santa fe days 3 and 4

On Saturday, our third day in Santa Fe, we drove about 45 minutes out of town to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.  (I’ll be referring to it as Tent Rocks, though.)  While I was in the shower that morning, I wondered if I should bring cash for the entrance fee at Tent Rocks, but just forgot.  Sure enough, we got to the gate and they rejected our credit card.  So, note to all of you future Tent Rocks visitors: bring some cash with you.  It’s only $5 per car, and there’s a gas station with an ATM about five minutes down the road, but we could have avoided a handful of fees by just bringing cash with us.

Tent Rocks is so neat.  I don’t know how it was formed, I don’t know why the rocks are the way they are, and I don’t know why the rangers at the gate don’t accept credit cards, but that’s okay.  My apologies for including more pictures than I can count, but as you’ll see, it was hard to resist…

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We combined the Cave Loop Trail and the Canyon Trail, and were hiking for a little less than three hours, although the total distance was only around 3 miles, we definitely took our time.  The weather was just right, and being that we were there in the spring, the crowds were definitely manageable.

We had a late lunch at Bumble Bee, and walked to Canyon Road in the afternoon, where we spent two hours wandering through galleries.  We enjoyed all of the paintings and sculptures and photographs, but got a little a tired by the end.  One highlight was seeing sculptures by my high school art teacher being sold at one of the galleries!  We also stopped for pictures at a few places we’d admired over the past couple of days and walked around the Santa Fe National Cemetery – a sobering, beautiful place.

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For dinner, we went to Thai Vegan, an Asian restaurant that offers only vegan food (two things that could probably be assumed from the name, but it never hurts to clarify).  The food was good, but the ambiance could probably be improved and the number of Hindu idols reduced just a tad.  On our way back to the hotel at night, we stopped at Trader Joe’s for some cookies that have been sold out every time we look for them at our TJ’s.

Sunday morning was snowy – not our favorite to see at the end of April, but we were just thankful it was on our last day and not on a day we wanted to be outside.  We packed up the car and went for breakfast at Annapurna’s (told you we wouldn’t be able to stay away!) where I had some banana cardamom pancakes that were just too good.  I’d gladly eat them once a week.

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Our drive home was rainy but largely uneventful as we took I-25 straight from Santa Fe to our apartment in north Colorado Springs.

I’m so glad we finally took a trip to Santa Fe.  Our route down, while a bit longer than necessary, was fun with stops at the Rio Grande Gorge and in Taos, and I felt like even though we were only in Santa Fe for a couple of days, we got a good taste for the town and it’s beauty.  There are many museums and hiking trails I would have liked to check out, but due to time and weather constraints, we just couldn’t do them all – now we have something to do the next time we go!

 

 

santa fe: day 2

Friday, our first full day in Santa Fe, began a bit rainy and cool, so we started our day indoors at the Palace of the Governors.  We arrived a little after 10am, wandered around a bit, and caught the 10:30am guided tour.  In retrospect, I’m not sure we would take the tour again.  It was a bit dry, but it did give us a good overview of New Mexico, and more specifically, Santa Fe, history.

The Palace of the Governors is connected to the New Mexico History Museum, and even though we were a bit done with learning and museum stuff after our tour, we decided to give it a try.  And we were so glad!  The history museum is so good.  If you are in Santa Fe, you should go.  It’s new, it’s high quality, it’s well done, it’s interesting, and (best of all?) it’s not overwhelmingly big.  Seriously, give it a chance.  I’d recommend going to the history museum first, and giving it your full attention, and then breezing through the Palace of the Governors, if for no other reason than it’s a neat, old, historic building.

DSC01569^^ Danny in the history museum, looking into the semi-covered wagon because there’s a video projected onto the inside of the cover.  Told you it was cool.  ^^

After the museum(s), we walked back to our hotel and headed to lunch.  We both had veggie burgers and fries at the Tune-Up Cafe, an eclectic and cute place with decent vegan options, and then headed for the New Mexico State Capitol.  We wandered through the halls and into the rotunda and felt a little like we were breaking the rules at times (even though we weren’t) since we were the only visitors there.  Compared to some of the more traditional state capitols out there, New Mexico’s certainly isn’t as grand or eye-catching, but it does have some fun and unique features, and we enjoyed getting to check it out a bit.

