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!

Average New Mexico Day.

So, there were no exciting adventures in New Mexico Land yesterday.  We basically hung out with the kids around the house, and I went to the mall for a little while.   Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico, but only the 59th largest metropolitan area in the U.S.   From the house out in suburbia where I’ve been staying you can see the whole city as you drive in (it’s down in a valley from where we are staying).  In every city I’ve lived in, you can’t really tell the difference between the city and the suburbs and it all kind of blends together.  Not so here, at least not yet.   However, they built the roads out to the suburb area where I’ve been staying as single lane roads.  The traffic can get really bad trying to get out here during rush hour and I’m thinking they should have built at least one of the roads as 2-lanes each way instead of one.  I mean, all there is out here is wide open dessert and brush anyway, it’s not like they don’t have the space!

I also helped Krissi cook her fantastic Chicken Pot Pie last night.  I’m not a chicken pot pie person.  I’m generally not a fan of gravy, and chicken pot pies often have vegetables in them that I could live without (ie peas).  Also, carrots and potatoes I’ve had in chicken pot pies usually taste gross.  But the way Krissi does it (sans peas and with perfect sized chunks of precooked vegetables) it turns out soo delicious!  I rarely cook because I don’t really know how and whenever I try to cook, it’s always with a recipe and I overanalyze EVERYTHING.  Krissi cooks all from scratch without recipes.  I don’t think I will ever be like that, but I would at least like to start cooking more so I can eat good meals more often.   Anyway, the extent of my help involved rolling dough, and chopping and pre-cooking some vegetables, but it was help nonetheless.  And as always, the pies turned out DELICIOUS!

I’m still really hoping to do the Sandia Peak thing today!  I keep getting suggestions that we could just drive up there, but honestly the tramway is really the whole point for me.  I realize the view from up there is amazing and there is stuff to d0 once you get up there, but what I’m interested in is the 2.7 mile journey in the air and seeing all the New Mexico scenery below on the way up 🙂  It brings up fond memories of Switzerland, AND it’s the “longest aerial tramway in the WORLD”!  How can you pass that up? 😉

We have to do it today, if at all, because we (myself and the married couple I’m travelling with) are scheduled to leave the family behind and head out for a 5-hour drive to a cabin in Nowhere, Colorado tomorrow.

Petroglyph National Monument

Knowing there were signs nearby for the Petroglyph National Monument, we set out yesterday to go hiking without getting directions or finding anything out beyond “it’s close, it’s a national monument, there are petroglyphs.. let’s go!”

So the first sign we saw said Boca Negra Canyon, and we turned there thinking it was the Petroglyph place, but when we got back in the canyon and nothing said “Petroglyph National Monument” we thought we’d went to the wrong place.   So we continued on back down the main road until we hit the Petroglyph National Monument Visitor Center.   There, after slathering on sunscreen and preparing a pack of water and snacks, we went inside to find out that there are no trails at the Visitor Center.   There are 3 different areas where you can go to hike and see petroglyphs, and as it turns out Boca Negra Canyon is one of them, and is the most popular.

So, back to Boca Negra we went.  Boca Negra only contains about 5% of all the petroglyphs in the monument, but the main trails are somewhat paved and there are restrooms and running water available (which if I’m not mistaken is not the case at the other two locations).   Archaelogists believe that some of the petroglyphs date back at least 3000 years, although most of them (estimated 90%) are from around 1200-1700 A.D.   The hike was pretty easy with lots of visible petroglyphs and great views.  I think we spent about an hour and a half total including walking down to the lower area and then walking back up to our car.

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I think Boca Negra is a great introduction to the Petroglyphs because there are several short, fairly easy hikes (ranging from 15-45 minutes), and again they are mostly paved, and restrooms are available.  So a good plan for families and/or people that aren’t used to strenuous hikes.   Just remember to bring the $2 for parking so you don’t have to walk all the way downhill and back up again, unless you want that extra part of the trip 😉   I also recommend starting at the Visitor Center because the Rangers are very helpful and can provide trail maps and information about which trails are the most helpful.

Today, I am crossing my fingers hoping that we take the tramway to Sandia Peak!

Great Deal in Albuquerque!

Although the morning started off drizzly, it stopped raining a little while before we started to head out, and it turned out to be a very nice day.   Three adults (including myself), and a 13 and 11 year old headed out to visit the Albuquerque Aquarium.   For $7 adults/$5 under 13, you can get an admission ticket to both the Aquarium and the Rio Grande Botanic Garden.   (also, for about $5 more, admission to the Zoo… but we opted not to do the zoo thing.  Still, three major attractions for $12/person is a pretty excellent deal!).

