Hi, I’m Mark, and welcome to New Mexico & Beyond, also known as Mark's Travel Blog.   


Why call this site New Mexico & Beyond?   That's because my primary goal is to highlight all the beauty, culture, and quirkiness of my beloved home state for the past 22 years - New Mexico.  As for the "and beyond" part of the title, I've been fortunate to have the opportunity to visit over 100 countries and all 50 States, so I also share some off-the-beaten-path travel stories beyond the Land of Enchantment.


If there's a particular place, event, or person in New Mexico that you think I should feature in an article, drop me a note!  I can be reached at [email protected]


Happy travels!




Green Gables, Lobster Rolls, Live Music, and a Long Bridge: A Quick Visit to Prince Edward Island

June 27, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Overland from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Charlottetown, Prince Edward IslandDriving route from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Overland journey from Halifax to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island



On the morning of June 11th 2022, I reluctantly crawled out of bed at an AirBnb in Elmsdale, Nova Scotia after a late evening arrival in Halifax the previous day.  The three-hour time change (from Mountain Time) didn't help.  Today, my brother and I were off on a 24-hour road trip to Prince Edward Island.  Yes, that's one of the 10 provinces of Canada.  I initially thought there were 13 provinces in Canada, but I was quickly corrected by someone we met from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories that there are 10 Provinces and 3 Territories (Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Nunavut) in Canada.  The Cliff Notes version is that the difference between a Province and a Territory is a constitutional one that impacts how they are administered.  The details are boring (unless you live there), so we'll leave it at that.


Prince Edward Island is the smallest province in terms of land area, and it has the smallest population (I like that!).  On the flip side, it's also the most densely populated (drat!).  Having said that, the total population is only around 165,000 people.  So, if you're used to living in a big city, Prince Edward Island will feel like an abundance of wide-open spaces.  Even the largest (and capital) city, Charlottetown, has a total population around 40,000 people.  Not exactly New York City, Tokyo, or Delhi.  As someone who generally avoids big cities like the plague, Charlottetown suited me just fine.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.


Armed with a rental car and a not-so-healthy donut breakfast at Canadian fast food restaurant chain Tim Hortons (hey, we had to try it!), we began our 3-hour drive from the outskirts of Halifax to Charlottetown.


Our route took us through a small piece of New Brunswick, which my brother and I were happy about since we both have travel checklist addiction issues, particularly me.  My name is Mark and I have a problem with travel checklists. 




The only thing I can tell you about New Brunswick during our "limited" stay is that we upset an osprey there, and we saw a very large potato holding a vodka bottle.  As a birder (a bad one), I try to avoid stressing out birds.  So, I was a bit bummed that the remote road we pulled off on for a bio break positioned our car near a telephone pole where an osprey had decided to build a nest.  I apologized to the osprey, but it didn't seem to help.


As for the large potato holding a vodka bottle, that's best addressed with a photo ...


As described, at the Blue Roof Distillers in Maiden, New Brunswick




According to the Blue Roof Distillers website, it is Canada's first field to bottle distillery ... a "micro distillery built on the 6th generation Strang family farm" that uses raw materials from the farm as ingredients for its Blue Roof premium spirits.  Sounds like a fun stop!  But given that I quit drinking 10 years ago, we kept moving, stopping long enough to snap a photo of the vodka-toting potato.


After our enjoyable time in New Brunswick, we crossed the longest bridge in the world over ice-covered waters, The Confederation Bridge, that connects New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.  My brother asked me how long I thought the Confederation Bridge was.  Having done little to no research about this overland journey to PEI, I had no idea.  But, being an idiot, I took the bait and guessed 2 miles.  Nope.  Not even close.  The bridge is 12.9 km (aka 8 miles).  The "over ice-covered waters" caveat is an important one, since there are other bridges that are longer.  The longest bridge in the world is a mind-boggling 102 miles long ... the Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge between Shanghai and Nanjing in China.  Although, to add yet another caveat, that bridge is strictly for high-speed rail, not cars.  


The Confederation Bridge was completed in May 1997 at a cost of $840 million.  That's a good chunk of change.  As a result, you won't be surprised to learn that this is a toll bridge.  You don't pay anything on your journey from New Brunswick to PEI, but if you want to return ... well, that's going to set you back just over $50 Canadian for a regular car.  


After crossing the bridge, we were officially in Prince Edward Island.  Now that we had checked off another Province ... ahem ... let's try that again.  Now that we had arrived in PEI, it was time for the next order of business, a lobster roll.  After some quick research, we settled on the Lobster Barn in Victoria, PEI.  Victoria is a small fishing village on the south-central coast.  When I say small, I mean that the estimated population is somewhere around 100 people.  It turned out to be a nice place to visit, with quaint shops, art studios, historic buildings, blah, blah, blah.  We didn't care much about any of that.  We were there for a lobster roll.  Thankfully, it's easy to find Lobster Barn.  It's at the end of the Main Street.  Drive any further and you'll be in the water. 


Lobster Barn at the end of Main Street in Victoria, PEI




We both ordered the homemade clam chowder, which had the largest clam and potato chunks that I think I've ever had in a chowder, as well as a lobster roll.  Obviously.  Although, I always horrify restaurants by ordering lobster rolls with no mayo or butter.  Just put good pieces of lobster (not too many of those claw tips!) on a roll or piece of bread, and I'm happy.  But restaurants often struggle with this request.  It's just too simple.  Thankfully, Lobster Barn got it right, with the addition of one piece of lettuce, which works for me.  It was tasty.


