Hot Sauce in the Spicy Southwest: New Mexico and Colorado

As I write, it’s Friday afternoon 7/20/2007 and we’re driving through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, heading toward Utah.It’s difficult to write, though, not only because the views are stunning up here at 10,000 feet, but also because the narrow roads are snaking back and forth through the valleys and are making me queasy.More about Colorado in a bit.First, I’ll bring you up to date.Karen helps out—she’s in a different font.


MARK:New Mexico is truly one of my favorite places on earth.I spent a summer in Albuquerque in 1994 and fell in love with adobe houses, pow-wows, green chilli, and the Spanish language.I met Karen the following spring and I think my introduction to the Espanol of New Mexico played a role in my early spark with her – Karen’s family is from Argentina, and from the very beginning I was eager for her to teach me Spanish, which is why I can speak it today.

I think every state has its own unique personality, but in my humble opinion there are probably none so distinct as New Mexico’s.When you’re there, you know it.“The Land of Enchantment” (that’s the state nickname) just looks and feels different from anywhere else.


KAREN:Santa Fe is beautiful.We spent most of a day walking around the town center.We visited the Georgia O’Keefe museum which was very interesting and gave us a good look into her life and why she loved New Mexico so much.Then went for lunch at a great Mexican restaurant called Tomasitas, where they were amazingly kind to us.Ignatios Patsalis, the owner/manager, showed us the royal treatment by giving us a tour of the restaurant.He took us into his the kitchen and showed us how they make Sopapillas. (MARK:A sopapilla is kind of a deep fried New Mexican donuty thing that, unfortunately, I can’t get enough of.) KAREN:Here is Ignatios showing us a barrel of red hot chili peppers.(MARK:Unfortunately, Lucy decided to stick her finger in and touch one, prompting Ignatios to have us wash her hand with soap immediately, before any of the spiciness got in her eye and burned her.Ahh, life with Lucy…)KAREN: Yes, even Evan ate the red and green chilies! It was the best Mexican food ever!! Thanks Ignatios and Tamasitas!


Santa Fe is the home of Garcia Street Books, a charming independent bookstore just a short walk from the center of historic old Santa Fe.They host quite a few authors.Here I am with bookseller Adam Gates, a recent transplant from the east coast. 🙂


So far on our trip, we’ve been fortunate to be able to stay in the houses of generous friends and family on all but one night.In Santa Fe, though, we started a string of evenings where we actually had to spring for hotels.:-(But the good news is that we’ve been running into terrific people wherever we’ve been.Here we are with Vince, Heidi, Nick and Sam Battelo of Redland, CA.We met Vince, Nick, and Sam at the Holiday Inn swimming pool.Nick took this underwater picture of Evan as he jumped into the pool.Way cool!Great to meet you, Battelo Family! 🙂


Just outside of Taos (which we loved!) we stayed overnight at a youth hostel called “The Abominable Snow Mansion.”It was warm so we had the window open.All night long a parade of cats kept walking in and out through the window, and I kept getting up to shoo them out.I’m allergic to cats.Lucy loved it, though.She has since said those cats were one of her favorite parts of our trip so far.

Staying with us at the hostel was a fun gang of bikers from the Ft. Worth, Texas area.Here we are with Dwight Wilson, Scott Dishnow, Malcom “The Dukester” Duke, Craig Bearden, Jeff McDonald, and Noel Yandell.They told us they are all from the same Sunday school.


Taos is the home of the fantastic Moby Dickens bookshop. In addition to having an excellent selection of new books, they also order and research rare and out of print books.Another draw to the store is Ruby the Cat, who appeared at the store’s door in 1995 and has lived there ever since.Ruby apparently has a slew of fans who visit the store just to see her.Here I am with Mary Raskin, Carole Vollmer, Elizabeth Shuler, and Susan Hilliker. I didn’t catch the name of the gorilla.:-)


KAREN:On our way from Taos to Denver we stopped by to meet Linda Louden a friend of my cousins Bernie and Liz of NYC.Linda is an artist who dropped everything in her high-flying New York life to move to a one-bedroom white adobe house in Costillas, NM with her dog Daisy.Now in her backyard she has a re-vamped trailer that she converted into a studio.When you walk into her house you feel an immediate sense of tranquility, and she is surrounded by her art and the art of her friends.There is nothing in the town except for a few houses…it made me appreciate Georgia O’Keefe’s reasoning to go into the New Mexico Desert to create art.Here we are with Linda, who gave us osha, a new Mexican root that is rumored to heal just about anything, and some hot cheese & jalapeno bagels.Thanks Linda!You are an inspiration!


MARK:By two days ago, when we came to Colorado, we’d been traveling for 22 days.We passed the 5,000 mile mark in Denver—which is why I upgraded my total-mileage estimation from 9,000 to 13,000.I think that’s why yesterday we all seemed to crash a little.We were tired.We needed a down-day.We’ve recovered now, but our little dip in energy meant that we didn’t do full justice to Denver.I’m sure it’s a lovely city – and what little that we saw of it (see below) was very nice – but we definitely benefitted from lazing around the hotel room and staring at the boob-tube.All better now.:-)


A yellow van that says “Lemonade Mouth” in big, bold letters seems to sometimes confuse passers-by.Here’s a guy in Denver who came over to ask if we had any lemonade for sale.

