Saturday, April 2, 2011

New Mexico, Day 3: Rocky Road Leads to Tinkertown

After driving all the way up to Taos and back, we thought we would follow it up with a more relaxing day.

We decided on following the road from Albuquerque to Santa Fe known as the Turquoise Trail. It gets its name from the turquoise mines that once were abundant in the area, but is now known for its beautiful vistas, and revived ghost towns that are home to artists and craftspeople.

From our hotel, we had two choices for getting to the beginning of the Trail. We could drive on benign interstate highways that take a roundabout route. Or, we could take the direct route: a one-lane dirt road over the Sandia Mountains. I opted for the short cut.

You will have to take my word that it was a spectacularly beautiful drive. I say that because my wife and son will not be able to confirm that for you. They were too scared to notice how beautiful the scenery was.

Kai is easily upset, and the constant bump bump bump of the road that, in actuality, was more rocky than dirt, was too much for him. He started screaming that he wanted to go home.

My wife, meanwhile, is understandably nervous about flat tires after getting several the past few winters while driving on our pothole-ridden streets at home. As the tires on our rental car bumped over every rock in the road, I could see her tension mounting. Kai’s loud expressions that “we are going to die” only increased her anxiety and seemed to vocalize her fears.

As time went on, the dirt/rocky road seemed to go on forever. Just when we thought we were near the end, it started rising again to go over another peak. This “short cut” was taking longer than the roundabout way.

Kai’s protests that “we are going to die” became “WE ARE DEAD!” My wife responded, “If you are dead, you can’t talk. Since you are screaming so loudly, you must still be alive.”

Of course, you know that we did not die. We also did not get a flat tire. But, I did breathe a sigh of relief when we finally came to a paved road.

Our first stop on the Turquoise Trail was a place called the Tinkertown Museum. When we arrived there, Kai was simultaneously still claiming to be dead, demanding to go back to the hotel, and proclaiming that I was a bad driver. He refused to go into the museum. I had just about given up hope when we finally got him to go in.

His mood soon brightened.

The Tinkertown Museum is unlike any place I had ever seen. Frommer’s guidebook describes it as “mostly a miniatures museum, featuring dollhouse-type exhibits of a mining town, circus, and other venues, with push buttons to make the characters move.” But a simple description doesn’t really do the place justice.

The proprietor told us how her late husband spent 40 years collecting the artifacts and building the museum. The building itself is a sight, constructed with thousands of glass bottles, and other things including wagon wheels, horseshoes, and license plates (which were Kai’s favorites). The displays were nostalgic, charming, and just plain fun.

The museum is a lasting tribute to the man who created it, a man who must have had the heart of a child and the talent of a visionary.

Tinkertown turned all of our spirits around. We left there smiling, feeling good about the world.

We enjoyed the drive down the Turquoise Trail. The scenery was beautiful and the little towns were quaint. The small town of Madrid, especially, had a nice little row of charming shops.

At the end of the day, we had Kai work on his journal for school. He only wrote that he went to Tinkertown. But his picture was more descriptive. He made a crude drawing of three people lying next to a sign that read “Die Road.”

Ah, the things that make a lasting impression on a child.

Tomorrow: Another scenic route

If you missed Day 2, click here.

To read about our trip from the beginning, go to the first post.

Photos of our trip can be found on our Facebook page.

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