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^^ I know it’s not the best picture ever, but I have a picture of Mysteridge and I in front of this same buffalo from years ago, and just couldn’t resist.  It’s made of all sorts of random materials, and looks so cool both up close and far away. ^^

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The weather was just so dicey all day on Friday, that even though there’s so much great hiking in the area, we just weren’t sure if we were willing to take a chance and actually get outside for any length of time.  However, late in the afternoon, around 3:00, we decided to give it a shot.  We drove outside of town about 15-20 minutes to the Rio en Medio Trail, and got hiking.

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The trail follows a stream for about three miles to the base of a waterfall, and then continues up above the waterfall, to other (much smaller) waterfalls and pools.  I believe that the trail eventually leads to a good view of Santa Fe and the surrounding area, but going that far was never our intent.  We went to some of the upper waterfalls, but turned around so that we could have dinner at a reasonable hour.

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^^ Some people and their selfies… ;) ^^

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There were no other cars in the trailhead parking lot, and we saw no one but each other while hiking, which felt a little weird to me, especially since it’s such a great trail – it’s wooded, involves crossing the stream a few times (always fun), and is fairly flat the whole way.  I’d highly recommend checking it out if you’re in Santa Fe – I think we’d do it again if we went back.  I know it will look different depending on the season, and maybe next time we’d do the complete trail.  So peaceful and quiet and beautiful.

We made it back into town for a late dinner at Annapurna’s World Vegetarian Cafe.  It’s won the Best of Santa Fe award for Best Vegetarian Restaurant many years in a row now, and I can see why.  The menu is EXTENSIVE, and has many options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, for those who like Indian food and those who do not (me).  I had a hunch that we would really like Annapurna’s, and planned to go there early on in our trip, so that we would have a chance to go back again if we wanted to.  The menu suggests dessert first, so we gladly partook and shared a piece of (vegan) pecan pie before our entrées arrived.  It was great, as were our meals – I had the shepherd’s pie which was very good and Danny had the falafel wrap (which included quite possibly the best falafel we’ve had since we ate lunch at Camden Market in London last September).

And that was Friday!  A good mix of history and indoor exploring, as well as being outside (weather permitting) and, of course, plenty of tasty vegan food.

Check out day 1 here.

riverwalk ramblin’: our trip to san antonio

On Monday we got home from a very nice four days spent in San Antonio, Texas.  Danny had a work conference at the Embassy Suites, and in exchange for some volunteering, I was able to accompany him.

We arrived on Thursday afternoon, and after checking into our hotel, we met up with Danny’s co-workers and headed to dinner at Rosario’s.  Dinner was excellent, and I had fun getting to know some of Danny’s managers and co-workers.  Later on, Danny and I went for a quick walk along the riverwalk.  Our hotel was right on the riverwalk, but not on the busiest, most tourist-trodden part, which was nice.

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^^ Our hotel.  See it’s prime riverwalk location?  Pretty great. ^^

On Friday morning we enjoyed the breakfast buffet at the hotel (Embassy Suites has got that whole breakfast thing down!) and got to work.  Danny started his airport shuttle duties, and I worked on getting welcome gifts ready for the conference attendees.  In the afternoon, while Danny was still shuttling and there wasn’t anything for me to help with, I hit the riverwalk.  I posted some pictures of my wanderings here.  It was chilly (in the low 50’s) that afternoon, but I kept moving and ended up seeing a lot of the riverwalk.  In the evening, we ate dinner at the hotel and participated in the first session of the conference. The keynote speaker was Tony Wolf, who is a comedian, speaker, and advocate for Compassion, and I think that we all really enjoyed him and what he had to share.

On Saturday, breakfast was followed by another main session, and then a breakout session.  The breakout sessions were specifically geared towards advocates, church partners, volunteer coordinators, etc. and not really applicable to me, so I went up to the room and happened upon a parade going by outside our window. Apparently, to kick off the San Antonio Rodeo, they parade longhorns and covered wagons and battle re-enactors through the streets of downtown San Antonio, and I caught it at just the right time.  I joined up with everyone for lunch, and then struck out on my own while Danny helped with three more breakout sessions.  I worked out and, of course, walked along the riverwalk again, but on a different section, and this time, the sun was out and it was in the mid-60’s.  I was thankful I didn’t bring my jacket, and kept my cardigan in my bag almost the whole time, leaving me walking the riverwalk in just a short-sleeved shirt – it was so great!

