Overland Expo to TBEX: The Taos Edition

As you know, early on in the Overland Expo to TBEX expedition, the Camp Granola crew had a severe case of the grumpies as we made our way towards Taos. With great effort we managed to keep them from taking over but they lay just below the surface, threatening to undermine our trip only one week in.

There’s something about Taos that let’s your worries drift away.

We were planning on two nights in Taos to weather the Memorial Day onslaught that was happening at Great Sand Dunes, the actual point we were working towards after Santa Monica and Topanga. I realized late in the planning process that we would be timing our arrival with the holiday weekend. Not only would the campgrounds be full, it would be a chaotic madhouse and definitely not fun for low-key, crowd-averse folks like us.

So I gave the boys a choice between a layover in Durango or Taos and they were resounding in their unanimous vote for Taos. I love Taos for it’s laid-back New Mexico style and small town charm that I discovered twenty years ago during geology field camp. The boys love it for Michael’s Kitchen. Forget history and art… they love giant cinnamon rolls nearly as big as their heads.

Entering Taos…

So with the grumpies lying just below the surface of our tenuous happiness on the approach to Taos, we were soothed by scenery along Hwy 68 north of Santa Fe. The gentle hills set the stage as you enter Taos. You can’t help but channel the groovy, laid-back Taos mentality.

Weary traveling boys happy to have a good dinner after a long day.

Of course, we were very late to be getting into town with a tent still to pitch as the sun was setting. And wouldn’t you know that we were arriving on a Friday night when the good folks of the Taos police department decided a sobriety check-point right on the main drag was in order. I could feel maniacal laughter bubbling up as I realized the reason for the delays… because no, I hadn’t had anything to drink but a beer sounded really good at that point! When asked if I’d been drinking I really hoped my road-trip glazed eyes didn’t give the impression otherwise.

The optimist in me promised that was the last obstacle for the evening as we pushed to our destination just north of Taos in the town of Arroyo Seco. We wanted to be near town but also camp so I decided to stretch Fred and George’s travel experience to include the hippie hostel, The Abominable Snowmansion.

The Snowmansion…

The Snowmansion offers dorm rooms, private rooms, and the chance to pitch your tent in what’s basically the back yard. Even though it was a bit pricey for the accommodations I thought we’d give the hostel “camping” a try. We’d have the privacy of our tent but have access to something resembling bathrooms and showers and still be within a reasonable distance to town.

Giant cinnamon roll with a side of bacon appears to be George’s idea of a power breakfast.

And so we arrived at the Snowmansion ready to throw the tent up before it got completely dark out. Only when we got there we couldn’t find anyone to help us check in. We waited semi-patiently but there was not a live person to be found in the place and frustration began rearing its ugly head. Finally a guest emerged who knew the owner was out watching the sunset. I really should have known to be honest… this is New Mexico after all.

Having gotten checked in a oriented we set to a lightning fast tent pitch. This isn’t exactly a developed campsite, just a bare patch of lumpy grass. So the process was much like my efforts at Mormon Lake for Overland Expo although I think in this case it looked like the monkeys who pitched it were only deranged instead of intoxicated as well.

At that point it was looking like dinner would be ever-so-gourmet peanut butter and jellies out of the back of the car but in a last-ditch effort, we found the lovely Aceq restaurant was open right next door. Not only was it a great dinner… I got my beer.

Amorous neighbors…

Obviously we’d had a long, hard day so sleep came easily to all of us. And it was almost a great night. But it seems our neighbors in one of the rooms right next to us decided some pre-dawn delight was in order… and that all of us should know about it.

I’m sure you’ve all had that feeling when you’re wakened suddenly in a strange place and it takes a few moments to orient yourself. Well imagine the extra moments it took to grasp the situation as I realized it was 5:30 in the morning and my neighbors weren’t shy about being in the throes of passion. I laughed at first, thinking it probably wouldn’t take long for them to take care of business and I could go back to sleep. But no, they had quite some stamina and as events dragged on I realized in horror that Fred and George were awake too, giving me the raised-eyebrow look of boys who needed an explanation.

Once I got through that educational conversation, the boys treated me to epic quotes, both with perplexed looks on their faces.