Lobster roll in hand and life is good



After our nice lunch, our next stop was Brackley Beach, located within Prince Edward Island National Park.  It was a nice beach but sitting down on beaches is not our thing.  Instead, we drove to nearby Robinson Island Trail System to give the 5K loop a try.  It was a nice trail meandering through the forest.  I came across some birds that I don't see at my home in New Mexico such as the Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, and Yellow Warbler.  Definitely a good place to stretch your legs with some easy hiking or mountain biking.


Hiking the Robinson Island Trail System



Next, we drove to Charlottetown to check in at our AirBnb that was conveniently located within walking distance (0.75 mile) of downtown.  After unpacking and relaxing for a bit, it was once again time to find a place to eat.  We decided to call the Water Prince Corner Shop to see if we could get a reservation.  It was fully booked, unless we wanted some kind of funky seating arrangement next to the kitchen.  We'll take it!  That sounded interesting, and I'm glad we went.  Our seats actually turned out to be great.  They were barstools in the kitchen area that overlook the dining area.  And the food was excellent.  My brother ordered a lobster that came with a ginormous appetizer of PEI mussels that we shared, and I had scallops.  Both proved to be great choices, although the lobster requires a whole lot more work to eat compared to my scallops.  


PEI Mussels "Appetizer" at the Water Prince Corner Shop




After dinner, we walked around town, went past St. Dunstan's Basilica and came across The Gahan House, where we heard some live music outside on the patio.  The weather was beautiful (mid-60s) so, naturally, we grabbed seat.  It was a solo guitar player who performed a wide range of tunes, from Stevie Ray Vaughn to Audioslave, while we enjoyed some people-watching.  


St. Dunstan's Basilica


Outdoor music at The Gahan House



We only caught the tail end of his set, so we asked the waitress for other places with live music.  She suggested we try Peakes Quay, and off we went.  Our walk took us down Queen Street in downtown Charlottetown where were fortunate to catch the beginning of a terrific sunset.


 Sunset in Charlottetown




We also came across a large Great Blue Heron statue on Queen Street so I couldn't resist a photo.  The steel and stucco statue was created by local artist, Ahmon Katz, and installed on Queen Street in 2013.

Mark with his new pal



We continued to wander the streets to explore the town a bit ...


Downtown Charlottetown side streets



... and we finally made our way down to the Peakes Quay.  The outdoor seating looked packed, and we could hear some live music, but it seemed to be coming from somewhere else.  We located the music source even closer to the water at Nimrod's Floating Pizza Bar.  Classic name.  It's actually on the water, so it's hard to get closer to the water than that.  Nimrod's was also packed but we managed to score two barstools right on the water.  It was definitely an eclectic crowd, with my brother and I representing the "not so young" crowd.  There were a few others our age, but not many.  But we didn't care.  We parked ourselves there for about an hour, people-watching and enjoying the band that played everything from Weezer, The Ramones, Cream (Crossroads), and Rod Stewart (Stay With Me).  People seemed to be enjoying the pizza - looked tasty but we were far from hungry, so we never tried it. 


The band and scene at Nimrod's Floating Pizza Bar



At 10:30pm, we started our walk back to our BnB.  It looked like Peakes Quay was getting ready to transform into a night club.  There was a massive line outside of the place.  Looking at the people in line, my brother and I were DEFINITELY feeling a bit old.  I would feel about as comfortable there as I would dancing with my 17-year-old son's friends.  No thanks.  About 15 minutes later, we were back at our Bnb, the end of a great day.


After a good night of sleep, we checked out of our AirBnb and hit the road around 9am.  Our last stop on our way out of PEI was to visit the town of Cavendish, mecca to everything related to the book, Anne of Green Gables.  The Cavendish area served as the inspiration for the setting of the book.  I'd never read the book before so, the week prior to my trip to Canada, I decided to listen to it via Audible (I'm an audiobook junkie ... but mostly non-fiction).  I'm glad that I did, as the book gave me a lot more context behind our visit to the Green Gables Heritage Place.  We had beautiful weather again and the scenery was terrific.  We paid the reasonable $7 Canadian each to tour the exhibits about the book's author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and tour the Green Gables House.  The entry fee also gives you access to hike two short trails, which we did.  The trails are named after trails mentioned in the book: "Lover's Lane" and "Haunted Forest".  They were very nice trails and well worth doing.  There's nothing quite like walking a trail called "Lover's Lane" with your brother.  The Haunted Forest trail felt much more appropriate.


Green Gables House



Green Gables Heritage Center Hiking Trails



After our short hike, we grabbed lunch at nearby restaurant, The Lost Anchor.  We managed to get a table on the upper deck outside patio, where we enjoyed the great weather while eating fish tacos with an asian pear slaw ... hold the mayo.  With they did perfectly.  A nice way to end our trip to PEI. 


Fish Tacos at The Lost Anchor


As we drove through Cavendish a bit more, we were surprised at just how touristy and built up it is: amusement parks, golf courses, mini-golf, laser tag, and so on.  We commented that it was hard to believe that all of this was created from a fictional book.  Then we reminded ourselves about Hobbiton, New Zealand and The Lord of the Rings.  "Yeah, but that was cool" was the best lame, guy-answer we could muster for our double-standard.  However, after reading Anne of Green Gables, I can see why Anne's character had such an impact on so many people over the years.


After lunch, we drove back to the Confederation bridge, paid our toll of just over $50 Canadian to cross it, and made our way to Halifax.


