We found ourselves in Arroyo Hondo watching hot air balloons rise with the sun as we warmed our bones in a hot spring along the Rio Grande River. As seems to be the standard at any decent hot spring, a leathery older gentleman with too many concerts under his belt was exercising his right to share his well-formed world views -
“If you come here with nothing, you’ll gain something.
But if you come here with money, you'll waste it all!
People and their houses…
‘Oh my grout isn’t the right color.’
‘Oh no my drywall is cracking.’
You can’t fix it. Don’t fight it!! It’s WILD. IT’S TAOS!!”
And it was.
It was Labor Day Weekend. The quick itinerary was to head down the 285 Friday afternoon and camp when we hit Buena Vista. We would make it to Taos by midday Saturday and camp outside of town. After that we just had to make it home by Monday night. Short, sweet and spontaneous.
From behind the wheel southern Colorado provides a bizarre backdrop. With a mixture of foothills, open valleys and expansive prairies, weather systems visibly circulate in multiples… chasing each other off the horizon. With no true agenda, we bent with the turns along our way, found some secluded BLM land in Buena Vista and happened upon a massive car show in Alamosa before making it to our destination.
New Mexico. Aside from having arguably the coolest license plates in the country, has a unique feel. Taos specifically is known as an artistic hub. Half of the downtown is comprised of art galleries, both high end and chintzy. The other half is a mix of second hand cowboy boots, kilim textiles and coffee shops. It's a place people come to find freedom to create. That freedom also makes it a place people come to drop off the map. Either way it's magnetic and has a gravity of its own that draws you in and captivates the senses. We met a man who had been living in New Mexico for years. "What made you want to come here?" "Well, I was driving through on my way to California when I got a flat tire. Been here ever since." Saturday night, after making friends with the woman working the second hand boot shop we found ourselves at a going away party on the edge of town, fully-equipped with a bonfire of illegal proportions.
The route home was circuitous, landing us in more BLM land near Penrose on Sunday night. The following morning brought us to Canon City where we found both excellent donuts and the largest rock collection we've encountered to date. The best part of having no true ambition to your road trip is that each stop can unexpectedly become the highlight of your journey. We say go to Taos. Heed the leathery hot springer's advice. Don't bring much money and don't fight it. Simply expect the unusual.