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Expat wanderer

Three Trips Out

I must be feeling better. This morning I got an important quilt sandwiched – yes, even in these humid 90°F + temperatures, I was down on my hands and knees, pinning the three layers together. The colors are so beautiful it was truly a labor of love.

And – AdventureMan has been asking me about our next road trip. Oh, he is so subtle! He talks longingly of road trips we’ve taken, places we’ve stayed and loved, and how much he loves to be on the road. I understand; I get restless, too! So last night I began sketching out a two week road trip through the “four-corner” states.

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I have a sister who loves this part of the United States, and I have heard from her for years about some wonderful places I have never seen. Bryce Canyon. Zion National Park. Arches National Park. There is some Native American territory I want to cross and a couple places we’ve stayed before, and loved. Best of all, there are two adorable little toddlers I haven’t seen for over a year, and my arms hunger to hug them – Little Diamond’s children, no longer babies, growing growing so fast.

 

I just did a first draft – haven’t made any reservations yet. I’ve been getting advisories from Trip Advisor about flight prices from here to Denver; it’s one of the changes we are going to make, not making ourselves drive hell-bent-for-leather for three days just to get to where our vacation will start. We are also driving fewer miles and staying more nights at each stop. We discovered on our Vancouver Island trip how much we enjoy that style.

We’ve been thinking about this trip for quite a while. We are eager to visit Montana, and we are eager to do more exploring in Alberta and British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies, and we are also realizing, after all these years, that it is more rewarding for us to focus on a smaller area and explore it at greater leisure. We’ll spend three nights in Santa Fe – a place we fell in love with last time we visited.

We already have two other trips planned and finalized, but we really needed a good road trip together 🙂

 

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August 29, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Environment, Geography / Maps, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Trinidad, On the Way to Santa Fe

Leaving Denver, and Little Diamond, we have another gorgeous day:

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After a couple hours driving, we needed gas and we needed lunch, and Trinidad is the only likely city showing on our map. Anything will do. We decide to give Trinidad a try.

As it turns out, Trinidad is a WOW, an unexpected surprise, full of beautiful architecture and dwellings.
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We find a sign for a restaurant we might like to try, only to discover it is closed.
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Next door to it, however, is a deli/restaurant, Nono and Nana’s, which is delightful:

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We have a wonderful pasta meal and are on our way to Santa Fe, but Trinidad is now on our list to come back and explore more fully.

May 5, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Eating Out, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Exciting Drive to Denver

I thought this drive would be routine, and I felt really stupid when I discovered it would not be. How could I have failed to notice there were mountains between Glenwood Springs, CO, and Denver?

It was a glorious day leaving Glenwood Springs, and I assumed a very easy drive.

I didn’t expect snow, snowy roads and 19 degree temperatures. Remember, I’ve been living in Florida. It’s Spring! We’ve had little but sunshine every day of our trip, with the one exceptional day between San Antonio and El Paso.

It just kept getting colder and colder. The trucks are all bunched up in the slowest lane, as we drive on slick roads with lots of warning signs. We don’t have chains. We don’t even have snow tires, although before leaving AdventureMan actually checked with our dealership and was told our tires would be adequate for all but a raging snowstorm. We felt a little tense.

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Lots of great spring skiing:

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This was a constant annoyance. In Germany, there was a law that you had to sweep the snow off your car, so as you were driving it would not fly off and hit the driver behind you. We assumed this was probably true in the USA, too, but we must have assumed wrongly. We were assailed by flying snow frequently.

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Here is the payoff. Denver is beautiful, and no snow is flying. We get to meet these wonderful babies, Little Diamond’s twins, born around a year ago today. They are sweet, playful babies, full of laughs. Of course we brought presents, and one of the happiest moments of all is when they discovered how much fun tissue paper is – how it makes a wonderful noise when you shake it! We all shook tissue paper and laughed that it’s always the wrapping and the boxes that is the biggest hit with babies 🙂

Little Diamond has become a wonderful adult, with a life full of babies and students and the wackiness of the unexpected every day with both. It is a great joy to see all our young in the next generation are loving and kind parents, compassionate to their children, and succeeding in their daily lives. Thanks be to God.

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May 3, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Generational, Living Conditions, Parenting, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Hot Springs in Glenwood Springs, CO

Today is a short day, and AdventureMan gets to sleep in. We’ve hit the road hard for two days, and today we have a rainbow at the end of the day, we get to hit the hot springs and we have massages scheduled, just the ticket for a man with a bad cold. Coughing makes his back ache, and he loves a good massage.

There is also no point starting too early because . . . it’s still snowing.

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We hit the road around nine-thirty, following our GoogleMap instructions. Neither of us say anything when we end up in a mountainous area, very snowy, and the temperature keeps dropping. It is snowy. And icy.

