Category Archives: Daytripping New Mexico

San Marcos Cafe & Feed Store — San Marcos, NM

This adorable little café is one of those places that you’ll miss if you aren’t looking for it. And you might miss it even if you are looking for it. It’s located just off the road along Hwy 14, about 7 miles south of the intersection of I-25 and Hwy 14 near Santa Fe. It is open daily for breakfast and lunch.

The grounds of the café are unique to say the least. Peacocks and turkeys and chickens roam free (or semi-free; there’s a fence), and behind the building are several aviaries for turkeys, doves, and other birds. You might also catch a peek of what we call the “Lady GaGa Chicken” which is pretty much a chicken in a really fluffy feather suit.

San Marcos Café and Feed Store - San Marcos, New Mexico
San Marcos Café and Feed Store – San Marcos, New Mexico

The inside of the café is just as charming, with uniquely painted and crafted wooden tables and chairs, and a cozy fire in the fireplace (this day, at least).

San Marcos dining area
San Marcos dining area

Cups of coffee all around and cinnamon rolls for everyone. That’s how we wanted to start this trip.

The cinnamon rolls are flaky and sweet and delicious — everything a good cinnamon roll should be. The coffee is tasty. This is a great duo to start off a weekend getaway.

Overall, we have fully enjoyed our stops at San Marcos both times we’ve been so far. Hopefully we’ll get to stop by again soon for a full meal, because their menu looks pretty amazing (burritos, green chile stew, huevos rancheros, and other NM staples).

SAN MARCOS CAFE

3877 State Rd 14
Santa Fe, NM 87508
(505) 471-9298

(a few miles south of Santa Fe on Hwy 14, west side of the road)

Open daily 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

 

 

Meow Wolf: Choose Your Own Adventure

See the first review in our Meow Wolf series here: Meow Wolf: I Just Don’t Get It

I woke up the morning Trickster, ZymologistBob, and I were to take our pilgrimage to Santa Fe for Meow Wolf with high spirits.

I do not use the world “pilgrimage” lightly; since its opening in 2015, the installation has garnered astonishment, revere, and, from all I had heard and read, unparalleled wonder among the millions who have wandered through it. Meow Wolf has truly become a New Mexican rite of passage, especially, in my opinion, because it usually involves a commute (if not an outright journey), which tends to become an equally memorable facet of any experience. Similarly, I think the wonder of Meow Wolf is further strengthened by its rather unusual location in the national, cultural context. Here stands a diamond in the rough that triumphantly shouts New Mexico is becoming on par—nay, competitive with—places like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington in terms of cerebral uniqueness that for once has nothing to do with our history, but rather, and finally, the contemporary. It is a monument to us moving forward rather than us perpetually finding our identity in looking back.

About halfway to Santa Fe, we saw a billboard: a hodgepodge of colors, shapes, and lettering reminiscent of the 1980s. It just said “Meow Wolf.” No description. No indication of how many more miles left or which exit to take. We did not know it at the time, but this was outstanding foreshadowing.

After parking behind an auto repair shop on a side street a block and a half away (be prepared for this if you don’t arrive before or by the time doors open), it was then a literal uphill battle to the abandoned-bowling-alley-turned-art-space. About half an hour in line later, we made it inside the foyer, which included paintings of Spirograph-like designs and shellfish. Inching a bit more through the lobby and to the cashiers, we paid the $16 entry fee (the reduced price for NM residents) and went in.

My high spirits remained, and we were determined to “solve the great mystery” of the House of Eternal Return. Trickster was advised that we “start at the mailbox.” After shuffling through its contents of sympathy cards, we took a mental note of their who, what, when, where, and why, and climbed the porch steps to enter the House’s living room through the front door.

And it was reminiscent of the parties my roommates used to hold when I was an undergrad sharing a 2-story house near campus with 5 guys.

I did not last 3 months in that house (a testament more to myself and my reserve). And I did not last 3 minutes in the living room of the House of Eternal Return.

The sounds and the smells of overcrowding were enough to make me abandon my role as sleuth and instead divert to casual observer.

For me personally, it was just too crowded, although I understand some have no problem with that. However, as someone who also has a slight aversion to (and fear) of children, it was even more overwhelming; we were smack dab in the middle of the Winter Break, after all. So rather than try to read through the photo albums, newspapers, and books that no doubt had more clues, we hightailed it through the fireplace to the mammoth-skeleton xylophone. (No, I am not the last recipient in a game of Telephone.)

