Trip Through New Mexico's Red Rock Country
Where else but in charmingly offbeat New Mexico can you find people living in 'earthship' homes or a Wild West town where outlaws -- and ghosts -- are said to have roamed?
Earthship World Headquarters
Hwy. 64 W., eight miles west of Rte. 68, 800/841-9249, earthship.com, entrance $5, rooms from $100
Las Vegas has a wild history: Founded in 1835, it became one of the most prosperous towns in the Southwest with the arrival of the railroad in 1879. Outlaws like Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, and Doc Holliday hung out here, as did Teddy Roosevelt, who came to recruit men for his Rough Riders. Much of the architecture from that era remains—a fascinating mix of Victorian, Italianate, and neoclassical mansions and adobe homes. Las Vegas's rowdier days, however, are long gone. In fact, the place is so quiet, it reminds us of a sleepy Midwest town. Then we meet an actual Midwesterner: Char, who runs theBeans & Sweets bakery with her sister. Char looks similar to Dustin's late grandmother (who was also named Char), and she's from Ohio, where Dustin was born. Her eyes light up when Dustin asks if she sells a well-known Ohio treat called buckeyes, peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate. She says she only has them in the winter. "It's too hot now," she laments. "The chocolate just doesn't stick."
If we're going to eat anywhere in town on a Sunday, the locals tell us we should go to the popularCharlie's Bakery & Café. We have been feasting on New Mexican cuisine for days, but I have yet to try a special kind of taco with a shell made of baked cheese or a sopaipilla¿a deep-fried pocket of dough served with honey. This time, when the waitress asks me, "Red or green?" I don't miss a beat. "Christmas!" I say with glee. For a split second, I almost feel like I'm a born-and-bred New Mexican.
Beans & Sweets
1209 National Ave., Las Vegas, 505/425-6699
Charlie's Bakery & Café
715 Douglas Ave., Las Vegas, 505/426-1921, sopaipillas $8
FINDING THE WAY
If you stick only to the state's major highways, you'll miss northern New Mexico's quirky small towns, roadside food stalls, and evergreen forests. Instead, plan your drive on scenic byways such as the High Road from Santa Fe to Taos. You can look up route descriptions, maps, and trip highlights at newmexico.org. Stretches of these roads are in rural areas, so make sure to fill up the tank before leaving.