Drive to Taos and the Enchanted Circle

Trip Start Jun 01, 2011
Trip End Jul 31, 2011

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Where I stayed
Coronado RV Park
What I did
Drive to Taos and the Enchanted Circle

Flag of United States  , New Mexico
Monday, July 25, 2011

A few objects which would take a whole day of driving to accomplish. Just how many hours, I don't know. But it would be for many miles. I just told Pooh that we would drive to Taos and eat lunch out. I never said what time we would be back.

We bummed around in the morning and left the campground around 10:15. Our first stop would be about an hour and a half away at a critically acclaimed restaurant called Ranchero de Chimayo. We drove past Santa Fe and took what was called "The High Road" to Taos – or the back roads through small towns with a ton of art galleries. I think every other house on this road was an art gallery. How do they make enough money? I did not see the crowds knocking down any doors. A gallery was lucky if they had one car in front. Since Pooh is not that into art we did not stop at any. I figured if I wanted to see some art, I’d check out the galleries in Taos or Santa Fe. I’m sure there were some finds out here but we just did not have the time.

The restaurant was in the middle of this small town called Chimayo. It is one of those towns that is easy to just drive through. But I read a lot about this restaurant – usually that means expensive – but I checked the menu on-line and it seemed OK. For a tiny little town, this place was pretty big, and crowded for 11:45 on a Monday. It is in a converted ranch house with a few terrace seating areas out back. First we started off with some Guacamole which was OK – but not as good as mine. We also had a frozen Prickly Pear Lemonade which was super tart and sweet – just the way I like it. For mains, Pooh had a Chili Releno with all the fixing – including a side of what I call Hominy. I had the combo – so I could try everything – of a Chili Releno, Tamale, Enchilada, and Taco. This was one of the best Mexican – or as they called it New Mexican – cuisine I have ever had. And a great atmosphere to boot too. Pooh had some honey to go with her bread and she thought it was the best she had had since her time in Kashmir. Lucky for us, they had some in the shop so we got some to take home.

From here we continued on the small scenic road called the Taos High Road with its small towns and many art galleries up and down a small curvy road. From the restaurant it took us about 45 min. to get to the mega NM tourist town called Taos. This is a smaller version of old town Santa Fe. I think it is really popular in the winter since there is a ton of powder here for skiing. There were plenty of people here, but it was not too crowded. We parked in an open field just a few blocks from the center or plaza. The downtown area of this small town is only about 9 square blocks, with the center being the main plaza which is like a small park with trees and benches and a gazebo for concerts. Around the plaza was all kinds of shops and restaurants and art galleries. And all buildings were made with light brown adobe so it has this Spanish Mission feel too it. Since Pooh is not too fond of art, we did not check out the galleries, but we did go into a few of the “tourist” shops with all their SW curios. We walked around with Quique so we had to tag team to go into stores. Of course, she was the center of attention in this town. We spent about an hour wondering around. It would be a good place to spend a day or two, but we were here to just get a taste of the place.

On the road again on what is called the “Enchanted Circle” which is a loop road around the high mountains of New Mexico where all the skiing is during the winter. Now they are just tree covered peaks in the middle of this desert country. We made a side trip to the Rio Grande. Now what is so special about it here that we cannot see from our campground – where the river is next to us? Well at this spot it is a gorge. The bridge that goes across is the second highest in the US. So we could only see the Rio Grande from 1,000 feet up. After this, we joined the circle. This was a typical mountain drive of which I can never tire – as long as I don’t have the RV to pull. The highest we got on the drive was almost 10,000 ft. – twice as high as the highest point in Georgia. There were a few National Forest campgrounds - most being just for tens but a few for RVs, where most were full.

The main town in the area is Red River – kind of like a Helen, Georgia without all the faux German stuff going on. Just your typical western ski village during the summer. Still crowded, but without the ski lifts working. Now the tourists come for the float trips, white water rafting, and horseback riding. After town, we reached the top of the pass and started back down the hill. Now we were in an open wide valley full of ranches, cabins, and a few towns here and there. The few RV parks around were full and close together – not my kind of peaceful place. The last quarter of the loop road was difficult – VERY twisty small road full of ups and downs. Not that this was the hardest road ever; just that there were plenty of SLOW drivers riding their breaks more than driving. I could have gone fast WITH the RV attached. So this part of the road, while very nice and scenic was difficult and frustrating. Finally, we made it back to the outskirts of Taos and headed home on the Low Road to Taos or the much easier road right by the Rio Grande. Still, from here it was another two hours back to the RV and Pooh thought we were around the corner. Now she was getting mad for being out in the truck for most of the day.

We did stop at a view point to walk around the Rio Grande with Quique. Great place to hang out, but lots of trash left by idiots – and most of it was alcohol bottles or cans. I don’t care what you do, just clean your mess up. It was nice driving by the Rio Grande. To think that this river becomes our nations border from Mexico. I guess this is the second most important river in the SW besides the Colorado. Halfway between Taos and Santa Fe was Espanola. What a contrast. Taos and Santa Fe are very touristy with their plazas and galleries. Espanola was a much poorer and grimier town with bars on many shops and gang activity present. 90% of the houses were trailers. But the biggest and most popular place in town? The casino. The place was packed with cars. Definitely a town just to pass through between the two cities. After this, it was a quick drive to Santa Fe and then on the 75 mph I-25 after that. It was around 8:30 before we made it back to the RV. Pooh was exhausted from sitting in the truck all day. I guess I was pretty tired from driving it. But I’m glad we did it – lots of cool places to see and we did it in one day. Back at the RV we just chilled and went to bed pretty early.
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