While I’m on a San Luis, Colorado kick, I want to share with you one more aspect of the town that I enjoy. I’ve encountered many old vehicles in the oldest town in Colorado. I would not call myself a car (or truck ) aficionado, but I do feel a certain pleasure in my heart and soul when I see a vintage vehicle, especially if the paint is peeling and rust is moving in for the takeover. Add in an old license plate, and I’m in nostalgia heaven, even if the vehicle is from a time before I was born.
There’s a tow yard near a parking lot just off the main drag in San Luis. I’ve never seen another human in that tow yard, but it is a source of lots of great old vehicles. The first one that caught my eye was this fantastic truck and camper combo.
Can you imagine the adventures this duo has been on? It makes me think of the epic road trip John Steinbeck took with his standard poodle pal and chronicled in his book Travels with Charley: In Search of America. If I had piles of money, I would buy the truck and camper, have them both refurbished, and take them out on some adventures of my own. Here are some of the details from the truck and camper.
Another vehicle I like looking at is this old tow truck. I wonder if this truck towed any of the other vehicles into the yard.
Here are some photos showing details of the tow truck. The door is my favorite detail.
Here are a couple of other old vehicles I saw in and around the tow yard. I love the funky paint job on that Ford tailgate.
The last time I visited San Luis, I took a turn down a side street and found a cool yard. Don’t worry; I didn’t trespass. I just peeked through the fence.
When I looked through the spokes of the wheel mounted to the gate, I saw the car in the photo below. I don’t know the make and model. Any ideas?
Then I walked over a few feet and looked through the slats in the fence and saw the car in the photo below.
It looks like something Starsky or Hutch would have driven in the early 70s. Any idea of its make and model?
This concludes our tour of San Luis’ vintage vehicles. I took all the photos in this post. If you like these photos and would like to see more that I took, please follow Rubber Tramp Artist on Instagram.
I’d been to and through San Luis, CO a few times, but I’d never before stopped the vehicle and walked around taking photos. This time was different. This time I stopped, even though I was tired and hungry. This time I walked up and down the main drag (Main Street/ Highway 159) and took some photos. Today I’ll share my mini adventure with you.
The big claim to fame of San Luis is that it’s the oldest town in Colorado. This fact is proclaimed right on the town’s welcome signs.
The San Luis town website has a section about the town’s history. The website explains,
San Luis, the oldest town in Colorado, was established on April 5, 1851…Hispanic settlers from the Taos Valley established several small villages along the Rio Culebra in the San Luis Valley and officially took possession of this portion of the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant on April 5, 1851. Settlers built a church in the central village of La Plaza Medio and dedicated it on the Feast of Saint Louis, June 21, 1851.The village was renamed San Luis de la Culebra in honor of its patron saint. San Luis remained part of the Territory of New Mexico until 1861 when the Territory of Colorado was established. Today, San Luis is the oldest continuously inhabited town in the state of Colorado.
San Luis is home to the Shrine of the Stations of the Cross. The Catholic Travel Guide website says the Shrine
is located on a mesa in the center of San Luis. Dedicated in 1990, the Shrine was built as an act of faith and love for the parishioners of the Sangre de Cristo Parish. It is a place of prayer and solace open to members of all faiths and people of good will.
I did not visit the Shrine on the day I stopped in San Luis to take photos. I do hope to visit the Shrine someday. I’m sure such a visit would lead to bloggable moments, and I’d certainly share my experience there with you.
For such a small town, San Luis has a lot of murals. Many of the buildings on the main street have murals painted on their sides. I parked next to a mural called Mexica Tiahui. (I found out when researching this post that the building I parked next to houses San Luis’ town hall/court/police station/visitor center.)
[d]esigned and painted by local students…and explores the students reclaiming their indigenous heritage.
The aforementioned website goes on to say,
Mexica Tiahui! I’ve always known the spirited sentiment to mean “Mexican (Indigenous) Moving/Go Forward!” It is used as a positive exclamation mostly by Chicanah (Chican@) people in the United States who are using “Mexica” as an identity point in reclaiming their Indigenous self. [There’s quite about more information about the term “Mexica Tiahui!” is the long description on the Waymarking.com page.]
This large mural features the students of San Luis (who were the designers and artists), Spanish explorers/conquerors, the Catholic Church, and Aztec monuments and peoples.
Waymarking.com also lists the mural Sierras y Colores (“mountain range and colors”) by Carlos Sandoval. The website says,
This mural on the side of the Full Circle building explores the history and cultures of the San Luis valley. A woman is carrying a basket of vegetables grown in the area, early settlers are remembered, The Spanish Conquistadors and Christianity (in the form of Christ and Catholicism), Ute Indian on a pony, the San Luis People’s Ditch (early community irrigation), a ranch hand branding a cow, and a resident with a dead deer on the back of the saddle.
