Sand Dunes/Santa Fe/Albuquerque Trip Report – Day 5 (Sunday)

Ken was golfing at Paa-Ko Ridge at 10:00 and wanted to get up there in time to warm up a bit, so we were up and headed for breakfast at about 7:45. We kept in mind the difficulties we had getting to the golf course in Santa Fe. This one looked easier, but you never know.

The Parq Central has a continental breakfast which was pretty good. You better like quiche if you want some protein. (They have hard boiled eggs too, but I don’t like hard boiled eggs for breakfast.) I talked Ken into the Canadian Bacon quiche, which also turned out to have a few green chiles, which they didn’t mention, so he didn’t think that was a good surprise. I didn’t find any in my piece, but then again I may just not notice them because they are so mild on my chili scale. And we had fruit and rolls, there were cereal and a toaster available, and juice and coffee.

Then we headed up to the golf course, with me driving. I staked out a flea market and a thrift store on the way that I might have to investigate when I came to pick him up. I let him out and listened to the crackling pinon trees. He had noticed the crackling/popping trees at the golf course in Santa Fe, too. He reported back to me that apparently the crackling noise comes from insects – I haven’t been able to find anything on the web about it. But the trees were very noisy.

I headed back to Albuquerque and decided to go to their Natural History Museum. I always like a good dinosaur display, and there have been plenty of dinosaurs found in NM. It is really quite a nice museum, lots of dinosaurs, including the huge Seismosaurus that was found in NM. But as I was walking around I was really noticing my breathing was kind of labored, I think I overdid on the smoke in the air yesterday. So after about an hour at the museum, I headed back to the hotel and my asthma inhalers, and caught up on some embroidery and knitting and listening to the radio.

I got the stitches picked up on the “Can this sock be saved?” sock but discovered I only had the directions along for a top-down sock, not a toe-up sock, so that project didn’t go very far. I started on my Camp Loopy shawl, and then decided I better do a swatch, which was a good thing, because that made me realize I had gone down 4 needle sizes instead of 2 needle sizes, and that was a little extreme. (I knit very loosely, so I usually drop down two needle sizes to get the correct gauge of fabric.)

I headed up the Paa-Ko golf course when it was time to get Ken, not really having had anything for lunch. I had finished the baked snow peas from Trader Joe’s (like crispy green Chee-tos) and started on the baked green beans (even BETTER than the snow peas, which had been pretty amazing). I thought maybe the flea market I saw getting set up would have a food stand or two. Well, the flea market was tearing down (wind, again) by the time I got there, and didn’t look like it had ever been very big to begin with. So then I went to the Thrift Store – it wasn’t bad, but I didn’t find anything I absolutely had to have. There was an Oranga-coo clock, like a cuckoo clock but with an orangutang instead, but I was pretty sure none of my relatives would appreciate me getting that for any of my nieces/nephews.

When I got to the golf course, Ken hadn’t eaten yet either, and he had a meal pass for the clubhouse that had been included with his golf pass, so we ate at their little cafe. He had a grilled ham and swiss and I had taco soup, neither of which I took pictures of. He said the golf course was really nice but the greens were really, really fast. Despite the fact that it was supposed to be less windy, it was still windy enough to affect their golf games. He played with a couple of guys from Dallas, which was kind of funny, because he played with a couple from Dallas in Santa Fe, also.

We headed back to the hotel and just had some relaxation time. It was good to have a kind of quiet day. SOMEONE may have had a nap. We went to dinner pretty late. I wanted just a little more New Mexican cuisine, and someone had suggested Sadie’s as a good spot for margaritas, and from my reading on Yelp, people either love it or hate it, and it seems to be an Albuquerque institution. They told us we would have a 30 minute wait and then it was only about 5 minutes. It is a pretty huge place.

They had the spiciest salsa I have ever tasted at a restaurant. Ken proceeded with extreme caution, just dipping his chip in the juice, and mostly eating them plain. I had the tamale, smothered in both green and red chile.

They smother it so much that you can hardly see the plate. The tamale was fine, a little tough for my taste.

Ken had the brisket, with some green chile on the side which was for ME of course. I really liked the green chile. It was kind of different, as it seemed to have some sort of ground meat in it. It was very tasty. They bring you sopapillas right away with your entrees, so you can balance dessert along with your meal.

And then we went back to the hotel, and I took another bath in the deep bath tub, and we were off to bed. A much less smoky day, thank goodness.

Sand Dunes/Santa Fe/Albuquerque Trip Report – Day 4 (Saturday)

I was awake before 6:00 a.m. but persuaded myself to go back to sleep, leading to a really weird dream which then caused me to get up at 7:00 in hopes of avoiding any more dreams about working in bookstores and Monopoly games.

I got complaints about how noisy I was being and Ken got up by 8:00. We packed and headed to Tecolote, a Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives restaurant. We got there a little before 9:00, and only had a half hour wait, which was really pretty good for a holiday weekend Saturday, we thought. What a cute little restaurant.  The room we were seated in was dedicated to the family’s Grandma, who had made all of the needlepoint pictures on the walls. Tecolote means owl, so there were lots of owls, both knick knacks and paintings.

I had the Huevos Yucatecos (featured on DDD) and Ken had the short stack of pancakes. I would hate to see the tall stack. You also get a bread basket, with muffins and biscuits.

They were awesome. The jelly with them was delicious. I wish I had a baker to make muffins for me every morning. The Huevos Yucatecos were also great. The fried plantains were also very good.

It was all good; Ken liked his pancakes, too.

Fueled up, we got on the road, with a slight disagreement with General Custer over the way she thought we should go. The trip between Santa Fe and Albuquerque was pretty uneventful. Gas seems to get cheaper the further south you go.

