Arm Chair Road Trip Day 25: New Mexico VIPs

October 29, 2020 — 4 Comments

welcome nm

On Day 25 of the road trip we headed out to stay with a dear friend from my San Francisco days. Kelly also happens to be the tourism marketing director for Los Alamos, so we were in good hands!

We started out with a taste test of three breakfast burritos with New Mexico chilies: bacon green, sausage red, and Christmas (red and green). My fave was the Christmas. Mtuseni liked the red… probably because it had sausage; the more meat the better in his eyes! The view from Kelly’s deck was breathtaking; on a clear day you can make out the Rockies in Colorado.

Kelly planned an entire tour day for us, speeding along hairpin turns and cliffs, chatting away, and occasionally looking at the road. Mtuseni and I were freaked out at first. More than once we each yelled, “Watch the road!” But we quickly relaxed under the happy spell of Kell. After all, she’s been there almost 20 years and is still in one piece. 

Out first stop was the Valle Caldera, a 13-mile circular depression created by an ancient volcano. It’s so big; no ground-level photo can capture the scale.


caldera sign trio

Still alive after a breakfast of blazing New Mexico chilies and Kelly’s daredevil driving!



Valle Caldera feels like a vast field of velvet plopped among the mountains and mesas of New Mexico.


We watched some elk in the distance and grabbed some photos, then headed off to see Taos Pueblo. Being a South African Zulu, we thought Mtuseni would appreciate seeing an original Native American community. But when we arrived, it was closed for some sacred rituals that week. Just like in Montgomery; I have shit timing. Instead, we had lunch at a cafe in Taos. 

taos cafe kell

It’s so great when old friends fall in after many years like no time has passed. And yes, Kelly is a dead ringer for Kyra Sedgwick!


After lunch we headed to Earthship … a community of people living off the grid and, despite their entrance sign, not super welcoming. We took photos of the quirky buildings but were warned by Kelly to heed the No Trespassing signs: Evidently they don’t take kindly to strangers. That’s the wild west, for ya! (Maybe they should take down their visitor center sign.)


earthship sign


earthship wall


earthship spires

I think these generate power. Or maybe they help the Earthship residents stay in touch with their home planet.


On our way back from Earthship we stopped at the Rio Grande Gorge for some treats and terror. 


rio grande sign pair


I don’t do well with heights, neither does Kelly. They don’t bother Mtuseni, but when he returned from walking on the bridge over the gorge, his face was a bit wan. We asked how it was and he said, “Very high.” 

mtu rio bridge 2

On the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. That is a looong way down. (And a short barrier!)


Feeling ballsy and energized by the magic of the Southwest and the day, I challenged Kelly to see who could walk further to the center of the bridge. Mtuseni provided a great play-by-play video as we gamely headed off. I did okay for a while, but seeing the river waaaay down below quickly turned my knees to jelly and I bailed. Of course Kelly made it to the center. I’m not ashamed of my 15-foot adventure. (Though I wouldn’t say I’m proud either.)

Click here for our Instagram greeting from the Gorge!

After our stunt we headed over to the Partridge Family hippie bus to grab something to drink. Despite the cheery, groovy venue, the woman inside was cold and standoffish — and was really big on “boundaries.” She must go home to one of those wine bottle houses at the Earthship. No worries, we laughed it off because…. well, we’re with Kell. 


latte bus


We had a long drive back to Los Alamos surrounded by gorgeous scenery, especially as the hills and mesas began to glow at dusk. 


mesa trio

Late summer. Early dusk. Somewhere between Taos and Los Alamos.


Fulfilling her role as community cheerleader and tour guide, Kelly insisted that we take a photo in the tub at Bathtub Row Brewing in Los Alamos. Mtuseni and I were still trying to figure out the selfie stick. 



“Gotta get a photo in the tub,” Kelly said. Little did we know what would come next…


We got a few shots then leaned back for a high-angle shot — where we quickly discovered that the tub wasn’t secured. Yes, the ten-ton cast iron tub tipped over, spilling us out onto a slate slab. And, yes, people sitting in the brewery saw the whole thing. I wish we had video, the slow-motion shock as we realized what was happening! It was a perfect ending to an adventure with Kell — always much love and laughter.



The guilty party after righting the tipped tub. I’m wondering how my broken tailbone will handle the next six weeks of driving!


And when we got back to her place, Kelly made dinner for five of us! It’s easy when you’ve had seven coffees throughout the day. 


nmtrue glasses

Rockin’ the shades from our Los Alamos swag bags! Thanks, Kell!

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Arm Chair Road Trip Days 35 to 38: Where’d You Go, San Francisco? « Long-Distance Dad - February 1, 2021

    […] told Mtuseni about all the times I’d been there — often with Annie, and Kelly and other friends he met along the trip. I was able to show him a slice of my life as a young guy. […]


  2. Arm Chair Road Trip Day 41: Tuolumne to Tahoe « Long-Distance Dad - February 28, 2021

    […] that, the serene grassy plain of Tuolumne Meadows. It reminded me of the caldera we saw in Los Alamos, only smaller. And […]


  3. Arm Chair Road Trip Days 42 + 43: Waterfalls and Watering Holes « Long-Distance Dad - March 7, 2021

    […] high and scary — a 500-foot drop — though not as scary as the Rio Grande Gorge in New Mexico. At least I could get near the edge of this […]


  4. Arm Chair Road Trip Days 46-48: We’re On a Road Through Nowhere « Long-Distance Dad - May 29, 2021

    […] but I was surprised to see rolling hills. It lowered the monotony level a bit, but not much. My New Mexico friend Kelly grew up in Iowa. I don’t know how she did it — and I’m glad she got […]


What do you think?...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s