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On Saturday evening, everyone attending/working/volunteering at the conference walked to Rita’s for dinner.  Again, good food and great company.  In the evening, back at the hotel, we enjoyed dessert and line dancing.  Danny was the star of the show with his dance moves, while I ate chocolate strawberries and got to know some of his coworkers better on the sidelines.

Sunday morning the conference wrapped up with breakfast and another main session, this time led by Carlos Whittaker, who is funny and full of good stories.  We ate a boxed lunch and helped with tear down until about 1:30pm, at which point everything (on the work end of things) was done.

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Once we were released from duty, we walked (while rolling our suitcases behind us) to our next hotel, the Hyatt Place.  The reason we switched hotels for just one night was simple: our lodging was covered while the conference was going on and Danny was working, but once it was over, we were on our own, and the Embassy Suites wasn’t in our price range.  The Hyatt Place was great, though – still on the riverwalk, just about ten minutes south.

Danny had only been to the riverwalk on our first night when we walked around a bit at night, and then when we all went to dinner at Rita’s (which is located along the riverwalk).  Both times were at night, and were pretty short, so we dropped off our luggage and got walking.  It was a beautiful day, with temperatures in the low 70’s – definitely warm enough for some ice cream.  We found Mr. Ice Cream, a shop along the riverwalk with great prices for such a high traffic area.  We each got a single, which I figured meant one scoop for each of us, but no.  For $6 total we each got three scoops of ice cream, which was more than enough and a great mid-afternoon treat.   In addition to the riverwalk, we explored Market Square – a neat area with lots of restaurants, booths, shops, and vendors.  If we had more time, we could have spent a couple of hours browsing, taking in the live entertainment, and eating some good food.  Since our daylight hours were limited at that point, though, we wandered around just a little and watched some precious dancers before moving on.

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We had dinner at Mad Dogs British Pub along the riverwalk – what a perfect night for eating outside!  Mad Dogs has a vegetarian section on their menu, which was why we chose it.  I had the veggie burger and Danny had the bangers and mash.  I know that British food is pretty un-San Antonio, but we’d had quite a bit of Tex-Mex throughout the weekend, and decided to try something different.  The food was fine, but the best part was definitely the location.  We walked along the riverwalk until it was dark, and then turned in for the night.

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On Monday we worked out, ate breakfast, checked out of the hotel, and walked along the riverwalk to get on a boat tour.  We had planned to do the boat tour on Sunday, but the weekend was full of crowds and tourists, so we decided to wait until Monday when we thought it might be a little less crowded.  Sure enough, it was only us and five others on our riverwalk boat tour.

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After the boat tour, we walked to the Rivercenter Mall, where we took in the Alamo IMAX.  Before going to see it, I read some reviews online and found out that the movie was made in 1988, and twenty-seven years later, is still being shown ten times a day.

Now, if you’re going to San Antonio, I wouldn’t recommend that you go see this movie.  Tickets are $12.50 a person, and the movie is less than 45 minutes long – pretty pricey if you ask me.  We knew all this going in, but went anyways because Danny is given a small allotment for entertainment when he travels for work, and since he didn’t use it during the conference, we used it for the movie.  The movie does give a good overview of the Alamo and it’s significance in Texas history.

After the movie, it felt only right to go visit the Alamo in all it’s glory.  But first, lunch.  We walked to Sweet Yams Organic, which really wasn’t all that far away, but we got lost a little bit and almost didn’t find it except that Danny realized that something we thought was just graffiti (it was kind of a sketchy area) was actually the sign for the restaurant.  The food was great, though – definitely some of the best of the trip.

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And then, the Alamo.  Monday was a perfect time to go – very few tourists and the best weather we had our whole trip.  Actually, probably the best weather I think we’ve experienced since we were at Versailles last September, where it was quite warm and we were totally overdressed.  Same story at the Alamo: it was in the 80’s and we were wearing too many clothes (jeans for me and a long sleeved shirt for Danny).  We didn’t spend a lot of time at the Alamo (there isn’t much to see – but don’t tell the Texans – they love that place), but we did get a good look around and take a few pictures.

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After the Alamo we were hot and in need of some more ice cream.  This time, though, we were aware of the massive portions Mr. Ice Cream offers and decided to split a cup of cookie dough.  It was good, but we decided that we need to make our own ice cream soon because our homemade cookie dough chunks would (probably) be much better than the pellets in our ice cream.  We ate on a bench along the riverwalk and while we were doing so, one of the hosts at a nearby restaurant saw us and came over and asked if we wanted him to take our picture.  I mean, yes!  Always yes!  Any picture that’s not a selfie is always good.  What a nice guy.

