10/18 Saturday Dallas to Amarillo (Canyon, TX)
We leave at 7 am but have to stop at Lyn’s office to drop off a hard drive of Salvation Army spots he shot. He was having trouble uploading to Reel F/X. I am just thankful we can go. For a while there it looked like we wouldn’t get to go because Lyn was directing some spots and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to direct. I didn’t want him to miss it either. I wanted to leave early to have time to explore Palo Duro Canyon. It’s a long drive to Amarillo, but actually interesting since it’s not big highway. It is interesting seeing the energy battle played out along west Texas with the oil derricks pumping away and the windmills for miles. The oil derricks seemed to have just reappeared overnight about 4-5 years ago and are everywhere you go in the country, just like when we were kids in the 70s. Big difference in the oil derricks from when we were kids is they are different colors, blue, green, tan, and regular black. We stopped somewhere near the panhandle for lunch at a rest area for a picnic of cheese, meats and crackers (Mom taught us well!) We made it to Canyon, Texas, just south of Amarillo by about 2 p.m. We checked into the hotel, a Holiday Inn Express, and then headed out to the canyon. We hiked and explored the canyon (glad to be out of the car) and found a spot for watching and taking pictures of the sunset. It is a really pretty canyon. We saw the amphitheater. Lyn said the sunset was fair, no clouds to make a fabulous sunset on the rim of the canyon but we watched the sunset in the canyon instead. I had brought a chair for the sunset, but no one brought me a glass of wine, that would have been so nice…! Lyn ran around monitoring his cameras. It was lovely. At 7:30 we headed back to Canyon for dinner at Feldman’s Diner a local spot. It was a very busy place with families and two big train tracks suspended from the ceiling. Food was okay, nothing special.
10/19 Sunday Canyon, TX to East of Albuquerque
We got up early again to hit the road so we’d have time for hiking again after a long car ride. Turns out the Holiday Inn free breakfast was just fine and we are off to Albuquerque. We stopped in Tumacuri, NM, to follow Route 66 for maybe a mile or two for pictures, a stretch and some coffee. Found a mid century modern motel that was really cute with an old plane in front. A pickup truck attached to a Casita (we might get one) with a huge plastic (?) marlin fish hanging over the side in the bed was just leaving – what funny sight! The little espresso bar attached to the motel had really good coffee. Near the hotel was a funny little RV park with an old car and teardrop RV attached to it as its entrance – it wasn’t in use. The office had a blue old frig, it was fitting.
Another long stretch of driving and we stopped just outside of Albuquerque and we ate sandwiches at a picnic pavilion by a soccer field. Glad we sat there since it dumped some rain on us. We waited out the rain at DQ and had ice cream. Back on the road and along the way we could have sworn we saw three coyotes staring down about a 100 head of cattle in a field. The coyotes were standing in a triangle formation and the cattle were lying down and spread out…not seemingly nervous, so I’ve wondered if maybe they were actually dogs. But it was an interesting sight!
We made it to Sandia Peak around 1:30. We had considered going somewhere else because the mountain was in a cloud, but so glad we didn’t. We bundled up since we knew the temperature would be 20 degrees cooler. I even had my gloves, Lyn did not. We really didn’t know what to expect when we rode the tram to the top. I was hoping there’d be trails. As we rode up the operator pointed out this house far far away on the edge of the mountain. He said; look at the guy on the roof – he was a dot! They said there was a trail. Well I knew that’s where I wanted to go when we got off. It was a 3 mile hike round trip to the Nawsai house. Us poor flatlander Texans started our first day of elevation at 12000 feet! Luckily I had brought water and we drank regularly to try to avoid the headaches. I never got one but Lyn did later that night. Turns out it was sunny at the top and clouds would come and go. At the top you could see the other side of the mountain and there were storm clouds. We’d hear thunder every so often but no lightening… The hike was awesome, not too bad fighting the elevation but we certainly felt it. It was pretty chilly at the top, about 40 but hiking kept us warm. We’d stop now and then to look over the edge and take pictures. It was breathtaking.
