We were scheduled to be in Truth or Consequences (technically Elephant Butte, but Truth or Consequences sounds a lot cooler!!) for two nights, then on to Santa Fe for two nights, then finally Colorado. We knew two nights in the Santa Fe/Albuquerque area wasn’t enough time, but it’s an area that we have been anxious to explore, so two days would be at least a start. Or not.
We were set to leave Sunday morning for Santa Fe, but after watching the weather, we decided that we should postpone for a day. Albuquerque, which we would have to drive through to get to Santa Fe, had a heavy wind advisory, potential hurricane strength winds, plus thunderstorms and temperatures in the 40’s. Uh….no thank you. So, we decided we would do three nights in T or C (as the locals call it), and only one night in Santa Fe, which we eventually revised again to include a drive by and no stop.
Truth or Consequences. You mention the name and everyone says, “Yea, I heard of it!” so we thought it would be a lot bigger town than it was, but it’s not. It’s a town of about 6500 people, known for its spas. The town’s original name was Hot Springs but in 1950, Ralph Edwards, the host of the radio quiz show Truth or Consequences, announced that he would air the program on its 10th anniversary from the first town that renamed itself after the show. Hot Springs won the honor, officially changing its name on March 31, 1950. Edwards visited the town during the first weekend of May for the next 50 years for an event called "Fiesta" which included a beauty contest, a parade, and a stage show. The city still celebrates Fiesta each year during the first weekend of May…and wouldn’t you know it, we missed it by a week! Drats!
Our first stop on Saturday morning was to the T or C Visitor’s Center.
While I had done some research on things to do in the area, we’ve discovered, while the internet is great, talking to locals is often times better. And, in this case, we were led to a couple different areas that we wouldn’t have hit otherwise. Our first stop, Hatch, the Chile capitol of the World. We didn’t stop in Hatch for the chilies; we stopped in Hatch for Sparky’s (and the big statues we saw when we drove through on our way to T or C). The first statue that caught our eye was at Franciscan RV, where there is a big muffler man holding an RV. That had photo op written all over it.
The mighty muffler man: muffler replaced with a winnebago!!
Then onto Sparky’s where there were even more statues than we had originally noticed. They were everywhere. Sparky’s is a kitschy little bbq/burger joint (also owned by the same people who own Franciscan RV), known for their green chile burgers and bbq. The place is awesome--the outside is packed with fiberglass statues and inside looks like American pickers gone mad! All kinds of cool old signs everywhere!!
Big giant Uncle Sam holding a chili!
Across the street, some more personality!
And more on top of the building!
And a line to get in the whole time we were there!
Greg chillin' with the Colonel outside Sparky's!
Inside shots....memorabilia everywhere!
As a side note, the muffler man was the first statue to adorn Hatch, and the townspeople raised such a ruckus about the big guy, that the owner went on a quest for more large statues to put at his diner he was in the process of opening. Love it!!
We debated between burgers and BBQ, but since we’re always on the lookout for good BBQ, we had to try that. And boy are we glad we did!! Top three of our travels so far…and the sides were extra good, so bonus!! We also tried a Sassy Strawberry shake, which had chili and frozen strawberries in it. Sweet. Then hot! And all good!!
With a full tummy, time to explore and we set off to hit an old ghost town. New Mexico is peppered with old mining towns that turned into ghost towns when the silver panic hit in 1893.
While we had only planned to go to one, with an extra day added to our agenda, we ended up hitting two (we drove through a couple more, but really only explored two). The first town was Lake Valley, and it its 'heyday' (1881 to 1893) it was home to about 4,000 people, with 12 saloons, three churches, two newspapers, a school, stores, hotels, stamp mills and smelters. The last resident departed the town in 1994, resulting in what truly is a ghost town--completely deserted, left with remnants of what once was. The town is being managed by the BLM and there is a nice map and walking tour.
Some of the buildings and remnants of building of Lake Valley
The buildings were too dilapidated to go inside (except the school),
but you can see some of the furniture and wall paper still intact.
