New Mexico Road Trip

I recently took a New Mexico road trip - headed to Albuquerque, NM, with Mikaela and Meredith, a couple of artist friends, planning to meet up with a fourth, Gay, once we arrived.  All of us are members of Tucson Pastel Society and we were on our way to the big IAPS (International Association of Pastel Societies) convention.

Carved Saint in Historic Old TownCarving in Historic Old Town, Albuquerque

We took I-10 from Tucson to Deming, NM, then cut off onto 26, heading over to Hatch, the Chile Capital of the World, to pick up I-25 north. We stopped at Caballo Lake State Park for a lunch break. This is a lovely park if you're doing a New Mexico road trip by RV through this area – I spent a couple of nights there a few years back. After lunch by the lake, we were on our way again.

I must say, the trip north on I-25 is not very exciting. The land on either side is the most god-forsaken I have ever seen. With the exception of the town of Truth or Consequences, there is absolutely no sign of habitation. 

I discovered later, reading NM Magazine, that for about 60 miles on this leg of the New Mexico road trip, we had been sort of trespassing on Ted Turner’s land. He is the largest landowner in New Mexico, and a great environmentalist. I recommend the article – this part of NM may be in for big changes.

Truth or Consequences – anyone remember the game show of that name? Ralph Edwards started it as a radio show in 1940 and in 1950 challenged a U.S. town or city to change its name to Truth or Consequences. The people of Hot Springs, NM, (named for the hot mineral springs along the Rio Grande) jumped at the opportunity, voted in favor of the name change, and won. 

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The following day, April 1, 1950, Edwards and the whole game show gang broadcast the show from the newly named town. Locals affectionately call it “T 'r C.”

Sunset in Albuquerque, NMAlbuquerque Sunset

We arrived in Albuequerque around 4 pm. Convention headquarters was at the Albuquerque Inn – the biggest hotel I’ve ever been in. We were just a brief walk away at the Best Western Rio Grande, a hotel that had seen better days, but that boasted queen-sized beds while the A. Inn had only doubles. Since the four of us on this New Mexico road trip were sharing a room, we had opted for bigger beds.

Church Street Cafe in Old TownSign at Church Street Cafe

For the next three days, we were busy with pastel demonstrations and workshops with some of the best pastel artists in the country. There was a big juried exhibit of wonderful pastel paintings where we spent several hours over the course of the event and there was a huge trade show as well with just about anything a pastel artist could dream of having. We all left quite a bit of money behind.

Hollyhocks in Historic Old TownHollyhocks

In our free time a couple of us wandered through Old Town, an historic district dating back to the founding of the city by the Spanish in 1706. It was just down the street from the A. Inn. There was a big festival going on – lots of people and excitement. Hollyhocks were blooming everywhere - they reminded me of my grandmother who had them growing next to the shed door.

Hillsboro Cowboy

New Mexico Road Trip Through the Back Country

Sunday morning the three of us headed off again on our New Mexico road trip, this time takiing a different route as we wanted to spend a night in Silver City on the way home to Tucson. We went south on I-25, and just past Truth or Consequences headed west on scenic NM152, designated a National Back Country Byway, through the countryside.

We stopped for lunch and photos in Hillsboro, a picturesque town seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and dined at the Hillsboro General Store Café. I think everyone in town must stop there after church on Sundays – it was an extremely busy place and the food was delicious! (This wonderful cowboy was intent on his novel – do I see a portrait in my future?) 

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Hillsboro General Store CafeMural at the Hillsboro General Store Cafe

Onward, climbing up into the eastern edge of Gila National Forest, then down again into Silver City, landing at the Comfort Inn, which lived up to its name and was extremely comfortable indeed.

Silver City has a fascinating history: once an Apache campsite; originally known for its copper mining, then for the discovery of silver ore deposits; and a violent crime rate during the 1870s. Today though, it is a delightful place – we wandered all over town enjoying the scenery, then settled in for dinner at Little Toad Creek Distillery.

Silver City SunsetSundown in Silver City

Back at the Comfort Inn we had a view down on the town as the sun was setting. There was a large group of trees in the center and an unkindness of ravens (or it could have been a murder of crows) from all different directions cruised in and landed there.

The next morning we drove out to Pinos Altos, about 5-10 miles north of Silver City, to see the sights. Formed in 1860 after gold was discovered in the nearby Pinos Altos Mountains, abandoned at one point, and now the location of summer homes. Before becoming famous as Judge Roy Bean in West Texas, Roy Bean had a mercantile here. Present day population is about 300.

