Madrid New Mexico | Ghost Town Hippie Village | Turquoise Trail

Madrid New Mexico houses 2018 RootlessRoutes

Madrid New Mexico. An influential mining town steeped in America’s Wild West.

The name may come from Roque Madrid who had interest in lead mining the area in the 17th century. Madrid later abandoned the area with little trace.

Santa Fe railway courtesy of Wikipedia
Santa Fe railway linked to Madrid New Mexico in the 1930s

It wasn’t until 1835 that mining of anthracite coal found in Madrid and Cerrillos New Mexico, drew renewed interest to the area, especially by the railroad.

Anthracite coal was particularly important for use in passenger trains, leading to the building of a spur line to the area.

But New Mexico was still a rather rugged territory, torn between the strained relations of Mexico and the US. It was not until 1880 that The Cerrillos Coal Bank came to pass.

Cerrillos Coal & Iron Co designed the layout of Madrid, they built a railroad station known as Waldo Junction then transported most of the inhabitants to to the town.

This “company town” of Madrid, thrived through this heyday. The innovative and forward thinking leader, Oscar John Huber was instrumental to the towns success and with his nourishing hand the train stop and rich with coal, the town of Madrid boomed.

Waldo Mesa Rd Madrid New Mexico, RootlessRoutes 2018
Waldo Mesa Rd Madrid New Mexico, RootlessRoutes 2018

What You Don’t Know About the Wild West

Wild West Cowboy RootlessRoutes
Wild West style cowboy from Wikipedia

When imagining the Wild West, visions of swaggering cowboys and marauding “Indians” come to mind. In truth, clashes between settlers and the local inhabitants were not the norm in the Wild West. The settlers and the local natives lived in a strained peace predominantly.

Of course, a land full of opportunity appeals to entrepreneurs, pioneers, opportunists and outlaws alike. But in general, the Wild West was never quite as raucous or chaotic as we’ve been led to believe. And Madrid New Mexico was at the very heart of this new frontier.

Madrid’s interesting history offers a glimpse into the reality of what later became known as the Wild West. It is a story of reinvention, innovation and strife, all while living in the middle of an arid desert.

American Frontier Not The Wild West

Buffalo Bills Wild West
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West

New Mexico was one of the last holdout states to join the Union.

This new American Frontier showed great promise for opportunity, offering the possibility of great wealth. Yet it long remained far more rustic than its more mature and populated brethren to the East & West.

Once New Mexico joined the Union in January 1912, Arizona followed close behind, making them the last states to join until Alaska and Hawaii joined in the late 1950s. (I am leaving out a Hell of a lot of history here including the Mexican / American war).

As a territory, New Mexico had little to offer to those not tribally connected to the land until coal was discovered. But when coal was found in a streak from Cerrillos to Madrid, the mining began and the people started to come.

Houses were broken down in Kansas where the mines were drying up, then transported via rail to New Mexico, and rebuilt in Madrid. A “company town” was born. Madrid New Mexico.

Oscar Joseph Huber’s Madrid

Oscar Joseph Huber, superintendent of the Albuquerque and Cerrillos Coal Company, encouraged the community to thrive through his progressive management style in Madrid. His innovative and forward thinking ideals demanded the community to pitch in for schools, a hospital and the things needed for a society to be healthy and flourish and it worked.

Membership to the Company Store and an Employee’s Club, offered members discounts and perks in exchange for their monthly financial contribution and their promised community involvement.

Huber set the standard for coal mining communities and the idea of those that could afford it, contributing to the communities needs.

This created a new standard for such communities.
Madrid stood as a shining light and a healthy and happy town and populace. Well as healthy and happy as coal miners, living in the wake of the toxins and dangers spewed above and dug below could be.

Celebration & Demise

Madrid New Mexico coal miners 1930s RootlessRoutes
Madrid New Mexico coal miners 1930s courtesy of Pinterest

By the 1920s, Madrid became known for their holiday events. Thousands of lights illuminated the town via coal power, during Christmas. Elaborate firework displays lit up the sky for the 4th of July, subsequently bringing in visitors from far and wide.

When the popularity of dirty burning coal died out to cleaner fuels such as natural gas, coal mining died out. Madrid’s population dwindled. When wartime came to pass, the result made Madrid a veritable ghost town down to 30.

Madrid languished. Classic western store fronts, the mining shaft and miner shacks, sat deteriorating under sun drenched skies.

For more than a decade most of Madrid lay dormant, snuggled between rolling pink hills and azure skies. Not quite a ghost town, but from the 1950s through the 1970s Madrid was practically forgotten. Laying dormant, the near ghost town of Madrid stood as a testament of time.