I had looked into things to do in Albuquerque before the trip but hadn’t really organized an itinerary. I lobbied for a stop at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History. I am into that kind of stuff. Growing both close to an air force base and in SD, a state which was riddled with missile silos, I was pretty sure, when I was a pre-teen and teenager, that we would be taken out in a nuclear attack before I was 20. So I am interested in the history and pop culture surrounding the nuclear arms race and Cold War. It was a good museum.  They have quite a graveyard of bombers and missiles, which is a good place for them. They call it “Heritage Park.” Here is a list of the planes/missiles/etc:

You can get up close and personal with the rockets and missiles. I believe this is the Titan.

Honey, don’t stick your head in the rocket engine.

These used to be far more common in South Dakota.

Full view of the Minute Man missile. Not one of the larger ones there but still effective.

Honey, why are you in the bomb bay of that plane?

Oh, you’re right, that is an interesting view out of the front of the plane from the bomb bay.

Is there a website for “Geek Travel Destinations”? Perhaps I could create one.

Bought a book in the gift shop – Spy’s Guide to Santa Fe and Albuquerque, which I didn’t think I would be able to obtain easily outside of NM.

We were moderately hungry at this point, and I had decided it would be a DDD day, so we went to the Standard Diner for lunch. I had the Country Fried Tuna, and Ken had the Meatloaf, both of which had been featured on the show. I also tried the Watermelon Tuna ceviche.

The ceviche was interesting, but the endive leaves it was served in added a taste I didn’t really care for.  Plus then I was really full, the fried tuna came with a side of cous cous which the waitress hadn’t know about, so it was plenty of food. They didn’t have the wasabi guacamole because it was too early in the day, but I liked the Country Fried Tuna quite a bit. The couscous was good and spicy (sriracha, I think) if not very evenly cooked.

Ken said the meatloaf “Finer Loaf” was good. The desserts looked great but I had no room at that point.

We went to our hotel, The Parq Central, just a few blocks away from the Standard Diner. It was just off the interstate but you do not hear traffic. This was a former railroad hospital, and they kept the historic building and turned it into a hotel. Our room was actually in the Doctors’ quarters building, behind the main building, which was fine with us.

I think it was one of the smaller rooms, but we had booked a bargain rate, so that was OK too.

There was plenty of room for us.

This tub was short in length but you could get the water up to your shoulders, so I totally approved.

We paid $140 for one night and $227 for the next night, which included a round of golf at Paa-Ko Ridge for Ken, normally much more expensive than that, so it was a good deal.  Very nice rooms and hotel for that rate.

We unloaded the car and unwound for a while, and then we went to Albuquerque’s Old Downtown and Plaza area.  We hit a few stores and art galleries. It was really smoky, from the fires in the west. There was a Sno-cone stand so I had a cherry Sno-cone and that made me quite happy. We decided we should get our shopping done for the weekend so we wouldn’t need to come back downtown – got a really cool Day of the Dead golfing figure for Ken (no picture of that yet, shoot), another T-shirt for me, books (of course), some chili enhanced corn nuts and peanuts, key chains for the nieces in Ames, loteria cards (I have no idea what I am going to do with those but they are very interesting), dream catcher for Ken, and a painted corn necklace.

Those necklaces were everywhere, I am pretty sure they were meant for kids, but I am going to do something artistic with those corn kernels. When I figure out what, I will let you know. I found a “Twist and Pout” lip moisturizer. I had seen someone with one of these a long time ago, looked them up on the internet, and then never got one. So I seized the opportunity when I saw on at a gift shop. It is a round ball that clips to your purse so you don’t have to dig through your purse to find your lip stuff. When I have used up all of the lip stuff, I am going to put little tiny knitting items in there.

Now, it might seem like Glenderella gets more souvenirs than Ken, but remember, Ken also gets two rounds of golf.

It was quite smoky in Albuquerque, because of the wildfires to the west.

I didn’t really have anywhere picked out for dinner since we had two pretty large meals already that day. We decided we would go to the Apothecary Lounge on the roof of our hotel and watch the sunset and have appetizers/small plates there. That was a beautiful idea, except for the 60 mph wind. Occasionally chairs would blow over.

I had my netbook along and was working on this entry, and the computer tried to blow away a couple of times. I had a Pimm’s Cup, which is Pimm’s No. 1, ginger beer, fresh cucumber, a lemon twist and topped with a strawberry.

It was excellent. We stayed out on the roof for a while, taking pictures of the sun getting more and more red as it set into the dense smoke, and enjoying the wind (not) and then went inside to order dinner.

I had the soup of the day, which was Roasted Eggplant Garlic. It was good but a little too heavy on the salt.

Ken had the Kobe beef sliders with fries and chipotle ketchup, which I liked and he didn’t really care for (the ketchup, not the sliders).

I had a Prickly Pear Margarita: El Tesoro Reposado, Agave Nectar, Cointreau, Lime Juice & Prickly Pear Puree shaken together and served over crushed ice with a St. Germain float – very good.

And then we hit the hay, knowing that Ken had to get up to golf in the morning, and it was a bit of a drive up there.

Sand Dunes/Santa Fe/Albuquerque Trip Report – Day 3 (Friday)

We got up pretty early since Ken wanted to get out golfing. Ate at the “hot breakfast” at the Hampton,  which consisted of eggs with cheese on top (they needed the help), bacon, and potatoes. We didn’t take the time to fire up the waffle machine. Ken called the golf course just to make sure he could get out this morning. The other one had told him not to bother with a tee time, just to show up. But this one said they could put him with a twosome at 8:56, so we dilly dallied around the room for a while. (He was playing at Marty Sanchez Links De Santa Fe)

Unfortunately, that was a mistake, because there was road construction on the route, and our GPS tried to lead us astray.

I got this GPS free with the purchase of four new tires, and it shows. We didn’t have a name for her for the first day, because I said I needed to experience her personality before I named her. Well, she is now named General Custer. She is pretty bossy and and doesn’t always know what she is doing, and she may just get us all killed.

The first route she told us to take to the golf course led into a gravel pit. Eventually, we got back on the highway, had to go past the golf course and come back the opposite direction because of road construction. Now, I can understand her not knowing about the road construction, but the gravel pit adventure was a little excessive. So you just have to remember to take everything she says with a big grain of salt. She did get me to the places I wanted to go pretty successfully the rest of the day, although I was on my own once I got within a mile of the golf course again.

