New Mexico scenery at its best – Carrizo Peak, northwest of Capitan.
What? There's a byway dedicated to a guy who lived badly and died bloody?
Well, that's one way to think about it. Granted, in the Old West town of Lincoln on the trail, you'll find kids (and many adults) marveling at the bullet holes still visible in the walls of the courthouse jail from which Billy the Kid escaped.
But the trail is also a good example of how not to judge a book by its cover – or a byway only by its title. Drive or bike the 11 miles to Fort Stanton, drinking in the mountain scenery as you do. There you'll see where buffalo soldiers (black infantry and cavalry, many of them veterans of the Civil War) were stationed while trying to keep the peace between Hispanic and Anglo settlers and the nearby Mescalero Apache. It's also where hundreds of German sailors were detained during World War II. (Real history is almost always more interesting than the movies.)
Let's make the Billy the Kid Trail an example of how to make a single byway appeal to different interests: Open a state highway map; highlight the byway; then look at what might be of personal interest just off route by an hour's drive. The byways Web site will suggest some of these places, but your own list of "nearbys" (to coin a term) could be of greater value.
For instance, Roswell lies only 35 miles from the Billy the Kid Trail and isn't mentioned on the site. But Roswell's International UFO Museum and Research Center, established here because of a mysterious crash (interstellar spacecraft?) nearby in July 1947, might fascinate a member of the family not interested in Old West tales. Even complete skeptics will marvel at the first-person accounts of those who claim to have viewed the crash debris – and the alien bodies. For a real out-of-this-world experience, time your visit for Roswell's annual UFO Festival and Parade. It beats Mardi Gras by light-years.