Late fall: best time for New Mexico Road Trip
You learn so much when you get out of the car
If you can swing it, there’s no better time to visit New Mexico on a road trip than late fall.
The scorching summer heat is beyond you, the crowds are gone, the leaves have turned a magnificent red and yellow, and you get to see some killer Day of the Dead displays everywhere you look. Mark your calendars for 2022: last week of October and first week of November!
Now let’s talk about the joys of a road trip.
It’s not so much that I’m scared of flying on an airplane during COVID times, but I did it in September, and believe me, a car trip is so much more enjoyable. It’s total freedom to roam, you see way more and don’t have to endure the pain of being part of a herd. Plus, as I explain on the Photowalks episodes, when you then get out of the car and on foot, your eyes open up to things you never would have caught in a drive-by. Like this beautiful orange lined blue door in Taos.
And being on the road was a real eye-opener. It didn’t take too long to leave urban Los Angeles to realize just how different things are when you cross the state line.
Beyond gas that’s a good $1,50 less a gallon, the depth of poverty and despair outside the cities is quite a sad sight. I initially pulled off the road to take photos of abandoned roadside motels, until we saw so many, I couldn’t keep up.
In Gallup, New Mexico, all we can remember of our time there are so many shuttered motels and the endless storefronts offering easy loans, pawns and purchases on law-away. See gallery here.
In Arizona, en route to New Mexico, my wife Ruth was accosted by a local at the diner in Kingman, Arizona for wearing a mask. “Take it off honey,” she said. “You’ll be the only one in here with one.” The sign outside the window said it all.
Despite the mishap in Kingman, the highlight of a road trip is meeting people. At Esther’s Cafe, a little roadside stop in tiny Joseph City, Arizona, owner Esther Patterson told us of her novel idea. A restaurant without TVs blaring, where people would have to stare each other in the face and actually talk to each other while they ate. Thats a little magic from the Route 66 Mother Road, where people cruise on the old highway. to step back in time. (Some of it is glorious, but way too many businesses are sadly shuttered.)
In Santa Fe, we met a hard-working young couple who are busting their buns to keep a new restaurant going with classic New Mexican fare based on grandma’s recipes. Co-owner Joacquin Quintana spelled out just how different New Mexican fare is from Mexican. “It’s the chilis,” he said. “New Mexico is to the chili what Paris is to wine.”
You can read more about New Mexico’s amazing food in Ruth’s latest post
Then there was the waiter at a local pizzeria who unloaded his innermost thoughts to two tourists he’d never met. He started with politics, telling us the restaurant business in New Mexico was a “disaster” because they couldn’t find people willing to work. Instead, people have been living off unemployment, which is more lucrative than working, he said.
Then he started talking about himself, about how he came to Taos after a divorce from the “love of my life,” whom he’d known since he was 3 and would always be in love with. He told us, without prompting, how much he pined for her, but wouldn’t go back to Seattle to reach out to her, because he was convinced she wouldn’t respond in kind.
We urged him to get back there and reach out. Let’s hope love wins out!
Weather wise, it was cold when we woke up in the morning, around 30 degrees, but warmed up considerably in the afternoon. That and it looked so pretty! Because as a fall bonus, we got to catch the late October Taos balloon festival. (Not to be confused with the giant one earlier in Albuquerque.)
Look for the Photowalks episodes in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, we can’t wait to come back in 2022 to the incredible food and vistas of New Mexico! (Sidenote: that return may be as soon as early December, when I meet my pal Scott Bourne in Bosque del Apache for the great bird migration.)
This week: Palm Springs and Manhattan Beach
Friendly reminder that I’ll be leading two live Photowalks this week. Thursday, meet us 4:30 p.m. at the Manhattan Beach Pier, earlier than usual due to the time change. Sunset is set for 4:40. Reminder that the best sunsets of the year are in November and December.
Saturday I’m in Palm Springs with two events: we’ll meet in the morning downtown by the Sonny Bono statue at 9, or at 4, by the windmills.
Manhattan Beach: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/190094757537
Palm Springs: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/192621936397
I hope to see you this week! The latest Photowalks episode is my Top 10 Photo tips with Phil Rosenthal and Shappy Pretzel’s Adam Shapiro. Please take a look if you haven’t seen it already!
Have a great week!