Category Archives: Family Travel

Day 539 of Life on the Road as a Family, Santa Fe

IMG_8973Here’s the famous Loretto Chapel staircase!  A block off the main Sante Fe plaza, I’ve been wanting to see it for years and here we are!  We waited in line in the rain to get in, paid our $3 each, and into the tiny chapel we went.  We lucked out because they were closing at 4 p.m. for a wedding.  We had just been locked out of the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic church for that very reason, so we were glad to get in here.

The story goes that the staircase was built for the nuns by a carpenter who just showed up one day, Jesus.  It was a miracle that is was built this way, without supports.  Originally it didn’t have a banister, but it was added in later years because the nuns going up to the choir loft were having a hard time navigating the steep steps. This picture doesn’t do justice to how stunning it it; please Google it!

We sat in a pew to take it all in, but it was so crowded with other tourists that we couldn’t hear the recording over the speakers about the history and about the Stations of the Cross around the perimeter.  I did hear 4 different languages being spoken, so that was fun. Santa Fe is so much more cosmopolitan than Taos, it’s like night and day.  One word to describe Santa Fe would be “bling”. Major bling!  The tourists had on more jewelry than I’ve seen the whole trip.  It was crazy.  Huge rings.  15 bracelets.  Earrings dripping to their shoulders.  Much of it was southwestern style, but there were some really artistic pieces, too.  It was “in your face, here I am” jewelry!

Or it could have been that I noticed because I was on the hunt for a pair of earrings. When Dan and I travelled through Santa Fe in 1997, we were saving for our 1998 epic trip, so I didn’t buy a pair of earrings that I had fallen in love with on the plaza.  I have few regrets in life, but that little pair of earrings was one of them. So silly! Should have just bought them.

So this time we hunted all over for my favorite pair.  We saw gorgeous, gaudy and everything in between.  I finally bought a pair of silver and turquoise drops from Ronnie, a Native American who sets his blanket out everyday in front of the Palace of the Governors.  At $75, I should have bought the pair years ago!  Who cares, I love ’em.

IMG_8991We toured 3 of the history museums, then hit Georgia O’Keefe’s fancy one. To say I was happy is an understatement.  I couldn’t believe we were there!  We just happened to make it for the last docent guided tour of the day, and it was so special.  This docent knew her Georgia and she told great stories about her and her life.  I had included her in a feminist themed paper I wrote in college, but back then the research I did was by book, but the guide knew a lot more.  Georgia won an art contest when she was young, after being taught to paint a certain way by the teacher. She hated painting that way so much that she put away her brushes for 4 years and went to Texas to live the “cowboy” life.  That’s where she strarted to find her own painting style.  Strong woman.

I didn’t know that her photographer/art dealer/boyfriend/then husband took nude photo’s of her and released them to the press, unbenownst to her, just as she was becoming famous.  What a jerk.  She was upset and headed out west on her own, and ended up spending as much time as possible in the Santa Fe area from then on.  Of course, the male press then reviewed her paintings with a sexual connotation for years.  Jerks.

I also didn’t know that she was friends with Ansel Adams, and that he was one of only two people who was allowed to see what she was working on before it was finished. They’d take her old Ford out to the desert and paint and draw and take pictures for hours.  He’s another one of my favorites because of his fantastic pictures and love of Yosemite.  So fun to find out that they were friends; that wasn’t in my paper.

We ended up the day at a local Mexican restaurant that the lady at the RV park had HIGHLY recommended.  Let’s just say we wish we would have eaten at Taco Bell down the road.  They took forever to take our orders, got Eliza’s wrong, and had skimpy portions.  Ugh, all that for $68.  Their homemade salsa and chips were the saving grace of the meal.

In between rain storms, Santa Fe is beautiful.  The flowers, artwork and colors all over make it feel very welcoming.  Just bring your full wallet; it’s expensive.  And buy those earrings on your first visit!

Day 538 of Life on the Road as a Family!

IMG_8826It was another drive day and I took about 30 pictures between Taos and Santa Fe – it was gorgeous!  Bright blue sky, winding road and good travel companions – perfect!  It was only a 70 mile drive, so we just took it easy and enjoyed the drive.  It’s always hard going from a one campground or RV park to the next, because we really start to like where we are, and you never know what the next place will be like.  We were right to be apprehensive about the Santa Fe RV Park!

