Our New Mexico Roadtrip: Southwestern architecture to UFOs
By Jess Flowers


While kids zipped to the mall this Christmas to whisper their secret wishes into the ear of Mr. Claus and smile for the obligatory photo op, my husband, my 11-year-old son, and I visited another type of Santa by taking a marvelous road trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

We left our Santa Clara home on Dec. 23 and came back on Dec. 31, the adventure totalling eight days on the highways and byways. The total distance is about 1,000-plus miles give or take, and in driving time, it takes anywhere from 15 to 18 hours to get to Albuquerque.

To break up the long journey, we stopped off in Flagstaff, Arizona to spend one night. We were delighted to see that Flagstaff is a small, neat college town with an east coast architectural style. Stopping in Flagstaff was also efficient, for Route 66 crosses the area. From Flagstaff to Albuquerque requires about 5 hours in driving time, so pace yourself accordingly.

Our next stop was Socorro, which is 60 miles south of Albequerque. For history buffs, take note that Socorro is the oldest town in New Mexico. However, there is nothing much to see there except a college and national astronomy research center where my friend works.

ALBURQUERQUE AND MORE

On our first real day of touring, our clan of three drove to Albuquerque for a day trip, and mainly focused on its Old Town area. There are a lot to see. Albuquerque is home to more than 16 museums, namely the American International Rattlesnake Musem and the newest one called the International Ballooning Museum. Outside of museums, the adobe architecture throughout town is unique. Visitors can also choose from over 9 different ballooning companies to take an aerial tour.

On Day Two, we went to the town of Roswell to see the utterly amazing International UFO Museum and Research Center. Voted the top tourist destination in New Mexico, this place is the mecca for UFO enthusiasts. Lots of photos, maps, and records of UFO sightings are posted here. Also, there’s detailed information on an event known as the Roswell incident, a famous UFO case where a New Mexico rancher named Mack Brazel found some unusual schrapnel and metal debris while riding his horse on a wide open area to check on his sheep in July of 1947. Want to learn more? The suggested donation is just $2 for adults and $1 for those 18 and under.

On day Three, our family travelled to Santa Fe and Taos. Both are located north of Albuquerque. If you are fond of art, particularly American Indian works, then Santa Fe will be like a candy store. The town is brimming with art galleries everywhere. Plus, the adobe architecture of public buildings, churches, museums, and homes is truly beautiful.

If you’ve never been to Taos, I would describe it as a small town basically built for skiing. There is only one major street surrounded by great mountains. However, it holds a myriad of interesting festivals throughout the year. In May, Taos sponsors the Spring Arts Festival. And later in July, thousands come to the Angel Fire Balloon Rally which takes place at Angel Fire Resort.

One of our last stops in the area was a visit to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Very interesting.

FOUR CORNERS

A must-see tourist spot is the famous Four Corners spot. It is located about 70 miles from I 40 or about 130 miles from Albuquerque. We drove there on the way back home and costs each person, not per car, exactly $5 to see a plaque designating the four states. It feels amazing knowing you can step on four states with one tennis-shoed foot, touching Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. This is the closest entrance for Californians.

So, it would be great to see all of these places if you have one week set aside. Otherwise, I recommend Santa Fe and Albequerque as excellent places to visit if there is not enough time. We thoroughly enjoyed cruising on the highway, seeing nature’s atmospheric beauty from the fabulous pink ribboned sunsets to coarse red dirt plateaus. It's just simply amazing.

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NOTEWORTHY WEBSITES:

www.iufomrc.com – International UFO Museum and Research Center info.
www.itsatrip.org - info on all the fun to be had in Alburquerque.
www.taoswebb.com – details on Taos.
www.utah.com – all you need to know about Four Corners.
www.santafe.org – calendar of festivities,what to do in Santa Fe and more.

Jess Flowers lives in Santa Clara with her son and husband. This is her first article for BAFT.

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