After the visual stimulation had worn off, though, I found myself facing the same issue once more. There were too many people (i.e., children) slamming the mammoth’s musical ribcage, which both gave me the gist of what it did and made me ready to move on to the next exhibit as soon as possible.

Thus was our method for experiencing the rest of Meow Wolf, hastily absorbing the essentials of any given room before moving on. We had gone through all of the installation in slightly over an hour this way: roughly a third of the time folks usually spend there.

I must give credit to Meow Wolf’s element of surprise. For example, I had momentarily forgotten the installation is supposed to take place within one house; the mammoth led us to a spaceship which led us to a forest which led us to a bridge which led us to a teenage girl’s bedroom on the second story.

Lanterns light the way at Meow Wolf in Santa Fe.
Lanterns light the way at Meow Wolf in Santa Fe.

There is just enough order to give method to the madness, and there is just enough madness in the order to keep you interested.

I think to describe any particularly noteworthy exhibit or exhibits is fruitless, for what is noteworthy to me was not to [Trickster], was not to [ZymologistBob], and was not to any other patron. I think the Meow Wolf experience is a self-determining industry.

What you derive from it is based on your own experience, not just within the space, but also as the word also means your identity shaped by a collection of your memories up to that point. Perhaps this means, then, that my overall “It was OK” attitude speaks only to my own self: an overstimulated and introverted millennial whose dog had just died.

I did have one memorable experience, however. December brought a lot of personal hardship for me. When we came across a camper that had a tarot card reader inside it (this is apparently a regular thing, by the way), I was eager to withstand the 25-minute wait in line to see her. I was given lots of advice about my job, which was eerily spot-on (even if I was desperate for her to give me any direction in the personal realm instead). Perhaps I also enjoyed it so much because it was my first and only opportunity for me to enjoy Meow Wolf more privately (sort of…people are welcome to walk through the camper, and many stop to witness your reading).

Personally, I will not be among the droves of people who swear Meow Wolf is the most incredible, life-changing thing they have ever seen. However, as with any piece of art, maybe that is just my own interpretation of it. Like its billboard, you cannot go with any pre-determined needs. For me, my needs unfortunately were a bit more personal, if not outrageous: I was just hoping for fewer than 950 people during a time everyone was on Christmas vacation and no doubt had visiting friends and family they needed to entertain as well as their own children. Thus, I would recommend it at least be checked out once, but ideally on a weekday and as close to opening hour as possible.

However, I will always appreciate something that is so essentially part of New Mexico’s identity now that the day a child pooped in an exhibit toilet there, it made headlines across the state for two days.

Visit the Meow Wolf official site for hours, directions, and ticket pricing. Please let us know if you attend and have a life-altering experience!

Meow Wolf: I Just Don’t Get It

See the second review in our Meow Wolf series here: Meow Wolf: Choose Your Own Adventure

I have a confession to make. Look away now if you don’t want to know my shame. Ready? Deep breath. Here I go. Oh man, this is so hard. Okay, here it is.

I went to Meow Wolf and I was….eh…about the whole experience.

Look, I’m as surprised as you are. Everything about the idea of Meow Wolf intrigued me. The immersive art experience in Santa Fe is all about the fantastical and creative multimedia installations.

Centered around the permanent installation, House of Eternal Return, Meow Wolf offers visitors the opportunity to explore a Victorian house owned by the Selig Family that due to some mystery has dissolved time and space. Everyone I talked to raved about Meow Wolf and told me how amazing and life changing the experience was. People who had visited had been multiple times like some it was some religious journey to Mecca. Based on all of that, I mean what’s not to love?

But alas, I didn’t. [ZymologistBob], our new blogger [Trinitite], and I made our own journey to Meow Wolf Mecca to experience the exhibit first hand. I should have known once we saw the giant spider metal installation standing guard outside the building that Meow Wolf might not really be the place for me. But I wasn’t going to let that deter me from the magic inside. We waited in line (there are always lines and crowds at Meow Wolf) and shared our excitement with other wanna be patrons. As we checked in, I asked the cashier if there were any tips to getting the full experience out of the exhibit.

“There’s no right way or wrong way to experience Meow Wolf,” she said, “but start with the mailbox.”

We went in and started at the mailbox. There were letters and postcards from the Selig family, I think. It didn’t make much sense. But you know, that’s okay. I didn’t need things to make sense. I just needed whimsy and magic. We entered the Victorian house and started exploring. There were secret entrances that led to different worlds. A fireplace that led to a prehistoric area. A refrigerator that led to somewhere. I can’t really remember. Don’t get me wrong, the attention to detail and the artistry is supreme. It was gorgeous. It was magical. It was creative.

