Sunday, September 30, 2012

Back Home

While going on vacation is always great, coming home is always better. We REALLY enjoyed seeing David and Yeh but Allyson was the center of attention. She is a sweetie and enjoyed hanging out with us. As usual, neither of us slept well the night before our return flight home. Mary awoke at 11:30 and I woke at 12:30. We only dozed off and on until 3 am and we decided to leave. We had no trouble getting to the Enterprise drop-off point and leaving the car. The shuttle arrived quickly and took us to the United terminal. As we feared, the bag check was very slow despite the fact that we had checked in and paid for our bag on line as well as printing our boarding passes. We got through security fairly quickly and had no problem making it to the gate well in time for our 6 am flight. The jet from Sacramento to Chicago-O’Hare was a Airbus A320 which has a lot of legroom and is a comfortable aircraft. A couple of rows behind us was a family with a two year old and infant both of whom screamed most of the flight. Thank goodness for noise cancelling headphones. We each had a scrawny but expensive ham and cheese breakfast sandwich on the flight then napped whenever possible. We had enough time to make the connection in Chicago after having to change concourses. We didn’t have enough time to get lunch so we ate the rice cakes and nuts that Mary had packed. The flight from Chicago to Charleston was on a small jet but was only an hour long. We stopped off for some groceries and arrived home in time to change the oil in the van and do some laundry. The rest of the evening was spent getting ready for the week ahead. Adjusting back to Eastern Time will be difficult as will getting back into a work schedule. I could get used to being on vacation!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Places we visited on our vacation

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Getting ready to return home

As usual, we were up early this morning.  After everyone got up, Yeh made a breakfast of pancakes which were very good.  We loafed and chatted most of the morning taking a little time to clean the rental car out a little and getting things together to pack for home.

We went for a late lunch at Oz Korean Barbecue which was very good.  There is a small gas fired grill in the middle of the table.  The waitress brings a variety of raw meats and vegetables that you can grill to taste and share at the table.  We had two kinds of marinated beef, spiced pork and marinated chicken.  We also had broccoli, salad, preserved bean sprouts, kim chee, mushrooms, peppers, onions and garlic.  There was also steamed rice and a variety of sauces.  We all ate a lot and the meal was very good.  I did a little better using chop sticks this time.  I suspect that it is because the meat was in chucks that I could pick up with them.

After lunch, I went out geocaching for a couple of hours.  There is a series of over 50 geocaches about 7 mikles away.  Each cache is about 600 feet from the others.  The density of geocaches in the area enabled me to visit 40 geocaches within less than three hours.  It was nice to get out geocaching in the afternoon while Mary visited with Allyson and did some packing for our return trip.

Since we leave before 6 am, we will leave in the morning around 4 am so we will have time to return the car to Enterprise and catch the shuttle to the terminal.  We change flights in Chicago O’Hare and are expected to return to Charleston, West Virginia by 4 pm.

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Friday, September 28, 2012

King's Canyon & Sequoia National Park

Mary with General Sherman, one of the oldest living
things on Earth (Mary is the one in the green shirt).
Since we were up early, we left the Days Inn Fresno around 7 am and drove east into the King’s Canyon/Sequoia National Park.  We arrived at the park entrance a little after 8 am and drove around the King’s Canyon area looking at the attractions there.  We took a half mile hike up the Panorama Point area that gives views of the Sierra Nevada range and the King’s Canyon.  A couple of nosey deer came over to investigate us and since we appeared harmless, wandered off.  An area of the park was a grove of giant sequoias called Grant’s Grove that includes a huge tree called General Grant.  We saw far fewer tourists than yesterday, probably because these parks do not have the name recognition of Yosemite.  Almost all the visitors we saw were from outside the US.  Many were from Eastern Europe but a fair number were from England.  We saw a lot of people from Poland, Germany and Holland.

We always laugh at the way Americans dress for a visit to a park.  To take a one mile walk to an overlook, they are wearing REI shorts, Columbia shirt, high end Merrell hiking shoes, a Camelbak hydration system and carbon fiber walking sticks.  There we are in shorts that we used to paint a room last week, an old T-shirt and worn out sneakers.  Oddly enough, we seemed to navigate the trail just as well.

