Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Quick Trip to Albuquerque


That's me, berating myself for forgetting my camera on this trip.  So I'll do my best to describe all the things we saw and did on our short trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

We hit the city about 4:00 pm on Monday and headed directly to our hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn.  Coming in on I-25, there were two accidents and it wasn't even rush hour yet!  Got checked in, then decided to try to get some shopping done.

First up was Trader Joe's, one of which wasn't far from the hotel.  Picked up three-buck-Chuck, salsa and rice, as requested, then down the street to Jackalope to look for some colorful sit-around stuff for my new shelves in the living room.

By this time, we were hungry and wanted Mexican food.  Didn't know where to go, so we checked with the GPS and were directed to the "original" Garcia's.  Turns out that there is another "original"  Garcia's across town!  Anyway, it didn't look so great from the outside, so we went with the second choice of Elroy's New Mexican Restaurant, which turned out to be a local family operation in a strip mall.

The food was very tasty and, in addition to your entree, each meal came with a avocado salad (a tablespoon of shredded lettuce with a huge glop of guacamole - YUM!), a sopapilla and natillas, a Spanish cream pudding, and coffee or tea.  I had an enchilada plate and Sid had a cream cheese beef enchilada plate.  We were stuffed by the time we left.  Went back to the hotel and crashed.

Tuesday, Sid had to attend a breakfast meeting, but then he was done for the day.  So I slept in a bit, then had a cooked to order breakfast at the hotel.  We then had the rest of the day for sightseeing together!  I had planned on doing it by myself, so it was a treat that he was able to join me.

The Turquoise Museum was the first place I had chosen to visit.  We got there about 10:00 and found that they didn't open until 11:00 (we thought).  So we decided to drive Route 66 for a ways into downtown Albuquerque.  It looked very much like pictures I have seen - many of the neon signs, restaurants and motels dated back to the 30s and 40s.

We drove past the Ki Mo Theater, a beautiful building from 1927 and the Sunshine building, one of Albuquerque's first "skyscrapers."  Since we were downtown anyway, we decided to hit the Telephone Museum next.

GPS gave us the address and it was very easy to get to.  We parked, even though we couldn't see a sign or anything, and tried to find the museum.  Walked all over the building, which was like an indoor mall, that GPS said was the address and couldn't find a thing.  We finally stopped a FedEx guy and he told us to walk a block, turn left and find it near an alley!  Got to the alley and, great!, there was a map posted (you are here kind of thing) and identified where it was.  We looked all over and still didn't find it. Finally went into the Century Link building(figured they would know) and they told us where to go.  Seems the map wasn't even correct and the museum was on the opposite side of this little walking mall. 

Anyway, we finally found the museum and guess what - it wasn't open on Tuesdays! So that was a bust and we headed back to the car to go back to the Turquoise Museum.

So, we were headed back to the Turquoise Museum when we saw the Museum of Natural History and Science.  Decided to go in there.   What a surprise that was!  They had a very interesting exhibit on the evolution of the personal computer, a planetarium, astronomy exhibits, minerals and a volcanoes exhibit.  But the most astonishing section, and the largest, was on dinosaurs.  This exhibit was amazing.  I think all the bones were actually found in New Mexico and they had life size skeletons of multiple types of dinosaurs, created using bones that had been found and fleshed out with recreation.  Some of the models were even complete recreations that were animated.  I was amazed at how large some of them were.  We spent about an hour walking through and could have spent a half a day.

Finally, we got back to the Turquoise Museum and, guess what , it wasn't open!  I had read the signs and the web site wrong and it was only open for guided tours at 10:45 and 12:45.  Foiled again!  By this time it was noon, so we decided to get a quick lunch and be back in time for the 12:45 tour.

We drove the opposite direction on Route 66, looking for some place to grab a bite.  McDonald's was always a possibility, but we wanted something more local.  Now, in this part of town, English is definitely the second language, so we saw a sign that said "cremeria".  We seemed to remember that that had something to do with food, so we decided to check it out.  Turned out to be a Mexican supermarket.  What a treat that was!  They had a huge produce section with all kinds of fruits, vegetables and chilis, several counters where you could get all kinds of prepared foods, a very interesting meat department (think pigs feet, etc), any kind of weird fresh seafood you can imagine and a great cheese department.  On the way out, I decided I would have a fruit cup for lunch.  The clerk prepared a quart sized container with fresh watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew and pineapple, then added jimica and cucumber.  She then held up two shakers of something (I still don't know what it was, but it looked like red pepper) and had me choose one.  I shook my head no, but she wasn't having any of that, so I picked one and she sprinkled it LIBERALLY on the top of the fruit.  The whole thing cost $2.13 - I paid and took my fruit to the car to eat on the way back to the museum.  Well, I took my first bite and Sid said my eyes popped open and I had the most horrified look on my face.  It was AWFUL!  It was very salty and spicy HOT.  I have never tasted anything like this combination before.  Luckily, there was enough fruit that I could scrape off the top layer and still have plenty to eat.

