To promote Arizona’s centennial, our contributing editors Jana Bommersbach and Arizona State Historian Marshall Trimble teamed up with Executive Editor Bob Boze Bell at various historic sites across the state to film Outrageous Arizona for PBS.
Then we hit the rails for the first ever True West Railfest at the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Durango, Colorado. Those folks sure know how to pull out all the stops, and we are looking forward to an even bigger, better festival this year.
Our stomachs eventually led us to the chuckwagon competition at the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium in Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico. Talk about dressing the West: about 95 percent of the attendees had on great cowboy hats and boots, fringe jackets and were spectacularly blinged out on Navajo jewelry.
Wherever our travels lead us, we always meet wonderful people who inspire ideas for our next trips … some of the best of which we serve up to you in every issue in our popular Renegade Roads feature.
See you on the trail!
Heritage Travel of 2012
Between Renegade Roads and Boggs Unleashed, these True West assignments are going to kill me.
This job gets downright dangersome. As I type this, my side aches from two fractured ribs sustained riding horseback to the John Tunstall murder site. You can read all about that in February.
You never know what you’re going to run into as a road warrior. MapQuest sent me three hours in the opposite direction of my destination. A blizzard kept me in Flagstaff an extra day. (Well, the assignment for my December Unleashed column was “Experiencing the Grand Canyon
Bound for Minnesota for a Dakota War travel story (May), I considered once again trying that Nebraska steakhouse someone recommended. Then I recalled that 12 hours after my last stop there, the only thing not coming out of my stomach was the beast from Alien.
On that same research trip, I got sold on one phenomenal glass of wine at the fabulous Pazzaluna restaurant in downtown St. Paul. Ohhh, that wasn’t $9 a glass. It was $39! But, my, it was tasty.
Sometimes, though, things work out great. I hit Pie Town, New Mexico, for the annual pie festival (September Unleashed). I’d planned on camping, but hadn’t counted on rain, slick roads, mud galore and a hungry wife and son. So we stopped for supper at the Good Pie Cafe, figuring to drive to Springerville, Arizona, and check into a hotel.
When owner/pie-master Michael Rawl heard our predicament, he said, “Don’t do that. Our old house is just behind this place. There’s no electricity, but the water’s on. Just roll your sleeping bags out on the floor and spend the night. The front door’s open.”
That was a lifesaver. And with this death-defying job, lifesavers are to be cherished. —Johnny D. Boggs
One of my favorite memories from my Renegade Roads trips this past year took place at the Plaza.
It had been a good day of road warrioring along the Santa Fe Trail. After spending hours exploring the history and sites of Trinidad, Colorado, I drove into New Mexico, following the trail.
Late afternoon found me on the road toward Fort Union. While I was driving out from Watrous, the sun was getting low in the sky, creating those long shadows that make spotting a trail easy. My heart beats just a little bit faster whenever I am in the vicinity of trail swales, and let me tell you, it was thumping that afternoon as I saw distinctive trail remnants beside the road.
At the fort I could clearly see where the wagons had converged on the site. I wandered the grounds until the Park Service employees booted me out so they could keep their regular closing schedule.
I made my way to Las Vegas for an evening at the Plaza Hotel built in 1882. A few of my friends have told me the small New Mexico city does not really have much appeal. Boy, are they wrong!
Though it was late in the day, I found an open antique store and wandered its space until closing time; then it was time for a libation in Byron T’s, followed by a delightful dinner across the foyer at the Landmark Grill. Best of all was the quiet night in a room
that didn’t look as if it came from a cookie cutter designer.
I liked this New Mexican Las Vegas and its Plaza Hotel so much, that on my next trip to the region, I purposely planned my travels so I could again enjoy the Plaza. —Candy Moulton