Rebirth | Joe Huber’s Madrid

Then in the early 70’s Madrid New Mexico came to life once more. Transformed by the son of its originator Oscar Huber.

With the same innovative thinking, Joe Huber invited artists to come rent housing for cheap. The rumour goes, they came to visit and never left.

Madrid New Mexico neighborhood RootlessRoutes 2018
Madrid New Mexico neighborhood homes 2018

Madrid was reborn, bustling to life as a vivacious, counter culture haven and remains such to this very day.  Joe, a visionary, opened up his beloved town to the frontiersmen (and women) of the time, creating a community of artists, and counter-culturists.

Joe remained dedicated to his home town until his death in the late 1980’s. Some of those who shared Joe Huber’s original vision remain in Madrid today.

Visiting Madrid New Mexico

I had a Hell of time when I got to Madrid.  My struggles made so much easier by the beauty of the location and the friendliness of the people. It did not hurt that my AirBnB was divine.

Luckily the town of Madrid is protected from most types of development due to water regulations. So the sleepy little hippy town remains pretty much intact.

Driving The Turquoise Trail / NM 14, found between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, Madrid, remains a slow moving and quiet artist community, albeit with a large community of dogs. Although the population is only about 200, colorful pubs, restaurants, shops, galleries and museums are enticing enough to spend an entire day there.

Lots of live music, good food, unique art and the friendly people draw an eclectic spattering of tourists. From bikers to family outings, the area offers a little of everything for everyone.

The Mine Shaft Tavern offers scrumptious fresh food. Yummy good &drink at The Mine Shaft Tavern

Yummy food & drink. Mine Shaft Tavern Madrid New Mexico 2018

Since I travel alone, I take note of how warm, welcoming and friendly places might be for someone alone and they score high on the list of comfort.

Madrid New Mexico RootlessRoutes 2018
Madrid New Mexico RootlessRoutes 2018

The residential area is made up of a patchwork of houses, cabins, yurts and adobes, along largely unpaved and gravel strewn drives. The main road is part of the Turquoise Trail

Madrid New Mexico, as a destination, is funky and unique place to visit. Truly an outlaw town that created itself and has held onto its counter culture roots.

A lovely little village, well worthy of the stop, offering food, entertainment, places to stay, shops and more, in a gorgeous location along a breathtaking drive.

Just remember to slow down to 20 MPH as you come upon Madrid on NM 14. It’s one of the only rules you may find there.

Communing with the Coyotes | Idiocy on the Road in New Mexico

RootlessRoutes on Skyline Drive Utah 2018

The night sky is hazy in New Mexico. I turn from I 64 to Highway 550 and head for Madrid, New Mexico… that’s MAD drid, not Ma DRID.

It is getting late and as much as I love to drive, driving late night in unfamiliar, rural territory, yet again, wasn’t my plan. Of course I got side tracked.

Like a gnat in the breeze with only 6 hours to go on my journey to Madrid, I saw the sign from above. ‘Skyline Drive’ and could not keep myself from taking it on.

New Mexico can wait

I knew this would add up to 4 hours to my drive, but give me an exciting road to conquer and there’s no stopping me.

I rode the Lincoln Aviator hard on Skyline Drive. Abusing it as if it were a 4 wheel drive, and not a glorified Ford Explorer, with a big engine, wearing a fancy dress.

A great many of the roads in the yet rather ‘Wild West’ are, well… still quite wild.

Skyline Drive Utah 2018 Rootlessroutes
Dense forestation along the Skyline Drive route

I knew nothing of Skyline Drive before I was unceremoniously drawn into the flame by that sign. It turns out to to be a perfect example of what is left of rustic American roads.

Snaking through, up and down rugged canyons. Alternating from lush green forests to the ragged and rustic arid deserts that dot so much of the American countryside. It is difficult not to imagine a young pioneer’s first experience of America. Long before it was colonized to utter prostration.

Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive winding gravel roads, RootlessRoutes 2018
This was worth the detour before New Mexico

The rough side of Skyline Drive (where I started) is 28 miles of course, winding, scenic roadway that is more like an incredibly rocky and treacherous path in spots with huge holes.

The claims of it being well maintained are naught.

After driving it I read it is not suitable for non 4WD vehicles. Apparently no one told my SUV that!

RootlessRoutes on Skyline Drive 2018 Utah
Skyline Drives winding road of wonder 2018 Utah

The drive wiggles, dips and climbs along the top of the Wasatch Plateau, peaking at just under 11,000 feet.

The views are spectacular.

RootlessRoutes 2018 Skyline Drive Utah
Views from Skyline Drive are magnificent. Utah 2018 RootlessRoutes

With tree filled mountains, flower filled meadows, raucous streams and tranquil lakes. Skyline Drive in Utah is one of the highest elevation roads in America and simply stunning.

