Awoke before dawn Saturday and raced 80 miles through the moonlit Sangre de Cristo Mountains from our hotel in Taos to the Sants Fe Municipal Airport. I was nervous about driving that far, (about a third over twisting two lane mountain roads) dropping the rental car and making the 7:00 AM flight but the road was clear, the moon was bright and the tiny airport’s three TSA personnel had us inside the single 500 sq. foot waiting room by 6:15. Brilliant.
Some closing thoughts:
- Some folks felt we should have stayed in much larger Santa Fe, the state capital, and side trip to Taos as needed. We did the opposite only because of the availability of RCI accommodations but were happy with the forced choice. Santa Fe really only had two interesting sites, the disappointing (only because it was small) Georgia O’Keeffe museum and the galleries on Canyon Road. Everything else seemed overly commercialized and repetitive. I guess that there are certain time-tested items of tourist gold and every shop seemed to have a similar inventory. Taos on the other hand, while far from non-commercial, was much smaller and more compact with a much funkier feel. Sure, there were places you could drop a bundle on art, but the restaurants, museums and most shops had way less of a Disney-fied feel to them.
- Much of the tourist charm of Taos and NM is the high desert landscape and the distant undulating horizons. It is beautiful country if you don’t have to wrest an agricultural living out of it. "Moonscape" is an apt description of much of it.
- The High Road to Taos is a must, as is the beautiful Enchanted Ring route through Red River and Angel Fire. If you just love to drive and look out the window at interesting stuff, these two, and the road to Los Alamos, will make you happy.
- That being said, a week in northern NM is sufficient time to see everything. Our last two relatively unscheduled days were due, at least in part, to the fact that we had largely exhausted the regions charms. When we caught wind of the Martinez Hacienda (Third best adobe site in Taos!) we jumped in the car and headed right over there.
- The WorldMark Taos by Wyndham is the worst RCI site we’ve been to. The room was cramped, we had a Murphy bed (!!!) and no housekeeping. On the plus side, the laundromat was free and the location was spot on, in the middle of the Taos Historic District. We could literally walk to five museums, a dozen good, relatively inexpensive restaurants and probably fifty galleries. T-shirts and tourist goodies were also pretty easy to come by and of decent quality. Alright, “worst” is relative to some pretty cool places we’ve stayed with RCI. But a Murphy bed? They still make those? Mr. Tempurpedic or whoever invented our mattress at home deserves a medal.
- The people we met were super friendly and helpful, all across northern NM, without exception. At the sites, in the shops and restaurants, everyone wanted to chat, to be sure that you were having a good time and to see if they could help in some way. I viewed this behavior as suspicious at first, but came to see, eventually, that these are just nice people. They can’t help it, they LIKE you. I don’t know if I could stand it on a daily basis, but it was kind of fun to experience warm, compassionate total strangers butting in to make sure you’re not lost or confused by the menu.
- I have never been a big fan of Native American culture or art, seeing it as primitive and uninteresting. I think I got this from old TV shows and rare visits to shabby casinos. Now that I have seen some actual Indian history presented on their own terms (the Bandelier cliffs, the Taos Pueblo, etc.), I think I appreciate more how they struggled to hang on to their traditions and culture during centuries of brutal warfare against militarily (but not morally) superior forces bent on their annihilation. They managed to co-opt the Mexicans, once they had a common enemy, but the ruthless gringos were just too merciless and unrelenting. Trust the Government? Ask an Indian about that.
- The green chile is usually hotter than the red chile. I did not know that.
- These kids were really cute.