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 1

Three weeks ago today, Danny and I loaded up our car and headed south on our very first road trip.  We’ve been on a variety of trips together, but most of them have been via plane or less than two hours away (by car), which I don’t really consider a road trip.  I was really excited for this trip – I have such fond memories of taking trips to Illinois to visit family and exploring Colorado and neighboring states by car throughout all of my growing up years – but then Danny started making me a little nervous in the weeks before our trip.  He said things here and there like, “I don’t really like road trips,” and “I don’t like driving for a long time.”  Uh oh.

When we got in the car around 7:30am on Thursday morning, we had at least six hours of driving ahead of us before we got to Santa Fe.  A long ways for my plane-preferring husband, but we were excited.

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We switched drivers every hour, which may have extended the time we were on the road a bit, but it seemed to work well for us.  Our first stop was in south Pueblo, and happened to be right next to this fun comics store that was right up Danny’s alley.  We took a few pictures, stretched our legs, and got on our way again.

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Another hour, another stop.  And look at those mountains in the background!  They were a lot closer than this picture makes them look, and I’m not going to lie…I was pretty happy when it was Danny’s turn to drive again so I could look out the window to my heart’s content without putting our lives in danger.

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And then on our final stop before we made it to our picnic lunch destination, we just pulled off on the side of the road.  I ran a couple of laps around the car and Danny stretched out…our GPS took us on some pretty deserted roads!

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We stopped for lunch at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.  There’s a rest area with picnic tables and bathrooms and even vendors selling different things (vague because I have no idea what they have – we didn’t look).  We ate our sandwiches while overlooking the gorge, and afterwards walked across the bridge.    The area is about 15 minutes from Taos, and for us, was totally worth it.  We thought the gorge was pretty neat, and a great place to stop for lunch and a little walk.  It’s also very unexpected – up until we were driving on the bridge, I thought we had the wrong address into our GPS – we had no idea we were approaching the gorge.

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After our time at the bridge, we headed into Taos.  Neither of us had been before, and while we weren’t there long enough to form much of an opinion, it seems kind of charming.  We stopped in the library to use the wi-fi for a couple of minutes and walked around the plaza.  Now, I don’t have a lot of experience with plazas, but Taos’ seemed pretty average.  We were there mid-day on a Thursday, so it was very quiet – we only stopped in a store or two, and enjoyed an especially beautiful blossoming tree.  A fairly quick visit as we had places to go.

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I was on the fence about Taos Pueblo up until we started our tour.  And I suppose, I still am on the fence about it.  I just wasn’t sure if it would be worth it, if it was a tourist trap, if it was ‘fake’ sort of like the Manitou Cliff Dwellings…I just couldn’t get a good feel for it from what I read online and in guide books.  In a small sense, it was sort of what Paris was like for me: a lot of people love it so I wanted to go and do it, but overall, it was overpriced and overhyped (in my opinion).  That being said, we did enjoy our tour and the chance to walk around a bit afterwards.  The weather was great, the scenery pretty, and the pueblo historical.  I’m glad that we went, but I do wish it cost less than $16 a person to get in.

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^^ We wanted to try some of the legendary Indian fry bread, but apparently taking a tour late in the day means they could be sold out, which was what happened to us.  So we got an (overpriced) cherry tortilla thingy.  It was okay.  ^^

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^^ There is something really historic and significant about this cemetery, but unfortunately, my memory is rather poor.  I guess you’ll just have to go and take the tour yourself.  Or Google it.  ^^

After our tour, we were ready to be done with the car and driving from place to place.  We drove the last hour to Santa Fe and checked into our hotel, the Villas de Santa Fe.  I stayed at the villas over Christmas years ago with my family, thanks to my grandparents’ timeshare, and was happy to find a Living Social deal offered for them recently.  We didn’t just have a room – we had a bedroom with two beds, a kitchenette, and a living room, access to the pool, hot tub, and game room, plus the all important free wi-fi for around $65 a night.  The location can’t be beat – it’s in a very central location in a quiet neighborhood, a block or two away from a Sprouts, and a short (five to ten minutes, depending on your pace) walk to the plaza.

We had dinner our first night at Bumble Bee Baja Grill.  Bumble Bee is a great place for all the people – their menu is extensive and is friendly to all types – those wanting gluten and those not, those wanting meat and those not, those wanting to spend a lot and those not.  My parents went to Bumble Bee a few times while they were in Santa Fe last year, and brought us back a menu, thinking it’d be somewhere we’d like.  They were right.  Check out Bumble Bee if you’re in Santa Fe and looking for good food, an unpretentious, down-to-earth atmosphere, and a lot of options.  They have two locations in town – we ate at the one down the street from our hotel off of Jefferson Street.

After dinner we walked to the plaza and wandered around a bit.  We were glad to have our jackets – it was chilly!  One thing I wasn’t expecting was that most of the shops were closed.  It wasn’t very late, but apparently most of them close around 5pm.  Maybe it was because we were there in the off-season – perhaps in the summer some places have expanded hours?