She also thinks our hotel is about 1/4 mile from where it really is.

After dropping Ken off, I headed out for the Santa Fe Baking Company. My friend K. from college STRONGLY RECOMMENDED visiting there and I am glad to go anywhere that has baking in the title. It is really a fun little place, lots of character. I would gladly go back. The breakfast burrito with turkey sausage and green chile was good and so was the poppyseed muffin, but they had a whole case of amazing looking baked goods I would like to try.

And it was a great location, because just down the parking lot was a Trader Joe’s, and about 1/4 mile away was Looking Glass Yarn.

I had been perusing the blog What’s Good At Trader Joe’s and making a list. Unfortunately, I could only make a list of non-perishable things, because we were still going to be gone three days after I went there. We are getting a Trader Joe’s in Colorado soon, and I can’t wait!  So I loaded up my cart with:

Jalapeno cheese crunchers, pasta, snap pea crisps (have already tried these, excellent), chocolate macarons (also excellent), taco seasoning, crispy wasabi seaweed snacks (not as good as the peas or beans, which are below).

Chocolate chip cookies for Ken, hot sauce, BBQ sauce, biscoff-type cookies, more hot sauce, more BBQ sauce, Earl Grey tea, crispy green beans (OH SWEET MOSES ON A CRACKER, THESE ARE GOOD) and jerky for Ken. I did not get any two-buck Chuck wine, I still have some left from Christmas and I only have so much space in my wine cupboard.

I walked back to the car, noticing that it was still very smoky, and you could smell it as well as see it, from the fires in western NM. I deposited the Trader Joe’s stuff, and headed to Looking Glass Yarns. My friend K. from Knit Knight said they were the place to go, especially since they carry her Yarn Lover’s Lotion.

Well, I went a little nuts in there. I needed some needles for my Yarn Camp project, and I got those, but she also had a really cool sample sweater from the book “”, so I had to buy the book (I did not buy yarn and needles so I could cast on a sweater, so I did show some restraint.) I bought something that I will put in with my exchange gift at our Knit Knight Christmas party. I had been looking at all the cool novelty yarn scarves that are out right now, and I decided to go ahead and buy some of that yarn. All in all, a very good time was had. The lady operating the store was very nice and friendly, fun to visit with, and very helpful with picking out yarn.

By this time, it was 11:00 and I thought I better head for the Georgia O’Keeffe museum before I ran out of time to see it properly. General Custer GPS and I made it there OK, but General Custer can’t suggest parking spots. There was a Porshe festival going on in the Plaza, and so there were streets blocked off and I had to drive around quite a bit before I ran into the municipal parking lot, which was about five blocks away from the O’Keeffe museum, not a bad walk at all.

The museum isn’t huge, and it rotates the art on display from its collection, so you are only seeing part of the collection. I don’t think I had ever seen any of her art in person before. She was versatile. There were rough pencil sketches as well as pastels and oils on display, as well as some of the items she had used in life. They had a display of camping equipment she used to go out and camp, close to the paintings she had created from that experience.  The two short films about her life made me want to get one of her biographies from the library, as well as more information on her painting.

Of course I went to the gift shop, going home with a 2013 calendar with her paintings, a book on 30-minute art with acrylic painting (haven’t ventured into that yet but I plan to, and art books are also helpful in my quilting class), and a print of one of her poppy paintings.

I still had some time before I thought Ken would call from the golf course so I stopped at The Chile Shop. We had looked in the night before but it was closed already. I was curious about getting a ristra (the long string of dried red chiles) to cook with, and I know that some of them sold in some of the shops are just for decoration, and are coated with shellac or insect repellant to make them last longer.  So I really wanted to stop in a store that was more oriented toward cooking with them. Well, this was the place. However, when I reviewed the size considerations, I decided a ristra might not be for me or my kitchen – the proprietor said they are usually 24 inches long but the farmer has been making them longer and they are about 30 inches long (must have been a good year for chiles) and he would pack it in a big box for me, but then I thought, “Where would I put this in my kitchen?” He did not have any small packages of those particular New Mexico chiles. But I bought a couple of packages of other kinds of dried chiles, and some chile powder (mild, so I can use it in the chili both Ken and I eat), and some locally made salsa and hot sauce.

I had just gone back to the car to drop off my parcels, and Ken called to say he was done golfing, so General Custer and I made our way back to the golf course. At least she doesn’t get too annoyed when you don’t follow her directions.

We went back to the hotel and cleaned up before going to lunch. My knitting friend K had also recommended we go to the Plaza Cafe to eat, but it was closed for renovations after a fire. However, there is also a Plaza Cafe Southside, which was just blocks from our hotel. Off we went for lunch. Ken had the club sandwich, and with my usual lack of decision and indifference to eating in one ethnicity or style at a time, I had 3 appetizer-style things: tomato-orzo soup, Greek fries (french fries with olive oil, mizratha cheese, capers, other greek seasonings), and salmon ceviche two ways – with citrus and with coconut milk. They were all excellent but I should have chosen two rather than three.


Tomato orzo soup.

Greek Fries.

By this time it was 3:00, and we wanted to get downtown and tour the Loretto chapel before it closed.

The chapel used to be connected to a Catholic girls’ school, but the school had closed and the Diocese did not want to buy the property, so it was purchased by a private owner and opened as a historical museum. This is a cool tree outside where people hang rosaries.

Beautiful stained glass and altar. It is no longer a consecrated Catholic church, but weddings and “other appropriate events” are held here for a fee.

The interesting thing about the chapel is the spiral staircase that goes to the choir loft. It is made entirely of wood, with no nails or screws, and no supports. It makes two complete 360-degree turns, and didn’t have a banister until one was built later because going up the staircase was freaking out the nuns and students.

The carpenter who built it appeared and made the staircase and left again without payment or leaving his name. It is a beautiful chapel, and the staircase is amazing. You do not get to walk on the staircase unless you have paid to have your wedding there, however. I forgot the good camera, so these pictures were with my phone.

