3 min

Truth or Consequences

Soaking up hot-springs sustenance in New Mexico

The retro Rocket Inn. Credit: D Grant Black

In December 2013, New Mexico, the Southwestern state best known for Georgia O’Keefe and Area 51, became the 17th state to legalize same-sex marriage. But in this predominantly Catholic state, not every destination is LGBT-friendly.

Truth or Consequences, commonly known as T or C, is a queer-friendly, affordable oasis in south-central New Mexico’s Jornada del Muerto Desert. Just don’t expect any thumping discotheques.

This mineral springs burg (population 6,400), 240 kilometres south of Albuquerque, is set among a sea of sand and cacti and bookended by Interstate 25 and the Rio Grande. Regional weekend visitors drive two hours from Albuquerque and El Paso, Texas.

The vibe is non-judgmental in this eclectic town where ex-urbanites — including many LGBT entrepreneurs — have set up shop to reinvigorate the local economy and enjoy the warm-soaking lifestyle.

Truth or Consequences offers a mix of affordable rudimentary and luxurious spa accommodations, complemented by professional massage therapy, not the kind doled out by unlicensed rubdown charlatans in healthcare smocks and Crocs.

Downtown T or C’s historic buildings date from the 1920s, when the community became a vibrant health resort. Hot mineral water (on average 40 Celsius) bubbles under downtown, and many of the bathhouses, most of them located in colourful retro motor courts, offer private soaking tubs in-room or to the public by the hour.

T or C, a valley community bracketed by the Fra Cristobal and Caballo ranges on the east and the Black Range on the west, got its name in 1950 when the town’s citizens voted to change its name from Hot Springs to Truth or Consequences. This was a response to Ralph Edwards, the producer of the popular game show on NBC radio, who offered cash to the first community in the US to rename itself after the show.

Upscale lodging
There are many places to stay, depending on your budget. The casual upscale Sierra Grande Lodge and Spa, which was built in 1929, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This expansive, downtown retreat allows couples to enjoy cooing mourning doves during an al fresco breakfast. The Sierra Grande’s new innkeeper (as of April 2013) is billionaire entrepreneur Ted Turner, who owns a ranch east of T or C. (Sazi Marri, formerly of Sierra Grande, now operates an Ashiatsu Bar massage clinic on Main Street where she goes deep tissue with her hands and — as she suspends from a bar — her bare feet.)

Motor-court slumber
Local entrepreneurs built many motor courts (now called motels) downtown from the 1930s to the 1950s. Here are three options, all with spa services:

La Paloma Hot Springs and Spa features original private-soaking chambers and affordable rooms, including a two-bedroom cottage.

Another affordable choice is the gay-owned Blackstone Hotsprings. Six of the eight kitschy yet luxurious rooms are inspired by classic television shows (As the World Turns, Golden Girls, Roy Rogers, Twilight Zone) and include in-room hot springs.

The lesbian-owned Fire Water Lodge is a turquoise-painted motor court that offers relaxing Louise Hay–esque theme rooms and “healing arts professionals.”

Hot-springs sustenance
For a budget breakfast or lunch, Bar-B-Que on Broadway is a family-run eatery with a tasty blue-corn enchilada platter, but they also serve barbecue and other Tex-New Mex dishes.

For fine-dining entrées, check out the seafood-heavy Italian cuisine at Café Bella Luca.

The lesbian-owned Passion Pie Café, located across the street from the restored El Cortez movie theatre, is a vegetarian/vegan/pescatarian’s oasis with gluten-free dishes and daily specials.

Superior coffees, fresh pastries and tactile hardcovers can be found at Black Cat Books & Coffee, on North Broadway Street, in the downtown Hot Springs Historic District.

Arts, culture and collectibles
Downtown shops are stocked with antiques, collectibles, new-age gifts and art galleries. The gay-owned, artist-operated Rio Bravo Fine Art displays many Southwestern artists’ work, while M Gallery is a modern gallery with an urban edge.

If you have the time, Spaceport America is an hour southeast, and weekly tours are offered via bus from T or C. In January 2015, Lady Gaga will travel in suborbital space from Spaceport America’s launch site; the only other person to do that is Spaceport America’s owner, British entrepreneur Richard Branson.