Monday, July 11, 2011

The Starting Point

Although tracts of fertile land considerably extensive are occasionally to be met with, yet the scarcity of wood and water, almost uniformly prevalent, will prove an insuperable obstacle in the way of settling the country. Edwin James in 1823

WOOO HOOOOOO! It's time for a road trip...... 

We begin our current adventure in Pueblo, Colorado.  According to the official Colorado vacation guide Pueblo was once "a rough-and-tumble mining town inhabited by cowboys, gold-seekers and infamous ruffians like Wild Bill Hickock and Buffalo Bill Cody."

Modern day Pueblo is an up and coming city with many great amenities such as the Union Avenue Historic District,  Historic Arkansas River Project, Lake Pueblo State Park, and Whitewater Park.  We also have The Buell Children's Museum and the Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum.

The Pueblo Zoo is located within City Park which also has a kiddie park with rides for toddlers to adults that includes an historic carousel that is open every evening during the summer months.

We are in the heart of green chile named Pueblo a top-10 Surprising Food City, in part because of those wonderful roasted green chiles. For a special Pueblo treat try a "slopper." 

This area is commonly known as the High Plains Desert and the region remains one of the least populated areas in the country.

This region lies basically in the middle of the country and ranges from 1600 feet above sea level at the eastern edge to over 7000 feet at the western edge where the High Plains Desert meets the Rockie Mountains.

The Nature Conservancy has designated this eco-region as the Central Shortgrass Prairie.  As we leave Pueblo we head west toward  Pueblo West and Canon City on Highway 50. 

The landscape consists of arroyos, buttes and rocky outcrops against a typically blue sky. Because of the elevation and lack of vegetation, there are wide ranges and extremes in the daily temperatures. We are also beset with bouts of extreme weather, such as the occasional blizzard in the winter and the more common thunderstorms, complete with damaging winds and hail, in the summer. Just a small price to pay for the beauty of  wide open spaces....

To the north we can see Pikes Peak and to the south the Sangre de Cristos fill the sky.

Overall, the Central Shortgrass Prairie is semi-arid and supports scrub vegetation such as blue sagebrush, rabbit brush, and cacti, along with the prairie grasses.

The area is home to the black tailed prairie dog which digs tunnels in the prairie that create homes for the burrowing owl, as well as plovers, cottontails, lizards and snakes.  Early settlers called them barking squirrels and they are more closely related to squirrels than rats.  They are highly intelligent and have a complex communication system we are just beginning to understand.

Jane Goodall wrote, "Nine different wildlife species depend on the prairie dog and their habitat for their survival.  The prairie dog is a critical component to healthy North American grasslands."  And I think they are just plain cute.

You can see the highlights of the entire trip to Las Vegas @

Friday, June 24, 2011

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

On a recent Monday afternoon, we escaped the parched southern Colorado prairie and traveled north along I25 to Denver. The prairie became greener the further north we traveled until we actually saw the lush green of Spring that we hadn't seen down south this year.

I look forward to the few days of green that spring provides before the hot summer sun reminds me that we live in a desert complete with its varying shades of tan and brown.

We were headed to a Rockies game. Coors field is awesome...It is a beautiful stadium with lots of interesting things to see and do. We took 3 children to their first professional baseball game and had a great time doing it.

We got rained out in the 6th inning but it was a great outing; one we hope the children will always remember.

I made a short video of our trip.... I hope you enjoy it.

June 13, 2011

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Chocolate Covered Santa Fe Trail

Chocolate doesn't make the world go 'round, but it sure does make the trip worthwhile!

Who knew the Santa Fe Trail was chocolate covered and so delightfully yummy! But based on one of those brochures from the hotel lobby, we set out to find the Santa Fe Chocolate Trail....Home of the Territory's finest chocolatiers. With a little maneuvering we wound our way to an amazing little gem called The Chocolatesmith. Finding this place is so totally worth the effort.

They specialize in gourmet dark chocolate with signature creations that combine organic and local ingredients with a southwestern flair.

We spent nearly an hour in this tastefully decorated little shop, inhaling the aroma and sampling the chocolates. The aroma of top quality dark chocolate induces the giddiness of....well, a kid in a candy store.

My favorite selection wasn't chocolate at all, but the white chocolate lemon lavender bark....the tangerine cream bark was also fantastic and oh,...the Don Juan Pecan, a buttery caramel and roasted pecans dipped in dark chocolate, is worth the drive to Santa Fe!

Their website is full of tempting chocolates like rosemary marcona almond chocolates, white chocolate mimosa chocolates, lemon poppy seed cranberry barks and so much more.

I have always loved Santa Fe and now there is one more reason to make the trip!

Where the Deer and the Antelope Play

And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell,
and I understood more than I saw; ~Black Elk, Black Elk Speaks

The view, driving north from Santa Fe, New Mexico towards Colorado, on Interstate 25 is one of the rolling prairie. This time of year the grass and flowers have not yet awakened from their winter slumber, so the prairie sports the many shades of gold, rust and brown.

