Picks and Pans – Whirlwind trip through Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado


Highway 60 from Globe to Show Low, AZ

After much too brief of a stop at my sister Vanessa’s house, we began a new phase of the road trip — the all driving, minimal stopping, hauling of our behinds to get across the country in time to spend Christmas with my grandparents in western New York. But given the fact that we had just spent about 9 months taking our sweet time to get around, we eased ourselves into things by taking the scenic route eastward on Highway 60. In traditional southwestern style, there were magnificent rock formations, stunning vistas down winding canyons and more blue sky than any two eyes can reasonably take in.

Java Blues in Springerville, AZ

Parked between a frost grizzled herd of grazing cattle and an empty highway, we awoke to a very cold morning and a burning need for some hot coffee. We drove into Springerville with little hope of finding a cafe, and with a hefty dose of disbelief we pulled into Java Blues’ parking lot. Turns out, Java Blues had coffee, free wi-fi and a lounge-y atmosphere (the place doubles as a bar at night). Certainly an unexpected and happy surprise on a 2 degree morning.

El Malpais National Monument

In the wilds of western New Mexico, two ancient worlds collide. In El Malpais, a ring of long dormant volcanoes surrounds a plain where lava once flowed like water, stopped only by the majestic Sandstone Bluffs formed when giant sand dunes were compressed and solidified over a period of thousands of years, long before the volcanoes erupted. While at the El Malpais, we explored Lava Falls, La Ventana Natural Arch and the Sandstone Bluffs, and all in the relative isolation to be found in most places in New Mexico.

The Atomic Grill in Santa Fe, NM

After a long day of driving and a surprisingly difficult time finding parking in downtown Santa Fe, we were in no mood to search for a place to eat. Luckily, my sister Abby had given us a recommendation for the Atomic Grill, where they put a southwestern twist on diner food and have a significant selection of regional brews. Sean says: Watch out for the Santa Fe Chicken Killer… it’s a tasty brew, but it’s serious.

High Road to Taos, NM

Winding through Pueblo Indian villages and old Spanish mission towns, the High Road from Santa Fe to Taos is a visual tour of the social forces that shaped the southwest. The route is dotted with nineteenth century Catholic chapels, squat adobe houses, motor homes and signs advertising local artists, giving the impression that the human mix along this road has long been an interesting one.

Santuario de Chimayo

Located in the town of Chimayo, along the High Road to Taos, Santuario de Chimayo is a Roman Catholic chapel built in 1816 by a Spanish priest and to this day Catholics from around the world make a pilgrimage to the site to acquire some of the healing “holy dirt” from el pocito, a small dirt pit in a room off the nave. Although I was not in need of the “holy dirt”, I did find the folk art adornment in the chapel interesting and the shrines along the creek that runs behind the chapel were a testament to the importance of the chapel in local religious life.

Bishop Castle outside Pueblo, Colorado

Jim Bishop, castle builder. Is he a visionary architect, metalsmith, mason and carpenter? A madman of the mountain, battling government forces real and imagined? A kook with bottomless energy reserves and an inexplicable calling to build a castle in the woods of Colorado? After meeting him and listening to him rant and rave about the New World Order, the governor of Colorado, the tax code, legalization of marijuana, Social Security and his vow to never stop working on his castle, regardless of who tries to stop him (and the attempts have been numerous according to Mr. Bishop), I would argue that Jim Bishop is all these thing and more. Oh, and the castle…it is simply a thing of beauty. Stone from the local forest, lifted in to place by Jim Bishop, and Jim Bishop alone, to create a structure that towers above the evergreens below. It was thrilling, and, I will admit, more than a bit frightening to venture up into the towers and metal domes of the castle, but I just had to see for myself the heights to which Jim Bishop’s imagination had taken him.

1 comment to Picks and Pans – Whirlwind trip through Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado

  • Abigail St. Lawrence

    Although your time in Santa Fe area was short, I think you hit the high spots. Maybe it was because we were there right around Labor Day when the place was crowded with tourists and the inevitable traps that seem to attract them, but I found Santa Fe for the most part to be overrun with cliches of Southwest “art” and “jewelry,” most of which looked suspiciously like East Indian imports. The day we spent driving the High Road to Taos and stopping at little curiosities like Chimayo was my favorite day in New Mexico, and our dinner at Atomic Grill was much more pleasant with a lot smaller price tag and a lot less snippy waitstaff attitude then our other dining experiences in Santa Fe. The only thing I think you really missed out on was the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, but another time…

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