October 20, 2013

Southwest Dreaming-on Vacation in New Mexico with Cari Marsi

I don’t live in New Mexico, but wish I did. I fell in love with the American Southwest the night my family and I slept under a starry sky in the New Mexico desert when I was thirteen. We and another family were driving back from the West Coast to our home in Delaware. This was before the interstates when there were few motels anywhere and when Route 66 was still a thriving roadway. One night we found ourselves in New Mexico with no place to stay. So we slept in the desert, the women and children in the cars and the dads outside. It was a wondrous experience, one of the most amazing of my life. I’ve been in love with the Southwest ever since.

New Mexico, and the entire Southwest, is awe-inspiring, mysterious and deeply spiritual. The Native Americans who first settled there have left their mark in every way. Like the beautiful Indian rugs, their history and their spirituality is woven into the tapestry of the Southwest.

When we got home from that first trip, I wrote a poem about the desert. My poem was full of angst as only a thirteen-year-old girl could feel. Please don’t laugh, but here are the first lines:
“I came, I saw
 I left my heart behind
 In the Western desertland.”

I’m no poet, but that describes my feelings. I’ve yearned for the Southwest desert ever since. Years later, in 1998, my husband, my son and I took a trip to the Southwest, not to New Mexico, but to Arizona. It was their first trip to that part of the country and my first time back to the desert since that family vacation all those years ago. Since then, my husband and I have made eight trips to the Southwest, mostly Arizona and Nevada. Finally, in late 2012 I went back to New Mexico.

No sleeping in the desert this time, but we stayed at a wonderful motel called “The Santa Fe Motel and Inn,” a fifteen-minute walk to the historic plaza. Our son flew in from his home in Las Vegas and spent a few days with us.

Santa Fe is beautiful, quaint, and filled with art, history and great restaurants. We arrived there late in the day and were anxious for dinner. The hotel manager directed us to the Cowgirl Bar & Grill, famous for their barbeque and their music. We ate at the outdoor patio, and even though it was chilly, a good time was had by all.

Our first full day, we walked from our motel to Santa Fe’s plaza. We had lunch at the historic La Fonda Hotel down the street from the beautiful Basilica of St. Francis. Santa Fe was crowded and very warm for September. We walked around the plaza, enjoying the shops and galleries.

We like to tour the countryside wherever we go. The next day we headed out of Santa Fe to Los Alamos, site of the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb. At Los Alamos we visited the Bradbury Science Museum, devoted to the Manhattan Project. I thought it was named after the science-fiction writer, Ray Bradbury. Not so. It’s named after Norris E. Bradbury, the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory’s second director. My husband and son were fascinated by everything in the museum. Me, not so much. I’m more interested in American Indian culture.

It was back to Santa Fe the next day where we went to the Georgia O’Keeffe museum. This is a must-see when in Santa Fe. What an extraordinary artist she was. I could have spent the whole day there.

Every day at the Governor’s Palace in the plaza, Native Americans gather to sell their crafts—mostly jewelry and pottery. I bought another turquoise and silver bracelet to wear with the three others I’d bought on trips to Arizona. Put me anywhere with jewelry and I’m a happy camper. But don’t put me in a real camper. I want a nice hotel bed.

On our way to the Albuquerque airport to drop off our son for his trip back to Vegas, we took the scenic Turquoise Trail and stopped at the quaint town of Madrid (not pronounced like the city in Spain, but with the accent on the first syllable). Madrid was once a bustling mining town that went on the descent when the mine closed. Now I know where all the Sixties hippies went. They’re in Madrid. The movie, “Wild Hogs” was filmed there. We sat at the bar in one of the “earthy” restaurants and had a few beers. We could have stayed there all day soaking up the laid-back atmosphere. Madrid is definitely a must stop on any trip to the area.

One of the things I remembered from that first trip to New Mexico long ago was seeing ancient cliff dwellings from the highway as we sped past. I so wanted to see cliff dwellings on this trip, ones I could climb into, but we never found them. I learned later we went by the entrance to the dwellings I wanted, but I’d not done my research beforehand so we missed them. Drat! I’ll just have to go back.

We did see Pecos National Park, which contains ruins of American Indian dwellings, and we also spent a few hours at Taos Pueblo. Taos Pueblo is the oldest, continuously lived in community in the United States. The Pueblo Indians have lived there since the 1200’s. At Taos Pueblo we had some interesting conversations with shop owners and residents. Truly awe-inspiring to see how these deeply spiritual people are so connected to their land.

Another cool place is the artsy town of Taos. We spent an enjoyable afternoon there going in and out of shops and art galleries, then dinner—delicious burritos—at a brewpub. Every single meal we had in New Mexico was exquisite, whether at a pub or an elegant restaurant. Loved, loved the New Mexican style food.

My heart has always belonged in the Southwest. I want to go back to Santa Fe and tour those cliff dwellings. We were there a week, but only touched the surface of all there is to see and do.

Maybe someday I’ll live in the Southwest, as my heart desires. Until then, I’ll be Southwest dreaming.
Please visit my website at www.caramarsi.com to learn about my books and read excerpts. I’m on social media and always glad to make new friends.

