On our way to Santa Fe this week, we tried to “make good time” so we opted to take the interstate.
But as New Mexico’s breathtaking scenery began appearing, how could we be in a hurry? Despite our frantic timeline to get to Jerry’s oncology appointment, I wanted us to have some real fun before we dealt with the serious issue at hand. So we hit the back roads.
My Road Trip USA book has a section about Highway 53, The Ancient Way, which parallels Interstate 40 from eastern Arizona into New Mexico. This route takes you between the Pueblos of Zuni & Acoma, and was the path that Coronado took while searching for the Seven Cities of Gold. This road has been guiding traders, explorers and adventurers through the west for over a thousand years, and since we are explorers, I thought it only fitting that we hauled our rig down that two lane road too.
The Pueblos we passed though were small towns with a few artists, and a lot of poverty. It was a sad reminder that this continent’s first inhabitants are among the poorest, in one of the richest countries in the world.
Freezing Weather: Our Arctic Fox Passes the Test
We stopped at El Morro National Monument for the night. After a long day driving, we were giddy with joy when we saw this sign:
Sure, we didn’t have hookups, and at 7200′ altitude, the temperature was rapidly dropping into the teens, but it was free, and we were the only ones there! There was snow on the ground, and we knew that we would be running the heater, so we set up the generator thinking that the heater fan would suck the house batteries dry in no time. We layered up our clothing, dressed Jerry in two sweaters, threw every blanket we owned on the bed, and hunkered down for the coldest night ever.
“I feel like we’re pulling an Alexander Supertramp” Jim said. I laughed, and hoped that we wouldn’t wake up as human popsicles.
We slept well, and our well insulated Fox passed the test. In the morning, even though there was ice on the roof, we were relatively warm. Our heater ran the entire time we needed it to, without killing our batteries. We never had to turn on the generator.
The campground at El Morro is within walking distance of short, dog friendly trails that will take you to Inscription Rock, where early southwest explorers left over 2000 different markings on the sandstone bluffs.
This was one of my favorite monuments we’ve been to, because it allowed us to quickly see all of the best elements of New Mexico in one place; southwestern scenery, ancient ruins and history. If you’re ever on your way to Albuquerque from the west, be sure to take the time to stop.