Perhaps it's appropriate to sign off with a quote from Anne of the Green Gables:

“It has always seemed to me, ever since early childhood, amid all the commonplaces of life, I was very near to a kingdom of ideal beauty.  Between it and me hung only a thin veil.  I could never draw it quite aside, but sometimes a wind fluttered it and I caught a glimpse of the enchanting realms beyond-only a glimpse-but those glimpses have always made life worthwhile.”

Our overnight trip to Prince Edward Island offered many glimpses of the things that make life worthwhile.


Thanks for reading!




Mark Aspelin is a travel writer and author of two books who has enjoyed a wide variety of adventures in his travels to over 100 countries and all 50 U.S. States.  Mark lives in the mountains outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, which serves as a great home base for his blog, New Mexico & Beyond (www.nmbeyond.com or www.markstravelblog.com).




The Musical Road in Tijeras, New Mexico

June 13, 2022  •  Leave a Comment


The Musical Road of Tijeras, New Mexico (Route 66)



While recently driving on I-40 East from Albuquerque towards my home in the East Mountains, traffic began to slow to a crawl due to construction on the interstate.  So, I decided to get off the highway at the Carnuel exit (Exit 170) and take NM State Highway 333 (it's part of historic Route 66) East instead.  The turned out to be a great decision, and not because of the traffic.


I'm an audiobook junkie, so whenever I'm driving, there's usually an audiobook or podcast playing in my car.  But after a few miles, I suddenly heard a strange sound ... sort of like the song "America the Beautiful."  At first, I thought it was one of those funky horns from a truck on the interstate, but the sound seemed so much closer.  Perhaps it's some weird interference on my car stereo?  I shut off my stereo.  The sound was still there.  I could distinctly hear America the Beautiful playing from somewhere.  Am I crack?  Nope.  Am I going insane?  Don't answer that.  That's when another thought came to me.  Could it be the rumble strips of the road - you know, those grooves in the road that alert drivers when they're drifting to the edge of the road?  Then the song ended.  


That was strange.  I pulled off the road at the next opportunity and did a quick search on my phone for rumble strip songs.  It didn't take long before I came across some articles about musical highways, also known as musical roads or singing highways.  Apparently, I don't get out much, as I've never heard of such a thing.


As it turns out, there are over 40 musical roads in the world.  Japan must really like them - they have about 30 musical roads.  In the United States, there are just two.  One in Lancaster, California plays a pretty lame version of the "William Tell Overture", based on the recordings I've heard.  The musical roads we have in Tijeras, New Mexico is MUCH better ... not that I'm biased or anything. 


After doing some additional research, I learned that the musical road has been in Tijeras since 2014.  I've driven that road many times, but I must have been going too fast ... I mean ... too slow, to hear the song.  You need to drive at the speed limit of 45 mph in order to hear it clearly.  They were specifically designed that way!


Through a partnership between the National Geographic Channel and Department of Transportation, the musical rumble strips were installed to see if they would encourage drivers to drive the speed limit.  The rumble strips are precisely spaced to create the notes of the song.   Apparently, in 2014, the song played in its entirety and was significantly clearer.  Today (May 23rd, 2022), this is what you'll hear ...



The Musical Highway of Tijeras, New MexicoThe Musical Highway of Tijeras, New Mexico



It's still pretty great.


There used to be signs alerting drivers of the musical road.  Today, there are no signs, so here's how to find it:

  • Get off on Exit 170 (Carnuel exit) and take a left (East) on Route 333 (part of the Route 66 system)
  • Travel 3.3 miles (between mile markers 4 and 5) and you should be there. 
  • Remember to drive 45mph and ensure your right tires are positioned over the rumble strips. 
  • It only works when heading east.  There are no musical rumble strips on the other side of the road.  


The next time you're passing through Albuquerque and heading east on I-40, brighten your day by exiting in Carnuel, turning left, driving 3.3 miles, and then sit back and enjoy a snippet of "America the Beautiful", compliments of the road.  


By the time this post is published, I will be traveling in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, and St. Pierre et Miquelon.  In other words, my next series of posts will focus on the "and beyond" part of my "New Mexico & Beyond" blog.  

Happy travels!


Mark Aspelin is a travel writer and author of two books who has enjoyed a wide variety of adventures in his travels to over 100 countries and all 50 U.S. States.  Mark lives in the mountains outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, which serves as a great home base for his blog, New Mexico & Beyond (www.nmbeyond.com or www.markstravelblog.com).




What's the scoop on that old church in San Antonito, New Mexico?

June 06, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

San Antonito Catholic Mission Church and Cemetery (aka Nuestro Señor de Mapimi Church)San Antonito Catholic Mission Church and Cemetery (aka Nuestro Señor de Mapimi Church)Headstone in the cemetery with the San Antonito Catholic Mission Church in the background. San Antonito Catholic Mission Church and Cemetery (aka Nuestro Señor de Mapimi Church)



There's a saying that "travel begins in your backyard".  Well, I recently decided to put that into practice by learning more about the old church and cemetery in the small town of San Antonito, New Mexico.  In the 14+ years that I've lived in Sandia Park, I've literally driven past that place over a thousand times, yet I knew absolutely nothing about it.  So, on May 27th I decided to finally learn more about the place.  Here's what I found out.  


First, a little about San Antonito.  San Antonito is a census-designated place in the East Mountains - the region east of the Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque.  That brought me to my first question ... what the heck is a "census-designated place"?  A census-designated place, or CDP for short, is a concentration of population that is defined by the US Census Bureau and is used for statistical purposes only.  CDPs lack a legally defined boundary and an active, functioning government.  That part about lacking an active, functioning government sounds particularly good.    