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(pictures provided by author)


  1. What a wonderful travelogue you gave us today. Makes me want to book the next flight to NM.

  2. Cara--Very nice. We lived in Las Vegas, NM for one year in 1970. My husband taught at the university. During that year, we took our two elementary age children and roamed all over the place. We and they did things we'd never done and have not done since, and as adults our kids still remember that magical time in NM. Our daughter swears she can still smell the pungent odors of the pine trees. During those years, there was too much unrest among the Spanish speaking residents and the Anglos, so we and other had to leave. Very sad. We lived in a real adobe house, pine floors and pine vigas on the ceilings and a small round adobe fireplace. We loved Santa Fe, too. Thanks for the memories.

  3. We've visited Nevada and Arizona on numerous occasions and my husband would love to live out West. You just made me want to visit New Mexico as well!

  4. Very interesting and informative. My son tells me that Santa Fe is beautiful, hope to go one day.

  5. Thank you, Annette, for having me. Thank you, Karen, Celia and Jacqueline.

    Karen, I hope you visit NM. It's an experience you'll never forget.

    Celia, what an interesting experience you had when you lived there. Thankfully, the unrest doesn't seem to exist any more.

    Jacqueline, I know how your husband feels. I need to convince my husband to move to the Southwest. By all means, visit NM too..

  6. Margaret, thanks for commenting. Your son is right about Santa Fe. I hope you get a chance to go.

  7. Having lived in the Southwest a number of years and having visited New Mexico (Santa Fe and Taos), I can agree with you about the beauty and aura of the area. It is an area that permeates your being. Am wondering how much the culture you may have included in your books. Will check out your links.

  8. I live in Texas, but have only been to New Mexico to snow ski...it was beautiful!!! Reading this makes me want to go back!

  9. Great post, Cara! I've been to the southwest and was amazed by its beauty.

    Love your books! Best of luck.


  10. Cari,
    I made a similar journey when I was fourteen. New Mexico has an almost mystical quality attached to the land. While beautiful, I personally long for the high mountains in nearby Colorado. I hope you get to visit NW often, but selfishly, I like you in Pennsylvania.

  11. Lovely blog. You captured the feel of New Mexico and the desert Southwest. I'm on my second move to AZ and I hope to stay in the west this time. I have a Route 66 tee shirt that I bought in Gallup on an Elderhostel trip to the Pueblo reservation. Loved the town of MAdrid and Sky City Acama. Thanks for the memories.

  12. I've been to Albuquerque twice for a Women Writing the West conference and once took an extra day to travel up to Sante Fe. I enjoyed NM too. I'm a Montana native, lived in WA state 17 years, but now live in north-central AZ. I love the southwest too!

  13. What a beautiful post. I felt like I was along with you for the trip. I'd love to see the southwest at least more than my trip to Vegas. It's such a magical place. Like you, I love the Native culture and would enjoy walking where they walked.

  14. What a wonderful article on NM, Cara. I love that state, and believe their claim of being the Enchanted State is very true. From Carlsbad Caverns thru Santa Fe and Taos and out the other end at Gallup, I love every bit of that state. Living there would be a dream come true. I wake up more refreshed when I sleep in NM than at any other time - strange, but true. Thanks for taking me down memory lane!

  15. Oh wow, now I have another place I want to visit.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

  16. Cara, I, also, love the Southwest. I haven't been to Santa Fe, but I have been to Albuquere, and to fly in there is magnificent. I have been to Arizona and Nevada many times and love it. I love all parts of our great country.

  17. New Mexico does have a magical lure. We travel through the state when we journey from Colorado to Texas. I love Taos area and not for the skiing.
    Thanks for sharing your memories. And, thanks for the terrific romance stories you write for us.

  18. Thank you for your comments, everyone. You've all made me nostalgic for the SW. I so want to move there, to Arizona, but I'll take Nevada and NM too. The spirituality of NM an AZ touches my soul. Whenever I fly into the SW, I feel that I've come home. I don't set my stories there, having learned early on that I should write about places I know, like the Jersey Shore and the East Coast. I don't feel I could ever do justice to the majesty and sweeping beauty of the SW. That's where my heart is. But sadly, not my body, at least not yet.

  19. I love the Southwest, except in the summer. Thanks for taking us on your trip!

  20. We took a trip to New Mexico a few years ago. I agree it is a wonderful place. Loved the hiking in the National Parks. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  21. This is an area of the country I've never been to, but husband has, and he wants to go back. Unlike you, we love to camp, and as long as I can drag my own bed with me, I'm game. I'm not as fond of heat and desert as he is...but you made it sound like a great place to visit. Thanks.

  22. Hi, Cara,

    Thanks for introducing me to the experience of New Mexico! I've always heard it was a one-of-a-kind place, and you really brought it to life. I'd love to visit someday.


  23. Thanks for the New Mexico trip. Beautiful state, wonderful food. For me? Nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.
    Radine--still in love with the Arkansas Ozarks.

  24. Thanks, everyone. For those of you who have never visited NM, I hope you get a chance to go. It's such a magical, spiritual place that leaves an impression on you. It did me all those years ago.


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