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There you have it – day one – our travels and stops from home to Santa Fe!

a skunk in the trunk

This post has been rolling around in my head for 30 hours now, so it’s about time I put fingers to keys and get it all written down before leaving town again.  (30 hours because that is how long I spent in Sofi’s car in the past three days, and by leaving town again I mean, don’t worry I’m not going back to Chihuahua (yet) – we are going to Greeley this weekend because FAMILY and also FRIENDS.)

First things first, the good news is, I made it.  Alive and in one piece and still in good spirits.  The bad news: I have contracted some sort of illness.  The type that makes my throat hurt and my nose sniffle and requires me to eat nothing but smoothies and juice.  Good thing I broke my juicer on Christmas and still haven’t bought that blender I’ve been wanting since we got married.

Now onto the real story…

Before we even left her apartment complex, Sofi told me that there’s a skunk that lives under her car, along with a rabbit.  I joked that this situation could result in some interesting offspring (which is true), but the more important thing here is that apparently skunks smell like marijuana.  And your car smelling like marijuana is definitely cause for worry when you are going to/from Mexico.

Our trip started with lots of fog, the “Peanut Butter” song on repeat, a lovely sunrise, and only one pit stop to use the bathroom – and that was just the first hour.  Oh, and I smelled the skunk for the first time.  We stopped at Burger King in Las Vegas, New Mexico for breakfast, however, the play place turned out to be much more interesting than the food.  At one point, Sofi went to get gas while I stayed with the kids at Burger King, and Ian tried to convince me to come into the tunnels of the play place.  I told him I was too big, and it seems that even at age 4 he knew that was a lie.  As I went in farther, I kept saying, “I’m too big!  I’m too big for this!” when what I was really saying inside was, “It’s too dirty!  Please don’t make me touch one more inch of this germ pit.”  And then I looked outside and couldn’t see Sofi’s car at the gas station anymore and wondered if she had left me in the tunnels of Burger King with her children…obviously she didn’t, but that was a real fear of mine.

Once we were back on the road after ‘breakfast,’ we made our first wrong turn.  This was when I first started wondering if the GPS was on our side or not.

And in case you’re wondering what driving through New Mexico is like, I’ll show you:

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Yes.  The ultimate in scenic drives.

Every so often, we would smell a skunk, and see something alongside the road, and put two and two together since I thought there was no way the skunk smell could travel hundreds of miles from Sofi’s apartment complex.

Around 2:30pm we were going to change drivers (after taking another wrong turn and going in the wrong direction for an hour) and took a bathroom break at a gas station in Tularosa, New Mexico.  The bathrooms were just awful and I decided to ‘hold it’ for a while longer until Sofi asked if I wanted to eat lunch at the gas station.  I wasn’t so sure about that, but agreed, and bought a package of dried apricots and wondered if I brought enough Clif bars.  Ian did tell me some knock knock jokes, which lifted my mood, and I even wrote down one of the jokes as soon as we got back in the car so I could share it with y’all…

Ian: “Knock knock.”

Me: “Who’s there?”

Ian: “Lollipop!”

Me: “Lollipop who?”

Ian: “Eyeball!”

Only a couple of jokes, 22 apricots, and 99 miles later, we made it the border.  One more stop for a restroom since I simply couldn’t ‘hold it’ anymore, and I called Danny for a final good-bye.  I also asked if he would be opposed to me staying in the Hampton Inn across the street until Monday at which point Sofi could pick me up and we could drive back to Colorado together.  Meaning I wouldn’t even enter Mexico.  What can I say?  13ish hours in the car with two children under 5, combined with waking up at 4am, and all the incredibly scary stories Sofi had told me about Mexico about being abducted/shot made me feel very, very desperate.  And very, very interested in the Hampton Inn and lying in bed for 36 hours straight.

Instead I pulled out my teddy bear, Bearemy, let him pose with Jimena for a picture, and then held him in my lap the rest of the way to Chihuahua.

DSC08323^^ Jimena and Bearemy.  Plus Ian doing his best to not be in the picture at all. ^^

Crossing the border into Mexico might have been one of the easiest things I’ve ever done.  “Where are you going?” the fellow asked (in Spanish, mind you, but there is no way I can remember how that went.)  Sofi told him Chihuahua and we were on our way.

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Right after our tires touched Mexican soil, and I could see the metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel, a sign said, “Chihuahua 362.”  I could only assume this meant 362 miles, so I looked at Sofi and said, “Did you see that sign?  We are SIX hours away I think.”  Prior to seeing that sign, I was under the impression we had three left.  I cannot even tell you how grateful I was when Sofi told me we were now talking kilometers and not miles.

