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Cerrillos, Villanueva, and NM Hwy 3
July 31, 2009
Trusting the weatherman’s forecast of a warm and sunny February day, I decided to venture forth on a wandering excursion. I plotted out a meandering course to pass through some areas that I have not been to in recent memory. I drove 14 miles east of the Big I on Interstate 40 to exit 175, and then north on North 14, also called the Turquoise Trail. I passed by Cedar Crest and San Antonio, with my first stop planned for Madrid. The mining town- turned ghost town- turned artist community gained fame in recent years as the setting and location of the feature film Wild Hogs. Madrid is home to some rather creative dwellings. For example, there are houses made out of old boxcars, and new homes built inside of old abandoned buildings. My specific destination was the Coal Mining Museum, but upon my arrival I found it closed, and I didn’t see any hours posted. Slightly dismayed, I drove on. I passed through Golden, which was known as Real de San Francisco from 1839 to 1880. There’s not a lot going on in that town now, although there is a wonderful church that I’ve read dates to the 1830’s. This church is probably the most photographed building along the Turquoise Trail. About a dozen miles north of Golden, I turned in to the town of Cerrillos. I parked across from the stately church and set about to wander what seemed to be the main street. There were art galleries and antique stores, but I wasn’t in a shopping frame of mind, so I didn’t go in to any of them. You’ll see painted on the side of one building, “Wortley Hotel” and “Murphy Dolan Co.” It’s not because the town is suffering from some sort of identity crisis, but because Cerrillos was turned into Lincoln for the filming of 1988’s Young Guns. I was pleased to walk the streets, as I happen to like that movie very much. A couple of people were ambling along on horseback, and another horse was hitched in front of one of the galleries. The town had a pleasant, laid back, friendly feeling to it.
After wandering the streets for a bit, I noticed a sign for the Cerrillos Turquoise Mining Museum and, out of curiosity, followed the directions to the museum. I hesitated a moment at the door to the gift shop/museum/petting zoo, thinking about turning and heading back to my truck, when, as it often does, my curiosity got the better of me. I went inside and boy was I glad I did! I was confronted with a dazzling array of items for sale. There was merchandise on tables, on the floor, on the walls, and even hanging from the ceiling. The chaos was enlivening, although there was a certain order to the chaos, which made it an attribute rather than a detriment. I poked around the cornucopia of offerings for a couple of minutes, and then I saw the entrance to the museum part. Upon first glance I knew I had to pay the admission and have a closer look.
I paid the $2 and entered the museum. It’s hard to know where to begin to describe the contents therein. There were antique stoves, antique tools, oil lamps, animal skulls, mining equipment of all types, bottles- lots and lots of bottles, minerals, fossils, pottery sherds, a bullet collection, an old dentist’s chair, a pair of Dutch wooden shoes, (pause, deep breath[just in case you’re reading this aloud]) liquor bottles, an old school bell, spurs, giant pine cones, and on and on. When I went from display to display there really was no telling what I was going to see next. I LOVE that in a museum!
Also worth mentioning was a display case full of items excavated from the outhouse pit of the old hotel that used to be on the property, a model aircraft carrier, and a small alligator tastefully taxidermied into a standing position, holding an ashtray. I really cannot describe the quantity and variety of items in the museum to my satisfaction, so just take my word for it, and go see the place. And plan on spending some time in there.On my way out I was engaged in conversation by the outgoing and spunky proprietress, Patricia. We spoke for a few minutes on tourism, the alarming amount of houses being built on the Turquoise Trail, and the virtues of digging up outhouses. I also learned that money earned from the filming of Young Guns is what financed the building of the museum. Having quite a distance yet to cover this trip, I bade Patricia farewell and headed back to my truck. I continued north on NM 14 for about 3 miles and turned east onto county road 42 towards Galisteo because I chose to avoid Santa Fe, and it seemed like a much more interesting route. County road 42 is a pleasant and not un-scenic thoroughfare. There are a few widely scattered houses, but the recent paving of the road, along with some of the properties having Sotheby’s Real Estate signs, seems to foretell this to be a future chi-chi bedroom community for Santa Fe. There is a portion of about two miles that is not yet paved, but is easily traversable in any vehicle. About 10 miles from NM 14 I met up with NM 41 at Galisteo.
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Walk with local historians through Cerrillos and talk about the towns early history.
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National Scenic BywayOn June 15, 2000 the Turquoise Trail received designation as a National Scenic Byway from the The National Scenic Byways Program after completing a comprehensive corridor management plan.
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