Lubbock, Texas to Taos, New Mexico
When I arrived in Lubbock, Texas, I had no clue where I would head next. I had already made the decision to skip the North Central states. I had a lot of friends in Colorado I wanted to see but not many that were easy to get a hold of. Yet, the travel advice I had been receiving from every friend and stranger all pointed to Colorado towns and included almost every major city or road. A former Aspen resident advised me to get through Independence Pass before the snow arrived, which can be as early as September or October. I would have to hit Boundary Waters, Mt Rushmore, and the Badlands on another trip.
My general rule - since the car accident - was not to travel more than 3 hours without stopping and no more than 6 hours total in a day. Stopping any less would mean I would miss too much. And the whole point of this part of my trip was to see the places out West that I had never seen before. The fact that I had not traveled west of Illinois until recent years was not something I told people with pride, though it was something I told them as a personal challenge to overcome.
I deliberated with my Texan friends and they gave me some good advice on roads, towns, restaurants, margaritas, and other points of interest between their town and Colorado. I wanted to see the whole state but it would take a while no matter how I did it. I used their suggestions, took a look at what was interesting on the map and set a course with Durango, CO in my sites. Half way there was Taos, New Mexico. And it was from this point on that low-tech strategy combined with a bit of spontaneity became my traveling plan.
I couldn’t pass through Fort Sumner without a trip to the kitschy Billy the Kid Museum, complete with a stuffed Siamese twin buffalo(s). Regardless of that, the antiques and old newspaper articles provided some interesting history at this roadside attraction. I would recommend to anyone that they stop and take a quick tour through to support the museum– though don’t look too closely at the buffalo….it’s creepy.
From here, I wish I would have taken the more visually interesting route that actually went a little further west through the towns of South Carmen to check out the canyons along the roadside. I didn’t know about it until after I had already passed through. The landscape remained fairly flat on this portion but at least it was not interstate – a nice change from most of my driving the last couple of weeks. My next stop was Santa Rosa, New Mexico to check out part of Route 66 and the famous Blue Hole Margarita at Joseph's Mexican-American diner.
As I headed north through Mora I had to make a choice of taking the eastern or western route to get to my campsite. The western route would have led me through Taos, and I had hoped to hike the first day and stay and check out town the second day. So I chose the alternative eastern route through Angel Fire since I wasn’t likely to head that way afterward. This is where a map with elevation would have probably come in handy, or even one with a little more detail about the condition of roads. Fortunately, it was still daylight and this road was one that I actually made it thru (stay tuned for the Telluride story). This road was one lane, BUT at several points I had to share and squeeze by a large extended cab truck. I had driven on what were relatively steep paths (at least to me) in Tennessee, but these were sheer mountainsides and very scary compared to what I had been on thus far. This was probably the kind of road that gets closed in the winter. It was absolutely beautiful and totally worth the stress though. Sorry, no pictures. Imagine crisp cool air, beautiful yellow and purple flowers along the roadside and every turn of the mountainside presenting a new view. People were taking advantage of the beautiful clear skies, warm sun, and cool breezes, fishing in the roadside streams, or pulled over to enjoy the panorama.
The road ended and ran into Angel Fire, a cute little ski town. There was quite a bit going on with a summer concert series in the park but I wanted to get to my campsite. If I had stopped everywhere I really wanted to, I might be on the road for a year or more. Though this trip was designed an exploration I also had a budget and a purpose to sort a few things out. Seeing as much as I possibly could and only stopping at what really spoke to me was a necessity. So I headed up one mountain pass only to drop down it on the other side. What goes up, must come down….the bear went over the mountain… The thought of this is logical but frustrating when you have been driving on straight, flat roads and highways for 10 years.
I found a couple of campsites online that had good reviews and websites that showed someone had taken care and interest in the place. I wanted options in case I got a bad feeling about the place or it was right next to a road. My first stop was a place just outside of town called Enchanted Moon. The camp hosts were very nice and the price was right, so I took the hillside spot and a campsite far away from the RVs. I spent two nights freezing at this site but don’t regret it one bit. Read more about why that is so on my next post about Taos, New Mexico.