Part of Meow Wolf installation art experience in Santa Fe.
One of the many parts of the exhibit/experience. It’s gorgeous, I know.
Big monster creature greets visitors at Meow Wolf in Santa Fe.
We met this guy inside. I think I’ll call him George.

But it was just too much. Too much color, too much light, too much of it not making sense. It was like a giant artistic flea market where every artist peddled their creativity, but as a whole it was overwhelming. The mystery reminded me of an escape room experience, but without any real clues that I could find. Add to that the crowds and I couldn’t really enjoy myself. And to be honest, the place smelled. Like a fast food restaurant play area on a hot day.

So there you have it, my confession. I’m not saying don’t go to Meow Wolf. Maybe you’ll experience a life changing experience there. But as for me, I’m going to look elsewhere.

Visit the Meow Wolf official site for hours, directions, and ticket pricing. Please let us know if you attend and have a life-altering experience!

The High Road – Enchanted Weekend Part 3

The High Road

The High Road is a NM Scenic Byway that connects Santa Fe and Taos. A little over 50 miles of roadway winds along through the Sangre de Cristo mountains through small towns, land grants, pueblos, and villages. (The Low Road, by comparison, connects Santa Fe and Taos via the valleys along the Rio Grande.)

The High Road begins in Pojoaque, then passes through the towns of Nambe, Chimayó, Córdova, Truchas, Ojo Sarco, Las Trampas, Peñasco, Vadito, Sipapu, and finally Taos.

Along the way are no less than 50 small galleries and shops displaying the art of local artists. Our intention was to stop at several galleries along the way, but we found that many were closed (or just seemed empty) on the day we were driving through.

One place we did stop and browse was the High Road Marketplace in Truchas. This shop displays the art of many artists in a variety of media — paintings, ironwork, gourds, etc.

The High Road Marketplace in Truchas, NM
The High Road Marketplace in Truchas, NM

We then visited the gallery of painter Charlee Newman in Ojo Sarco. Her oil landscapes and pastels of wildlife were stunning and we all left there wishing we could afford to take a few home with us. Also, the gallery was on her private property, and we were shown around by Ms. Newman herself. In true EatingNewMexico style, we all noted that whatever she was cooking up for dinner smelled REALLY GOOD.

Charlee Newman's gallery property -- fall
Charlee Newman’s gallery property — fall

Smelling whatever was roasting on the Newman property got us all pretty hungry. So we checked our maps and decided to stop and eat in or near Peñasco. According to Yelp, a little place called Alicia’s Café was nearby and open at the right time and claimed to serve New Mexican food. So we aimed ourselves at it, in hopes of some Enchiladas with Red. You know how it is when you just NEED some red. That’s where we all were.

So, all the map apps LIE.

After being sent way out of the way by both Apple Maps and Google Maps about 4 times (with a loss of about 30 minutes), we were all starving and ready to get our grub on. We searched and searched. We were ready to give up. We pulled into a parking lot to make a final U-turn and just get the heck out of dodge and try our luck in another town.

HARK! An old building with a kind of skeezy sign out front reading: New Mexican Food. I honestly don’t remember the name of the restaurant or really much about it other than that we walked in and all said, “Nope.” Meaning, let’s just tend to our blood sugar then get out of here. There was something off about the feng shui or something, but we all knew immediately we didn’t want to spend a whole lot of time there. We ordered chips and salsa (very yummy) and chile-cheese fries to share around the table. The waitress informed us that the restaurant actually used to be Alicia’s, which we had been looking for all along. Ah, evil irony.

We didn’t take any pictures of anything to write a real review, which is unfortunate because the red chile on the fries was SUPER good.

We finished up quick and got back on the road. I think we all would have liked to have spent a little more time on The High Road, meandering along, walking through galleries. I think the best bet here would be to take one of the organized tours (offered here via High Road Artisans) to ensure the most galleries will be open, and that you won’t be the only person walking through someone’s home/gallery, looking through at their stuff.

Next stop: TAOS.

El Santuario de Chimayó — Enchanted Weekend Trip Part 2

On to Chimayo

This is part 2 in an 8 (or so) part series about our weekend trip from Albuquerque up to Red River and back. Find part 1 here.

We passed right on through Santa Fe with nary a foot stepped on the Plaza nor a breakfast burrito in our guts and headed north on Hwy 84 to state road 503.