You can find San Antonito at the intersection of New Mexico State Road 14 (aka Turquoise Trail), Frost Road, and the Crest Road that takes you up to the summit of Sandia Peak.  Three different towns collide at that intersection.  If you're at the southeast corner of that intersection, at the landmarks of the Shell gas station and the Lazy Lizard Grill, you're standing in the town of Cedar Crest.  If you walk a few hundred yards east towards the post office, then you're in the town of Sandia Park.  If you look diagonally (northwest) across the street from the Shell gas station and Lazy Lizard Grill, then you'll see a cemetery and small church.  That's the "town" of San Antonito.  Blink and you'll miss it.  If you continue to drive a few hundred yards west past the cemetery towards Tinkertown Museum and Sandia Peak, you're back in Sandia Park. 


Best I can figure out, the town of San Antonito only incudes the church and cemetery.  However, various websites say that the population of San Antonito ranges from 985 people to 1150 people.  That's confusing since I can't seem to find anyone who actually uses the town of San Antonito in their mailing address.  Even if you count the 152 headstone records at the cemetery, you don't get close to 1000 people.  Heck, even the San Antonito church and San Antonito Elementary School list Sandia Park as the city in their mailing address!


To hopefully clear things up, I called the post office that serves Sandia Park, San Antonito, and Golden.  The verdict?  Most everyone uses Sandia Park in their mailing address, but there are rare occasions when they see someone use Golden or San Antonito.  In the end, I was told that it doesn't really matter which town you use in your mailing address since all three have the same zip code and all the mail goes to the same post office.  Ok, enough about that.  Let's talk church.  



San Antonito Catholic Mission ChurchSan Antonito Catholic Mission ChurchThe gate in front of the San Antonito Catholic Mission Church

The gate in front of the San Antonito Catholic Mission Church and Cemetery


The San Antonito Church and Cemetery are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The church is estimated to have been built in 1886 and it has clearly been renovated and modernized over the years.  The official name of the church is Nuestro Señor de Mapimi Mission Church, also known as the San Antonito Catholic Mission Church and Cemetery.  It's one of seven mission churches scattered across the East Mountains that are affiliated with the Holy Child Catholic Parish Church in Tijeras.  Señor de Mapimi refers to a statue of the crucified Jesus, the community's patron, which is believed to have come from Mapimi, Mexico.  Unfortunately, the statue was stolen in the 1970s and has been replaced with a smaller crucifix that's used in processions. 



San Antonito Catholic Mission ChurchSan Antonito Catholic Mission ChurchSan Antonito Catholic Mission Church



Speaking of processions, each year for Good Friday, the San Antonito Catholic Mission Church offers an easier pilgrimage option for Holy Child Catholic Church parishioners in Tijeras.  The Good Friday pilgrimage commemorates the walk Jesus was forced to make while carrying the cross on his way to be crucified.  Rather than join participants to walk 20 miles uphill (1,200-foot elevation gain) from the Church in Tijeras to the San Juan Nepomuceno Mission Church in Chilili, participants can choose to walk 7.5 miles downhill from the San Antonito Catholic Mission Church to the church in Tijeras.  I can see why people could view that as a mighty appealing Plan B.    


When I arrived at the San Antonito Catholic Mission Church to check it out, nobody was there.  However, there's a large sign indicating that they celebrate Mass at the church on the 4th Friday of each month at 6:00pm.  Now that's a Mass schedule that many people could get on board with!  The 4th Friday was just a few days away, so I decided to give it a shot.



Sign informing visitors that mass is held at the San Antonito Catholic Mission Church on the 4th Friday of each month at 6:00pmMass at the San Antonito Catholic Mission ChurchSign informing visitors that mass is held at the San Antonito Catholic Mission Church on the 4th Friday of each month at 6:00pm

Mass is held every 4th Friday at 6:00pm



On Friday, May 27th, I stopped by again and, sure enough, it was open!  I dusted the cobwebs off my Catholic credentials and decided to attend Mass.  There were about 25 people, of all ages, in attendance.  The pastor never introduced himself, so I assume the congregation must be regulars, with the notable exception of me.  I believe the pastor is from the Holy Child Parish down the road in Tijeras.  



Inside the San Antonito Catholic Mission Church



It was a very simple Mass.  At the beginning, the pastor rang a small bell to announce that he was about to walk down the aisle to get things started.  That was the only musical note we heard.  No songs or musicians.  Similarly, there were no other readers or participants in the mass other than the verbal responses from the congregation at the appropriate times.  The Pastor was a one man show. 


Mass is just about to begin


Communion was offered and the congregation lined up to receive the host.  For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, a "host" is a wafer-like bread that symbolizes the sacrifice of the Body of Christ.  It's basically a way for people to show devotion to Jesus Christ.  Everyone I saw knelt down as the pastor placed the host directly in their mouth.  I'm not used to doing that, and my mind was waffling back and forth on whether to give that a try or do what I'm accustomed to doing ... placing my cupped hands in front of me to receive the host in my hand and then put it in my mouth.  With such a small crowd, it quickly became my turn and out sprang my cupped hands to receive the host.  As for wine, that wasn't an option for anyone other than the pastor, mostly likely due to COVID precautions.  


And that was it!  It was, by far, the quickest mass that I've ever been to, clocking in at 28 minutes from the time the pastor rang the bell to the time I stepped back outside.  


