We didn’t quite make it out of Arizona without stopping one more time. We decided to stop at Holbrook, AZ for a night so we could visit The Petrified Forest National Park. It was very much worth the stop. The National Park was a 28 mile drive with many stops and small hikes to see some areas of ancient forests that are now petrified wood lying in the desert. We didn’t allow ourselves enough time to do enough exploring. We didn’t enter the park until 4:30 and the ranger told us that we had to be out the other side by 6:00 when the gates closed. So we decided this is a place we want to stop again and do some hiking. Before we left the park we were able to see The Painted Desert. In the early 1900’s right after the land was set aside as a National Park the Santa Fe railroads put rails right outside the park. At the time the National Park didn’t make it illegal to take pieces of the petrified wood out of the park so the train would stop and they would load cars full of the petrified wood and take it out for the wealthy. Soon the rangers realized what was happened and made it illegal to remove anything from the park. It didn’t stop people from still taking pieces. Now when you leave the park they have signs up that say they can search your vehicle. It is a good thing they put a stop to that or we wouldn’t have anything to look at and admire. It is truly amazing what time and nature has left us to enjoy. It makes you wonder what we will leave for the future that will be amazing to look at. Probably our mounds of garbage. Not a good thought!
From Holbrook we drove to Acoma, New Mexico and stayed at the Sky City Indian Reservation Casino. Very cheap, $10.30 a night for full hook-ups but there is absolutely nothing around the area but the casino. We took a drive around the country –side and saw again how lucky Joe and I are. There is so much poverty. It is not like driving around Mystic Lake in Minnesota. This is in the middle of the desert with a casino every 10 to 15 miles. We were very glad to leave that area.
We continued our drive through NM with our next stop Santa Fe. I was so excited to explore this area. We stayed three days at the Santa Fe KOA, which was very nice. Three days is not even a start to explore this area so this is a “must come back” area. On our first day we explored the Pecos National Historic Park in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Again we didn’t get there until 3:30 and this time the gates locked at 5:00. There was a couple mile walking trail that took you through some ancient ruins but the ranger suggested we drive to the ruins of an ancient mission and ruins of the Pueblo Indians. We were very glad we took his advice. We spent all of our time walking around these ruins. But the most exciting thing was that we had the opportunity to climb down into a Kiva. A Kiva is a ceremonial hole in the ground. We crawled down an old ladder into the earth. The hole was about 20ft across. Rocks and clay held up the sides. In the center was where fires were made for their ceremonies. There was also a hole next to the fire pit where supposedly the spirits from the underworld could enter. In these Kivas they had ceremonies for rain, good crops, healing and just talking to the spirits. Not sure about the words to use to describe the feeling in that hole. Joe didn’t think it was a big deal but I loved it. I could have spent more time in the hole but our time was up. There wasn’t much left of the mission church but it was beautiful what was remaining.
The next day we drove into Santa Fe to the Plaza. Our challenge was again driving our big truck into an area that was not meant for vehicles this big. After driving around searching for a parking spot we finally paid top dollar to park in a private parking lot but it was an easy walk to where we wanted to go. The Plaza was the center of Old Town Santa Fe. The Native Americans bring their handmade crafts to sell at the Plaza. They lay blankets on the ground and place their crafts, mostly beautiful jewelry and pottery, on the blankets and sit all day to sell their ware. We went to visit the New Mexico History Museum and the Palace of the Governors. Both were very interesting and filled with history and artifacts. We spent several hours walking through them. After we left the museum with map in hand we set out to find the oldest church in the U.S. Someone stopped us on the street and asked if we need help and gave us directions but it was to the wrong church. We ended up at the Loretto Chapel which had a miraculous spiral staircase. It was interesting but not a very unique church. Oh, I should tell you that you won’t see any pictures of Santa Fe because we forgot to bring our camera with. Oh well!
By this time we were tired of walking and were hungry. The night before the people who were parked next to us at the KOA were from MN. We had a very nice conversation with them but they told us about this place that overlooked the Plaza that they had gone to the day before where they had excellent pizza. So we went in search of the pizza place. The Marble Brewery had a deck that overlooked the park in the Plaza and had THE BEST PIZZA. I’m sure if Joe and I were beer drinkers we would say they had the best beer. But while we waited for our pizza we were entertained by the comings and goings in the park. It was a great end to a wonderful visit in Santa Fe.
