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.

Madrid New Mexico | Part III | Desert Oasis

RootlessRoutes Madrid New Mexico 2018

Overwhelmed with relief to see the sign ‘Welcome to Madrid’, I knew my turn onto Back Road was close at hand.

No longer any need for the low tire pressure warning since now there was no doubt that the tire was entirely flat.

Madrid New Mexico RootlessRoutes
Hello Madrid New Mexico August 2018. It as a Hell of a ride getting to you.

After turning on Back Road it was only one half mile left to the AirBnB.

The night was even darker, but it did not take me long to realize this was yet another unpaved road, laden with huge gaping potholes.

FUCK!

Hello Madrid

Here we are, actually in Madrid and subsequently what I thought would be the end of our ordeal. But now I was driving on a pitch black, unmarked dirt road, riddled with fissures and huge holes.

I started chanting again.  “Come on baby, you can do it”.

The shaking of the SUV caused Roadie to sit up and try to peer out the window.

“Lie down dammit!” I yelled, worried she’d get hurt flying across her bed, even within the doggie hammock.

A nice comfy bed was ahead of us. I just needed to make it. Only one fourth of a mile to go.

I envisioned sleeping in a bed as I traveled down the  mild grade of the unlevel and poorly maintained, muddy road.

Before me the rent in the road was wide, deep and on the same side as the flat back tire.

There was little room between the cars parked on either side but nothing was going to stop me at this point.

Slowly I pulled forward, the front right tire fell into the unavoidable hole causing the SUV to lean dangerously to the right.

Unpaved Roads & Anxious Dogs

The dog fell backward (I had told her to lay her ass down) and clunked her head on the door.

Thankfully, once we made it out of the hole she sat up, after a bit of struggle to get her ground and started panting like the happy dog she is.

RootlessRoutes
Waldo Mesa Road Madrid New Mexico

How could .3 miles take so long. I swore the GPS was stuck.

As soon as I got close to what looked like the turn for Waldo Mesa Road, the map would expand showing it to be further ahead.

One more gaping hole in the road, of course it was also on the right. We made it through and were once more on level ground. Now making our way up a mild hill covered with huge sharp, rocks for gravel. (don’t they know what gravel is in New Mexico?)

We completed the last turn in the road and the roadway mellowed.

Flat dirt, no holes and I was pretty sure the light shining up ahead was the light for our AirBnB.

As we got closer though I groaned. The house was just as pictured, but subsequently on another fissure ridden hill.

“For fucks sake!”

I turned onto Waldo Mesa Road and stopped in front of the gate. I got out and took a deep breath. It may have been quite a challenge getting here, but I was in the New Mexico desert and it was beautiful.

Grateful in Madrid

I was so grateful to have made it I could have kissed the sand below my feet.

I took a few moments to appreciate my surroundings and remind myself how lucky I was to be here at all.

The AirBnB was adorable and it was surrounded by the scrubby, rolling hills of New Mexico.

Even in the dark it glowed with a tinge of pink. If I had to have 2 flat tires, then better in this place. I was infinitely glad to be there.

Roadie whimpered. She had to pee.

Leaving the SUV on the road I helped her out of the back seat and escorted her to our new digs.

The key was on the table as promised, so I let her in and went back down the hill.

Pulling the SUV in was not easy. The Aviator sat at a precarious angle but I really wanted to get into bed and sleep.

After hauling everything we needed for the night, I loaded the cold stuff into the fridge, washed up, changed and fell fast asleep.

Madrid New Mexico. About as bleary a picture as I felt

Madrid, New Mexico.

Good night!

Standing Stones of Avebury A Stone Circle Better (& Older) Than Stonehenge

Avebury Standing Stones
Avebury Stone Circle Wiltshire England

Yes, we all know of Stonehenge, but Avebury Stone Circle aka Avebury Standing Stones, felt much more magical to me. The Avebury standing stone circle is the largest series of stone circles in the world. A stone circle believed to be much older than Stonehenge, Avebury is not technically a “henge” because it does not have stones crossing the top of two others, which is what essentially makes a stone circle a stone henge. Yet Avebury is rather remarkable. The stones are large, and are part of other less prominent circles. The Avebury is about a mile round, which dwarfs stonehenge stone circle of standing stones, significantly.