Admittedly, driving up and descending this extremely rugged terrain, on partially gravelled, winding roads is not for what my Lincoln Aviator was built. But the vehicle handled being forced into submission like a champ.

Her already worn tires, not so much.

RootlessRoutes Skyline Drive Utah 2018
Skyline Drive Utah, elevation 8000 feet.

According to Dangerous Roads Skyline Drive

” It ranks among the highest elevation roads in America. This dirt road (also known as FR150) provides access to forested mountains, alpine meadows and numerous lakes streams and camping areas.

Although many sections are suitable for passenger cars, high clearance 4 wheel drive vehicles are required for tougher parts.” (Unless you’re a driving maniac in a Lincoln Aviator)

Lincoln Aviator on Skyline Drive 2018 Utah
New Mexico can wait. 

Highway 550 / New Mexico

Cruising Highway 550 late at night is like playing Russian Roulette with a blindfold on.

Unlighted, on a starless night makes it look a bit like a video game. Add to that a full blood moon, drawing the deer to the brink of migration insanity and the edge of the roadway.

Swirling around blind corners in the dark of night is ‘steering wheel gripping’ enough. The threat of deer prancing out onto the roadway, adds to the spine tingling effect. Especially with so little light.

At first I thought it must be me. Maybe the window isn’t clean, my glasses need a wipe. I’m bleary from exhaustion? Perhaps my night vision had become weak suddenly?

Then I realised that oncoming traffic had their high beams blazing too. Some turned them off as they neared out of courtesy, others not. Even the truckers.

High beams screaming across the median offers even greater charm to the hilarity of this steep, windy drive at night. Made a mental note to do it in the day. Likely a great piece of roadway … when you can see.

There I was. The drunks, the truckers and I, hurtling along the black void of this high speed roadway, bargaining with our lives at each turn.

After eating up over 2000 miles of roadway in only a few days, I was once more driving into the wee hours of the night.

But I was almost there.

Then it happened.

BEEEP!

“Warning extremely low tire pressure!”

WTF?

No warning of trouble coming, just the threat of doomsday at hand.

Damn, only 26 miles from Madrid, New Mexico.

This is the point that I must pause and mention that I knew there was a nail in the tire and a slow leak before leaving Portland 2000 miles ago. Apparently, I decided to deal with it as it occurred and then completely pushed it to the back of my mind.

Think about what I’ve told you. What I’ve done with and where I’ve been with that car.

Yeah, I’m an idiot. You agree. It’s ok.

Flat tire in New Mexico

I drive the car 9 miles to the first gas station in 100 miles. Thankful this New Mexico town was so close at hand at my time of need. Not allowing myself to think about if this had happened earlier on my desolate highway 550 drive. I’d of been communing with the deer.

I hop out of the the car to have a look… and it’s bad. The nail near the sidewalk is hissing air.

Can’t drive another mile level bad.

I’m fucking tired. I know I should call roadside assistance (I have 3) but it’s now only 17 miles to my destination and I’m an idiot.

With much due hesitation I purchase a can of Fixaflat. I know in my heart of hearts this is bound to go badly. Yet I persevere, as idiots so often do.

It seems to hold, so I drive off, fingers crossed. Knowing full well at this point that I’m an idiot.

It’s about 1:10AM now and I’ve been driving nearly 14 hours straight with just a few short breaks.

Interstate 25 is pretty mild compared to 550. More traffic and towns. I’ll make it. I know I’ll make it.

A little voice in the back of my head that is never wrong, said, “You know you won’t”

Oh Google Maps!You’re such a trickster.

Google Maps decided to once again fuck with me. It tends to only do this in the middle of the night. It turns me onto some crazy side road (A54?) to get to 14 and my ultimate destination, Madrid.

Google maps has done this to me before. But that’s for another story.

Desolate, dark, rocky and craggy. The unpaved, unlit farm road had huge holes and was graveled with the same large sharp rocks as Skyline Drive.

It starts out slightly paved, but as I drive out it gets more and more rough.

I’m already 3 miles in. I know that tire seal shit isn’t going to hold. But I hope.

From what little I could see in the pitch black, the road was flanked by endless scrubby plants, rock and sand.

Like every inch of land in New Mexico, it was fenced.

It’s 1:36am now and I know I’m totally fucked.

BEEEP!

RootlessRoutes New Mexico 2018
Communing with the coyotes in New Mexico. Just miles from Madrid 2018

“Warning extremely low tire pressure!”

“Hello? This is roadside assistance! Are you in a safe location?”