Then we took off to do some souvenir shopping. We ended up buying the most in the first store we had been to, it always seems to work out that way. We stopped at one western-themed store (YIPPEE YI YO) and got Ken got a T-shirt, and I got a small package of dried New Mexico chiles (victory! He didn’t have this type at The Chile Shop), and a skull necklace to hang from my car mirror (I have an interesting collection of items on there.) They also had a lovely child’s play set called “Thirsty Cowboy” which featured a pistol in a holster and a flask, totally non-PC, which we did NOT purchase.

We then asked him if there were any stores in the area that would have glow-in-the dark Virgin Marys. (Various objects with saints on them are quite common in Santa Fe gift stores, but not luminescent ones) He sent us to Doodlets. This store kept us busy for quite a while. It was full of fun stuff for Day of the Dead, party stuff, rubber chickens, inflatable fruitcakes and turkeys, etc. I got a small coin purse that looks like a peanut butter sandwich – the two pieces of bread click together with a magnet, and the zip open at the top. They had small glow in the dark saints, so I got 4 versions of Mary, plus two miniature rubber chickens and two plastic babies. I have no idea what I am going to do with those but it will be something creative.

Back at the 1st store (Dressman’s Gifts, on the Plaza), we got some fun key chains for Ken’s co-workers, a t-shirt for me, and folk art sheep to join the folk art cats from Haiti on the shelf,  and a Dios las Muertos (Day of the Dead) magnet. The magnet is ON the shirt in the picture below.

Then we headed back to the hotel to debate where to go for dinner. We needed a break from Mexican food, so I was thinking noodles. There was a really good noodle house not far away, but there was nothing on the menu Ken would have eaten. He suggested Italian noodles, so I found a place close to the hotel via Yelp that people either seemed to love or hate. It was called Piccolino’s, and it was a total local joint – people were coming over to each other tables and visiting with each other, and there seemed to be a large number of locals.

Appetizer of bread and marinara.

I had a bowl of the pasta fagioli soup, and the stuffed eggplant parmesan and Ken had the Chicken Florentine, which shocked me, because it had spinach on it.

My soup was good but the eggplant parmesan mostly tasted of the breading.

It had a lot of cheese (rolled up in the slices) and was then covered with red sauce and baked. The red sauce was very good, it was just that the eggplant taste didn’t come through at all. Ken was happy with his.

This is the kind of place I would gladly keep coming back to until I found something I liked, just because of the atmosphere.

And then we went back to the hotel and I worked on my blog and Ken watched the news and we crashed!

Sand Dunes/Santa Fe/Albuquerque Trip Report – Day 2

I was awake early, 6:20 or so, and let Ken sleep until 7:00, and then we got packed and rounded up and headed back to the Great Sand Dunes. The Great Sand Dunes are kind of a freak of nature, the weather and geological conditions were just right in this little corner of the valley for sand to be washed down by mountain streams and collect, and be shaped into dunes by the wind. They are the highest sand dunes on the North American continent. They are 700 feet tall, at an elevation of about 8,000 feet, despite USA Today calling them 7,000 feet tall in a story about “Best Beaches In Every State.” (Story does not appear to be online.)

It was a bit of a drive from Monte Vista, but like I said, you have to stay at the Movie Manor at least once in your life. It was much less windy compared to the day before, but there was still a little breeze.

We were also a little more prepared today, and had debated on which shoes were best for the dunes, especially since you start out hiking across the very wide Medano Creek.

We thought about wearing jeans, but decided that since we would be hiking, we would warm up and want our shorts. Ken wore his hiking tennis shoes, and I wore my generic Crocs. I am not sure it matters what kind of shoe you wear, you are going to get them full of sand. Neither one of us wore socks.

And off we went, up the dunes. The highest one is 700 feet, high, which doesn’t sound like much, but look at those people up there who look like ants. Plus you are at altitude already, about 8,000 feet, plus you are walking in SAND, and the surface is up and down and up and down and up and down. Little kids, dogs, and people who are really in shape seemed to do really well on them.

I was lucky in that Ken had brought a golf ball and pitching wedge along to get some pictures of him getting out of “Colorado’s Biggest Sand Trap.”

So that would cause him to pause and pose for a picture, which I exacerbated even more by having difficulties with the display on my camera and fiddling with that endlessly. I finally got that figured out on top of one of the dunes.

When we felt that we had climbed to a reasonable height, and had taken enough pictures, we hiked along one of the long ridges to head back a slightly different way than we had come up. And I discovered another phobia spot – back when were were in San Francisco on the cliffs above the ocean, I wasn’t really wild about getting too close to the edge of the cliff.

Well, I wasn’t really wild about walking along this really narrow ridge at the top of this tall, steep dune, either. Being in tall buildings doesn’t bother me, it must just be certain heights in nature. So I didn’t want to dilly dally around there. See that dune the people are walking on, high in the picture? Really narrow and steep at the top.

Looking back toward Medano Creek and the visitor’s center and parking area.

We had both slapped on sunscreen but I still managed to get more color than I wanted on my nose and cheeks.

We headed out from the Sand Dunes, stopping to take a few more pictures in the distance, and debated what to do for lunch. It was about 3 hours to Santa Fe, and it was about 11 when we left. Neither of us was hungry yet, so we by-passed Alamosa and headed south toward New Mexico. It doesn’t take long once you are past Alamosa to be in New Mexico. I had taken over driving because Ken needed a nap, but of course he was foolish enough to point out a roadside sign for “Oldest Church in Colorado” and I had to slam on the brakes (well, not quite, but decelerate quickly) and drive the 1/4 mile to take pictures.

And then we were in a lunch desert. Ken napped, and I drove and searched for radio stations as we moved through northern New Mexico. The scenery turned from dry, desert flatlands to hilly National Forest with trees and interesting rocks. We were just about starving when we came upon the town of Ojo Caliente, (which means hot eye in Spanish, I am sure there is an interesting story there) (Ken says someone was cutting up chile peppers and then touched their eye).

