Tiny Taos Offers Big Delights ; like Santa Fe, Taos Boasts Wonderful Restaurants, Art Galleries, and Skiing. but It Also Has a Lot of Native Culture, Far Fewer People, and Not Many Stoplights

Article excerpt

Ron Schloemer was busy correcting college papers on a flight from Cincinnati to Albuquerque, N.M. "The trouble with these kids is that they don't read. That's why they can't write. All these flowery adjectives...."

His wife, Lyn, sat between Ron and me on the plane. Ignoring his mumbling, she turned to me: "The first time we drove through New Mexico, it was in '82. I said, 'If I ever have to live here, I'm going to cut my throat,' Isn't that right, Ron, isn't that what I said?"

"Uh huh."

"I mean, it was tacky. All those signs: 'See the bear,' 'Visit the snake farm.' But that was 20 years ago. Things have changed."

Since that time, Ron's job as a pilot (he's now a college professor) required that they live in Alabama, California (twice), and Korea, among other places, and now Ohio. And, oh yes, they also spent several years in New Mexico.

So where are they looking to retire? You guessed it.

"You're just going to love New Mexico," said Mrs. Schloemer as we disembarked in Albuquerque.

My destination was Taos, about a two-hour drive from the airport, a rather sleepy back-water of about 5,000 laid-back folks, many of whom simply dropped in one day and never dropped out.

Jules Cahalane and her husband, Robert, moved here a number of years ago. Coming up the highway, turning a corner, and coming face to face with the mountains, she knew "this was the place." They settled in and started a "bread and breakfast" (Robert does the bread, Jules does the breakfast.) Their Inn on the Rio is one of the dozens of B&Bs here.

"Ten minutes from my house I'm in Carson National Park," Mrs. Cahalane says, "and I can hear coyotes howl. People come here for the environment."

Quick to praise Taos, Cahalane proudly notes what it doesn't have. "We don't have mosquitoes," she boasts. But she neglects to mention a couple of itty-bitty nuisances - such as scorpions and rattlesnakes.

If you're used to a town with buildings more than two stories high and traffic lights that can be counted on more than one hand, well, Taos isn't like that. The largest building around is the ancient Taos Pueblo.

Since long before the arrival of Europeans in the mid-1500s, Taos has been at the crossroads of trade. Silver, beads, animal skins, and provisions were swapped with native and Plains Indians.

Trapper and military legend Kit Carson settled in Taos from 1828 until about 1840, and he dreamed of retiring here. His adobe house was built as a wedding gift for his third bride, Maria Josefa Jaramillo. Both are buried in nearby Kit Carson Cemetery in Kit Carson Park.

His house, now a modest museum-still in the works, stands on Kit Carson Road. Most of Carson's personal possessions are scattered, but a desk and trunk, thought to have belonged to him, are here, among furniture of the period.

Taos has an almost mystical feeling - with its flat, arid, and barren spaces, and with the Sangre de Cristo and Jemez mountain ranges as a backdrop. …


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