New Mexico – American Road Trip (pt24)
Sept 9 – 22, 2015. Days 31 – 44 of my American Road Trip.
So at this point in the story I’m headed back to Artesia, New Mexico to see family and spend some time with a certain lady friend (grown up term for girlfriend). The story is long and complicated and, well, personal. So I’m not going to get into it on the internet. But, we did manage to travel to a couple of cool locations during my 13 day layover in New Mexico. Wow, I just counted the days and didn’t realize I took that long of a road show break. I definitely make up for the lengthy pause during my upcoming Thunder Run through the Utah National Parks.
It’s kinda funny that I’ve been going to southeastern New Mexico my whole life to visit family and not once had I ever made it up north to Santa Fe. Well, that finally changed. After a couple of days in town, me and the aforementioned lady friend went to Santa Fe for a weekend. We had a great time and also managed to sneak in a visit to another National Monument I’d never heard of, Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. Or more easily known just as Tent Rocks.
Santa Fe is definitely an iconic New Mexico town that has a very distinct Southwestern style and feel. From the pueblo style architecture to the friendly locals to the Native American art store lining the city center, it’s something right out of an old western movie.
We arrived late on a Friday night, or early if you’re the passenger that slept the entire 4 hour drive. Oh yeah, I had my cranky pants on after spending all that quality time driving alone. But it was someone’s birthday and I couldn’t stay mad for long.
The Santa Fe nightlife was fun and quite interesting. There was some sort of biker meeting in town and the bars the first night definitely reflected it. Sorry, no pictures. We didn’t last long and after strolling the streets and getting a feel for the city, we called it a night.
The next day we got a taste of a local Native American festival and fair in the Santa Fe Plaza. It was a perfect day for a festival, people watching and maybe a couple of adult beverages during happy hour. I recommend the Coyote Rooftop Cantina. Nice margaritas, great service and cool street views.
Before the trip to Santa Fe, I was educated on the Loretto Chapel and the helix staircase inside. The staircase is rumored to have been built by St. Joseph himself. It was built to access the choir loft 22 feet above the chapel. A regular staircase wouldn’t work because it would take up too much space in the small chapel. Well, the sisters of the church prayed for days before a man with a toolbox and a donkey showed up looking for work. Months later the circular staircase was completed but the man had disappeared without a trace and without taking payment. And so started the legend that St. Joseph himself built it. I must say, the lady friend knew her Loretto Chapel facts.
Ok, I’m a bit cynical if you haven’t figured that out by now. And that kind of came out during the trip as my enthusiasm for the staircase wasn’t quite pushing max capacity. I’m still scratching my head at how an entire chapel could be built before someone realized there wasn’t a stair plan for the choir loft 22 feet above. Minor details that kinda ruin such a happy story. I will admit that the stairway is quite elegant and I can understand how such a story could develop over time. Needless to say, the chapel is now quite popular for weddings.
I’ve included a cynics only snopes.com link which actually has much more information about the chapel and staircase than the Loretto Chapel website link above. Spoiler alert, if you’re a romantic and like the original story, don’t click on the Snopes link.
Another popular tourist attraction in Santa Fe is the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, an 1800’s era cathedral. It’s conveniently located a block from the Santa Fe plaza, where all the open air shops and festivals are located.
For those wishing to experience the American Southwest, I couldn’t recommend Santa Fe more. A weekend there is a perfect way to experience the culture and a very unique way of life.
Upcoming events and everything you need to plan a trip can be found at the SantaFe.com link.
We departed Santa Fe mid-morning on Sunday to go check out the Tent Rocks National Monument. After driving the wrong way for about an hour, I finally recognized my google maps, Waze App, BMW Navigation trifecta of errors and corrected course. There might have been a minor frustration fit involved, but I crawled away from it with a little dignity, I think.
When we finally got to the monument entrance, I understood why all three navigation systems couldn’t agree. It’s in the middle of nowhere, off a two-lane road which is off another two lane road after you pass the mesquite bush and third cattle crossing. There are a couple of road signs off of the main interstate, but if you’re planning a visit be prepared for a little adventure.
The monument is tucked away back in the hills and requires about a 30-45 minute walk depending on your pace. It’s a very cool trail that zig zags you through large rocky channels and very narrow crevices. Perfect for a Sunday afternoon. Once you get to the end, you realize why it’s called Tent Rocks.
After the Tent Rocks we made our way home. I spent another 10 days in Artesia relaxing and spending time with family and the lady friend. After 31 days on the road, it was a great break for many reasons.
On Sept 22, I made my way to Albuquerque for an overnight stop and oil change before continuing on to Grand Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado followed by a string of National Parks in Utah. As usual, I stumbled upon more cool places in Colorado that I didn’t know existed and may actually return to someday.
Man, I love road trips. Even when they are solo.
Thanks for reading. See you in Colorado.