I want to thank my cousin, Barb Dolbey, and her husband, Steve, for our love of New Mexico.
My husband, Jerry, and I enjoyed traveling through the state long before the Dolbeys moved to Taos, a settlement of barely 6,000 in north central New Mexico close to the Colorado border. The community rests at the base of Taos Mountain and is surrounded on three sides by other splendid peaks. Taos has more than its fair share of beautiful scenery and colorful hangouts, characters, restaurants and residents.
We never tire of visiting, but then there’s the rest of the state, too. Thanks to the Dolbeys’ hospitality, we’ve been able to explore section by section. Staying at their adobe home, within view of The Mountain (sacred to the pueblo Indians), has made it possible for us to see more of the Land of Enchantment than we might otherwise have been able. Their generosity means no motel bills and even better yet — built-in tour guides.
Barb and Steve first discovered Taos through friends, and made it their vacation getaway between 1995 and 2003. Then they relocated from Denver and made it their permanent home. Both grew up on the Maryland shore, and Steve spent some time in New Mexico in his early married life. He said it was his goal to live there someday because, well, the mindset of the Eastern shore residents is — um — less-than-open.
Barb said the first time she saw Taos, she thought it was just another ugly desert, but subsequent visits changed her mind. And once she began painting, she saw the countryside in a new light — and color. She loved living in a place where so many others shared her love of art, and she soon embraced the community, meeting other artists, painting with them and helping various causes.
Whenever we visit Taos, Steve always has daylong road trips planned. These adventures usually take us on some circular route that runs through picturesque small towns that most tourists never see. We’ve discovered art galleries, wineries, little known country roads, places where movies have been filmed, and seen some fabulous New Mexico sunsets.
Sadly, we must be content with memories of Barb. She died on my birthday last October. I was en route to my brother’s funeral in Arizona when Steve’s call came. Barb had been chronically ill for years, but despite the pain and other problems, she stayed more active than many people who are much healthier. She continued to ski and hike much past a time when it seemed possible, and traveled as much as she could.
Barb had no love for airplanes, so long trips meant riding the rails. Her helper dog, Libby, sometimes traveled with them. Once Barb spent two days on a train from Albuquerque to Oceanside, enduring one delay after another, to visit us, but it didn’t dampen her enthusiasm for going again.
Barb taught me to look at New Mexico’s stunning scenery and see lights and colors I would not have seen otherwise. She and Steve introduced us to their friends, who invited us into their homes for a look at Taos beyond the beaten paths. Conversations in front of the fireplace and over glasses of wine were like talking to folks we had known for years.
Because of the Dolbeys, I’ve become a cheerleader for New Mexico. It’s one of the poorest states in the country, but it is so rich in history, people, vistas and cuisine. In future columns, I will write about these trips, which have created wonderful memories I will always hold dear.
E’Louise Ondash is a veteran, award-winning journalist who was an investigative reporter, feature writer and columnist for the Times Advocate and the North County Times. She has written travel features for The Coast News since 2003.