Avebury buildings
Homes in Wiltshire near Avebury standing stones

Standing for millennia, this lesser known stone circle is enormous, extremely accessible (you can actually touch the stones) far from remote. Wiltshire is a small farming community and only 20 miles from Stonehenge. It is an active, working, countryside village of ancient origins only 20 miles from the extremely contained and tourist laden Stonehenge. It too is a UNESCO World Heritage site as well as part of the UK National Trust and if you get there on a sunny day you can stroll the stone circle for an easy hour, likely meeting up with locals, tourists, sheep herding dogs, sheep and sheepherders.

Wondrous structures, including barns, homes and cottages from the age of the Tudors dot the rolling green hills, full of sheep and other farm creatures. Free from the fences and touristy contrivances of Stonehenge , an extremely contained, roped off and overtly commercialized location, that is pretty much in the middle of a field, far from anything but their own gift shop, cafe, vendors and some sheep. At Avebury you may stroll amongst the ancient rocks at commune with them and the lovely countryside, at your leisure. There are even other things to enjoy and see, such as Avebury Manor & Garden, an interesting site in and of itself.  If you are a member of the National Trust then parking is free. If not, I believe it was only about $5 american to park for as long as you wish. Entrance to the stones circle is free, just lift the lock at the gate and in you go.

Standing stone of Avebury
Standing stone of Avebury stone circle

Avebury Stones are of varying size and shape are found in the backyards of homes still active with life today. It is a truly lovely stroll if the weather is agreeable and does not tend (at least when I was there in 2017) to be overrun with tourists.

Avebury Standing Stone next to Tudor Barn

Avebury Manor & Gardens and the surrounding buildings and village are well worth the visit. The house has an odd history and the decor spans from a variety of eras. The church , graveyard and gardens are sublime. In the end, yeah Stonehenge is worth it, but for it that experience was underwhelming compared to the the mile round, older stones that continue to be part of a thriving community today.

To think of all the people who have looked upon them with awe and touched them in just the same way you can today touch them as well.

Tudor church in Wiltshire

Avebury Manor and Gardens
Avebury Manor and Gardens

Good to note: It is difficult to find the Avebury Standing Stones without a GPS. The signage is small and obsolete. The roads extremely rustic and signage not always clear. Give yourself at least an hour to stroll the entire circle. I believe there to be a restaurant and hotel there but little house beyond the quaint farmhouses and such.

I’m on my way to my next adventure. I’ll write more about my travels soon!

The Highlands, the Scottish Coast & an Angsty Nomad Behind the Wheel

 

Scotland in and of itself is a remarkable place. Driving Scotland, well, that’s pretty new to me. I have visited Scotland before, but on September 26 I will be making my way from Frodsham to Edinburgh to begin a unique adventure.

I found myself in the Scottish Highlands in the 1980s, purely by accident. It is a long and interesting story (at least I think so), that perhaps I will share here one day soon… but these next few posts will be about my upcoming trip, the planning involved, my rather ambitious aspirations involving all that I wish to see and do during this Scottish adventure, as well as driving some of the most treacherous roads of the UK, while driving a manual transmission on the wrong side of the road. (stone cold sober too)

Route Planner Scotland East Coast
Route Planner Scotland East Coast

The first half of my Scottish journey via the AA route planner

To know the story of how I ended up on this journey, check out my about page.

It has taken me an entire month, but utilizing this amazing app (and no I am not connected to them in any way) Travefy, I have finally booked the bulk of it. Mostly staying at AirBnB , with a castle and an Inn thrown in for good measure.

The NC500 is a more popular coastal route and I have gotten quite a lot of shit from people, including Scots, questioning me as to why I wish to drive the grey, dreary, rocky and rather desolate East Coast of Scotland, and well… that IS exactly why.