Our rental Passat going through a tunnel in a fallen giant sequoia.
In the afternoon, we crossed over into the Sequoia National Park section.  We walked out to see the largest sequoia tree called General Sherman.  While there were a number of huge old trees there, General Sherman was a real giant.  The trunk diameter at the base was nearly 40 feet and the tree is estimated at over 2500 years old.  The tree is believed to be among the top five largest trees in the world.

We drove an overlook called Mora Rock that is a rigorous hike up a granite slab where a 360 degree view of the area is possible.  The path was narrow and steep but the view was spectacular.  We chatted with a family from near Frankfurt along the walk then took a number of photos up on the overlook.

We started back a little after 2 pm and drove into Fresno then north of Highway 99 through the towns of Madera, Merced, Modesto and Stockton.  We stopped for dinner in Merced at a place called Mi Casa.  We picked the place because we were tired and hungry and the restaurant was nearby.  Turns out it was a great choice.  Mary had the Chicken Mole and I had the tamales.  The mole sauce, tamales and the tortillas were all homemade and excellent.  The portions were huge and delicious.  The service was very pleasant and the price was low.  We are often fortunate to stumble onto great places to eat.  There was a tremendous change in temperature from the mountain areas in the National Parks to the Fresno area.  When we were up in the mountains at over 7000 feet above sea level, the temperatures were in the 60s at mid-day.  By the time we drove down to Fresno at about 600 feet above sea level the temperature was 97 degrees.

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Yosemite National Park

We left El Dorado Hills a little after 7 am and headed south on Rt. 49 toward Yosemite National Park.  As usual when we travel, we like to avoid the four lane highways as much as possible.  Rt. 49 was perfect since traffic moved well at 55 mph and took us through some interesting small towns like San Andreas, Angel’s Camp and other small California mining and agricultural towns.  We especially enjoyed the towns in Calavaras County since both Mark Twain and Bret Hart have strong connections there.  When I get back home, I will have to read Twain’s Celebrated Bret Hart’s Angel’s Camp again.

We arrived in Yosemite around noon and stopped for the iconic photos of El Capitan and Half Dome among others.  At our first stop, we were pleased to see a young black bear walking along the edge of a wooded area.  We were able to get a snapshot of the bear before it reentered the woods.  We walked several short trails to vista points and to artifacts of the area’s rich history.  There were a number of people climbing El Capitan and some other rock faces.  There was also a cleanup event going on in which volunteers were picking up trash and giving the park a facelift.  Even though we were there on a weekday in the last week of September, the park was plenty crowded.  We walked out to Yosemite Falls (which weren’t falling because there had been no rain) and decided to catch the shuttle back to the parking area,  We were packed in like sardines!  Getting a parking space in some of the lots was a wild adventure as well.  I can’t imagine what the place would be like in peak tourism season.  We did notice that the great majority of visitors were European, many from Eastern Europe although many were from France too.
El Capitan

El Capitan
Half Dome

Half Dome

Cathedral Spires
Young black bear near El Capitan

On our way out of the park we stopped at the Mariposa Grove which has a stand of giant sequoia trees.  We took a hike of less than a mile up to a huge tree called Grizzley Giant as well as one called the California Tree that had a tunnel carved in many years ago through which a car could drive.  The tree is still living despite the tunnel and tourists can now walk through it.  The trees were massive and quite impressive.  Fires in the area were inhibited from around 1900 until about 1970 when forestry biologists that the nature of the forest was changing.  The National Park Service started controlled burns in 1970 and the health of the ecosystem was restored.
Mary in the California Tree
We drove to Fresno to spend the night before going to Sequoia National Park on Friday.  Dinner was at a local favorite, Don Pepe’s Taqueri.  The tacos were cheap ($1.89), filling and delicious.  The dining area was filled with customers and we were the only people there speaking English.  We got one each of pastor, chicken, asada and carnitas tacos that had soft wrappers and beans.  There was a bar with a variety of sauces although the tacos were great as the were.  We really enjoyed them.
We stayed at the Day’s Inn Fresno and will hope to leave fairly early for Sequoia on Friday morning.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Jelly Belly Factory

This was a relaxing day for us.  Although we were up early, we didn’t leave until around noon.  The morning was spent catching up on some things, cleaning out the rental car after the previous days’ road trip and mostly getting some rest.

