After leaving Texas, we made our first stop in Carlsbad, NM, staying at the KOA just about 12 miles north of town. A nice, quiet park with an in-house BBQ restaurant, serving up some good food. Our stay here was only for two nights, as our goal was to see the caves at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. We had done some caving in South Dakota, so we were excited to see the differences. The park service was set up differently here, with the majority of the cave open to people via a self guided tour, instead of a ranger led tour. This was nice in that we could go on our own time, but it did give us less information as to what we were seeing. The entrance is a huge opening and drops to the main room, some 750’ lower. Now remember we have been in the flats of the east coast for some time, so this little hike down was a wake up call to our legs! Both of us looked at each other and said, “wow, my legs are heavy and feeling it, can you say out of shape?” The caves did not disappoint, with some beautiful structures all around. The size of the great room here is truly awesome, some places over 100’ high. So glad we decided to head here, one of those places you must see to believe.
We made an appointment to get the MoHo serviced here; replacing the fuel filters and getting an oil change, on the day we headed out. There was only one place in town that could do the work, a very busy truck repair shop, with a corner on the market. After licking our financial wounds, we headed north to Albuquerque, and our campground at the American RV Park on the west side of town. A nice park with a very new area we were placed in, a good place to explore the city from.
We made our way into town the next day, exploring and getting the lay of the land, making a quick drive through the Univ. of New Mexico. We ended up in the Old Town area and had a nice lunch outside, as the weather had warmed enough to sit outside. The food here is spicy, known for their red and green chile sauce. We wandered through some of the galleries, and I spotted something in a window that looked familiar. We went in, and there was an artists’ work that we had run into back in Sedona, and had liked a lot back then. We spent about 30 minutes here, and eventually walked out with our money in our pockets. But I am sure we can call back and get some stuff shipped to us when we get settled, it was some amazing art work for sure. We spent another day here exploring some of the Petroglyph National Monument. The rock carvings date back to about 1,100 AD, amazing that the drawings still are etched into the rockery. The area here is also known for some vino, so we made an afternoon of visiting some of the local wineries. We did learn that NM is home to the first wineries in the USA, dating back to the 1,600’s. We bought a few bottles, needing a few bottles to replenish the fridge.
Our next stop was Santa Fe, staying at the Santa Fe Skies RV Park, about 80 miles north. A nice short drive, after some very long drives the past few weeks. We got set up and headed into town right away, as we had a lot of time because it was such a short trip up. We found the old town area, and just did a quick drive through, wanting to return later in our stay and explore more. We stopped at the Capitol building for a quick walk around, then to the railroad district where we found the Second St. Brewery for a late lunch and couple of really good beers, before returning to the park. When we got back, we noticed that there were some really big rigs in the park; one had been unloading their Porsche from the enclosed trailer they haul behind their coach. We have seen some nice coaches over the trip, but this was amazing. Then we realized there were more than one of these “Mack-daddy’s” in the park, eventually about 22. I did some quick research online and found out it was a Newell owners rally, and we just happened to be there at the same time. These massive 45’ motor coaches (ours is 40’, but seemed tiny compared to these) sell for about $1.7-1.9 million. That is about $40 million in motorhomes, truly impressive rides! We just loved walking around and looking at the beauty that can be bought when money is not an issue.
The next day we decided to head north, and take a drive up to the Taos area, about 80 miles north. We took some “back” roads on the way up, the High Road to Taos, stopping in a few small towns along the way. We eventually got to Taos, and walked through the central area. It was quiet, as this town is more of a skiing town, and April is not a tourist time of year for them. We then headed east, and made the drive around the Enchanted Circle loop, some 80 miles around the mountain just northeast of town. Taos is at about 7,000’, and this drive took us up to over 9,200’ in elevation. A pretty area to explore with a few more high mountain towns and ski resorts along the way. When we ended this portion of the drive, we then headed to a place about 28 miles northwest of Taos. We stopped at the Taos Mesa Brewery for a beer, and then crossed the Rio Grande River Gorge Bridge, some 680 feet above the river! My destination here was a tiny little piece of dirt that my Grandfather Miller had won in a drawing back at the 1960 Worlds Fair in Seattle. Nobody in the family had ever seen the property, so since we were close we made the venture out to find it. Unfortunately for us, there were no good roads in or out of the area I needed to get too. We tried a couple rutted and rocky roads that others in the area had traveled, but our car was not made for that type of travel. We got as close as possible, took a couple picture as the hail/snow was starting to fall, and got out just before the dirt turned to mud and we would have been stuck. We then turned back south for the two-hour drive back to Santa Fe and watched as the sky opened up all around us, some amazing views of mother-nature’s beauty.
The next day in Santa Fe we returned to the downtown area and walked around, again a bunch of galleries and artists everywhere. We found a little roof top bar at the La Fonda hotel for a cool beverage, and then made it to The Shed for lunch, a recommendation from one of the winery owners we had met. It was busy, but we got a table, and were so happy we made it our choice, very good authentic NM food! We were both stuffed, and eventually made it home, wanting to see the MoHo as we had scheduled a local guy to give the old girl a much-needed bath. Would have been nice if the rain had held off a few days, as it had already rained a bit and kicked up some dust onto the windows, but at least the heavy layer of road grime was gone.
Our last day in Santa Fe, we returned to town and hit another couple of breweries and recommended restaurant, the Blue Corn Café and Brewery. Traci said this was probably the best Quesadilla she had ever had, and she is a bit of an expert; again, very good beer and food, leaving us full and satisfied. We relaxed back at the park, and started to get ready for our trip the next day to Raton, a halfway point between Santa Fe and Denver.
We made it to Raton, and stayed at the KOA in town. It was odd as we had made the reservation online, and when we arrived the office was closed for lunch, but our reservation was on the board, so we made it to our site and set up quickly. We stayed here one night and left the next day for Denver, without any interaction with any of the staff, a first for us. While in Raton, we made a drive out to the Capulin Volcano National Monument. This was a volcano that you can drive up to the top and peer down inside the crater. It was stormy that day, and we actually drove through a bunch of hail on the roadway, a bit slick like snow. With the storms in the area, the N.P. Rangers closed the hiking trails around the crater, but we still could get a great view of the area, as well as a pack of mule deer in the upper portions of the crater. We headed back to the MoHo, after another back road drive, seeing only 3 other cars over the 50-mile trip back to Raton via that route. We were way out in the middle of nowhere, and it was some beautiful country. So glad we made time on the trip to explore New Mexico more, very dramatic high desert country with amazing geological formations around. The cold temps were definitely a shock to the system, but worth it to see this area.