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We walked along the river for a while longer until we were so hot and sweaty that we decided to head to the airport a little bit earlier than planned.  Since we didn’t rent a car (it was going to be about $80 for the 26ish hours we needed it), we were going to just take a taxi to the airport (estimated around $35), but then I heard about Uber.  I’d heard of Uber before, but never paid much attention, because, well, I’ve never had a need for such a service (Uber, to my understanding, is like a taxi but a little different – someone drives you where you need to go in their personal car and thus is usually cheaper).  But Uber told me our ride to the airport would be about $10 less than the taxi, so we decided to give it a chance.  The ride ended up being only $17, and now I’m sold on Uber.  It was kind of like the first time we used Airbnb – we were kind of nervous, but willing to take a risk in order to save some serious money – and it worked out great.

We had a great time in San Antonio.  It was the perfect little getaway (although it was definitely more of a vacation for me than Danny since he was primarily working) and I’m so thankful that we were able to go and be a part of the Compassion conference and enjoy a beautiful long weekend in San Antonio.

christmas 2014

We kicked off the 2014 Christmas season by putting up our Christmas tree about two weeks before Thanksgiving.  Last year was similar: we couldn’t wait any longer, so we just put it up.  We chose a snowy Sunday that we deemed too dangerous to drive to church, and spent the morning getting the tree set up and lit (thanks to Danny for spending over an hour on the lights!).  We hung the ornaments a couple of nights later (I like to put them on when it’s dark out and only the Christmas tree lights are on), and I decorated the rest of the house after Thanksgiving.

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^^ Danny in his traditional putting the tree up attire. ;) ^^

We helped put up my parents’ tree on the night before Thanksgiving (seen here), and helped Danny’s parents, alongside his brother and his wife, on the day after Thanksgiving.

All throughout December, we watched Christmas movies, as many as we could get our hands on (from the library) – The Santa Clause 1, 2, and 3 (next year we’ll definitely skip all but the first), Arthur Christmas, and The Christmas Card.  Next year we really need to make it a priority to watch Elf, Home Alone, and White Christmas, all ones that we intended to watch but didn’t get until after Christmas…at which point we weren’t feeling too Christmas-y anymore (even though our tree was is still up).

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^^ Watching The Santa Clause and stringing popcorn and cranberries for the tree. ^^

During the first full weekend in December, we met up with my parents and Mysteridge and spent Saturday morning volunteering at the Operation Christmas Child processing center in Denver.  We’ve been doing this for as long as Mysteridge and I have been old enough, and always enjoy it very much.

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In what’s becoming an unintentional annual tradition, we had lunch at Chipotle afterwards and then checked into our hotel.  We relaxed in the afternoon before heading downtown for the Parade of Lights.  When I was growing up, we went to the Parade of Lights almost every year, but then in high school and college, we got busy, and it just didn’t happen for a while.  This year, however, we made it a priority and made plans three months in advance to spend that weekend in Denver and go to the parade.  It was cold, but not too cold, and a lot of fun.  I love the big balloons, marching bands, and the magic of a nighttime parade, lit up mostly by Christmas lights.  After the parade, we were ready for a snack, and Mysteridge suggested Voodoo Doughnuts.  It was our first time, and I think we all thoroughly enjoyed our treats, which we picked up and ate back at the hotel.  I had no idea they had such a large selection of vegan doughnuts!

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The next day we ate breakfast at the hotel and walked around the 16th Street Mall before parting ways with my parents and Mysteridge.  Danny and I had lunch at a hot dog place with vegan dogs on the menu, spent some time at Barnes & Noble, and met our friends Amanda and Oliver for an afternoon of coffee and homemade vegan pop tarts.

Two days later, Danny left for Charleston and I joined him a few days later.  The day we got back from Charleston was Danny’s company Christmas party at the Broadmoor.  We had fun dressing up, eating tasty food, listening to great music (Denver & The Mile High Orchestra), and seeing many of Danny’s friends and coworkers.

P.S. I know the picture of us is a tad blurry, but it’s all I’ve got. :)

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The following weekend, the last before Christmas, we went to Greeley for the wedding of our friends Andrew and Anna Gray, and were able to squeeze in some Christmas activities while we were there, including making and decorating Christmas cookies and driving around to look at Christmas lights.