FUN MAP FACT: When looking at a map, you can tell the difference between a US Highway and a State Road by the shape of their number designator. US numbered highways are marked with a shield shape with the number inside. State Roads are marked with a circle and the number inside. 

For some great New Mexico road maps (including a map of State Roads, one of Scenic Byways, and one of rest stops), visit the NM DoT:  NM Dept of Transportation Maps.

After turning east on road 503, we passed through the small town of Nambé. The town combined with Nambé Pueblo has a population of around 2,000 people. A nearby mill produces the eight-metal alloy used to create Nambé housewares such as THESE BEAUTIES. But they are actually made elsewhere. Like, China-elsewhere.

About 12 miles up the road (503), we came to Santuario de Chimayó.

 

Chimayo Courtyard entryway
The oft-photographed & painted entryway to the Santuario de Chimayo courtyard.

The church at Chimayó is known for many things. The original chapel on the site was built around 1810 and was then upgraded to the larger church (which stands today, and BTW is still pretty small) a few years later. So, it’s pretty old, is what I’m saying. During the Easter season, the roads from nearby towns to Chimayó are crowded with walkers. Not the Walking Dead kind of walkers, rather those devout souls making the pilgrimage (walking or even on hands and knees) to this holy place from locations all over northern NM. There is a ton of history here, which you can read about at their website: Santuario de Chimayo Website  (but be forewarned it autoplays music).

Toward the rear of the church, a tiny room with a slanting floor and low ceiling holds what tens of thousands of people come here for each year: El Pocito — the healing dirt of Chimayó. Believed to have healing powers, the dirt is dug from a small hole in the clay floor. Visitors either rub the dirt on a hurting or problem area (a bum knee, say), bag a teaspoon up to keep with them, or in some cases (I’ve read) ingest it. Team EatingNewMexico opted to save our stomach space for chips & salsa and just rubbed a small amount of the dirt on our hands.

Beyond El Pocito you pass through a prayer room, lined with photos, testimonials, and discarded crutches (by those allegedly healed by the soil).

PROS:  The church is beautiful and has major historical significance in New Mexico. The grounds are lovely. It is a spiritual place sure to have an impact on people of any faith.

The grounds at Santuario de Chimayo
The grounds at Santuario de Chimayo
The grounds at Santuario de Chimayo
The grounds at Santuario de Chimayo

CONS: Now, I remember visiting Chimayó maybe 15-18 years ago, and I remember there only being the church, kind of hard to find, with a small dirt parking lot in front and one across the road. Now, there is a gift shop, a café, and other things that just make it feel kind of commercial. It was pretty sad/annoying to walk up the hill to the church from the parking lot (which is now down the hill behind the church) and see a big plywood SLUSH PUPPIE sign in front of the café. Talk about tacky. It has just lost some of its mystery and charm, is all.

But it is still WELL WORTH the visit. We hung around the Santuario de Chimayo for about an hour total, then got back in our cars to continue on our journey up along The High Road to Taos.

 

The Turquoise Trail – Enchanted Weekend Part 1

Hello! This post is part 1 of a (so far) 8-part series dedicated to a weekend trip we recently took around northern NM. Check back soon for the following 7 (or so) parts.

In northern New Mexico, highways and byways have names, not numbers. Well, they have numbers too, but their names are much cooler. A few weeks ago, team EatingNewMexico took off on a whirlwind weekend jaunt around north-central New Mexico. Instead of using interstates and bigger roadways, we opted for back roads and scenic byways: The Turquoise Trail, The High Road, and The Enchanted Circle.

We hit a bunch of historic and special little towns along the way, and of course ate a lot, because that’s how we roll. We were extremely wise/lucky to plan our trip for mid-October, just as the trees along the rivers and on the mountainsides were their brightest yellow and orange.

The Turquoise Trail

The Turquoise Trail is where our journey began. It is a National Scenic Byway (turquoisetrail.org) that spans about 50 miles along Highway 14 from Tijeras to Santa Fe. (Once it hits Santa Fe, it turns into Cerillos Road.) The Turquoise Trail runs through the towns of Tijeras, Cedar Crest, Sandia Park, Golden, Madrid, Cerillos, and San Marcos.

Worth a stop nearly every time we go through is the small town of Madrid. Madrid (pronounced like “MAD-rid” not “muh-DRID” like you might think) was an old mining town turned ghost town that was then revitalized in the 60s and is now a small but thriving artists’ community. There is a cool little dusty museum there, galleries and shops to walk through, and the Mine Shaft Tavern, where you can get a green chile cheeseburger (and probably some other stuff). Madrid is also where parts of the John Travolta movie Wild Hogs was filmed.

