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Driving in New Mexico


It is illegal to use a cell phone in New Mexico without using a hands-free unit.  They will ticket you.


Ensure you read the bullets on the "Enchanted Circle" page.  They give some overall things for which you should watch, in regard to general driving habits.


This page provides some details of various routes across New Mexico, particularly from the Enchanted Circle to Texas, our home state.


First, be aware of the stereotype most in New Mexico have of Texans.  They think we're loud, unruly, and obnoxious, and found in most bars in New Mexico.  And, we're terrible drivers.  What they don't realize is there are few Texans in Texas any more.  The ones they see are the same ones we natives avoid -- the people from New York, California, Illinois, and other states who moved here 20 years ago because of the Texas economy.  They have Texas license plates because they live in Texas.  But, they aren't Texans ... they're transplants.  They are the ones who real Texans like to see take a vacation somewhere else, just to get them out of our hair.


In Texas, you are expected to move over to the shoulder and allow faster cars to pass you if you are on a 2-lane road and are traveling slower than the speed limit.  In New Mexico, this is illegal -- probably due to their shoulders being about 18" wide -- and can get you a ticket.  You also can't drive while on a cell phone unless you're using a hands-free kit.


In Texas, we have state troopers.  In New Mexico, they are state police.  They don't like to be called troopers.  We found that out chatting with a state policeman who lives across from the house where we were staying.  We spent several hours chatting, and he was quite personable.  The difference, he says, is that they respond to assaults, missing people, etc., and they don't just run radar on the highway.


More driving hints may be found on our Enchanted Circle page.


A few routes of note:


Clayton to Springer:  This highway, which has a high speed of 60 mph, is a straight highway with no scenery whatsoever.  If you are depressed, don't take this road.  You'll die of boredom before you get to the other end, and you might consider taking your own life.  We started in Amarillo, and did the typical Dumas to Dalhart to Clayton trip.  We'll never to it again.  After Amarillo, every mile looked like the previous one, until we left Springer for Cimarron.


Angel Fire to San Jon:  Amazing scenery.  We left Angel Fire south on 38/434, and then turned onto 120.  It should be noted that 120 is a state highway, but has 9 miles of gravel road.*  Don't try it in an 18-wheeler, bus, or during bad weather.  We drove about 15 - 20 mph, and loved the scenery, including a wild bear in the wild.  The went through Ocate to Wagon Mound, and continued through Roy, Mosquero, and Logan to San Jon.  There were 2 gas stations in Wagon Mound.  We didn't see gas again until Logan.  When we hit the interstate, we had a 75 mph speed limit until Texas, with its 70 day / 65 night.  (Texas has since rescinded its night speed limit.)



Rodeway in Tucumcari, NM -- a hotel to avoid


We like Choice Hotels ... this is an exception.  We had reservations for 2 king rooms.  Arriving in the evening, this was our mid-point stop between the San Juan Scenic Byway in Colorado and home, which is in the Dallas area.


We had been on vacation with our daughter and son-in-law and had shared a cabin for a week.  This was the last night of vacation, and since our son-in-law goes to work extremely early in the morning, we thought they might like to have a king room to themselves.  He had been told we were gong to get a room with 2 king beds, so he was expecting no privacy and my snoring.  In short, this was a surprise for our son-in-law that turned into a disaster.


One of the rooms was so full of cigarette smoke we couldn't stay in the room more than a minute at a time, even though they were both "non-smoking" rooms.  I called the front desk from the other room and was told they had no more king rooms available.  He also said they'd had complaints about that room for the past few days and they had tried to clean it.  (The chemical smell was almost as bad as the smoke.)  I told him we weren't staying.  As I used my iPhone to book the Comfort Inn in Amarillo, he called back and said he found us another room.  It was a King Suite next door.  There were no kings, but he had a king suite.  He just wasn't going to tell us until we were leaving.  We switched to the king suite, which appeared to be about a foot larger than the king room.  Big deal.


The silly thing is that if he had immediately put us into the other room, we would be writing about how responsive the hotel was to our needs.  Instead, they gave us about 10 minutes of misery, and we think this is one of the worst places we've ever stayed.


We asked for a manager the next morning.  There wasn't one available.  When we got back, we complained through Choice and received a letter saying the manager would be in contact with us.  They didn't say what year, and we haven't heard from the manager yet.  Choice just doesn't seem to care, which surprises us considerably.


Choice Hotels are usually very nice, but this is one where the owner shouldn't have been given the franchise.  Tucumcari appears to be dying a quick death, and the Rodeway is apparently doing all it can to assist.




(Some may have been taken while moving, so please pardon them being a little blurry.  Also, some were taken through the glass, so reflections are seen.)

Click on thumbnails to view full-size picture.


Las Vegas, New Mexico

Las Vegas, New Mexico

Canadian River Canyon












NMDOT truck -- constantly across stripe

View from SH120, dirt highway.  There is a wild bear in the center picture.

SH120 -- Not much to look at

SH120 -- You have to go very slow

SH120 -- The scenery is very pretty, though

SH434 -- Looking at Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Eagle Nest -- We don't understand the stripes, either

Eagle Nest -- looking at mountains

From "dirt" 120 through the valleys past Wagon Mound into the Canadian River Canyon

River Canyon

We went through two canyons on the return trip




Texas:  Stop in & look around the restrooms?



*  The gravel road was reportedly a result of a lawsuit filed by someone who didn't want the wildlife disturbed by paving the road.  The state won the lawsuit after many years, but no longer had the funds to pave the road.  We can't verify this is true, but it makes a good story.


Angel Fire

Angel Fire Excursions

Angel Fire Lift Ride

Driving in New Mexico

Hot-air Balloon

Red River


Scenic Railroad

Vietnam Memorial


Return to Enchanted Circle Page




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