After mass, everyone was invited to a potluck at the church.  Given that I had already eaten, and I had nothing to bring, I decided to make a beeline for my car and head back home.  Perhaps I'll go back sometime to join the potluck and learn more about the church and will make some updates to this post.  But for now, I'm glad I went, and I feel like I know a little bit more about the community where I live.  Time well spent.


Thanks for reading!




Mark Aspelin is a travel writer and author of two books who has enjoyed a wide variety of adventures in his travels to over 100 countries and all 50 U.S. States.  Mark lives in the mountains outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, which serves as a great home base for his blog, New Mexico & Beyond (www.nmbeyond.com or www.markstravelblog.com).




Meet the Mayor of Golden, New Mexico

May 30, 2022  •  Leave a Comment


Leroy Gonzales (the Mayor of Golden), Mark Aspelin (that would be me), and a Tarantula Hawk Wasp (the photobomber)



I've driven by the town of Golden, New Mexico many times.  It's only a 25-minute drive from my house.  Usually, the town of Golden is just an inconvenience where I need to slow down on my journey to Santa Fe.  But this time, Golden was my destination.  Why, you ask?  To finally stop off at that place with the "free information" signs and lots of junk / art (depending on your perspective) in front of it.  I wanted to see what it was all about and meet the person who lived there.  So that's what I did a few days ago (Sunday, May 22nd, 2022).



The view from the road while driving by "that place" in Golden, NM



First a bit about Golden.  Golden used to be home to Native Americans and Spaniards until around 1825, when gold was first discovered at Tuerto Creek on the southwest side of the Ortiz Mountains. This triggered the first gold rush west of the Mississippi River, well before the California Gold Rush (1848) and Colorado Gold Rush (1858).  A few small mining camps were initially formed with a few hundred people living in adobe houses.  The area was pretty low-key.  Then, around 1880, several large mining companies moved in.  The name of one of the mining towns, Real de San Francisco, was changed to Golden, with high hopes that there was a lot of gold to found and riches to be made.  


At its peak, Golden had a post office (opened in 1880), a school, the San Francisco Catholic Church (opened in 1830), and several saloons and businesses, such as the Golden General Merchandise Store (opened in 1918) ... which is the only business in town that still operates today.  Today, it's called the Henderson General Store, a nod to the name of the owner.  That's why you'll notice that the Henderson Store website says it's been family-owned since 1918.  In the words of the website ... 

"Purchased in 1918 by Ernest & Lucy Riccon, the Golden General Store served area residents with items for their daily needs. In 1962 the store was purchased by their youngest daughter, Vera, and her husband, Bill Henderson. As demand for a general store in the area declined, Vera and Bill began to trade merchandise for Southwestern Indian crafts. Sadly, Vera passed away in 2009 and Bill in 2015.  Today, their daughter and son-in-law, Desiri and Allen, carry on the tradition of selling high quality Southwestern Indian jewelry, rugs, and pottery at reasonable, competitive prices."



The Henderson Store in Golden, New Mexico



As the Henderson Store website blurb alludes to, Golden didn't turn out to be a boom town.  It was a bust.  By 1928, the post office closed and Golden officially became a ghost town.  However, you can still see some of the original structures in Golden, such as the most photographed building in Golden today - the San Francisco Catholic Church.  The church was restored in 1960 by historian and author of 22 books, Fray Angelico Chavez.  Chavez was an interesting character, a Renaissance man of sorts.  He was a Catholic priest (Franciscan) who served as a military chaplain in the Philippines in World War II, studied at the Vatican in Rome and at Oxford, and then returned to New Mexico to become a missionary at several rural villages throughout New Mexico.  


Despite all that history, a case can be made that one of the most well-known landmarks in Golden today is Leroy's house ... the house with all the junk / art in front of it that I referred to at the beginning of this post.  



Entering Leroy's art gallery


When I met Leroy, he was just wrapping up a conversation with some other visitors who departed as soon as I arrived, so I had Leroy all to myself.  Leroy was very friendly, and he immediately began to give me a tour of his art.  When I told him my name, he said that he had a grandson named Mark that his family called "Markie" when he was young.  We decided to stick with "Mark" for me. 


Leroy told me that his Grandparents bought the land, and his mother grew up here.  Leroy has been living in Golden for about 22 years now (since ~2000), and he began his art display about 8 years ago (~2014).  I got the feeling that extra emphasis should be placed on the word "about" so don't hold me to those dates.  He started with displaying bottles and then continued to build on it over the years.  


Today, his art gallery includes a "cantina", a "mine shaft" ...



The Mine Shaft and Cantina from the outside, with a 200-year-old cottonwood tree that Leroy "tattooed"


... and a "Gold Mine" that he said goes all the way to the Ortiz mountains, but then smiled and clarified that it could go to the Ortiz Mountains.  He left out the "with a whole lot of digging" part.  But we had a laugh while glancing at the mirrors at the back of the Gold Mine that give the false impression of distance.  



The Gold Mine


So, what's inside the Cantina and Mine Shaft?  Glad you asked!


A whole lot of stuff inside the Cantina - this is just a snippet




An interesting photo of a soldier who may have been friends with Leroy's Grandfather


And there are plenty of outdoor exhibits ...



Leroy describes some of the art on the fence




Pointing out two birds that are painted on the green background ... adding that somebody tagged it with graffiti



More art to see on the way out



There are other things I could share about his art gallery, but I don't want to spoil all of it, so I'll leave it at that.


I asked Leroy if he would be willing to take a photo with me.  He said "of course, take a photo of anything you like." So, I proceeded to balance my phone on a cluttered table, set the timer, quickly hopped over to position myself next to Leroy, who was ready in his mayor pose, and the next thing we knew, a tarantula hawk wasp decided to fly right in front of us!


