Sunday, December 1, 2013

Taos trip

Ah, Sunday night.

After what seems endless days of driving from San Antonio to El Paso, up to Taos and back, it's nice to be home.  Sundays are always a little unsatisfying, what with the start of the work week looming overhead, but today it just feels good to unpack and settle in and attend to this neglected little piece of the interwebs.

Now that we've visited Taos twice, what strikes me most about the town is that it's not quite what it seems.  It's a ski town where the world-class skiing feels nicely accidental.  The ramshackle Taos appearance merely gilds a thicker, richer, creamier underbelly.  The best food is at the meekest of restaurants, the breathtaking mountain scenes surround shanty-lined roads, and the ski resort is gimmick-free as the snow speaks for itself.

For us, the snow and quick 6 hour trip to Taos Ski Valley bring us back each year.  I'd probably return to visit even if I wasn't a skier, as I really do like the whole place, the package deal: the mountains and river gorge, the Taoseno pottery and crafts, the incomparable food, the working farms, the history of Taos Pueblo, even the exorbitantly priced photography, snooty baristas, and shacks and trailers that belie the tourister's influx of money that keeps Taos afloat. 

I prefer the slower-paced, non-commercialized feel to Taos over the cutesy shopping towne appearance of Keystone or Breckenridge.  Yes, there is an adobe McDonald's to match the adobe Walmart, all hidden among garish t-shirt and souvenir shops, but the overwhelming feeling I have when visiting is that the soul of the city has little to do with the ski slopes, its most widely-known resource.  

Sunshine and snow...ahhhh!
 We ate Thanksgiving dinner at Doc Martin's restaurant of the Taos Inn.  We ate a quick lunch here last year, and thought we'd try out its special holiday menu.  Passable for the price, I'd say.  We each had the turkey dinner which was both as comforting and inspiring as a traditional family Thanksgiving meal, meaning very much so (comforting) and not at all (inspiring).  The green beans were cooked perfectly to my taste, but I barely remember the other parts of the entree (wild rice stuffing?, mashed potatoes?, cranberry sauce?, turkey?) so I assume they were decent but not spectacular.  Nugs enjoyed leftovers with wild abandon.

For the remainder of our meals we visited some old favorites and of course added new restaurants to our rotation.  Yes, we ate breakfast at Taos Diner (I) and bison burgers at 5 Star Burgers.  Caffeine as usual came from Elevation Coffee where we like to look at the photograph of the moon over the Chugach Range, even if the coffee is a little weak and the staff a little stuffy.  

Sometimes I think we ski just to cultivate an appetite, and luckily we did just this because we happened on El Taoseno Restaurant last night -- another part of Taos where nothing is what it seems.  You may just have the best meal of your life, here in the non-trendy part of town, in what looks to be an old bowling alley or community center with a pot-holed parking lot to match the decor and charm inside.  The dining room was packed with tourists and locals (far more of the latter) but it's a place for everyone as long as you like wonderful service (yes), reasonable prices (even better), and delicious home-style New Mexican cuisine (and how!).  D would pout, refuse to read this post and likely move far away if I failed to mention the chips and salsa (oh the salsa!), his tasty smothered burrito (with green chiles, though ask for "Christmas" if you like both green and red), and my perfectly cooked plate of fajitas.  Fajita assembly is an art and this was just the right assortment of accoutrements, in just the right amounts.  As a finishing touch, sopapillas arrive swiftly, still piping hot, with a squeeze bottle of honey.  Our drinks never ran dry, and the wait staff, though busy- no table was ever empty- could not have been more kindly.  I wish we'd eaten Thanksgiving dinner here, where the pilgrim hat decorations still cover the walls and await next year's meal and where Taos once again surprises with where its finest things lie. 

Twenty miles from town, the ski area itself has a small base village with just a few stores, cafes and a convenience mart to accompany the accommodations, but no one goes there just to shop or be seen.  I don't even know who stays there, since we stay closer to town and the people we've met always "have a place" in Taos, somewhere.

For an opening weekend, the snow and weather are the best we've skied in years, anywhere.  In my experience, the rigor of terrain in Taos is matched best by Alyeska, though with bright sunshine and temps in the high 20s and low 30s the similarity to Alaska goes no further.

D's picture of me, but it was too cold to wait and pose~
 If you've persevered to this point and are wondering why all this nonsense appears in a running-themed blog, I'm about to tell you.  I ran this morning at 7000+ feet elevation (how was that ever no big deal in my college days?!) straight from sea level a few days earlier.  I read somewhere it takes two weeks to acclimate but I reasoned that any "elevation training" at all would aid my 3500' elevation half marathon next weekend.  We'll see!  This morning was chilly and bright yet I felt so great for getting a few miles in that I won't even share my shabby pace with you.  My legs were a little tired from skiing, but the run was a shake-out and my quads were happy to be less abused than they were from the slopes.  My lungs felt great and I did some laps through residential areas, my course determined by the paths leading away from any unfamiliar, unfenced dogs.

Quads = D-E-D.  Serious time.
So overall I'm at a C+ for my half-marathon training.  I'll take it; that's a fair price for a memorable weekend with D, in the snow and sun, with the enigma of Taos to entertain and satiate us, and keep us keen to return soon.

A blessed belated Thanksgiving to all, I hope your weekend was wonderful and filled with good memories and maybe even a few miles.

For some reason I think "action photo" means "pretend to tie a ski boot."  No, there aren't any laces.  Not since the 19th century I believe.  Sigh.
P.S. The chickens did fine while we were gone :)