Mountainair & Manzano Mountains, NM
From Gran Quivira, drive north on NM Rte. 55 to the town of Mountainair. Continuing north on Rte. 55 will take you on a scenic drive along the eastern side of the Manzano Mountains. Since it was late in the day, I chose to take US 60 west to NM Rte. 47, which heads north to Belen, and Interstate 25.
In the tiny town of Mountainair, I was compelled to stop and take a few pictures of the brightly painted P&M Plastics building. You can't miss it, as you cross the railroad tracks.
Aside from the old factory, warehouse, or whatever it is, there's not a lot to see or do in Mountainair.
Manzano Mountains Sunset
As you head up Rte. 47 towards Belen, you'll pass just a few homes, but if real estate developers have their way, this area will one day be filled with homes. All of the land on either side of the highway is subdivided as part of the Tierra Grande community. An aerial look on Google Maps shows miles and miles of unpaved roads, already laid out on the desert floor. For now, though, there aren't many homes out here.
I took one of those roads several miles into the community, in order to get closer to the Manzano Mountains for sunset.
After setting up a tripod at the side of the road, I waited for the sun to break through the clouds. There would be a short window, perhaps 15 minutes or less, when the sun was below the clouds and above the horizon. I hoped in that time, a golden glow would bathe the mountainside. And it did.
NM Rte. 47 doesn't intersect Interstate 25 at Belen, but rather, turns north and parallels it. I drove for about 20 minutes before finally finding a crossover to the highway.
Dinner in Albuquerque: Garduño's
Albuquerque locals all seem to have their favorite restaurants that serve New Mexican cuisine. Sadie's, Little Anita's, and Garduño's are all often on that list. If you've read either my Arches & Canyons or Desert Trails trips, you know I had a great experience at the Las Vegas Garduño's, and since Albuquerque is the home of the Garduño's chain, it was my first choice.
OK, my focus was a little off, but in my defense, I was really hungry. This isn't just my favorite dish at Garduño's, it's the only one I've ever ordered: Chile Verde. It's a chicken soup, made thick with chile peppers.
There's chili, and then there's chile. The "i" version is a spicy tomato soup with beans and beef. In New Mexico, the "e" refers to the red or green peppers that grow along the Rio Grande. Both colors can be hot or mild, depending on the results of the growing season. You should try each color at least once on your trip, if your stomach can handle spicy food. (And while chile dishes are often hot, they're not just hot, they also have a deeper, richer flavor that's unmatched by anything you'll ever taste again.)
New Mexico's state question is, "Red or Green?"
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