This is one of those eccentric personal projects that dot the roadsides of the US and make touring here such a delight! Dan and Cyndi Lee apparently created their DanCyn' Windmill Museum (get the pun on their names?!) in order “to capture the rich heritage of the area”. There are seven vintage windmills standing on the site, and I read on the internet that they plan to develop the museum further by erecting an old log cabin on the plot. This cabin was Dan’s boyhood home:
“Dan's father worked on the York Ranch north of Pie Town, too far away for the children to attend school, so Dan's mother stayed near town in various houses so that she could keep the children in school. She drove the school bus and each day they hauled water in a large milk-can for the family. Dan was let out on the road before reaching home to gather firewood for the evening. At the time they stayed in the cabin, there were six in the family. Weekends were spent on the ranch with his father.”
The museum is open “when Dan and Cyndi are home” but we didn’t like to bother them on a Sunday and in any case were able to get plenty of photos from the roadside. I hadn’t read about the cabin before our visit or I might have been tempted to disturb their Sunday in the hopes of finding it now installed!
We couldn’t come to Pie Town and not eat pie! One of the options, the cornily-named Pie-O-Neer Café, is closed at weekends, but fortunately we found the Pie Town Café (formerly the Daily Pie Café) open for business and doing a roaring trade with passing tourists like ourselves, bikers and a few locals. Luckily there was a small table free on one side of the room, which was simple but welcoming in appearance, dominated by a large counter displaying, naturally, a large selection of pies.
It was lunch-time and the menu had a variety of tempting dishes, both New Mexican (burritos, tacos) and classic US staples. But we’d had a fairly meagre “complimentary” breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express in Socorro, so we both decided a second breakfast was in order – eggs, great fried potatoes with a touch of chilli (this is New Mexico!) and crispy bacon, plus an orange juice each. Then it was time for pie :-) The slices looked very generous so we decided to share one, and of the many on display opted for cherry.
We had to wait a little while to taste it however. The one slight negative about this café would be the slow service – there was just one harassed waitress (I think maybe the owner) and a girl bussing tables, who helped out a bit by carrying out plates of food but didn’t seem up to the task of taking orders. With all the tables full inside, a few outside, and people coming and going all the time it was perhaps not surprising that we sat for quite a while after our eggs and bacon waiting for the plates to be cleared and our pie order taken. We were enjoying watching all the bustle, but we still had a long way to drive, so in the end I got up and placed our order at the counter, which worked fine.
Favorite Dish: The other challenge had been deciding what pie to order, from the many flavours on display. I rather liked the sound of the New Mexican apple pie with chilli, but we were sharing and Chris didn’t fancy it! So we opted for cherry, which we both like, and it was excellent – crumbly pastry and a slightly tart generous filling.
According to their website their pie flavours include New Mexican Apple (made with granny smith apples, pinion nuts and green chilli), Apple, Triple Berry, Peach, Blueberry, Fireball Cherry, Cherry, Blackberry, Pumpkin, Coconut Cream, Banana Cream, Chocolate Cream, Texas Millionaire, Peanut Butter, Key Lime, Oatmeal, Rocky Road, Almond Joy ... and more. It seemed that most, if not all, of these was on display when we visited, although some were down to the last slice. As the owners say, “We reserve the right to run out of pie!”, so get here early!
If you have made the drive out to Pie Town from Socorro, stopping at the VLA, you will probably be here in time for lunch, and could easily turn around after that and head back the way you came, making a nice day trip. But if you’re on a touring holiday as we were, retracing your steps can seem counter-productive, and luckily there’s no need to do so. Highway 60 continues westwards towards the border with Arizona, and twenty miles down the road is the next little town, Quemado. Here the small stone Catholic Church with its tiny graveyard is very photogenic, from the outside at least. I would have loved to have seen the inside too, but it was Sunday and Mass was in progress so I didn’t enter.
Quemado takes its name from the Spanish word for "burned" - an early settler, Jose Antonio Padilla, found that the brush surounding his new homestead had been burned by the Indians, so he named it Rito Quemado.
From here you have two choices: carry on west to Arizona, or turn north on Highway 36. We chose the latter, heading for El Malpais National Monument and Grants ... but that is a story for another page.
While Pie Town is fairly short of specific sights (apart from the odd-ball “windmill museum” and of course the cafés), we found that it had plenty to keep our cameras busy. Old rusting cars, equally rusty signs, the aforementioned windmills, the fading paint-work on the cafés ...
These may not be exactly beautiful but they have a certain faded charm and are very photogenic. I hope you enjoy this selection of my images from Pie Town.