While our RV is back at the dealer for some minor repairs, we took a day to escape the El Paso heat to explore Cloudcroft, NM. On our way there, we made a recommended pitstop at the New Mexico Museum of Space History
Cloudcroft is a small town nestled in the mountains of Lincoln National Forest. We have been to the area a few times over the last few years, each time finding something different to see and do. This time we were headed to Burro St. where there is a collection of quaint shops that we had been wanting to visit for a while. There you will find beautiful crafts and artisanal shops. My favorite shop is the Noisy Water Winery You can pretty much taste everything there before you buy it – cheese, wine, salsa, flavored olive oils…. Walking away with just a bottle of the aged balsamic vinegar was the toughest thing to do.
If you are ever traveling through the area along Route 82, don’t be surprised if you see a line of people out the door at Mad Jack’s Mountaintop BBQ. Do yourself a favor and park your car and get in line. This is some of the most amazing BBQ Russ and I have ever had and it was worth every minute we spent in line. We had the opportunity to speak with Mad Jack himself (he works the line) and his story is as interesting as his food is mouthwatering.
James “Mad Jack” Jackson’s story starts in Lockheart, TX where he worked on his family’s car lot for more than 29 years. In 2009, Chrysler terminated contracts with more than 800 dealerships – his being one of them. Also during this time, Jackson was encouraged by his father to pursue his longtime interest in being a pitmaster. His father told him “James, to be good at something, ignore what the average guys are doing. Watch people who are the best and copy whatever they’re doing.” Jackson did exactly that. Over the next few years, he told us he watched a lot of YouTube videos and reached out through social media to other well-known pitmasters. He went on to say his BBQ skills were developed by learning a “little bit” (info) from “a lot” (people).
Jackson learned enough to put his skills to the test and opened up a food truck in the heart of foodie-central, Austin, Texas. He did extremely well and as his popularity grew, Jackson was also becoming dismayed with the local bureaucracy. It was about this time that Jackson’s father, Kirk, moved in with him after suffering a hip injury. Kirk’s health continued to decline and shortly before his passing, he mentioned to Jackson and his brother a statement that didn’t make sense at the time, but was to be incredibly important to Jackson’s future. As the brothers were discussing what to do with some of the old cars on their property, Kirk said, “That ’71 Mercury – don’t get rid of it”.
That ’71 Mercury was a decrepit, rusted out vehicle covered in brush and tires flat down to the rims. Inside, Jackson and his brother found metal boxes and mason jars filled to the brim with money. The money had been in there so long that some of it had started to rot away, but there was still plenty left. Enough for Jackson to fully fund “Mad Jacks” in 2015 and move to Cloudcroft to do things the way he had always envisioned.
If you stop by Mad Jacks (open Thursdays – Sundays), ask him to point out some of the actual mason jars and one of the metal boxes that were from that infamous Mercury.
Wrapping up our day – and our waistlines – we stopped in at the Old Apple Barn on our way home. No trip to the Old Apple Barn is complete without trying some of their fudge. There is always room for fudge in my opinion. Always. If fudge isn’t your thing, you can always try some of their eclectic snack options……crickets anyone?