Leory glances at the tarantula hawk wasp as it does a fly-by 



Now, for those of you who aren't familiar with tarantula hawk wasps, they are amazing insects that deserve your attention, particularly due to bullet #4 below:


  1. Fun fact - they are the State insect of New Mexico.  Another fun fact, our state bird, the roadrunner, is one of the few animals that will attempt to eat our state insect. 


  1. Tarantula spiders are not big fans of tarantula hawk wasps.  This is understandable, given that female wasps sting tarantula spiders, drag the paralyzed spider to a burrow, and lay a single egg on the spider's abdomen.  You know where this going.  Once the larva hatches, it burrows into the spider's abdomen and feeds on the spider, careful to avoid vital organs to keep the spider alive as long as possible.  After several weeks, the larva enters a pupal stage.  Once it has transformed into an adult, the adult leaves the spider's abdomen and starts the cycle all over again.  That surely must be the stuff of tarantula spider nightmares.    


  1. Tarantula hawk wasps feed on sugar-rich nectar produced by flowers, and they are not aggressive.  However, they may defend their burrow if they feel threatened.


  1. You do not want a female tarantula hawk wasp to feel threatened by you (only the females sting).  After all, they are #2 on the infamous Schmidt sting pain index.  



For those not familiar with the Schmidt pain index, let me explain.  Justin Schmidt is a scientist (entomologist) at the University of Arizona and author of the book "The Sting of the Wild".  It's a fun book to read, where the author shares stories from his journey to document the relative pain experienced after being deliberately stung by over 80 species of insects.  This led to the creation of his famous (well, at least among wildlife nerds like me) Schmidt Sting Pain Index.  His index includes a quantitative rating, along with humorous descriptions of the pain he experienced after being stung by each insect.  The most painful insect sting of all is the bullet ant, described as "Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch nail embedded in your heel."  The tarantula hawk wasp came in second place, described as "Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair dryer has been dropped into your bubble bath. A bolt out of the heavens.  Lie down and scream."  Luckily, the wasp wasn't interested in us so there was no screaming required.    


As I began to wrap up my visit, I asked Leroy what he likes most about living in Golden.  His answer, "all of this" as he used his arms to encompass his home and art.  I then asked him to share one thing that he would like to see improved about Golden.  His answer, "the neighborhood attitude", adding that many people don't understand him and his art.  He estimated that there are about 14 people living in Golden, although some websites put that number at closer to 37.  Let's just agree to say, "not many" people live in Golden today.


On my way out, Leroy asked me to sign his guestbook, strategically placed right next to a tip jar.  I wrote a quick note and gave him a tip.  Leroy then gave an Elvis Presley imitation while saying, "thank you, thank you very much."  


Leroy's guestbook and tip jar



As we parted ways, Leroy said that the highlight of his day is to find something in his mailbox other than bills, and he encouraged me to send him something via snail mail.  Leroy doesn't have email, so he gave me his business card and encouraged me to pass it along, so here it is!




Since Leroy was the highlight of my day today, I decided to send him a copy of our photo together with the tarantula hawk wasp photobomber.  Perhaps you'll see it in his collection the next time you visit the Mayor of Golden, New Mexico.



Mark Aspelin is a travel writer and author of two books who has enjoyed a wide variety of adventures in his travels to over 100 countries and all 50 U.S. States.  Mark lives in the mountains outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, which serves as a great home base for his blog, New Mexico & Beyond (www.nmbeyond.com or www.markstravelblog.com).




How to Meet Dave Ramsey

March 07, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Meeting Dave Ramsey on the Debt Free Stage

Ken Coleman, Mark Aspelin, and Dave Ramsey at Ramsey Solutions, March 7, 2022



Whenever I’m faced with use it or lose it frequent flier miles that are soon to expire and I have don’t have much vacation time, I wrack my brain for experiences I would like to have or people I would like to meet.  This can take the form of concerts, unusual experiences, catching up with friends, or meeting people who have been influential in my life.  Past examples include attending a workshop with the Dalai Lama in Boston, meeting E.O. Wilson (biologist) at Biodiversity Days in North Carolina, and flying to San Francisco to catch Paul McCartney’s “Last Pick at the Stick” … the last concert at Candlestick Park in August 2014 before plans to tear it down and convert it into office space. 


E.O. Wilson and Mark Aspelin, Biodiversity Days, Duke University, March 2, 2017





With some of my Southwest Airline miles facing imminent extinction, I recently faced that decision again.  What did I come up with this time?  I decided to try to get a photo with Dave Ramsey at his Ramsey Solutions studio in Franklin, Tennessee. 


In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past 30 years, Dave Ramsey is a personal finance guru who hosts “The Ramsey Show”.  According to his website, The Ramsey Show is the third largest talk radio show in America, reaching over 18 million “combined weekly listeners”.  I don’t know what that means either, but let’s just say that he’s popular.  On his show, Dave takes phone calls from people of all walks of life.  In response to their questions, Dave dishes out tough, Tennessee-accented love in the form of “sell the car” and “act your wage” advice that aligns with his 7 Baby Steps for financial peace.  Some of the show’s callers make you think, “wow, that person is an idiot … I can’t believe they made such dumb financial decisions.”  Other callers will make you think, “wow, I’m an idiot … I can’t believe I’ve made such dumb financial decisions.”  For me, it’s usually the latter. 


