Wednesday, September 30, 2015


After spending a most pleasant weekend in Denver, we got back on the road again. This time heading for Taos. Leaving Denver the road runs mostly down the "low," flat country. When we crossed into New Mexico, we finally got off the interstate and took a right turn for Taos. That means heading into the mountains. Taos is in a high plateau, about 8,000 feet elevation. To get there the road goes through Cimarron Canyon. This is a winding, climbing road through gorgeous country. There is a river in the canyon, so there were lots of trees and other greenery. We wished we had a dashboard camera to record the beautiful drive.

As usual, as we approached Taos, Jean started looking for a campground. We needed full hookups because we didn't want to miss NCIS. We don't go too primitive on these trips! She found one that sounded okay and got directions. Once we got into Taos, it became apparent that there was a problem with the directions. When she went into a grocery store to get further information, the clerk said that that guy was "a little squirrelly." When we got there, the place looked like it hadn't seen much maintenance for quite a while. The proprietor was an old gent with a walrus mustache hanging over a beard. He was hard of hearing and quite laid back, but very pleasant and well-spoken. We paid for a night and pulled in to a space close to the bathroom (there were only three other rigs in the campground). The site was level and equipped with all the amenities.

After a pleasant night, we decided to spend another night. We had a little problem in the morning that I won't bore you with, but it kept us until the owner showed up about 11:00 so we could pay for another night. Then it was off to the Taos Pueblo. That is a few miles north of town and is the oldest continuously-occupied site in the country. They were getting ready for a religious celebration and no photography was allowed, but I grabbed a cell-phone picture from outside the compound.
Taos Pueblo with Sangre de Cristo mountains in the background

The community consists of several adobe houses, some built together like apartment houses, on either side of Blue Spruce Creek, which provides all the water for the community. The people here continue to live mostly a traditional life with no running water and no electricity. They do use cars and cell phones though.

After wandering around some, going into shops, and eating some frybread and an Indian taco, we headed on for the next spot.

The next spot was the Rio Grande Gorge bridge. It is about 10 miles west of town. The valley is mostly flat and covered in sage brush. It is easy to put yourself in the minds of the pioneers driving their wagons across easy country,

when suddenly they find themselves on the brink of a 650-foot-deep gorge they didn't see coming.

By now it was getting late and we headed back in to Taos to look for some supper. Taos is a small, very old town with narrow streets and one main road through town. Consequently the traffic is bumper to bumper all the way through. Anyone familiar with Berkeley Springs gets the picture.

We stopped at a Wendy's to grab a salad and were faced with incompetence on a major scale. It took half-an-hour for one customer with a handful of coupons to argue, negotiate, and figure out what he wanted. Meanwhile the other staff was having a hard time getting the right food to the right customers. We finally got our food in time to get back to the motorhome and watch NCIS. Got to keep your priorities right.

Next day (today)

There were three things we wanted to get done today. First we went in to Taos to the Plaza. This is the oldest part of the city. Jean spend some time shopping while Gene sat in the plaza and read a magazine. This part concluded with a visit to the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, yum.

Then we went out to find the Earthship Visitor Center. This is just a few miles beyond the Gorge. An Earthship is a home built of recycled and local materials and independent of the grid. The structural walls are built of old tires filled with rammed earth. The building is bermed and has south-facing glass walls. The building uses solar and wind power. This provides both 110VAC and 12VDC to operate lights, and pumps, etc. Just like a motorhome. The roof  collects rain water, and reuses its water several times. Grey water (from sinks) is filtered and used to feed plants in special beds and baskets behind the glass wall. The leftover from this is used to flush the toilet(s), and that is then sent to a septic tank. Many of the houses grow most or all of their food.

The organization has been in existence for several years and there are Earthship houses all around the globe. It is a fascinating concept, and seems to work well. The designs outside Taos tend to have lots of swoopy curves, but that is not a requirement.

