For such a small town – population about 5000 – Taos, NM has a rather cosmopolitan atmosphere. There are lots of trendy restaurants and shops, and even an oxygen bar. There’s a new and rare bookstore called Moby Dickens. Coffee shops and Obama stickers are everywhere, and there’s a large health food supermarket. There are also plenty of bohemian/hippie types, such as the young lady who approached us in a parking lot and offered us some chocolate flavored with a certain form of vegetation of questionable legality. And tourists also can be quite thick, many of them on their way to or from the nearby ski resort or the even closer casino.
The area is also of historical significance. Legendary scout Christopher “Kit” Carson lived here, and his home is now a museum. Novelist D.H. Lawrence also lived nearby. But the most historical thing of all, of course, is Taos Pueblo, which was built more or less a millennium ago. And it’s still inhabited by about 150 members of the local tribe, who live, as the original residents did, without electricity or running water.
Inspired by the architecture of the pueblo,virtually the whole town of Taos has been constructed in an adobe style, giving the impression of a settlement that grew out of the earth, as opposed to being built on top of it. This includes even franchise outlets like Smith’s, Albertson’s and Burger King. Even the Wal-Mart has made half an attempt at compliance.
But as charming as the little burg is, we really hadn’t planned to spend more than about a day here. Relatively little is going on around here at the moment – the pueblo is closed to the public due to some sort of tribal ceremony. Skiing is slow going right now, and it wasn’t really on our schedule or in our budget anyway. And everything else is keeping short hours, including the library at which we spent Saturday afternoon working on our laptops. So we’d planned to get out of town Sunday morning. But technology had other plans.
We wanted to rent a movie from RedBox Saturday night, but hadn’t yet activated our credit card (actually, it’s a debit card, but we refer to it as a credit card, so there). According to the instructions our bank sent us, we could activate it at any ATM. But we tried it at one ATM, and it wouldn’t work. So we went to a bank across the street and tried its ATM. That didn’t work either. It was becoming clear that not only could we not activate it at “any” ATM, we couldn’t activate it at ANY ATM. That was the good news. The bad news was that the machine apparently hadn’t been fed in a while, because it devoured our card. And that meant sticking around until Monday so we could go into the bank and, we hoped, get it back.
Following a night that saw temperatures drop into the teens, Sunday warmed up considerably by mid-afternoon. Since the library was closed, we sought out one of the abundant cafe to do some online work. It turned out to be an excellent choice, a rustic and artsy little coffee emporium cum art studio in which the seating area consisted mostly of a patio enclosed by plastic sheeting that kept the heat in – a good thing, because the early part of the day was still chilly.
After the cafe closed at 3:00, we decided it was warm enough and windless enough to take a bike ride around town and soak up the local flavor. We stopped by Kit Carson’s house, but it was closed today. Then we headed out toward the Pueblo, hoping at least to get a glimpse of the outside of it. But we soon came to a sign advising us that bicyclists and hikers are prohibited on reservation land. Which struck us as incredibly strange – they have no objection to motorists, but they don’t allow bikers or even walkers???
Sunday would have been a perfect day to leave town, since we were concerned about snow catching us as we drove over the mountains. But we had to stick around until this morning – and lo and behold, it was colder again, and there was more snow at first. We headed to the bank first thing and spoke to a teller, who referred us to a manager, who gave us our card back after checking some ID and having us fill out a form. She said she didn’t normally give cards back, but would make an exception. It appears that banks are in the habit of hanging onto any card that the machine decides to swallow, even if there’s no reason for it. Pretty scary.
We went to another Internet coffee shop, mostly to check weather and driving conditions. This particular cafe also had an amazing collection of DVDs for rent, including cult classics, foreign films and rarities. We asked one fellow seated next to us about the best way to get to Colorado without driving over the mountains, and he said “Fly”. But then he suggested one particular route that we’d been considering anyway.
We went that way, leaving shortly after noon, and it turned out not to be very mountainous at all. And there was no more snow. So we were able to make it easily to Pueblo, CO. We haven’t really spent any time here, except just passing through, since we did the “Christmas Carol” tour in 1994. The tempus really does fugit, doesn’t it?