Living in a rural area can sometimes feel daunting when one is trying to find a kid-friendly activity. I live so far south on 337 that it is a half hour drive in any direction for things like groceries and gas. Most recreational activities are at least that far away as well. However, living in the boonies does not mean that there aren’t lots of fun things to do.

On top of living in the woods, I am also homeschooling my 12-year-old son, and always looking for fun activities that are educational. The East Mountains and surrounding areas are a great location for both. What I have done so far is encourage my son to pursue whatever fuels his desire to learn.

We spend the summer months driving to places that have water and hiking trails. In the winter months we stay closer to home.

New Mexico’s economy is very dependent on tourism and there are many beautiful and interesting locations. It is also a very rural state; we have some of the most untouched land in the United States.

People come from all over the world to experience our state. I have heard people say New Mexico was the first place they ever saw things like stars, snow and Southwest sunsets.

This travel feature is about spending money locally but it’s also about showcasing some of the cool stuff we have in our state.

Here at the newspaper we put a big emphasis on shopping locally. Now we will be putting our money where our mouth is, so to speak.

For these stories, we will be using a weekly budget of $50 for our adventures. Initially we’ll stay within about an hour of Edgewood.

For the purpose of this new feature in the paper, and as an opportunity for more learning, my son is our photographer, and he will help me select the locations we will be visiting. This week we decided to keep our travels pretty close to home so we chose Moriarty as our destination.

Our first stop was the Lewis Antique Auto and Toy Museum. The admission is $4 per person. This museum is so surprising because its appearance is unassuming.

From the outside it looks like an old junkyard—but when you go inside, you find that in addition to all the old cars and car parts outside, there is also a warehouse filled with an eclectic collection of antiques.

Inside, there are several classic cars in fantastic condition, including more than one 1950s Thunderbird, A-model Fords, and so many other cool cars that I cannot recall the makes, models or years without my car-enthusiast uncle’s keen eye.

A quiet little path with a beautiful truck. I believe it just makes you want to walk around the corner into your past. Photo by Dustin Barton.

I visited this museum over the summer with my uncle and grandma, and to my surprise there were so many things I didn’t notice on my first visit. On my second visit, this week, I noticed that they have a ton of antique toys; three different juke boxes; old dolls that would haunt your dreams forever more; old Coca Cola, Dr. Pepper and Sprite bottles complete with wooden crates; bicycles; peddle cars; a pinball machine; baby buggies and loads of other stuff that I don’t have the space to mention.

I could easily spend the day inside looking at all of that and leave totally satisfied without walking around outside.

But outside is just as cool and I would recommend that you don’t skip it.

Due to the recent snowstorm that hit the area, we were warned about snow, ice and mud as we headed outside. My son and I love all three so we were happy to trudge around outside. The mud was no joke, but we were both wearing appropriate footwear.

As soon as you walk out of the door, there are some antique stoves, cast iron wood burning stoves, an antique fire extinguisher and some other items that I did not recognize. The wood-burning cooking stoves are the highlight of the front porch. It’s my favorite type of stove, so we looked at those for a good while.

As we headed to the back to check out the vast outdoor car collection, one of the first cool vehicles we spotted was an old tow truck. It was so old it only had one little hydraulic system and the rest of it was pulleys. I am always astonished at the innovation of the past and pulleys always impress me. They are so simple and so versatile, and even though they are an ancient invention, we still use them today coupled with modern inventions.

If you have a classic car enthusiast in your life, take them to this museum.

They have more classics in one location than most car shows in the East Mountains. I have never seen so many different Internationals in one location. They also have an old fire truck, an extensive collection of COEs (cab over engine), old tractors, 60s school buses, Fords, Chevys, Dodges, and GMCs. I would wager any classic favorite could be found in that yard with the exception of Volkswagens. I am a VW fanatic and I always look for them at places like this and to my dismay I couldn’t find anything resembling one or a part for one.

They also have piles of car parts. Normally I would find something like that to be boring. I like cars but I prefer them whole in most cases.

Something about the way the yard is organized, with parts like Model A tires lined up in long rows and heaps of hubcaps glinting in the sun, gives the collection a certain charm. They are so old we were having fun trying to guess what some of those even were. My kid is 12, and he didn’t know what a carburetor does, let alone looks like, and it was a great chance for him to see the parts disassembled and think about how they might go together.

One the highlights of the car parts collection were piles of struts. Seeing them outside of a car makes them look like a bed spring. Not only are they interesting to look at but it was also an opportunity to discuss suspension with my son. In my family we call this “sneaky homeschool,” which is when the kids are learning but it’s fun so they don’t realize its new information.

We spent about 2 hours wandering around the museum and I would say about an hour of that was outside. Walking in mud is hard work so naturally we left the museum hungry. We had only spent $8 out of our $50 budget so I had my son pick a restaurant in Moriarty. He chose Nachos, a wonderful Mexican food restaurant.

We left the museum a little cold, and the thought of hot chile appealed us both. After we got our table I had my son calculate how much money we had left for gas and lunch.

He figured that we could spend roughly $30, including our tip and be left with $10 for gas. $30 is enough for two people to order whatever they want plus drinks at Nachos. The menu is delicious but it’s also affordable.

I got a cup of coffee and a chile relleno burrito with beans and Dustin got a combination plate and a soda. We stayed within the budget easily. The left over money topped off my gas tank. Next week we are hoping to explore Edgewood but you will have to read the story to find out what the final choice is. 

Do you have an idea for a close to home day trip? Contact me at news.ind.manager@gmail.com.

Leota Harriman
Leota Harriman

Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at news.ind.editor@gmail.com.