January 13, 2016, ABQ Free Press
The abandoned mining town-turned-artist-haven is a beautiful place to spend a day
That’s MAD-rid, not Muh-DRID
Hop in the car and let’s head north along the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway to Madrid.
Turquoise Trail is one of 25 national scenic byways in New Mexico. At 52 miles long along NM 14, it connects Albuquerque to Santa Fe, with many scenic vistas. The backside of the Sandias loom in the distance – almost unrecognizable without their granite faces.
Madrid is just big enough that, if you were to sneeze on the drive through, you’d catch the tail end of it.
Once a ghost town after the coal mine industry fell apart in the 1950s, Madrid was brought back to life in the 1970s. Local artists came in and renewed it. Interestingly, no chain businesses are allowed in the town, making it just that much more original.
Enough history, let’s get started. On the east side of the road, you can’t miss it, is our first stop. Park here, and prepare to walk through the small, unique town.
Albuquerque to Java Junction: 43.8 miles
Always start with a cup o’ coffee. A day without coffee is a day without the sun.
Java Junction also has many scrumptious pastries. Most of their supplies come from local vendors in Santa Fe, and others from small, sustainable New Mexican family farms.
Savor the morning with your companions. The warm cup of coffee will keep you going for the rest of the day.
On to the next waypoint.
Java Junction to Connie’s Photo Park:
Begin walking west on the side of the road. As you make your way to the park, make sure to stop in the odd but intriguing shops.
If you’ve been through other old, revitalized mining towns, the layout feels familiar. The repainted new shops don’t hide the old architecture. Previously homes, the storefronts are filled with local trinkets.
On the south side of the road, a bit down the way, reside some funky, incomplete pieces of artwork. Here, you become the missing piece.
Pull out your camera, it’s time to let your goofy side out. Designed by a local artist, the outdoor photography studio allows you to become any number of characters: a cowboy, or maybe a newlywed couple.
Connie’s Photo Park to The Mine Shaft Tavern:
On the way to the tavern, head east but take the longest way possible. It’s time to be a tourist.
The art is as quirky as the town; from recycled art to polished stone. The scenic byway is called The Turquoise Trail for a reason. The area is rich in turquoise, which is celebrated in the custom, handmade jewelry found in almost every store.
If you’re lucky, you might spot the jeweler in the back, crafting the next unique piece.
Every store represents a special part of Madrid. There’s a woman with a boot fetish. A man who crafts delectable chocolates. While each of the shops sell different items, they all have a similar feel.
When you’ve exhausted your exploratory shopping, make your way back to the tavern and order some grub. Sadly, they don’t have a house brew, but they do carry many local beers.
If you go on the weekend, you might catch a special event. The tavern always has something lively going on.
The Mine Shaft Tavern to Albuquerque: 43.8 miles
Another long day under the colorful sunset, time to retrace our steps back to home.
Stops: Many; Miles: about 99