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Road Trip

Days 7 and 8

Jennifer Alden (Tuesday, January 16, 2001)

This morning we had our second breakfast at the Laughing Horse Inn, passed by Cid's Groceries (a large organic-only grocery store), and headed to Matt Newsum's.

Matt is the groundskeeper of Rancho Bianco, a ranch on the mesa (the plains outside of Taos). We drove five miles on an unnamed snow-covered dirt road to get to its gate. The house is entirely "off the grid" -- electrical power comes from solar panels that recharge 20 golf cart batteries. There's a propane generator for cloudy days (such as today), and a gasoline backup generator. Neither is quite working, so we may be dining by candlelight.

The house has a well for water and a radio phone to the neighbor's house. The septic tank only needs to be emptied maybe once a year. The house sits on 380 acres of desert land -- you can just barely see the neighbors' houses.

The ranch was the dream home of a woman who was diagnosed with cancer during its construction. She only lived in it a year. The husband remarried and lives in Albuquerque with his new wife, but doesn't want to sell this house. Matt took us on a tour of the outside of the house. We saw the now empty stables, the solar panels, the generator, the well, and the memorial garden, where Jojo Bianco is burried.

As the groundskeeper, Matt's only expenses are his own groceries. Six months ago he quit his high-tech Silicon Valley job to come here, and spends his days painting in the art studio, skiing, reading, hiking, or biking to the nearby Rio Grande to do some catch-and-release fly fishing. Can't imagine a better lifestyle for him.

We wouldn't mind living like this, but we'd have to be closer to civilization and we'd need some kind of high-speed internet connection. Matt says that he may try the two-way satellite links that are just becoming available. There's an appeal to having a self-sustaining house -- for its ecological and independence aspects. It's a lot of work and maintenance, and being so much at the mercy of the elements (such as amount of direct sunlight) is unsettling. It will be very cool in a few years to combine solar power with a fuel cell for backup power.

We loved the house so much that we decided to stay an extra night and make up the time in Texas.

Solar panels.jpg Rancho Bianco.jpg Morning coffee.jpg Purple mountains.jpg Road to Matts.jpg
Matt indoors.jpg Gate.jpg


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