The third day we drove to Taos to see the . We stopped at the visitor’s center before we left to make sure we knew how to get there. It was about a 140 mile round trip and we were told there was a low road and a high road and most people take one up to Taos and the other back. We took the low road up which was more desert landscape and drove along the Rio Grande River for part of the way. The bridge was over a 600 foot gorge. It was pretty spectacular to stand on. We parked on one side of the bridge and walked about half way across. After you were on the bridge for a little bit and the movement that was caused by the cars and trucks going over it, I started to feel sick. Nice place to visit but didn’t want to stay.
We stopped at Taos to have an ice cream cone but decided again this was a place we wanted to come back to and park the RV at to do a little exploring. We took the high road back to Santa Fe so we could stop at the small town of Chimayo. I wanted to visit the mission of El Santuario de Chimayo. In this mission there is a room called a “pocito” (well) where you find dirt that is considered holy. It is the spot the crucifix of Our Lord of Esquipulas was found in 1810. Since then thousands of pilgrims and visitors have come to this “dirt” well searching for spiritual, emotional and physical healing. I had to take some dirt from the well just because the mission church was so beautiful and peaceful and everyone was taking dirt. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside and that was too bad but we honored their request. It amazes me how these missions or ruins can make a person feel so at peace inside.
Our last stop in New Mexico was at the Raton Pass at about 7800 elevation. We stayed at one of the “best view” RV Parks we had stayed at in a long time. Joe had found the park in the RV Review site because the reviews were good and all of the reviews mentioned the views. The park sat in the mountains with spectacular views all around. But it was one of most interesting places to stop at for just an overnight stay. We got to the park about 1:30 in the afternoon. The office was locked and the sign said to ring the bell. After ringing the bell we waited a few minutes but no one came to the door. We decided to just walk around the campground to check it out. There were maybe three other RVs parked. Just as we were walking away from the door, the door opens and there standing in the door is an elderly man with his hair pretty messed up and in his long-johns. We didn’t know what to do so we said we were just going to walk around the campground to check it out. He insisted we come in. It didn’t bother him that he didn’t have pants on. After talking for about 15 minutes (and it was probably longer) he said he had to go get his glasses so he could do the paperwork. He came back with his glasses and his pants on. What a character he was. He took us up to our campsite and had to visit a little more. We asked him about the town of Trinidad, CO., which was down the highway another 12 miles. He said if we were looking for a place to eat we should go to Rino’s in Trinidad. It just happened that it was Joe’s 62nd birthday and we were looking for a place to have a nice dinner. Ron, owner of the campground, left and Joe was hooking everything up outside and I was organizing inside when there was a knock on the door. Here was Ron standing with a newspaper ad for Rino’s. I invited him in and after a few minutes Joe joined us and we had another nice visit. Later that evening Joe and I found Rino’s Italian Restaurant & Steakhouse. Another great find! This place had been a church that was built in 1887. It was converted by the present owner about 10 years ago into this restaurant. The congregation moved out of the church in 1923 and the building had been used for many things but mostly storage until he bought it. We had an excellent Italian meal but even better than the meal was the singing waiters. One of the waitresses sang Happy Birthday to Joe in Italian in Soprano. Our waitress did her debut singing of an Italian Opera song. She was very nervous but did a nice job. When we entered the restaurant all the staff including the owner was singing an Italian Opera song. It was pretty cool! Of course the history of the building and the insides were so interesting. The owner was very happy to spend time with us talking about his place. He did say if he had to do it over he would never open a place in a small town. We could understand. The town seemed to be dying. We hope he can keep going so we can visit again. When we got back to the RV Park Ron was waiting for us. He had to stop by to find out if we had gone and how we liked it. One more visit from Ron the next morning and off we were to Colorado. We would definitely stay at Cedar Rail Campground in Raton, NM. Not just for the beautiful view but for the wonderful host, Ron. Ron had a very interesting life and it was great listening to him. This was one of our best experiences since being on the road.
We are definitely heading north.