IMG_8847This is our site for the week, isn’t it beautiful?!  Isn’t Eliza adorable?!  Look at that sky and space all around us!  But check out the little storage until behind our table – the guy next to us obviously lives at his site and during the early morning and late evening, he would scurry  between his trailer and the storage unit.  We couldn’t see what he was taking back and forth, but we would love to know.  It was so funny!  We only saw him in the flesh one time and as we said hello, he practically ran for his trailer.  Not as sociable as our neighbors to the left who also lived at their site and had 4 cars.  We could barely squeeze our car in behind our rig and had the “pleasure” of listening to them party all week.  Ugh.

And that’s the way it is on the road.  Some places are incredible, and some are busts.  That’s what makes it such an adventure.  Wouldn’t change a thing!

Day 537 of Life on the Road as a Family

IMG_8773One of my favorite things about this whole trip if finding so many unexpected, wonderful places.  This cartoon (and many others like it) was hanging in the hallway of the old courthouse building, right off the main Taos plaza.  We had tried to get in another door because I had read that it had some historic murals inside, but it was locked, so I was disappointed.  As we walked around the plaza, Dan found this hallway, with quirky stairs leading up to the old courthouse itself. They’ve even preserved the old jail inside.

IMG_8781It was hot and dark and stinky inside. So sad.

Taos, and most of New Mexico, are very proud of their ancestors and Taos is particularly eco friendly, solar run and water conscious.  My favorite cartoon was of an extremely green Colorado, watering their lawns, filling their pools, and then the Colorado-New Mexico border, and the drought stricken New Mexico – brown and dying underneath.  From what we’ve seen and read about the last 6 weeks, it’s too true.

IMG_8772This is the actual old courthouse with the incredible murals all over.  Hand painted years ago, they’ve recently been re-done.  They are law and order and religious themes and are priceless artwork.  I would recommend finding them when you visit!  And we would all recommend visiting Taos.  We didn’t get the spiritual vibe, or go to dinner with any ex-hippies, but we met a lot of really, really nice people and it’s a great, livable sized town.  I’m so glad we added to our adventure and will go back to stay in Red River someday!

Day 536 of Life on the Road as a Family

IMG_8719I’ve been aching to get my hiking boots on a trail since we didn’t get to hike as much in wet Colorado as we thought we would, but this hike was so hard, I was reconsidering that need quickly!  This picture is of the Taos valley as we are coming back down the trail.  It was in the 80’s, and so dry, we were sucking down the water.  The trail went straight up for over a mile, then was rolling hills until the top of Devisadaro Mtn.  I still don’t know if it was the altitude or the hike that had me huffing and puffing, but who cares, it was a beautiful hike.

Day 535 of Life on the Road as a Family, the Enchanted Circle

IMG_8576Dan was up at 5:30 a.m. and hit the road on his bike to ride the Enchanted Circle – here the kids are standing near a sign that shows the area.  Taos itself is beautiful, but the Sangre de Cristo Mountain area that he rode through is even prettier.  We didn’t leave until 8:30 a.m. because we are finally done with school and are feeling lazy!

We couldn’t believe how hard the ride was – he was up and down huge mountains, and gained over a mile in elevation. Coming out of the cutest little mountain town ever, Red River, we had to go up Bobcat Pass. We hadn’t caught him yet and we couldn’t believe he was riding straight up this mountain, on a winding, narrow road. The car could barely keep going, I had to keep shifting down.

We didn’t catch him until mile 53 of his 88 mile ride.  IMG_8601He looked strong.  Wouldn’t this make a great poster?!  This was in the middle of the valley and it was hot.

After hugs and pictures and water, he kept riding, and the kids and I stopped at a Vietnam Veterans Memorial we saw.  IMG_8617Built by the father of a boy who lost his life in Vietnam, it is a touching site and an excellent museum.  The video they play is famous actors reading letters that were sent home.  Luckily we only saw 1/2 of it because I was bawling.  It’s a state park now, and down over the hill they are building only the 4th national cemetery in the nation.  We toured for about an hour, and then hurried back to the road to find Dan again.