Alas, on this trip, we had much to do and not much time, so we didn’t stop in Madrid. Just blew right through (at the prescribed 20 mph).

Our first stop on this trip was San Marcos, at the San Marcos Café and Feed Store. (visit on Yelp)

San Marcos Café and Feed Store

This adorable little café is one of those places that you’ll miss if you aren’t looking for it. And you might miss it even if you are looking for it. It’s located just off the road along Hwy 14, about 7 miles south of the intersection of I-25 and Hwy 14 near Santa Fe. It is open daily for breakfast and lunch.

The grounds of the café are unique to say the least. Peacocks and turkeys and chickens roam free, and behind the building are several aviaries for turkeys, doves, and other birds. You might also catch a peek of what we call the “Lady GaGa Chicken” which is pretty much a chicken in a really fluffy feather suit.

San Marcos Café and Feed Store - San Marcos, New Mexico
San Marcos Café and Feed Store – San Marcos, New Mexico

The inside of the café is just as charming, with uniquely painted and crafted wooden tables and chairs, and a cozy fire in the fireplace (this day, at least).

San Marcos dining area
San Marcos dining area

The wait staff is friendly and welcoming, and somehow remembered that our group of 5 likes cinnamon rolls, even though this was only our second visit. Cups of coffee all around and cinnamon rolls for everyone. That’s how we wanted to start this trip.

The cinnamon rolls are flaky and sweet and delicious — everything a good cinnamon roll should be. The coffee is tasty. This is a great duo to start off a weekend getaway.

Overall, we have fully enjoyed our stops at San Marcos both times we’ve been so far. I’m sure we will be back soon and often!

Santa Fe

Next up, we headed into Santa Fe to drop our doggie off at the doggie hotel. The Z Pet Hotel, to be precise. This is a little doggie hotel right off of Cerillos where you can board your pets and even get them groomed on their last day there. We have been very happy with Z Pet Hotel. They have easy reservations, easy drop offs, easy pickups, and the dogs seem happy there. Prices are reasonable and the employees are nice! Check them out here: Z Pet Hotel

PART 2

Check out Part 2 of our journey — Chimayo — here.

New Mexico’s “Musical Highway” Plays America the Beautiful

A small stretch of road along old Route 66 / Hwy 333 near Tijeras, NM has been enabled with a musical ability. If you drive over a special rumble strip at exactly 45 miles per hour (no, not 40, not 50), you will be serenaded with a slightly asphalty rendition of the last few bars of America the Beautiful.

HOW TO GET THERE: From Albuquerque, at the Tramway/Central intersection, either hop on I-40 then exit to Rte 66 at Carnuel, or just get on Rte 66 right there at Tramway/Central and take it the whole way. Either way, after Rte 66 passes under I-40 (east of Carnuel), get ready and start looking for the blue signs. There is a sign reading “Musical Highway” that prepares you, then a sign reading “Reduce Speed to 45 mph” to get you in the proper speed zone. Arrows painted on the rumble strips show you where to actually place your tires. Note: The musical section is on the eastbound lane only.

If you watch the video above, you’ll see a second, shorter rumble strip after the first one. The first time I drove the Musical Highway, that second rumble strip played the Nationwide jingle. I kid you not. It was terrible and I felt somehow violated. But the second time I drove it (in the video above), the second rumble strip had been…. de-activated. THANK GOODNESS.

Rumor has it that the Musical Highway was created here as part of a Discovery Channel experiment in crowd control for a show to air soon, with the added benefit of getting drivers to slow to the speed limit, at least for a little while. In my experience (ahem), drivers just speed back up when the music stops. But at least we are being safe for a little while.

UPDATE: We indeed saw the episode of Crowd Control that featured the NM Musical Highway. Pretty cool, and I was happy to see that the jingle was included for the episode only. Plus, Crowd Control has become one of our favorite shows.

Pie Town Festival – Pie Town, NM

Pie Town is a tiny little community located about 20 miles west of Datil, New Mexico. The town was named after a baker in the 1920s that made pies. Pies so good, the town was named after it. So you can bet when I heard this town was holding its annual Pie Festival, I was going to attend. Always held the second Saturday in September, the event is a fundraiser held by the Pie Town Community Council, a volunteer organization that provides a variety of services for the town. The event features crafts for sale, an open air flea market, pie eating and baking contests, horned toad races, the crowning of the Pie Queen, a dance, and most importantly… pie for sale.

