Traveling During A Pandemic

My wife and I originally planned to travel to Santa Fe in late May, but those plans had to be changed. During the current pandemic, travel has been greatly restricted (as you probably know). Since travel in New Mexico has been quite a bit more restricted than here in Texas, we had to wait. Last week we finally were able to go. Hotels were allowed to operate at 50% capacity. Restaurants could serve customers at 50% capacity. Other shops were sometimes open, and sometimes not, depending upon if the owner decided to open.

It’s tricky trying to travel when so many restrictions are in place. We were originally going to fly to New Mexico, but we had to drive since air travelers into New Mexico are still required to self quarantine for 14 days after arriving.

We brought our own, self made, masks as well, since New Mexico is a bit more strict on requiring masks in public places than some other states. I didn’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable, or to ask me not to enter a business if I didn’t have a mask. I don’t mind wearing a mask – except that I get very tired of breathing my own breath…

Welcome sign at a rest stop just over the state line from Texas on Rt. 40.

I went to college for 2 years in New Mexico, so going back is always a pleasant experience for me! One of the things I miss most is the food. New Mexican cuisine is a mixture, a combination of Spanish, Mexican, Native American and traditional American cooking. At home, in Texas, traditional Tex-Mex food uses Jalapeno peppers for spice. In New Mexico, Jalapeno peppers are not as common – instead, other chile peppers (primarily from the Hatch region of south central New Mexico) are the main staple of chefs throughout the state.

Chile shop in Chimayo, New Mexico.

These peppers are generally red or green, and can vary greatly in taste, and heat. I was always told that the best green chilies come from Hatch, and the best red chilies come from the more northern, mountainous parts of the state. On this trip, we brought back a bag of local red chile powder from Chimayo, NM. I’m sure it will be excellent, and I can’t wait to have some chicken enchiladas made with this red chile powder! The other red chile dish I love is Carne Adovada. This is a pork dish, in which you marinade the pork for at least a day in a sauce made with red chile powder (like I brought back). It all depends upon who’s making it, but when I’ve had it in the past, it makes me sweat, and my nose runs while I’m eating it. It’s so good, though, you can’t stop eating.

I also miss the terrain found in the state. New Mexico is a very high state. The lowest elevation is about 3000 feet above sea level – in the south central part of the state (near White Sands), and in the far eastern and southeastern portions of the state. Albuquerque is, like Denver, a mile high. Santa Fe is over 7,000 feet above sea level. And, the highest point in the state (Wheeler Peak) is over 13,000 feet above sea level. The elevation variations within the state cause it to vary quite a bit in temperature as well. In the summer, 100+ degrees F is not uncommon throughout most of the state – except in the highest mountain areas. Because of the low humidity, in the winter and spring, snow is common, even at the lower elevations (especially at night, when temperatures drop), although snow doesn’t stick around long, except in the mountains.

Because of the varied elevations, New Mexico has many different climate zones. This is typical of mountainous areas, and I love it because of the variety of plants and animals, and just the scenery. I love the desert, and I love the mountains. In New Mexico you can experience it all. The terrain, and the sunshine, are reasons I love taking photos in New Mexico. The bright sun, and the colors of the sand make for beautiful photographs!

Red rocks and blue sky at Jemez Pueblo.

Another thing that I love and miss about New Mexico is how Native American and Mexican cultures are blended into the state. I love living in Texas for many reasons, but there really isn’t any visible record of the Native Americans that once lived here. It’s totally different in New Mexico. When I was in college at the University of New Mexico, they boasted the largest Native American student population of any college in the nation. Except for the city of Albuquerque, which is similar to any large US city, Hispanics and Native Americans make up the majority of the population – or it feels like it. Traveling to New Mexico, in some ways, is like traveling outside the United States. It’s a very cool feeling.

In general, out trip was fairly normal. Some hotel amenities are, naturally, not open (like hot tubs and pool areas) since group activities are being discouraged. Restaurants are functional, but those that have opened are serving less people. I think restaurants have been impacted more than most businesses. I’m glad we were able to make this trip, and support those businesses trying to start up again.

Since photography is one of the things I love to do in New Mexico, here’s a few of my favorites from this trip.

Here’s a short list of places we visited, and links so you can explore more online.

If you ever get the opportunity to visit New Mexico, by all means, do it!