IMG_8636We caught up to him again, just as he was about to hit the last leg for home.  After more hugs and pictures and water, he turned left, and we went right to find the Earthship.  The kids are great explorers now and I love driving with them to find new places.  We have only gotten lost a few times, and even then, we don’t mind because we always see cool stuff or meet nice people.

IMG_8658Jim, a friend from high school, had told me on FB that his daughter was taking a course on building earthships, so to go find her.  You know me, I thought that was a great idea. We drove onto the property and I walked over to a group that was having lunch outside in the 100 degree heat.  I asked if they knew Heidi, and a young lady girl from Kentucky took us to find her.  Jim had told her we were coming and she was so gracious and showed us her room in the bunkhouse earthship.  It was nice and cool inside.  Primitive, but it has everything you need and wouldn’t fall apart like the RV.

There are several earthships in the Taos area and we had seen them from the road, but it was even better to see their construction up close.  Started when the first hippies moved to area in the 1960’s, they use tires,  mud, cement, wine and beer bottles and other recyclable materials to build earth friendly, environmentally sensitive houses.  There were people from all over the world at the one month course.  It would be so fun to take the course.

IMG_8671On the way back to the RV park, we had to go over the Rio Grande gorge again, so we stopped and bought cherry snow cones for the walk out onto the bridge.   We watched a group of rafters float by, but decided that there weren’t enough rapids to warrant us taking the trip.  We are missing our Tumalo State Park this summer and all the inner tubing we usually do.  And we are such snobs about our water now – we like it clear and clean!  We haven’t seen clean water in months – the pollution and garbage vary, but the color of the water is always brown.

After a little shopping for fathers day gifts, we headed home to see how Dan was doing.  He was recuperating from his ride well, and we had a good pasta dinner.  Another great day on the road!

Day 530 of Life on the Road as a Family

IMG_8315This is the famous Royal Gorge bridge, picture taken from the tram that runs just south of it.  The whole area burned a few years ago in a nearby forest fire, and they are still replacing buildings and other attractions.  Owned by the local city/county, it’s now a full blown tourist trap that you have to pay $23 to enter.  We were here years earlier, and enjoyed the old tram over the canyon, and the experience of walking and driving back across the bridge.  This time we rode the new tram with 4 other silent people and contemplated taking the zip line back.  At $49/each, it’s a little much for a minute ride, but Dan and I were willing to do it if the kids wanted to.  We’ve looked at zip lines all over the country, and have yet to have found one that looks fun. This one did look fun, until the kids saw that every zip line passenger was even older than Dan and I!  They were from a tour bus and a few of them smiled as they came into the station, but no one was screaming or laughing or smiling during the ride. The kids concluded that the ride must not be that scary if they “really old” people could do it, so we saved $200, fine.

After watching a corny acrobat show and reading about all the fires, we took our time walking back across the bridge; private car traffic is no longer allowed.  State flags line the sides, so we looked for Oregon and Iowa, and Nate and I tried NOT to look through the cracks of the bridge to the canyon below.  Glad the wind was just moderate!IMG_8371Great day to be a tourist and a fun place to visit!

Day 529 of Life on the Road as a Family

IMG_8224A view of Garden of the Gods from the visitors center.  Not at all what I remembered, it’s a small park with beautiful rock formations tucked into a suburban landscape.  It’s amazing how time changes your memories.  We were so happy to see the Rocky Mtns in the background, because the continual rain had them hidden for most of May.

IMG_8245We did a few short hikes in the park, many of them on paved trails.  Gorgeous day, perfect temperature, no one was fighting with anyone else.

IMG_8264Until we got to this rock.  I thought it would be so funny to have them pretend to hold up the rock while I took the pic.  There were very few people around when they started climbing to it, but it’s a famous balancing rock, so more people came.  At first they didn’t understand what I meant, then they finally did, and I took the pic.  I was laughing, and my laughter was bouncing back to me from the rock.  My family wasn’t laughing.  Other tourists standing with me were, then they all scrambled up to copy our pose. “See, it was a good idea!”

