Thirteen miles beyond Golden , and about midway along the drive, Madrid (pronounced MAD-rid by locals) is a ghost town back from the dead. Built by the Albuquerque & Cerrillos Coal Co. in 1906, it once housed 4,000 people, but it was deserted by the end of World War II, when natural gas came into use.
By the late 1970s, though, a few of the swaybacked wood houses had been reoccupied by hippies who were willing to live where indoor plumbing was barely available.
Through the decades, Madrid slowly revived; portable toilets are still more common than flush models, but the arts scene has flourished, and a real sense of community pervades the main street, which is dressed in gaudy lights at Christmas and lined with pretty painted bungalows.
Galleries line the main street—the typical itinerary is just a stroll down and back, perhaps with a stop on the porch of the Old Boarding House Mercantile to chat with various bearded “Madroids,” the old-timers who may or may not be models for the locally produced Nude Geezers pinup calendar. Particularly outside the summer months, try to come through on a weekend, as opening hours can be erratic otherwise.
You can learn more about Madrid’s history at the Old Coal Mine Museum (Hwy. 14, 505/438-3780, 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. daily June–Aug., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Sat. and Sun. Sept.–May, $5), where you can wander among sinister-looking machine parts and even walk partway down an abandoned mine shaft—a great disciplinary tool for kids who’ve been acting up in the car. You’ll feel the “ghost” in “ghost town” here.
If the Old West costume photo studio in the lobby doesn’t sate your desire for old-timey fun, you can stay for a show at the Engine House Theatre (505/438-3780, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sat., 3 p.m. Sun., $10), where local hams play out a classic melodrama inside an atmospherically drafty repair shed (call ahead to reserve).
A more vibrant remnant of Madrid’s company-town days is the Mine Shaft Tavern (2846 Hwy. 14, 505/473-0743, 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Mon.–Sat.), where you can belly up to a 40-foot-long pine-pole bar, over which hang murals by local artist Ross Ward, who built the Tinkertown Museum  in Sandia Park. “It is better to drink than work,” reads the Latin inscription interwoven among the mural panels, and certainly everyone in the bar, from long-distance bikers to gallery hoppers, is living by those encouraging words.
As for food, head straight to Mama Lisa’s Ghost Town Kitchen. When it’s open (seemingly not on a regular basis, but chances are better in the summer), it’s a true treat, a cozy place with an all-over-the-map menu: buffalo chalupas, Austrian-style pork chops, rhubarb pie, and hibiscus mint tea, which you can enjoy out on the tree-shaded front patio (entrées are about $10). When it’s closed, all you can do is press your face against the window and dream—or go down the street to Java Junction (2855 Hwy. 14, 505/438-2772, from 7:30 a.m. daily) for coffee.
During summers only, the Miner’s Chuckwagon, midway through town, sells cheap and tasty sausage biscuits and coffee in the mornings and doles out pit barbecue for lunch, for less than $10.