On the road again heading through Arizona.

Photo: Natalie Menacho

In the first half of June Natalie and I got on the road again for our first big trip of the year. We were headed to the Southwest, land of painted deserts and amazing canyons. Our plan was to get to Taos, New Mexico, as quickly as possible, then head slowly back to Sonoma County and see what we could along the way. On our first night we made it to Barstow. We asked the woman at the motel what drove the Barstow economy. She said, “People trying to get to somewhere else.”

The next morning, on our way to do just that, I didn’t fill up the tank, thinking gas would be cheaper on the highway. I was wrong. It kept getting more expensive the further into the desert we got. And then, after a while, there simply weren’t any more gas stations. Just as I was about to reduce our speed to make the most of our dwindling fuel, a gas station appeared like an oasis — I think it was even called Desert Oasis. Saved! Except that gas was $5.00 a gallon. OK, half a tank then. $50 later, we were back on the road. In Needles, California, right on the Arizona border, I filled up the rest of the tank at something like $4.89/gallon. As soon as we crossed into Arizona it was something like $3.89. D’oh.

Albuquerque, our next stop, was surprisingly pleasant. If you go, check out Il Vicino. They serve thin-crust pizzas that’s absolutely delicious. What’s more they can be washed down with beer they brew on site. Yum.

At Cafe Pasqual in Santa Fe’s 400-year-old downtown we were serendipitously greeted by Natalie’s friend Jill, who we were going to stay with in Taos. It was quiet a small-town way to arrive. When we arrived at their house in Taos, Jill, and her husband John, made us a delicious stew using a goat they got from a neighbor. Meat doesn’t get any more local than that. What’d we have the next morning? Goat-milk chai lattes and pancakes, of course!

Delicious, homemade goat stew!

Photo: Natalie Menacho

A beautiful, 100%-off-the-grid Earthship house.

Photo: Nik Schulz

After exploring Taos’s fantastic, self-sustaining “Earthship” houses, we stumbled across an old trail that followed along the edge of the Rio Grande Gorge. We followed it, got out of the truck, and just peered over the edge. Amazing.

The trail ends at the edge of the Rio Grande Gorge

Near the Rio Grande Gorge

Natalie at the edge of the Rio Grande Gorge

Looking North up the Rio Grande near Taos

Photos: Nik Schulz

After a wonderful stay in Taos, we headed northwest across New Mexico heading towards Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly.

Packing up camp in Taos

John and Jill’s sweet little dog Todd, a former city-dweller who now patrols the yard at night with a purposeful bark, was sad to see us go.

Photos: Natalie Menacho

Next: Southwest Trip, Part 2: Canyon de Chelly