At noon, we picked Allyson up at school.  She got out early because of teacher conferences.  We took her to the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, CA, not far from the Pacific Coast.  The tour was interesting and informative.  The took us through where the flavorings are formulated, where the gum interior of the jelly beans are made and where the candy shells are added.  We were impressed with how the Jelly Belly logos are printed on each jelly bean.  At the end of the tour, we went to the Jelly Belly gift shop to get some of our favorite flavors to bring back.

The drive back to El Dorado Hills was slower since the afternoon traffic had already started.  We were glad that we came back when we did before the afternoon traffic peaked.

We had a dinner of leftovers followed by dessert of some of the Jelly Belly treats that we brought back.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Since we had a long drive ahead of us, we left for Lassen Volcanic National Park at 7 am driving through very agricultural areas of California seeing fruit orchards and groves of nut trees.  We stopped in Chico, CA to pick up sandwiches and snacks at a grocery store since there is no shopping or fuel available within 60 miles of the park.

We took a three mile hike to an area called Bumpass Hell that has many volcanic vents releasing sulfur gas and had boiling mud pools.  The area was strikingly beautiful but had a foul odor of sulfur steam.  The steep incline, narrow path rocky path and an altitude over 8000 feet made the walking slow but the view was well worth the trip.  After returning to the rental car after our hike, we drove to a short trail showing the devastation from the eruption of Lassen Peak in 1915.  It was amazing to see the rubble field of stone that was hurled from the explosion less than 100 years ago.

We left the park around 5 pm and drove back to El Dorado Hills arriving around 9:30 taking a quick shower and heading for bed.

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Virginia City and Lake Tahoe

We arose at 5 am but didn’t come down until nearly 7 am and had a breakfast of oatmeal.  We headed north on Rt. 49 through Nevada City, CA through Donner Pass to Virginia City, NV.  I was a little worried about stopping at Donner Pass with Mary when she suggested that we have a snack!

We loved Virginia City!  So many old Western towns have the historic old buildings ripped down only to be replaced with tourist traps that are new buildings that look like old buildings.  That was certainly not the case with Virginia City.  Most of the town burned in 1875 and was rebuilt shortly thereafter.  Those buildings are still the majority of structures in the town.  Of course, most have been repurposed and brought up to modern code but all of the buildings are real.  The newspaper office where Mark Twin worked in 1863 is still standing and looks much like it did back when old Sam Clemens was writing.

We enjoyed our lunch at the Palace Saloon which has been in operation since 1875.  I had a bison burger and Mary had a wild boar burger and we swapped halves.  Both were excellent.  I also had a draft beer which was very good.  We also appreciated that while the saloon and furnishings were vintage 1800s, there was no touristy pretense.  I expected that the waitresses would be in some stereotype of saloon girl garb.  However, the staff wore jeans and T shirts and served us well.  After lunch, we walked around the town, which is very small.  We were surprised to learn that Virginia City had over 25,000 residents in the late 1800s.  We could almost see Ben, Adam, Hoss and Little Joe riding in to town.

Upon leaving Virginia City, we drove through Carson City to Lake Tahoe.  The lake is very clear with objects in water nearly 70 feet deep visible from the surface.  From the shore, the water looked as blue as anything you would see in the Caribbean.

We drove back to El Dorado Hills via Rt. 50 and got to Fergsons by about 5 pm for a dinner of pasta.  We went out for fuel and ice cream after dinner. Tomorrow we plan to visit the volcanic areas near Lassen, California.

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Spending time with the Fergusons

We had a relaxing day visiting with the Fergusons.  David played drums for a local church and we took Allyson, Yeh and us to a Dim Sum place for brunch.  The Dim Sum was excellent.  Staff go around the dining area with carts filled with all sorts of Asian treats, most of which were very tasty.  Some of the things we liked were shrimp wrapped in bean curd, spinach dumplings, yams with mushrooms and spices and pork bites.  We decided to pass on the chicken feet and a few other local favorites.

After lunch, we took Allyson to a couple of nearby parks for Geocache treasure hunting.  After the first cache, she got really good at it and found several that were well hidden.