I was about to go see if they were ok. ~George

It sounds like they were being tortured. ~Fred

It took a severe amount of self-control to keep a straight face. Inside I was laughing hysterically. This is not really what I had in mind when I set out for educational travel but there you have it.


Unable to get back to sleep, we opted to head to the Taos icon, Michael’s Kitchen, where Fred and George got their giant cinnamon roll fix. My veins now filled with caffeine and the boys’ with sugar, we decided to roam about town for a bit. Shopping is never high on my list but I figured I might be able to find some groovy stuff for my new loft, having moved in right before leaving for this trip.

A trip to the Rio Grande Gorge overlook on Hwy 64 is always colorful.

So we mozied about and I did indeed find some stuff to “Val” up my new place. Of course, shopping didn’t last long for us and we needed to tend to restocking supplies for the next leg of the trip which would take us through Great Sand Dunes and on to Toronto for TBEX. With that checked off the to-do list and being the kind of travelers that we are, we couldn’t resist grabbing a geocache that took us off the main road in Arroyo Seco.

Stepping even a block off the tourist trail, you often find the true heart of these great towns and this was no exception. Behind the facade of shops and restaurants is where people live day-to-day and that’s what I love to see most. That side-trip set the tone for us and we took that lazy day to not feel rushed after the previous two is took for us to get here so we opted out of doing much else except visiting the Rio Grande Gorge for sunset.

Double encore…

Because the previous night’s performance wasn’t enough, our amorous neighbors decided an encore was in order. Only they had an earlier curtain time, an obscene 4 AM. My sense of humor was long-gone at this point and just about the time I’d resigned myself to having to extract my half-asleep self out of the tent to give them a lesson in common courtesy, they wrapped up the show and left to who-knows-where at that hour. At least the boys slept through that round.

And not to be cheated out of as many baked treats as they could get, the boys voted for another Michael’s Kitchen breakfast before we left town. It was good motivation for a quick tent pack-up so with the boys in super-helper mode, we were on the road again fairly early that morning.

After hectic travel days, being able to take my sweet time to shoot the sunset felt really good.

On the road again…

With Great Sand Dunes in our sights, we eased out of Taos. I pointed us toward Alamosa, CO, determined to reach a better road-trip balance between getting to our next campsite and not feeling rushed. We stopped for an occasional geocache as well as the border signs for Colorado but pushed on for the most part. This required me to stifle my inner geology geek who wanted to be set free on all of the amazing road-cuts we passed by.

This time we were successful. (Huzzah!) We managed to get to camp, set up our temporary home, and settle in without feeling like we raced to get there. My feelings as a triumphant traveler were short-lived though.

Leaving glorious New Mexico for the wonder of Colorado. Not a bad trade.
Hello Colorado! Blubaru sporting another 3,500 miles on her odometer after a week-and-a-half into the Overland Expo to TBEX expedition.

But that’s a story for next time…

And now for your moment of green…

A sunset over the Rio Grande Gorge is all you need to get in the Taos state of mind.


  1. Val – We were at Myles Standish State Forest near Plymouth, MA. I agree, loud is rude no matter what. People who sleep through their alarms while tent camping make crazy 🙂 But with that case, I was really scared 🙁

  2. Argh. I don’t know what’s worse. At least amor is amor, right? Even if we don’t want to be witnesses to it, the people involved are content. We had a camping experience this summer that scared the heck out of me. A family in our loop erupted into a drunken, abusive/foul language argument in the middle of the night. I had no mobile signal to call the rangers who were miles away. I truly felt that a firearm was going to be produced or someone was going to end up in the hospital as a result of the domestic disturbance. Truly scary, and I felt entirely helpless. Thankfully, the girls slept through it for the most part.

    1. Geez Gwyneth! Where did that happen? I’ve never had anything quite so volatile.

      As far as the lovers… I actually had a good sense-of-humor about what they were doing. I really did laugh at first but I don’t care what kind of noise you’re making (playing your tuba, having a raucous game of Go Fish, etc…) it’s just seriously not cool to be that loud in the middle of the night. And given that it wasn’t just a one-off incident, it was clear they were just ridiculously clueless.

Comments are closed.