Wednesday, June 21, 2017

New Mexico Road Trip: Taos...almost!

Back in the day when I was growing up in a small farm town in central Illinois, my family had a time-honored tradition of the "Sunday drive." My grandparents, my mother, and I would pile into the Chevy and head somewhere. Sometimes we knew where we were going, sometimes we didn't. Gas only cost 27¢ or so per gallon, so our destination didn't matter so much-- as long as we got back in plenty of time to fulfill our Monday commitments. I got to see a lot of Illinois during these drives. Mom and I continued the tradition while we lived in Utah, and this is when I fell in love with hunting down old ghost towns. Gas was more expensive, but we'd economize elsewhere in the budget since we loved getting out and about so much.

Now I'm all grown up. My working life was spent in a job where I worked most weekends, so there went my Sunday drives. Or so you'd think. Denis and I got used to having our "weekends" in the middle of the week, so the Sunday drive usually takes place on Wednesday or Thursday. It's still a lot of fun.

While we were in Santa Fe, we both wanted to see the Taos area and possibly the Taos Pueblo as well. We chose to head up there on a Sunday, and although things didn't turn out quite like we'd planned, we still managed to really enjoy ourselves.

Santa Fe stoplights

We'd been noticing, appreciating, and sometimes questioning the differences between Santa Fe and Phoenix during our stay-- like no plastic bags, only paper (and you have to ask for them), the lack of solar panels, an amazing number of metal roofs, and the horizontal stoplights as you can see in the photo above. Every place else I've been, those lights have been hung vertically, and I decided I liked them on the horizontal. Funny how little things like this catch your eye, isn't it?

The road north to Taos went through a valley lined with mountains on either side. There were many turn-offs to Native American pueblos, and almost as many to casinos. It wasn't until we got much closer to Taos that we saw snow on the mountains. Let's see some photos of our drive...and remember that all you have to do to see them in more detail is to click on any one of them. When you do, a new window will automatically open, and you can take a look at them all.

Road to Taos

Going to Taos

Most of the traffic is heading north....

There's snow on them there mountains!

And there's the Rio Grande!

I think the Rio Grande is probably one of the most recognized rivers in the United States since it forms the border between Texas and Mexico. The Mississippi, the Colorado, and the Rio Grande constitute my Top Three US Rivers list in terms of being the most well-known. What I'd forgotten is that the Rio Grande begins in Colorado and winds its way through New Mexico before arriving at El Paso to form a natural border.

The closer to Taos we got, the more congested traffic became. As we sat outside in the sun to eat lunch, we watched the traffic heading into town become gridlocked. Then it dawned on us: this was the Memorial Day weekend, and it was obvious Taos was an extremely popular place to visit on a holiday weekend. To be honest, most holidays mean nothing to Denis and me. I worked them all for years and now Denis works them, too. The longer we watched, the more traffic backed up, and we decided not to even attempt to make our way through town and onto the pueblo. It was disappointing-- moreso for Denis than for me. Denis doesn't have that Sunday drive tradition to fall back on. 

But as we headed south once more, we found something fun to do. Dozens of people were whitewater rafting on the Rio Grande, so we stopped to watch.

Kayak on the Rio Grande

Taking the trickier lower side

Paddle harder!

The second raft got hung up on those rocks.

It was a gorgeous day in the mountains with plenty of sunshine and blooming wildflowers. Taking a long break to watch those folks navigate the whitewater was icing on the cake and made our Sunday drive a winner. On the way back to Santa Fe, I remembered to take a photo of one of the decorated overpasses....

Overpass bridge

I absolutely love the fact that new interstates and freeways are being built that aren't just bare concrete. The overpass bridge you see here has local Native American art on it. The phrase you see means "place of the falling rocks."  I think the state Departments of Transportation are to be commended for this. The same thing has been done in southern Arizona: Native American art and language, and native plants have been used along these busy roads to not only "pretty them up," but to prevent erosion and cut down on noise pollution. 

Yup... when I'm on the road, I tend to look at everything-- including freeway overpasses! Next time I'll tell you about the afternoon we spent at the Randall Davey Audubon Center and Sanctuary.



  1. Very nice photos. Thanks for sharing. It sounds like you and Denis had fun, even though you couldn't get to Taos. Hopefully, you can do that soon.

    Am wondering how you are surviving the heat. Saw on the news that it hit 120-degrees in Phoenix and people seem to be dropping like flies.

    Are you in your pool reading and drinking a lot of fluids and watching the birds?

    1. In this weather, the best thing for a person to do if they're outside is to sit in the pool in the shade with plenty of cold drinks and good books. That's what I've been doing, and I've been enjoying myself immeasurably. First though, I make sure the birds have fresh oranges and plenty of water. Denis also turns on the pool aerator and waterfall, and the hummingbirds can't get enough. Today I thought I was going to have a hummer perching on my book. Why not? A dragonfly did the other day!

  2. Sorry to hear you didn't get to Taos, Cathy, but it does sound as though you had a great time. And I love those 'photos. New Mexico is a gorgeous place, isn't it?

  3. I really enjoy your road trip posting. We want to go to Taos too but it sounds like this trip would be better in cooler time of the year.

    1. It was only in the high 70s at the end of May up there. Of course, that's almost winter weather for someone like me who's used to the Sonoran Desert!

  4. Glad you're doing well in the heat, and it's nice to hear the hummingbirds are enjoying the waterfall.

    1. Some of them are using the water to cool off their babies, and to save themselves when they're stressed from the heat. Water is life.

  5. I grew up with a tradition of Sunday afternoon drives in my family, too. Daddy driving, Mother up front and three girls in the back unless someone had to move up front because they felt carsick. Our drives in SW Virginia were often curvy mountain roads. I've always wanted to visit Taos, sounds like I need to figure a non-touristy time.

    1. I'm thinking mid-week when there aren't any holidays!

  6. I grew up in Chicago and we vacationed in Wisconsin or Michigan so I know the scenery, loved it, missed it.

    But sometimes my father would just drive in Illinois. I remember the corn fields.

    Also, I loved the little video you put up last year of those hummingbirds arguing over who could be partaking of the waterfall. What a nice thing to do for them.

    1. Yes, living in Illinois and experiencing lots of Sunday drives helped color my opinion of endless fields. I didn't perk up until we'd come to swathes of woods or rivers and bridges.

  7. I can relate. I enjoyed the trips to Michigan and Wisconsin a bit more due to driving through forests, seeing lakes, etc.


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