The best part of doing a road trip out west is how quickly the landscape changes. It was a scenic drive down to Taos, an oasis in the desert with lots of art and an interesting community of earthships. Back in the day, a series of canals were engineered to irrigate the valley. Today, a board controls the water, and residents of the valley can still request a day to flood their fields. So while you can be up on a hill surrounded by sage brush, just below are fields of clover, green grass, and apple trees.
The Airbnb we stayed in was an old adobe farmhouse on the edge of the irrigated grazing fields. The adobe walls of the house were two feet thick, and the view from the backyard was magnificent. It was a perfect hobbit house.
New Mexican food
New Mexico has its own unique culture and food. Mrs. Crazy Kicks fell in love with New Mexican cuisine during a college summer spent in Los Alamos. The food at its basics is Mexican, but what makes it New Mexican is the red and green chili sauce.
A burrito here is simply a tortilla filled with meat and smothered with your choice of red or green chili. Prices are reasonable – a plate of enchiladas or a burrito with rice and beans cost ~$8. We didn’t eat out much on our trip, but we did have to stop a couple of times for red chili enchiladas in Taos and Santa Fe.
Explore art at the House of Eternal Return by Meow Wolf
Our host, who was an artist working on a local TV production set, told us about an interesting exhibit in Santa Fe. He said it was the best he’d seen. The House of Eternal Return is a massive art installation made up of works by dozens of local artists. It’s essentially an entire Victorian house built inside a warehouse with different portals into warped dimensions.
This was our most expensive activity for the entire trip, costing us $15 each. The experience was worth every penny. The installation is very impressive and the art is spectacular. It was a lot of fun and I walked away with some new ideas for cool projects.
Avoid the tourist traps
On the way to Santa Fe, we did fall for one tourist trap. There were signs along the road for different kinds of beef jerky. Elk jerky, buffalo jerky, pinon nuts, “Free Samples” and “Free Hugs.” Mrs Crazy Kicks did warn me that it was probably a tourist trap, but we stopped anyway. After the free samplings, the prices were revealed – $16 for a couple ounces of elk jerky! We got away with giving him $12 for a few sausages. Oh well, at least the sausages went well with the local beer.
On the way down to Taos, we took the low road which gave us views of the Rio Grande. On the drive back, we took the high road through the mountains. The views in both directions were well worth it. The landscape changed from mesas to densely packed ponderosa pines in the mountains.
On our last day, we packed up, made some sandwiches for the road, and started heading toward Colorado. Our host had mentioned that we should stop to check out the Rio Grand Gorge.The scale was immense. We got to see rafters floating down the river, hooting and hollering as they went over the rapids under the bridge. In the photo below, they are only a speck.
Check out the Earthships in Taos NM
After we crossed the Gorge, we saw something popping out of the desert that we had not expected – Earthships! We’d seen the documentary Garbage Warrior and have been fascinated with these self-sufficient buildings for some time. Well, we had just inadvertently stumbled upon their main building site. There were dozens of private earthship homes, experimental buildings, and even a visitor center inviting us in.
An earthship is basically a home built with mostly recycled materials in a way that makes the building fully self-sufficient. They have their own systems for collecting and storing solar power to provide all electrical needs. A greenhouse on the south facing side of the building is used to grow food year round, and provides passive solar heating.
The windows are angled to capture heat only when the sun is lower in the sky during winter. This heat energy is then absorbed by the rammed earth walls made of dirt-packed tires, which keep the buildings cool in the summer and store the sun’s heat for winter nights.
There’s also catchment system for collecting rainwater, and the buildings are plumbed such that the grey water from sinks and showers get’s reused in the greenhouse. This means no energy bills and virtually no impact on the environment!
On to the next stop
I think this stop was the most inspiring of our trip. It inspired me to eventually design and build my own greenhouse. We got to experience beautiful scenery, amazing art, and toured an earthship and a different way of living. This is a place I could spend some more time in the future, but for now we were back on the road and headed for Pagosa Springs, Colorado.