Madrid/Arroyo Seco

This area of New Mexico is not to be missed and we almost did, miss it. We were anticipating driving Highway #25 N. from Albuquerque toward the Cimarron Canyon (Angel Fire) area but #25 was closed so we had to detour. Often this works in our favor and this time around was no exception. The discovery of Madrid, New Mexico was such an unexpected delight that even when #25 reopened for our return trip, we nixed it in favor of State Road #14 again so we could travel back through this magical town.

One of the gems we lucked into was Mama Lisa’a Cafe also known as the No Pity Cafe. My guy ordered the enchilada plate and it was spicy delicious but do not forget dessert as my prickly pear gelato was the bomb. As if the incredible food was not enough, the bird sanctuary that is right outside the dining room window drew dozens of tiny hummingbirds that provided endless entertainment.

No Pity Cafe
Mama Lisa’s No Pity Cafe
Lunchtime entertainment

Shopping Madrid could be enticing for some but we did not spend any money except for lunch and still found the town thoroughly entertaining. It is good to note that souvenirs are made locally and a great deal of the goods can be categorized as individual pieces of art rather than mass produced trinkets.

Madrid 1

One fun find was Connie’s Photo Park, on the north end of town. As a parent, I am here to tell you that this is a boon. You simply drop a donation in the box, sign in if you want to, and then take as many photos as you’d like in a variety of wild west facades. If you enjoy the dress-up version, they charge $5 for costume rental. Having spent half a c-note ages ago for two photos of my kids in wild west costumes, I have to say the idea of taking as many photos as you like of your little darlings all dressed up without a money-meter ticking, is great. When we stopped in we were the only ones there and I mean there wasn’t even an employee lurking and trying to sell add-ons. Rock on Connie!

And yes, adventurers, we did hit an amazing coffee joint called the Java Junction but what was most amazing was what we can vouch for. Their blueberry iced tea! It was righteous and righteous iced tea is to be celebrated. My guy swore by the frozen mocha but I think it’s because they gave him extra whipped cream.

Though we were headed for the Taos area with an ultimate goal of Cimarron Canyon, we did notice that the Java Junction has the only B&B in town and at $109 a night, it looked promising for those wanting to splurge. Truly Madrid is colorful enough that simply walking the one block length is fun for travelers of all ages.

Java Madrid
Java Junction

“Onward Ho” we cried – well I did – as we bid Madrid farewell and headed for Embudo. Embudo? Yes sir-ee! Albuquerque photographer, Gale Sutton had shared a little nugget with us as we perused her amazing photographs and it was the Classical Gasoline Museum in Embudo. It’s funky, it’s fun, and it’s FREE. Do not miss it if you are traveling north on Highway #68 but if you are scheming for ice cream in the parlor, it was still in the works when we stopped in.

Gas pumps

As we hit the road from the museum, we had no idea where we were going to stay so I started searching campgrounds but after a futile quest for a site on the already full Rio Grande, I hit the traveler’s dreaded moment. No camping available, anywhere.

Rio Grande
Rio Grande camping (first come/first serve)

No camping on the Rio Grande or anywhere near Taos? No problem because I soon found what I’d always dreamt of. A tipi.

Tipi in Arroyo Seco

Remember the old, “be careful what you wish for” mantra from your mom? Well add to that, “be grateful when your guy doesn’t kill you inside of a tipi”.

We passed though Taos and it was pretty and had the feel of very hip and cool creative geniuses who’ve figured out how to earn a living from their art. And then we hit Arroyo Seco, home of my tipi fantasy.

This site strives to be transparent and we roundly endorse hostels, however, staying at the SnowMansion is best done with eyes wide open… in advance.

Tipi time
SnowMansion Hostel

The tipi was located in a courtyard with lawn furniture thrown harem-scarem and power lines criss-crossing all over and this might’ve been ok if it had been a bargain but at $60, not so much. There was no view as the tipis faced inward. There were beds in them which weirdly, left me a little disappointed as I would not have minded sleeping on the ground in sleeping bags and having a little more authentic feel. This would be the part where my guy is sighing and shaking his head as my desire for “authentic” departed like it was being held up at a 7-11 when an insect the size of a baby ostrich fell on my chest in the dark as I was dozing off. I screamed louder than the thirty girl scouts, sitting around a campfire – four feet from the tipi – had been for the past hour.

The SnowMansion tipi experience, in my humble opinion, is best left to large groups or families traveling, as it was more conducive to a noisy and boisterous crowd, not a Zen seeker, however, I will continue to look for a quieter tipi with more view and less girl scouts.

Arroyo Seco was Zen and delightful. This is another teeny-tiny town that boasts a few restaurants and some scenic walks and hikes. We were witness to an abundance of wildflowers, set against the backdrop of an award winning sunset and from the photos we saw, the snowy season looks to be just as stunning and probably ostrich/bug-free.

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