P.S.  We swung through McDonald's on the way back to the museum!

Well, we managed to get back to the museum and it was OPEN!  The main reason I had wanted to go there was to buy a ring to replace one that I had that had disappeared.  So we went in and the "gift shop" was in the front.  Looked around and didn't see anything I liked, so we looked at the small display they had and decided to not take the time to take the tour.  Another bust, but this time by choice, at least!

We had hit all the places (and more!) that I had thought would fit into a one day sight-see and still had the whole afternoon open.  Sid knew there was a huge Camping World in Albuquerque, so we decided to go look at new trailers.  It was clear on the east side of the city and on the way, we ran into United RV Sales and decided to go there as well.  So we spent a couple of hours looking at fifth wheels and bumper pulls.  Saw some really nice ones, but, of course, we have to sell ours first.

Then it was off to look at some residential areas.  I think I could really live in Albuquerque.  The size is right, the climate is dry and there really are more trees than I expected!  We drove around some neighborhoods, then saw a sign for the Petroglyph National Monument and decided to check it out.  Went to the Visitor Center, at which there are no petroglyphs!  But they gave us directions and brochures for the sites that actually have the petroglyphs.  Unfortunately, by now it was almost 5:00 pm, the time at which all the sites closed, so we couldn't go look.  But they sound really interesting and hope to see them on the next trip!

We stopped at a Whataburger (their chicken taco with roasted peppers is to die for!) and meandered our way around town and back to our hotel.

Tomorrow, we will sleep in a bit, then head back to Canon City in time to pick up the puppies before the kennel closes.  It was a whirlwind trip, but we got to see quite a bit - enough to know that I'd like to come back some time soon!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Lake Livingston, Lake Tawakoni and East Texas

We left Port Aransas on what was probably the nicest day we had had since we got there.  Sunshine, not too much humidity and, of course, the sea breeze.  As we got closer and closer to Lake Livingston, TX, the sunshine held, but the sea breeze and the humidity changed radically.  It was hot, humid and there was very little breeze! 

We set up camp at Lake Livingston State Park and, due to the extreme rain they had had prior to our arrival, most of the ground around the blacktop parking sites were FULL of standing water.  Still, the lake and it surrounds were very nice and the weather while we were there couldn't have been nicer.

View of Lake Livingston

Another view of Lake Livingston

Kayakers on the lake

Sid (can you guess?) fishing

And there were more birds (well, ducks)  for me to photograph

We stopped at Lake Livingston specifically so that we could visit Escapees RV Club National Headquarters and check out their mailing service (for future possible use).  After getting the information we needed, we relaxed for a day, then headed to East Texas and Lake Tawakoni.

When we got to the lake and began to set up camp, it got hotter and MORE humid.  For the rest of the time we were there, it rained almost constantly.  However, we did get to visit with Sid's Aunt Billie

and Sid got to go fishing with his cousin, Willard.  We also drove around Canton, the site of First Monday Trade Days, shopped at Canton Dish Barn, a store that was nothing but Fiestaware (firsts and seconds), visited Willard and Glenneth's home on Lake Cherokee and got to find out if the trailer was, indeed, waterproof. Only one small leak!

Then it was time to pack up the boys (they are SUCH good travelers!)...



and make our way back to Colorful Colorado.  We had seen and done much, but it's always good to get home again.  Join us again next time when the urge to travel hits and we head to who-knows-where?

New Orleans - The Last Day

The Last Day.

Our trip almost over, we still had things to see and do. We headed down the coast to Galveston. And when I say coast, I mean a little bitty strip of land that’s barely wide enough for a highway! Lots of beach looking for me.  Alas,, no pictures of the beach or birds, but I assure you, they were seen!

We took the ferry from Port Bolivar to Galveston Island. Unfortunately, the weather was really crappy during the 20 minute ferry ride, but that didn’t stop me from taking pictures, 

View from the ferry

First glimpse of Galveston Island

A cruise ship in port

We stopped at the Galveston Visitor Center, housed in the carriage house of Ashton Villa, one of the many mansions that dot the island.
Visitor Center
Garden of visitor center

Albert Edwards, the congressman whose efforts caused Juneteenth to become a Texas holiday.

