It was a bittersweet morning leaving Santa Fe – I just wanted to stay in our Airbnb and eat chili rellenos and green chili stew from every place that would let me for the next week. But business as usual called and we had to begin our journey North and West back to Seattle. Our first stop was Taos in order to see the pueblo ruins, except they were closed because they are on Native Land, and these, unlike Monument Valley, you cannot see from the road.
It was a bit of a bummer because this closure took us by surprise and we didn’t have a good alternative. The alternative archaeological sites were all behind us in Utah, Arizona and other parts of New Mexico.
We did find an extremely curious graveyard, that I photographed from afar, with the exception of the even more curious statue of Jesus carrying the cross near what looked like an abandoned building. The graveyard was surrounded by a barbed wire fence, and a lot of graves looked old, while others, looked very recent. The complete lack of signage and explanation was the most eerie. I took my pictures with care not to enter the actual space to prevent initiating the plot of some type of found footage pandemic road trip horror story.
A pleasant bonus surprise on the way to Taos though was the Rio Grande Visitor’s Center. It was also closed but its handouts and exhibits were all on the outside. It was also a great spot to get a photo of the river that is the life blood of the Southwest, and the reason that civilization is arranged how it is in the area.
So what does one do when they can’t do what they wanted in a small town with no other plan, and really nothing else to do? They shop, have lunch and explore was is open in town in front of them. Taos was cute, adobe covered, and filled with construction.
We put two boxed wreath shaped ristras of red chilis in the car, a few cookbooks and in my case, the spices necessary to make a fine posole and green chili stew at home, and sat down for a very pleasant (but very spicy in my case) lunch.
Even the wait staff admitted that the chili was hot on this fine Tuesday afternoon. Stomachs full, doggie walked and all other needs taken care of we began our drive North to spend the night in Denver before crossing Wyoming.
We passed some Earthship housing and some shifting topography.
If we had been properly prepared this picture of a bridge would be of the Rio Grande Gorge, but we weren’t and we passed it before there was a good place to pull over and try again. So we kept going, and stopped in front of Cano’s Castle some where in who the heck cares Southern Colorado.
I’m not sure what it is about Colorado, but it for sure holds two of the largest individually made castle like structures. Cano’s and Bishop’s Castle, although the raw material is different (Cano’s is made out of beer cans and hub caps) they are both large death trap like structures built out of the imagination, financing and ingenuity of one individual. Cano’s however, does not have a gift shop or a website pretending it has one like Bishop’s – it is just noted on Atlas Obscura (which notes that Cano is a Vietnam Vet who built the structure as a thank you for his life being spared, inspired by Jesus and Mary Jane).
Our night in Denver was not memorable, and we literally just drove through – I explored it earlier this year and hopefully I’ll be back in the area next year to see Trampled by Turtles at Red Rocks Amphitheater. So we drove on through Northern Colorado which is about as interesting as Southern Colorado on the route we took and soon found ourselves in Wyoming. Wyoming, the most square state, with the least population, has about 14 varieties of nothing to stare at outside one’s car windows. Here is a gallery of the different types of nothing.
It does have Yellowstone (which I’ll share about in the next post) but on the way to Cody, Wyoming it only has a few bits of interesting, unless counting the different kinds of nothing is interesting.
I did have, for breakfast, a super solid BLT at a roadside diner. Where the half-masked waitress tried to give us advice about going to Yellowstone, but she had it all wrong. We thanked her anyway, as she meant well and maybe we looked like we needed help.
After crossing the great expanse we made it to Cody, Wyoming. Which was not as historic and cute as I thought it would be. It just named everything after Buffalo Bill, and is home to Buffalo Bill’s Center of the West – a large museum focused on the sharing the story of the West with its visitors. We did not go, it was closing too soon after our arrival in town, and I was more curious about dinner at the Irma Hotel than a likely romanticized version of history downplaying genocide among other things.
The Irma Hotel, is a historic structure, albeit now expanded, that features a gift shop, bar, and restaurant with a “famous prime rib.” Based on the google reviews, it also featured very slow, but very friendly service, and decently palatable food. As it was the only game in town, historic, and a piece of Western cheese and history, it required a visit and dining experience.
We ordered the smallest portion of prime rib possible – it came quickly, wheeled out with our salads and sides on a cart by a masked waitress. While we were ordering Charlotte escaped from her dog purse, but the waitress, having recently adopted a pup herself, was unphased by the appearance of my chihuahua from the bag on the floor. Thank goodness, as I was hungry by this point, and there really weren’t a lot of other options for dinner. The prime rib was tasty, and my mashed potatoes featuring “brown” gravy, although they look like they were scooped out of a fake food photo, were actual real red potatoes mashed skins on. My Caesar salad was overdressed, but that was my fault for ordering a Caesar where I was.
My curiosity about Cody was satisfied. I understand why Buffalo Bill’s wife insisted he be buried in the Denver area. His resting place there had a better view, if nothing else. Cody is instead a place sitting on the edge of wilderness and the vast unpopulated wonder that is Wyoming. It sits in some ways as the front door to Yellowstone Park from the East, and it holds in its streets the story of what happened when “The Wild West” turned into a tame commercial district.