We love Santa Fe, but are there cracks forming in the “adobe” of the family road trip?

After our great night in Oklahoma, we finished our three-day marathon drive to Santa Fe. This was a scenic drive that I remembered from a trip I took with some friends when I was a twenty year-old college student. Santa Fe is alone out in the desert. At 13 miles from our downtown hotel, there was still no indication a city existed – not a structure in sight. When you do reach Santa Fe, you’ll notice that everything – and I mean everything – is adobe… ish. Clearly, city ordinance mandates all structures adhere to a color scheme and style. It’s remarkable.

Left: The hallway of the Historic Santa Fe Foundation is beautiful and cool. Right: Example of the adobe structures on Canyon Road.

My only complaint about all the adobe is that it leaves me wondering which buildings are actually old adobe buildings and which are faux-dobe. (Ba dump – crash.) I understand the motivation to create charm and atmosphere. Keeping in the character of the city is an important goal. But I have a feeling the seven-story Hilton isn’t really made out of adobe, so it feels kind of false. I want to see a 30-story skyscraper in adobe. Do it, Santa Fe.

Adobe McDonalds, adobe IHOP – to paraphrase Henry Ford, you can have any color paint you want as long as it’s brown. All this adobe makes it really hard to find the Taco Bell and all the hotels look like La Quinta.

What isn’t false is the never-ending sea of art galleries. With kids in tow, we made our way down Canyon Road. I was a little nervous when Monica bought two pieces of art in the first gallery we visited. To be fair, they cost less than the Bruno Mars tickets she bought last year. And they were the only things we saw under $1,000 all day – so it was a win. The artist was super friendly. I think it’s important to support working artists and we did our little part.

As we meandered down the narrow lane, the kids were getting antsy and hungry. We found our way into an airy restaurant called Compound, which bragged of a James Beard Award winning chef. This is the second meal I’ve knowingly eaten that was prepared by a James Beard winner (the first was a good friend’s daughter). Wow. I had a beautiful clam and chorizo risotto that cost less than a hotel restaurant burger. (Monica hates when people call food “beautiful” on TV, so this one’s for you, darlin’).

The other highlight of Santa Fe was something that locals had a hard time describing. It’s called “Meow Wolf.” I’ll call it a psychedelic fun-house and just let you enjoy the pictures, and please, watch the video.

After torturing the kids through art galleries and restaurants with salad forks, we decided to get out into the vast country. Our visit to Bandelier National Monument was a sort of pilgrimage for me. As I mentioned, I came through this area in college when I joined three friends on a spring break hiking trip through the backcountry of this amazing park. Twenty-four years later, it was everything I remembered.

It’s wonderful that Bandelier isn’t as famous as other parks with cliff dwellings. We met a nice family and the kids made friends for the afternoon.

Twenty-four years ago, I hiked 20 miles into the backcountry with a 40 lb pack. Now, when I see signs warning pregnant women and people with heart conditions against some activity, they mean me. Vascular Ehlers-Danlos puts me in the awkward position of not doing things I’m seemingly capable of doing, because my arteries just can’t take it. In this case, I humbly watched Monica and our son go 140 feet up the canyon wall.

Rain to our north extended our stay in Santa Fe by one night. In my promise not to only show the rosy side of this trip, this is when twenty-one days on the road was starting to take a toll on our nerves. In spite of our sophisticated rating system borrowed from James’s second grade teacher, our patience with them was thin – as was theirs with each other. We needed to get out of hotels and into the wilderness and let the beasts run. Would Mesa Verde National Park be the elixir to our doldrums? We hit the road to find out…

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“Don’t make me turn this van around” is written by Jonathan Kile, and approved by Monica Kile. Check out Jon’s periodic column, “So How’s That New Book Coming?” at Creative Loafing – Tampa. His 2014 thriller, The Grandfather Clock, is available free for Kindle on Amazon.com and other eReaders at Smashwords. Reach him at jkilewrites@gmail.com. Monica is a freelance grant writer, non-profit consultant, tour guide, and connoisseur of 70s rock lyrics.

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