TBT: Land of Enchantment?

My beautiful picture

Just one example of the beaut of New Mexico – and this is just the side of the road. These are the kinds of things I missed the first two times through the state.

“The land of enchantment” is New Mexico’s state slogan. It sounds like something from a fairy tale, right? Well, my first experience with New Mexico was more like a nightmare. I was 16 and we were on our way to the Grand Canyon.

We were logging major miles to get from Cincinnati to Arizona in a couple of days, and we rolled into Tucumcari, New Mexico late one night, ready to get a few hours of sleep and then carry on our way. We’d been on the road about 12 hours that day and we were all sick of being in each other’s faces.

My beautiful picture

One of the places we visited was the Cathedral Basilica St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe. There are beautiful sculptures in the prayer garden outside.

We checked into the hotel and immediately began questioning staying there. It looked sketchy, it was dirty outside and had some obvious damage to the building. But we were tired and needed to sleep before driving any more. So we went inside.

The room was dank, it was old and hadn’t been updated since, well, ever. Still, nothing seemed bad enough to warrant trying to find somewhere else in our half-comatose state. The bathroom seemed clean enough – despite the water stain on the ceiling – so I thought taking a shower was a good idea, until I realized I had an audience of the six-legged variety coming out of that water spot in the ceiling.

There was no hair-rinsing, there was only putting on enough clothes to get out of the bathroom and screaming about the bugs. Of course, by the time Mom went into the bathroom, they had all retreated and no one believed me. Just more ravings of a self-confessed bugophobe.

Oh, but I had the last laugh after an abrupt departure at 1 a.m. when Dad woke up and found bugs crawling around the room. I don’t know what kind of bugs they were, and I didn’t care. My stuff was already ready to go. If Dad was good to drive on two hours of sleep, I was fine with sleeping in the backseat. At least then I knew there wouldn’t be things crawling on me in my sleep.

So the only thing I experienced in my first trip to New Mexico was a crappy hotel room and sleep in the back seat of the car. We drove through it again about a year later and the only thing I remember about that drive is a heckuva dust storm scaring the life out of me. I didn’t have high hopes for it during the Gypsy Trip, but that was Amanda’s Mecca of our pilgrimage. She was an anthropology student, and New Mexico is full of history and culture.

She planned all our explorations for the state, I had no scruples – except avoiding Tucumcari at all costs. The second time around, I wasn’t disappointed. I got to find out why New Mexico is called the Land of Enchantment. We hit several things that day, it was probably one of the most packed days of the trip as far as sightseeing. Here’s the list of places we saw, and I’d recommend visiting them when you go:

  1. Capulin Volcano National Monument: A road circling the volcano takes to you to the vent of an extinct volcano. At the top, you can hike into it’s mouth and take in views of the surrounding volcanic field. Even though they say this is extinct, I still had prickles on my neck while we were up there. “Extinct” volcanoes have erupted before.
  2. Taos Pueblo: These pueblos have been continuously inhabited for more than 1000 years. There are still about 150 Taos Indians living in the pueblo, according to their website. The historical significance of this location earned it the distinction of becoming a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  3. Taos, New Mexico: We only spent a few hours in this city, but you could easily spend days getting lost in the art and culture scene here. It has a great history – and super cool architecture.
  4. Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi: Not to be confused with San Francisco de Assisi in Taos, which I just did when trying to remember the name of the place we went. They are both super cool, but I didn’t visit the Mission in Taos. St. Francis however, was full of sculptures and art in the beautiful prayer garden in front of the church.

Back on the grid!

New Gypsy Trip TagI’ve been off the grid for almost 24 hours now. My Blackberry went dead yesterday and, in a continuance of my electronic problems this trip, my car charger has gone missing. But I have backup! My regular wall charger works in the car when I plug an a/c converter into the power port. 🙂 We just can’t put the car in park until I unplug my contraption.

After Amanda and I posted our first vlog entry yesterday morning, we departed Colorado for New Mexico. I really thought I would be more broken up to leave so quickly, but I’m so excited to see new things on this trip that I was over it before we hit he state line. Someday I’ll buy my mountain and build my glass house so I can see the breathtaking beauty of the Rocky Mountains 24/7/365. Of course, I’ll have piped in oxygen so Amanda won’t have to deal with altitude sickness.

Our first stop in New Mexico was Capulin Volcano. Can you say you’ve walked into the mouth of a volcano? I can.

The road to the crater wound up the sides of the cinder cone, giving us absolutely amazing views of the scenery below. At the top, a park ranger’s lecture of the different type if volcanic rock had me flashing back to my freshman geology class with Professor Brackman.

Let me tell you, walking into the mouth of a volcano is a lot easier than walking out. But you cannot appreciate the full power of Capulin until you walk down to the center to see the walls completely surrounding you and igneous rock in piles, reminding you that molten rock is bubbling somewhere below the surface. Its enough to make your hair stand on end, even if Capulin hasn’t erupted in about 65,000 years.

On the way out, we saw an abandoned house that would be perfect for our fugitives out on the loose. Except, it appears one of them was caught because he went to church. According to news reports, the escapee was relieved to have been captured; I guess he got the answer to his prayers.
Here’s a gem from Gawker about the capture and incestuous cousins. And lastly, ABC is reporting that the escapees are white supremacists.

The last convict standing and his fiancee/cousin are believed to be in Glacier National Park (somewhere I want to go), so we should be safe in Yellowstone when we arrive there next week.

After Capulin, we visited Taos. We saw the Taos Pueblo, another UNESCO World Heritage site. I’m sure Amanda’s blog can give you much better information about it, but I was impressed by the buildings. One of them was several stories high. We could only have one camera in, so once I steal some of Amanda’s pictures, I’ll post some for you.

I think the high point of this trip was when we had to stop to eat lunch in the Wal-mart parking lot. By the time we got through the Pueblo, it was around 3 p.m. We had been up since 4:30 a.m. and hadn’t eaten since about six. We looked everywhere for a rest stop or a park or something, but we found nothing. We were about to the point we were when we stopped in Lynnville, Ind. so the Wal-mart was good enough for us.

The last leg of our trip was seeing Santa Fe. Coolest. City. Ever. Amanda loves New Mexico like I love Colorado, and she was thrilled to finally get to see the city she wants to move to. I loved how the buildings were designed to look like adobe; there was no modern architecture anywhere. We made a stop at the old Town Square, after it took us an hour to find it (thanks again, Sheila) and got some beautiful pictures of the church there.

We’re on our way to Monument Valley now. I attached a couple of pictures I’ve taken from the car this morning to the New Mexico countryside. 🙂