Road Trip to Southeastern New Mexico
via San Antonio (Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Refuge), Cloudcroft and Cedar Crest (Turquoise Trail)

(11 April to 15 April 2014)

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New Mexico is such a fun state to explore, and even though it is huge (all 122,000 square miles or 316,000 sq km) and I've been to a few places, I thought I just had to add on a few more.  I opted to try and stay off the Interstates as much as possible in an attempt to have a quiet drive rather than face so many crazies in a constant hurry.

I sailed on down the I-25 out of Colorado and down to Las Vegas, NM (yes, there is more than one Las Vegas) to gas up before heading on just a little further down the pike.  I took the NM-3 south at Ribera (make sure you gas up before you take this exit as there aren't any gas stations for ages!) and enjoyed the really quiet road.  Lots of abandoned homes and farms along the way but there is life along this stretch, with the Pecos River for company some of the way.  And it's quite beautiful with all the high red rocks lining the winding road.  I wasn't in that much of a rush so I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the journey.  I had to chuckle at the funny road sign I came across.

This long stretch of very quiet road took me about an hour and 15mins to reach US-60 where I went west to the Interstate and south to my destination for the night, San Antonio.  I swear if I saw three cars along NM-3, it was a lot.  I listened to a book on CD which made the drive a little less "solo".  The peacefulness of being off the beaten track is indescribable, and although the scenery is mostly flatland with a few trees here and there, a couple of cattle now and then, it was lovely.  This trip involved quite a lot of driving and I think even though it took a long time, perhaps longer than had I stayed on I-25 all the way, it was much more pleasant. 

I reached my destination for the night, San Antonio, around 5.30pm, which means I'd been on the road for about 8½ hours.  I checked into my bed and breakfast, the Casa Blanca Bed and Breakfast, popped out for something to eat at the Buckhorn Tavern, and had a great night's sleep despite the green chile burger from Hell!  It was so hot my lips and mouth were almost paralyzed.  Someone at GQ Magazine and/or the New York Times must have had a cast-iron stomach to have rated them so highly.  I scraped the chile off the other half and washed it down with a light beer.  Service was slow and overall I wasn't impressed.

The next morning, after a delicious breakfast and cozy chat with Phoebe and Phil, I headed off south on NM-1 to the famed Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in search of whatever I could find.  As luck would have it, I saw quite a lot despite it being off-season.  I spent an inordinate amount of time at the visitors center watching the birds at the feeders.  I saw a good variety of birds and managed to get some photos.  You must visit the cactus garden, and hopefully you'll see some of the exquisite cactus flowers.  It was a joy being able to drive around the loop and be almost the only car there.  Tranquil and very calming.  I couldn't begin to image the traffic in-season!  Oh, and apparently, it's pronounced, BossKay.

Reading the brochure I picked up at the visitors center, I learned that winter has the best selection of birdlife, from bald eagles, geese, herons, sandhill cranes and ducks, as well as bobcats, javalinas and deer.  There are both walking and biking trails but be sure to check out where and when you can and cannot go.  It's a spectacularly beautiful place to visit, and don't be in a hurry.  There is something to see all year round.

After my three hours trotting around the refuge, it was back on the road towards the White Sands National Monument.  I headed east on NM-380, which was a lovely drive, towards Carrizozo (say that in a hurry!) and noticed a sign that said "Billy the Kid Country".  Then I headed south on a very nice drive along NM-54 to Tularosa, and this is where I came across some rather spectacular lava fields, which is part of the Valley of Fires.  Unfortunately I didn't (and couldn't) stop and take some photos!.  The closer I got to Tularosa, which was about the most built-up area I had seen, I noticed neat rows of trees, which it turns out, were pistachio trees.
Then it was south on US-70 through the sprawling city of Alamogordo to the White Sands National Monument just past Holloman Air Force Base.  Thankfully there wasn't any missile testing going on and therefore no road closures.  Yes, this is an active area.

There are lots of things one can do in the dunes, like hike, bike rides, horse ride, picnic and even sled down the dunes.  However, the wind was blowing viciously and there was no way I was getting out of the car and taking a hike only to be covered by pure white sand and never found again.  You are strongly urged to take (and consume) water and not be caught without any.  The dunes themselves are really something to see, and change as the wind blows.  I would loved to have taken the Alkali Flat Trail to see the dunes in all their glory, but the wind was too strong.  The landscape looked a lot like a winter wonderland with all that white about.  The visitor center is interesting and shouldn't be missed.

