Sunday, September 6, 2009

Southwest in September

30 Sep - Thurs: Charley joined us visiting a Rambo genealogy cousin, Dr. Scott Jordan who captivated us by recounting his research of Leukemia related effects of the nuclear bombs in Japan post WWII. Scott taught at the medical school in ABQ until retirement. After dinner we all visited his son who has a shop full of old and new Honda Goldwings.

29 Sep- Wed: Enjoyed a great reunion with Charley and Sam in ABQ - along with their now grown up lovely daughter and new granddaughter.

28 Sep - Tues: Busy Busy Busy socializing in Santa Fe. It was great to enjoy best buddy Mark V and Sandy for dinner along with Tony and June. Jim May joined us for lunch at Tia Sophia's; And how great to see Maria Tortilla (smile!) and her husband Ray along with our good friend Nina twice again! Stewart and Ron had fun playing GO, too. Smooch Smooch had some good girlie doing nails, hair and shopping; the Folk Art Museum is pretty wonderful. . We hiked the Aspen Vista trail on Sunday; Monday (yesterday) Norma joined us for a hearty four mile hike on the Dale Bell Nature Conservancy Trail. We met John, Linda and Nina for a delightful time at Ristra Restaurant enjoying the Amarone wine we were introduced to by Ray. And this morning the chef at the Buffalo Thunder Casino treated us to breakfast. The delightful waitress Marie gave us good-bye hugs. We are headed to Sedona, AZ today with stops in Albuquque and Las Cruces. Eventually the missing days in the blog will be updated with photos of quaking Aspen. Smooch Smooch loves Santa Fe - mostly because of the wonderful friends who live here.

22 Sep - Mon: The ride to Bandelier National Forest was pleasurable - followed by an
adventurous five mile hike (RT) on the Twin Falls Trail down to the Rio Grande. The trail follows El Rito de Los Frijoles (The Little River of Beans) past two waterfalls - through a wooded gorge - with mountains rising steeply on both sides; the hike is a moderately difficult one - crossing the river by stone stepping in three places; the return is largely uphill. The descent is about 200 feet to the Rio Grande - which seemed wider than remembered. OH NO! Smooch Smooch was a few yards ahead on the trail when the ominous sounds of a rattler alerted her to danger slithering away; she moved out of there mighty fast. And indeed he was still there when we both approached him - a big guy - about 1.5 inches in diameter and 3 feet long - moving very slowly away from us. Not too much further up trail a large deer carcass was lying in the gully- having been obviously enjoyed for dinner; parts of the the hide were visible; the bones were very white and not chewed up. After leaving the parking area we spotted a coyote killing a snake in on the road. The coyote took off into the woods leaving his prey. It was fun to share the day's adventure with Janie at Ristros'.

Sunset at Buffalo Thunder : View from the room.

It only took 62 years to learn that Fleurs pay off with romantic points

19 Sept - Sat: Nina wrote the meaningful poem for us - 9/2/09:

She the rolling water -
He the certain sky -
A length like love's commandment
that holds the heavens wide -
And with the ocean -
whose deepest touches earth -
Where they are both horizon -
Makes the force where light gives birth.


The afternoon was spent at St. John's College playing "GO" with Stewart (losing two out of three games) while Smooch Smooch took a tough computer course trying to learn how to use those Hilton Grand Vacation Club points with RCI - (its exchange affiliate) - for Sedona next month. We TRIED to eat dinner at an east Indian restaurant that is vegan. Do you know how much oil (translate: fat grams) is in that diet - not to mention sugar? Booths separated by drapes - with low benches and floor cushions was the interesting aspect of the dining experience; but the best part was going to the Tune-Up Restaurant to eat after eating.

18 Sept - Fri: AAAAuuuGGGGHHHH! Using our Hilton Honors points at the Homewood Suites in Buffalo Thunder was a circus; but we had the special assistance of a Bankston by marriage who fixed things for us. We rode towards Santa Fe - only to be greeted by a late afternoon rain shower five miles out and took shelter under a highway overpass. Believing the rain passed over - we we once again set forth only to discover to our chagrin and soaked clothing we had not waited long enough. Smooch Smooch's Tour-master rain pants were waiting for us at Stewart's. We enjoyed a nice visit and went on to John and Linda's for a glass of wine - and to wish them bon voyage: they leave in the AM for a week of river rafting and wilderness camping.