As we drive along, we eagerly look for all signs of life through this stretch of road and generally anticipate seeing the bands of Pronghorn antelope that dot the open space. This day, however, the wind came at us from the west, whipping along at 30-40 mph, darkening the sky with dust, while even stronger gusts hurled sand and debris, along with flocks of tumbleweeds, across the highway.

Thinking it was miserable day to be outside, we decided the antelope would be hunkered down, seeking what little shelter they could find behind a hill somewhere....

But, instead, there they were, magnificent creatures that they are, calmly grazing, seemingly without a care in the world. They were not railing against the wind or, as far as I could tell, complaining in any way, that it was ruining their meal, much less their entire day....

Hmmmmm, does anyone else see an "aha moment" in there, somewhere....

The message I took away from that scene was that the chaos of the world outside of us (things we have no control over) need not disturb the peace inside of us.

We can't anticipate what any day will hold for us, we can only work on how we will respond to what occurs....

I am grateful to the antelope for sharing their message with me....I will draw peace from this image, always.

And....I'm making a conscious effort to follow their example so, I too, can make peace with the wind!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In the Heart of Santa Fe

I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ~Robert Louis Stevenson

It was chilly and still quite windy when we started the second day of our trip which meant the Sandia Peak Gondola Ride was out of the question, again! So we headed to the Plaza. The Plaza is the center of Santa Fe. It is where you will see the Palace of the Governors, which is the oldest public building in the United States. Native Americans artists sit under the portal of this landmark and sell handcrafted authentic artwork and jewelry. The other three sides house unique galleries, shops, and restaurants of Santa Fe.

We accepted a great parking place on W San Francisco Street which just happened to be directly across the street from the French Pastry Shop and Creperie. A perfect manifestation of food and an excellent way to start the day. We entered the very busy little shop to find an absolutely charming restaurant.

It is a self-seating establishment and there was one open table just waiting for us to get there! The menu with prices for everything is displayed on a huge chalkboard on the wall behind the cash register. We ordered tea and coffee as the waitress handed us the menu (sans prices).... But what the menu did say was NO CREDIT CARDS! Really good to know ahead of time....especially if you have recently visited Pojoaque!

A quick trip to the ATM in the lobby of the La Fonda hotel (attached at the rear) and we were back in the breakfast business! I couldn't decide between the quiche and the crepes, so asked the waitress what she would recommend...."we are known for our crepes" was her reply, so crepes it was....I had the Ratatouille (zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, onions, green-pepper) and my friend had the banana with whipped creme.

Have to say it was not what I expected...the portion was large and plain...I guess I expected small and elaborately decorated....but it was tasty and I would definitely eat there again. The shop was very crowded with a line out the door, so I did feel a little rushed to get out of there and let someone else experience the joy of crepes....

It was delightful to hear French being spoken in the dining room and it was definitely a lively way to start the day!

I enjoyed the movie "The Staircase" so I was hoping to see the Loretto Chapel while we were in town...There was a church at the end of the street so we walked in that direction...What we found was The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis.

According to, Saint Francis Cathedral was built between 1869 and 1886 and designed in the French Romanesque Revival style. Although its design contrasts the surrounding adobe buildings, the cathedral remains one of Santa Fe's most celebrated landmarks. In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI officially elevated the church to the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Another beautiful accident! We got directions to the Loretto Chapel and went in search of the miraculous staircase.....

Around the corner and down the street, vendors were setting up in the courtyard of the Chapel....We had a nice conversation about Pistachio Nuts with a man selling small bags of them in several flavors....As this was the second or third time we encountered Pistachios being proclaimed "local", we just had to ask.....And we found out that the pistachios really come from Alamogordo.... but apparently close enough to be "local"!

The Loretto Chapel is a privately owned museum now....It offers a self-guided tour of the very small, but beautiful chapel with an audio recording of the events of the the miraculous staircase on a loop....It was crowded, but I enjoy the sacred space of the church and felt at peace even in the commotion of people coming and going.

Legend says that when the chapel was completed, there were no stairs up to the choir loft....Apparently, a ladder was typically used, but for modesty reasons this was not acceptable for the nuns. So the Sisters of the Chapel made a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth and final day of prayer, a man came to the Chapel looking for work. In no time at all the circular staircase was completed, without nails or center support structure and made completely with hand tools. He left without payment or explanation....The staircase has been the object of much speculation through the centuries...Don't you just love miracles!

We left the chapel and walked around the block to the plaza....on the north end is The Palace of the Governors. We read the bronze plaques and learned that this is the oldest public or governmental building in the United States. Santa Fe is also the oldest
European city west of the Mississippi.

Another fun fact I came across on this trip is that Santa Fe is the highest(in elevation) capital in the United States...I would have guessed Denver, being the "mile high city" and all, but Santa Fe has an elevation of 7260 feet...

In an out of several galleries made the trip to the Plaza feel complete and we were off to find the finest chocolatiers in the territory!
to be continued...

Does Anyone Know the Way to Santa Fe

Everything that is new or uncommon raises a pleasure in the imagination, because it fills the soul with an agreeable surprise, gratifies its curiosity, and gives it an idea of which it was not before possessed. ~Joseph Addison

We left Gorge Bridge feeling very satisfied with our choice to go down a two lane road, through miles of sagebrush to be awed by the power of a relatively small river, with nothing but time to work its magic.

