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+ The Turquoise Trail is NM-14 as it snakes its way from Interstate-40 east of Albuquerque to Santa Fe, New Mexico. It's a worthy destination for a day's drive if you are in town. Take Interstate-40 eastbound until you see exit 175 for Tijeras and the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway. Head north at a leisurely 50 miles an hour for the first ten miles (do not speed as the enforcement is intense and punctual). Initially you will be surrounded by small strip malls in a residential canyon. Be patient. As you make your way to the 8 mile point, you will reach Sandia Park. Here the land spreads out before you. On your left, going up the mountain, is the Hwy 536 portion of the Turquoise Trail to Sandia Peak. This is at least a 2 hour round-trip unto itself, including viewing time from the crest. A shorter side trip is the jog up that same road to Tinkertown museum. Here, an eclectic bit of Americana is available for about an hours worth of review. The vast hodgepodge of one mans life of carving is assembled into one spot for you to peruse. His passion for detailed small devices is something to behold. Suffice it to say, it's worth the divertion.
So, now you are back on NM-14 heading north. The land becomes a beautiful melange of Pinon, Juniper and scrub bush. The Ortiz Mountains, which once produced millions of dollars in gold, loom before you, blocking the view to Santa Fe. Just 4 miles past the turn-off to Sandia Peak is Paako Ridge Golf Course. It has been rated on of the top 50 public courses in the country and is indeed well loved by those of the little white ball pursuasion. This diversion will stop you for the rest of the day if you fall into that category and you will be most satisfied.
If this is not for you, then proceed north. The next stop on the trail is Golden, NM. Make sure you stop in the Henderson Store. Here you will find amazing Pueblo & Navajo jewelry along with a collection of items that are eclectic and rare. The mercantile has been in business since 1918. They are open 10-3:30 except Sunday and Monday. Another attraction here is the simple and beautiful San Francisco Catholic Church, on a hill to the right of the highway. It 's situated on a beautiful spot overlooking the Ortiz Mountains.
From Golden make your way north to Madrid. Here you will find a funky artist community that hearkens back to the days of 1960's counterculture. A bar & restaurant, the "Mine Shaft Tavern" offers good food, and "interesting" people! The many small shops with handcrafted art and other eateries are the anchors for this town. It is an old coal mining "company town," that regained some measure of fame by lighting up the whole town during Christmas back in the 30's and 40's, so that airliners flying by could see the Christmas Lights of Madrid. An amusement park for children was created "Toyland" , it attracted Walt Disney to visit and even inspired him to create "Disneyland". Visit the "Madrid Old Coal Town Museum" to get the history with some real "Ghost Town" flavor. Madrid hosts many parades and events through out the year. Make no mistake, these people like their privacy and will only tolerate you snooping down their little lanes so much. Buy a rug in the store devoted to Tibetan's; you will find ones unlike anywhere outside of Tibet.
Three miles north of Madrid you will turn off the highway into the village of Cerrillos. While once seriously considered for the capitol of New Mexico, today Cerrillos, with its dirt streets is a picturesque reminder of the Old West. There are 5 miles of hiking, biking and horse trails in the Cerrillos Hills State Park and events held at the park headquarters on Main Street. At the west end of the village is Casa Grande Trading Post, Turquoise Mining Museum and Petting Zoo featuring handmade Cerrillos turquoise jewelry from the owners 2 mining claims. The town has been the setting for several motion pictures and mass is held at St Joseph Church on Sunday morning. Scattered along the highway north of town are several galleries and a sculpture garden.
If you didn't grab a green-chile cheesburger at the Mineshaft, you may want to try the San Marcos cafe 10 miles north of Cerrillos for lunch. Here, you will eat with the chickens pecking in the yard outside, so you know the eggs, if you have them, are fresh. The food here is fantastic. It looks like and is part of a hardware store. This is a great place open 9-2.
The greatest thing about the Turquoise Trail is the fantastic scenery and the amazing characters you will find along the way. Make sure you take the time to take this drive when visiting Albuquerque. Santa Fe now lies before you. Another New Mexico story for you to explore..