Taos by Bus and Casino “Layover”


I arrived in Taos Friday evening, September 16, on the Blue Bus, an RTD line that runs between Santa Fe and Taos weekdays for free. On weekends, there’s a Taos Express bus that costs $5 one-way, $10 round trip, with reduced scheduling.

The RTD buses are convenient for commuters weekdays, but less convenient for tourists and visitors on weekends, and seem almost to be at times an “ad hoc” enterprise. Some pickups and stops seem decided on the spot or according to demand. Schedules seem “flexible.”

Unfortunately, the 2:10 bus from Santa Fe (which I was initially told was a 1:10 bus) had about a two-hour layover in Espanola.

Fellow riders told us not to get off at the first parking lot/bus stop in Espanola, but to go on to the Ohkay Casino stop and wait there for the next bus to Taos.

In this way, I had my first, only, and, most likely, last Casino experience of a lifetime.

I went inside to buy batteries for my camera. Because I’d spent over $3, I was given a “free” electronic “Casino card” with a small amount of “credit” or “plays” which I could then apply to playing slot machines.

Clang, clang, clang go the slot machines. Blink, flicker, blink go each of the themed machine “faces,” to entice patrons to gamble at that location.

Rather than old-fashioned “one-armed bandits,” where players pull down a lever, new machines are electronic, eliminating the only surefire benefit of playing—arm exercise.

Playing steps were spelled out on a small slip of paper handed out with the card at the “Winner’s Circle” (the card dispensing promotional area; not the cash-in-your-winnings tellers windows). I still didn’t know what buttons to punch on the machines, once I’d selected a machine to use. So a fellow gambler helps me out with a quick demo.

And here’s where “free” ends. Along with my “free” card, I had to insert $1 to play. The first “game” I played, I won the grand total of 70 cents. Having spent $1 to play, in actuality, I lost 30 cents.

Bus riders waiting for our ride outside the casino told me that coming out nearly even, as I had, was the same as winning. I did, however, receive one deck of free playing cards for table games, so really came out ahead in the end. I gave the playing cards to another bus rider.

Finally, after a two-hour wait, the blue bus appeared at the Ohkay Casino and we were on our way. I’d forgotten how beautiful the ride into Taos is through the narrow canyons. Long stretches of two-lane road run alongside the Red River. The sunset over distant blue mountains beyond green sage- and cedar-dotted red earth hills is to die for.

Throughout New Mexico, I find myself looking skyward—toward cloud formations, sunrises, sunsets—all dramatic, often spectacular, and always magical.

Canyon walls rise up both sides of the road. Bus riders tell me all about the landscape’s volcanic history. Sure enough, the hills and canyon walls are dotted with black volcanic rocks and boulders.

You can learn a lot from fellow travelers!

For more information on Taos, see taosgov.com


About jillscherb7

Retired intercultural educator & speech/English faculty; traveller to China, Europe-France, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Mexico (who's lived in China & Bulgaria); lover of books, poetry, film, narratives, music & art; sometime book reviewer; and Austinite (Texas, U.S.A.)
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