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Northern New Mexico Trip

Day 2 of 5

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Friday, May 11th
Tent Rocks, drive to Santa Fe

We slept past the continental breakfast, checked out, and then drove off in search of breakfast and a grocery store. We needed to get food and water for our first activity of the day, a hike at Tent Rocks.

We drove north on Interstate 25. There's major construction going on at the Interstate 40 interchange -- it won't be completed until mid-2002. I thought it strange that there are only 3 interstates in the state (a small piece of Interstate 10 goes through the state), and 25 and 40 converge to create this traffic jam in front of us. Actually, it wasn't that bad. It looked worse going in the opposite direction, though.

We continued past the intersection, and then suddenly found ourselves out of the city! We still hadn't had our breakfast or found a grocery store, and suddenly we were faced with mile upon mile of undeveloped land. There was also nowhere to turn around. It was about 8 miles to the next freeway exit. Luckily that exit did have a sign for food, so we took it.

Bernalillo is a small town north of Albuquerque. We found a small grocery store and bought water and snacks. While putting the stuff away into our car, we were stopped by a strange man who asked us if we were hikers. He dispensed his advice on the area, apparently being helpful, but we were a little freaked out. We suspected he was trying to scope us out to see if he could steal something from us later. Must have been the facial hair that made him look suspicious. In any case, we re-parked our car about 30 feet away and made sure to lock it. Then we walked across the street to have lunch.

The Range Cafe is actually a pretty nice place to eat. I was surprised since we just happened to turn off the highway and enter this small town. The restaurant quickly filled as it was approaching the lunch hour. Most of the patrons were old, white, retired women. It seemed like most of them came regularly. As we were walking out later, I noticed a booklet on retirement real estate in the area.

I had an enchilada with a blue corn tortilla which as quite good. We ordered some sandwiches to go, to eat after our hike. Interestingly enough, the restaurant had some Australian wines (our last trip was to Australia). Something you might not think you'd find in a small town in New Mexico! Then again, you might not think such a restaurant would have its own web site. But times are a changing.

We continued on our drive up Interstate 25 toward Tent Rocks. We drove on state highways until the road turned to dirt. We were happy we had the SUV now. We drove past the Cochiti Indian reservation to a small 10-car dirt parking lot. Then we did our Tent Rocks hike.

After the hike we drove back along the dirt road. The gate was closed and, as it turned out, locked. We had to drive through the one-way exit (severe tire damage if you go the wrong way). So apparently the road is closed in the opposite direction as it gets closer to sunset. Probably to avoid disturbing the people at the reservation.

We drove on to Espanola, stopping at a grocery store in Santa Fe along the way. Santa Fe is about 60 miles north of Albuquerque, and Espanola is a few miles north of that, along highway 84/285. We continued a bit north of Espanola to our lodging for the next three nights -- Rancho de San Juan.

Rancho de San Juan is a group of adobe-like buildings inconspicuously set in the land beneath a large mesa. We arrived just before sunset, checked in, and confirmed our dinner reservation at 8pm. We stayed in a small suite, the Sueno, which has an attached larger suite, the Milagro. Luckily for us, the Milagro would be empty the entire time we were there, so we didn't have any neighbors to bother us. We cleaned up, caught a glimpse of a New Mexico sunset, and then headed to dinner at the Rancho de San Juan restaurant. Unfortunately for us they checked and our dinner reservation was for the following night. Worse, since they have a prix fixe menu, they order a set amount of food, and they didn't have enough for us.

Our suite at Rancho de San Juan

They recommended a restaurant in Espanola. We drove about 15 minutes to find El Paragua. We had the prerequisite chips and salsa and shared a steak along with some spanish rice. It was a pretty good restaurant and quite busy, as well. Apparently the margaritas are supposed to be good, but we were too tired to try them.

We drove back to our suite. My allergies were activated by the New Mexico vegetation, so I took my medicine and tried to sleep.

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