Unusual and quirky road tripping in New Mexico and Arizona.
Driving U.S. 60: The Sights of Science
Credit: iStockphoto

Between Socorro, NM, and the Arizona border, lonely U.S. 60 passes by some of the state’s most unusual spectacles. Far less touristed than neighboring Route 66, the route passes through quirky towns, unusual collections (radio-telescope antennae, for example), and some very beautiful—albeit deserted—landscape. Follow the practically pin-straight stretch for your own version of the classic American road trip.

Very Large Array

Take a self-guided walking tour of the magnificent Very Large Array, a massive collection of 27 neatly arranged 80-foot-tall radio-telescope antennae that are part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. (If you saw the movie Contact, you’ll recognize them right away.)

Cobre Valley Center for the Arts

The center consists of a gallery, music studios, crafts studios, and a community theater that recently staged the locally written production of Justa Café.

Blue Canyon Gallery

Blue Canyon Gallery is the first place you reach driving into Magdalena from Socorro—the gallery, a house, and a kiln. In the shop one finds pottery made by owner Barbara Moore, and jewelry made by Indians on the nearby Alamo Navajo Reservation.

Pie-O-Neer Café

This Pie Town establishment sells butterscotch, dutch apple crumb, New Mexico apple, cherry, peach, blueberry, (and on weekends:) banana cream, coconut cream, and chocolate pies. Though pies are the obvious specialty, try the green-chile stew before ordering a hearty dessert.

Lightning Field

You need to book well ahead for a chance to visit the mysterious Lightning Field, a gridlike sculpture by Walter De Maria comprising some 400 stainless-steel poles. You can view the artwork only by spending the night. The site can accommodate only six visitors at a time; after checking in at the Dia Art Foundation’s office in Quemado, you’re taken to spend the night in a rustic log cabin with three bedrooms, a fridge stocked with enchiladas, and a porch that opens right onto the exhibit.