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Los Cerillos: a dual sport adventure

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What Not Shop-Cerrillos, NM
The What Not Shop is one of the main attractions in Los Cerrillos, NM

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ghost town as, "a once-flourishing town wholly or nearly deserted usually as a result of the exhaustion of some natural resource." By this definition Los Cerrillos, NM certainly fits the bill. And if
you are looking for a way to experience some local history and culture without the crush of the downtown tourists Los Cerrillos is a good bet.

Los Cerrillos means "little hills" and can trace it's history back 1500 years when the first Native Americans exploited the lead and turquoise deposits rich in the area. The town was not officially founded until 1879 when it became a hotbed of Western mining and railroad activity. The great depression of 1929 put an end to large scale commercial ventures in this once prosperous crossroads, but enough remains to make a fascinating historical visit.

From Santa Fe there are two ways to get there. Take NM-14/Turquoise Trail South toward Madrid and follow the signs. Or a more adventurous route.  (See Map)

Take I-25 S/US-85 S to exit 267 and turn south on County RD-57. This route is probably navigable by an experienced and adventurous rider on a street bike, however a dual sport model is recommended for this road. It is mostly hard-pack with light gravel, but there are some deeply rutted and steep stretches as well as some severe washboarding which could be problematic with shorter suspensions..


A dual-sport motorcycle is highly recommended if you choose the back route.

One of the main attractions in Los Cerrillos is the What Not Shop. It bills itself as an antique store but in its cramped and dim interior one can find everything from gemstones of dubious quality to worn wooden children's toys and just about everything in between. Next door is Mary's Bar where one can still buy a cold beer, if you are not riding, but it requires navigating past the lounging locals and lazy dogs who look like they appeared there about the same time as the town.

Other businesses that are still open include the Casa Grande Trading Post and Mining Museum. There is also an art gallery still operating which hosts some interesting pieces and a petting zoo. One hardly need to visit the petting zoo though due to the preponderance of local dogs. None of them a menace, just lazy and sometime creating a hazard to riding due to their tendency to loll in the sunshine in the middle of the road.


The slow, easy pace of life is illustrated by the casual nature of the local canines.

Due to its close proximity to Santa Fe, Los Cerrillos makes and ideal afternoon jaunt. Or, for a bit of a longer ride one could continue south a few more miles to Madrid where the movie Wild Hogs was filmed. Either way just the ride itself provides plenty of interest. Fairly high speed roads which are well maintained and the mixture of high-desert and alpine surrounding often accented with small yellow and purple wildflowers provide plenty of interest. Add to this the punctuation of brightly colored and uniquely shaped rock formations that seem to come out of nowhere and it makes a non-commercial ride that is sure not to disappoint.

 

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