Finally, on our way to Santa Fe we stopped to look at the old Spanish mission of San Francisco de Asis, a few miles south of town. This is a massive adobe church, in excellent condition. We were too late to go inside, but we took a lot of pictures of the outside.

Approaching Santa Fe, Jean got on the phone and got us a space at a campground in Santa Fe. Most of the campgrounds were filled due to the upcoming balloon festival. Once more she got someone on the phone that seemed a little ditzy. Jean couldn't match the directions she gave us with anything on the map. When she called back to get clarification she got a recording because the office had closed. She finally figured out that "Serios" was actually "Cerillos" Street. Once we got that straightened out we still couldn't find the campground. Lots of detective work and two tries with the GPS finally revealed a campground hidden behind some buildings. There were more problems once we got there, but we finally got settled in. Tomorrow we go downtown to the plaza, and then get ready to check in at the Balloon Fiesta Friday.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

On to the West

We are now starting our long-awaited Big Trip to the Four Corners area. Having read all of Tony Hillerman's Navajo cop stories, we are going to look over the territory.

Since the first part is just a long slog across the country, I am starting a little over a week into the trip. The first stop we made was in Louisville, KY, to visit Jean's nephew, Jason, and his family. While there, they took us to downtown Louisville. They are doing some renovation there. The fronts of the buildings are considered historic, so they prop up the front, then tear down the rest to build new behind the old front.

We went on to visit a very good museum.  We spent most of our time in an extensive exhibit on the Lewis and Clark expedition. Well done, and we learned a lot. Outside they were having a sort of street fair featuring local clubs and do-it-yourself projects. Gene couldn't resist the power tool races.

Racing belt sanders

After Louisville, we headed for Missouri and Kansas. That took a couple of days, during which we sometimes lost track of what time zone, or even what state we were in. We wanted to visit Gene's cousin in Kansas City, MO, but he was too sick to have visitors. Maybe on the way home. So we pressed on to Lawrence, KS, to visit an old college buddy. We caught up with him in the hospital, about to go into hospice. So far the KC area was not a cheerful part of the trip.

People had been teasing us about crossing Kansas: totally flat with miles and miles of corn and wheat. In fact, much of Kansas is rolling hills, slowly flattening out as you travel west. It isn't seriously flat until the far western third. We didn't see much corn until the very western end. We saw some soybeans, but mostly what we saw was miles and miles of sorghum (also know as milo).

It took about two days to get across into eastern Colorado, which looks exactly the same. Our last morning in Kansas we went to the Prairie Museum in Colby. This is a well-done, indoor-outdoor museum. A couple of the things that caught our interest were the reproduction sod shanty (high-class version with a wood floor and roof) and  a windmill that has folding blades.

In Colorado, we spent the first full day going through the Rocky Mountain National Park, which was celebrating its 100th year. The weather was beautiful for late September (some years there is snow by then). The aspens were turning their beautiful fall colors. The road through the park climbed to 12,000 feet. We got out at about 11,700 feet to walk a short distance to an overlook and had to stop half-way to rest and catch our breath.

We entered the park from the eastern side, which fronts on the flat part of Colorado. We exited on the southwest side which is in the mountains. We then headed for Denver to visit relatives. What we thought would be a short, easy trip turned out to be several hours of mountain driving, through a high pass and down a long valley. As we approached Denver the traffic got quite heavy. We made it in our projected time, but it was pushing all the way.

Next day, in Denver, Gene bought a new tire pump since the one he bought a month ago started blowing fuses. Grrrr! Then the family went to Zorba's, a Greek restaurant owned by Jean's daughter-in-laws best friend. Afterward we visited the Botanical Garden. This is an extensive garden, including an indoor tropical zone. It is well-done and full of beautiful plants. Scattered throughout the garden are statues of horses that look like they are made of driftwood. It turns out they are bronze, colored grey.

We also drove by Molly Brown's home, but didn't go in.

So this part of the trip, which was mostly driving to our main area of interest, turned out to have some interest of its own. Tomorrow, we head for Taos. Will post again in a couple of days.