We continued on Route 66 to Albuquerque, which we could see from miles away because the land around it was so flat. Route 66 going into Albuquerque wasn’t bad and had some cool old motels obviously from the 40’s and 50’s, but the closer to downtown Albuquerque we got, the more it reminded us of L.A. With a population of over 400,000, it’s New Mexico’s largest city. Since we hated the big-city feel, we hopped back on 40, which wasn’t bad once you got to the other side of Albuquerque. From there, we got on Turquoise Trail (SR14) heading northeast of Albuquerque toward Santa Fe and camped at a the Turquoise Trail Campground owned by an archeologist.
March 17-18: Santa Fe, NM
It was lightly snowing when we woke up but stopped before we left the campground at 8:30 a.m. Evergreen trees covered the mountains as we continued northeast on Turquoise Trail, a road filled with small mining towns from the 1800’s. There were some very nice homes in La Madera, between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Next was Golden (pop. probably 20 or so?) that was once the site of the first gold rush west of the Mississippi in 1825 (before CA & CO gold rushes). This town became a ghost town and stayed a ghost town after the rush was over. We saw some cool ruins along the way and lots of bullet holes in all the deer crossing signs. J The next town was Madrid, once a small coal-mining town. Since the 70’s, it’s been an artists’ community (similar to Bisbee in southern Arizona). All the shops were made from old Santa Fe railcars; one was even called the Red Railcar. Cerriollos, the next town, was a small turquoise mining town in the 1880’s. This mother and baby goat were at their petting zoo. Except for the “What Not Shop,” everything else was
closed. But the 4-dirt-road town was unique and has been the setting for several motion pictures, including “Young Guns.”
We pulled into a Santa Fe Skies RV site that had a nice view of Santa Fe and the mountains for miles. At $32 a nite, this was the most expensive campground we stayed at…more expensive than Orangeland right at Disneyland!
We drove around Santa Fe, population of about 50,000. In the center of town is the historic Plaza. On one side of the Plaza is the Palace of the Governors, the oldest government building in the country (the SSA complex in Woodlawn is the 2nd oldest J). Native Americans sold items spread out on blankets along the walkway in front of the Palace. We bought a sterling silver overlay bangle bracelet from Jen Juan, a Navajo. It was an unusual piece because that type of silverwork is normally done by the Hopi Indians. The other three sides are now filled with high-rent shops (one shop owner said they paid $20,000 a month-ouch!). As we had been forewarned, stuff there was ridiculously expensive. The same things we bought in Mexico and Gallup were priced 2-5 times more here. We could see the St. Francis Cathedral, which houses a 375-year-old statue of the Virgin Mary, from one end of the Plaza. We went to Tomascitos, a Mexican place in town, for dinner but weren’t impressed by the service or the food (we’ll never learn about those Mexican places!).
Tuesday, we drove down Old Santa Fe Trail. This was the early (pre-1937) Route 66, where settlers traded with Mexicans and Native Americans. We saw the oldest house in the U.S.A., an adobe building built by Native Americans.
San Miguel Church on the Old Santa Fe Trail is the oldest continuously used church in the U.S. Tlaxcalan Indians from Mexico built the original adobe walls and alter in 1610. Archeologists later discovered it was built over ancient Indian ruins. They added the stone buttresses and tower in 1887 and restored the magnificent alter in 1955.
At the end of the Santa Fe Trail is the Loretto Chapel built in 1878. Inside is the “Miraculous Staircase,” a narrow circular staircase winding around in two 360-degree circles to the choir balcony. When the chapel was first built for this all-girls’ school, they needed a way other than the traditional ladder for the girls to climb to the balcony. The nuns prayed and a carpenter showed up, built the staircase (which took him 6 months), and then disappeared without taking any payment (at least, that’s how the story is told). They added the wood banister around the staircase later for safety. At the alter and on both side walls of the church were wonderful statues and carved pictures of the “Twelve Stations of the Cross.” You can see the detail in this one, “Jesus Carrying the Cross.”
Next, we spent about an hour on Canyon Road, where there were many Native American art galleries and more shops, again very pricey. It was only about 40 degrees out, dark clouds above everywhere, and it snowed on and off all morning. Not a perfect day for a walking tour of the town.
We had an appointment that afternoon with a mobile RV repairman to check out a water leak in our motorhome at the campsite. It was a simple job that only took a few minutes to fix, but we were losing about a ˝ tank of freshwater a day so it needed to be done. We stayed in that night, caught up on our journal, did some online stuff, relaxed and watched a movie.
March 19: Raton, NM