The Long Road Home

After a 10-day road trip from Phoenix to Denver, a short visit in Denver, and a quick flight back to Phoenix, I started out on my own road trip back to Iowa.

I had never been to New Mexico before, and the drive was full of scenic vistas.

With some road trip suggestions from my friend Matt Meanders, I spent my first evening in El Malpais National Monument. This ancient volcanic flow was a stunning backdrop to a brewing thunderstorm, which rolled in as soon as I stopped to snap a few photos. I met a friendly couple from Wisconsin at the overlook, then settled in for the night at a nearly-empty campground.

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The next day I ventured up to Santa Fe. I’d heard a lot about this place, and enjoyed a few hours wandering and checking out the farmer’s market and local art scene. I especially enjoyed a garden of kinetic sculptures along the famous Canyon Road.

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I made my way through Bandelier National Monument, then headed North to find a campsite near Taos. I found a great little site right around the corner from town, and pitched my tent near a bubbling stream. I read for a bit, and chatted with the older gentleman in the next site over. He was retired, and spent a good amount of time in that area during the summer months, biking and exploring different parks nearby. He told me a few tales of his youth, including a post high school backpacking trip through Europe (we agreed that many more people should do this), and his many bike trips across the Southwestern United States. He mentioned that just a few years ago, he biked all the way from Santa Fe to the Grand Canyon! I hope I’ll have just as many good stories to share in my later years.

At the crack of dawn I was up and ready to go. I’d heard a lot about Taos and was excited to see it. I drove though the sleepy little town, and into the reservation. I waited and waited, but the “Do Not Enter” sign posted in the middle of the road didn’t budge. I decided to wait a half hour past when they were supposed to start tours, and a few minutes before the half hour, someone finally came out and moved the sign. Apparently the entire community was at some sort of ceremony.

After a late start, I got my tour, which was quite interesting. The guide was a woman who had grown up in Taos without running water or electricity. She had left for a few years but returned to raise her children within the community, which values family and lacks the more modern distractions of video games and Internet. They encourage visitors to come see their traditional way of life, because they know the only way to support it is tourism.

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After the tour, I filled up my tank and headed home, following Toy Story clouds through the Midwest. After 1,400 miles and a good long sleep, I started prepping for a 2-month trip to Europe!

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