As we got closer to the house we skirted a field and realized we were in the cloud, it was hard to capture the image but the clouds ran across the field. No bears or elk as promised…thankfully! We finally reached the house and it was so weird, it was engulfed in cloud. I sat on the cliff over looking Albuquerque, knowing the city was below but you couldn’t see anything. The wind and cloud rushed up and over you. We spent about 40 minutes at the house and we got cold but just as we were about to hike down from the house, the cloud cleared and we could see Albuquerque, it was beautiful. We hiked back to the tramway. We stopped in their restaurant/bar and had a fancy alcoholic coffee to warm us up. Coffee with Baileys, another liqueur and whipped cream, yum. Warmed us right up.
We rode the tramway down and realized it was still a drive to the hotel so we stopped for Mexican food that was okay. We made it to the Hyatt by 8:00. The room was wonderful and Diane had arranged for us access to the Regency Club which we used every day for breakfast which was so convenient.
10/20 Monday East of Albuquerque
Breakfast at regency club thanks Diane, then off to Tent Rocks. We took the trail to the top, which they said on the signs that it had some steep parts and maybe some scrambling. I was a little concerned about scrambling but thought we could always turn around. Glad we didn’t. I didn’t know it would take us to the top, it was a spectacular view. I even took a great picture of Lyn that he updated Facebook with…wow. We took all the trails they had and towards the end we saw storms all over the valley but it never rained on us.
After tent rocks we went into Santa Fe for a coffee and snack. We didn’t spend a lot of time there since we aren’t really into shopping. We stopped at Whole Foods market to get some bread and a few items for picnics. We headed back to the hotel and had dinner at the hotel. It was good.
Lyn has gone on and on for years about the enchiladas at Casa Vejia for Dad’s 80th celebration. We would have loved to have dinner at Casa Vejia again but we knew it closed a few years ago (turns out due to a wall collapsing…no surprise, it was in a very old house). So on our way to dinner at the hotel that night, I just thought I’m going to ask the concierge if there is a place that has those enchiladas that is good. Well she was a funny lady! We told her the story and she goes…oh yeah…what’s that chef’s name…she said she had just read an article about him and his restaurant in Santa Fe. She did mad Google searching…Lyn along with her… She just couldn’t remember his name. Finally after at least five minutes she remembered his first name…she said it was a lunch place or something. She found his restaurant, Dr. Field Goods. Then she says wait pulling up the menu, and there it was…fancy food but there were the enchiladas! We couldn’t believe it. We made a plan to go the next night.
10/21 Tuesday East of Albuquerque
Breakfast and then off to Bandelier National monument. We were thinking it was the place Lyn and I went to 26 years ago when I visited him in Santa Fe when he was on Lonesome Dove (in 1988 when we got engaged). Turns out it was not the place. Puya Cliff Dwellings was actually the place we went which we didn’t visit this time. They won’t let you drive into the park due to them losing a lot of their parking in the flood so while we were waiting for the shuttle; I saw a map for a scenic drive in the information center, Highway 4. We decided it looked so great we would take that drive to Taos the next day versus taking the high road to Taos which was to have all the old beautiful churches, art and museums.
On the shuttle to the park, we saw one of the few wildlife items on our trip, a deer! We loved Bandelier, all the leaves were turning and it was a beautiful valley that the cliffs over looked. It spit a little rain on us but since it was so dry it wasn’t a problem. I discovered a small tarantula along the path. The park had had a huge flood two years ago and they lost their day camp sites, water faucets, picnic tables. Before the flood there were several large fires in years previous which they indicated it made the flood worse. It was quite an interesting place. Reminded me a little of Canyon de Shelly. We picnicked at one of the picnic tables that hadn’t washed away.