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On the eve of Christmas Eve, my parents came down to our place to spend the next couple of days.  We spend the first day visiting Danny at Compassion, wandering around Bass Pro, eating our traditional meal of chili and cornbread for dinner, and going to the Electric Safari at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

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On Christmas Eve, we went to church with Danny’s parents and siblings, had dinner with them, and opened gifts together.  It was a very nice evening, and we were so busy having fun, I forgot to take any pictures!  Next year I will really try to do better.

On Christmas morning, we opened stockings, ate blueberry coffee cake, and gave gifts to each other.  Christmas morning is my favorite…the food, the gifts, being together, wearing our pj’s…I just love it.

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^^ Our stocking have become too heavy to be hung by the fire with care. ^^

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^^ Best meal of the year?  Quite possibly. ^^

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^^ I know it looks like a misshapen tennis racket, but turns out it’s actually for racquetball!  And I obviously don’t know how to spell racquetball because the computer kept trying to correct it and I kept writing ‘racketball’ until I finally Googled it and realized I was way off. ^^

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^^ “Find Momo,” one of 2014’s best book finds. ^^

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^^ I surprised Danny with a helicopter (and I say surprised because I think we ended up buying almost all of our own gifts, and this was probably one of the only things he didn’t know he was getting) and he played with it until it died within 24 hours.  Sad but true.  Hopefully next year Santa will bring a higher quality helicopter.  ^^

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^^ Some of my Christmas morning spoils. ^^

In the afternoon, we went to my aunt and uncle’s for lunch/dinner, games, and a few more presents.

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^^ My grandparents, two of their three kids, four of their seven grandkids, plus Danny. ^^

The next day we played games and relaxed while Danny was back to work (I took the day off).  My parents and Mysteridge left in the afternoon, and we started slipping into our January hibernation.  Compared to the busyness of December, January has pretty much consisted of going to work during the day and staying inside all evening, watching movies, playing games, and enjoying the tree some more.  Don’t worry though, we’re having a little Super Bowl gathering this weekend and I’ve decided that the tree must be down and put away before then.  But before that…one more Christmas gem:

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sunrise to sunset – day 4

On our last full day in Charleston, we decided to wake up early and watch the sunrise since we had such fun with the sunset the day before.  We looked at the Weather Channel App on our phones to figure out what time to expect the sunrise, and got up at 6am in order to make it to Sullivan’s Island in time.  Sullivan’s Island Beach is only about ten minutes away from the Charleston Harbor Resort by car, and we found parking pretty easily since it was so early.  We walked down the path and onto the beach and this is the first thing we saw…

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…it was gorgeous and cold and we had the beach to ourselves.  Danny hunted for sand dollars and star fish, and we even came across a stranded jellyfish or two.

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 Once the sun was up and the magic of the early morning light was fading, or, our hands go so cold we had to leave, we hit up the breakfast buffet at the hotel.  Turns out the breakfast buffet turns into a sit-down meal during the week, and the waitress told us we could order anything and everything on the menu and it would be covered by our Groupon.  We clarified a couple of times to make sure we really understood correctly and then went for it.  Danny ended up with the smoked salmon, a bagel, breakfast potatoes, and two pop tarts.  I thought I was going a bit…lighter?…with the fruit plate, toast, and breakfast potatoes.  But look at that fruit plate!  It wasn’t exactly light, but it was awesome.

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We packed up and drove down the road (literally about one or two minutes) to Patriot’s Point.  When we first decided to go to Charleston, I was searching for Groupons in the area and found one for Patriot’s Point at 50% off, and went for it.  There’s a lot to see at Patriot’s Point: the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier that fought in World War II, the USS Laffey destroyer, the USS Clamagore submarine, and a Vietnam Experience Exhibit.  We spent about four hours exploring and climbing and learning.

We started out on the USS Yorktown.  We visited the dentist, the kitchens, the living and working areas, the fire and engine rooms, the flight deck and bridge, just to name a few.

