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!
We drove all day today, through Missouri into Oklahoma trying to make up a day for an extra day we plan in Santa Fe. Parts of Missouri are beautiful but it is the land of millions of billboards. Tonight, we’ll stay at the Tulsa NE/Cherokee Casino/Will Rogers Downs KOA campground.
Apparently, Will Rogers was a native son of this area and is buried nearby. He was a huge star in the 1920’s and 30’s and beyond. “Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects” and “I’m not a member of an organized party, I’m a Democrat” were two of his famous witticisms that seem especially apt nowadays.
Tonight’s dinner was at the bar at the Casino run by the Cherokees. The staff was very nice there, but like most casinos I’ve visited the clientele was very sad-looking, very old, handicapped, obese, unhealthy looking, most of them were heavy smokers. We had a great conversation with the pretty, young Cherokee bartender. She wants to travel and have her young son experience the benefits of traveling across the country and the world.
It was fascinating to be parked right next to the racetrack. We were able to watch the horses working out on the track the next morning, although we had missed the last race of the previous evening.
Hailing from Massachusetts, where there are some of the toughest gun laws in the nation, it was also a little startling to see the “No Weapons” signs posted on the door to the KOA campground. It would never had occurred to me that a campground catering to families would have to post a sign barring weapons from their property.
It’s very, very windy here with low humidity, very dry.
All throughout the night we heard sounds of small animals underneath the RV. When we woke we found chipmunk-like holes in the ground around us. Were they prairie dogs? Who knows? We’d welcome any comments from those who are more knowledgeable than us.
Time to leave Ohio and we have a new plan. We’ll try to drive as far as possible the next few days in order to arrive in Santa Fe a day earlier.
Indiana rolls by looking much like Ohio – flat as far as the eye can see. Farms and huge factory complexes like Ford and GM dominate the landscape. Surprisingly, few fields are planted or even turned over, just the dried-up stalks of last years’ harvest sticking up out of the ground. This year’s long cold spring has delayed planting.
Missouri is much greener, more signs of spring. Pink and light green buds are bursting forth on the trees and shrubby roadside growth. We see signs for Hannibal Missouri, the birthplace of Mark Twain. Oh, I long for more time to stop and visit!
One Pot Meals
We knew we wanted to eat healthy but well during this trip, and we obviously have a small kitchen in our 24′ motor home, so how to accomplish this? One additional factor was ease of preparation. Who wants to spend a lot of time cooking and cleaning up after a day of sightseeing or driving?
Our solution was to cook as many one pot meals and to prepare ahead by freezing some of our favorites from home and taking them along.
Tonight’s easy, delicious meal was Veggie Chili with Chicken Sausages:
Defrost home-made (frozen for traveling) veggie chili in the microwave
Brown chicken sausages in large cast iron skillet
Add chili into the skillet, simmer to correct doneness
With a small salad and some crusty bread, it’s easy, filling and delicious!
I’m riding the truck with Matt this morning and we’re hauling scrap metal to Butler Indiana. He operates a MACK 18 wheel “dump bucket” for B & K Trucking of Delphos, and he’s taking me on his regular route. We are crossing the farmlands of Ohio, and I can see huge mega-farms, smaller local farms and even smaller Amish farms with their paddocks of draft horses as we head toward Indiana.
Our destination is a large steel processing plant where flat roll sheet products are manufactured. It’s an incredibly large and complex operation and our delivery and our 18-wheeler is just a tiny little speck in a bigger and very busy picture. Not only do we deliver 58 bundles of sheet metal, we also pick up 24 tons of slag, a by-product of the recycling process. The slag is destined for a homeowner who’ll use it as a base layer for a new driveway.
On the way we pass scores of hydro-electric windmills, just fields of them. These farmers have harnessed wind power to run their operations. On route, I have the chance to chat with Matt and find out lots of info about the jobs in the area, the standard of living, his thoughts on trucking as a profession, and why the residents here voted for Trump in 2016. “He promised to bring back manufacturing jobs” was Matt’s take on it. (Trump won Ohio with 51% of the vote. Obama had won Ohio by 3%).
I also learned the quick facts on the difference between the Amish and the Mennonites both of whom live in the area. The simplest (and somewhat tongue in cheek) explanation is that the Mennonites would drive their car to Walmart while the Amish would drive their horse and buggy there.
A Google search later tells me that “Ohio is home to the largest concentration of Amish in North America”.
Matt says that there’s a bit of conflict between the local contractors and the Amish businessmen who can put up barns for a lot cheaper than the union carpenters. Things are always more complicated than it seems to a casual observer or visitor to a region. It helps to have a local explain it to you.
All in all, today is turning out to be just the eye-opening experience I hope to have on this trip.