Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Who Knew? New Mexico IS enchanting!

In late May we visited Mom who lives in Kingman, Arizona. Have you been there? Kingman is a stopping point on I-40, and the heart of Route 66. We've been going there for 17 years and have seen it grow tremendously - ah, but Kingman deserves it's own post at another time.

On this particular visit we had decided to continue east on I-40 into New Mexico to visit friends who live in Rociada, New Mexico. I-40 out of Kingman is actually a revelation. The highway gives way to an ascent into hills with an abundance of pine trees as your car climbs towards the continental divide. You also leave the high temperature of Kingman behind as the weather cools considerably as you continue east in Arizona towards New Mexico.

Even though it was late May the sky was awash with gray clouds full of rain. In early afternoon it was getting dark and sprinkles fell, turning into heavier rain. I had read the AAA book about Winslow, Arizona which every Eagles fan can't help but sing about. It's kinda weird really that a small town has turned a single song line into a tourist living. It's true: on a corner in Winslow the town fathers have dedicated a small park and a statue based on the Eagles song "Take It Easy". Oh admit it: you know the words...

Moving on from Winslow we headed into Flagstaff which is also a wonder all it's own. Not having spent much time there (and again not much time on this trip either) I was pleasantly surprised by the views. Weather had followed us and it was still over cast and drizzly. We did have lunch in a great Irish Pub and moved on vowing to spend more time on another trip.

We made it as far as Albuquerque, New Mexico that first day. It was warmer in Albuquerque so the next day we dressed for warm (California) weather. Heading north on I-25 our destination was 2 1/2 hours away. It appeared to be a lot of flat land but it was deceiving because we were actually climbing steadily.

We passed through Santa Fe (50 miles north of Albuquerque and 6400 ft in elevation) and managed to find Las Vegas, New Mexico. We called our friends and learn we were only 22 miles away. Directions received and we headed towards their house in Rociada, New Mexico. By now we are in the middle of nowhere - or so it seems. It's beautiful really: green rolling hills with plenty of pasture land and a simple two lane highway. I ask my husband how they ever found this place because they come from our end of the world where everything is only minutes away. Las Vegas, NM is their nearest "big" city and it's 22 miles, 35-45 minutes away! And remember those warm weather clothes we dressed in earlier that day in Albuquerque? Well, it's been a steady drizzle the whole way and we could really use long pants and thermal shirts! And I could use real socks and shoes instead of the flip-flops I'm wearing!

We turn into a beautiful area called Pendaries. I can't really call it a housing development, though there are more homes there than you might think, because everyone there has land, a gorgeous view and their nearest neighbors are at least 1/4 mile away.

We're headed for the home of Jim & Anne Williams, long time friends of my husband. In fact Chet and Jim were best friends in high school and Chet was later the Best Man at their wedding. Something about Anne: she is an artist. She paints beautifully and does ceramics. Her work is beautiful and I'm so envious all that so talent resides in one person! We learned that Anne even painted the windows on the "guard house" out front of the Pendaries.

While we are visiting they take us for a twelve hour road trip around the "Enchanted Circle". The Enchanted Circle is 100 miles of gorgeous spruce and aspen tress and is quite beautiful through Angel Fire (popular ski location), Red River (8600' elevation), Questa and Taos. If you love to ski Angel Fire is the place to go in New Mexico. It's just gorgeous there - so wide open and green. Here's what the ski slopes look like in May:

The advanced route (what's the skiier word for this?) is the one that goes to the top of the hill. The wider, shorter reoute on the right is the "bunny slope". Either way: they're too much for me!

And while you're in Angel Fire you must visit the Vietnam War Memorial. It's heart wrenching and tear rendering. I had my own epiphany there: way back in the early 70's I bought an MIA bracelet (I still have it). When I got it back then it bore the name: John Quincy Adams. Isn't that a president name? I never knew anything else about him until I visited this memorial. I found his picture and a short paragraph about him....and cried. Cried because he never came home, cried because I was grateful to him and so many others. And cried for happy that my own brother had come home safely from that war.

We saw a lot of beautiful country in those twelve hours. We had dinner at Orlando's in Taos. Oh My! It's such a cute little place but the food is excellent! You have to try this one for sure! I highly recommend the Chimichanga: it's big enough to share!

We ended up at a place called The Stakeout outside Taos. It's definitely a place someone has to tell you about: and tell you WHERE it's at. It's at the end of a long bumpy unpaved road but worth the effort of getting there.