Soon it was back along US-70 through Alamogordo and east to Cloudcroft along the very lovely drive on NM-82.  Cloudcroft is a cute little place, bigger than I initially thought, but you could miss it if you blinked!  Cloudcroft is a little ski area and they are quite high in elevation (8650 ft), so it's a little cooler where they are.  The bed and breakfast for the night was The Crofting, up a hill and in amongst many beautiful trees.  Blissfully quiet.  I didn't take any photos along this road as it was so curvy and not the safest thing to do!  I should have taken a trot down the hill and into "town" to check things out, but I was so tired that all I wanted to do was unwind.

I asked about the road to Ruidoso, NM-244, and was told it was a beautiful drive, so that's what I did.  I was warned that there might be horses and cattle on the roads and to be careful.  It turned out to be one of the most lovely drives I can remember, and I highly recommend you take this as an alternative.  The road meets up with US-70 going north to the city of Ruidoso Downs, and if there is any horse racing the day you are there, you can go!  It's a lovely little place and apparently is becoming quite a popular place to where many are relocating.  Lovely mountains and good, clean air help.


I went north on NM-48 (which branches out to NM-37) and then took the NM-37 back to Carrizozo which was a very pleasant trip.  On the advice of a very nice young police official I met at the gas station the day before, I took the NM-54 north to Corona.  I really was keeping to the quieter roads and it made a huge difference in the stress I would have had to endure on busier roads.

It was then north on NM-42 to Willard and for a short distance west on US-60 where I branched off at the NM-41 north junction en route to Moriarty and back to an Interstate, I-40.  It was about a 30-minute drive west to the NM-14 at Cedar Crest, which is the start (or finish) of the Turquoise Trail.  See my complete route here.

My next stop was to check into the Elaine's Bed and Breakfast for the night, and what a welcome sight it was.  Up a dirt road past some horse paddocks and up the hill to a rather secluded home on the hill.  I was hungry and went in search of something to eat and decided that as it was still light outside, despite the high winds and heavy clouds, I would quickly drive up and see the Sandia Crest.  10,000 feet in the air was not to be sneezed at.  The drive up NM-536 through the Cibola National Forest and Sandia Mountains was really beautiful, and once again, I was one of about three cars on the road.  The summit would have afforded me a mindblowing view, but because it was very cloudy, very windy and very cold, I couldn't see much.  I dashed out and took a few photos and drove down again.  Actually, I sailed down because I took a chance and started the ascent (14 miles) with just two bars of gas left and the car telling me I had just 38 miles left!  The steep incline sucked the gas and by the time I got to the top of the crest, I was about out of gas, literally.

At the foot of this road you'll come across the eccentric Tinkertown, which if you have kids with you, will love it.  There is also a gas station at the foot of the hill!  I went in to take a look around Tinkertown and am glad I did.  Forty years in the making, this collection of junk-into-art is phenomenal.  The little surprises are numerous, and I would certainly recommend you make a stop here, and spend at least a hour checking things out.  It's really a lot of fun.

So, after years of planning and trying to get to the Turquoise Trail, I was about to fulfil a dream.  I headed off north on NM-14 along the 50-ish miles towards Santa Fe in search of what I could discover.  Not much for quite a while until you get out in the country as it were.  There I came across a few delapidated buildings, and then drove some more.  I didn't take much notice of anything until I reach Madrid, all the while trying to visualize the "Wild Hogs" walking that stretch of road before arriving in Madrid.  Didn't work for me.  I found a rather tatty-yet-arty looking town complete with brightly painted homes and signs advertising art and galleries and such.  It's quite pretty to drive through as they've painted the houses/stores bright colors but it's a short drive and not that exciting.  It was bitterly cold that day and I did stop in at Maggie's Diner to see what was what.  It's not a diner!  It's another souvenir store stuffed to the gills with t-shirts, hats, caps, bandanas and other stuff.  I took a few photos of the "trail" and headed off towards Cerillos.  That was even worse!

Quite honestly, upon entering Cerillos, I wasn't sure whether or not I was in the Ghost Town.  If I was, then I missed the sign.  I rather think I was not as there was a tour I could have taken but didn't have time for.  Anyhow, it was a shambles, with a few deadbeats walking the street sucking on a beer can in a paper bag looking the worse for wear.  I found a sweet-looking church and an olde worlde hotel, neither of which looked very inviting.  The Petting Zoo was a joke—$2 to feed a tired old llama and a few chickens and a couple of something elses.  I popped into the "museum" and took a few photos but the two behind the counter weren't all that interested in me and kept on yakking to some other person.  Even the visitors center wasn't open.  I couldn't wait to get out of there.