IMG_8265Next, we had a private tour of the Glen Eyerie castle from Susan’s daughter, Caitlyn.  She’s volunteering with the Navigators and offered to show us around.  It is gorgeous!  You can have a conference there or book a weekend or send your kids to day camp.  Nestled in the mountains, you cannot even tell it’s there from the main road.  We bought The Messenger bible that the original founder wrote, and it really is in readable, understandable English.  So special to get to see the area with Caitlyn.

IMG_8295Another storm brewing when we got home.  Last night we had 37 minutes of hail and prayers that it wasn’t denting the rig, the tow vehicle, or Nate in the tent! We didn’t go out to get him because we thought he might actually be sleeping through it… he wasn’t, but he enjoyed himself in the tent and didn’t want to come in!  The land for this park was donated by a family who could no longer use it for ranching.  We are right on the side of the NORAD mountain, so for security reasons, there are many things that couldn’t be built here.  And if you think NORAD just does Santa, you should Google it.  Amazing what they do, and kind of creepy to be camping right by it.

Day 528 of Life on the Road as a Family

IMG_8212By far, the best part of our trip is getting to hug family and friends all over the country.  This is Susan, a childhood friend who lives 1 mile as the crow flies away from our current campground. She was kind enough to invite us all to dinner and I wanted to move in!  We’d had a wonderful hike in the morning and then this fun dinner in the evening – another perfect day on the road.

Day 526 of Life on the Road as a Family

IMG_8038Another beautiful drive day in Colorado. From Chatfield State Park to Cheyenne Mtn State Park outside Colorado Springs.  The kids slept in their bunks and Dan and I tried to figure out the names of the mountains as we drove.  Using an old atlas was better than our phones, but we’re still not sure what this mountain is called.

IMG_8083Here’s our campsite for the week!  On the top tier of the park, with a view toward Colorado Springs and the huge Army base.  We’ve got a 180 degree view of the valley, and it is gorgeous.  The wind isn’t bad now, but we can see how we will be at it’s mercy all week.  The view makes up for it.

Our arrival wasn’t pretty, however.  After the peaceful drive,  we checked in at the park office, only to be told we’d have to not only pay for camping, but for a daily pass for the RV also. (The RV doesn’t move when you get it set up, the car does…)   At the last Colorado state park, this was not the case, so I asked why and was soon surrounded by 3 park rangers who forgot how to be nice, and in fact, were trying to be intimidating.  “So you want me to call Chatfield and yell at them and get them all in trouble for not charging you correctly there?” said the ranger. ” Well, no,” I replied,” but shouldn’t it be the same all over Colorado? The check in girl didn’t understand the policy, why should I?” They blustered and glared and were very rude until I told the volunteer to charge my card, and allow me to leave this mess.  He was so apologetic and nice, but it just reminded me of all the times we’ve been treated rudely on this trip, and how I don’t want to spend even one minute with these unhappy, unhealthy people.  Life is too short!

We got set up at the site, took a short hike, had a great dinner, and enjoyed the view.  Another great day on the road.

Day 525 of Life on the Road as a Family

IMG_7983Dan and I went for a bike ride around the reservoir, but ran into the flooding at the south end and had to walk our bikes through.  I was riding my old one, so I just walked it in the freezing cold water, but Dan’s bike is a little more precious, so he carried it through the water.  Only a serious biker does that!

I had tried to ride all the way around the reservoir earlier in the week, but the current in this spot was so strong, it was taking me to the left, which is the actual deeper lake, and as I was alone, I really didn’t want to go swimming unexpectedly.  I couldn’t believe how strong the current was and how numb my feet got half was across, so I turned around and waited for another day.

The Denver area had its wettest May on record – and we’ve been here for all of it. Expecting to do a ton of hiking, instead we dashed in and out of the car, rig or library to explore while it was sunny, and run back in when the floodgates opened.  The rain comes down with such force that if you get caught in it, it actually hurts.

So our bike ride was great around the reservoir, and there were tons of other people out enjoying the sun, too.  Chatfield was built to protect Denver, and it does its job well.  There was room for more rain and snow runoff, but the road was closed at the south end for flooding and many other areas of the park were closed as well.  The first night we went out walking and couldn’t figure out what the little roofs were on the water way across the lake – when the water went down later we saw that they were the park bathrooms – totally immersed.  Just amazing. The park ranger said it had never happened before.  Lucky us to get to experience it!