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.
(pictures provided by author)
(pictures provided by author)