Check here for EatingNewMexico’s 6 Tips for a Successful Pie Fest

Early Saturday morning I, along with my seven-year-old nephew and a friend, made the trek to Pie Town. The plan was to ensure that we made it to the event in time to sign my nephew up for the pie eating contest, and to meet up with this blog’s very own zymbologistbob, who had been wanting to go to the festival for 14 some years, and a couple of his pie-friendly friends. The two-and-half-hour drive from Albuquerque to Pie Town was gorgeous. After a stop at the Very Large Array outside of Magdalena, New Mexico, we arrived.

The festival is held in Jackson Park, along Highway 60 and across the street from the Pie-O-Neer bakery. There was plenty of parking available along the road, and the place was packed. Apparently, for such a small town, this festival is quite popular. Because, pie. Throughout the day, we met people from Oregon, Arizona, and California.

Our first stop was to sign my nephew up for the pie eating contest (and myself, but that’s another post). There were about 20 to 30 stands set up around the park with people selling different items. Some were crafters and others were selling tools and used DVDs and such. There were also several food vendors, selling burritos, Navajo fry bread and other treats. But there were only three pie stands among the town. I was a bit surprised, as I expected for a pie festival, there would be more pie stands. That said, the town is incredibly small, and perhaps for the citizens-to-pie ratio, three stands was more than enough. And truth be told, there was more than enough pie available from those vendors.

After touring the stands, we made our way to the Pie-O-Neer bakery. After all, we were here for pie. The place was packed and the line was almost to the door. We each ordered something different (after some indecisiveness with my nephew who couldn’t decide if eating pie would make him too full for the pie eating contest). I had a slice of pecan pie, while my nephew enjoyed blueberry pie. My friend got a slice of the famous green chile apple pie.

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The pecan pie was lovely, it was light, and wasn’t too sugary. The crust was nice and buttery. My nephew said he greatly enjoyed his blueberry pie and was very impressed by the stars on the pie crust. But the green chile apple pie was by far my favorite (I took a bite of my friend’s). It had a hot bite to it, but it the chile flavor wasn’t overwhelming. In case you missed out on the festival this year you can always make your own green chile cheese apple pie with this recipe – previously posted here on EatingNewMexico.

Topped off with pie after our long drive, we went back to the festival grounds. While my nephew played on the swing sets and slides, we waited for the crowning of the Pie Town Pie Queen. I was curious if there were campaigns run ahead of time for the crown, or it if was based off of the best baked pie. Unfortunately, those questions were never answered, as I missed the big crowning. All of the events were announced by a woman with a bullhorn, and by the time I realized it, the crowning was over. Zymbologistbob was upset he didn’t take the title, but I reassured him there is always next year.

While we waited for the pie eating contest, zymbologistbob and his friends enjoyed pie from the Pie Town Café stand. Zymbologistbob had a slice of tart cherry, and his friends each had a blackberry and blueberry. It was the Pie Town Pie Festival after all, so after a bit more wandering they found themselves at the pie stand for the Pie Town Cafe and each shared a mini pecan and strawberry rhubarb pie. It was decided that the strawberry rhubarb was some of the best z-bob ever had.

Pie Town - Sharing the Pie
Pie Town – Sharing the Pie

Next up was the PIE EATING CONTEST, which gets its own page here: Pie Town Pie Eating Contest

After the contest (and subsequent clean up as there was whipped cream and pie remnants everywhere) it was time to enjoy the horned toad races.

As I have never experienced such a race, I had questions. Could you bet on the toads before the race? Were there little lizard stalls so you could see which one looked like a winner? Was there illegal drugging of horned toads going on to ensure a victory? Were there grasshopper jockeys? Luckily, these questions were quickly answered. No, no, no, and sadly no.

Everyone gathered on the basketball courts around a chalk circle. Each of the horned toads were marked on their stomachs with number and the owners were marked with the same number on their hands. The owners were asked to sit outside the circle to encourage their horned toads to victory. The toads were all placed into a bucket and then dumped out in the middle of the circle. The first toad to cross the chalk line was the victor.

Pie Town Horned Toad Race -- bucket o toads.
Pie Town Horned Toad Race — bucket o toads.
Pie Town - Make Friends With Your Toad
Make friends with your toad so you can cheer him/her on to victory!
Pie Town - Horny Toad Races
Pie Town Horned Toad Race — what pies and horned toads have to do with one another, I don’t know. But, horny toads!

There looked to be an early victor, Taco, who ran to the edge of the circle, but then seemed to get confused and just ran around the edge. He was upset by a wee little horned toad. The word “race” might give the impression that this is a fast-paced event, but it took the better part of 15 minutes for a horned toad to finally cross the not-too-distant finish line.