The second ghost town we hit was Chloride, which is still home to 13 people, but in its glory, had a couple of thousand residents, three general stores, three eateries, eight saloons, two butcher shops, a newsstand, lumberyard, assay office, confectionery store, boarding houses and a livery yard. The main street through the town was called Wall Street. Another pretty robust town for its time!
Currently the town has a museum in the old Pioneer store (Pioneer Store Museum), a little gift shop/art co-op that was once a dance hall/saloon and a Bank turned café, some cabins and a several other remnants of the town that used to be. As we drove into the “town,” we had low expectations but they were quickly exceeded after our visit to the Pioneer Store Museum.
The Pioneer Store was boarded up in 1923, contents and all, and basically stayed that way until the Edmonds family, who had discovered Chloride as they were traveling around New Mexico in their RV back in the 70’s, purchased the store and the saloon around 1989. In 1994 they started the restoration of the store, which took them around four years. The only living things to occupy the store from 1923 until the restoration began were bats and rats, so as you can imagine, there was a lot of clean up that had to happen. Around 90% of the contents of the store were original to the store and other contents were gathered from some of the other buildings. So. Very. Cool.
Quite a few pictures of the contents of the store;
still amazed that this was all inside, untouched (dirty, but untouched!).
There was also a post office in the store.
All kinds of old pill bottles and toiletry items.
The safe was the only thing that remained in the store
while repairs were made and contents cleaned.
The Edmond’s daughter (we didn’t get her name) was there to share the history of the town and the store. Some tours we take, or places we visit, the tour guide has such an impact--good or bad--on the outcome of the activity and in this case, it was definitely a good outcome. She could tell the stories that made you feel like you were there. As one of the 13 residents, her family has done a remarkable job restoring the store and you can just tell the passion they have for Chloride. The museum doesn’t charge but takes donations, which sometimes is better as it's easier to recognize a job well done that way!
The Edmond's daughter explaining this pretty sophisticated record keeping system to us. Fireproof credit box system that tracked expenses, payable and receivables.
This was the ledger that worked in conjunction with the sophisticated system above!
The other building the Edmond family restored,
currently operates as an art co-op for local artists
The two buildings side-by-side
The bank, which never opened as a bank because it didn't have any money.
So what do you do when that happens? Open it as a saloon of course!!
It now operates as a cafe, where we enjoyed a nice lunch!
The "hanging tree" which was used to tie the rowdy drunks to
after a night in one the many saloons!!
Don't worry, they were released after they sobered up!!
This served as the town's jail!!
This was an old cabin relocated from another mining town.
The drive between T or C and Chloride was really scenic....
And we wrapped up our stay in T or C with a nice relaxing soak! We waffled back and forth whether we wanted to partake in a soak and eventually came to the conclusion that we couldn’t come to a spa town and not participate in a spa!?! There are about ten different spa options and we ultimately decided on Riverbend, for no other reason than it seemed to be a little more scenic—overlooking the Rio Grand—than the other spas. They have both private and public pools and we opted for the private pool for about an hour long relaxing hot soak. It was dark (and we may or may not had any clothes on) so no pictures.
During our Tor C visit, we stayed at Elephant Butte State Park, just a few miles down the road from T or C, perhaps the ‘burbs of T or C!
Our home for a few nights!
Not a bad back yard!
In the summer I’m guessing, Elephant Butte is packed with boaters and those enjoying the water. A little early in the season, but we did see a few boats in the water and in the main campground (they have a few different campground areas) you can camp right on the beach!
New Mexico State parks are very reasonable—usually $10 for a no hook up/primitive site and $14 for electric/water. Hard to beat it! (They also have an annual pass for out of state residents for $225 that allows you camp at no additional cost for a year in primitive spots, and with the pass, an electric site is only $4. Residents of NM - $180, and NM Senior Pass - $100.) Quite the bargain!!
Well, that wraps up our extended stay in T or C; Santa Fe will remain on our list of places to visit. On to our next adventure—Colorado Springs! Thanks for following along!!