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^^ Danny’s looking a bit concerned because he was preparing to go to the dentist for real a few days later. ^^

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^^ Danny’s standing in front of what it took to make 10,000 chocolate chip cookies on board the USS Yorktown – 500 eggs, 165 pounds of flour, 3 cups vanilla, and more.  And just look at that beater he’s holding!  With around 3,500 people onboard, they needed a lot of cookies!  ^^

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^^ This is an Apollo 8 simulator that, until right now, we thought was actually Apollo 8.  Turns out the real deal is in Chicago in a museum.  It was pretty crazy to imagine being onboard Apollo 8 as it spend six days traveling to the moon’s orbit and then back to earth.  The USS Yorktown actually picked up Apollo 8 after it splashed down in the Pacific Ocean in December 1968, which is why they have a simulator on board. ^^

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^^ The size of the USS Yorktown is really unbelievable.  Just look at how she towers over Danny. ^^

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^^ The USS Laffey fought in World War II and in April of 1945 was hit by 22 Japanese bombers and suicide kamikazes, but was kept afloat by the 336 man crew who fought back and shot down eleven of the attackers.  It was pretty neat exploring vessels that played an important part in American history. ^^

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^^ The USS Clamagore was commissioned just a few weeks before World War II ended, and thus missed out on the action of war, and spent most of her days operating out of Key West and Charleston.  The Clamagore was especially interesting for us because Keith, Danny’s dad, served on a submarine while he was in the navy.  Walking through the (very) narrow passageways and imagining ourselves living in such a small, dark, cramped space underwater for so long was pretty crazy. ^^

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From there, we went through the new Vietnam Experience Exhibit.  I found this part particularly fascinating.  Perhaps because I’ve toured a couple of aircraft carriers before, and we explored the HMS Belfast in London just three months prior, and for me at least, all of those ships start blending together, but I haven’t been to many museums or interactive experiences about the Vietnam War.  We walked through a replica of a support base, which included bunkers, a mess hall, and an observation tower.  There was also a river patrol boat, ambulance, and three different helicopters that were all used in Vietnam.  We accidentally got into a part of tour with some Vietnam veterans that had been a part of some of the battles portrayed in the exhibit, which really brought things to life for me.

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After Patriot’s Point, we went to the Brown Dog Deli for lunch, just like on our first day – we just couldn’t beat their reasonable prices and great food, not to mention the convenience of being familiar with where it was, parking, and all that good stuff.

After lunch we went back to The Battery for a stroll, explored some charming side streets, and stopped for one last look at Rainbow Row for one last classic Charleston hurrah.

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^^ That’s our little red rental car in the bottom of the picture! ^^

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^^ Charleston is so charming (and classy!) at Christmas.  No inflatable Santas here. ^^

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At this point, we had about three hours before we had to return our rental car.  We took a gamble and decided to drive out to Folly Beach on James Island.  Once we got there, it was worth it, but we hit a lot of traffic on our way there, which resulted in a pretty limited amount of time at the beach.  We found a place to leave the car, put on our flip flops, and hit the beach.  Walking down the steps and through the grass, it seemed like any ordinary beach, but it wasn’t long before we discovered it was really special…

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…the way the clouds reflected off of the water was amazing.  What a special moment that we caught as the sun was going down.

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^^ Folly Beach was also chock-full of starfish.  I mean, we were pumped to find two on Sullivan’s Island that morning, but little did we know that we would literally see hundreds later on that day.  It was unreal. ^^

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^^ Confession time: we brought some starfish home with us.  Being the animal lovers and vegans that we are, though, we made sure that they were really dead before we took them.  They spent about a month in our freezer, and now they’re in a plastic grocery bag on our kitchen table, so I’d say they have a better life with us anyways ;) ^^

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^^ This is, I think, a horseshoe crab we found on the beach.  Although he was very dead, we left him there.  Gotta draw a line somewhere.  ^^

The sunset ended, which made it easier to leave the beach, which was good since it was after 6pm and we had to return our rental car by 7pm.  We checked into our hotel, Aloft, unloaded our luggage and starfish, brought the rental car back to Hertz, and took the shuttle back to the hotel.  After much hemming and hawing, we finally decided to just order pizza for dinner.  It arrived around 9pm, a couple of the toppings we’d ordered.  We called, and they sent another pizza…around 10pm.  It was a late night of eating lots (and lots) of pizza, washing off the starfish and wondering if they were such a good idea as their scent overwhelmed our small hotel room (Aloft hotels may have style, but the rooms are small).

