October 5, 2016 – Sun, 70 degrees
Miles Today: 22
Miles to Date: 17,399
States to Date: 45
When I arrived at Taos Pueblo before 10:00 a.m. stocky guys in orange vests were directing cars to dusty parking lots. One hailed me down and demanded I pull my bike on the sidewalk. “How did you come here?” Apparently pedestrians and cyclists are supposed to take a van from the Plaza to avoid the shoulderless roads and barking dogs. I had simply followed a sign with an arrow to ‘Taos Pueblo.” Eventually David stopped barking himself, gave me a place to park my bike and store my bags and when I asked him “How will we live tomorrow?” he extolled the virtues of tradition and a slow life. Then David directed me to the ticket counter, where the woman pushed the Master Card slip for my $16 entry at me. “Hurry up, I have a bus coming in.”
Before I even entered the gate, I witnessed the dichotomy of Taos Pueblo. It is amazing, miraculous really, that people have lived here for over 1,000 years. It is appropriate that it is a National Historic Monument and a World Heritage Site. But it’s horrific that Taos Pueblo is so commercial. Signs everywhere: don’t do this; buy that; give your guide a gratuity. For sixteen bucks you ought to get a half hour tour by someone trained and informed. Instead they tout how tours are given my tribal college students eager for tips. Mine integrated at least three plugs for tips into his spiel. The history of the place is all right; the tone of the place is all wrong. The hucksterism obscures the magic that the tour guides and shopkeepers proclaim. I want to believe that the natives’ commitment to this land, this place, this way of life, is genuine. But sincerity so polluted by the almighty dollar is difficult to swallow.
Luckily, a different parking guard was happy to let me ride my bike out of the area instead of making me wait for a bus. The rest of the day I toured Taos; a predictable mix of commercial, artistic, and alternative attitudes coexisting on thin air. I could definitely fit in here – the place is crawling with skinny white guys with wrinkled faces and disheveled grey hair – but after one day I was ready to pedal on.