After all that excitement, there wasn’t much left to do. The Pie Festival had other activities into the evening, including a dance where the winning pies from the baking contest would be announced. But as I was responsible for a seven-year-old that I had hopped up on sugar, it seemed best to wind up our day at the Pie Festival. We went back to the Pie-o-Neer to purchase pies for the road, but the majority of them were sold out. So we went to the Pie Town Café and purchased several red chile and apple cinnamon mini pies for gifts. I’m told they were delicious (although I was also told they tasted more like Hot Tamale candy than red chile). We then hit the road back to Albuquerque, after a pleasant day filled with pie, horned toads, more pie, and fun.

6 Tips for a Successful Pie Fest

Tips for a Successful Family Outing to the Pie Festival

  1. The Pie Town Pie Festival has a website with a list of activities and times. While the sign up for the pie eating contests begin at 9 a.m., there’s no reason to get there right on time to sign up. You can sign up right up until contest time assuming there is enough pie to go around.
  2. The best time to get to the Pie Festival is between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. The main activities begin at noon, and it doesn’t take more than an hour to tour all of the vendor booths and to get your first slice of pie.
  3. Speaking of pie, it’s better to buy your full pies for the road sooner, rather than later. We debated whether or not to buy pies right away. We decided to wait and many of the popular pies were sold out by the time we were ready to head home.
  4. There are a few activities for the kids to do beyond the junior pie eating contest, but you’ll need to keep an eye on them the entire time. The festival is held at a park, so there’s a swing set, a slide and a jungle gym. The slide is one of the biggest I’ve seen, and judging by the amount of kids I saw face-planted at the bottom, it’s a very fast slide. There was nothing unusual about the swing set, but there was a large number of people who walked way too close to swinging kids and almost ended up with black eyes. Pie can lull you into a dangerous state of not paying attention, apparently. There’s also a giant pie of dirt where organizers hide little toys for the kids to find. However, they left behind an adult sized metal shovel for the kids to dig with. Put together a bunch of kids and an adult sized shovel — trouble and concussions are bound to happen.
  5. If you have access to horned toads, don’t forget to bring your speediest and most well-trained for the afternoon horned toad races.
  6. Pie Town is a very small town. There isn’t a gas station, so be sure to fill up in neighboring towns, like Datil or Magdalena.

I hope these tips can help you have a very successful and stress-free Pie Town Pie Festival 2015.

Pie Town – Pie Eating Contest

Ever since my seven-year-old nephew, Little Trickster, learned he would be returning to the Pie Festival in Pie Town, New Mexico, he talked about nothing but winning the children’s pie eating contest. Turns out, last year he lost due to a hand raising technicality. A similar travesty was the fate of Sir Leopold Chestnut, SECOND PLACE winner of the 1903 Summer Olympics prune and custard pie eating contest. Both were sadly unaware that after they finished their pie, they were to raise their hand to be declared the winner. At least this year Little Trickster could learn from his folly. Chestnut, shunned by his peers, never competed again.

Little Trickster had been studying up on how to win this year’s contest. On the two-and-a-half-hour journey from Albuquerque to Pie Town, between singing verses of popular Disney songs, he spoke non-stop about the rules of the contest as well as the best techniques to take the crown. Each contestant was given an appropriately sized fruit pie by age division. All but the youngest contestants had to keep their hands behind their backs during the challenge and could not use them to eat said pie.

The best technique, said Little Trickster, was to move the pie closest to the edge of the table. After the stuffing was inhaled, it was best to use your teeth to flip over the pie tin and drop the pie on the table. It was much easier to eat the rest of the pie this way. He called it the alligator technique. A bit of a misnomer as we all know alligators prefer tarts to pies, unlike their fatter cousin the crocodile.

“You need to listen to me,” said Little Trickster, “so both you and I can be winners in our contests.”

Wait, what?

I knew my nephew was entering the pie eating contest, but I had no plans of entering the adult pie eating contest. I envisioned my first time at the festival perusing pie stands and craft tables. I had not planned on entering a pie eating contest. But Little Trickster, being adorable, was insistent. And I, being both a sucker and partaker in pies, was talked into entering the contest.

Upon our arrival to the Pie Festival, I went to the pavilion and paid the $1 fee to sign Little Trickster up for his age group and then paid $5 to sign myself up for the adult division. We were each given ribbons that showed the judges that we were participants.

