An afternoon in Madrid NM is a pleasant way to spend a day. A visit to this little New Mexico town has a lot to offer to refresh your spirit.
Filled with quaint galleries and vintage shops, it is the main attraction on the backroad between Albuquerque and Santa Fe known as the Turquoise Trail.
We decided to drive over from Santa Fe. It was a warm October day, so we waited until a bit later in the afternoon, when it would be a little cooler to walk around.
At about 6000' elevation, it was over 1200' lower than our place in Santa Fe, so we knew it would be warmer.
Madrid is only about a 40-minute drive, and the view is all beautiful, high-desert scrub cedar. It is pleasant and relaxing. There was not much traffic, at all. (I think most people had gone down to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.)
Madrid is located on the Turquoise Trail (New Mexico State Highway 14) that runs between Santa Fe and Albuquerque.
It started out as a coal mining community, but is now home to, mostly, artists. The population is not much over 200 folks.
Jetson Caston (he swears this is his real name) splits time between Madrid in the summer, and Tucson in the winter.
He said, "I love the fact that I know almost everyone in town. It is full of gentle people. You don't really have any curmudgeons, out here. It seems like everyone realizes how blessed we are to live in such a restorative location.
We have sunshine, soft breezes, the smell of high desert sage, and wide open spaces.
Like most folks, here, I'm an artist. This place has an overload of subject material for my paintings and my photography. I will never run out. Financially, it has been a goldmine because my stuff sells so well.
Let me tell you, making $85,000 here is like $300,000 - $400,000 anywhere else.
I start each day with a hike. It might be three miles, sometimes it's five. I carry my camera once in awhile, but mostly I like to connect with Nature at dawn without any encumbrances.
The spring and fall are magical. The beauty can overwhelm my heart. I can truly say that Madrid has made my relationship with my wife even more tender and caring.
Each month we read a book together. Right now it is A Return To Love by Marianne Williamson. We set aside time twice a week to sit in a swing I built, and discuss it.
You just can't do that in a big city. Madrid is powerful when it comes to refreshing your spirit."
John Tatum, a cowboy artist who draws in ink, echos what Jetson told us.
"We came here from Jerome AZ, another little town populated by artists. It was nice, but it just seemed too isolated and windy for us.
My wife and I are real spiritual. We asked the Universe to guide us to a place where we could be closer to Nature, closer to each other, and would continually renourish our spirits.
For us, Madrid, New Mexico checked all of those boxes.
We both read, The Miracle Morning, and have adopted a lot of those principles for our artistic working-life now.
Like Jetson, we hike at dawn. We also do some Tai Chi in the back yard. We grow a huge variety of vegetables.
Life in Jerome was peaceful, but there were only about 400 people in the whole town. Maybe less. We interact with a lot more kindred souls, here.
Truly, Madrid revitalizes our spirits."
The town pretty much lines each side of Highway 14. Residences are off the main road, but not very far. (Truly, there is not much difference in Madrid and the fictional Mayberry RFD.) Parking can be an issue. We were fortunate. We found a lot right off the bat, and paid $5 for the several hours until sundown.
Since it is mostly inhabited by artists, you will see a variety of colors on homes, and some unique decorative accessories.
These mailboxes are just a small sample.
Jolene Helms, from Galesburg IL, said, "I've always heard about this little place. Actually, I first heard about it when I was watching a TV series called "Breaking Bad.' They talked about driving up the Turquoise Trail to the Tinkertown Museum, and getting some lunch in Madrid. It sounded real romantic, so I got out the Rand-McNally Atlas to see if it was a real place."
Madrid is also popular with people who ride motorcycles. Since New Mexico 14 is not heavily travelled, it makes a safe and scenic trip on the Turquoise Trail.
Janelle Qwill, a pottery artist who moved to Madrid from Blountville TN, said, "I know when visitors see burly guys on Harley's, their thinking can start to get skewed...but the truth is, most of them are really low-key and quiet.
Right now, in the parking lot, are motorcycles belonging to two poets, a choir director at a church in Santa Fe, a lady who owns a flower shop, and two skinny female 2nd grade teachers.
We don't really get the iconic Alpha-dog, beer-chugging, outlaw types. Madrid is such a peaceful, spiritual setting that there is just nothing here for them. Most nights, the tavern is filled with people over 55, who want to order a Cobb salad."
Many of the shops in Madrid maintain a frontier theme.
Most shops carry vintage and antique items. The artists who run these places are friendly, and know a great deal about the history of the area.
Like thousands of other people, we got fooled thinking Maggie's Diner was actually a place that served food.
It is a gift store that caters to the biker crowd. It has a lot of cool clothes (if you are into that type of dress) but the aisles are narrow and it is pretty cramped. If more than 7-8 people are in there at the same time, you will need a stoplight.
This is where the ending of the movie, Wild Hogs, was filmed.
Say what? Here is an iconic old house in the middle of town. I'm sure it has been photographed a thousand times. It just seemed so strange to see it sitting broken and wind-swept among a line of nice shops.
A cute little bread and breakfast place, called the Java Junction, is on one side of it.
Connie's Photo Park is on the other side. This is a pretty cool little place. You can get a bunch of comical poses in vintage face-holes. The owner is very friendly and will help you take pictures.
An afternoon in Madrid NM would not be complete without stopping here.
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The Mine Shaft Tavern is the main draw in Madrid NM. It is rustic, rocking, and a fun place.
Our first visit to Madrid was at night, to dance out here. We had a great time. The band was very good and there were many people out on the dance floor. We've danced there several times, since.
We have never eaten here, although we've talked about it. (We should probably come back and do another article just on this place.)
We finished our afternoon in Madrid NM with dinner at The Hollar Restaurant. It was great. It was quiet, uncrowded, and the food was good. (We split the chcken and black bean quesadilla. It filled us up.)
We heard Sunday Brunch was great. It goes from 11:00am until 3:00pm. Just one more reason to return to this cool little town.
We picked the exact right time for an early dinner at The Hollar Restaurant. It was sunny and quiet. 45 minutes later, at about 5:30pm, it really started getting filled up.
The back wall of The Hollar was painted with this distressed sign, giving it a vintage look. Pretty cool.
As you can see, the shadows were lengthening on our way back to the truck. It was peaceful.
An afternoon in Madrid NM is a great way to refresh your spirit.
A great little Kindle book you can keep on your phone as you explore the New Mexico Backroads.