The aquarium was cool, and I think worth the money, but it was also a tad bit disappointing.  I’m used to larger aquariums with some tanks where you can actually touch things, but nothing was touchable there.  It’s basically a center full of large fish tanks (haha, hence the name “aquarium” eh?).   I’d say we spent about an hour checking everything out and taking pictures.  There is a big open tank full of sting rays and you can watch them jumping out of the water; it was very cool but also freaked me out a little bit because of the Steve Irwin thing.   I think we spent the most time checking out the sting rays and the jellyfish, although we also spent quite a while checking out all the fish and sharks in the main exhibit.  For whatever reason, my regular camera would NOT take good pictures, but my iPhone took some pretty good ones:

French Angelfish

French Angelfish

A Turtle in the Shark Tank

A Turtle in the Shark Tank

The Main Tank

The Main Tank

After the Aquarium, we debated whether to check out the Rio Grande Botanic Garden (you have to pay the $7 for the aquarium, and if you do, the Botanic Gardens are free.. right next to the Aquarium).  We decided that we should at least stroll through it quickly.  That way, if there was something really cool we could see it for free, but we wouldn’t have to stay long if it wasn’t our cup of tea.

First, we toured the “Children’s Fantasy Garden” which was pretty cool, but more for little kids, not the 11 & 13 year olds that we had with us.  Basically, a lot of giant oversized things.  At 6’4″, it made me feel a little normal 😉

Giant Dragon (w/the 11-year-old)

Giant Dragon (w/the 11-year-old)

Me Watering the Garden ;)

Me Watering the Garden 😉

From there, we noticed a sign that said “Japanese Garden” and decided that’s what we wanted to check out.  As it turned out, the Japanese Garden was in the very back so we ended up strolling through most of the grounds on our way to see the Japanese Garden.  It was beautiful!  Honestly, if we hadn’t had kids with us, and if we hadn’t forgotten to eat lunch before we left, I would have loved to stay longer.  It was very relaxing, peaceful, and beautiful in there.   Definitely worth a visit for anyone who is into flowers, or just wants to take a nice, pretty walk outdoors 🙂

Part of the Japanese Garden

Part of the Japanese Garden

After the Garden, we grabbed some lunch, and then decided to walk around Old Town.   The Old Town area was Albuquerque’s “First Neighborhood” and the “Center of Community Life dating back to 1706.”  It’s basically a tourist attraction these days…  It’s primarily souvenier shops, art galleries, and restaurants but the buildings have the old, historic style.  (As a sidenote,  when I was in Barcelona, I walked around a similar old town, except I had to pay to see it, and it was not a real old town, it was modeled after one…. Albuquerque’s Old Town is the real deal, and free).

My favorite part, and what also seems to be the central attraction (and is in fact in the center of Old Town) is the San Felipe de Neri Parish which has been around holding services for over 300 years!  I LOVE old churches.

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Quite a few of the shops were closing already by the time we showed up (5pm on a Friday night?)  So, apparently if you’re looking for the full Old Town experience, it’s better to go a little earlier in the day.  It was alright that the stores were closing though, because it also looked like the evening storms were rolling in so it was best to head home anyway:

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So, all in all, we spent about $10 each ($7 for the Aquarium/Garden, and $2-$3 for lunch) and around 5-6 hours to see an Aquarium, Child’s Fantasy Garden, Botanic Garden, buy lunch, and see Old Town, and San Felipe de Neri church!  Not bad! 🙂

“Monsoon Season”

I am now in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  When I was packing for this trip I thought “New Mexico? Hot.  Colorado in the summer? Lots of outdoor activities so plan for hot.  Texas? HOOOOOT.   So I packed mostly shorts and tanktops.

When I arrived in New Mexico yesterday in shorts, it was thunderstorming.  And today it’s supposed to be drizzly rain all day.  The Mom of the family said it’s “Monsoon Season” right now.  Excellent! 😉  (we’re staying with my friend’s brother’s wife and kids–the brother is currently in Afghanistan).  I think it’s still warm outside, but as an Oregon Girl, I feel like it is not appropriate to wear shorts and tanktops outside when it is raining.  I settled for shorts and a short-sleeve sweatshirt with a hood.  Hopefully I won’t regret it later and wish I’d worn a tanktop despite the rain.

The house we’re staying in is really close to the Petroglyph National Monument which I really want to check out, but we’re going to have to wait for a sunny day (hopefully tomorrow!).  From the website: “Petroglyph National Monument protects a variety of cultural and natural resources including volcanos, archeological sites and an estimated 20,000 carved images. Many of the images are recognizable as animals, people, brands and crosses; others are more complex. These images are inseparable from the cultural landscape, the spirits of the people who created, and who appreciate them.”

Today, we’re going to stick to indoor things like the Aquarium, a museum, and possibly checking out Old Town.  Many pictures to come! 🙂