After Bandelier we headed to Ten Thousand Waves. It’s a spa we went to 26 years ago and sat in a hot tub overlooking the valley. Since we didn’t make reservations, we took what they had, it wasn’t nearly as nice since we overlooked a garden versus the valley, but it was fun to go again. Wish we had massages! Showered and off to Dr. Field Goods. Lyn had the buffalo red enchiladas, and I had the Xmas enchiladas, one red buffalo and one green chili chicken. They were and are still the best enchiladas and our waiter knew it too! Diane, we thought of you the whole time. It was a restaurant we imagine you’d have, bar with interesting beers that faced a huge pizza oven (Lyn will have pic) and only 8 tables in the place. You watched the chef cook with his helpers throwing pizza dough for good looking pizzas. We watched the selections walk by and everything looked yummy! Lovely evening. Back to the hotel by 8 again.
10/22 Wednesday East of Albuquerque to Taos
Up for the Regency Club breakfast, packed a lunch for a picnic and loaded up the car to head for Taos – the LONG way. It’s so funny that our hotel was just south of this beautiful highway – so we headed north from Bernalillo on 550 to Highway 4. Highway 4 goes through the Valles Caldera National Preserve to Los Alamos. It is approximately 182 miles to Taos this way and it took us all day to go 40 miles! It was beautiful.
Our first stop along Highway 4 was the red rocks and a visitor’s center. We stopped for the restroom and bought some green chili cornbread mix and dehydrated green chilies to support the reservation! You couldn’t hike in the red rocks without a guide so we continued on. Really glad we had stopped at the visitor’s center because they told us exactly how to find the tunnels, where the turnoff was just down the road. We loved that road. It was through a valley with the trees yellow and funny houses in all shapes of repair. We arrived at the two tunnels – they were really neat and I discovered how we could hike down to the stream also. We spent quite a bit of time there and stopped to take shots here and there on the road back to Highway 4.
Along the way we found a park to picnic at, we stopped at some Pueblo ruins, and various different parks along the way – no camping at any of them – they were all closed for the winter, the next big stop was Soda Falls. Lyn spent lots of time taking pictures so I climbed all over the rocks exploring and tried to figure out how I could cross the creek to explore a cave I saw but I never could figure it out without having to get wet so instead I found another cave across the road.
It was a hard climb over loose rocks to get to the cave. There were posting everywhere not to take anything so I figured it must have been an old dwelling – not very fancy though but had a good view for enemies coming. I found a spring across the highway was hot and the soda springs were SMELLY!
Back in the car and now it’s starting to get to the late afternoon and we still have to drive to Taos! We had two more stops we had to make – one was the Battleship rock. We hiked around the campgrounds and tried to follow a trail for a while but we just couldn’t figure out the trail so we gave up. Next stop was Spencer hot spring. We hiked down to the water, no hot spring – we started hiking up the other side and just decided it was probably too far for what we had time for so we never saw the spring. Back to the car again this time with no more stops (or so we thought until we got to the top of the mountains). There was the caldera that we did get out for – it was cold at the top 40 or so, no elk spottedL. Then we were off to Los Alamos, it actually had a checkpoint where I had to provide my driver’s license and vouch for Lyn… I said he was OK. Wow Los Alamos was really beautiful.
