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Monday, April 14, 2014

24 States in 27 Days - Day 24:

November 2nd, 2012, Friday: Taos in the morning was sunny, but very cold - we woke to ice on the inside of our canopy windows. I was glad I’d worn my pants and long sleeves to bed that night, so the chill of my cold sweater and jacket wasn’t too painful.

Choosing another restaurant our new friend LIndsey recommended, we drove to Rickey’s for breakfast where we enjoyed bottomless coffee, terrific pancakes, bacon and eggs for me, while Brad had an omelet with toast. It was fun to watch the locals bantering with the chef and waitress. We tried to go to the library next for internet access but it didn’t open for another hour, so we parked in the same lot as yesterday and went photo hunting and window shopping, exploring a few shops as they opened. 

We really liked the small town, friendly feel of Taos. 

It warmed up by the time we were finished wandering downtown, so we peeled off our layers at the truck and drove to the library where we spent a few hours charging batteries and checking email. After the library we stopped in a couple of thrift shops and explored a few neighborhoods before heading out of town, north on 522, planning to turn onto hwy. 62. Somehow we missed that turn and again had to backtrack to the correct highway. 

Not too far down hwy. 62 we crossed a incredibly high canyon bridge! Of course we had to stop. It was the Rio Grande river way down at the bottom of this deep canyon. 

We walked out to the middle of the bridge, which was a bit freaky, considering how high we were! Back in the truck we continued north where we discovered a fantastic biotecture community we had to investigate. 

We felt like we’d landed on an alien planet! Oddly we also kept seeing yellow traffic signs with cows - and each sported a space ship sticker! The clouds were otherworldly too. 

As we climbed over the San Juan Mountains we stopped for some sunset photos. 

We knew it was time to start looking for a campsite, but not wanting to freeze up in the mountains we kept going until we dropped down the other side onto hwy. 84/64. On our road map I spotted El Vado campground off to the west, and thinking it wasn’t too far off the highway we headed that way and drove, and drove, dropping in elevation until we said “It’s going to be positively balmy by the time we hit the campground” and right then we saw a sign that said “ICY”! Ha! We were almost ready to turn back when we finally saw a sign to the campground. As we turned onto that road, we both exclaimed at the same time “4 miles?!” Yep, it was another 4 miles further. I’d been counting deer and rabbits the whole way, and by the time we pulled into the actual campsite we’d seen 19 deer and 6 rabbits! It was very dark and quiet at the campground which seemed pretty open and treeless---the little we could see with our truck headlights. We passed a sign that warned not to drive into the lake - whoa, ok! then chose a site near one of the few street lights, paid our fee, and settled in for the night. It was the quietest place we’d slept this whole trip! We were glad to have both down duvets that night. 

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

24 States in 27 Days - Day 23:

It's been a while since I've added another day of our 2012 cross country road trip adventure, and the thought crossed my mind when I realized it's been over a year since I started posting this journal of our travels, whether I should cointinue or not. Considering how some of my favorite photos are still to come, I had to keep going - especially since this was one of our favorite days! So, without further delay, here's the next installment, and a promise to finish this before 2014 is over. 

November 1st, 2012, Thursday: Waking to another blue sky, sunny day in Texas we enjoyed a decent continental breakfast downstairs then went back up the elevator to our room to shower, check email, and get ready to hit the trail. 


After a grocery run while in Amarillo, we continued west on I-40 through Texas and into New Mexico! Woot! 

West of Santa Rosa we exited onto hwy. 84 towards Las Vegas (we didn't know there was a Las Vegas in New Mexico - did you?) where we missed the turn onto hwy. 518 towards Taos and had to do a little backtracking. 

There we started climbing out of the flat grasslands into more mountainous, rocky terrain. Hello trees! We crossed over a couple of passes into Carson National forest where it was a lot cooler. 

There were a few glimpses of fall color, but most trees were already bare. We passed Sipapu ski resort area, then started dropping into the Taos valley. 

In Talpa we paused to take a photo of the decorated graves, remembering it was the Day of the Dead. 

We then turned onto hwy. 68, to Taos. 

