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March 25th: TinkerTown and the Turquoise Trail

• CATEGORIES: Features • TAGS: .

2014-03-25-tinkertownWe started off the morning at the New Mexico National Guard Bataan Memorial Museum, which includes a special exhibit about the embattled soldiers of Bataan and Corriegor. That episode of WWII was particularly important to New Mexico as they had a detachment of National Guard troops in the Philippines when the Japanese attacked. The entry hall is lined with stories of soldiers who perished at different times during the war, some along the Bataan Death March, some in POW camps, and some in the ‘Hell Ships‘.

Given the use of ‘Bataan’ is used prominently in the Museum’s name, I expected to find a more in-depth look at the loss of Philippines, the type of treatment endured by POWs, the concern over the POWs lives if Japan lost the war (all prisoners were supposed to be executed) and more. However, instead of finding that, the museum focuses more on telling the story of the New Mexico National Guard, from their fights in the civil war to present-day, which is understandable.

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Ann pointed out one spot where the wiring isn’t up to standards on this gun.

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This tribute to the Bataan March includes several items that survived the war.

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This was the jeep used in a WWII display. oops.

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An overview of part of the museum.

So, it’s a fine little museum with free entry, but Ann and I both agreed that they have a unique opportunity to tell an important story that doesn’t fully educate the visitor about that event. Fortunately, there are some sources that do explain why the Philippines were lost and the treatment endured by the POWs (books that are sitting on my book shelf at home and whose names I can’t recall at the moment).

On the bright side, they do have a pretty accurate M-38 in good shape.

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As a counter to that very serious topic, we’d planned to drive down to the TinkerTown Museum. But, before leaving Santa Fe, we decided it would be good to get a map of New Mexico. To find a book store, I asked SIRI (iPhone) to find me the nearest Barnes and Noble. Seconds later SIRI was barking out orders to turn right and turn left and travel some odd miles and more until we ended up at an old lumber yard now called the Sanbusco Market. The old lumber building was now a series of shops. While their proved to be no Barnes and Noble, there was an REI store that provided us with the maps I wanted. So, as much as I was mad at SIRI for guiding us to a non-existent Barnes and Noble, she did find a pretty cool place.

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This memorial is a tribute to the old Sanbusco Lumber Yard.

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SIRI may have steered me wrong, but I still captured a map!

Soon we were off, traveling south on Highway 14 over hills and through dales of rock and sagebrush. The highway, also known as the Turquoise Trail, passes through an area that was mined by the Pueblo people dating back to 900 AD. Driving along the highway, it seems the current people mine tourists rather than Turquoise.

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A small spot on the side of the road called Garden of the Gods. This is one of the natural rock formations.

On the way to TinkerTown, highway 14 passes through a tiny town made famous by the movie Wild Hogs: Madrid. It looks a lot like it does in the movie, however Maggie’s isn’t a diner at all, but a souvenier shop (In 2011 when Ann went through with her mom it was a real estate office, even though it still had the ‘Diner’ sign from the movie shoot).

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Main Street of Madrid, NM. You’ll probably recognize it from Wild Hogs.

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The real estate office, turned movie Diner, turned back to real-estate, but now a souvenir shop.

The real Madrid is an artist community that has, at its south end, an artist who works with car parts.  At first I didn’t notice they were car part, but closely check out the two sculptures hanging on the side of the shop. Pretty Cool!

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After Madrid, we continued south until we reached TinkerTown. What is TinkerTown? Kind of like House on the Rock, only on a smaller scale, the TinkerTown Museum is a collection of oddities that you have to see in person. Wood carver and artist Ross Brown spent decades creating stuff, not intending to open a museum. However, the more stuff he built, the more people wanted to see it. Eventually, Ross opened TinkerTown to the public so everyone could enjoy it. The entry fee is only $3.50 for adults, so it’s a cheap date location, however the things you see are priceless. If you look close enough you can see how Ross found the time to carve and build his museum pieces. Hidden here and there are signs which read, “I did this while you were watching TV.” Ross suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for several years before his death in 2002. His daughter wrote a book about it called Leaving TinkerTown. (Ann literally took a couple hundred photos — she was having fun)

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Hall of western scenes carved by Ross Ward.

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I’m adding an eWillys card to the business cards on the ceiling. If you find it, send it back to me for a free t-shirt.

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Lots of walls made of glass and any other objects.

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A map of Theodora R’s voyage. We bought the book about the trip.

From TinkerTown, we began our trek to Las Crucas. On the way we made sure to stop by a Subway sandwich shop, because in New Mexico many of the outlets provide green chiles as one of the condonments. Delicious!

For most of the trip down to Las Crucas Ann drove while I readied eWillys for this morning. However, I did look up when we drove through Truth and Consequences, New Mexico, the site of the Jeep Derby for many years (how many I haven’t determined). The terrain that surrounds the city is full of hills and ravines with little vegetation, perfect for building a fun and interesting offroad course. The many dirt roads snaking out from the city attested to the fun people still have exploring the surrounding countryside. View photos from the 1963 event. Or watch this old video:

When we pulled off he exit at Las Cruces we spotted the only feral jeep we’d seen all day, a CJ-5 in poor condition, but apparently still drivable.

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Tomorrow we head to the White Sands Missile Range Museum, followed by a short drive to Silver City where we’ll meet Gordon and see his jeeps.

 

3 Comments on “March 25th: TinkerTown and the Turquoise Trail

  1. mom

    Again, I am traveling vicariously thru the 2 of you. You stop at places I would probably drive right by at 60 MPH and you take the time to photograph and explain what is unknown to the rest of us and make it interesting. The Bataan Museum gives us a historical perspective-though not as much as you would like-but many people know nothing about it. I guess Siri isnt perfect, but you did get your map. She was just sending you on a different and more interesting trail. Tinkertown provides that quirky edge we all like to discover. Thanks

  2. mmdeilers Post author

    Tanya,

    Thanks for the note. Yes, we are having fun and still have several weeks left of travel.

    We do plan to pick up a copy of your book once our trip is over. My wife and her mother and uncles all enjoyed their visit to Tinkertown a couple years ago (which is why it was a must-see on this trip).

    Best Wishes,

    – Dave

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