Landscape is a great conversation starter and our conversation of the Rio Grande River meandered as much as the river itself, from its origin to the times past we have encountered it on other travels, and how it changes as it winds its way down to Mexico.

We took a left a couple miles west of the bridge and paralleled the river for a while....The wind was very gusty but the sage is tough and it hardly noticed as we or the wind passed by.

Just when we were about to turn around and go back to Hwy 64, we saw a sign for Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs....It was only a few more miles so we continued on down the tiny little lane that paralleled the Rio Grande.

Turning, left again onto Hwy 285, it wasn't long before we were in the more mountainous terrain that we had expected to find. Having never been to Ojo Caliente, we didn't know quite what to expect. We followed the sign down a tiny lane into a large, busy parking lot.

So this is Ojo....Wow, this place is an oasis, for sure! The buildings were beautiful, the landscaping was really inspiring and the water.... well, the water was HOT!

We arrived around 2:30in the afternoon and found the menu of services offered...My friend was not too keen on "public bathing" so we rented the private spa...We were assigned the hour from 4-5 PM. In the meantime, we wandered around the grounds which are absolutely beautiful and checked out the different waters available.

They have soda, lithium, iron and arsenic if I remember correctly....The private spa was small, but very nice. It backs up against a mountain of dirt and is open air. It had a small kiva and a couple of chairs with some desert plants along the edging. It was a very nice place to relax...

I absolutely adore water....Floating is the closest thing to becoming nothing that I have found...Blending in completely with all that is....everything is nothing and nothing is everything...Pure bliss!

Okay, if you can't tell, Ojo was wonderful. I will definitely go back....

If you have forgotten, we started the morning with the intention of going to Santa 9 hours later we pushed on....we knew we would get there, eventually....or not....That's the great thing about these trips...they evolve and take on a life of their own.

We just enjoy the journey, taking whatever turn moves us, stopping wherever it feels right and staying for however long it takes to get the urge to move on...

We saw a sign for Espanola and knew we were headed in the right direction...What was it that we would see there? Don't know, but maybe someday we'll take a trip there!

We got caught up in traffic and before we knew it we were in Pojoaque (Po Wa' Kay). We saw a sign for the Cities of Gold Casino with an offer to win $500....Okay! We registered for the card and went through the motions to get our chance at $500. Well, we won $5 each and then felt obligated to give it back... by playing one of the many slot machines that was beckoning to us....

Word of warning....Slot machines are addictive....all the colors, sights, and sounds are there for a reason!

Hunger forced us to move on...I was hoping for something indigenous and exquisite, but because it was dark and getting late we drove on in to Santa Fe where we were familiar with a few restaurants.... Unfortunately, they didn't stay open for dinner [(?)it was 11PM] was at Village Inn....

In the hotel lobby, I found several interesting brochures....Tomorrow would come soon enough and the adventure would continue!
to be continued

Sunday, March 27, 2011

On the Way to Santa Fe

“Thanks to the interstate highway system, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything.” – Charles Kuralt

Recently, we decided to get off the highway and in so doing, turned a 3 hour drive into a 10 hour adventure. Our intended destination was Santa Fe, New Mexico, but we got off Interstate 25 at Walsenberg, Colorado and went west on Hwy 160.

It was a blustery March day. The wind was rocking the car as we drove, and occasional gusts made it feel like we might take flight, but the sun was shining and we were on an adventure.

Up and over La Veta Pass, we dropped down into the San Luis Valley.

At this point in the trip we had a discussion as to whether we should go south at Ft Garland or wait until we reached Alamosa. We stopped for a short break in Ft Garland where we saw a sign for Taos and took a left.

We were in the middle of sagebrush heaven....Is it blue or white sage? Is purple sage another variety or is it called purple because when it blooms the prairie looks purple? Would it be possible for the troubled sage grouse of Northwestern Colorado to make a home in this vast expanse of sage?

Continuing down the road we came to a small village called San Luis. This town is the oldest in Colorado, having been established in April 1851. It is one of those "don't blink or you'll miss it" kind of places, but now I have been there!

Taos was a bustling place at noon. We saw more hitchhikers in one town than I have seen in 20 years. After a quick look-see, we backtracked through town taking a left onto Hwy 64 following a sign to the Rio Grande Gorge. We drove a few miles across the flatest prairie you can imagine, wondering the whole time how a gorge would emerge when there wasn't even a hill in sight and then, there it was...Gorge Bridge, which won an award for the most beautiful long span steel bridge in 1966.

Vendors of various descriptions were lined up in the pullout taking up most of the parking area with folding tables displaying their wares....jewelery, pistachio nuts, pottery, and a big sign for eucalyptus oil.

We didn't have to walk far to see the gorge....Wow, it was a looooong way down there. Standing on the bridge was quite an experience when a semi-truck whizzed past us. The vibration was intense. what a wonderful experience...I love finding odd things just where you would never expect them!!!

to be continued....