17 Sept- Thurs: Zooma Zooma - South out of Durango to avoid the downpours in the North, East and West with plans for a stopover in Chaco Canyon. The ride was pleasant, cool at times, and the vista simply marvelous. Chaco Canyon has changed considerably since the first visit some twenty five years ago - maybe thirty - when there was no Visitor's Center or commercialism. But 15 miles of ugly, washboard, rutted dirt road going through Indian lands to the entrance has not changed in the least; next time we travel across this road we will rent a car and not drive the bike. Chaco Canyon is well worth our return another time: MMMM. We were rewarded with a magnificent sunset. After a chilly dark drive to Cuba, NM we enjoyed a lovely dinner at El Bruno's and the delightful waitress - mother of five - who surely deserved a big tip. Our lunch the next day at the Abuiqui Inn demonstrated a deserved reputation.

16 Sept.- Wed: The Strater Hotel is a must if you are touring circa Durango, Colorado. After breakfast at Carver's (a coffee house) we were exhausted planning possibilities of places we could hike and bike today so we opted for a quiet day inside this delightful hotel to catch up on computer work. Indeed we missed lunch working so hard and went straight to dinner at the Red Snapper for some mighty fine Salmon. Tomorrow we will leave Durango but await word from the weather woman about the direction to travel. The old Beamer is working well after Dave fixed it up! The seat is comfy - the ride is sweet and smooth.

15 Sept, Tues.- We toured Mesa Verde National Forest taking in almost all of the overlooks plus a guided tour of the Pueblo Indian Cliff Dwellings. The exit ascent was a vertical 100 foot climb. We climbed five ten foot ladders to enter the Cliff Palace (left). Will miracles never cease????: The rain missed us once again.

Dinner tonight was again at the Red Snapper with much thanks to Nancy and John - the congenial owners who worked so hard to make our cardboard and styrofoam diet delicious. They created sauces we can eat! Dinner was followed by an evening in the balcony of the Diamond Belle Saloon listening to the delightful piano player and visiting around. We certainly have met a lot of nice people in Durango like Freddie and Dan; also the nice folks celebrating a thirty-fifth wedding anniversary in the Red Snapper were a lot of fun.

Photo: Mining Camp View From Train

13 Sept, Sat - The photos were taken from the window of the Durango to Silverton narrow gauge steam engine train; it was a seven hour round trip event that included lunch at an old time saloon with sing-along songs. TOO MUCH FUN! - Smooch Smooch loves honky-tonk music.

12 Sept, Fri- Montrose through Ouray to Durango, CO: Motorcyclists heaven. Winding trails, spectacular views and NO RAIN! We stopped for lunch in Silverton and we are staying at the historic Strater Hotel - lively banjo music tonight at the Diamond Belle Saloon that is part of the hotel. The Red Snapper is THE place to eat great seafood and an excellent salad bar.

Black Canyon - Colorado

Sept. Thurs- 11 Sept: Montrose, CO, -
Sit still for ten minutes viewing the awesome wilderness: time vanishes, stress evaporates and your life will be so much richer -

Hiking and biking in the Black Canyon located in Gunnison National Forest was great. The first day we were rained out in the afternoon - but had some good hikes, albeit not long, and we enjoyed seeing a herd of mountain goats. The colorful mountain flowers are captivating: Lupine, Aster, Yarrow, Goldenweed - Golden Eye. Each day the Aspen turn more gold - and each day proclaims the quickening pace of Autumn.

Molly (the waitress from the Belly Restaurant) met us at City Market where we drove to the mountains so she could take our photo for Christmas cards - and we could send some stills to Sharyn in Santa Fe. Our favorite restaurant in Montrose is the Stonehouse - FANTASTIC FOOD!