In the evening, David and I watched the Steelers lose to the Raiders while Mary and Allyson played in the pool.  Yeh is preparing for a training that she has to attend all week in Irvine. 

We were tired and turned in around 9 pm and slept well until 5 am.

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Arriving in Sacramento

After getting a few hours of sleep upon returning from the Denver trip on Friday, we left the house bound for Yeager Airport in Charleston at 4 am on Saturday.  Although the jet was small, our flight to O’Hare was easy and without incident.  We slept most of the way and arrived in Chicago with a couple of hours layover. Mary had made a couple of sandwiches in an effort to clear some things out of the refrigerator and brought some fruit as well. Our Sacramento flight left on time and we were pleased to have nice roomy seats and that the only empty seat on the aircraft was in our row so we had plenty of room. The in-flight movie, Battleship, was pretty dumb but we dozed on and off anyway.  We arrived at Sacramento around noon local time and had picked up the checked bag, caught the shuttle to Enterprise and had picked up our Volkswagen Passat by 1 pm. Thanks to Jill the GPS, we had little trouble getting to David and Yeh’s house by 2 pm. Of course, Allyson kept us entertained for the afternoon.  Our dinner was shabu shabu which is done a little like fondue.  The technique is sometimes called Chinese Steamboat. There is a big pot of seasoned stock in the middle of the table and everyone puts their meat of vegetable of choice in and cooks to choice.  We had shrimp, squid, and chunks of fish as well as thinly sliced beef.  Bok choy was the vegetable which was very good cooked in the seasoned broth.

After dinner, we watched Allyson play in the pool.  She is quite a little fish and swims well.  We all went for a walk around the neighborhood after that.  The neighborhood is really nice and is a great place for them since it is close to connections to the highway while being in a secluded and safe area a short distance from the city.

Since we were tired from the travel and still running on Eastern Time, we turned in around 9 pm and slept well until around 5 am.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