Another mural I encountered was on the deserted Custom Cycles shop. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any information about the artist.
There were other murals in San Luis I couldn’t find any information about online.
I also liked looking at the old buildings lining Main Street in San Luis, like the one housing the R&R Market.
is the oldest continuously operated business in the State of Colorado, dating from its establishment in 1857 in the town of San Luis by Costilla County pioneer Dario Gallegos. The building was partially rebuilt after fires in 1895 and 1947…
The building housing R&R Market was originally constructed of adobe bricks and has subsequently been modified with a combination of concrete block, plaster and stucco construction. The ground floor is the market and the upstairs includes rental units which were once part of a hotel. The original mercantile business was opened…in May, 1857, in a building 20 feet wide by 40 feet long, made of 25-inch adobe walls, with a foundation of rock with mud mortar. Today the building is a beautiful two-story log and stucco building in the Territorial Adobe style…
On the day in March 2020 I visited San Luis, I really wanted to stop in at the R&R Market to look for postcards, but the threat of COVID-19 kept me out. I hope one day I can go into the market and find postcards celebrating San Luis’ oldest town status.
My favorite part of this building is those script letters! I could find nothing online about this building or the company it housed.
In addition to the town’s murals and old buildings, I enjoyed looking at the old signs in San Luis.
Finally, I liked the old payphones still standing in San Luis.
There’s a cultural center I didn’t visit because of the threat of COVID-19. Maybe next time, when I go to see the Shrine. I’ll try to pick up some postcards then too. Hopefully I can go back before too long.
I’d always wanted to see the wild horses living on the Colorado side of the San Luis Valley. I’d made the trek from Taos, NM to San Luis, CO (and beyond) on NM Hwy 522/CO Hwy 159 several times, but I’d never seen a single wild horse. The only indication of them were the yellow roadside signs proclaiming “open range” and a silhouette of a horse letting drivers know it wasn’t cows they needed to be concerned with.
The Man and I had been staying at our friend’s place 40 miles north of Taos for a few days when we decided to make a quick trip to San Luis, the oldest town in Colorado. It had been cold the last two nights, and the sky was overcast when we hit the road, but no rain or snow was falling.
We passed into Colorado and hadn’t been in the state long when there they were! There was a small herd (six or eight individuals) of wild horses on the road and on its shoulder.
Oh Baby! We’re so lucky! I exclaimed to the man. I’ve always wanted to see the wild horses, but this is my first time!
Pull over so we can take pictures, The Man implored.
There are a lot of reason I love The Man. He is a kind, caring person who makes me laugh. He is patient with my moodiness and terrible driving. He’s smart, enjoys reading, and encourages my creative endeavors. Also? He likes to stop and take photos of interesting roadside attractions as much as I do.
I carefully maneuvered the van to the shoulder of the road. The horses moved nervously, and the ones in the middle of the road shuffled to the side. It was good they’d moved because a little sports car came flying by way too fast right about then. From the opposite direction, a large pickup pulling a 5th wheel slowed to a crawl so as not to spook the horses. Some people got a clue, and some people don’t.
At the far southern end of the San Luis Valley in…is the hidden treasure of a thriving herd of mustangs.
These horses are not pure mustangs but are more closely related than the wild horses of the managed areas of Colorado.
The bands of horses in Costillia County date back 400 years and are not protected by the Bureau of Land Management, so they are not subjected to culling and rescue operations. These horses still roam on original Spanish land grants dating back to the 1600s and not on BLM land. The open range bordering the Rio Grande River and the vast plains and mesas of the San Luis Valley provide 60,000 acres of natural habitat for wild mustangs to move freely in and to thrive.
Once I could see no other cars on the highway, I slowly moved the van closer to the horses until I could see they were getting nervous. I turned off the engine. and The Man got out to take his photos. When he returned, it was my turn.
I walked slowly toward the horses, trying not to spook them. I didn’t want them to trot off before I could get even one photo, but I also didn’t want to upset them with my presence. After all, I was the interloper.
The horses were big, stunningly beautiful creatures, mostly brown, but with black tails and manes. They were such a joy to see, walking freely through their world.
The photos I got of the wild horses are not great. I wish the camera on my phone took better photos. I wish the lighting had been better. I wish I could have gotten closer to the horses or that my camera did a better job of zooming in. However, overall, I was pleased to get any photos at all.
Getting photos of the horses was not the most important part of my day. The most important part of my day was seeing those majestic, free beasts in real life, out in the open, living their lives a few yards from me.