In hindsight, it would have been a great deal to concede the contest and walk away with a $25 pie for $5.

At 1 p.m., the pie eating contestants gathered around the row of tables in the middle of the Pie Festival open area. The audience surrounded the pies and contestants (outside the “Splash Zone”) to cheer on their friends. Much attention was paid to the Splash Zone in fear of pie in the sky debris.

First up were the kiddos age 0 – 5. I’m not quite sure how a 0-year-old would eat a pie, but hey, there you go. The little kids were given mini-pies and the contest was on. A winner was declared, and two runner-ups. Each were given ribbons. The parents next to me were rather upset and kept talking about cheating from the winner (their kid got second). Seemed a bit silly to me as it was all for fun — it’s not like it was the pie eating Superbowl. [Editor’s note: fun or not, pie eating contest rules regarding hands on the table is a disqualification-level action. It is a safety matter, fingers are libel to be chewed off in the heat of the competition.]

Next up was Little Trickster’s division, ages 7 – 12. There were 19 participants. Their pies were larger than the mini pies, but still not a full-size pie. Little Trickster was down to business. Right off, he asked the judge if he was supposed to raise his hand when he was done. Once he got the affirmative, and the other kids were all lined up, the contest started. Little Trickster face-planted into his pie and tore that pie up! He used his teeth to flip the pie over using the Alligator Technique. There was whipped cream everywhere — on his nose, on his forehead, even in his hair. He mowed through that pie as fast as he could. (In related news, whipped cream is apparently an excellent conditioner.)

Pie Town - Pie Eating Contest Little T
Little Trickster going for gold

Unfortunately, those older kids were way faster. Out of the 19 participants, Little Trickster got 4th place. I was very proud of his placing and he seemed to be in good spirits, which can’t be that surprising as it’s hard to be sad after eating pie.

Then it was my turn. Little Trickster came up to me and helped me tie my plastic apron. “Since, I didn’t win, you’re going to have to win this,” he said.

Wait, what?

I was just doing this for fun (and pie) but mostly just to placate the now berry-stained kid. Suddenly there was all this added pressure on me to win? Really, my only goal was to not end up like that kid in “Stand By Me.” (No, not the dead one, the one in the pie eating contest, though I didn’t particularly want to end up like the dead one either. I have to remember to chew.)

“Don’t worry,” said Little Trickster. “I’ll coach you. I already asked the judge if I could stay with you and cheer you on.” There were 24 participants in the adult division, and the trash talking starting early. A man from Portland told the rest of us we were going down. A woman from Arizona giggled and said this was her first time. A woman from California let us know she had won three years ago. Ooh, a seasoned veteran.

We lined up around the tables and placed our hands behind our backs. Little Trickster ran around to eye the competition and shout out instructions. He told me to kneel to be closer to the pie.

“REMEMBER THE ALLIGATOR!” he shouted.

The judges placed the pies in front of us. Unfortunately, these weren’t mini pies, or even medium. These were daunting, huge, full-sized strawberry rhubarb pies. Pies that were covered in whipped cream (much like most of the previous contestants).

And not with a shot, but a splat, the contest was on. I shoved my face into that pie and started chewing. And chewing and chewing. And I stopped and realized I was only through the whipped cream. I went back to chewing. I finally hit the filling. It was delicious. I could hear my friends cheering me on. I could hear Little Trickster yelling out instructions. “Do the alligator! Stick your whole face in that pie!” I got through half the pie and drug the tin over to the edge of the table with my teeth. I flipped it and dumped the pie on the table.

Trickster demonstrates the Alligator Technique.
Trickster demonstrates the Alligator Technique.
Pie Town - Pie Eating Contest Trickster in Action
It still looks pretty tasty.

I started working on the crust (which was just as tasty as the pie). I stopped to look up to see where everyone else was at. One girl had given up, and looked rather green. Most of the other contestants had way less pie to get through than I did.

“Put your face back in there!” Little Trickster shouted. I took another bite and looked up again. Little Trickster threatened me with bodily harm if I didn’t win. And I couldn’t help it. I spit out my pie laughing. Poor Portland guy. He was across from me and wasn’t too happy. I tried to chew again but the cheers and coaching was just too much. I just kept giggling. Finally a winner was declared, and then the second and third place winners. My adventure was over. Out of the 24 contestants, I came in 23. Thank goodness for the one green-looking girl.

Pie Town - Trickster After the Fact
I gave it my best shot. 🙂

Little Trickster came over to comfort me. “It’s okay,” he said, “we’ll do better next year.”

Wait, what?