There were not one, but two cafes, and I, of course, chose the one that looked like it had the most character. Of course, it also had A CHARACTER in it. Apparently the gentleman who owns the store next door feels free to sit in the cafe (maybe only while he is having lunch) and chat up the patrons. Ken whispers to me: “We are not going in his store, he will talk our ear off.” I can’t remember what the name of the cafe was, and we paid with cash, so no receipt.

I had the Tewa taco, which is what we would call an Indian Taco in SD. It was fry bread or sopapilla with taco meat, pinto peans, lettuce, cheese, tomato and green chile on it.

Ken had the hardshell tacos, he said they were good.

Ken also pointed out to me they had an old-fashioned Sno Cone machine, so you know I was going to have one of those (Sno Cones are few and far between, especially ones made with the old school machine.) And with that, we were back on the road again, trying to find a radio station that would stay with us for a few miles.

We drove by Espanole, which is where Ken was planning on golfing on Friday. That was something we started to recondsider when we got to our hotel and discovered it was a good hour from the hotel to that golf course, because I wanted to do things while he was golfing, and I didn’t want to drive to Espanola, drive an hour back to Santa Fe, then drive an hour back to Espanole, etc. And he didn’t really want to go to the yarn store and the Georgia O’Keefe museum with me, but he did want to see the Loretto Chapel and the Basilica and have some time for shopping in the Plaza area. So we compromised and decided he would try to find a decent golf course closer to Santa Fe.

We are staying at the Hampton Inn in Santa Fe, I had some points that I could use for one of the nights.

It is fine, the bed is firmer than the one in Monte Vista. It is just quite a distance from downtown, but nothing too bad. We got checked into the hotel and went down to the Plaza area of old downtown to wander around. We checked in at The Shed, the restaurant I had investigated, and they had a 45-minute wait, so we put our names on the list and went to look around for 1/2 hour.

We checked out a few gift shops, made mental notes for what we would get tomorrow if we didn’t find anything we liked better, and walked by the Santa Fe Basilica. A huge line of people was waiting to get in, apparently there was a symphony concert that evening.

We returned to the restaurant and got our buzzer, which went off in about 10 minutes.

The Shed is in an old downtown adobe building, and it is like a maze with extremely low doorways. The hostess said the doorways were short partly because people were shorter then, but also because it helped with insulation (??) (I would think it would make the walls more stable too), and it prevented people on horseback from riding into the building, when they were attacking during the early, unsettled days.

We had New Mexican for lunch, so I was looking for something slightly different, and I had seen the soups on the menu, and that was what I had in mind. Ken decided the adobo-marinated chicken would be too spicy for him, so he had the chicken ceasar salad, which he said was quite lemony but good.

We also had an order of the chips and salsa, the chips were much fresher than the ones the previous evening, and the salsa was excellent.

I asked for a small cup of their red chile sauce, just to try. I think I like red chile better as an ingredient than as a straight sauce. I had the St. – something margarita, which had elderberry liqueur in it and should have come with a warning label – wow! Strong! And then I had three different soups – the mushroom, which had blended mushrooms in the broth, the posole, and the corn chowder which had roast chicken, green chile, corn, carrots topped with blue corn tortilla strips.

They were all good, but the mushroom was the best. I am going to have to try making something like that. And then since I only had soup for dinner, I had dessert (Ken didn’t see anything he was interested in). I had the lemon souffle, which also was excellent, very light and refreshing.

And then we came back to the hotel, and I worked on my blog from the day before, and we crashed. We watched the local news, and found out that it is a good thing Ken is golfing on Sunday in Albuquerque, because they are going to have 50 mph wind on Saturday, so that should be fun. The news also said there would be more smoke the next day from fires burning to the west.

Sand Dunes/Santa Fe/Albuquerque Trip Report Day 1

Highlights of the Day: Eating at Broadway Hot Dog in Bailey, seeing the South Park  valley for the 1st time, seeing the Great Sand Dunes for the 1st time

Warning: Long entry and picture-heavy.

Despite having arrived home from a work trip at 12:20 the night before, I was awake at 4:30 a.m., managed to go back to sleep until 6:00, and finally gave up and got up at 6:30. I caught up on Facebook, going through the feed from the day before because there were several articles/links I wanted to bookmark, and I had them all open on my phone, but then I had to turn my phone off because it wasn’t receiving emails in the middle of Eastern Colorado, and it lost them all. So I think I found most of them again.

I tried to pack quietly and let Ken sleep. MaryAnne was not helpful, she had come to bed at about 5:30 to snuggle in crook of my arm and then gave me a chirp meow in rebuke every time I moved. She was very chatty all morning, I think she knew something was up. They know when they see the big black boxes on the bed, they are going to get cat-sat for a few days.

After Ken got up and ready, we had a debate on which way we were going to go to the Great Sand Dunes. He had been intending on going down I-25, which would probably have been faster, not because of the road necessarily, but because there were less distractions to cause me to want to stop. But I thought we should go down 285 through the mountains so I could see some scenery I had never seen before. I always believe in traveling the road I haven’t traveled before.

So off we went, after a stop at the library to get fresh library books for me and Walgreens to get Sudafed since my allergies have been going nuts. I had originally hoped to get out of town by 8:00, but that was before I knew I would be getting home at midnight the night before.  So my new plan was 10:00, and we were pretty close to that.

Off we went into the mountains, with Ken providing narration about all the reasons he had been to these small towns in the mountains for news stories when he still worked for the news station, pointing out the gas stations they had eaten at and the restaurants they would have eaten at if they would have had more time.

I knew that Colorado had a hot-dog shaped restaurant at one time. It was once on Colfax Avenue in Denver, and then it got moved to Aspen Park, and I had heard on a news story that they had lost their location there and were moving again, but I thought the last thing I heard was that it was no longer open. Well, imagine my surprise when we drove by it! I made Ken turn around. If I have a chance to eat in a giant hot dog-shaped restaurant, I am going to take it.

