"YOU'RE GOING TO NEED THIS,” offered Managing Editor Kate Nelson as she handed me the oversize DeLorme New Mexico Atlas & Gazetteer, filled with maps detailing roads, topography, public lands, and a ton of spots to explore.
It’s not exactly the kind of welcome gift you expect, especially in an age when everyone has GPS on their phones and in their cars. But as with so many other things about this enchanting state, she was spot-on.
The book has become a valuable travel companion and reliable no-tech guide. It also serves as a good starting point for anyone embarking on the adventures detailed in this month’s cover story on summer road trips. Cell reception can be spotty to nil, so it’s wise to carry a map. Also, keep an eye on the gas gauge, since pit stops can also be hit-or-miss. (That’s a lesson I learned after pulling into Eagle Nest on empty during a drive around the Enchanted Circle.)
As you travel this summer and beyond, here’s some more advice to pack away, gleaned from Kate’s more than 30 years exploring New Mexico’s highways, byways, and miles upon miles of back roads.
Carry cash and checks. Some small towns have unreliable internet service or shops that don’t take credit cards. Many farmers’ and artisans’ markets also run on cash. Fee stations on public lands require it, too.
Fill a collapsible cooler with ice, water, fresh fruit, veggies, and a container of hummus, in case a tempting diner doesn’t magically appear. It also never hurts to have a stash of nuts, dried fruit, jerky, and extra water in the car as well as hand sanitizer, wipes, and paper towels.
Keep spares of all your toiletries in a Dopp kit so that they’re always at the ready. Include earplugs (in case your lodging isn’t quiet enough).
Invest in a 10-foot smartphone charging cord and an adaptor plug. You never know how far from your hotel bed the nearest outlet will be. Also keep a portable power pack handy for charging in the field.
Be ready for anything. Have a flashlight, rain gear, extra layers, a blanket, and a satellite phone, just in case the unexpected happens.
With the distance between destinations colored by sweeping desert vistas, grassy plains, and breathtaking views all around, there’s little doubt New Mexico was built for road trips. Here’s to enjoying every mile. Safe travels.