It was interesting to see so many single story buildings, most in the southwestern adobe style. This route was Taos’s busy, commercial strip -  slow going, but soon we pulled into the town center. Finding a free parking lot, we stopped, tucked things away then put on another layer to go explore. It was 4:45ish and we could tell it was going to get cooler as the evening progressed. We wandered through the Taos Inn first, where we were given a tour of one of their unique rooms. It was cozy with a separate sitting area, fireplace, real low ceilings and door frames we had to duck under. We both agreed it’d be a fun place to stay some day. 

We walked into a nearby gallery where we chat with a very talkative fellow. He filled us in on the good places to camp and we were happy to hear most campgrounds in NM are free. After some window shopping we went into a cool vintage shop called Horse Feathers. There we met Lindsey, the owner. He was such a friendly fellow, we truly enjoyed our visit with him. He told us his favorite local restaurants to check out while Brad bought a spiffy western shirt. From there we walked up the block amazed by the color as the sunset bathed everything in a soft rosy glow. This is the southwestern light artists rave about! I was enamored, and wanted to start painting immediately, but had to settle for some quick pics with our small point and shoot camera. 

Once the sun was down we began to freeze, so we went back to the truck for warmer clothes. Hungry, we took off in search of the Guadalajara Grill, where Lindsey recommended we get the guacamole. We did along with ordering two chili rellenos to share. The guacamole was fabulous - everything is made on site. Delicious salsa too, a bit salty, but not too hot. However the chilies were HOT for me - I’m a wimp! They were quite large so we split them lengthwise and I was happy to see bits of cooked carrots and zucchini in with the cheese. They were tasty, but I liked the guacamole best. As we left we spotted the moon about to rise over the mountains, so I pulled out our telephoto lens and used the top of the truck cab as a tripod to shoot a bunch of photos. 

Since we weren’t through exploring Taos we decided to save some money and sleep in the Walmart parking lot. As soon as we bedded down about 9:30ish, almost immediately a street sweeper began to clean the parking lot. Oh joy. It zigged through the lot eventually shaking our truck as it buzzed multiple times past us. We wondered if it was trying to annoy us or trying to hurry and get through for us. Luckily we thought it was kind of comical, but finally it quit and we were able to sleep pretty well. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

24 States in 27 Days - Day 22:

Oct. 31st, 2012, Wednesday: It was a cold morning, but we finally got out of our warm nest and made coffee which thawed my freezing fingers. 

Soon the sun came out and shone on the deciduous hills across the lake, as the moon made it’s slow descent behind. 

After granola for breakfast, Brad went to shower and I pulled out my watercolor journal and paints for the first time this trip. It was good to relax and not be in a hurry for a change.

We did leave around 10:30, 

stopped in Sallisaw for gas, then continued west on I-40. 

Our next stop was in Okemah, the home of Woody Guthrie. 

We spent a bit of time there writing and mailing postcards, then grocery shopping. Inside the Homeland grocery store we heard news about Hurricane Sandy’s destruction for the first time. We kept going west on I-40, stopped for lunch at a rest area, then just beyond Oklahoma City, we parked outside a McDonald’s to use their free wifi. We never did eat any fast food on our road trip, but we did indulge in some parking lot, fast food wifi! We both had work to attend to, as we caught up on emails while seated in our truck. It was another unseasonably warm, sunny day with temps climbing into the 70’s. 

The sun blasted our faces entering Texas around 6:00 pm. 

How I spent a lot of our road trip... so many drive-by photos! 

For the first and only time this road trip, we decided to get a room at a motel, and as we came to the outskirts of Amarillo we saw numerous billboards advertising inexpensive motels, one after another. We passed several on a service road that paralleled I-40, and Brad finally pulled into a place called Luxury Inn and Suites. It looked local, and we thought it’d be nice to support a non-chain hotel. The friendly receptionist set us up, and after a nice chat with her we went to our room. Circling around back we parked and went in the side near the pool courtyard. Brad opened the door to our room and we were immediately disappointed to see how tired the interior looked, and my first thought was bed bugs?! There was a stained upholstered chair, and everything seemed shabby and dull. I put my stuff down gingerly, then checked the bed, pulled off the covers and peered between the mattress and headboard. I didn’t see anything crawling, but even the sheets looked grubby. Ugh… We looked in the bathroom next and saw a stained shower, dirt in the corners, totally grimy. We both agreed we had to go, although we felt a bit reluctant since the receptionist was so nice, but we just wanted to get out of there it was so uncomfortable! I’d much rather sleep in our truck! Luckily the woman voided our transaction without any trouble. When she asked why, I said it just wasn’t what we expected. She didn’t seem that dismayed we were leaving... We were so glad to be out of there! We then drove further along the service road, checked out a couple more possibilities and ended up at the Day’s Inn. This receptionist was wearing her hair up in curlers, with a bathrobe - it was Halloween and she was a “tired housewife”. The place was spotless, and just what we wanted! We were so comfortable we decided an easy dinner of pb and jam sandwiches was fine - no need to escape in search of a Texas steakhouse!  While Brad was out bringing in our food he discovered a washer and dryer for us to use down the hall - bonus! As we were checking email, Brad turned on the tv and we saw for the first time, news covering Hurricane Sandy. We were shocked and saddened to see the destruction, along with the flooded streets of Manhattan where we’d been parked just days before! We felt lucky to be out of the area, and safe in our comfortable room in Amarillo.