We both had brats but I had onions and peppers and mustard on mine. They were good but I wish they would have cooked them a little longer, we like a little snap to the skin. We got there just in time at 11:30 because then people started streaming in.

They also had a hummingbird feeder outside, and two hummingbirds cheeping angrily at each other as they fought for position. They apparently don’t know how to share. I did not get a picture of the flashy blue one, which was probably the male. They get really upset and territorial – Hummingbirds: The Original Angry Birds.

There was still snow on some of the mountain peaks. It was a pretty cool and cloudy day, although it got sunnier as we got away from Denver. The drive into the South Park Valley was pretty incredible, just like the NY times writer says in this article, it is mind blowing to come out of the mountains over Kenosha pass, and see this huge valley as far as the eye can see,  surrounded by mountains.

Saw a coyote run across the road while were were in the valley, also goats and alpacas (not wild) and many hawks.

As we got further south in the valley, there were lots of farms under circle irrigation, and the wind kept blowing harder and harder. Saw at least four giant dust devils form and some of them stayed intact for quite a while. Saw Colorado Gators attraction but decided to save that for another trip.

We got to the Great Sand Dunes around 3:30 in the afternoon, and  the wind was blowing like crazy. I think the lady said they had a 42 mile an hour gust. That is something when you are surrounded by sand. We looked around the visitor center, and then did venture out onto the flats before the dunes, but we were just getting sand blasted, and discussed that it might be a good option to come back in the morning when it was still. There were some people up hiking on the dunes, but I am pretty sure they weren’t having a fabulous time.

And no one is up on the very tops.

Ken had sand in his ears, hair and shoes. I had it mostly in my shoes, but still some in my hair and ears. We were really hoping that it would be nicer in the morning. The weather was really strange, cloudy but not rain clouds, and hazy, which we found out was probably caused by fires in NM and/or AZ. We didn’t even get to see the sunset, it was too cloudy.
We got to the Best Western Movie Manor in Monte Vista at around 5:30 or so and checked in. This hotel was a little bit out of our way but when you have a chance to stay at the Movie Manor, you better take it. We were in the Jodie Foster room. This is an older hotel but has been updated throughout the years.

Except for the fan/light switches in the bathroom which they have kept intact, which I find quite charming.

The rooms and the whole place are decorated in a movie theme (pictures, wallpaper border), because the rooms look out on the drive-in movie theatre next door. We emptied most of the sand out of our shoes and went to the Mountain View Restaurant for dinner – we asked the front desk clerk for a steak recommendation and that was her recommendation – OR the restaurant next door owned by the same family that owns the hotel. We thought we would spread our tourism dollars around and went to the one across town.

Kenny ordered the 8 oz sirloin and I got the sirloin steak sandwich, because I knew I would get the smallest piece of meat with that and I didn’t want a huge steak. We also ordered the chips and salsa. The chips were not real fresh but the salsa was good.

We both liked our steaks. I went with the add-on onions and mushrooms, of course. They came with a dollop of seasoned butter on top and Ken frowned and scooped his off.

We both had dinner salads, not bad, mostly iceberg. Ken also got vegetables with his, of course he didn’t eat the zucchini and I got that. Was thinking about pie for dessert but when the waitress said it wasn’t homemade I decided to pass.

Of course, being the Nosy Parker that I am, I overheard our waitress describing Shock Top beer to the table next to us, and she didn’t mention that it was a wheat beer, so I had to throw my two cents worth in on that. We then visited with the two guys at the table on our way out, one of the was wearing a CSU hat so I asked if he had gone to school there. Nice guys. They did ask if we had gone to Gatorland and said it was worthwhile, so I will have to check that out for next time.

Got back to the hotel in plenty of time to watch “The Lorax” on the drive-in screen, but neither one of us had any desire to actually watch it, so we did for long enough to say we did it, and closed the curtains and turned on the TV.

Their beds are very, very soft.  Some people might like that, but I was glad we only had sleep on that bed for one night.

Did not get any embroidery or knitting done as we drove today. Way too much to look at, almost all areas I have never been to before. Great day.

Another Tour of Eastern Colorado

Part of my job that I really love is going to the small towns of Eastern Colorado.

Monday we got on the road for Burlington. We always stay at the Comfort Inn in Burlington. The staff is very nice there. I left my phone cord somewhere between my house where I unplugged it and my office when we left for the trip. So I went to the front desk, and she dug through the lost and found phone cords, and loaned me one for my phone for the night.

Just across from the Comfort Inn is The Route steakhouse. I had pretty much decided to get a steak, but when they had fried chicken for a special, I was tempted. But the waitress said the steak was better, so I went with that. I meant to order it with the goat cheese but forgot.

I had the baked sweet potato and a salad as my sides. This was excellent, maybe not the most prime filet I have ever had, but worth the cost and very tasty. The sweet potato was good too. I was in a beer mood (rare) and had New Belgium Brewery’s seasonal special Somersault Ale, which I quite liked. I will have to try it in a bottle to see if I like it that way, or just on tap.

Then I went back to the hotel and fished around in my FreedomBag (awesome product, I am on my 2nd one, would not travel without it, great gift to give people who travel) and accidentally found my razor, which you should put in one of the clear pockets, not one of the dark side pockets. So then I played “stop the bleeding” for a while.

Tuesday morning was a breakfast meeting at the American Legion Post  – aka The Post Bar and Grille. They have quite a good restaurant there. They also have calf fries occasionally for a lunch special, if you are interested in those. (See also: Rocky Mountain Oysters.) I was going to try them for the sake of trying new things, but they did not have them available for breakfast.

Our next meeting was in Yuma. It must be a good year for yucca plants, as we saw more of them than usual on the drive from Burlington to Yuma. There was one hillside that was totally covered with plants, all in bloom. Yucca, also known as Soap Root, is a big spiny plant that grows in poor rocky soil. I have tried to dig one up at the ranch, but it was hard to get much of the tap root, which can be quite long, and it didn’t survive being transplanted. This year I have five or six of them that I started from seed. They are just little spikes right now. I need to do more research on how long I should raise them in pots and when they can be planted outside. I have a spot planned for one, but not for five, so it will be OK if they don’t all make it, I am not sure what the attrition rate will be.

