Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Who Knew? New Mexico IS enchanting!

In late May we visited Mom who lives in Kingman, Arizona. Have you been there? Kingman is a stopping point on I-40, and the heart of Route 66. We've been going there for 17 years and have seen it grow tremendously - ah, but Kingman deserves it's own post at another time.

On this particular visit we had decided to continue east on I-40 into New Mexico to visit friends who live in Rociada, New Mexico. I-40 out of Kingman is actually a revelation. The highway gives way to an ascent into hills with an abundance of pine trees as your car climbs towards the continental divide. You also leave the high temperature of Kingman behind as the weather cools considerably as you continue east in Arizona towards New Mexico.

Even though it was late May the sky was awash with gray clouds full of rain. In early afternoon it was getting dark and sprinkles fell, turning into heavier rain. I had read the AAA book about Winslow, Arizona which every Eagles fan can't help but sing about. It's kinda weird really that a small town has turned a single song line into a tourist living. It's true: on a corner in Winslow the town fathers have dedicated a small park and a statue based on the Eagles song "Take It Easy". Oh admit it: you know the words...

Moving on from Winslow we headed into Flagstaff which is also a wonder all it's own. Not having spent much time there (and again not much time on this trip either) I was pleasantly surprised by the views. Weather had followed us and it was still over cast and drizzly. We did have lunch in a great Irish Pub and moved on vowing to spend more time on another trip.

We made it as far as Albuquerque, New Mexico that first day. It was warmer in Albuquerque so the next day we dressed for warm (California) weather. Heading north on I-25 our destination was 2 1/2 hours away. It appeared to be a lot of flat land but it was deceiving because we were actually climbing steadily.

We passed through Santa Fe (50 miles north of Albuquerque and 6400 ft in elevation) and managed to find Las Vegas, New Mexico. We called our friends and learn we were only 22 miles away. Directions received and we headed towards their house in Rociada, New Mexico. By now we are in the middle of nowhere - or so it seems. It's beautiful really: green rolling hills with plenty of pasture land and a simple two lane highway. I ask my husband how they ever found this place because they come from our end of the world where everything is only minutes away. Las Vegas, NM is their nearest "big" city and it's 22 miles, 35-45 minutes away! And remember those warm weather clothes we dressed in earlier that day in Albuquerque? Well, it's been a steady drizzle the whole way and we could really use long pants and thermal shirts! And I could use real socks and shoes instead of the flip-flops I'm wearing!

We turn into a beautiful area called Pendaries. I can't really call it a housing development, though there are more homes there than you might think, because everyone there has land, a gorgeous view and their nearest neighbors are at least 1/4 mile away.

We're headed for the home of Jim & Anne Williams, long time friends of my husband. In fact Chet and Jim were best friends in high school and Chet was later the Best Man at their wedding. Something about Anne: she is an artist. She paints beautifully and does ceramics. Her work is beautiful and I'm so envious all that so talent resides in one person! We learned that Anne even painted the windows on the "guard house" out front of the Pendaries.

While we are visiting they take us for a twelve hour road trip around the "Enchanted Circle". The Enchanted Circle is 100 miles of gorgeous spruce and aspen tress and is quite beautiful through Angel Fire (popular ski location), Red River (8600' elevation), Questa and Taos. If you love to ski Angel Fire is the place to go in New Mexico. It's just gorgeous there - so wide open and green. Here's what the ski slopes look like in May:

The advanced route (what's the skiier word for this?) is the one that goes to the top of the hill. The wider, shorter reoute on the right is the "bunny slope". Either way: they're too much for me!

And while you're in Angel Fire you must visit the Vietnam War Memorial. It's heart wrenching and tear rendering. I had my own epiphany there: way back in the early 70's I bought an MIA bracelet (I still have it). When I got it back then it bore the name: John Quincy Adams. Isn't that a president name? I never knew anything else about him until I visited this memorial. I found his picture and a short paragraph about him....and cried. Cried because he never came home, cried because I was grateful to him and so many others. And cried for happy that my own brother had come home safely from that war.

We saw a lot of beautiful country in those twelve hours. We had dinner at Orlando's in Taos. Oh My! It's such a cute little place but the food is excellent! You have to try this one for sure! I highly recommend the Chimichanga: it's big enough to share!

We ended up at a place called The Stakeout outside Taos. It's definitely a place someone has to tell you about: and tell you WHERE it's at. It's at the end of a long bumpy unpaved road but worth the effort of getting there.

We had drinks on the patio and watched a beautiful sunset. If you go to Taos, ask about it. It's a tad pricey but I'm told it's well worth it. I'm saving my pennies so I can eat there in October!
You must see the higher elevations of New Mexico. Yes, Santa Fe and Taos are beautiful and there's much to see in both locales (Got Art? They both do!). But the areas in and around the Enchanted Circle are a wonder. Who knew such beauty existed?

And I can't forget the hail storm we experienced in Las Vegas New Mexico. Oh, ok. So we've seen hail before, but never like this. We watched marble sized hail fall for an hour and a half. It truly looked like Christmas snow by the time we were able to make our escape. New Mexico is indeed enchanting. Who knew?!!


  1. Wow, who knew is right! I HAVE been to Kingman! Used to view it from our campground at Lake Mojave as a kid. Great photos,

  2. Hey Nana! I queued up the Eagles and read this aloud to the girls. Well done! We hope we get to see New Mexico someday.