If I can't take a picture of a real bird.....

After Hurrican Ike hit the island in 2008, it was left with a number of trees that had blown down.  Sculpture artists used their artistic ability to turn these stumps into works of art - to make something beautiful out of devastation.  We drove the Tree Sculpture Tour and saw some original pieces.


"Yellow Lab" (originally with a basket of puppies)

"Great Dane"  The home owners here obviously have a sense of humor

"Two Herons"

"Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz"

"Mermaid Holding Clam Shell"

Along the way of looking at the carvings, we saw many, many beautiful Victorian homes.

It was raining fairly hard by the time we started driving down the coast again, but I kept my window open so I could at least hear the sounds of the gulf. I hope to return to Galveston some time in the future.

The last leg of the trip was long and tedious. We had prepaid gas in our rental car, so had been told to run it as close to empty as possible. We kept watch and thought we could make it, but chickened out at the last minute. Here’s Nancy, getting $2.05 in gas to make it to the rental agency. We ended up with a bit of a surplus.

Getting a little gas

I mean, a LITTLE gas!

What was left when we turned in the car.

We had driven over 1400 miles, seen and learned a boatload of things, eaten all the Cajun and Creole food that we could and, after 8 days of constant togetherness, we were still friends!  For me, it was back to Port A to pack up and head on to other adventures.  For Nancy, it was a few more weeks on the coast. 

And that was the end of our excellent adventure.  Hope you enjoyed reading about it.

New Orleans - The (Almost) Final Adventures

Okay, I admit, this post really has nothing to do with New Orleans, per se.  But it's the next stop on our trip and it was really a fun day.

When Nancy came to Colorado from Florida to live and work, she came with one of her best friends, also named Nancy. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to call Nancy’s friend NancyM. It gets too confusing otherwise. So, on Saturday, we headed to Lacomb, LA where NancyM lives with her husband, Don. Nancy and NancyM had recently reconnected and had not seen each other in 40 some years.

Nancy and Don M

NancyM and NancyP

NancyM and Don came to Louisiana some 20 years ago for a job and stayed. They live in a beautiful home overlooking a bayou and offered to give us a personal bayou tour in their boat.

Aboard their boat
View of the backyard from the dock

So, after serving us lunch that consisted of a crawfish pie and spinach salad to die for, we hopped aboard, along with Willie (the dog) and got underway.

Willow (Willie) sat on the front of the boat during the trip.

Now, Nancy and I had been confused over all the terms describing water we had been seeing, so we looked up some of them. These definitions might help as you view the pictures following.

Bayou is an American term for a body of water typically found in flat, low-lying areas, and can refer either to an extremely slow-moving stream or river (often with a poorly defined shoreline), or to a marshy lake or wetland. The name "bayou" can also refer to creeks whose water level changes due to tides and which hold brackish water.

Marsh is a type of wetland defined as a low lying, poorly drained section of land, which is often if not always covered in water. 

Swamp  is a wetland with some flooding of large areas of land by shallow bodies of water.

Swale is a low tract of land, especially one that is moist or marshy.  We didn't see one of these from the boat, but crossed one in a car somewhere in Louisiana.  I just liked the sound of it!

I had always thought that a bayou was a swamp.  So, the first surprise, to me, was that they resemble rivers and that Don and others use the bayou as a runway for their planes. In fact, as we were going under the drawbridge containing a walking/biking path, we saw a plane that had landed and was taxiing to it’s home.
Drawbridge over the bayou

Plane taxiing

Headed home, I guess

The neighborhood had beautiful houses along the bayous, a combination of natural and man made waterways, and looked like a typical waterfront neighborhood.  Some things we saw along the way….

View of the bayou from the boat

Cypress trees and knees

A fisherman

Sunken boat in the bayou

Cherokee Roses on the banks

Someone's boat

Osprey nests

The marsh

Crab trapper
A water skier

And, of course, BIRDS!

Pelican on a post

Don was a fantastic tour guide and told us all kinds of things, from the history of the area to how the boat works. Nancy and I had never been on a boat this big, so it was a real treat.

NancyM was my kind of woman - independent, quirky and full of adventure! I really liked her. One of her many art pieces….
A bit hard to see, but "Babe" is made of a Rottweiler skull, a flamingo frame, wears flip-flops and is decorated for Mardi Gras!

