New Mexico--Santa Fe Albuquerque Amazing Scenery

Trip Start Apr 16, 2009
Trip End Jul 12, 2009

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Flag of United States  , New Mexico
Saturday, May 9, 2009

DAY 19, Monday, Amarillo to Santa Fe--Today was a long driving day going all the way from Amarillo, TX, with the temperature rising to 75. Entering New Mexico, we finally feel we've made it to "The West". New Mexico has hills and plateaus that are pink and rocky. There are long stretches with little to see. We lunched at a rest stop where there were many Great-tailed Grackles (not seen in the east) and sparrows. Route 66 runs alongside I-40 as it did it Texas, but sometimes it is only a gravel road. The RV park is on top of a windy hill and has a view of several mountain ranges.

New Mexico is constitutionally bi-lingual (English & Spanish) and has 19 Native American Pueblos, 3 reservations, and 22 tribes.

DAY 20, Tuesday, Santa Fe-Very different city, all buildings are in the Adobe architectural style, even fast food restaurants and gas stations, soft shades of tan and pinkish brown. Even the Capitol is a low, round adobe-style building, referred to as "The Roundhouse." We toured the downtown area; it is a wonderful place with historical sites, smaller museums, churches, and a grassy plaza in the center in the Spanish custom. Following the Old Santa Fe Trail from the plaza to Barrio de Analco, we found the Oldest House built around 1612 and the San Miguel Mission, built between 1600 and 1646 with parts dated back to 1100. The 131-year-old Gothic Loretto Chapel  is known for its "miraculous staircase", a spiral staircase to the choir loft with two 360-degree turns and no visible support. In answer to the Catholic sisters' novena to their patron saint, St. Joseph the Carpenter, a mysterious carpenter arrived and built it using no nails or screws, and when it was complete, he vanished, accepting no compensation. There is also a beautiful French-Romanesque cathedral called Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, built in 1869-1887 with stained glass from Paris and the oldest Madonna in the country (1625), called La Conquistadora. At the portal of the Palace of the Governor's, the oldest building in America, Native Americans from the local pueblos sell jewelry, baskets, and pottery.

The city is an arts community, with galleries offering the highest quality art/sculpture. We were disappointed in the collection at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum; we expected it to be larger with some of her more impressive paintings. Following the Santa Fe River up to an arts neighborhood, we were amazed at the high quality and uniqueness of artistic work in the mile long Canyon Road. We ended the day enjoying the surprises, and plan to go back again later in the week.

We ate our way through Santa Fe, with a Frito Pie for a morning snack, a carnita and lemonade from the famous stand on the plaza, and a true Santa Fe enchilada dinner at the Flying Tortilla, where we ordered "Christmas", referring to both red and green chile sauces.

DAY 21, Wednesday, Turquoise Trail -Today we drove from Santa Fe to Albuquerque via the historic Turquoise Trail, famous for turquoise mining. The road runs through gorgeous scenery, such as the "Garden of the Gods" and quirky old coal and turquoise mining towns and ghost towns. The "High Point on the Turquoise Trail" is the Sandia Crest in the spruce fir Cibola National Forest, a magnificent summit with an elevation of 10,678'. Getting out of the car, we immediately experienced a light-headedness due to the thin air, so we walked slowly so we wouldn't faint. At the summit, the temperature was 54 degrees and increased to 82 at the base of the mountains as we approached Albuquerque. There was still snow on the mountains, actually lower than we were, especially on the Sandia Crest. Snowballs in shorts on May 6, can you believe it? On the Turquoise Trail, there is a quirky Tinkertown Museum with one man's collection of miniatures and memorabilia. Paid 25 cents for my fortune, and got good advice from the many signs posted in the ramshackle place.

DAY 22, Thursday-Tent Rocks, Albuquerque, Petroglyphs - Great day, starting out hiking at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, designated in 2001. You've never heard of it, I'm sure. Amazing unique to the southwest, the name means "white cliffs" in the Keresan language of the Pueblo de Cochiti. The cone-shaped tent rock formations result from the erosion of volcanic eruptions 6-7 million years ago. On many of the tapering hoodoos are boulder caps that protect the softer pumice and tuff below. Bands of grey, beige, and pink-colored rock are seen along the cliff face. Worth the 1.2 mile hike after the 5-mile gravel road through the pueblo. We saw "buffalo" (really bison) along the way.

Albuquerque was named after the Viceroy of New Spain, Duque of Alburquerque, and is called the "Duke City". The interstate around the city has pink-sand colored walls with turquoise stripes (not grey like you usually see) and adobe-style barriers.  Old Town was disappointing after Santa Fe, having not nearly the preserved charm of Santa Fe. We saw the San Felipe de Neri Church (over 300 years old), which was much more modest than the Cathedral in Santa Fe, the square, and the Native American vendors selling their wares. We had lunch in Plaza Don Luis and listened to a band that sounded more Peruvian.

Albuquerque is pretty much a big city without a lot of character, so we only spent a couple hours there. It's much hotter than in Santa Fe due to lower elevation. We rode back to I-25 via Central Avenue, or Old Route 66, through a neighborhood called Nob Hill, where entrepreneurs have retained the old Route 66 era theme with many of the surviving buildings turned into trendy restaurants and bars. It was cool to see all the old signage, but sad to see some of the old buildings have been abandoned or demolished. A hot restaurant/bar, Kelly's, looked like a gas station from the sign.The Kimo Theater has Pueblo-Deco architectural design, ever hear of that one?

We barely got to Petroglyph National Monument before it closed early at 5:00 o'clock, but we did find some of them on two short hikes. It is 94 degrees here, and the black volcanic rocks were blazing.

Day 23, Friday-Bandelier National Monument  -Hiking here to see the cavates (small caves in the side of mountain) where the Ancestral Pueblo lived 800-900 years ago. Interesting "kivas", the ceremonial circles. The present-day Cochiti Pueblo claim the people of the valley here as their ancestors. Sunny, sunny, sunny, and warm. After this 1.2-mile hike up and down the mountain, we were wiped. Four days of hard touring is wearing on us...we have seen amazing sights. We are TIRED! See the pictures.

A main road to Bandelier, El Camino Real, was cool with sand and turquoise colors and painted animals, such as turkeys, jackrabbits, lizards, and frogs, on overpasses and barriers. Quirky and fun! All the Indian Reservations have their Casinos and Resorts.Gambling popular here because of the $.
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