The Windy City’s got nothing on Taos
We awoke extremely excited about our destination for the day…the legendary Taos, New Mexico. Our research indicated it’s known for historic adobe buildings like Taos Pueblo, a multistory adobe complex inhabited by Native Americans for centuries. So well preserved they look like they were just built to look old.
We also learned Taos, a longtime artist colony, has many galleries and museums including the Harwood Museum of Art and the Taos Art Museum. Finally, we found out that American frontiersman and folk hero Kit Carson was buried there and Taos was home to the Kit Carson Museum. Another beautifully preserved adobe structure.
Our excitement was quickly tempered by the weather report, which indicated we would be facing a once-a-year wind storm that forecasters described as “dangerous”. Oh boy.
Our 75 mile journey to Taos would take us into northern New Mexico’s high desert and into an area surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. There are two routes that will take you to Taos from Santa Fe – the Low Road and the High Road. The High Road takes you into the mountains for most of the trip. This didn’t seem prudent. We took the scenic Low Road, which follows the Rio Grand River for a good part of the journey, but eventually lands you on twisting mountain roads.
The Rio Grande River and the mountains in the background are breathtaking!
The sun was out and early on we had a peaceful ride along this magnificent river. But the calm quickly changed to some highway anxiety as the wind picked up and tumbleweed started flying across the roads (think Gunsmoke, Wyatt Earp, Big Valley and other old westerns on TV).
We motored on through remote river towns and started to make our steep climb into the mountains. Bart was the Tour’s chauffeur for the day and his grip on the steering wheel produced some serious white knuckles. We stopped about halfway to Taos at the Rio Grande Gorge Visitors Center in the tiny town of Pilar. It’s run by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management.
The staff couldn’t have been nicer, and one knowledgeable woman who worked there highly recommended we cross the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. At 565 feet above the Rio Grande, it’s the seventh highest bridge in the United States. Now Rorie doesn’t like being on bridges on a good day, but can you imagine what it would have been like with 60 mph winds blowing? She informed them “she wouldn’t drive over the bridge even if she had a parachute strapped to her back”. Although the staff assured her it was safe, it wasn’t happening!
We sucked it up and continued our dangerous mission…getting to Taos in one piece. The Tour arrived late morning and set off to explore the town.
We strolled around town for a little while, but quickly figured out walking with our heads down to fight the crazy winds and rapidly dropping temps, was NOT the way to go. Back to the car we went.
It was lunchtime, we were hungry and nothing was going to keep us from enjoying local New Mexican fare. Being foodies, we had researched the local culinary landscape in advance and knew we had to go here…La Cueva.
There’s a reason La Cueva is Yelp’s #1 restaurant in Taos. Neither its exterior facade nor its brilliantly lemon yellow interior were that reason. At this tiny little cafe, it’s all about the food. WOW.
We started with some incredibly tasty homemade guacamole, chips and salsa.
After a hearty lunch of shrimp enchiladas and the best tomato-based tortilla soup ever, along with some great conversation with fellow travelers seated near us, we headed back to Casa Russell in the mountains overlooking New Mexico’s Capital City. Our biggest regret of the day was being unable to connect with Kent Kobakoff, who Bart knew from back in his D.C. days. Hopefully we’ll have smooth sailing when we leave in the morning for our drive to the next stop on the DSTA Tour…Arizona.