Saturday, July 23, 2011

Days 31-36
17-22 July 2011
Santa Fe & Taos, NM, and Howard, CO

I think I'm about to lose control of my reporting of our trip. It seems like I'm missing days! Actually they're not missing, I'm just forgetting all that we managed to pack into the days! And I'm not making the time to write every day. That's what happens when you're having fun AND when the wi-fi connection is less than reliable.

Let's go back to Sunday, 17 July, when we were in Santa Fe. It was a slow and relaxed day. We needed that. Honestly, I don't even remember what we did other than shop for groceries. That's what happens when you don't write every day.

Monday, 18 July, was another Taos day. We drove up to Taos and took the Trolley Tour. It was a three hour ride that gave us an overview of the town, a bit of narrative, and, most importantly, took us to the Taos Pueblo.

There aren't any pictures of the Taos Pueblo since we didn't pay for the license to take pictures. On the way home, however, we passed by Camel Rock on one of the other pueblo's reservation.

Tuesday, 19 July, was our last day in Santa Fe. We went back downtown to pick up a few souvenir gifts, wandered around, looked at the city one more time and found a delightful little place called Maria's where we had a marguerita (choosing from 170 different varieties, with the most expensive costing $58.00 per glass ... and that was NOT the one we ordered) and a delicious New Mexican meal. Maria's may have been the best meal we have had all trip! Gotta love those green chilies!

Wednesday, 20 July, was a driving day. We left Los Rancheros de Santa Fe RV Park, and headed north to Colorado. We had our fill of heat and smoke in the air from forest fires and decided to look for cooler heights. So we drove to the mountains of central Colorado. We drove north on US 285 across Poncha Pass giving me my first experience of crossing a fairly significant mountain, climbing up, over, and down the pass (not a terribly high one although it was over 9,000 feet). We are camped outside Howard, CO, at Bandera's Bunkhouse and RV Park. It's right on the Arkansas River.

Thursday, 21 July. Today we drove from our campground in Howard, CO, back into Salida. We visited the Visitors' Center and the San Isabel National Forest office and then went to the historic Salida downtown. We took the walking tour of the town and spent a lot of time watching the kayakers playing in the rapids of the Arkansas River.  They are definitely WAY above my class of kayaking! Although we did watch one kayaker get flipped over who couldn't right himself and who had to slip out to the kayak underwater to get free and who then got separated from his kayak and washed down the fast flowing Arkansas River, much to the horror of his girlfriend (or wife) who was in another kayak at that rapids. Obviously they were taking a lesson because the guy teaching them took off like the proverbial shot, paddling downriver the fastest I've ever seen a kayaker paddle. They went a long way down river before the teacher caught up with the floating student (wearing a life jacket and special cold water kayak clothing) and it was 15-20 minutes before we saw the two returning walking up the shore carrying their kayaks. We also saw a dog playing in the water who had to get rescued from the undertow of a "hole". He just wasn't strong enough to swim out and was getting sucked underwater. Fortunately one of his owners was able to reach him to save him. No pictures of the dramas since we were too busy watching them unfold.

Friday, 22 July, was a hiking day. We went up the road to Monarch Pass, not quite reaching the top, and headed up the trail to Waterdog Lakes. It is a short trail, 2 miles or so, UP! And UP! And UP! And we actually got started on the wrong trail, but it joined up with the Waterdog Lakes Trail so we were fine.

Lower Waterdog Lake
(notice the snow in the peaks?)


Upper Waterdog Lake
(and here the snow comes right down to the lake)

Upper Waterdog Lake
looking up at the Continental Divide

My favorite hiking partner

Mary at Upper Waterdog Lake
We both felt the effects of the 11,000+ feet of altitude on the hike and were glad we hadn't tried one of the longer walks we could have selected.

Today, Saturday the 23rd, we are going to ride the Royal Gorge Scenic Railway up the gorge from Canon City (pronounced Canyon City) and see the Royal Gorge Bridge.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Days 26-31
12-17 July 2011
Albuquerque & Santa Fe

I really didn't forget about you all! And I haven't been lazy, either! I've just been wrapped up in enjoying our summer trip and haven't made the time to write. And once you get behind, it is hard to catch up! I'll see what I can do this morning.

I'll have to go back to Tuesday, the 12th. We spent the day seeing such things as the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History and the ABQ BioPark where we saw the Biological Gardens and Aquarium. They made for a fun day with such highlights as the butterfly house at the Biological Gardens and all of the tanks of interesting fish at the Aquarium.

At the Nuclear Science Museum, I saw the history of an era that has occupied all of my life. There were mockups of atomic bombs, rockets and airplanes (the real things), and stories of the development of the atomic bomb and its imfluence on culture and society. There were floor plans for bomb shelters. I used to wonder why my parents didn't have one like they were "supposed" to. (Nobody I knew did but the Civil Defense sure did put out the material to persuade us of the necessity of being ready to survive nuclear attack!) New Mexico played a pivotal role in the development of the atomic age. And because of my past visits to Oak Ridge in Tennessee (and to my Uncle Herbert [Taylor] and Aunt Nan who lived there), I knew some of the details of that history, but New Mexico's several related sites that we have visited have added to that.