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Fortunately, we aren’t in the mountain pass more than half an hour, although it seems like forever, and then we are once again on flatlands, heading for I-70. We land in Colorado Junction for a quick lunch – which, due to extremely slow service, turned out to be a much longer lunch than we had intended – and then on to Glenwood Springs, a sweet resort town with a natural hot spring, very sulphuric, lots of mountains, lots of restaurants, and, as it turns out, lots of tourists.

We checked in, and headed to Splendor Mountain for a couple’s massage (wonderful) and then to the springs. The Glenwood Springs has several pools, and it is $20 per person entry during the day, less if you go at night. The $20 gives you all day coming and going, but we found that half an hour was enough for us – there were too many people! There is a ledge around the largest pool where people sit, and most of the seats were taken. People walked up and down the length of the pool. Too many people!

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The sulphuric water comes into this pool and is mixed with more water for the pools – this water, pure from the springs, also has a very strong smell that many people can’t stomach, although it is supposed to be very good for your health.

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We found a wonderful restaurant for dinner, the Italian Underground, thanks to our masseuses who told us how good the food was:
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Our beds at the Best Western Antler Lodge were lodge-y, I love a lodge look:

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This hotel is within walking distance of the Splendor Mountain Spa, the Glenwood Springs pools and surrounded by many restaurants. This is the breakfast room:

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May 3, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Beauty, Community, Cultural, Health Issues, Hotels, Local Lore, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Absolute Favorite, in Mancos, Colorado

Every now and then pure unexpected magic happens, a blessing, pure grace. Every now and then you make a stop and all the right things happen.

We had not enjoyed our breakfast the previous morning at the Far View Lodge, so we decided to get on the road early, and find a place to eat on the road. We were up and out by seven, and it took about half an hour just to get off the mesa and down to the main road. Once we hit the main road, we start looking for a good place to stop.

We see a sign: The Absolute Bakery in Mancos, Colorado, just turn right at the next stop light.

We turn right. We find the bakery, which looks cute from the outside:

And then we found a place to park, in front of a Hat-Maker’s Shop guarded by a beautiful long-haired cat. For me, the magic has already started. Did you even know of a hat maker anymore? I thought they had all disappeared:

As we walked into the Absolute Bakery, we were enticed with smells, the odor of break baking with cinnamon, the fragrance of freshly brewed coffee, bacon frying . . . and inside, it is homey, and welcoming, and you are warmly welcomed, and we just feel so glad to be there on this sunny morning when we have so far to drive . . .

The breakfast menu has so many good things, you don’t know what to order.

AdventureMan chose the VegHead Stack, which was totally wonderful:

And I chose the Absolute Breakfast special with Chorizo – total YUMMMMM:

The breakfasts are delicious, and as we eat, the bakery fills up, travelers, locals, families . . . it has the feel of a place we would like to live, a community, people who know each other.

You know how it is sometimes when you have so much to do, and you really need to get started? As we paid for our breakfast, instead of getting on the road, we dawdled. We picked out cookies for the road – I had the most huge delicious macaroon I have ever had, just a bite now and then, and it lasted all the way to Amarillo. We got to talking with travelers headed the direction we had come from, just strangers crossing paths, but it was a great conversation, and we hated to pull ourselves away, to get back to the serious business of driving.

Lunch was OK. It was BBQ, but someone forgot our order, so we lost some time:

To add insult to injury, not only is it a long day on the road, but we also loose an hour, so we get in even an hour later than we would have. As we near the border, I am watching my phone to see if I can see the change, but it happened about six miles before the border and I missed it. AdventureMan’s on the same system, but his phone changed a little later.

The morning drive was mostly through the Navajo nation and backroads, full of ranches and horses and some drama. The afternoon, on Interstate 40, was just boring, with an occasional moment of hilarity:

What can you imagine would use a tire that big?

We have reservations in Amarillo, and by the grace of God, our hotel is just off the highway, and my little iPhone tells us exactly how to get there. We hit the pool, and get some exercise. We split the last apple and some trail mix for dinner – we are still full from breakfast at the Absolute Bakery!

May 9, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Geography / Maps, iPhone, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 700 Years Tour at Mesa Verde

Early early in the morning we are up and ready to grab a bite of breakfast at the Far View Lodge and to take the 700 years tour. When we called for reservations at the Far View Lodge, the desk clerk asked if we would like to sign up for the 700 Years of Culture tour, and since Sparkle had told us that the tours fill up early, we signed up.

The light in Mesa Verde is beautiful at eight in the morning, and we were shocked when thirty-something people around our age (I guess we are all out exploring America!) got on the bus. Somehow, for $45, I had thought it would be a tour of five to seven people. I didn’t think so many people would pay so much for a tour!

The guide, Dave, and the bus driver, Leiter, were both local men, living in Cortez, men who double as guides a couple days a week to liven up their retirement. Dave’s depth of knowledge and investigative spirit was impressive; clearly he has a passion for the Ancestral Puebloans, and reads everything he can get his hands on. He has read all the latest studies and speculation, and as a farming man, he had some of his own down-to-earth speculations which he shared with us. It was all good stuff.

