Roadtrip: Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado…

I just got back Wednesday night from my roadtrip to Denver to see my friend Juliana, her husband and their new baby.  It was such a wonderful trip!

The drive was fantastic, although I’ll admit it’s really only something I’d like to do once.  We also had planned to come back a different way to mix it up (go down through the mountain area near salt lake and then cut back up to Wyoming), but the day before we left it suddenly went from upper 70s, sunny, and gorgeous to cold, dark, and snowy/rainy!  So we figured for safety sake we should go back the way we came.    Also, we had contemplated going up on a more northern route through Wyoming and stopping by Yosemite but we ran out of time.   We probably should have left Denver a day sooner so we could do the Yosemite thing, but I just didn’t want to leave!

Anyway, so the point is that we drove the exact same way there and back.  But all was not lost (in terms of any possibility of being bored just seeing the same things again) because on the way back it was light in areas that had been dark on the way there, and in Wyoming there was snow which was BEAUTIFUL! Becky (my roadtrip partner) and I were both taking pictures the whole time, even whichever one of us was driving 😉  So, almost all of my shots were taken while in motion, and most of the time through the windshield or side window glass.  I’m amazed some of them turned out as well as they did given the circumstances!

On the way there, we drove Portland to Nampa, Idaho (about 6 hours) and then stayed the night there before continuing on to Denver (about 13 hours) the next day.   On the way back, we did the same thing (stopped in Nampa).  We also stopped in Hood River where Becky is from (about an hour before getting back to Portland) for a late lunch and a little shopping 🙂

All in all, the road trip part of the experience was awesome!  People had told me Wyoming would be boring (scenery-wise) but we LOVED Wyoming!  I have a huge album up on facebook for those of you that are my facebook friends, but for those who are just happening upon my blog, here are a few of the pics from the roadtrip:

Driving in Northern Utah

Driving in Northern Utah

One of many types of varied terrain in Wyoming

One of many types of varied terrain in Wyoming

More Wyoming :)

More Wyoming 🙂

A little Colorado on the way back...

A little Colorado on the way back...

(Admittedly, I didn’t get a lot of Colorado scenery because it was dark on our way there, and then it was just getting light on our way out.. but it looked a lot like the pics from my last trip to Colorado with rolling hills and mountains off in the distance :))

Colorado has some red rocks too :)  (w/ Becky's hand)

Colorado has some red rocks too 🙂 (w/ Becky's hand)

Snow in Wyoming :)

Snow in Wyoming 🙂

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Me using my Giant-Skills to touch the Utah sign :-)

Me using my Giant-Skills to touch the Utah sign 🙂

More Utah... I was a big fan :-)

More Utah... I was a big fan 🙂

Southern Idaho was mostly brown, flatness.. but also some very lush green crops

Southern Idaho was mostly brown, flatness.. but also some very lush green crops

The Columbia Gorge (back in Oregon)

The Columbia Gorge (back in Oregon)

I’ll update more later on our time actually in Denver, but for now, I hope you enjoyed the pics I posted from my pictures while flying by at 80MPH skills 😉

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Denver Bound!

I haven’t even caught up yet and I’m off to travel again! Tonight my friend Becky and I are roadtripping to Denver! Get excited for some awesome pics of Wyoming 😉

I get back next Wednesday, and leave for a short trip to L.A. the following Monday. I have been nominated for an awesome award that is law school related so I have to go down to a luncheon to receive it 🙂

Finally, after that trip, I will be resting in Oregon for awhile so I can finally catch up here, and finally get on my to do list before work starts (coffee table photo books of my europe photos, childrens book for my niece, crafting a budget, long overdue thank you notes, etc etc) 🙂

Jumping ahead a little… Oakland Airport.

I flew out of Houston, Texas on August 28th headed to L.A. to help my boyfriend pack up his apartment and move things into my storage unit (he’s letting me use his furniture.. free storage for him, great deal for me!).   On the way, I had a layover at the Oakland Airport.  I’m not really sure if I’ve had a layover there before, but I don’t think so.  Despite never hearing anything particularly good about Oakland (California..), I really liked the airport!  There are beautiful views from the airport windows of the bay and planes coming into land just over the bay and touching down on the runway just beyond the sand.  I LOVED it!

Oakland Airport Windows

Oakland Airport Windows

There are two other things I loved: first, free wifi!  It is always a pleasant surprise to me when I find an airport with free wifi.  I’ll admit it doesn’t actually affect me much anymore, because now with the iphone I can do pretty much anything I need to do without access to a wifi connection.  But for those who are iPhoneless, and even for me when I have an hour to spare and the desire to finally update my blog, free wifi connections are amazing!  (Of course, that blog I wrote ultimately got lost in technical error land… but had that not happened, I would have had a brilliant blog post up thanks to Oakland airport wifi!).