My financial idiocy brought me face-to-face with a 7-year slog to get through Baby Steps 1-3.  This translates to being debt free other than my mortgage and building up a 3-6 month emergency fund.  Unfortunately, I had to do the emergency fund step twice.  Dave’s advice played a major role in getting me to take the plunge to get started and then stick with it year after year.  The end result is that I’m on MUCH firmer financial ground compared to where I was 10 years ago.  Not that you care.  So let’s get back to the subject at hand. 


How exactly does one go about meeting Dave Ramsey?  Glad you asked.  Here’s everything you need to know about meeting Dave in person … as of March 2022 when I visited the studio.



Why do people want to visit Dave in the first place

Dave has literally inspired millions of people to “live like no one else so, later, you can live and give like no one else.”  After completing a significant milestone in their financial journey such as getting out of debt, paying off the house, or crossing the “millionaire” net worth threshold, many people decide to make the pilgrimage to Ramsey Studios to meet Dave in person.  For some, it's to say thank you in person to Dave.  For others, it's a “job well done” validation of sorts – a celebration after completing a difficult step of the journey.  Or it can simply be something different to do for an afternoon while visiting Nashville. 


Some famous "Dave-isms" showcased on a wall at Ramsey Solutions




Where is the studio located and what’s the parking situation?

Ramsey Solutions is located at 1011 Reams Fleming Boulevard in Franklin, Tennessee.  Franklin is about a 30-minute drive from Nashville.  Parking is abundant and free of charge.  There are a few visitor parking spots just outside of the front entrance and plenty of other spots nearby if those are taken. 


Front entrance to Ramsey Solutions



When can I meet Dave – any particular day or time?

The first thing you’ll want to know is that you can’t just waltz in the front door any day of the week and meet Dave.  In fact, chances are very high that Dave WON’T be at the studio to meet you if you just randomly show up.  The first step is to fill out this form to let them know when you would like to visit.  Within a day or two, you’ll receive a response confirming when Dave is scheduled to be in the studio. 


When I submitted the form to let them know I planned to visit in early March, they provided me with two potential dates: Monday, February 28 or Monday, March 7th between 1:00pm – 4:00pm CT.  Those were the only two options.  Needless to say, that narrowed it down fairly quickly for me.  March 7th it is.  So if you really want to meet Dave, you’ll want to confirm his availability before you start booking flights and hotels.  Even if they do confirm a date for you, they’ll add the following disclaimer: “Dave and the Ramsey Personalities schedule is not guaranteed and is subject to change at the last minute. Please feel free to call ahead a day or two before you come.”  That last sentence is highly recommended.  You’ll want to call or email a day or two ahead of time to confirm that everything is still on track. 


There are no tickets or reservations.  Ramsey Solutions likes to know how many visitors are arriving on a particular day so they have enough baked treats (cookies on the day I was there) on hand.  But you’re welcome to show up unannounced if that’s how you roll.    


I had no concept of how many people typically show up and I’m sure it varies quite a bit.  Given that Dave Ramsey has millions of listeners, I was picturing long lines.  Plus I had a flight to catch later that afternoon.  To play it safe, I decided to show up around noon – well in advance of the 1pm CT start time for The Ramsey Show.  When I walked through the front entrance doors at 12:10pm, I was the only visitor there!  Around 1:30pm, there were around 20 or 30 visitors before I left to catch my flight. 



What can I expect to find inside Ramsey Solutions?

When I stepped through the front door, I was immediately greeted by a person at the front desk.  She asked my name, where I’m from, and offered to answer any questions that I had.  She also invited me to visit the café to get a free drink and snack (cookie), walk through the bookstore, and do a self-guided “Our Story” tour about the history and progressions of The Ramsey Show over the years.  All visitors are entitled to one free drink and snack.  After the first round, you’ll need to pay for it.  As a bonus, all visitors also received a free Ramsey Solutions coffee mug.


The bookstore has all of the books published by the various Ramsey personalities, as well as courses, games, wallets, and purses.  Surprisingly, they didn’t have any T-shirts.  If you decide to buy something at the bookstore or café, keep in mind that Dave Ramsey doesn’t do credit cards.  You’ll need to pay cash or use a debit card. 


The self-guided “Our Story” tour was a good way to kill some time.  At the end of the tour, you'll find a recording booth where you can record your own story and send it to yourself.  I didn’t bother with that as I wasn’t interested in having an awkward recording of my story as a memento. 


Once people finish with the café, bookstore, and self-guided tour, people start to congregate in the seats in front of the two recording studios.  When I was there, the Ken Coleman Show was live from 12:00pm – 1:00PM CT so I could see Ken and his guest, John Delony, talking live.  Around 12:45pm, Dave walked into the other studio.  He was all business as he prepared for the upcoming show. 



Two recording studios 



John Delony and Ken Coleman recording the Ken Coleman Show


Baker Street Coffee Shop ...


... and Bookstore




More seating areas between the recording studios and coffee shop / bookstore


Event Stage on the lower level below the recording studios



Self-Guided Tour starts here





Booth where you can record your own story as a memento


Dave prepares for the start of the show



How do I get a book signed and how do I get a photo with Dave?

I lumped these two questions together as you’ll do these at the same time during your visit.  If you want to get a book signed, then you’ll need to either bring a book with you from home or buy one from the bookstore.  But you’ll need the book in your hand when you meet Dave.  Don’t bother bringing a pen.  Dave will have his own pen. 