First, we went to look at early pit dwellings:

And then we headed off to visit some of the more and less famous cliff dwellings:

Does this remind you of anything? (Hint: see previous post)

Look at the terrain – so similar to other places where similar dwellings have evolved . . . (Hint Hint: Les Eyzies de Tayak) There are cliff dwellings in almost every conceivable concavity.

From pit dwellings to small family dwellings, to multiple family dwellings, small villages . . .

This is the Cliff Palace, a multiple family dwelling:

And then, the old legend goes, they just disappeared . . . or did they? Dave, the guide, tells us that the Apaches and Navajos won’t come any where near the Mesa, that the mesa is full of old spirits, not their spirits. The Hopi, however, a little further South, have no fear; the customs and dwellings of the Ancient Puebloans are familiar to them.

It’s kind of like conspiracy theories. We all love a good scary story.

“And then, they all just disappeared!”

But Dave thinks they didn’t disappear, that maybe they just moved on. Maybe too many years of drought, or maybe the soil they were farming gave out. Maybe they heard life was easier a few miles down the road and just picked up and moved a little on down the road . . . which seems to me to be a more logical, if less romantic, possibility.

Anyway, one of the things I really liked was that these ancient peoples, whoever they were, built their dwellings in locations and styles similar to the pre-France people of . . .umm . . . err. . . France.

I need to add a footnote here. This doesn’t happen to everybody, but it happened to me. Once I got to Grand Canyon, activities that I normally do without batting an eye began to be harder. I am a walker and a hiker, but any time I had to hike uphill in the Grand Canyon, I was huffing and puffing like a geezer. “Oh no! Oh no!” I was thinking to myself, “I must have some terrible respiratory condition! I’m suddenly getting old!”

Not so. As it turns out, I am just sensitive to high altitude. I should have known. I drove through Colorado once, and my eyes turned bright red, tiny little capillaries in my eyes burst.

At 8000 feet, in Mesa Verde, I could function, but sometimes found myself huffing and puffing. As soon as we descended a couple thousand feet, I was fine. Leiter, the bus driver, told me that many athletic teams train at high altitude so that when they perform, at a lower altitude, they will exceed themselves. It is such a relief to be able to move fast now, and not puff. I always took it for granted before. Not now.

May 9, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Building, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, France, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mesa Verde, Colorado and the Far View Lodge

Google Maps is pretty good; I use it on my computer, on my iPad and most of all, on my iPhone. I love that when I tell it to get me from Grand Canyon Village to Mesa Verde, Colorado, it gives me a variety of routes, with the exact mileage and estimated travel time for each. It is very accurate, and also gets us through small towns where you might have to change roads a time or two. You just make sure the pulsing blue ball is following the bright blue road. Piece of cake!

Most of the drive today is through the very large northwestern part of Arizona that is the Navajo Nation, and where they actually ARE on daylight savings time, so your phones change time when you cross into the Navajo Nation territory.

We make a stop at a place I’ve always wanted to visit – Four Corners. There, people can have their photo taken in four states – Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona – all at once.

There is actually a line.

Just about every time we cross a state line, we go to the Welcome Center, and almost every state still has them, thanks be to God. We think it is a great luxury, while states are struggling to build and repair infrastructure, and give people decent healthcare, struggling to meet their budgets, they still find a way to welcome the stranger. We always get good local maps there, and, even better, good local insights and information. We stop in Cortez and pick up some invaluable literature on the Ancestral Puebloans (used to be called the Anasazi) to read up on before our tour the next morning.

The drive up to Mesa Verde is long and it just goes up and up. I am fit, but I had a little trouble with the altitude in Grand Canyon, and Mesa Verde is even higher, 8,000 feet. I can do fine with normal things, but any incline and I find myself huffing and puffing like a pack-a-day person.

Far View Lodge is lovely.

And from our room, we have the most expansive view ever. We can see for miles. We can see mountains, and in front, we have deer grazing. AdventureMan spots a gorgeous bluebird, one of the prettiest I have ever seen.

I don’t know what happened to my photos of dinner at Metate Restaurant; dinner was spectacular. AdventureMan had the sweet-hot chili port tenderloin, and I had the wild platter, with a tiny elk steak, a quail and a piece of boar sausage. It was a fabulous dinner, and I was sure I had photographed it, but . . . no photos! Hmmm . . . . maybe a couple of glasses of wine addled my memory . . . ?

The lodge is lovely, but old. Although renovated, sound carried amazingly, and during the night, I can hear the gentleman next door struggling to breathe. He is gasping for breath, at this altitude. He is up often during the night, trying to breathe. How often do you hear the person next door breathing at night?

May 8, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Health Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments