This is part two of my day spent traveling to Española and Taos. For part one, click here.
The eventful morning had me in an excellent mood. My window was down and my radio was cranked high as I entered a valley. Small artistic communities dotted the shoulder as the two-lane road snaked around mountains and the Rio Grande river. The sudden appearance of an old Frontier Gas sign told me I’d arrived at my next stop: The Classical Gas Museum.
The collection of roadway relics in Embudo, NM is the work of Johnnie Meier. The man has spent decades collecting a great variety of rusted and restored roadside paraphernalia. Signs, license plates, gas pumps, even a partially-restored Valentine Diner. Johnnie is also active in the New Mexico Route 66 Association, having lead it on several occasions. He has restored over a dozen neon signs over the years, including a full replication of the lost signage at Albuquerque’s KiMo Theatre. To say we had a lot to talk about would be an understatement. I had a blast getting to know him a little bit and shared a bit of my passions in return. I had to tear myself away eventually, but I promised I’d keep in touch.
A few miles down the road, I branched off the main highway onto a smaller two-lane that ran right alongside the Rio Grande. It was a beautiful drive; the sound of the river and the steep rock slopes on either side gave my journey a magical feeling. At Taos Junction, a small truss bridge crossed the river. Once again, I was out-and-about taking photos with the energy of a kid. No doubt the people fly-fishing in the river were curious about my excitement, but it was a silent curiosity.
My excitement was tempered somewhat when I got back in the Mustang and realized I would have to take a crazy switchback drive up the side of the valley to get out. I had flashbacks to the Moki Dugway as I navigated the gravel path; thankfully, I didn’t encounter any significant opposing traffic. When I reached the top, I took a triumphant break and marveled at the mountain range in the distance. What beautiful country!
Next on my list was another bridge, though this one was quite a bit bigger. The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge is 1,280 feet long and sits 565 feet above the river! It’s an engineering marvel. Although I was happy to take photos from the nearby scenic outlook, I dared not join the dozen-or-so other tourists that had walked out on it. I had enough trouble with the height from the parking lot. I drove over it just fine, anyway.
My final sight-seeing stop of the day, was a third bridge. The John Dunn Bridge also spans the Rio Grande, a bit farther north. I was greeted with yet another steep, rocky road on my approach. It was so bad I almost turned around…but, thankfully, I didn’t. The bridge itself sits beautifully in another valley. As stressful as those drives were, the views were worth it. I’m just happy the car didn’t rattle to bits.
I pulled in to my motel in Taos close to sunset. I took a stroll down to the town square, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and retired. It had been a long and productive day on the road…with one more long day of driving to get home. But, if you know me, you know it wouldn’t be a straight shot.