On the way to Taos we are supposed to have dinner at a famous restaurant, Rancho de Chimayo. Our cat sitter had recommended it. Our Taos hotel told us it was the best in the area. We thought it was ok. Service was not so great. We were getting tired and still had a long drive to Taos. It was a weird drive to Taos in the dark (turns out we left in the dark too). I knew we were going up and up and up on winding roads, we could have been on the edge of a cliff, but we never knew. We made it to the Marriott El Monte Sagrado hotel about 9. Our room was at the very back of the hotel at the corner. It was very nice. We kept our sliding door open, we were on the 2nd floor, we had a gas fireplace, and a cozy bed. It was nice and chilly in the mornings, 30s…
10/23 Thursday Taos
We decide to drive the Enchanted circle. We make a picnic for lunch and grab coffee and bagels on the way. It’s a pretty drive but not as fabulous as yesterday. We thought we were going to a “park” with an entrance for Cimarron Canyon State Park. Turns out all the signs we saw we were in the park! After we drove through it, I thought this can’t be right – we left the mountains! We had to turn around and then we stopped along the way back. One funny part of the drive is we found out where Philmont is! It’s in the enchanted circle. We knew all about Philmont because when Tristan was in boy scouts, one of the parents was preparing to go as a chaperone, she was hiking everywhere around Dallas on hills with a backpack. Tristan was too young and NOT interested. Just outside of Angel Fire there is a lovely Vietnam memorial we visited. We did not check out Angel Fire because it said they only had things open on the weekend. We had wanted to ride up and hiked down (or I did!) It was a lovely drive and fun exploring.
The Marriott where we were staying gave us the low down on all the places to eat in Taos… however they were all pretty fancy and we just weren’t into that. We found a great burger place that had green chilies on the burgers… I was apparently NOT getting enough. Nice evening.
10/24 Friday Taos
Up EARLY 6 a.m. for the balloons. We dress warmly and drive out – we actually could have walked but it was really cold (warms up fast when the sun comes up – but no sun yet) and we were going to go to breakfast afterwards. We drive over to the field and there aren’t even any trucks yet so we drive to the strip and get coffee! We come back to the field and sit in the car across from the field waiting for the balloons to start setup. They said at 7 a.m. there was a dawn patrol. It turned out it was a blow up balloon that they let go. About 8 balloons went that day but it was so much fun! You could walk up to the baskets, watch what they do, you can volunteer to help them and get a free ride. It was just spectacular as the sun rose and then the balloons ascended. We had never gone to a balloon launch before.
After the balloons we went for breakfast at a local place which was good – huevos rancheros for me! We returned to the hotel for showers and then off to the Rio Grande Bridge. No picnic today – we had a big breakfast! Drove over the bridge and checked out the tables with folks selling their wares… can you believe I didn’t buy any silver or jewelry on the entire trip. The concierge at Hyatt told us about the trail behind the restroom of the rest stop that if you walked it, you’d get a great view of the bridge, and we did!
We decided to drive up to the Taos ski hill. It was a beautiful drive, but nothing was going on on the mountain, but we did walk around. Not sure why people would stay there in the summer. It didn’t even look like mountain biking was an o ption but maybe only on the weekends. We were impressed with the bikers that rode the road up the mountain to the ski hill. It’s a long way up. On the way back we stopped in Arroyo Seco. It was a fun little town with funny stores, we explored a few. We stopped in one pottery place that told us all about firing pottery. Twice a year about 10 of the artists in town spend a week firing pottery. The guy that was in the store that day owned the land and someone else had the kilns built on the land. They camp for the week, no facilities, and keep the fire going, cook pizzas (the kiln builder had the pizza oven built into it). They had two kilns, one was an Anagama kiln. It sounded so wonderful. The guy told us all about it, how the ash gets into the pottery. How it takes them days to load the kiln, and they have these little pottery marbles to separate the pottery in the kiln. The rest of the time in Taos at the good pottery places we’d look for the marks of the marbles and know they were fired in that kiln. He was wonderful to share his stories and love for pottery and firing and he wasn’t an artist. The store had several artists that sold their work as a collective. I was all ready to move (into my Earthship, later in the story, and make pottery to attend the week firing session!)
We had dinner at a local Italian place that was recommended. The service was horrid. We couldn’t figure out what was the problem. Our waitress never smiled, nor helped us with the menu or anything, but was nice to others around us. Luckily we just focused on our experience in the pottery shop. The food was good though.