The other thing I loved: The name is suddenly escaping me, but there was a mexican restaurant in the airport, and I’m pretty sure the name started with an “A”.  I got a delicious mesquite grilled chicken salad and a margarita.  It was fantastic! Definitely the best airport food I’ve had!  (Although, that is also because I’ve tended to be a cheapo and always look for the cheapest thing possible to eat during layovers in airports).  I had a long few weeks, and I realized that it would be nice to sit down at an actual restaurant and get something yummy instead of something cheap.  The salad was only $8 or $9 so really not any different than a regular restaurant. Anyway, it was delicious! Go there if you ever have a layover in Oakland! 🙂

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It’s taking awhile for me to come to the realization that I can actually afford things now.  I grew up poor and I’ve worked my way through college and law school, and so a lot of the time I’m still that penny pinching girl looking for the cheapest option available.  And I have to tell myself, “Michelle… you have money now.  You can afford a yummy salad.  You don’t have to settle for a bagel at starbucks or a bag of pretzels from the newstand.”   I’m still working on finding a balance between acting like I’m still poor vs. just blowing money.

Now on to the real point of this post: the salad above was the last time I had meat.  I’ve been planning to give up meat for awhile, and have steered clear of red meat for a long time.  I’ve been contemplating giving up chicken for awhile but I LOOOOOVE chicken.  Well, I got to L.A. and Alexander had decided to go on a vegan diet for health reasons and I decided it was as good a time as ever to give up meat.  I’m not as hardcore as him yet.  I’m weening myself off dairy but it is really difficult adjusting to not eating meat or dairy when one of the two seems to be in about almost everything.  I’m working on it 🙂   It is for the health reasons for me as well.  It’s also really good for the environment to not eat meat.  And, while I don’t think it’s wrong to eat meat, I do think that animals get horribly mistreated in most farming operations and that is wrong.   So, not eating meat = health benefits, environmental benefits, and hopefully fewer animals being tortured.  Sounds like a pretty good deal.   And honestly, I’m two weeks in now and so far I don’t even crave meat at all.  (And I’m finally starting to lose my 3L/Bar Studying weight, which is another awesome benefit!)

24 Hours in ColoRADo!

The morning after our trip to Acoma, we (Adam, Krissi, and I) packed up the car and headed to Colorado.  Adam’s parents have a cabin up a gravel road near the town of Westcliffe.  The cabin is self-suficient (solar panels for electricity, well water, etc.).  The views are breathtaking, there is plenty to do outdoors around the cabin, and the cabin itself is very cute and quaint.  However, the only downside (which also can be considered an upside) is that there is no phone line, internet, or cell service available.  For someone like me, who is used to being so connected, it always takes a little getting used to, but I like it.  However, it also turned out to be a downside of the trip because Adam’s family wasn’t able to get in touch with us until we went down into the town around 3pm the following day.

Anyway… back to the beginning.  The drive was pretty easy.  It was about a 5 hour drive from Albuquerque and we drove into a pretty crazy storm at one point, but overall it was an easy and enjoyable ride.  Oh, and at one point I desperately needed to use the restroom and there wasn’t one for miles and miles and miles.  This was reminiscint of the the last time I was roadtripping through New Mexico (on the way to Houston, TX).   I can’t think of New Mexico now without thinking of desperately needing a restroom with nowhere to stop.  Boys have it so easy 😉

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So we arrived in the town around… shoot… I have no idea what time it was.  We unloaded our stuff at the cabin, and drove back down into Westcliffe to get some pizza at a delicious place Adam & Krissi had tried before (I think it was called Pizza Madness?) .  The pizza was extremely delicious.   Also, I had a very awkward encounter with a worker there who essentially told me that being so tall was “hott” after asking about our food, and then he walked away.

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From there, we stopped at the grocery store to pick up some yummy fresh stuff so we could make our own meals over the next few days.  At that point, we had no idea we’d be leaving so soon.  Oh, and I need to throw this is here to throw it in somewhere… There is a field nearby their cabin with lots of Llamas!  When Krissi pulled over so I could take a picture, they all posed there.  So cute!

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When we got back to the cabin, we were planning to put the groceries away and settle down for a fun round or two of Settlers.  However, we made an unfortunate discovery: mouse poop.  As we began to investigate further, we discovered a LOT of mouse poop (in all of the corners, cupboards, in the TOASTER!, oh man… some field mice went CRAZY!).  So, we ended up spending quite awhile cleaning everything up, setting out new poison (sorry mouse lovers), and binning up all the food so the mice wouldn’t have an alternate food source.   The cabin isn’t occupied very often, and they just got it in the winter, so they hadn’t had to worry about the possibility of field mice before.  I think everyone will be very careful with food now and it shouldn’t be a problem.  Krissi was doing most of the work because I’ll admit I was pretty freaked out about reaching in anywhere and having a mouse run over my hand or something.  After we had done all we could in the cleaning department, we did sit down for a game of Settlers although I can’t remember at all who won.   That night, I slept with a light on, and with my iPod playing because I figured the mice probably wouldn’t come out if they thought people were in there and awake.

