I got to see a lot of old friends on my last road trip, including one old bird who I’ve always loved — the Las Cruces Roadrunner. The last time that we crossed paths was in April 2011, and to be honest, he was starting to show his age back then.
Artist Olin Calk originally crafted the roadside icon out of junk from the city dump, and let’s just say that over the years, the harsh desert climate had taken its toll on the old guy. But thanks to the efforts of Calk’s son Cameron, this Las Cruces mainstay has a new lease on life.
Cameron started on the roadrunner makeover in 2012, when the bird was removed from its
long-time home and transported to Calk’s farm and workspace near Mesilla Park. As part of the refurbishment the bird was covered with “new salvage” including discarded cell phones and other electronics. As a finishing touch some ruby slippers were placed inside the bird. The slippers not only symbolize the bird’s heart, but they also bring to mind that famous Wizard of Oz line — “There’s no place like home”. It’s also said that these Oz-inspired words are scrawled “somewhere” on the sculpture.
The work was completed in short order and unveiled on Earth Day in 2012. And although the hope was to return the sculpture to its former roost in short order, a little red tape held up that process. Finally in 2014 that task was accomplished and today the roadrunner once again overlooks Interstate 10 near the airport.
Unfortunately you can only get to the rest area that houses the bird if you are traveling east. Take exit 135 off Interstate 10 and follow the road around to the picnic shelters. Trust me, you can’t miss the bird. Accessible parking is available near the restrooms, and the best view of the roadrunner can be had from the first picnic shelter. Alternatively you can roll out on the dirt for a better view (watch for snakes), but the best view of this work of art is actually from afar.
It’s nice to see that this roadside attraction has been so lovingly cared for, and I’ll definitely stop by to see my old friend whenever I’m in the area. And I invite you to do the same! Pack a picnic lunch and come out and enjoy the “new” old bird.