After leaving the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway there was a good stretch of road that took me through northern New Mexico toward Colorado. This flat, open type of land is good for thinking. It doesn’t change at every turn and in fact lacks many turns at all, it doesn’t make you work to maneuver through it or ask much of you but to hold a reasonable speed and keep one eye out for antelope.
I love the land – most specifically mountains, meadows and shores. I love the way the pines smell like my childhood camping experiences and how the hills and valleys hold the clouds’ shadows in the afternoon. The still of a mountain lake at both ends of the day; the embrace of everyday grass under bare feet; the change in the air that signals an ocean is just a few miles out of sight. It’s a love affair that few of my city-raised peers could understand. Next to being in love, rarity that that is, it’s often been the land that most makes me feel life’s worth. And that’s where I’ll start this story.
What can I say about Santa Fe that doesn’t involve crepes? It has a lot of jewelry and all that same nonsense that you’d find in Albuquerque’s Old Town, yet tenfold and much more expensive. Most of the tourists are older couples, and the concierge at La Fonda told me the median age of residents is 58. I’ve made a mental note to return when I’m old and rich and need lots of jewelry to feel pretty and hide my wrinkled décolletage.
Traveling from Albuquerque to Santa Fe you can be a really boring person and take I-25 north, or you can meander up the historically significant Turquoise Trail (NM 14). The trail is a designated National Scenic Byway comprised of 50+ miles (more if you veer off at the south end to drive the Sandia Crest Scenic Byway). A few of the points I thought were interesting:
Sandia Crest Scenic Byway: My first taste of mountains in a while. A short drive that climbs 4,000 feet above Albuquerque, and worth it if only for a break from the desert. I’d never been so thrilled to see trees.
I’m an excellent speller, but couldn’t piece out “Albuquerque” until a few days before I arrived. It’s one of those words you know exists, but you think you’ll never have to use it. So wrong.
Somewhat less annoying than writing out “Albuquerque” is the city itself, which doesn’t offer much to humankind. A few neighborhoods I visited (and my thoughts) are as follows:
One more day before I begin my solo road trip across the Western United States! Somehow I’ve whittled the packing down to a trunk-size wardrobe that will carry me through coastal, desert and mountain climates.
- 60 driving hours (without traffic, and not counting side trips such as national parks)
- 4,000+ miles
- 10+ cities through 7 states
- countless small towns, national parks and side treks
- several headaches