His cure for walk-weary muscles?A soak, a massage, and a salt glow at the Japanese health spa Ten Thousand Waves (3541 Hyde Park Rd.; 505/982-9304). "When it opened in 1981," recalls Ford, "it was the place to go—especially for kids our age. I won't tell you what we used to do there, but we sure had fun in those tubs open to the sky."
For farther-reaching excursions, Ford's Range Rover takes over. "One of my favorite drives is up to Chimayó," he says. "The view over the mesas is spectacular, especially at the end of the day when the sun lights up the edges of the clouds." The faithful travel as far as El Sanctuario de Chimayó (505/351-4889) to gather a handful of "holy dirt" from a site considered by many to be a healing place. For Ford, the Spanish-Pueblo chapel itself is the draw. "The funny thing is, the Santa Fe style is so familiar that when people see the real thing, like the Sanctuario, they think it's fake."
Ford's car nearly drives itself to Abiquiu, where he has a 100-acre ranch. "I usually stop at Bode's [Hwy. 84, Abiquiu; 505/685-4422], just down the hill from Georgia O'Keeffe's house [Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation, Hwy. 84; 505/685-4539]. It's astonishing—a 1998 version of a general store. You can get everything you need there: gas, vitamins, the New York Times." And though he doesn't visit O'Keeffe's house often, it's on his mind as he renovates his own. "Her house is so simple and liberating," sighs Ford. "I love the color of the dark mud walls in her bedroom so much I contacted the O'Keeffe Museum [217 Johnson St., Santa Fe; 505/995-0785] to have it matched.
"What drew O'Keeffe to New Mexico still draws people," he continues. "A certain freedom and creativity really flourishes in Santa Fe because it's far, far away from everything." The starkness of the land, the monastic and tactile quality of the architecture are what feed Ford. "You know the O'Keeffe painting, the one that's the view from her bedroom east toward Taos?She reduced the highway to just a swerve of line. That's what New Mexico is for me. It's all about reduction."
WHERE TO STAY
If Ford didn't already have a place in town, he'd crash at Dos Casas Viejas (610 Agua Fria St.; 505/983-1636, fax 505/983-1749; doubles from $185), an eight-room inn that, in turning its back to the street, opens its arms to guests who value privacy. Behind an automated wooden gate lies a red brick lane flanked by the two traditional adobes that lend the inn its name. A common dining room (where breakfast is served) looks out to the lap pool; sofas in an adjacent lounge frame an adobe hearth. Each of the three spacious suites has its own patio and wood-burning kiva fireplace, so not only is the air quiet—the inn is a 15-minute walk from the Plaza—it's fragrant with piñon.
Inn of the Anasazi (113 Washington Ave.; 800/688-8100 or 505/988-3030, fax 505/988-3277; doubles from $249) may be the closest Santa Fe comes to Gucci, not in look but in attitude. At this, the most full-service and expensive hotel in town, swank young cowboys, their heads not quite big enough to fill their hats, escort you from the front desk all the way to your bathroom door. Along the way they pause to point out the inn's features: the Anasazi Restaurant, where fusion cuisine means Native American fare crossed with cowboy grub; the library stocked with books on Southwestern culture and history; and the instant atmosphere created by gas fireplaces in each of the 59 rooms (which, though well outfitted with four-poster beds, Indian rugs, and printouts of Zuni songs at turndown, can be a bit on the small side).