She’s also known as Baba Yaga by her family and friends. Baba Waga was a woman in Russian folklore and translates to “Wild Old Female Goddess.” Gotta love someone with that sense of humor!

We were treated to wonderful hospitality and Nancy and NancyM were able to catch up on all the years since they had seen each other.

Coming home from Nancy and Don’s we had a slight oops! And ended up having an impromptu tour of downtown New Orleans. No problem, we eventually found our way out - it’s just another big city! Back in the condo, it was our last evening in New Orleans, but we were too tired to do anything but a bit of "voodoo" that we had learned,

Look closely, do you see anything holding up the broom?

so it was dinner and off to bed early. 


Our trip almost over, the next morning we packed up the card and headed to River Road to tour some plantations. First on the list was Oak Alley, an iconic sugar cane plantation that is the site of multiple movies and seen in many publicity photos.

The grounds of the plantation are just beautiful.
Bottle brush tree and azalea bush

Spring flowers

The baby oaks lining the walkway at the rear of the plantation

Sugar kettle, used for boiling sugar cane

Nancy at the base of one of the "baby" oaks

Katie was our tour guide and she was dressed in a beautiful period dress.
Katie, our tour guide

She spoke in the gentlest manner, with what she called a "back Vacherie" accent.  You could almost believe that she actually lived at the plantation!

The house is very beautiful, inside and out. 
This is the BACK of the house

Entry hall


Dining Room

Table set in the creole fashion.  I have not been able to find out what that exactly means, but notice that the fork and spoon are laid face down and there is no knife.

Rolling pin bed.  Since mattresses were stuffed with Spanish Moss and could get lumpy, the "rolling pin", seen here laying on the bed, was removed from the headboard and used to flatten out the mattress each morning.

A different style of washstand

Oil pot used to import olive oil.  When empty, the pot was buried in the ground and used as a place to keep things cool.

The plantation bell was the communciation system for the plantation.

A confederate officer's tent set up on the plantation grounds.

Sugar cane field

The hallmark of Oak Alley plantation is, of course, the 28 live oak trees that line the entry to the home. Interestingly, the oaks were already there when Jacques Roman built, primarily with slave labor, the Big House in 1837-1839. According to legend, the oaks had been planted in the early 1700s by a trapper who hoped to channel the breezes from the Mississippi River to cool his cabin. Also interesting, the house was never called Oak Alley until the Stewart family purchased it in 1925. The oaks are estimated to be 300 years old and, as live oaks can live to 600, are considered “middle aged” trees!
View from the second floor balcony

Oak Alley

There were originally 8 acres of land between the house and the Mississippi River. Over the years, however, the river meandered and changed course so now there is only one and a half acres in front.

Once we finished with Oak Alley, we traveled up the road a few miles to the Nottaway Plantation. Nottaway was built in 1859 and has been turned into a resort. The 64-room, three-story palatial mansion is sometimes referred to as an "American castle."  Rumor has it that Nottaway was named such because the owner refused to use any wood that had knots in it, but the truth is it is named for the county in Virginia from which he originally came.

While the details of the house are beautiful, so much has been “restored” to accommodate modern lifestyles that it detracts from the history of the house. I did manage to capture some of the original details, however.
The white ballroom

Original ceiling medallion, carved completely out of cedar

Hand painted door knobs

Chaperone's mirror.  Its convex shape allowed one to see everywhere in the room

Table setting

Hand made camellia frieze

1800s microwave.  Plates were put in this, then it was place in front of the fireplace to keep food warm.

Elegant tea chest

The piano room

Ancentral hall.  This is where all the portraits of the ancestors would have hung.

A view of the Garconniere (boy's quarters).  Only married men and their wives, women and children were allowed to live in the main house.

Original gas lighting fixture

The master bedroom, now turned into a guest room that you can rent

The exterior style of the house was designed with two sets of stairs so that young ladies would go up one stairway and young men up the other. This was so there was no chance that the ankles of the young ladies could be seen by the young men.

Lunch was jambalaya at the Nottaway CafĂ© and then we got on the road, headed back to Texas. We drove as far as Port Arthur, TX because we wanted to take a longer route back to go through Galveston. We ended up eating dinner at a Texas Road House because we’d eaten so much sea food in N’awlins that we were CRAVING beef! And the motel was the cleanest we had stayed in, plus had a HAIRDRYDER!! Yeah! I’d gone a week without one. J

Next up, the last day...