I was now headed home north on NM-14 which became Hwy 84/285 to Espanola and I should have bypassed Santa Fe.  However, I couldn't resist swinging by the Georgia O'Keeffe museum to pick up some more of the postcards-in-a-book.    Before long I was heading north on Hwy-68 to Taos and then east on Hwy-64 to Raton and ultimately, the I-25 north home.  The drive along Hwy-68 to Taos turned out to be another unexpected joy.  Once again, because I was traveling out of season and before the schools closed, I was almost solo on this lovely road.  The closer I got to Taos I could see the Royal Gorge in the distance and the snow-sprinkled mountains that are Taos!  I really love this place.

After sitting for so long, and tired of driving but still having about four hours to go, I needed to stretch my legs.  As you enter Taos, the fabulous Adobe Pines Inn is on your right.  I recalled they have a labyrinth, so I pulled in, asked Kelsey if I could walk their labyrinth, and she said it would be fine.  So, I took a deep breath, tried to clear my mind and began to walk slowly.  As I walked I tried to rid myself of my demons and whatnots, and sent silent prayers out there.  I tried so hard to connect to the Universe.  I love this Inn as they raise their own chickens which means yummy eggs for breakfast!  So, thanks Kelsey, for the refreshing spiritual break on this long journey!

The homeward stretch along Hwy-64 east is one of my favorite roads, and I hadn't planned on coming this way.  The thought of being back on I-25 north from Santa Fe really didn't appeal to me, so once again, I changed my route so that I could enjoy the scenery.  These are some photos from along this lovely stretch of northern New Mexico.

Before long I was a couple hours from home, with the sun slowly setting across the Rockies to my left.  Tired but happy that I had accomplished so much on a long weekend.  There is more New Mexico to discover, in a week or so, and I can't wait.  As you may or may not know, I don't like backtracking, so I try and choose a loop as my route.  I think I succeeded!
I had hoped to see a roadrunner and did see one, but it scurried across the road so quickly that I didn't have time to actually "see" it never mind take a photo!  New Mexico was extremely windy for the most part of the trip, and especially in the open areas and more so down south.  For the most part the weather was fine and I didn't need any heavy coats or boots, but the brilliant blue skies were limited and I did run across some snow in places.


Accommodations
Casa Blanca Bed and Breakfast   The Crofting   Elaine's Bed and Breakfast

Casa Blanca Bed and Breakfast


My first night on this trip was in San Antonio at Casa Blanca Bed and Breakfast.  Situated on a dead end road which made for a lovely quiet night, Phoebe and Phil welcomed me into their lovely home.  It's spacious and very comfortable, especially the room I had, the Heron Room.  Such a huge bathroom with a shower and/or whirlpool which was a wonderful choice.  My large bed was so comfortable, and after such a long drive, it beckoned to be slept in.  Phoebe has a kazillion books around the home, so if you need something to read, you're bound to find something.  Information on the wildlife refuge was forthcoming and I couldn't wait to visit in the morning.  I planned to spend as much time as I could spare looking around, even though I was just out of season and couldn't expect much.  I loved the patio at the back of the house, complete with fireplace, but unfortunately didn't have the opportunity to make use of it.
My breakfast was delicious.  I loved all the fruit, and Phoebe's baked goods were yummy.  The house was spotlessly clean and I loved the Tiffany-style lamps about the place.  It was nice hearing that visitors come back year after year, which says a lot about this B&B.
PLEASE NOTE: This B&B is closed from 1 April to 30 September.  Seasonal dates to coincide with the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge whose peak time is during winter!  Contact details.
Here's my TripAdvisor review.



The Crofting Bed and Breakfast

My second night was in Cloudcroft at The Crofting Bed and Breakfast, a charming if not huge home that was converted to a B&B.  Gail told me that the entire "attic" was all converted into bedrooms and that the décor is made up of all personal belongings.  Gail and Scott's beautiful home, with many, many rooms to choose from, was very comfortable and begged to be explored.  I sat at their table downstairs chatting, caught up on emails and later took a refreshing shower before falling into bed.  There were many gorgeous quilts around, many of which I just had to get a closer look.  The house itself was built in 1906 and is half-way up a hill, nestled amid huge pine trees.  Must be perfect in the middle of summer!  My bed was extremely comfortable and I had a great sleep.  My room, Spring #5 had a private shower and loo, a microwave and also a quaint little balcony had I wished to make use of it.  There is a workout room but I forgot (conveniently?) to take a look.  I should have as I might have been able to get in some stretches after all that sitting and driving!
Gail's breakfast was delicious and wholesome (I hope you can try her cranberry/jalapeño relish!) and I felt fortunate to have her say a blessing wishing me a good and safe trip.  You don't get that often.  Scott, her husband, is a nice fella and we chatted briefly as well.  You'll probably be greeted by Penny the very friendly dog, but, beware of the vicious guard dog in the form of Moose, the Chihuahua!  Contact details.
Here's my TripAdvisor review