9 Sept. Wed.: Leaving Alamosa early we headed west on Hwy 160 through Del Norte, Creede towards Montrose, dressed for cold; this kept us warm over the Continental Divide (10, 000 plus feet) and over Slumgullion Pass at 11, 900 plus feet where we definitely felt the chill. A stop in Creede for Smooch Smooch to buy warmer socks was a very good idea - especially purchasing two pairs of socks because one pair is very cute. The socks are 100% Smartwool.: the label reads "We always give you 100% Effort, 100% Smarts and 0% Bull." Higher in the mountains we loved seeing the Aspens turning a gorgeous gold. We warmed up - almost overheated - as we rode closer to Montrose arriving about four PM with only a protein drink, banana and apple for lunch; we had a very delightful dinner at the Belly Restauran, inviting the waitress, a photographer from Philadelphia, to take our picture on the bike tomorrow after we spend the day hiking the Black Canyon.

8 Sept. Tues: The photo (left) is of the spectacular sunset from the Stakeout Restaurant nine miles south of Taos, NM - taken last night. This is a not to be missed restaurant high in the mountains with yummy food even on my diet of cardboard and styrofoam.

For Nina:
Today we left town headed westward towards Durango, Colorado until we were nearly enfolded into a massive thunderstorm. At the last moment, in Tres Piedras, an alternative route was available northward to Antonito. If the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad had offered an afternoon departure, we would have ridden the train. More storm clouds there convinced me to make another 90 degree turn back eastward to San Luis, "the oldest town in Colorado." That fetched us up to the mountains with a north/south choice only. North look less rainy, so we proceeded to Fort Garland, then west again to Alamosa where we are enjoying an early evening at the Rio Grande Hotel. No telling where we will go tomorrow - God only knows.

The landscapes are indeed waving to us. The songs of the sirens cannot compare to the allure of these landscapes. Embraces are a given; we practice at every opportunity, and thank God for both the embraces and the opportunities
. Thank you Nina for your wonderful words that are blessings to us!

7 Sept - Mon: Our breakfast companions, Joe and Diane from Alamagordo and Pennsylvania, were really enjoyable people; we had a lively conversation about philosophies. Diane is a very wise woman who commented about our traveling lifestyle, "At the end of life people are not likely to be wishing they had worked more or earned more but wished they had taken the time to be more invested in relationships."

Smooch Smooch had an hour plus walk to the Plaza before we drove around the Enchanted Circle (a three hour drive on the bike). It was very scenic, too. We stopped in Red River for a so-so lunch. The recent rainfall was evident in the abundance of beautiful mountain wildflowers: lavender, gold, white, reds amidst variegated greens. Stopping at the Veterans Memorial at Eagles Nest was a moving experience. Rain seemed about to fall so we returned to the hotel for more jig-saw and a nap before dinner at the Stakeout Restaurant. Dinner on the patio high in the mountains was an experience not to be forgotten.

6 Sept - Sun: Lots of Shriners on motorcycles are staying in the Touchstone --- and fun fun fun to talk to this morning before working on the jig saw puzzle. We spent the day back at the Hacienda de Sol until time to check in for tonight and tomorrow night's final stay in Taos. Dinner tonight was at Lambert's - the 2009 Best of Taos award winning restaurant. Not great but OK. We do enjoy the view of Taos Mountain from this new room at the Hacienda del Sol. It is a great place to stay.

5 Sept.-Sat: After eating our usual egg white omelets at the B&B we ventured forth on the bike NW of Taos hoping we could make it to Durango or Pagosa Springs, CO - but the weather did not cooperate. A storm front was headed to the four corners. We were hit by hail first ... but continued moving ahead out of the hailstorm and into rain. Parking the bike at a National Forest Service Road was a convenient place to hide under trees until the rain stopped and the highway was no longer so wet. We continued on to the spectacular Brazos Cliffs mountain view over the Chama valley below but the clouds looked too dark and we turned back to Taos. A few miles NW of Taos is an Earthship subdivision; we pulled into the visitors center to look at the construction of earthhomes fabricated out of trash (used tires filled with mud, bottles and cans for reinforcing material - and recycled water. The actor and director Dennis Hopper lives here. Smooch Smooch wants to build a house "on the cutting edge of green" but this is NOT what she has in mind. About two miles N of Taos rain started to fall ahead of us; there was a distinct line in the road where the rain started. We proceeded on when the rain reached us - and waited it out in a gas station.

