The Turquoise Trail is an old mining trail, complete with “Antelope Crossing” signs on the road. Over 100 movies have been filmed on just two private ranches out here. The area is so evocative of the ‘Ol West that you can just imagine shootouts and cattle rustlers and lawless men roaming these plains.
We pass by Madrid (pronounced MADrid) which is full of shops and art galleries, cafes, flea markets. Unfortunately, we didn’t stop, have to stay on schedule…boo hoo! We pass signs advertising Wagyu cattle ranches, a type of Japanese beef, known for being highly marbled and supposedly healthier for you with more mono-saturated fats to saturated fat ratio.
Wanting to be sure to see some of Historic Rte. 66, we followed signs and headed to Albuquerque, at one-point traveling over an unpaved, bumpy section at 15 MPH. Enough of that! We found a tunnel that the Tin Can barely fit through to take us back to the freeway. I had to jump out to check the clearance and snagged some broken pieces of brightly colored pottery laying on the ground under the tunnel. Scored a great souvenir!
Arrived at Holbrook AZ/Petrified Forest KOA by 3:30 pm. We were just in time to grab a cocktail and find the Kentucky Derby on the TV. “Justify”, the winner, went on to win the Triple Crown. The heat of the desert encouraged us to unfurl the canopy and cook our meal of chicken, rice and veggies on the grill. We ate on the picnic tables outside to escape the heat of the RV.
As the sun set, we explored the campground, taking photos at dusk and chatting with fellow campers, from young millennials to retirees. We met a retired couple from Buenos Aires in a Swiss camper who are making a loop of the USA, crossing multiple borders and ending up in Key West. They had ordered their camper from Europe and had it shipped to meet them when they first started out from Miami.
Today is our day to tour historic downtown Santa Fe so we stepped onto a city bus outside the RV Park for a 30-minute ride into the city.
Our first stop was the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, a lovely, intimate museum which was just the right size to give us a nice overview of the artist, her life and her work, who was so inspired by the landscape of New Mexico. O’Keefe was known as the first American modernist painter and her home, called “Ghost Ranch” in nearby Abiquiu, NM is now operated as a private retreat.
I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for. – Georgia O’Keefe
Then, on to the New Mexico History Museum, located in the Governor’s Palace. The Museum was extensive and the experience was brought alive for us by an excellent tour guide who entertained and informed with amusing anecdotes. A good tour guide can really make history come alive!
The connected Governor’s Palace was appealing but we were tired and instead of more history we wandered outside to the portico in front of the palace to view the jewelry being sold by the native American craftspeople. Yikes, the beautiful turquoise jewelry is very expensive. I’ll have to shop somewhere more budget-friendly.
The Santa Fe Plaza with its’ shaded fountains and welcoming benches was the perfect spot for a short rest, and we took pictures and people watched for a while.
Our next stop was the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, a marvelous cathedral surrounded by a beautiful shady park. It was constructed under the auspices of Cardinal Jean Lamay, the real-life hero of Willa Cather’s 1927 novel “Death Comes for the Archbishop” and an influential figure in New Mexico’s history. Cather’s remarkable book tells the tale of two French Catholic priests as they attempt to bring Christianity to the southwest and their adventures visiting Indian pueblos and Mexican ranches. It’s an important work that helps to explain the history of the region and I’d highly recommend that anyone visiting Santa Fe read it ahead of time.
Great shopping abounds in the neighborhood surrounding the basilica, including a wonderful shoe store. It was hard to pass by it, so I didn’t.
We found a trolley stop for the local tourist shuttle and journeyed on to San Miguel Chapel, one of the oldest churches in the Western hemisphere. There is so much to see in Santa Fe, including the four museums, botanical garden and café on Museum Hill which we didn’t have the time or energy to visit. We will have to come back again to see them all.
We made the drive to Taos today to the Taos Pueblo, an otherworldly visit and experience at this UNESCO World Heritage site.
No cameras or cell phones were allowed, and this was strictly enforced. A few of the Native Americans opened their homes with small shops in the front of their pueblo. We visited with them and purchased a few items like sage sticks and a bracelet. Later in the day a Corn Dance would be held, and every once in a while, a few groups of residents came out onto the rooftops and called the community to the dance with chants and songs. Unfortunately, we were unable to stay for the dance, but we were told that it was definitely an event to enjoy given that it happens very infrequently.
Leaving the region, we took the “High Road to Taos” which was the longer, more scenic route back to Santa Fe. This memorable drive took us through the town of Taos, which was a lively, crowded tourist destination with trendy shops, galleries and upscale spas, bed and breakfasts, hotels and restaurants before continuing down the mountain. The “high road” took us past village after village of pueblos from multiple native American nations, with incredible, intimate views of their homes and stores and glimpses of their lifestyle.
After a long day, we were looking for a convenient place for dinner. El Coumal Café, a highly recommended spot, was literally three doors away from our RV park, just a short walk for two tired and hungry travelers.
El Coumal is a small local place serving hearty, delicious portions. Enjoyed with a couple of chilled Modelo Negros, this meal was a perfect topper to a wonderful day!
Gorgeous ride! Beautiful blue skies! Tiny, low-growing purple flowers covering the hillsides!
It’s still very windy when we stopped at Clines Corner, a travel rest center who amusingly bills themselves as having the “world’s largest bathrooms.” After stretching our legs, we head out on Route 285 toward Santa Fe. The vistas change again as low-lying mountains came into view, and then higher ones emerge in the distance . . . what beautiful landscapes!
After a quick stop at the Santa Fe tourist center where we are delighted to find a parking spot right on the street in downtown (and check out the funky art installations) we make our way to Trailer Ranch RV Park. It’s a lovely, small RV park right on the bus route to all the attractions and we settle in for a few days.
Red flag warnings are posted all the way from Oklahoma through Texas.
High Winds, Possible Fires!
We drove from the campground in Tulsa towards Oklahoma City and over the Arkansas River. You can see the skyline of Tulsa to the right, a big and impressive skyline! The landscape changes from farms to ranches in Oklahoma, the speed limit increases to 75 MPH and signs of drilling for oil are everywhere.
Now, heading into Texas through the Texas Panhandle we zoom past miles of wind farms and cattle ranches. We are heading out of Texas and toward New Mexico as quickly as possible, our only stop at a convenience/gas stop in Shamrock, Texas for gas and water and a tiny break.
We are outside Amarillo, Texas before we see any houses or signs that people live here, but continuing through Amarillo on Route 40, we see every chain restaurant or hotel known to man. There’s also those chains not as well known to us easterners like Hobby Lobby, SteinMart, World Market, Jimmy Johns, Chick Fil A, and even organizations like Oral Roberts University.
We passed a huge, smelly beef processing plant – Quality Beef – with an enormous number of cattle penned up really tightly together by the highway…. phew, what a stench!
Now, passing by scorched earth and we see the Vega Texas Fire and Rescue trucks trying to control a fire. Due to the high wind conditions the RV only got 5.95 mph. A tough ride in these windy conditions.
As we crossed into New Mexico the landscape changed from the flat grasslands of Texas to a more rolling landscape of scrubby brush, much greener and prettier.
We camped at Tucumcari KOA with of view of Tucumcari Mountain behind us and woke to some bright yellow American finches on our waterspout and two Guinea Fowls strolling the grounds. The staff at the KOA cooked us a delicious breakfast before we left the next morning.
New Mexico calls itself “The Land of Enchantment” and I can feel the vibes in the air. I ask the young staffer at the KOA how he’s doing as I pass by him on my walk-around in the park. “Freaking awesome” is his reply.
Yup, that seems to sum it up . . . New Mexico, I like you already!