The highlight of the 12th, however, was an evening dinner with my good friend Debra Burke Rockman. The dinner at El Pinto was great (I had the stuffed sopalillas), but the company was truly excellent. Deb and I caught up on what had happened since we last were together 12 years ago, reminisced about our time together in the Housing Mediation Program of Madison's Tenant Resource Center, and Mary got acquainted with Deb for the first time (although she's certain heard enough about Deb in the past). Thank you for a GREAT evening, Deb! Let's not wait so long for the next time!

On Wednesday, 13 July, we traveled from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. After a leisurely morning, we made the drive up the mountains. The V-10 Ford engine in this motorhome does have to work pretty hard in these mountains, particularly since it is pulling a car too. I did manage to pass a truck or two crawling up the grade although I sure got passed by a lot of other vehicles. Everything went well, though, and even the downgrades weren't too bad thanks for the automatic engine braking system that this coach includes. We are camped for the week at the Rancheros de Santa Fe RV Park. On Wednesday, we just made the drive and got settled in for the day.

Can you see the bunny under our table?

Thursday, 14 July, was my 64th birthday. One year from Medicare (if it still exists in a year -- don't worry, I'm not going to go political; I save that for my facebook page as my friends know). We quickly headed off for the Santa Fe visitors center to collect information on the area.

After arming ourselves with a stack of brochures, maps, and other assorted pieces of paper, we immediately crossed the street to tour the New Mexico State Capitol building, also called "The Roundhouse". It is a great piece of contemporary architecture influenced by the history and cultures of New Mexico. Part of what that means is that like almost everything else in Santa Fe it is made to look like it is an adobe constructed building (and some of them actually are made of adobe, too). After that we went on a walking tour (self-led) of the historic area of Santa Fe. The capitol building also has a fine display of New Mexican art.

We saw the oldest house in USAmerica, the San Miguel Mission  and toured the Loretto Chapel with it's amazing free-standing staircase. We toured the Plaza with its countless stores and vendors.

The "oldest house" in the U.S.

The Spiral Staircase of Loretta Chapel
Two complete 360-degree turns,
no visible means of support and no nails

The highlight of the day was dinner at Thomasita's Restaurant. It had been recommended to us by a local. The food was quite good, but not the best I've had. Still, it was a delightful evening with my favorite friend, wife, and dining companion, Mary.

Friday, 15 July, we had a slow morning, did the laundry, and then headed off to Santa Fe (the campground is actually about 10 miles southeast of Santa Fe) where we toured the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum,  which was interesting but we both agreed that (1) we were disappointed that more actual paintings by O'Keeffe were not on display (they had a lot of paintings by those who had influenced her and who were contemporaries) and (2) that Georgia O'Keeffe was not our favorite artist.  We then went back to the Plaza and its marketplace where we bought a black-on-black pottery "summer" owl made by Merton and Linda Sisneros of the Santa Clara Pueblo near Espanola, NM. Merton gave us a good lesson in the lore of the owl and of the Santa Clara Pueblo, and the little owl will grace our RV in it's travels. May it give us the wisdom and enlightenment of the bird it symbolizes.

For the evening, we went to the free open hours of the Palace of the Governors, the New Mexico History Museum and the Museum of Art. Built in 1610, the Palace of the Governors is the oldest structure in continuous public use in the United States. Outside the Palace, under the portal, is where we found Merton Sisneros and his pottery and many other Native artists/potters/craftsman. The portal is restricted to the Native American artisans. Others are across the street in the Plaza itself. The New Mexico History Museum is a very well done presentation of the long history of New Mexico and its peoples and cultures. This is a tremendously diverse state and the museum was an excellent way to get a grasp of the many cultures that have influenced its history and nature. The Museum of Arts was good, but I think we were getting too "art and museum-ed" out to fully appreciate it.

Saturday the 16th was spent in Taos. We drove the High Road to Taos. I sure am glad I was driving the car and not the motorhome! The road is beautiful but it sure is winding. We did see many CLOSED signs in the National Forest due to the fire danger that exists in New Mexico. We also saw smoke from fires that are burning in the distance from where we are.

Along the way, we stopped at El Sanctuario de Chimayo, a place of "holy ground." As a person of faith, I am always interested in the faith experiences and expressions of others. El Sanctuario is a Roman Catholic shrine, but one catches a sense of the Holy regardless of one's own personal religious or spiritual sensibilities. It was a good visit.

El Sanctuario de Chimayo

We had hoped to catch the tour that would take us to Taos Pueblo, but the drive took longer than we expected (partly due to the time we spent in Chimayo and we wanted to eat some lunch, so we decided to catch the Pueblo on our second trip to Taos which would probably be Monday. Instead, after lunch at El Taoseno, which seems to be a favorite of the local residents. It was a good New Mexican-style meal.

After lunch, we wandered the Plaza in Taos. I let myself purchase a silver-mounted turquoise ring, something that is rare for me. I simply don't focus much on jewelry, but this one called out to me and fit so well that it just had to grace my finger!

We also drove northwest of Taos to see the Rio Grande River Gorge and High Bridge. What an amazing sight!

We then returned home along the Rio Grande River route, stopped and shopped at the most frustrating Walmart grocery I've ever seen and came home for supper. That's life through 16 July.