May 19, 2012 - Coming Home

Returning home from vacation is always with very mixed feelings.  We are looking forward to seeing family and friends, sleeping in our own bed and getting back in a routine.  However, we will also return to the things at work and home that have accumulated over the past two weeks.
The evening before leaving on vacation or returning from vacation is always stressful.  We worry about forgetting something or oversleeping and missing a flight.  Although Mary is such a careful planner, we always remember the important things and set several alarms so we don’t oversleep.  We were awake before the alarms and caught the motel shuttle to the airport in plenty of time, especially since Mary had checked us in the evening before.  We went through security with no problems and we were at the gate well ahead of boarding time.
We had lunch at Mandarin Express in the Atlanta airport which was pretty good for airport food.  While in Atlanta, I ran into a friend, Bev Kingery, who is superintendent of Nicholas County Schools.  She was coming home from New Orleans after a few days off.
We were in Charleston a little after 4:30 and headed for home, tired but happy to be back.
Along the trip home, between naps on the flights, we were reflecting on the trip.  We wanted to list some of the things that we thought we would do again and things that we would change if we were to do this trip again.
We were very pleased with the rental car.  The Toyota Corolla was just the right size and had plenty of power and got great fuel economy.  The over 2100 miles that we put on the little car were tough miles of desert driving.  Between 5 and 10 percent of the mileage was on dirt roads.  We liked the option of being about to return the car without gas since we only had to pay $3.58 per gallon which is less than the prevailing price.  We did not choose the optional insurance options since the rate for the rental would have more than doubled with the insurance.  In addition, the collision coverage on our cars covers rental cars.  Another option that we did take that we would not do again was the additional driver.  The arrangement that we have always found best is for me to drive and for Mary to navigate from the passenger seat.  Even if we have GPS, it is great to have her checking tour books, maps and brochures to identify places of interest.  Just taking a rental was the right decision.  If we had driven to Albuquerque, we would have put over 7,000 miles on our car and would have used five days just getting there.  That would have left only seven days for our vacation to tour the sites.  In addition, after all of that driving, we would have been so tired that we wouldn’t have enjoyed the trip nearly as much.
The duration of the trip was about right.  A trip of that distance would have not been worth the trip if it were any shorter.  A longer trip would have been too long.  The pacing of our trip was perfect.  We knew that a couple of days would be long (May 16 at Chaco Canyon) but we had a lot of flexibility and sometimes added things as we went.  For example, on May 13, we had planned a short day with a trip to the Needles area of Canyonlands.  Since we completed our tour of the area, we decided to go to Moab and drive through Arches National Park which we always enjoy.  At no time did we feel that we were on a schedule or had to keep to a timeline.
The timing of the trip was just perfect as well.  Many of the attractions that interested us are not open until May 1.  However, after Memorial Day, the weather is typically very hot and the number of visitors to the attractions is much higher.  The only other time that would be as ideal as early May would be late September or early October.  In years past, we could only go on vacation in July since we were both teachers.  Mid-summer is just not a great time to be in the Four Corners area.  We would recommend early May for a visit to the area if at all possible.
The annual pass for the National Parks was a good move for us.  We went to 14 National Parks (historical areas, monuments, etc) and many of these have a fee of $5-15 and the pass exempted us from the fee.  If we were to do this again, we would just purchase our pass at the first park we visited rather than ordering on-line in advance.
In thinking about our favorite things about the trip, Mary and I agreed that our favorite visit was to Chaco Cultural Historical Park.  We had seen Pueblo ruins at Canyon de Chelly, Monument Valley, Hovenweep and Mesa Verde but none were as impressive as those of Chaco.  The road to Chaco was terrible.  There just is no good way to get there but the visit is well worth the drive.  The ruins at Pecos National Historical Park were interesting since ancient Pueblo people who had lived in other areas came to the Pecos area after they abandoned their home areas in the mid 1200s.
Of the towns we visited, Mary liked Cortez, Colorado best while I enjoyed Farmington, New Mexico best.  While we liked different towns best, we like them for the same reasons.  Both towns are large enough to have some amenities of town but have managed to maintain the small town attitude and feel.
Favorite meals of the trip stimulated a good deal of discussion for us.  We had a lot of excellent food in our travels through the Four Corners area.  Many of the places we ate were featured on shows in the Food Network or Travel Channel.  Some places were reviewed by Jane and Michael Stern in their RoadFood column.  Other places were recommended to us by friends.  When we travel, we really try to avoid chain restaurants.  We can eat at Applebee’s a mile from home.  We want to eat where locals eat and have the specialties of towns we are visiting.  We did not have a bad meal the whole trip, if you don’t count the continental breakfasts at motels.  Mary’s favorite meal of the trip was her barbacoa at El Burro Pancho in Cortez, Colorado.  She had a huge serving of tender flavorful beef with well seasoned sauce.  My meal of Mole Pollo there was very good with a very dark rich sauce.  However, my favorite meal was the rabbit mole enchiladas at Buck’s Grill House in Moab, Utah.  She liked her duck tamales there but the barbaco in Cortez was her top pick.
We agreed on our favorite lodging spot at the Holiday Inn Canyon de Chelly in Chinle, Arizona.  The motel was just outside the entrance to the National Park, was quiet and comfortable.  The restaurant there was very good and had huge portions for all the meals.  We ate only half of the sandwiches that we had there and ate the other half the next day for lunch.  Hotel and restaurant staff there was friendly and helpful.  The motel is operated by the Navajo Nation and is on the reservation.  We felt that we had great rates on all of our lodging with the possible exception of our night in Kayenta, Arizona which is understandable because there was a large track meet nearby that had all rooms booked far in advance.
We did not agree on the most beautiful site of the trip.  Mary really liked the 360 degree overlook on the hill behind the Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores, Colorado near Cortez.  Although fires in Arizona, especially in the Flagstaff area created some haze, the view from the hill you can see the surrounding mountain ranges and famous peaks.  My favorite view was the panoramic views at Monument Valley.  Many western movies have been filmed in Monument Valley including Stagecoach, National Lampoon’s Vacation, The Searchers and Back to the Future III.  The new Johnny Depp version of The Lone Ranger was filmed there just a month ago.  The Goulding Brothers were successful in bringing John Ford to the area where he filmed many westerns throughout his career.
We discussed things on our trip that we could have skipped.  We were pleased that we saw Anasazi ruins in the sequence that we saw them (Canyon de Chelly, Hovenweep, Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon) since each the quality of the ruins was better at each location.  Had we been to Chaco first, we would have been disappointed with the others.  That being said, we would not have wanted to skip any of these historic sites.  If we had to pick something to skip on the trip, Mary would have passed Natural Bridge National Monument since we saw similar formations on a grander scale at Arches National Park.  I would have chosen Navajo National Monument to skip if something had to be taken off the list.  There were ruins there but less well preserved or spectacular than those we saw elsewhere.  There were also interesting rock formations but bit as grand as those at Monument Valley or Canyonlands.
We always enjoy our vacations.  We like to do things that are educational.  We like to be outside and on short hikes.  We like to see things that we have never seen and to experience other cultures.  We like to enjoy the food of different regions of our country.  This trip had all of these things and more.  We had never been to many of these places but our drive through the Southwest reminded us so much of trips to Utah when the kids were young back in the 1980s and 90s.  We have a lot of great memories in the area from years past and made many good memories on this trip.
We will not update this blog but will refer to it from time to time to relive the places we have been.  Since this trip was so successful, we will use it as a model for future vacations.  Right now we are thinking of possible trips to Yellowstone, Florida Keys, and Northern California. 
The maps below show the overall route of our trip.  Since there were so many stops, we couldn't get everything in one interactive map so it it divided into two parts.