Elaine's, A Bed and Breakfast

My third and final night was at Elaine's Bed and Breakfast in Cedar Crest.  Up a narrow dirt road far away from everything, Elaine's B&B turned out to be a haven I craved.  All was very quiet, with balconies and patios all around the house that offered vistas of the surrounding Sandia Mountains and the Manzano Mountains in the distance.  Although very windy still, and the log house creeking, it was romantic and felt very safe.  The huge logs that held the place together were amazing, and the high ceilings didn't go unnoticed.  I loved the huge room I was given, the Manzano Room, which had an enormous bed and a luxurious marble bathtub/shower, closet space, a comfortable two-seater, an adorable hooded wicker chair, lamps and gorgeous artworks.  The linens were gorgeous too, and after checking emails and writing notes at the quaint little desk, I could only read a line or two from my book before I fell asleep.  Sometime during the night I heard the heating coming on which just made things cozier!
Elaine is a delightful person who is so welcoming and friendly that you could chat for hours on end.  I loved her dog Manny, and she's friendly and welcoming too.  The décor is fabulous and I couldn't stop myself from bending down and getting a closer look at some of the things.  The large dining table is adjacent to the big and busy kitchen, so as Elaine makes breakfast, and we wait and enjoy coffee, we can all chat.  Very homey.  I walked around the grounds a little in the evening, and the next morning, and loved being outside, but it was getting cold and was threatening to snow.  It did snow that night and we woke up in the morning to a light dusting of snow.
In the morning before breakfast, I was overjoyed to have spotted a few birds despite the cold.  I poked around here and there and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I would have loved to have spent a week there, perhaps working on my book and enjoying the vistas and the quiet solitude.
Breakfast was a mixture of eggs, freshly baked bread rolls, ham, fruit, coffee or tea, juice, delicious and juicy strawberries, and spinach!  Unusual but I loved it!  Contact details.
Here's my TripAdvisor review



Accommodation Contacts

Casa Blanca Bed and Breakfast - 13 Montoya Street, San Antonio, NM 87832
Tel: (575) 835-3027
Web: www.casablancabedandbreakfast.com
E-mail: casablancabandb@hotmail.com
Facebook No
Free wi-fi and off-street parking.
Rates: From $80

The Crofting Inn - 300 Swallow Place, Cloudcroft, NM 88317
Tel: (575) 682-3604
Web: www.thecroftinginn.com
Email: gail@thecroftinginn.com
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/thecroftinginn
Free wi-fi and off-street parking.
Rates: From $119
Elaine's, A Bed and Breakfast - 72 Snowline Road, Cedar Crest, NM 87008
Tel: (505) 281-2467
Web: www.elainesbnb.com
Email: elaine@elainesbnb.com
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Elaines-Bed-and-Breakfast/193419351362
Free wi-fi and off-street parking.
Rates: From $105
Always visit websites for up-to-date rates and/or specials.

Route
Map
Map courtesy of www.nmsouthernskies.com (on which I drew my route!)

This is the route I took, which turned out to be a lot of driving—1,306 miles in total!  I changed it as I went but still ended up with a lot of driving.  I would suggest adding on an extra night if you plan to duplicate this road trip.

  • South on I-25 from Colorado Springs into New Mexico;
  • South on NM-3 (near Ribera) to I-40 and then South to Encino;
  • West on US-60 to I-25 (which is south of Albuquerque);
  • South on I-25 to San Antonio;
  • East on US-380 to Carrizozo;
  • South on NM-54 to Tularosa;
  • South on US-70 to White Sands via Alamogordo and back;
  • East on NM-82 to Cloudcroft;
  • North on NM-244 to US-70 and North to Ruidoso;
  • North NM-48 then East on NM-37 to Carrizozo;
  • North on NM-54 to Corona;
  • North on NM-42 to Willard (go West on US-60 for a short distance to the junction with NM-41 North and then North to Moriarty on I-40);
  • West on I-40 to Cedar Crest (about 30 minutes);
  • North on NM-14 to do the Turquoise Trail and further North to Santa Fe;
  • Follow signs HWY 84/285 to Espanola;
  • North on Hwy 68 to Taos and East on Hwy 64 to Raton to hook up with I-25 North and home!

