Day 21: Monday, May 20, 2013
Start: Santa Fe, NM
End: Taos, NM
Miles Driven Today: 91
Total Miles: 3,144
Today we said goodbye to Santa Fe and hello to Taos. After re-jiggering our travel schedule, we’re staying three nights in Taos. This way, we can go see the Rio Grande Gorge, the Taos Pueblo, the Earthships, local museums, Bandelier National Monument, Ojo Caliente and Abiquiu and not have to rush.
We decided to take the High Road to Taos on our way up (thanks for the tip, John and Barb!). This was a spectacular drive through both scenic desert and mesas and through the Carson National Forest. People think of New Mexico as dry brush, but it’s spectacularly beautiful.
For the last few days, we’ve seen the same couple at breakfast. We’ve exchanged a few pleasantries. This morning, they stopped by to say goodbye and told us about their trip up to El Santuario de Chimayo. As we were driving up the High Road, we saw the sign for El Santuario. We stopped at this lovely (and still active) mission. There were as many people worshiping as there were tourists viewing the lovely main church (the artwork inside was so wonderful) and the grounds.
At the edge of the parking lot, a couple (Arthur “Lowlow” and Joan Medina) was selling chile powders, lavender and sage. We bought some chile powders and started chatting with the sellers. They grew their own chiles and made the powder and were in the process of joining a co-op of certified growers of both Chimayo and Hatch chile peppers. It seems like genetically modified seed has been infiltrating the Chimayo and Hatch growing fields, and these small growers are trying to keep their plants pure. Arthur is also an artist, and their Lowrider cars are famous! I wish we could see his art! There will be a website soon (LowLow’s Lowrider Art Place).
Before we left Chimayo, we stopped at a Chimayo woven good store. Traditional native designs are created using giant looms. The pieces, from rugs to sport coats, are quite striking in their intricate designs and quality. We loved the work and the loom room!
After we left Chimayo, we started to climb higher into the mountains. We then hit an art district with a number of small galleries. We stopped at a co-op gallery in Truchas where I got some brilliant glass art jewelry by Barrie Brown.
We snaked our way through Carson National Forest. The vistas were fabulous…and definitely not what I expected in New Mexico!
When we finally reached Taos, we were a bit disappointed by the end of the ride. We tried to check in to the hotel, but our room wasn’t ready. We headed to the “Old Town” area of Taos (nothing like Santa Fe, I’m sorry to say) and walked around for a bit.
We checked into our hotel, the Sagebrush Inn. Walking into the room was…alarming. It had this odd, “you don’t want to know” smell to it. Whomever wrote glowing reviews of this place on Yelp and TripAdvisor must have been employees or paid reviewers. I was afraid to sleep on the bed.
We were hungry, so we decided to get out of the room and get some dinner. More Yelp-ing yielded the Downtown Bistro. We were looking for some salads, and this was one of the only restaurants that seemed to have some fresh green salad alternatives. We headed down to the restaurant and were greeted warmly by the chef/owner. When he opened the door (we got there at opening), I was on the phone with the hotel in Albuquerque that mucked up our reservations. He politely waited for me to finish, and welcomed us in.
We chatted about our travels and hotel woes, traveling with dogs, etc. He was very friendly and nice. We were seated, and we ordered our salads and a bowl of Red Chile soup. The soup was, in one word, exquisite. A superbly flavorful and spicy broth was peppered with little morsels of meat. We told the chef how much we were enjoying it, and he came out with MORE for us. Really! The salads were fresh and crisp and the balsamic dressing was perfect. It’s hard to do simple. A salad may just be a salad, but perfect greens, a balance of flavors and a really beautiful dressing…hard. We’re definitely going back before we leave. Sorry, but I was so into the soup that I forgot to take a picture of it!
We were chatting with the waitress (who was giving us tips on where to go and what to see) and we told her that we had to find a doggie daycare place for the pups when we were visiting Bandelier. She told us that her sister was a dog sitter and promised to give us her number. A couple of minutes later, she was back with a cell phone with her sister on the line! We chatted for a few minutes, and soon we were talking about our hotel. She gave us a recommendation on another place to stay (Hotel Don Fernando), and we stopped by on the way back to the smarmy Sagebrush Inn.
The front desk guy was great. He let us see a room (roomy, not fancy, but CLEAN), and then gave us a rate that we couldn’t turn down. We went back to the Sagebrush, packed up and moved. To the Sagebrush’s credit, they didn’t charge us for the room and apologized for the issues we had with the room.
So, here we are in our nice room. We’re looking forward to a couple of days of sightseeing. We’ll then head to Albuquerque, where we’ll stay through Memorial Day weekend. We’re planning a day trip to Acoma, seeing Old Town and Sandia peak, visiting the Petroglyph park, and just chilling. I’m sure there’s a shop or two that might interest me.
Once again, the people we have met have made the trip special. Okay, the spectacular scenery has been great as well!