Day 6: Las Vegas to Carrizozo

Day 6 (Thursday): Having written yesterday’s diary notes in my hotel room, at around 0730 am I walked into east Las Vegas to “Carmen’s” (now “Charlie’s”) Spic and Span Cafe, for a true diner breakfast burrito – very large! Back onto the road taking the I25 south before turning off onto NM3, which turned out to be a pleasant scenic back route.

San Miguel del Vado was established in 1794 at the Santa Fe Trail’s principle crossing point of the Pecos River. Bypassed by the railroad it declined in the 19th century as nearby Las Vegas prospered. I bought some stamps in the post office and wrote a postcard to Zoe on the terrace of the “Sad Cafe”.

Photo Gallery: San Miguel and Villanueva…

Continuing south on NM3 I saw a rattlesnake which in length was spanning most of the other lane of the road.  When I stopped the car it disappeared remarkably quickly into the roadside grass where it became totally invisible. At Encino I joined US60 west to Mountainair and hence NM55 which zigzags south and east towards the ruins of Gran Quivira Pueblo. It was a very quiet road, mile after mile, with some good views of the New Mexican landscape.

Photo Gallery: South to Gran Quivira Pueblo…

According to the guide book, Gran Quivira was abandoned in 1672 “probably in part as a result of invading Apaches”.  It seems that there had been tensions between the settled Pueblo tribes and the nomadic Apache and Navajo’s since the later arrived in the area in the 13th century and the Spanish invasion in the 16th century only added to the strife.

Continuing south on NM55 and US54 I passed the salt lakes,  “salinas”, before I arrived in Carrizozo where I booked in at the Rainbow Inn motel.  The nearby Four Winds bar/cafe was very quiet. The bartender, who kept pouring canned beer into his soft drink cup, said he was off at 5pm after which the cafe waitress would tend both bar and cafe, since there would be little custom. He said that the place was busy during June to January. In fact, Carrizozo’s heyday was back in 1910 to 1920 when it was a railroad town, the site of a roundhouse engine shed and a repair shop.

The guide book describes Carrizozo disparagingly as “little more than a place to release your cruise control for a few minutes”! However, as I walked through town, taking pictures of old stores and other buildings, it seemed a rather a nice place. An amazing antique store was full of religious statues. The Outpost Bar, where I got a meal, had a 1840’s bar furniture. Afterwards I sat outside my motel room reading until dark.

Now, as I look at the photographs they feel rather sad. Did the Motel with “Open Soon” written on every room window ever open? The old Lincoln County School Library with its sign that “The Fountain of Wisdom Flows Through Books” has relocated to the building next to the jail. But that item on the “Ruidoso News” web site is not dated, nor is an item on restoring the historic Lyric Theatre. The web site referred to does not work.

And the Sunset Inn, listed in the third (1994) edition of the New Mexico Handbook, didn’t make it into the fourth (1997). What is life really like in Carrizozo today? One hopeful sign – according to its Facebook page the Carrizozo Heritage Museum was due to open on 5th March 2020. But there are no further entries; I hope it has not fallen victim to the covid-19 virus.

Photo Gallery: Carrizozo…

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