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Land of (virtual) Enchantment: Santa Fe County video series readies us for the day we can hit the road again

The visitors center at the Pecos National Historical Park is undergoing a $1 million makeover. (Courtesy of The Pecos National Historical Park )

With increased uncertainty regarding travel, it appears that once again, virtuality is the way to go, if for no better reason than to map out a game plan when life begins to approach normalcy in the future.

The Pecos National Historical Park is getting a new exhibit in 2021 with a $4.5 million project to an old Santa Fe Trail trading post. (Courtesy of Sunny505)

Santa Fe County is a step ahead in that regard, recently unveiling a series of videos to a group of travel writers showcasing the merits and charms of the area.

And those videos will soon be available on the county’s YouTube channel (

The opening segment, “Pathways through Paradise,” takes viewers on a trip back in time as author George R.R. Martin unveils plans for Lamy and the Santa Fe Southern Railroad, which he now co-owns along with Violet Crown Cinema owner Bill Banowsky and arts philanthropist Catherine Oppenheimer.

“Like most kids in the ’50s, I wanted a set of electric trains and I asked Santa to bring them for me,” Martin said in explaining his love affair with the railroad. “Santa came through with a basic set of trains and they would go around in a circle around the Christmas tree.”

While that was cool, it wasn’t as cool as a friend’s set-up.

“I had this friend whose family had an actual house and a whole basement that had this amazing train set and they had a whole town and a mountain and tracks on several levels so he could have three locomotives going at the same time, crisscrossing each other.”

Martin, of course, didn’t have any of that.

The rejuvenation of the Legal Tender Restaurant and Saloon makes it a must-visit. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

“I didn’t have any of the cool cars,” he said. “I just had a little circle. Then when Christmas was over the tree came down, my trains had to come down too. So maybe from the time I was a small child, I had train envy. Now I have a bigger and better set than anybody.”

And by September 2021, that set should be making regular scheduled runs to the rejuvenated town of Lamy, oftentimes with specialty features, Martin said, like a spooky train for Halloween that takes riders to a giant party or night rides that stop overlooking the Galisteo Basin to allow star gazing or Christmas rides to the North Pole.

In Lamy, one of the featured stops is the saloon and restaurant Legal Tender that owner Alan Affeldt restored in 2019.

“We believe it is the oldest bar-restaurant saloon in the Southwest,” he said. “It was founded in 1880 by the Santa Fe railway and the following year they built a mercantile. And that building is still there, it is the Legal Tender dining room. A couple of years later in 1884, they built the stone edition because there was good money in liquor and that is now the bar at the Legal Tender and we figure it is the oldest bar in the Southwest.”

The Galisteo Basin Preserve is a great mountain biking area for experienced and new riders. (Courtesy Sunny505)

It makes for a nice little trip into the country, Affeldt said.

“That was the beginning of the renaissance of Lamy, New Mexico,” he said of the Legal Tender’s opening. “It’s only 15 miles from downtown Santa Fe and it has this wonderful authenticity with these great historic buildings.”

The little burg of Lamy is becoming more of a tourist destination with its continued revitalization. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

The next project, Affeldt said, is recreating the Mary Colter-designed Ortiz Hotel from its original plans after it burned down in the 1930s.

Just up the interstate from Lamy, the Pecos National Historical Park is also getting a facelift, said Becky Latanich, chief of interpretation and education.

“We have two brand new museum exhibits coming in 2021,” she said. “The visitors center that has had the same exhibits since 1987 is getting a $1 million makeover, which is fantastic.”

And a whole new building will be opening up, as well.

“There’s a 1850s trading post which was part of the original Santa Fe Trail that is going to open to the public,” Latanich said. “That is a project that has been in the works for many years, it’s a $4.5 million project. It opens in 2021. There’ll be exhibits there.”

The Galisteo Basin Preserve also is home to some delightful mountain biking trails, said video host Darley Newman.

“It’s something I’ve been able to do even as non-advanced to beginning mountain biker,” she said. “And of course the sunsets are pretty hard to beat.”