Sorry, overheated Denver guy. No actual lemonade here.

BTW: We’ve christened the car Penelope.

Another thing, we’ve been seeing so many amazing sights for so many days now that I think the kids are starting to get a little jaded.Example from this morning: “Look, Lucy!Have you ever seen such an interesting-looking bridge?I know I never have!”Lucy momentarily glances up from her Barbie laptop and in a bored singsong monotone says, “Whoah.That certainly is an interesting bridge.”Then back to Barbie.

As I type, we’re still driving through the Colorado mountains toward Utah.I’ll ask the kids what was their favorite part of the trip so far and report it here.Here are their answers:

LUCY:When the kittens slept with me.
(MARK: That was at the youth hostel in Taos, NM).

ZOE (Note that she and I only speak to each other in Spanish):?Te acuerdas el caballo mecanico?
(MARK: Translation – “Do you remember the mechanical horse?”She’s talking about a horse ride in the center of Taos, one of those rides for little kids where you put a quarter in the slot and the horse rocks back and forth for a minute or so.I wish I’d taken a picture.She really did love it.

EVAN:Burger Beach in Fort Worth.Remember? The big pool with all the diving boards and swings?

Okay, so not exactly the o-beautiful-for-spacious-skies answers Karen and I were hoping for.Still, I know that they really have enjoyed themselves so far.We all have.And they’ll always remember this long road-trip discovering America with their family. At least that’s what Karen and I keep telling ourselves.:-)


No book-lover’s trip to Denver would be complete without a pilgrimage to The Tattered Cover. It’s the second largest independent bookstore in the country.And it is huge. Sidney Jackson and Judy Bulow and met us and showed us around. Their Colfax Street location is in an old building that used to be a theater, and it still has the curtain, the lobby, the orchestra pit, etc.It’s way cool.Here I am with Sidney.Thanks, Tattered Cover!


The Bookies is a smaller but absolutely amazing bookstore away from the center of town.They specialize in books for kids and also teacher resources.Karen is a high school Spanish teacher, so she immediately got absorbed by the Spanish teaching resources and ended up buying a pile of loot.Here I am with Suzi Fischer, Vicki Hellman, and Mary Lou Steenrod.Such nice people!

Our hotel in Denver wasn’t that great.It was cramped, one of the beds actually broke when we sat down on it, and the TV didn’t work very well.Then as a final farewell just as we left, the toilet overflowed and ran out all over the floor.Lovely.

Goodbye, gushing toilet from the Hotel from Hell! 🙂


This morning we went to The Boulder Bookstore, another big independent that makes you want to lose yourself in its many comfy, shelf-lined rooms.Arsen Kashkashian met us and was very kind.Tonight is the big release-party for Harry Potter 7, and the Boulder Bookstore is having live owls, an actual wizard, and a lot of other fun stuff including this gigantic papier mache sorting hat!


While Evan, Zoe, and I went to fetch the car from our distant parking spot, Karen and Lucy had tea at The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, which is a big ‘ol fancy Tajikistani tea room in the middle of Boulder.Apparently the barista, Rama Kho, did magic tricks with Lucy and gave her a complimentary hibiscus flower tea.


Troubador Books is a lovely independent bookstore outside of the center of Boulder. It specializes in new books and books on performing arts.Deb Evans and Julie Leonard really went out of their way for us, including providing lemonade and helping us figure out our route to Utah.It’s amazing how friendly booksellers can be!Here I am with Deb and Julie.Thanks, guys! 🙂


As I type, it’s 6:42 PM and we just got out of a lengthy traffic jam on Route 70 heading toward Grand Junction, CO.I took this photo of the Starbucks in the mountains because it seems very Colorado: half coffee-place, half camping store.

Next stop, Utah!

LEMONADE MOUTH (Delacorte Press, 2007)
I AM THE WALLPAPER (Delacorte Press, 2005)



  1. Great update!

    About the kids — somehow, the stuff they like best (or even remember years later) isn’t ever what you’d hope for (like the breathtaking scenery, etc.), but the stuff that they DO remember will resonate for them forever. All those cats will stay with Lucy forever, for instance, and they will always make her happy. I’m glad you guys are still having such a good trip!

    • Thanks, Kelly. I’m sure you’re right about what the kids remember. But it’s all good. We just woke up in a Utah hotel and are thrilled to dig into the all-you-can-eat breakfast! 🙂
      — Mark

  2. Thanks for the trip

    Mark: I have enjoyed every minute of this trip with you! What a lovely family you have and what great memories you all will have.

    Thanks for taking us along with you!


    • Re: Thanks for the trip

      Thanks, Barbara! And I LOVE your icon/photo– HOW TO STEAL A DOG is not only a great title, but a great cover. I can’t wait to read it!
      — Mark

  3. Enchanted

    Mark, looks like you and your family were touched by the enchantment of New Mexico. Glad you enjoyed Tomasita’s, that’s been a fav of the locals for many years. Next time you come back, try Tiny’s or Maria’s. Now, you know you have to come back, right? Once is never enough… (wink) Victoria

    • Re: Enchanted

      You’re right, I’m sure. I’d certainly love to come back to NM sometime soon. Perhaps on the next book tour? 🙂
      — Mark

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