You could begin and end this trip in Albuquerque which would cut out an enormous amount of driving, but you'd not go to or through both Santa Fe and Taos.

Contacts   Contact Me
Enterprise Rent-A-Car
(Motor City Branch, Colorado Springs, CO):  I was assigned a little Nissan Versa Note which is the cutest thing on four wheels!  It was compact yet very comfortable and very light on gas.  The four-day period was $14.56 per day (sans any extra add-ons) and totalled $72.30.  Unlimited mileage also!  As per usual, I checked and rechecked rates prior to departure and came up with this relatively low rate (it started out at a total of $104.00!).  I got approximately 40-44 mpg in this cute car.  I drove a total of 1,306 miles.
As usual, Enterprise offered me a great service and I highly recommend you try them.
Web: www.enterprise.com  Tel: (719) 635-8029   Toll-free (Reservations): 1-800-261-7331   Toll-free (Customer Service): 1-800-264-6350
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/enterpriserentacar


Sights and Contacts and Links
Make the most of your trip by investigating online as to what there is to see and do in the area/s you intend visiting.  It saves time and you might discover other things to see and do that you never knew about.
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge - 1001 Highway 1, San Antonio, NM 87832
Exit 139 off I-25 (San Antonio), right at flashing light on to NM-1 and go 8 miles to the Visitor Center)
Tel: (575) 835-1828
Website: http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Bosque_del_Apache/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BosquedelApacheNWR
Fee: $5 per car per day (I used my Federal National Park Pass)
or
Website: http://www.friendsofthebosque.org/
Tel: (575) 835-1828
E-mail: friends@sdc.org
Make this an outing you'll never forget.  Peak time is during winter but worth going anytime.
It's pronounced, BossKay.


Buckhorn Tavern - 68 Highway 380, San Antonio, NM 87832
Tel: (575) 835-4423


White Sands National Monument - 19955 Highway 70 West, Alamogordo, NM 88310
Tel: ((575) 479-6124
Website: http://www.nps.gov/whsa
E-mail: whsa_interpretation@nps.gov
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nationalparkservice
Fee: $3 per person (I used my Federal National Park Pass)
A lovely gallery to spend some time in, so do visit.


Sandia Crest - NM Highway 536, off NM-14 at Cedar Crest, NM
Website: http://www.go-newmexico.com/Sandia-Crest-Byway/
Fee: $3 parking fee
Worth the 14-mile drive for the spectactular views in the Cibola National Forest.


Tinkertown Museum - 121 Sandia Crest Road, Sandia Park, NM 87047
Tel: (505) 281-5233
Website: www.tinkertown.com
E-mail: tinker4u@tinkertown.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Tinkertown
Fee: ADULTS: $3.50   GEEZERS (62+): $3.00   KIDS 4-16: $1.00   KIDS Under 4: Free
Unbelievably diverse collection of junk-into-art and a lot of fun to walk around.  Great for children.
Tinkertown is located on the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway in Sandia Park on NM Highway 536, on the way to the Sandia Crest.


Turquoise Trail - NM-14 between Cedar Crest in the south and Santa Fe in the north)
Turquoise Trail Association, PO Box 303, Sandia Park, NM 87047
Website: http://www.turquoisetrail.org/
E-mail: trail@turquoisetrail.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Turquoise-Trail-National-Scenic-Byway-The-Perfect-Day-Trip/10262432951
Not very inspiring and rather tatty in places.  Madrid is worth stopping to look but it's nothing spectacular.


Cerrillos (Petting Zoo and Ghost Town) on the Turquoise Trail - North end of NM-14
Website: www.turquoisetrail.org/stops/category/cerrillos/
Depressing even though it's noted as a ghost town.  Couldn't see the ghost town but the town itself is pretty deserted.  Petting zoo is a joke and museum full of junk.


Labyrinth at Adobe & Pines Inn B&B - 4107 US-68, Ranchos de Taos, NM 87557
Tel: (575) 751-0947   Toll-free: 1-800-723-8267
Website: www.adobepines.com
E-mail: mail@adobepines.com
A walk in this lovely and peaceful labyrinth is just what I needed after so much sitting and driving.  I asked for permission to use it beforehand.

Prices quoted were correct at the time, April 2014.

E-mail:  pettprojects@yahoo.com

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