We had drinks on the patio and watched a beautiful sunset. If you go to Taos, ask about it. It's a tad pricey but I'm told it's well worth it. I'm saving my pennies so I can eat there in October!
You must see the higher elevations of New Mexico. Yes, Santa Fe and Taos are beautiful and there's much to see in both locales (Got Art? They both do!). But the areas in and around the Enchanted Circle are a wonder. Who knew such beauty existed?

And I can't forget the hail storm we experienced in Las Vegas New Mexico. Oh, ok. So we've seen hail before, but never like this. We watched marble sized hail fall for an hour and a half. It truly looked like Christmas snow by the time we were able to make our escape. New Mexico is indeed enchanting. Who knew?!!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Puerto Vallarta April 2009

We love to travel: don't you? My personal biggest wish to embark on a world cruise. Wouldn’t that be nice? It only takes money. So I guess I’ll have to chip away at my own Bucket List a little at a time…at least until I win the Lotto! Until that happens I'll blog about our little travels. Even though we've been many places so far I’ll start with Puerto Vallarta since I just made that trip in April 2009 amidst all the media hype about Swine Flu. To be fair it was at the beginning of the scare and several restaurants had workers wearing masks, as well as some people (locals) wore masks around town. The flu was the talk among tourists with several reporting family members canceled their plans to join other family members already in PV.

Actually, my husband and I have been going to PV since 1988. We have a time share there that we love. But we don’t always go there: we’ve “traded” our time share to many places including Australia - but that's another post! We’ve found that either you love or hate Puerto Vallarta. We happen to love it because it started as a place to get away from the hub-bub of everyday life in California and yet was not too far away. PV is only a three hour plane ride from LAX so getting there is very easy. Our time share is on the south end of “Old Vallarta” and is up on a hillside with an absolutely magnificent view of the ocean. On the negative side (honesty in reporting) there are many places that are very poor and may not be to your liking. There is simply a different standard that what you may be use to.

While you’re there go to Los Burros bar/on the beach “restaurant”. In 1992 Los Burros set up business on the beach where you could find a very ugly Iguana holding court on the bar and the mascot burro had it’s own little pen on the beach. Seventeen years later and the place has more than doubled in size, the bar has moved “inside” under lots of palapas, but the Iguana is not there anymore. Not even the cute little burro exists but they still serve great margaritas and serve very palatable food. It’s a great people watching place and an excellent place to relax. If you go there you will be approached by the beach vendors. It can be fun to bargain with the vendors who are selling anything from little wood toys to clothing and rugs. Or, simply say No. They will not harass you if you say no – they’ll simply move on.

Shopping: if you love to shop and bargain – this is the place! There are all kinds of shopping possibilities: from “flea market” type shopping where you CAN bargain to downtown shopping where the prices are what you see. There is Pueblo Viejo, an indoor shopping area. There’s another indoor shopping “market” diagonal across the street from Pueblo Viejo. Senior Gomez clothing store is on the main street and a satellite store on a side street. Oh yes: and I can’t forget there is a Walmart and a Sam’s Club on the north end as well. See? It has all your needs for shopping! And of course there is a downtown grocery story called Rizo’s. We do all our shopping there and then get a cab back to the condo which is currently about $3.50.

Good places to eat:

Fuente del Puente at Insurgentes and the Rio Cuale is a great place to eat and shopping is right across the street!Hard Rock cafĂ© on the main street. There are all sorts of restaurants here on the main street so your choices are almost boundless. And for those who need fast food: KFC, McDonalds and Burger King all exist. And inside the airport is Carl’s Jr !

Cruise ships usually run a Mexican Riviera trip which is lots of fun. While we were there this last time no cruise ships came in due to the scare about the flu. I have done the
Mexican Riviera cruise which hit not only PV but Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas as well. Cruises are great ways to sample different locations and perhaps help you decide where to go back to.

Coming home: at the PV airport they took our temperatures to make sure we were not ill: and presumabely not taking the flu home with us! And all Mexicana flights into the U.S. were canceled but they made sure we had seats on a Delta flight. Minor inconveniences only, and very little delays.

When we landed at LAX, customs did not operate at the Delta terminal so Delta had to bus us over to the Bradley Terminal to go through customs. OK, but have you ever walked on the tarmac at LAX? Me neither but I did this time! A first! And we walked under the very plane that brought us in. Have you ever seen the underside of your plane on the tarmac? Not me – so it was two firsts in one! By the way: at this writing (early May) we have been home seven days now with no symptoms of the flu so at least that was one trinket we didn’t bring home from Mexico!

Do you have questions about someplace? I haven’t been everywhere – yet (LOL) but I’ve been to a few and might be able to answer some questions. I’m sure there’s plenty of places YOU have been to that I haven’t and I’d love to hear about those places as well. Who knows – maybe I’ll put it on my TOGO List! Happy Trails....