Pinos Altos Bottle TreeBlue Bottle Tree in Pinos Altos, NM

Plenty of photo opportunities here – there are many old buildings dating back to the 1800s, including the old opera house which is now combined into a restaurant with the Buckhorn Saloon.

After exploring we sat and sketched one of the old falling-down adobes, before heading back to town for coffee at The Jumping Cactus, then starting toward home, down NM90 To Lordsburg, and then I-10 West for Tucson. It was a great New Mexico road trip and my companions were wonderful company.

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It’s been almost four years since I stopped being a full-time RVer; Mehitabel is gone, but I’m discovering that when summer arrives in Tucson, I start getting a serious itch to travel. I’d like to do some road trips with Bijou so I’ve started working to manifest a small RV in my future. Stay tuned!

One Man's Junk in Pinos Altos, NMOne Man's Junk is Another Man's Treasure

BOOKS:

I Know This Much is True - Wally Lamb. Wonderfully written, thought-provoking, heart-wrenching, complex. Can't figure out how I missed this one as I truly enjoy his writings.

Plainsong - Kent Haruf. An absolutely marvelous story, weaving together the lives of several disparate characters into a wonderful community. The kind of novel that makes you feel good.

A Wolf Called Romeo - Nick Jans. A wonderful story about a black wolf in Juneau, Alaska, who returned each winter for six years and interacted with the dogs and a few of their owners who played on the frozen lake. Oh, how I wish I had been there!

Lucky - Alice Sebold. Memoir, Sebold's account of her rape as a college freshman, its effect on her and her family and friends, and her pursuit of justice. Brilliant, meticulous, brash, disturbing,

A Walk on the Beach - Joan Anderson. Memoir. A third installment of her trilogy (haven't read the first two)  exploring renewal at midlife, this time about her friendship with an extraordinary woman three decades older. A celebration!

The Tennis Partner - Abraham Verghese. The game of tennis weaves though this memoir, the story of two men and the friendship that grows between them. Verghese is an excellent writer and shows himself to be a wise and compassionate physician.

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My Own Country - Abraham Verghese. Memoir. The young Verghese, a doctor specializing in infectious diseases, and his experiences in a small community in eastern TN. A beautifully written account of the early days of AIDS in the bible belt, and how his involvement with his patients changed him. It's also the story of his search for identity and a home to call his own.

The Painter - Peter Heller. Novel. A new author for me and I like him a lot.  Jim Stegner, a famous artist and passionate fisherman, is mourning the loss of his daughter and trying to deal with the outbursts of anger that occasionally overtake him. Wonderful sense of place in Heller's descriptions of New Mexico & Colorado. Left me wishing I could lose myself so totally in painting - I still think too much.

All the Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr. Novel. A magnificent story, beautifully written. Doerr weaves together the stories of a blind girl forced to flee Paris with her father during the Nazi occupation, and a German orphan who becomes expert at building and fixing radios.

The Invention of Wings - Sue Monk Kidd. Novel. Inspired by the historic figure of Sarah Grimke and the very beginnings of both the abolition and women's rights movements, the novel opens in 1803 in Charleston, SC,  when Sarah is given ownerships of 10-year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. Following the journeys of these two figures and their complex relationship, it builds to a dramatic climax. I had a hard time putting this down - Kidd is a masterful writer.

Conversations with God: An Uncommon Dialogue - Neale Donald Walsch. For some reason (a dislike of religion) I had avoided this book, but a stray remark made me request it at the library. Amazing read!

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Goddesses Never Age - Christiane Northrup, M.D. Non-fiction. Aspiring to be a goddess, I couldn't wait to read this recently published book as I was familiar with other works by Dr. Northrup. I wasn't disappointed - this was a good read and chock full of important information for our health and well-being.

The Honeymoon Effect - Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D. - Non-fiction. The science of loving relationships by a cell-biologist and lecturer, an international leader in bridging science and spirit. Excellent.

Sparrow: A Novel – Mary Doria Russell. Science Fiction. Not my usual reading matter. Quite strange, often disturbing, but it kept me reading.  "POWERFUL . . . Father Emilio Sandoz [is] the only survivor of a Jesuit mission to the planet Rakhat, 'a soul . . . looking for God.' We first meet him in Italy . . . sullen and bitter. . . . But he was not always this way, as we learn through flashbacks that tell the story of the ill-fated trip. . . . The Sparrow tackles a difficult subject with grace and intelligence." --San Francisco Chronicle


Have you been on any New Mexico road trips? If so, leave a comment below. What did you see that surprised you? Favorite spots? We love to hear from you about your own adventures!

Gila National ForestNew Mexico Road Trip on NM 152 through the Gila National Forest

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