Day 4 was great.  We squeezed a lot in, we were up early, and we stayed up late.  Patriot’s Point wasn’t our favorite, but most of the time we felt like the only ones there, which was really nice.  The displays were old (possibly original to when the Yorktown was opened as a museum in 1975) and an audio guide tour included in admission would have been nice.  The time we spent at the beach in the morning and the evening, though, was definitely the highlight of our day.  I won’t soon forget that sunset and the beach covered in starfish.

We snuck in a little bit of sleep and got up bright and early the next morning and caught our 3:30am shuttle to the airport so that we could board our flight at 5am.  But before we could board, the worst part of our trip…

Some background: before we left Colorado, I grabbed a bunch of one dollar bills – we rarely carry cash when we travel, so we often find ourselves in a bind when we take shuttles, taxis, etc. – you know, situations where you should give a small tip.  So I tried to prepare ahead of time for these sorts of things.  Well, between having to pay to park all over Charleston and having to tip a few more times than anticipated, we were fresh out of any sort of cash when we got dropped off at the airport that morning. The driver had been talking about how important the tips were to him on the drive, though, and we were getting really anxious as we arrived at the terminal.  Nothing was open at that time so we had to use an ATM and withdraw a $20 bill, which was really like $25 since there were a couple of fees added on for the ‘convenience’ of using it.  I begged a store that was just opening to make change for me but they refused.  So we tipped our shuttle driver $20 for driving us to the airport, something we’d already paid the hotel for. It was a frustrating start to our day, but we knew that it would bless our driver and felt like we were left without much of a choice.

We ate our leftover pizza before going through security, flew to Charlotte, and then onto Denver without any trouble.  We arrived home in time to throw in a load of laundry and get ready for Danny’s work Christmas party, which was that evening.  Phew.  It was a long day, but we were glad to be home.

I’m so glad that we decided to tack on some time to Danny’s work retreat, and see some of Charleston.  I left feeling like we had seen everything I wanted to, which is always a good feeling at the end of a trip.  Sometime I’d love to return when it’s warm enough to enjoy the water and tour some of the nearby plantations and historic homes.

If I learned two things about Charleston, it’s this: it’s charming and it’s accessible.  I don’t need to explain charming, I think.  I mean, just Google ‘Charleston’ and you’ll be convinced.  As far as accessible goes, it’s not a huge city (London and Paris, I’m looking at you) where you could spend weeks and still not see it all.  After only a day or two we felt comfortable getting to and from and around the downtown area without our GPS.  We battled traffic only on the last day, when we were joining everyone and their brother trying to get home from work on a Monday evening.  I think it’s unusual to find a city with so much history and so much to see and do but have it still feel so small and accessible.  We really appreciated that about Charleston.

December was an excellent time to visit Charleston – no humidity, beautiful Christmas decorations, no crowds, deals all over the place (remember all the Groupons?) – and I felt like four days was just about right to see everything we wanted to.  Although, I’ll admit, I wouldn’t have complained about some more beach time…but who wouldn’t?  Thanks, Charleston, for being the perfect getaway from the cold and snow of Colorado.  We’ll be back.

a bit of catch-up

Seeing how it’s been nearly two months since I’ve been around these parts, it feels necessary to do a bit of ‘catching-up’ before diving into it all.

November felt like the calm before the storm, which hit right around Thanksgiving.  We spent the week leading up to Thanksgiving in Greeley, Thanksgiving day with my family (for lunch) and Danny’s (for dinner), and the days after Thanksgiving working.

And then: December.

I don’t think I need to explain to anyone what December is typically like (crazy busy but fun and magical and cold and maybe even a bit stressful, am I right?).  We spent 11 out of the 24 days leading up to Christmas out of town, and while I wouldn’t have had it any other way, it was busy.

And now, January.  We haven’t really been leaving the house except for going to work and to the grocery store.  You know, just the essentials.  And it has felt really good.  I think that, for Coloradans at least, that’s part of the beauty of January.  It’s cold and snowy and only light out for about nine hours a day, so you stay inside and start a fire in the fireplace and leave up the pretty, twinkling Christmas tree, and play with your Christmas presents and do all the reading, movie watching, and game playing you don’t do in the summer (because that’s when you’re outside as much as possible).  At least that’s how it feels for me.