Soon… the tourists seeking out their very own Craigh na Dun will join the nature seekers and explorers drawn originally by the Northern Lights, over to the less popular but equally starlit skies of Sctoland’s East Coast.

scotland-1564096_640 NOrthern Lights McBeaner
Northern Lights, Scotland

Northern Lights, Scotland

The Millennial adventure travellers, digital nomads and rough travellers, blogging their way through life will inspire the jet setters and eventually your 1/9th part Scottish grandmother, to visit its bleak beauty. The tours will quadruple, the exclusive resorts dig in. Buses will begin clogging the treacherous roads, while yachts fill the quaint fishing piers, in the same manner as they now do Scotland’s Northern Coast. From Edinburgh to all of Aberdeenshire, from Fraserburgh to Inverness and up to the Orkney’s, I wish to see it in all of its Scottishness. (and early Fall is the perfect time of year to experience it that way as well) without too much taint of the visitors soon to come.

Aberdeenshire is rich with ancient history, as well as the castles and ruins of castles to allow one to get lost in the past. From Dunnottar Castle to the beauty of the Fraserburg fishing village, and all of the bits in between.

dunnottar-1537764_640
Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire Scotland
inverness-1621661_640
Inverness, Scotland

From Culloden to the extremely strong ties to the American Revolution of which (amazingly to me) so many are unaware, that a great deal of the soldiers that fought for the right to be free, were disposed Scots, sent to the colonies as punishment for their rebellion, Inverness then the seed and ever the gateway to the Highlands, has its own unique grace and varied history or triumph and strife.

The craggy cliffs of Scotland have been here practically since the beginning of time. They look unreal, precarious and dank. They are survivors, standing strong and tall against the wind, and sun and rain. Standing tall and proud, as they weather the elements much like the history of the Scots that were born there.

Image

Planning My Road Trip Scotlands North Coast East Coast & more…

When I originally planned my UK road trip, as an American driving my way through England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland (basically the U.K. plus 1), and including the entire Scottish coast, I figured the hardest part of it would be driving on the other side of the road and travel blogging my way along, without killing myself (or someone else for that matter). I had no idea that driving ‘Scotlands North Coast’ was not only a “thing”, but a popular “thing”. I also did not realize the sheer extent of planning such a trip.

Highland Cow
Highland Cow

Two years ago I spent 3 weeks driving three of Italy’s coasts. Planning and booking the trip including only AirBnB for stays, was pretty straight forward and in the end, I only came short on one date and only had to move one reservation.

In Italy I drove for an easy 6 1/2 hours at one point, from the Amalfi Coast to Ravenna, and I managed it like champ. I was driving between lanes on the white lines of the highways, speeding around cliff hung, death curves at fearless speeds, and flipping people off like a true Italian driver, happily, in no time and enjoying it!

But… because I had a deadline for landing in Ravenna, I missed a great deal of the ‘spur of the moment’ site seeing, I so very much like to do.

For me road trips, be they European road trips, across the US, or anywhere for that matter, are all about being able to see something interesting, turn off and seek it out.

Although I knew this trip was to be much larger, I did not realise the sheer immensity of the endeavour, and the vast amount of things to see and do.

Even for someone who has travelled the U.K. more than once in the past, it is quite remarkable to realise the vast scope of what is crammed into 4 countries, whose landmass could all fit into the state of Texas.

Bluebells in Austin Texas
Bluebells in Austin Texas 2015 (this park is likely the size of London)

I could live in the Scottish Highlands for a full year, spending each waking moment exploring, and I’d still feel swindled at the end of the year. Add England, Ireland and Wales into the mix and holy sh*t.

If you’re from Australia, parts of Asia or from the US, the land mass of these four (4) countries is diminutive at best. But the immense depth of history, variation of cultures and landscape, architecture, museums, pubs, wilderness, historic sites, people, food, pubs, beaches, cities, farmland, did I say pubs?… it’s just astounding to say the least.

Because of my experience of feeling as if perhaps I missed out on too much on the Italian trip, even if I saw and experienced far more than most do on one such trip, I planned this trip with many more stops, hoping to broaden my chances for more exploration. I’m just not exactly sure how this rigid timeline, in one of my favorite places on the planet, the Scottish Highlands, is going to pan out.

I’ve crammed a Hell of a lot of places to see and things to do, along the rugged trail of the NC 500, no matter how short the actual drive might be. So much, that I am unsure if it is even remotely reasonable, let alone doable, in the sort of stress free and freewheeling style, in which I like to travel.

I realize now, (only one month prior to the trip) it’s quite a stringent timetable for such a tempestuous traveler as myself, so keep your fingers crossed and as usual, I’ll just play it by ear.