took us past a few other residences like a modern cob round house (with a Solari windbell), a converted cargo truck trailer, and a quick stop to the community’s blackwater treatment reservoir.

Before leaving, I gave Sheila a bandana as my host gift like I had done with many other hosts. And she in turn, gave me hibiscus leaves for teas, mesquite beans to be carefully processed, and natural raw honey from Mexico (with bees included).

I spent the rest of the afternoon driving to northern New Mexico, making a pit stop in Hatch, New Mexico for hatch chile salsa souvenirs for the family. And I also stopped in the Rio Salado Sand Dunes, before I arrived later that evening at my final destination at The Commons on Alameda!


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