Since we turned around to return to Taos we needed lodging for the night; the innkeepers at the Hacienda de Sol recommended Touchstone next door. It was a good choice: the owners are artisits who built on a gallery/dining area combined. Bren Price is the owner - with wonderful watercolors hanging on all of the walls. Her husband is a potter and painter who told us a lively story of how they met, walked a labyrinth and decided they had met their soul mates in each other in only a week's time.

We had dinner at the famous Hotel La Fonda in the restaurant: Joseph's Table... it was OK but not great at all!

4 Sept-Fri: Well! We did not get the early start that we planned but we did get started before lunch. Leaving the trailer and car at Stewart's - we managed to leave behind cute shoes and get all of our necessities into two little saddlebags and started out on the first leg of Touring the US Rockies Two on the Bike - by taking the High Road to Taos. The High Road is a back-country, scenic route between Santa Fe and Taos through high desert, mountains, forests, small farms and tiny Spanish Land Grant villages. Scattered along the way are the galleries and studios which make up the High Road Art Tour. The views are spectacular. We enjoyed touring the Santurio de Chimayo managing to arrive in Taos by three PM after a nice meal on the plaza in the Bent Street Grill. The Mediterranean salad was excellent. We are staying at the Hacienda de Sol (advertised as one of the top ten most romantic B and B's in the US) assuring me of lots of romantic points. It is the first home of Mabel Dodge Luhan. And they even have a jig-saw puzzle that begs putting together. The Stakeout Restaurant is really fine: dinner was out on the patio - high in the mountains south of Taos. We thanked them profusely for arranging such a spectacular sunset. The colors were incredible.

3 Sept.-Thurs: And double the fun! The interview with Sharyn and her brother Arne was so nice. Arne used Nina's poem she wrote for us as the beginning of the ihour long nterview. He fielded questions to us while Sharyn filmed. Their house was built about 1920; Arne lives in the lower floor while Sharyn lives on the ground level. Arne treated us to his latest music compositions (two of them) created in the past two days. More about this brother and sister when we get time. We had lunch at the Tearoom on Canyon Road. We went to El Farol's for dinner in the evening - but had the wrong time for Pat and Janice. They were there at the right time and we arrived thirty minutes later - after they went home. Nina joined us for dinner. We are very thankful to have met such nice new friends as Nina, Sharyn and Arne.

2 Sept.-Wed: Oh what fun! We went to Bob and Lupe's early (well... for us....). It was SUCH fun we arrived ten minutes late at Nina's studio. Nina is one amazingly talented - plus beautiful- woman. She is a dancer, poet and fine art collage artist - not to mention a great cook. We were treated to tea, with home-made scones, special jams from San Francisco and fruit first. In addition to all of that good food she wrote a special poem for us that will get posted. Her artwork is very professional and moving. The Tango series is rich and colorful. A favorite is the tryptich. She has agreed to meet us tomorrow night for dinner at El Farol's. Stewart and June treated us to a delicious meal at their home; their son and granddaughter joined us to make it a very special evening.

1 Sept-Tues: We checked out of Buffalo Thunder because we were not too happy with the facility. They allowed a 3 PM checkout which did help make up for the problems. We parked the trailer at Stewart and June's and checked into the Hampton Inn. it was surprising to discover so many changes in Santa Fe around Pat's house ... but we did locate him after driving for an hour. He is just as amazingly creative as usual. He was awarded the commission of building the desk for the Governor of New Mexico - and the reception desk for the CCollege of Santa Fe. Now he is doing some pretty fancy ceramic work and pottery. Janice does Native American bead work as well as pottery. Later we met Stewart and June for dinner at the Tune-Up.