July 6 thru 7, 2018 From Santa Fe toward Espanola, the casinos popped everywhere, big and small. Drove to the entrance of a couple, to check out the landscaping and architecture, not go inside. Really liked the stone variations and patterns in the walks at the Camel Rock Casino.
Next brief stop was at the Buffalo Thunder Casino. Very fancy, but not much landscaping. Maybe I’ll try gambling when I officially retire. Ha!
Off 68 in Alcade, New Mexico, I noticed a building on higher elevation, adorned with flags and a statue. I pulled in and, with the exception of a man removing weeds with a shovel, thought the property was deserted and took my time walking around; views were incredible! There was a cool patch of corn growing in the front bed.
The building was occupied and so glad I stopped. Mrs. Sandy Cata, Office Manager and Grants Coordinator for the Northern Rio Grande Heritage Area, provided fantastic information about the 49 national heritage areas in 32 states across our Country, as well as history and current events about Northern New Mexico and the statue of Don Juan de Oñate, vandalized in 1998 (foot cut off). When restored, the statue was moved from behind the building to the front, street side. Sandy’s mission focuses on the importance of the people, the community, heritage and cultural knowledge and awareness. It was heartbreaking to learn that so many farmers in New Mexico resorted to selling ancestral farmlands for pennies on the dollar due to drought and other hardships; many now live in the trailer parks I’ve passed.
From online searches, I found lots of info on the significance of the foot removal. Apparently, Oñate was known for his explorations, as ‘colonizer of New Mexico’ and ‘the last Spanish conquistador’, but also for the barbaric 1599 Acoma Massacre, where he led the killing of 800-1,000 Acoma men, women and children in retaliation for the death of 11 Spaniards by the Acoma (protecting their food supply). Of the 500 or so survivors, at a trial at Ohkay Ohwingeh, Oñate sentenced most to twenty years forced “personal servitude” and mandated all men over the age of twenty-five have a foot cut off (most detail compliments of Wikipedia).
Down the road, just before landing in Embudo, I spotted this river… the Rio Grande! Stopped at the Visitor Center where staff told me about $7 camp sites and a good cafe, right down the street.
Looked like rain was moving in, blue skies on one side and grey the other, so opted to locate a site and set up. The area was beautiful; temp hot and air dry! Sites by the water were filled, but found one not far, which offered a shelter, grill and pit. Given the fire restrictions, no open flame (sparks) authorized, but propane stove fine. Yea! Small bills are essential since these sites are self-pay. So awesome!
Put up tent under shelter and met my neighbor, Louie from Chicago, before a brief rainfall. Ate some red beans and rice, with hot sauce and probably enough sodium for a week, then relaxed. I couldn’t believe I was there; felt surreal and so proud of myself at the same time. I thought about my job, family and so much, then resolved to only think about the moment. Fantastic!
Louie and I found a spot down the road to enjoy the water that was so cold and felt so good. A father and son were slowly making their way down the river in a rubber kayak; I want one! I took a photo and was asked by a family member to send it to her, which I did.
Winds picked up quite a bit, so relocated tent from under shelter, to get spikes in the ground.
Chatted with Louie, about 10 years younger and also adding a new, adventurous path to his life. Relaxed and went to sleep – until loud campers rolled in. Argh!
Even with little sleep, I woke early. I wanted to scream “Good morning!” next the late, loud mouths’ camper, but somehow mustered the control to refrain. After several cups of coffee in my favorite ‘Meh’ cup as the sun rose, I packed up. Louie was also prepping. We exchanged info, promised to share cool spots encountered and headed out. Oh, I got an open-invite for Chicago visit. Yea!
Spotted a hike sign and parked. Was a little bummed I didn’t see any bighorn sheep, but the views were spectacular and the trail wasn’t too grueling. Very glad I toted plenty of water and snacks. Views were phenomenal!
Back in the truck and, after a major cool down session, explored the gorge roads; lots of curves with steep climbs.
Excitedly carried on to the Earthship Biotecture Community. Mom LOVES documentaries and one she introduced me to years ago was “Garbage Warrior” with Michael Reynolds. I was blown away by this remarkable architect whose concept in the 70s was to use upcycled (tires, glass, plastic, cans…typical landfill material) and natural materials (e.g. dirt, water) to build (no high-tech skills needed) fully sustainable, off the grid, beautiful dwellings (earthships). NM is the home base community, although they’re in use across the world. I was super excited to see them!
Picked up a young couple hitch-hiking for a very short drive on Hwy 64. Pulled in at 2 Earthship Way; they headed out and I took the self-guided tour through the fully-functioning educational Earthship. I read about everything I saw; passive solar architecture, renewable energy, integrated water systems (inc. indoor food growing) and the building process with natural and recycled material. Although it was hot and dry outside, it felt amazing inside at 70 degrees.
I walked around the outside and up the tire steps to check out the fantastic water catch and filtration setup, the solar panels, and the view of other homes on the property.
The girl at the entry told me about non-paying internships available for those interested in hands on learning to build an Earthship and take part in the Biotecture Community. Harsh weather conditions and intense physical labor are definitely things to consider, along with rental cost to live on site.
Onward to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, aka High Bridge. Parking space seems a bit limited when busy. The wind was kicking pretty strong and it started drizzling when I walked across, but the view at 656 feet above the Rio Grande was so worth the effort! Call boxes to aid against suicide jumps are on both sides of the bridge.
Found Taos to be very busy, with lots of places to spend money; restaurants, zen shops, ski lodges, etc. Stopped in a few of the shops, including the awesome vintage music shop, where I bought a 3-disc collector edition of Carole King, and one with gorgeous scarfs. I loved the number of houses used for businesses and the wild flower yards.
Rolled on down the road with a stop at Overland Ranch when the rain started. I needed coffee! The landscape was fun and beautiful, with plants, pond, water features, sculptures and wind art.
Got a double espresso at the Farmhouse Cafe, where all ingredients are fresh, organic, and locally farmed. The pastries and sandwiches looked amazing!
Back on the road, the wide open spaces felt intense and I was super weary. I knew human life still existed by the occasional vehicle that passed. And then, from nowhere, the sign appeared!
Louie texted me about a sweet site he landed in South Fork, CO, but by the time I hit Antonito I was pooped. My first stop was at the Narrow Gauge Railroad Inn, in the parking lot. I wasn’t in the mood to be walled-in, so searched for options.
Confirmed vacancy at Twin Rivers on CO-17N and arrived less than 10 minutes later. John Nelson checked me in for one night at $18.86, shower and running water included. Yea! Backed into the tent area, opened my door and BAM! Mosquitoes swarmed from every direction. I pulled on my hat, pants and long-sleeved shirt, then struggled against those evil, winged attackers throughout setup. While cooking dinner and swatting insanely, an RV neighbor came over, a tiny woman with a thick Asian accent, and I loved her immediately!
She convinced me to take a break and my beer to meet her husband and friends. They gave me a full can of repellant (GOLD!!), told great jokes and stories, and seemed fascinated by my solo travel. Don’t remember the last time I laughed so hard. Totally enjoyed hanging out with them and sharing snacks of seaweed and Amish jalapeno bread until late, then showered. Goodnight.