Blog New Mexico Travelogue

FRIDAY June 26th – Day 6 – Angel Fire Part I – Balloon Festival? Not. Red River

The local papers were advertising a balloon festival in Angel Fire. On the way, we came upon the small shop of one Harry Coca, a local drum crafter, at 630 Pasos De Canon. We pulled up and the place looked like it was closed. I called the number posted on the door, but before anyone picked up, a truck pulled in and Harry got out and welcomed us warmly. Apparently he was watching us on camera from a spy satellite or something. He opened the shop for us and welcomed us in.

Harry was the builder that Kristy ran into earlier when her balloon crew stopped at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge to see the vendors. Though small, the shop had a large selection. Photos were allowed. He gave us tidbits about how they were made. He let us play them. This was exactly the opposite of the Taos Drum Company experience we had earlier in the trip. She said that Harry advertised his prices were roughly half of Taos Drum Company, and the same if not better quality. Harry’s shop is a real gem. It was a pleasant visit. I selected a 17”, 12-sided “pow wow” drum, a “fancy” beater and some less-fancy beaters for other drums in my collection.

Harry’s online at, and everything he makes is guaranteed, so if you have problems you can send drums in for repair.

After bidding Harry farewell, we continued what turned out to be a longish drive to Angel Fire. The terrain turned much more mountainous, making the beauty of the landscape the main attraction. We just don’t see landscapes like these back in PA.

The Angel Fire visitor center gave us a chance to stretch and get our bearings. We got some details on the balloon festival and balloon glow that were planned for the next day, weather permitting. The land near the visitor center had a sizable colony of prairie dogs, affording me the opportunity to get some good pictures and sounds. Otherwise, there wasn’t much in Angel Fire at this time of the year, as we had now entered ski country. So we continued along Rt. 38 further into the mountains towards the only other major stop, Red River.
Traditionally a mining town, Red River is one large strip of shops and businesses that has the feel of a Scandinavian village, nestled into the mountains. When we arrived, a helicopter was hauling water to some location further up on a ridge, possibly as part of a training exercise (there wasn’t a fire).

The folks in Red River take community events seriously. On one side of the strip, they have a beautiful and sizable log cabin style summer community house ( with free events led by community house staff. Events this summer included African drumming showcases, exercise programs, storytelling, line dancing, movies, magic shows and other family-friendly activities. They also do hiking lessons, with the community house serving as the starting point. While we didn’t visit at a time when anything was going on, you could tell this was a great place, and a source of community pride. The people were friendly, and very proud of their area.

After crossing the street at the one end of the strip, we started down the other. We had lunch at Shotgun Willie’s Cafe, a no-nonsense sandwich shop with lots of humorous quotes on the wall. As we made our way down that side of the strip, some storms came in and threatened to drench us. The wind was kicking up, so we found yet another community center/tourist office for shelter. This building was much more modern, but no less spacious than the log cabin. There was an event for seniors in progress. It was amazing to see this much real estate dedicated to community activities in such a small town, probably a third of the size of Bloomsburg. Granted, Red River has the extreme landscape, mountain sports and ski tourism, but this just struck me as exceptional, and a model for other places.

We drove back to Taos in the rain. After freshening up at the hotel, we had some time to kill before dinner so we went to the Taos Mountain Casino. According to their slogan, “You’re Always A Winner!” I’m not so sure about that. I blew five bucks in less than that many minutes and had to walk away.

For dinner we chose Antonio’s (formerly Relleno’s Cafe), purposely because they told us the wait was going to be long. We were really in no hurry and it was a beautiful night, so we sat outside. Audra got to try Yak and I had some nondescript Mexican fusion dish that apparently didn’t leave much of an impression. The fresh guacamole, made at your table to your specs, was a nice touch. I seem to recall that the service was inordinately bad, not just slow, so we probably wouldn’t recommend it.

Back at the hotel, Kim and the Caballeros rocked us to…. sleep? Described quite accurately in the local magazine as “good ol’ twangy country,” they were that and more, big ass hats and all.

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By jjdeprisco

Sonic explorer, sound artist, guitarist in Fricknadorable, software designer.