We stopped in Wray for lunch. Wray is a pretty little town, full of trees. This sign amused me:

I did not know that self-serve dog wash was an alternate use for car wash. Value added opportunity!

I like the older signs that are still in place. They have more character.

What do you order in a cafe like this? You order the hot beef sandwich, of course.

As my friend Cathy said, “Needs more gravy.”

My recommendation on how to choose a restaurant in a small town (or almost anywhere for that matter) – if the parking lot is full of pickups and Buicks, that is a good sign.

Also a good sign: personalized placemats with local advertising.

I was embroidering on the bunny block as we drove along, and so I missed the turkey buzzards on the side of the road. Sad. I always like to see the local turkey buzzards.

I am very excited to go on vacation to the Great Sand Dunes, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque, but I feel woefully underplanned. Usually I like to have vacations planned down to the minute. Apparently I will have to hang loose and relax on this one. Or plan in the car which Ken is driving…..

Multi-tasking Sunday

Sunday dawned clear and warm this past weekend. I wrapped up some work on the computer and then suited up to get out in the yard, since I had told myself all of the baby plants that had been sprouted, rooted and potted needed to be planted before I left on vacation. Since I was going to be gone Monday night and get home at about midnight on Tuesday, it had to be done on Sunday. Friday night I got out and planted some sunflowers and pumpkins, and they were looking kind of peaked after the cool weather on Saturday.

I invented a potting table out of two sawhorses and a door from the closet in the craft room. The sliding doors don’t work when you have the closet crammed full of fabric and yarn, so they are living in the shed.

Yeah, that door is going to need to be re-painted before we put it back on. But that is going to be a while, unless we win the lottery and move out of the house. And if we win the lottery, I will hire someone to paint the door.

I potted all of the climbing things – morning glories, cypress vines, and some sweet peas that I somehow missed when I planted earlier in the week. I pointed out to Ken that I was going to be putting the climbing plants in place, and that meant they needed lattice to climb, and we had torn down one segment of the old lattice with the aim of replacing it, and hadn’t done the replacing yet.

He went off to Home Depot to get lattice, and worked on that while I planted, alternating with weeding, finding a few volunteer cilantro plants, which made me happy. I started converting at least part of the garden to an herb garden, moving the horse radish from the railroad tie planter where it was not thriving, and moving some chives over as well. I am gradually reducing the area that has to be planted every year, hopefully creating a lower maintenance garden. I did plant a row of lettuce, basil, and cilantro, mixed together, that could be quite interesting. I tried basil in a hanging pot last year and that just didn’t work very well, it dried out too quickly. I also thinned out the onions that returned from last year. I noted that the mint plant, known for spreading and trying to take over, was doing just that, and so I put it in its place. And smelled like mint all afternoon.

I returned to the house around 11:00 a.m. and changed out of the dirty (literally, dirt-y) garden clothes. I had been planning on pizza on the grill for lunch but forgot that the dough needs to raise. So I made the dough anyway and then made hamburgers on the grill for lunch, with baked oven fries. I cut these like french fries instead of wedges, they cook a little faster and they are excellent.

Then back out into the yard – more planting, moving things around, weeding (there is ALWAYS weeding), mulling over what to do in the weed garden. Wrapped up about 3:00 and headed inside to clean up and get some more things done, such get the package ready to mail to my nieces and pack for business travel. And put away all of the summer clothes that I got out of the cedar chest that Ken had washed. I packed for my work trip, and made the grilled pizza for dinner.

I can’t find the link for the grilled pizza, but I will tell you, that is the way to go. Excellent crust. But next time I will remember that the crust only needs 3 minutes on LOW for the initial bake, not 3 minutes on HIGH. That first one was a little crispy. You stretch out the dough, and grill it on one side, and then bring it inside, and put the toppings on that side, and return it to the grill so the other side gets done and the toppings get melted together. I am considering trying grilling the first side, then putting the toppings on, and finishing it in the oven on my pizza stone under the broiler, because the grill doesn’t really brown the top. Another idea to try.

I was totally wiped out at the end of the day and I still forgot about three things I needed to do, had to get up out of bed and email a list of things to myself so I would remember to do them later.

If I got as much done every weekend as I did this weekend, I would get a lot done. I also would be crabby and exhausted, I am sure. Can’t wait for vacation.


A Busy Weekend

I took an impromptu day off from blogging on Monday, primarily because I was running around like crazy all weekend and had not time to write a post in advance. I literally had a list of goals to get done this weekend, since we are going on vacation on Weds., and I was going to be out of town for work Monday evening, and get back very late Tuesday.

Saturday was cool and rainy outside, so I tried to get things done inside. I finished up the September block of the 12-block bunny quilt for my 2nd youngest niece. I want to enter this in the county fair this summer, so I have to get the blocks done, some sort of borders put on, and sewn together and quilted, by the end of July. I decided this would not happen unless I put myself on deadline of finishing one block a week. So I wrapped up September (bunny going to school) and have started on October (bunny with jack ‘o lanterns) for this week. I am not allowed to work on knitting projects until I am done with my embroidery block for the week.

I made this much progress as my boss drove us across the state on Monday:

My goal is to have it finished tomorrow, so I can take knitting projects on vacation I finished making my mom’s socks smaller at the toe, but I think I will wait and see if I need to re-do the cast-on (too tight on my calves) until after she tries them on. So then I started casting on the Silpalu Bag from Knitpicks, which I bought as a kit, oh, years ago, and then realized I needed to focus on my mom’s sock featured in “Can this Sock Be Saved?” So I worked on unravelling the top of that sock, unfortunately I was interrupted by remembering that I hadn’t boxed up and prepared for mailing the birthday presents for my nieces E. and A., and after I did that, I discovered several other things I didn’t have on my official list but still needed to be done.