Friday, October 04, 2013

24 States in 27 Days - Day 21:

Oct. 30th, 2012, Tuesday: Awake at 5:21, before our alarm, we tried to fall back asleep, but it wasn’t happening so we got up, put on our shoes, slipped out the back of the truck and spotted a line of taxis waiting on the far side of the parking lot. Quickly we moved the cooler and our two bags to the back, then zip, we were in and ready to go. 

With the help of a police officer downtown we found an Exxon on the way to the freeway and stopped for gas and mediocre coffee. Nibbling honey roasted peanuts we continued to I-40 - next stop: Memphis. 

Once there, it felt a bit like we were repeating last night, but since it was daylight the neon lights were dull and the music scene was nonexistent. We walked through a seedy mall area, with a dirty, abandoned feel, then past busses and church school students in lines, to blocked off Beale St., Memphis’s blues music hub - all quiet this morning. 

Brad popped into a souvenir shop where a friendly fella tried to sell him a compilation music cd, but Brad just wanted postcards. We walked around, he took photos, and luckily we were pretty quick. 

After checking the menu, we went inside Automatic Slim’s for lunch - an upscale looking spot off the main drag. On the menu was a make-your-own-salad list - we chose: heart of romaine, spinach, tomatoes, roasted mushrooms, goat cheese, parmesan crisps and real bacon bits with a creamy avocado dressing along with a bowl of gumbo to share. Both were delish. After lunch, Brad drove to Sun Studio for a quick tour. 

Then it was back to the freeway entrance and over the Mississippi River into Arkansas! 

Time for some backroad exploring as we exited onto hwy. 64. 

At Bald Knob we hopped onto I-67. It was lined with thick groves of trees - a pretty backlit corridor, but we couldn’t see anything beyond. At Beebe we turned back onto hwy. 64 and continued west to Conway. This area had lots of ranches, and was greener than the east side of the state.  At Conway we again got on I-40 and zoomed through the rest of Arkansas. Most of the day was sunny, but the further west we drove clouds started piling up, creating cool patterns and textures in the sky. We pulled off into a vineyard driveway for a snack break and to take some cloud photos. 

While there we studied the map and decided to get a camp spot just over the Oklahoma border. 

We turned off at Sallisaw exit and drove through town towards Brushy Lake Park

It was an amazingly warm evening - probably over 60ยบ and the light turned the trees and lake gold with the glow of the setting sun. 

This campground was lovely, and we picked a site right by the lake. Soon after, a couple came up carrying cocktails, happy to chat with us---pretty much the only other visitors at this park. They’d also just arrived - traveling from Arizona. After a bit of a visit they walked on and I tried to capture some quick photos of the sunset over the lake. 

Soon a couple with a little boy drove up in golf cart. They were the camp hosts, there to welcome us and offer drive-up service! Cute little Conner was probably two-ish, sporting a pumpkin shirt as he wandered around with his grandma, while grandpa filled out the form and took our check - only $15 with electric hook-up too. We plugged in our chargers, set up camp and I worked on uploading pics. While eating a salad and pb & j we heard the rush of wings as a big bird flew over us in the twilight - an owl? A hoot off in the distance confirmed it. Bed came early after our lack of sleep in Nashville - it was blessedly quiet here, and we slept real well, only the sound of coyotes nudging us out of our dreams.