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It’s just one of those things for those of us born and raised on the East Coast. At some point, we all know that we need to head West. Chalk it up to that bedrock American need to keep moving, to keep exploring. From Hunter S. Thompson and Cormac McCarty to Easy Rider, the fascination with the West is well-documented. You can’t ignore it. I feel quite confident in saying that you definitely shouldn’t ignore it. So when the call to go West surfaced again recently, I decided to go for it. I had never been out to New Mexico before, so I booked a trip with my girlfriend, Dylan. It was a welcome change in both perspective and the pace from our lives in Virginia.

We covered a lot of ground while in New Mexico and had only a week to do it. One of the standout moments of the trip was the drive on the Turquoise Trail. The trail is a 54-mile long stretch of road through the desert that links Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The name refers to the rich turquoise deposits found throughout the area.

The beauty of the Turquoise Trail has few rivals. It's a stunning piece of the West, unlike anything I had ever experienced. Dylan and I both love photography, and we couldn't travel far without needing to pull over and capture the scene. In the openness of the frontier, everything is special. Mountains elevate from the flat, desert floor. The sky is closer, bigger. In that kind of open space, you're aware of yourself and your surroundings. It's an intense and awesome experience.

As we drove the trail we rode through several towns and communities. One of the more notable towns was Madrid. In 1835, it flourished as a coal mining town and a model for others. In the 50s, the region fell into disrepair with the decline of the mining industry. Things picked up again in the 70s. Craftspeople and artist converged on the area. They rehabilitated old houses and storefronts into studios and galleries. Madrid is again a healthy and model community throughout the Southwest. One look at the surrounding landscape, and you know how an artistic community could thrive there.

If you find yourself in Madrid, take a moment to stop by the Mine Shaft Tavern for an authentic Wild West saloon experience. The region has served as the backdrop for several films: Wild Hogs, Young Guns, and Easy Rider.

After this last trip, I realized that traveling is just as much about the destination as it is the act of discovering. A trip to New Mexico was off the beaten path for me, and it offered endless opportunities to explore. But it's also about gaining insight into where you came from as well. When I met locals and told them that I was from Virginia, their response was often, “Oh, it’s so green there!” Yes, you're right! I had to travel miles to remember how green Virginia is. It was exactly that type of experience that made me appreciate New Mexico and the Turquoise Trail. It was a departure from normal and the familiar.

It's good to find yourself in a new landscape every now and then. A change in perspective and inspiration can go a long way.

July 27, 2014 — Ledbury