Once Dave’s show starts, people start to gather in the chairs in front of that recording studio.  Dave and his co-host only come out to meet guests during the commercial breaks.  Before the first commercial break, a staff member comes out to explain how it all works.  There is a place to line up next to the Debt Free Stage.  Once a commercial break starts, Dave and his guest will take off their headphones and walk out to meet the first person in line.  While they embark on their journey through a back door of the studio to walk around to the Debt Free Stage, a staff member will direct you to stand on the stage and, if you want a photo, you’ll hand them your phone or camera. 


I gave the staff member my phone, stepped up on the stage, and the next think I knew, Dave was walking towards me with a big grin and an extended hand.  Before we even shook hands, he was already asking my name and where I’m from.  We shook hands and he offered to sign the book that I was holding.  As he signed, he asked what I was doing in Nashville.  I told him that I was there to meet him, but he seemed to think that I MUST be in Nashville for some other reason too.  So I muttered something about being in Nashville for fun but was really there to celebrate that I had completed Baby Steps 1-3.  Upon hearing this, they congratulated me … and that’s when it hit me.  “They”!  I had completed neglected the co-host Ken Coleman.  I had not looked at him, shook his hand, or acknowledged that he existed prior to that point.  In hindsight, I should have prepared for that – perhaps buying his book at the bookstore when I saw that he was the co-host and then having him sign his book at the same time.  But it was too late to recover from that mistake.  The three of us were already lined up on the stage, with me in the middle.  The photo was taken, and then it was time for the next visitor.   It probably took a total of about one minute.  It’s a well-oiled machine. 


It all happened so quickly that I never got to implement my original plan, which was to deliver some kind of quip like “I took out a payday loan in order to visit today”.  I figured he has heard “thank you” stories so many times that it would be more fun to say something different. 


After the meet and greet, I looked at the “photo” on my phone.  I quickly learned that multiple photos had been taken - one of the initial handshake, one of the book signing, and two on the stage.  Had I known, I would have made a better effort to look at something other than the ground in front of me.  The joys of being Finnish.  I’m half Irish too, but unfortunately my Finnish social skills won out today.  So beware that multiple photos will be taken.


One other helpful tidbit … as I watched Dave meet other visitors, I noticed that he never puts his arm around anyone and nobody puts their arm around him for the photo.  He quickly puts his hands in his pockets to remove that option.  So, don’t go up there thinking that you’ll be taking a photo with him with your arm around him and vice versa.  He’ll have his hands in his pockets.


Greeting Dave from the Debt Free Stage



My Finnish heritage on full display while regretting that I did not have a book for Ken to sign



Ken, Mark and Dave on the Debt Free Stage




What about the Debt Free Scream?

Just to clarify, what I did was NOT the Debt Free Scream that is featured on his show.  That is something that you need to apply for on the Ramsey Solutions website and you may or may not get selected.  However, I did get to see an official debt free scream while I was there.  This is where a person is interviewed during the live show – telling their story to Dave, answering questions, and then doing a 3, 2, 1 countdown before screaming, “I’m debt free!!”.  Raising my voice is not my specialty and the idea of screaming on air for millions of people didn’t appeal to me.  But who knows, maybe I’ll feel differently when I eventually pay off my house!

Seating area in front of the recording studio with a person getting ready to tell their story and deliver a "Debt Free Scream"




What the debt free scream looked like during the recorded show on YouTube 



Anything else that I should know?

That should cover it!  Just in case, here's the information you’ll receive after filling out the online form and confirming your visit:



  • Yes, Dave will be in the studio on March 7th!
  • Currently Ken Coleman will co-host The Ramsey Show with Dave


  • The Ken Coleman Show is live from 12:00pm - 1:00pm CST and The Ramsey Show is live from 1:00 - 4:00pm CST.
  • Ramsey Solutions headquarters is located at 1011 Reams Fleming Blvd., Franklin, TN 37064.
  • Our lobby has a large viewing area just outside the studio where you're welcome to sit and watch the shows.
  • You can come and go anytime during the show hours.  No need for "tickets" or reservations.  We just like to know you're coming so we can bake enough goodies!
  • Dave and Ramsey Personalities enjoy stepping out during some of the brief commercial breaks, so please feel free to bring a book or camera if you'd like an autograph or photo with them.
  • Ramsey Solutions Headquarters is Open Monday and Wednesday from 10:00am - 5:00pm and Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 8:00am - 5:00pm.  You can visit any time during the day if your schedule doesn't line up with the hour for the live shows.
  • During The Ramsey Show, we film in the lobby, cafe, and bookstore.  By entering Ramsey Solutions Headquarters, you agree to be on camera and allow us to use your image.  Thanks!
  • You're welcome to take photos - we only ask that you don't use flash, since it interferes with filming for the video channel.
  • If your children are visiting with you, we ask that you keep them with you at all times.  It helps if you have some quiet toys or books since we have periods where folks in the lobby have to be quiet during live portions of the broadcast.
  • You are welcome to view our self-guided "Our Story" timeline wall that tells the history and progressions of The Ramsey Show.


Email if you have any additional questions.  We look forward to meeting you!

PLEASE NOTE: Dave and the Ramsey Personalities schedules is not guaranteed and is subject to change at the last minute.  Please feel free to call ahead a day or two before you come.




Was it worth the visit?

Absolutely!  It was a fun experience.  I’m definitely glad that I did it … and I just may be back when I eventually complete Baby Step 6. 


Happy travels!




Mark Aspelin is a travel writer and author of two books who has enjoyed a wide variety of adventures in his travels to over 100 countries and all 50 U.S. States.  Mark lives in the mountains outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, which serves as a great home base for his blog, New Mexico & Beyond (www.nmbeyond.com or www.markstravelblog.com).





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