May 8-12

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May 13 - 19

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Friday, May 18, 2012

May 18, 2012 – Can you hear Albuquerque without thinking of Bugs Bunny?

Although we had planned for our last day in the Southwest to be a short and relaxing day, we ending up having a full but excellent day.  We left the Bernalillo Super 8 at 7:30 and went to our 14th National Park of our vacation, Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque.  As we walked the 2.5 mile trail, we were amazed by the 1200 petroglyphs visible to visitors.  These examples of rock are very different that ones we have seen at places like Nine Mile Canyon because they are much later, perhaps only 500 years old.  In addition, rather than being made on the desert varnish of sandstone, the petroglyphs in the Albuquerque area carved into dark basaltic rock.  We were happy that we were at the park in the morning before the day heated up.  A group of students arrived at the park as we were leaving.

As we drove into the city, we stopped at Garcia’s Kitchen which is a large restaurant that has a small town feel.  Mary had a breakfast burrito filled with pork and egg, served with refried beans and home fries then all covered with local green chile.  I had pozole which is a pre-Columbian type stew made with meat, potatoes, vegetables and green chiles.  Our sopapillas came with local honey.  Both of us enjoyed our brunch very much. 

We walked around Albuquerque Old Town for a couple of hours then went to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center that provided interesting information on the history of the Pueblo cultures of the area.  In addition, each of the 19 existing Pueblos had displays on their current status, traditions and culture.

Since it was only about 2 pm when we left, we detoured to the Albuquerque BioPark (Zoo).  The zoo had some nice displays.  We especially enjoyed the Australia exhibits of koalas and kangaroos.

The dinner choice was Frontier Restaurant which is across the street from the University of New Mexico bookstore.  This restaurant was recommended to us by my friend and former student, Ashley, who was an exchange student here for a year.  In addition, they have been featured on RoadFood and will appear on the Travel Channel’s Man v. Food on June 22, 2012.  We both had the signature meal, green chile cheeseburgers, and fries on the side.  Mary had one of their famous sweet rolls as well.  We were both very impressed with the quality, quantity and value of the meal.  We were happy that we were there between semesters since I suspect that it can be very crowded at times.

After dinner, we drove to the Albuquerque Airport Day’s Inn and unloaded the rental car.  There were no problems returning the car and the airport shuttle was waiting to bring us back to the motel.

We hope to turn in early this evening since we need to be at the Albuquerque International Sunport around 6:30 am tomorrow. 

Once we get settled back at home, we will prepare a reflection on the trip which will be posted.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

May 17, 2012 – Do you know the way to Santa Fe?

