2008.07.03 Driving the Enchanted Circle

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We continued our tradition of hitting the road later than planned by departing Eagle Nest at 10:15, when 9:00 was our goal. We took off on the road to Taos, as part of our Enchanted Circle drive. The drive between Eagle Nest and Taos is quite curvy, and just about every member of our family has got at least a little queasy in the stomach at one time or another, during this drive. The good news is that we have not required the use of a barf bag (yet).

Driving into the historic downtown area of Taos, we passed several resorts and classic motels. We would describe a classic motel as one with an original sign (preferably in neon), and all of the rooms are on the first floor where you can drive right up to your room. They had some good looking ones in Taos.

 

Traveling Kings being welcomed to Taos

 

We parked near the Taos Plaza, down the street from the Bend Museum. Scott and Erin went to grab some lunch, and the rest of us went off in search of bargains. (Especially the kids as this would be their last legitimate opportunity to spend their vacation money.) The Taos Plaza was a big square with shops lined up on all four sides. The only disappointing feature was that there were no vendors lined up selling their wares (such as turquoise jewelry) on blankets lining the square, as I am told they do in Santa Fe.

 

Resting at the Taos Plaza

 

We had only walked through a few stores when Scott reached me on the two-way radio. (We have been using the two-way radios to communicate between vehicles on the trip.) He asked if Stephanie had a sewing kit with her. We did not have anything of the sort, so he had to explain that the button holding his shorts up had fallen off. Lucky for Scott, I was wearing a belt, so we met up in the “Made in New Mexico” store on the Plaza and I gave him my belt. Life was better for Scott from that point. The “Made in New Mexico” store was a great place. Everything in the store was handmade by people in New Mexico. They also had a good collection of books about New Mexico as well. The salesclerk working in the story was joyful and boisterous. KK even mentioned to her that she was the friendliest person in New Mexico we had seen. For whatever reason, every restaurant we have been to has had poor service, and it seems most of interactions with folks have been lacking in customer service. But not this store! I would recommend it as a stop for anybody in Taos.

After spending almost two hours shopping on the Plaza, my family loaded up in the van and we went off in search of a picnic area. The traffic was ridiculously heavy in town, as folks arriving for the Independence Day weekend started to show up. It was terribly hot (over 90 degrees), so we were in search of shade. We finally found a few benches, grass, and shade in the parking lot of some businesses. We backed in and ate our lunch. It seemed like it was 20 degrees cooler in the shade. I’m sure it has something to do with the altitude. While it was pleasant outside, for some reason Miles likes to sit in the front seat, with the doors closed, listening to music on the car radio. I guess it is his only time to be in charge of the radio.

After lunch, it was back to the Taos Plaza for more shopping. Scott and Erin were shopping for a New Mexico picture frame (we had found ours at the “Made in New Mexico” store!) but could not find exactly what they were looking for. Well, what do you do in that situation? You make your own! They found a store where you could paint and decorate your own picture frame, so they did that. That was a very cool idea. They had to leave the frame at the store, because they could not fire it up in the kiln until the next day, so it will be mailed to them.

During a lot of this post lunch shopping and picture frame painting, PK and KK were resting comfortably under a shade tree. KK read the paper and PK even took a nap. Life is full of simple pleasures!

The predictable afternoon rain showed up about 3:00 and we walked back to the van just in time before it started sprinkling. But on our way back to the van, I was walking past a man sitting near the exit of our shopping area. He said to me, “Go Cowboys!” as I was wearing my Oklahoma State t-shirt. Of course, I replied back, and then he told me that he was selling handmade soap. All-natural handmade soap that is chemical free. Well, he had my attention, so I walked over to him and let him give me his sales pitch. He had been making soap this morning and he had some odds and ends that he was selling. They all had different fragrances. They smelled great! Miles and I decided on the “wild musk” fragrance. I decided to get two pieces of soap. He also made candles, but he did not have any of those with him. His company name is Nature’s Emporium Soap Company and his website is www.CherokeeSoap.com. Check him out and buy some natural soap!

 

We bought handmade, organic, chemical-free soap from this man

 

We got out of town and the next stop was the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. The Rio Grande has carved a channel out of the Taos valley that would remind you of the Grand Canyon, just not to that scale. The bridge itself is a tourist attraction. As we drove across it, you couldn’t help but slow down just to admire the view. The state of New Mexico has wisely put in a Rest Area at one end of the bridge, so we pulled off there, and then hiked over to the bridge and walked on it, as they have sidewalks and lookouts on each side of the bridge. It was a breathtaking view, but I will admit that it was a little troubling how much the bridge shook when a car would drive by.

 

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge with the Taos Ski Valley in the background

 

Family at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

 

After our view of the bridge, we continued our trip on the Enchanted Circle. Much of the drive was on the valley floor, but there were lots of trees and elevation changes, so it was an interesting drive. As we got back into the mountains and began the drive back to Elizabethtown, in several places we could see the “tailings” of mining operations. The tailings are what they take out of the earth and just spew out on the mountainside. It is definitely not attractive, and Stephanie has some real concerns about how healthy that can be. We also passed one active mine, operated by Chevron, that was right alongside the road. We found out later that it is just barely active, and operates a skeleton crew. They are mining a material that helps harden steel, but I did not catch the name of the material.

Early this morning, I had made a reservation for 4 (myself, Mallory, Scott and Erin) to go horseback riding on Friday, July 4th. When we got into Red River, we stopped at the business I made the reservations with so that I could pay them for the ride. However, when I got there, he said he had been trying to reach me and they were not having any rides tomorrow. The earliest rides were Saturday, but that is our day to start heading back. I had a very despondent 8 year old at that point. But as luck would have it, the Red River Stables were at the edge of town, so on a desperate whim, we pulled in there to see what they had to offer. A cowboy named “Banker Bob” told me they would certainly be open and we made our horseback riding reservation for 4:00 on Independence Day. Mallory couldn’t be happier.

We got back to the hacienda about 6:30, just in time to meet up with our dinner guests, the Mutz’s, whose ranch we are staying at. Robert and Jenny Mutz, along with their daughter, Beni Jo, and her son (Jonathan) and friend (Ken), joined us for dinner. I grilled the ribeyes while Erin single-handedly put together a spread that would make any rancher proud – green beans, peas and baked potatoes. Scott made homemade vanilla ice cream that went great with the rhubarb cake that Beni Jo brought. (Miles turned his ice cream into a milkshake.)

 

KK and PK visit with the Mutz family before dinner

 

Throughout dinner, and after dinner, the Mutzes entertained us with stories of the area, and of the old gold mining days. One interesting fact is that Elizabethtown (the ghost town in which we are staying) was the first incorporated town in New Mexico. At one time there were 5,000 people living in the area, chasing the gold that was discovered on the surrounding hillsides. It had its own history of gunslingers and outlaws. We also learned that Ted Turner owns practically half the state of New Mexico, and that his property begins just beyond a mountaintop across the road from us.

I had been telling Miles all day that he would want to pull up a chair and listen in on the stories that were going to be told, and I was glad to see that he joined us (albeit after the stories of Bigfoot and UFOs that he would have reallyenjoyed). Robert had us laughing at his stories, and Ken was trying to freak us out with some ghost stories, which Miles really didn’t mind at all.

By the end of the night, we were all miserable from eating so much at dinner. I think that everybody went to bed a little earlier tonight than we had been doing all week!

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