One of the first things I noticed on the road was the large amount of tires.  Chunks of tires, strips of tires, bits and pieces of tires.  Apparently people use their tires until they literally cannot run anymore, and then they just blow up, leaving tire shrapnel everywhere.  As far as how people continue on their journey after a tire explosion is unknown, but I didn’t see any cars on the side of the road, so…I don’t know?  Cars can run with three tires instead of four in Mexico?

Also, until we got on the toll road, it felt like we were on a dirt road, even though we weren’t.  It seems that in Mexico you have to pay to drive on a road that feels semi-safe/paved, albeit very narrow and created for anorexic cars.  Keep in mind that there will still be tire pieces on the road though, no matter if it’s a toll road or a free road.

I tried not to look at the road as much as possible (Sofi was driving, don’t worry) in an attempt to keep my stress levels as low as possible, and saw this:

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If I remember correctly, Sofi called it the Chapel of the Sand Dunes, although a Google search I did today yielded no applicable results.  However, there are indeed sand dunes nearby.  The Samalayuca Dune Fields, to be exact.

Three hours turned into four, and we made it to Chihuahua (city) with only two showings of “The Jungle Book” and one bathroom stop.  After meeting Simon, Sofi’s husband, and her in-laws, I went straight to bed.  I forgot my pajamas at home so I figured the dress I wore all day could double as a nightgown, and called it a (very long) day.

I woke up at 6am confused as I smelled something I could not put my finger on and was in a room darker than my bedroom at home gets even in the middle of the night (praise you, black out curtains).  Turns out I was smelling menudo, or as Sofi explained to me, cow guts soup.  She had warned me this might be served, at which point I convinced her that cereal is really my favorite breakfast food ever.  Turns out Sofi’s mother-in-law is very accommodating to my vegan ways, and made me some bean burritos, which were made of possibly the best beans ever.

After breakfast I went outside to see if the jeans and sweatshirt I had packed would be suitable for the weather but got a little distracted…

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That Volkswagen beetle was made in Germany in the 1970’s, and still runs great.  So great, in fact, that it’s Sofi’s in-laws’ only car!  Oh, and the weather was beautiful too.

We went to Chihuahua’s biggest and only mall for a showing of The Lego Movie.  In Spanish, of course.  I have no idea what the movie is about, but I did find myself feeling sad when the buildings or vehicles or various other objects made of Legos would get smashed, because can you even imagine how long it took to make all those buildings and vehicles and so on and so forth?  At least four lifetimes.

Afterwards we went to Sofi’s grandma’s house and met so many people I figured they must be all of her living relatives, but when you have 98 cousins, as I found out Sofi does – and that’s just on your mom’s side of the family – seeing 15 people together at once is what you might call a small gathering.  Sofi’s great-grandmother has 98 great-grandchildren and 4 great-great-grandchildren, and she’s only 89 years old.  I can barely wrap my head around that, let alone think about remembering all their names and birthdays, which she does.

We wrapped up the afternoon with a trip to downtown Chihuahua.  The cathedral looked like it had been uprooted from some old European city and set down in the middle of Mexico just because, but no.  It was built there by the Spanish in 1725 and seems to be in excellent condition for being close to 300 years old.  (Correction: building began in 1725, but it wasn’t completed until 1826.)

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We also walked through the streets of downtown and toured the Government Palace.

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From 4:30 – 7:30pm I sat at the kitchen table and it may have been my favorite part of our trip.  There is no doubt that the kitchen is the hub of the home and I loved being at the center of the action, all while eating tasty food at the same time.  While I hung around the table, Sofi’s father-in-law invited Danny and I to come visit anytime and stay with him and his wife for free and see the sites of Chihuahua and the surrounding area.  I encountered Aunt Martha, who speaks excellent English and told me about her world travels and experiences teaching college students.  I watched food be made from real, whole, fresh ingredients and then eaten slowly and with great enjoyment.

I went to bed early and read until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, which happened to be around 8:50pm, but hey, lots of time in the car and a new country can do that to you.  I woke up earlier than I wanted to but felt rested nonetheless (that happens when you go to bed before nine), had some bean burritos for breakfast, and we got on the road.  We made it to the border in closer to three hours than four, but spent all the time we saved driving waiting for someone to look at our passports, check for drugs, and let us through.  Thankfully the skunk smell was not very strong at that time.

DSC08356^^ Two of the three fences separating the U.S. from Mexico.^^

The rest of our drive home was quick and uneventful, as we left the children with Simon and his parents in Chihuahua for a couple of weeks.  The most interesting things I saw on the way home was one sign that said “Orozco Bombing Range” and about five miles later another that said, “Valley of Fires Recreation Area.”  I think it’s fair to say that residents of (or visitors to) New Mexico like to live on the wild side.

I did, however, continue to smell the skunk at the most unusual of times, which prompted me to suggest to Sofi that perhaps there is a secret passageway into her trunk, and the skunk from her apartment complex traveled with us to Chihuahua and back…which after spending 30 hours in the car seems like a very real possibility.