We woke up early this morning at the Bernalillo Super 8 since the air conditioning wasn’t doing much good to keep the room cool.  After grabbing a motel breakfast we drove to Santa Fe, New Mexico.
San Miguel Church in Santa Fe

We had no trouble finding a parking lot available near the state capitol building allowing us to walk around Old Town Santa Fe.  We were impressed with the antiquity of the area and saw the San Miguel Mission Church that may be the oldest church in the United States since it was built in the early 1600s.  There are a few adobe buildings remaining in the city including the church and a few old houses.  However, most are what locals call “faux-dobe” which looks a great deal like the real thing.  We walked through the Palace of the Governors and the state capitol building which has a lot of art displays.  The Loretto Chapel was a beautiful old church that has a spiral staircase that is said to be a miracle since it has two complete 360 degree turns and has no supports other than at the top and bottom.  The stairs were built of wood in the 1870s.
Spiral Staircase at Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe

We grabbed a mid-morning snack from a street vendor, Rogue’s Carnitas who has been featured on several Food Network shows. Mary had a red chile chicken tamale and I had a green chile tamale.  We both enjoyed our snacks.  Rogue’s specialty is the carnita but they looked too large for us this morning so we opted for the smaller tamales.

We took a short drive to the Wheelwright Museum which was small but well organized and displayed.  The museum houses the collection of Mary Cabot Wheelwright and includes art from many of the native Pueblo cultures, Navajos and Spanish Americans.

On leaving the museum, we drove on the Santa Fe Trail to toward Pecos, New Mexico.  We stopped for lunch at Bobcat Bite, a local favorite that is also featured on Food Network shows.  The restaurant is tiny with about a half dozen tables and perhaps six seats at the counter.  The two waitresses stayed very busy the whole time we were there since the place was very busy.  Mary had a ham and cheese sandwich on whole grain bread that had two slices of ham that were about a quarter inch thick each and a generous coating of melted cheese.  I had the Albuquerque/Santa Fe regional favorite, the green chile cheeseburger.  Bobcat Bite makes theirs with a 10 ounce patty of sirloin and chuck with Swiss and American chess with green chile.  Both of us enjoyed our meals although both were very large servings.  Bobcate Bite got the name because when the restaurant opened in the 1950s, bobcats would come down from the nearby mountains and scavenge for food around the restaurant.
Spanish mission ruins at Pecos, NM
From there, we drove to Pecos National Historic Park to walk around ruins of Pueblo culture from the 1200s to the 1800s.  It is believed that when Ancient Pueblo people like Anasazis left their villages at Mesa Verde, Chaco and other locations, they may have come to areas like Pecos.  The area was occupied by Spanish missionaries in the 1600s who built a large mission from adobe that remains standing, although in ruins today.  The walk around the sites was about 1.5 miles but the strong breeze made the heat very comfortable.  Also at the park is the site of the Battle of Glorieta Pass which is called by some “The Gettysburg of the West” since the efforts of the Confederates to expand into the western territories were thwarted by Union forces in March 1862 and was a turning point in the war.  We took a walk of about three quarters of a mile out to one of the battle sites.  There were also places where wagon tracks from the Old Santa Fe Trail were still visible in the ruts in the desert.

On the drive today, we drove on several historic roads including the Santa Fe Trail which was an important route from Franklin, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico from 1821 until the about 1880 when railroads make the route obsolete.  We drove part of the Old Pecos Trail, the Las Vegas (New Mexico) Trail and Rt. 66.  Part of Rt. 66 was once part of El Camino Real which was the royal highway between Mexico City and San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico from 1598 to 1882.  The highway has nothing to do with a half car/half truck from Chevy although we did see an old El Camino on El Camino Real!  Although we didn’t have Jill (our Garmin Nuvi) with us, the GPS in the rental car (Maggie since the GPS is a Magellan unit) did fine to help us find our way around.  One thing that is difficult to adjust to is the way that the GPS announces directions.  Jill will say, “In 2 miles, make a right turn on Rt. 123”, however, Maggie will say, “Make a hard right turn on Rt. 123 in 2 miles”.  It just startles me when she says to make a turn BEFORE telling how long to drive until the turn.

We got back to the Bernalillo Super 8 by 6 pm and since we were still full from the huge lunch, we ate fresh fruit for dinner.  

Tomorrow, we plan to do some sightseeing in Albuquerque and return the rental car before checking in at the Days Inn near the Albuquerque Airport.  Our flight home leaves at 8 am on Saturday morning.

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