So without further ado, four of my favorite pictures from the two months I’ve been away from this little blog…

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^^ I know this picture is about as blurry as it gets, but I keep going back to it.  Of course, I wish it wasn’t blurry, but it captures one of my very favorite nights of the year: decorating the Christmas tree with my parents and Mysteridge.  It’s become a day-before-Thanksgiving tradition since Danny and I have had to leave Greeley on Thanksgiving day the past two years, but whatever day it happens, it’s my favorite. ^^

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^^ Danny and I spent four full days in Charleston, South Carolina together in mid-December, and it was the best.  I mean, obviously.  Just look at that sunset and its Atlantic reflection.  ^^

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^^ I love Christmas morning.  The three of us during a break in the action. ^^

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^^ Danny and I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary on January 3rd with a weekend getaway to Boulder.  I’m usually quite the critic, but this weekend was pretty perfect. ^^

I’ll be back soon with more Thanksgiving, Charleston, Christmas, and anniversary goodness.

weekends

Currently, it’s one degree outside and the high for today is two degrees.  I’ve had the past couple of days off, and needless to say, I haven’t left the house in the past 48 hours.  I’d been seeing the forecasts for cold weather and perhaps even a touch of snow, so I took Monday morning as an opportunity to get some provisions and run some errands while it was still in the 60’s.  I figured it might be unnecessary since weather forecasts seem to change by the minute and are often unreliable, but now I’m oh so thankful that I did.

Last year I had some bad experiences driving in the snow and ice, and as a result, I’ve been dreading our first snow (and every one that will come after it) for months now.  In fact, I’ve gotten so serious about it that I’ve been talking about moving to Texas, which probably won’t happen, but somehow makes me feel better.  That, and the fact that I’ve convinced Danny to drive me to (and I guess, from) work for the foreseeable future.  The weather has me wishing for a good public transportation system (like, for example, London’s underground) so I can get around and not be at risk for spinning out in intersections and flying off the side of I-25’s on and off ramps (yes, I have experienced both of those to some degree).

The reality is, though, that we had a beautiful fall and the fact that we are just having our first real cold spell this week, the second week of November…well, I can’t really complain.  This is Colorado, after all, and our apartment sits at an elevation of around 7,100 feet, so what we’re experiencing is pretty normal.   Speaking of our beautiful fall, we tried our best to take advantage of our weekends and the pretty weather and spend time outside as much as we could.  A few highlights from the past month or so…

One Sunday after church we went to Castle Rock for a hike we went on last year over Danny’s birthday weekend.  The hike is an easy trail above Mitchell Creek Canyon and last year we caught it at a perfect time for fall colors.  This year we were a bit late for the best of the leaves, but we basically had the trail all to ourselves, and the weather was perfect, which made for a lovely afternoon.

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One Saturday recently Danny figured out our bike rack and we drove up to Denver.  We met our friends Nick and Jessie for lunch at Hacienda Colorado, visited the Butterfly Pavilion (thanks, Grandma and Grandpa!), and rode our bikes on the Dry Creek Trail.

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This past weekend we (literally) walked across the street to the Western Museum of Mining and Industry for a guided tour and a look-see around the museum.  We really enjoyed learning about the history of mining in Colorado and other nearby states, and I’m glad that after living across the street from the museum for nearly two years, we’ve finally paid it a visit.  After we finished up at the museum, we drove up to Palmer Lake to play their disc golf course before the sun went down.  Danny’s played it quite a few times in the past couple of weeks with different friends, and finally convinced me to give it a try.  It’s a very nice course, but only 9 holes, so for us, it took as long to drive there and back as it did to play the course.

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On Sunday we had lunch at Mark and Allison’s after church before going to the zoo together.  They’d never been before, and we hadn’t been in a couple of months, so combined with the beautiful weather, it was a great afternoon.  I love going to the zoo in the spring and fall, as it’s not too cold (winter, I’m looking at you) and not packed with strollers and wagons and day care groups (summer, obviously) either.  A few highlights of this trip were getting up close and personal with giraffes (take a look at Danny’s great giraffe selfie!), watching a mountain lion training session, and seeing the moose come right up to the fence (normally he stays far away from people, but this time he was so friendly!).

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In the spirit of all that weekend fun, now seems as good a time as any to break the good news that before too long, I won’t be working on Saturdays anymore!  For eight months, I worked every Saturday, and for the past four months, I’ve been working every other Saturday, and if all goes as planned, sometime in December I’ll start a new schedule that includes NO Saturdays!  We couldn’t be more thankful and excited about this new development and Danny and I are looking forward to having more time off at the same time as each other as well as more chances to explore Colorado Springs and the surrounding area.