Also on Saturday, I put away all the sweaters in the cedar chest (who else still has a cedar chest? Dad got mine at an auction. I think I have had it since my 1st apartment after college. It is good for storage as well as providing seating when needed.) I surprised Ken, who was doing laundry, with all the summer clothes from the chest. So now we are ready for summer, except we still have flannel sheets on the bed. We may be ready for regular sheets by June 1.

We went to our usual Pho 78 for some soup for lunch (good day for it) and had Cheeseburger Macaroni for dinner with leftover smoked sausage instead of hamburger, that was good. The cats napped all day, that was what they thought of the rain.

TAG Restaurant Report

Late again, I can see blogging is going to be more difficult in the spring/summer but I will get it figured out.

Wednesday night I had the opportunity to eat at TAG Restaurant in Denver, with a group of agriculture supporters who are board members or advisers for an ag-based TV program. They also invited Denver area folks who work in ag. It was great to be in a room full of like-minded individuals, all of whom are interested in spreading the word of how agriculture works to consumers who are interested in food but often quite disconnected from the farm. AND I got to eat at an amazing restaurant.

The salad, main course, and dessert were good, but the appetizers were amazing. I would put some of them in the top two things I have eaten so far this year.

We had some of the TACO SUSHI / charred ahi, sushi rice, guacamole, li-hing mango salsa  – these were awesome. The 2nd best appetizer.

That is the only app we had that is actually on their current menu. The next one was small soft tacos, with beef and shredded cabbage, and quite a spicy salsa. Also excellent.

Potstickers, steamed and then crisped. Pork, I think, but could have maybe been duck. Very good.They have seafood potstickers on their menu, but these were not seafood, I bet those are good too.

And the BEST appetizer, tuna tartare on a wonton crisp with sunflower seeds, and a little balsamic drizzle. Of course it was the best appetizer, and I got the worst picture of them. I could eat these all day long, they were sooooo good. Amazing sushi quality tuna.

They had a nice spring greens and balsamic salad, and a choice of fish, beef, or chicken for the entree – I had the fish (Hawaiian Ono) and it was very good – everyone seemed to like their entrees. Red velvet cake for dessert. It was all good, but I will dream about those wonton chips for a while. Hoping I can get them if we just go to the restaurant.

It is lovely this time of spring, driving to work on I-25, as there are usually 2-3 hot air balloons visible somewhere along my route every morning. This morning, there were about 15 of them rising together at one point, they kind of took me by surprise. Unfortunately it was not a great picture opportunity, since it is very, very smoky here right now because of a fire burning near Fort Collins. The beautiful hot air balloons kind of balanced out the beginning of my morning.

That story starts last night, with Ken asking me how it felt if you had a broken toe. I said that I wasn’t sure, I had never had an xray to make sure, but I was sure I had broken my little toes at least once each by walking into door frames with them. (My mother always said I walked like a duck.) So apparently my subconscious was thinking about this over night, I slammed my right little toe into the door frame on the way out of the bathroom. I was AWAKE after that. Unfortunately my reaction also woke Ken up and scared the cats. So my toe hurts and it is smoky, I have my asthma inhaler handy. Glad it is Friday, and I go on vacation (after a few days of work) next week!

This One Time, at Knitting Camp…

I came home from work and announced to Ken I was going to knitting camp this summer. He was only slightly confused. And, I suspect, not at all surprised. Well, knitting camp (yarn camp?) is a virtual camp where you work on a project for a month with other knitters around the world. The interaction (if you want it) comes from message boards, etc., online. I have had many friends who have done knit-a-longs or quilt-a-longs but I am usually up against a deadline for something, and have never done one.This camp is sponsored by the Loopy Ewe, which is both an online and regular knitting store, and they just moved to Fort Collins this spring, so I am lucky enough to shop there in person! Here are the details of the camp.

The theme for this 3-segment camp is the Olympics, and so for the 1st project, you are to knit or crochet something that is designed by someone from a country other than the one you live in. When I checked on Ravelry and saw that the “Color Affection” shawl was made by Veera Välimäki, who is from Finland, I knew I was going to participate.

You are eligible for special bonuses if you buy your yarn at Loopy for the project (and I didn’t have any yarn that I liked for this project), so I went in and bought some lovely yarn. I looked at about a million pictures of the project on Ravelry (fiber arts website where knitters and crocheters plot to take over the world) and decided the ones I liked best had two pretty light colors for the first colors, and then a very highly contrasting color for the last colors. So that is what I went with.

AND my camp badge. The bad thing is that you have to wait until May 27 to cast on, so of course I want to cast on Now Now Now but this will give me time to work on some other projects and hopefully finish them up.

Speaking of other projects. I finally finished my youngest niece’s Christmas present. She doesn’t care, because she is only one. I don’t have to start being on time with her for another couple of years. It is a good thing, because she doesn’t have all of her baby quilts yet I make for each niece/nephew either.

Yo-yo button pillow. All I can say is that it is very cute, but never again! Those yo-yos and sewing them down, and the buttons, oy vey. My sister-in-law has a great talent for finding really cool projects that I will make one of and they say EEEEEEEEE! :  ) The colors are a little wonky in the picture, those oranges and pinks and greens are not quite that bright.

Then, my niece also had her 1st birthday last Sunday, so I just wrapped up that project. I would actually make this one again, it wasn’t too difficult.

Another one that my sis in law found and sent to me. Tutorial here. I don’t even have to supply the hoop for hanging, as she already has one!

Now I just need to get them in the mail…..

The other project I am currently telling myself I need to finish before starting anything new is a pair of socks for my mom. I thought I had them finished, and then when I blocked them, they seemed to grow. And if they were huge on me, I was pretty sure they would be huge on her. So I pulled the toe back out of one, and took about about 10 rows of pattern, and re-knit the toe. I think it is much better now.

Both socks. They are actually a little browner than this.

So, those are my recent crafting adventures. Sorry this post is later than usual this morning, I was out late at an event that I will write about tomorrow! (Pictures of food!)