Traveling from Albuquerque to Santa Fe is a beautiful drive, even on the interstate. But on a trip this summer, I took the more scenic route along the Turquoise Trail, and I was rewarded with great views and fun places to stop.
The route of the Turquoise Trail (https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/byways/byways/2094/maps)
The Turquoise Trail follows route NM-14 from Tijeras in the south to the suburbs of Santa Fe in the north. It follows the eastern edge of the Sandia Mountains. I first drove this route a twenty-five years ago. The Amazing Ms. D and I were drawn by the promise of seeing three ghost towns along our trip. Today, the towns of Golden, Madrid and Cerillos are no longer abandoned. They have become centers of growing arts communities, and homes to the two stops I made this year.
My first stop was at the Tinkertown Museum, in Sandia Peak. Tinkertown is a labor of love, created by Ross Ward. Ward began carving figures while in junior high school. He continued this hobby while traveling the country as a painter for all of the major carnivals and circuses. He turned his hobby into a traveling attraction, one that he brought with him on the road.
In 1984, Moss opened the Tinkertown Museum, filling up one room. Today the museum covers twenty-two rooms. The two main exhibits are the Western Town and the Circus displays. Each features hundreds of miniature figures, many of which have been animated. All show Moss’ respect for and humor about his subjects. There are many more objects of nostalgia on display, from midway games, to dolls to classic signs. It is worth the 1 to 2 hours that a full tour will take.
My second stop was in the town of Madrid. Madrid was a thriving coal mining town, a company town, from the 1880’s through the end of World War II. By 1954, mining was done in Madrid, and the town was mostly abandoned. In the 1970’s artists started to move into the area, buying up old houses and land at very low prices, at least in part because there was neither running water or electricity. Today, they have created a thriving community that numbers around 200 households.
When you visit you will find art galleries, jewelry shops, and some very good restaurants. I had lunch at the Holler, on the south end of town. They have a great outdoor space, good sandwiches and offer live music on the weekends. Across the street, is the Mineshaft Tavern, which includes a small museum of local history.
A trip on the Turquoise Trail is a great way to spend a day. It is a beautiful drive through the New Mexico mountains and you can easily drive it in a day, and take the Interstate back home.
Nuts and Bolts:
The Turquoise Trail is about 50 miles long from Tijeras to the first junction with I-25 near Santa Fe. The entire round trip is a little over 100 miles.
Tinkertown Museum - The museum is 1.5 miles west of route 14 on route 536. Entrance fees are $4 for adults/ $3.50 for “geezers”/ $1.50 for children. Please check their website for Accessibility issues. Tinkertown is Open from April 1 to Oct. 31.
Madrid - Route 14 is the main street in Madrid. It is 30 miles south of Santa Fe and 47 miles northeast of Albuquerque. It gets crowded on the weekends, and street parking is limited. There are private lots available for $5.