The morning was much better.  We had some coffee and fruit out on the porch.  The weather was perfect.  Sunny but not too warm, perfect breeze… it reminded me of the scene at the end of Evan Almighty when the family is walking/hiking through that field and a breeze is blowing (random reference, I know).  The point is: it was very calm, and beautiful outside.

The "Cabin" :)

The "Cabin" 🙂

Later, we got dressed and hiked to the top of Pocahontas Hill, which I had always thought was a nickname Krissi gave it, but apparently is the actual name of the hill.  We thought we’d have cell reception at the top (although that was not our only reason for going), but alas we did not.   We did run into a couple of women hiking together, and at that point, for the first time since we arrived, my “worst case scenario” persona kicked in and I started getting freaked out about the possibility of a complete stranger coming into our cabin.   One of the women mentioned that at one point a few years ago, she and her husband had driven up the road to what is now Adam’s family’s cabin and looked around because it looked unoccupied.  So that was the first time it crossed my mind that someone else might actually come up to the house.   Let’s just say I won’t be staying alone at a cabin with no phone line or cell phone signals any time soon 😉

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The Top of Pocahontas Hill

After our hike we decided to head down to the town because we really did need to make a few phone calls and I wanted to try the coffee shop and check out some of the antique shops before they closed.  Last time she was in Colorado, Krissi got an adorable necklace at an antique shop for $3 and I was really hoping to find an adorable necklace of my own.. but no such luck.  While at the coffee shop I logged onto facebook and saw a recent update from Adam’s brother that their grandma was being moved into hospice,  and we all decided to get back to the cabin, repack our things, and drive through the night (about 16 hours?) to Houston so Adam and Krissi could be there for their family.

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Wow, I realize it is an awkward way to end a post, but that was the end of my experience in Colorado.  It was really beautiful, and I’d love to go again soon!

Coming soon…. posts about my time in Texas, plus some random airport notes, and then Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Tahoe updates!

Getting Back Up to Date: Acoma, New Mexico.

Wow, I am so sad my original post got deleted because now so much has happened since then that I’m not sure I can remember everything.  But I will do my best.

The whole time I was in New Mexico, we talked about taking the Sandia Tram (which, again, is a 2.7 mile aerial tram up to the Sandia Peak).  I was most excited about the Tram part, but I also love views from mountain tops 🙂   Well, the morning of our last full day in New Mexico, some frustrating circumstances occured which came down to us not being allowed to take the kids with us if we went on the tram.  So… we had to think quick for a new plan so we didn’t all sulk around disappointed!

The day we were shopping in Old Town, a man in one of the shops told us about “Acoma” (he called it “Aw-coo-mah”… the natives there called it “Ah-cuh-muh”).  Krissi thought of it, so I hopped online and googled it.  It looked really cool on the webpage, and price looked about the same, so we decided to do it!

Acoma is a pueblo on top of a mesa in New Mexico which is believed to be the oldest, continuously inhabited pueblo in New Mexico.  There is no electricity or running water up on the mesa, and about 15-20 families still live there year round.

To get there, you drive out to the reservation (which is about 1.5 hours from Albuquerque), and there are signs to the visitor center/museum.    You park there, and pay inside and then wait for the next shuttle up to the pueblo.  It costs $20 for adults, $15 for students (college), and $10 for Youths (high school and under).  It includes a guided tour of the pueblo (which lasts a little over an hour), a “camera pass”, and entrance to the museum.   Some websites say you have to pay $10 for a camera permit, but it was included in the price when we got there.

Our guide was excellent.  He was very informative, and had a great sense of humor.  We learned so much history in one short tour, plus the views were AMAZING.  In the end, I was so glad we were unable to take the Sandia Tram and chose Acoma instead.  Highly, HIGHLY recommended for anyone visiting New Mexico!

Now, a couple of photos from the place:

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Our Tour Guide (and the view!!)

A Kiva (Prayer Ladder.... used to reach the heavens and pray for rain)

A Kiva (Prayer Ladder.... used to reach the heavens and pray for rain)

An apartment building (originally no doors on first flooor as a defense)

An apartment building (originally no doors on first flooor as a defense)

The Mission

The Mission

Those are just a few of the many, many pics I took.. and unfortunately I’m a little too lazy at the moment to upload more.  However, I forgot one last part of the trip.  At the end, you are given the option to take the shuttle back, or to walk down the spiral staircase, which is carved into the side of the mesa and used to be the only access to the mesa.   Of course, we chose the staircase!  It felt like a fun, free bonus because I’m used to be charged to take special stairs (ie Europe).   The staircase is very steep, and at parts was very narrow, so definitely not ideal for everyone, but we loved it!  I also wore flip flops that day which was a very bad choice when it came to walking down steep rocky stairs… but I made it! 🙂

Walking Dwon the Spiral Stairs

Walking Dwon the Spiral Stairs

And lastly, a view of the pueblo on top of the mesa (from down on the road after we climbed down the stairs):

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That’s all for now regarding Acoma!  The next morning we packed up and left for Colorado… which turned out to be a very short trip.  Details to come!