10/25 Saturday Taos
Up early again for the balloons all bundled up. Today there were 30-40 balloons. We were there promptly at 7:00. What a sight. We so enjoyed it! I kept thinking I should ask to help and maybe get a ride but I was having so much funning watching each setup that I would hate to miss it for only a chance at a ride… maybe next time!
Off to breakfast at a local diner… great breakfast again and YES it included green chilies! So the plan today was to check out the shops. I wasn’t too thrilled about it but we thought we should. I also thought –we should just check out the Earthship place. Lyn had poo-poo’d it but I thought maybe just take a peak and if it costs too much…we won’t go in. I already knew they didn’t do tours of the Earthships from website comments but they said there was a visitor’s center. I did know they had rentals but seemed pricey and we were going to stay several days in Taos so I didn’t book them.
We arrived at the earthship neighborhood and went into the visitor’s center. I was surprised there were so many people there to check them out. A woman kept asking “are you here for the tour”? Everyone that came in said “no”. She finally said she was expecting a group from a university to take a tour and they were late. She said if they didn’t show soon she would make a deal with us. Eventually the university called and cancelled the tour. So she said she could take us as a family (we were adopted!) of about 15 adults and two other couples like Lyn & I on their tour! It included a tour of their $1,000,000 property that’s a rental! Normally just walking around is $7 per person, but she gave us a discount for $5 each and we had a tour of a lifetime! It was fascinating – she spent about 30 minutes explaining the visitor’s center that is an earthship – a 2 bedroom house, fully sustainable. Backs up to a berm that has the water tanks for storage where the water is collected from the roof. It goes from drinking to black water and ends up in a field in the garden. You have to run the shower at least once a week because the gray water waters the plants automatically. The front of the house with the windows is a greenhouse for growing all your food and you can do a hydroponic system too. Electricity is solar and wind. The new ones now even have a type of air conditioning that goes through the berm to make it cooler. After her talk, we got to drive through the neighborhood (normally visitors never get to do) and see all the homes and then we toured the house. Plants all over the house, beautiful quirky bathrooms that we loved (no doors on the bedrooms though. We got to spend about 30 minutes exploring the house and garden… they had chickens and I found a lizard almost in the house but I think bugs and lizards would be normal in a house full of plants. Lastly, we got to see new construction. They are connecting two older earthships into a dorm for the kids that come to their university to learn how to build them. In exchange, they have to help build, I think, two earthships as part of their humanitarian efforts in other countries.
Lastly they showed us their new houses; they don’t meant code but are being tested. They are minimal but they are used for student housing for the test. I think they are testing for disaster areas, like for something like Haiti.
At the end of the tour, it was a good 2 hours, we were SOLD! She had told us they have an earthship in almost every state. I asked so what are the rules for building one in Texas and she said (of course) Texas is easy, if you have 20 acres or more you can build whatever you want! UGH! We would love one… maybe our next life… we are city folk now!
In the afternoon we explored the Taos shops – and actually only purchased Lyn some Gramicci pants that were like the old style he loves. Then off to the evening balloon glow. Only about 10 balloons – they don’t take off – they just do their burners and it’s pretty at night… they do a show. Then off for a dinner – that included GREEN CHILI, Michael’s kitchen!
10/26 Sad Sunday Taos to Dallas
Up at six – I want to be on the road by 7 a.m. We are on the road at 6:45 at drive roughly 679 miles to Dallas – Google says 11 hours but I figured it doesn’t add stops, coffee & lunch! However we made it back to our home by 6:30 p.m. I couldn’t believe it; we even lost an hour due to the time zone change.
It really wasn’t a bad drive. The weather was nice – although the sun pounded on Lyn the whole way. We saw one bunny and coming down from the mountains of Taos, just as dawn was breaking; a coyote ran across the highway, cool… what a wonderful trip we had!
(Judy had 3 day turn around to attend early voting, laundry, pack, and a list of things to accomplish before leaving to Jacksonville, FL for 10 days for work – our first hire in our department in 2 years… and not a very big hire).