4 days and 600 miles through New Mexico in a cherry red VW Beetle. From Santa Fe, the highest state capital in the United States, to the untouched wilderness of the Gila National Forest…all the way down to Silver City, first stop on the Continental Divide trail. A night in Truth or Consequences with a dip in the natural hot springs, an afternoon at Ladder Ranch and at long last, a return trip to Albuquerque for a well-earned Cinco de Mayo party. I brought my Mum along for the ride; a pre-Mother’s day trip that we’ll never forget. Today, and in two more upcoming posts, I’ll share our stories from the road.
We were invited to visit New Mexico as part of a food tour that brought me together with some of my peers in the food blogging world. I asked my Mum if she’d like to join and she answered a resounding “yes!” before we knew the itinerary; before we learned, for instance, that we’d be trekking through mountains and valleys and desert and rain in a car that could fit inside of our family’s SUV.
Living in New York City means that I’m not much of a driver, and when I do drive to our lake house, it’s an hour door-to-door; nothing like the open road in New Mexico where mirages form and tumbleweeds blow.
This trip – never mind the meals we’d tackle, booze we’d guzzle, hills we’d hike, and art we’d view – would be a navigational feat in and of itself.
But we had the right ingredients: enthusiasm and a sense of adventure.
We drove long hours, passing a changing landscape, each view more beautiful than the last. We met restauranteurs, chefs, winemakers, distillers, tour guides, biochemists, and hoteliers. We learned their stories and marveled at the deeply-rooted history that so defines this region.
Two kinds of people live in New Mexico – those who are born there, and those who visit and never leave.
The state is filled with transplants – people who came in search of solitude, beauty, inspiration, and the great outdoors. Others came by accident but never looked back.
“Don’t ask me how I ended up here”, we often heard.
“It’s a long story.”
There were tales of ex-lovers, work assignments, destiny and fate.
“I feel more at home here than I did in Florida…Arizona…Texas…Ohio.”
It’s easy to understand – after just four days, I felt a similar pull. The food was surprisingly sophisticated – from the nuanced molé that we ate at the Santa Fe School of Cooking, to the bubbling dry ice-encased custard at our hotel, The Sierra Grande, in Truth or Consequences. The locals were salt of the earth – generous with their time, eager to answer questions, passionate about their state.
There are too many images to include in one post, so over the course of the next few weeks I’ll share more images from our adventure.
We started out at the Albuquerque International airport after picking up our Beetle. My Mum’s confidence in my driving skills dropped sharply after I fumbled with the keys, lost them for several minutes, and needed help unlocking the trunk. All of this happened before I’d placed the key in the ignition. We kept talk to a minimum, both of us sensing that this would be a very. long. trip.
It didn’t help that just off to the south was a fast-approaching wall of rain; mountains and indigo clouds illuminated by the occasional bolt of lightning.
My mind churned. Both of ours did, guiltily. Our families were safe in their routines; and here we were getting ready to tackle this stormy terrain in something other than a 4-wheel drive off-roading machine.
That is, until a rental attendant pointed out that Santa Fe is due north. We sped out of Albuquerque and one hour later, pulled up to our hotel on a hill: The Lodge at Santa Fe.
After a brief tour of the hotel, we hopped in a cab and headed to Santa Fe’s historic center: a cluster of blocks brimming with artwork, turquoise jewelry, and green chile everything.