7 Roadside Wonders: Absolutely Worth Pulling Over For

Absolutely Worth Pulling Over For

5 min read
7 Roadside Wonders
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Tinkertown Museum

Julia Minamata juliaminamata.com
Nestled in the Sandias off the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway, Tinkertown resides in the sweet, old country heart of pure Americana. Carved wooden puppets and figurines great and small occupy the winding, 22-room space by the thousands. Ross Ward, the craftsman behind this small army of dolls, spent 40 years whittling them into life. Fiddlers, pipe smokers, angels, devils and circus performers can be found among them, along with walls constructed from more than 50,000 glass bottles, a 35-foot antique wooden sailboat that survived a 10-year voyage around the world, and a curious and creative amalgamation of old-timey memorabilia. (Christie Chisholm)

Manzano Sunflower Fields

Mountainair has its Sunflower Festival in the late summer to celebrate the wild proliferation of this lovely, weedy flower that pretty much takes over vast swaths of mountain meadows in the dying days of August. Take the Salt Missions Trail Scenic Byway through time-has-stopped-here land grant towns like Chilili and Yrisarri, keep your eyes open and you will see approximately 10 gazillion sunflowers. (Kyle Silfer)

Ice Cave And Bandera Volcano

It sounds like the kind of place you’d expect to find an abominable snowman, and you might be right. Tucked into part of a collapsed lava tube in Grants, the Ice Cave’s temperature, despite its access to a pocket of sunlight, never rises above 31 degrees. The results are glistening, blue-green layers of never-melting ice stuck mysteriously in the desert. Not far off is Bandera Volcano, one of the best examples of an erupted volcano in the country, 800 feet deep. Its final blast came 10,000 years ago, so it’s safe, if not a little acrophobic, to walk up to its edge. (Christie Chisholm)

Echo Amphitheater

New Mexico rocks! Well, at least it has a lot of rocks and rock formations. The most stunning formations often result from the elements weathering softer stone into rock that does something unrock-like. Echo Amphitheater is a rather interactive example located 15 miles west of Abiquiú on Highway 84. Carved into the towering sandstone cliffs lining the road, the natural amphitheater is easy to access and offers more than just photographic opportunities. This rock gives feedback. Take a deep breath and yodel, shout or curse your head off, and the stately walls quickly throw back whatever you toss at them. The parroted replies resonate and bounce off the geological wonder, delighting even the surliest teenage tourist. There’s just something irresistible about being encouraged to scream at scenery instead of simply admiring it in silence. (Maren Tarro)

Belen Harvey House Museum

While you can get there by car, Belen’s Harvey House Museum is the ideal rail roadside attraction: Arrive by Rail Runner, cross over the rail line on the brand-new pedestrian bridge built with stimulus money, have lunch at Pete’s Café, then amble on over to the 1908 Harvey House, still in awesome shape and home to both a small museum and the Belen Model Railroad Club, which runs cool train layouts six (!) days a week. Right outside is one of the busiest train yards in the Southwest, a bucket-list railfanning destination with something like 100 trains a day to ogle. If you like trains, this is the place. Admission is free, but drop a few bucks in the donation jar. (Kyle Silfer)

Teako Nunn's Giants

Teako Nunn owns an RV dealership in Hatch. His wife runs Sparky’s Burgers, BBQ and Espresso. Since opening the twin businesses, Teako has filled the parking lot with fiberglass advertising statues like a giant pink pig, an oversized rooster and an A&W "Root Beer Mama." Recycled roadside Americana at its best! (Devin O’Leary)

Kokopelli's Cave B&B

After a long journey racking up miles on the odometer, end your road trip with a night in Kokopelli’s Cave. In the shadow of Mesa Verde National Monument, this kitschy hotel room whittles 1,650 square feet of living space from 65 million year-old sandstone. With Southwestern-style furnishings, wall-to-wall (rock-to-rock?) carpeting, a kitchen, a waterfall-style shower and a flagstone hot tub, this is a cave that’s fit for a queen. (Laura Marrich)

Julia Minamata juliaminamata.com

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