Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Me and Kirk #2

August 9, 2015

Colorado/New Mexico Road Trip continued from last post.
I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to do this road trip.

My own personal “Thelma & Louise” trip…except I was with “CRK”

Because I got in late to Farmington, New Mexico, I booked two nights so I could explore that region some more – in particular the 4-Corners area (“an hour away”, according to hotel staff).
The next day, I took off for 4-Corners, but sort of accidently-on-purpose took a wrong turn from the direct route (using a “bikers’” scenic map as a guide, not realizing then that it was not to scale, and because I became fascinated with “Shiprock” and headed in that direction instead).
I never did make it to 4-Corners, but instead enjoyed a peaceful and scenic drive through Navajo territory. Actually I didn’t have a clue most of the day where I was, but ended up dipping a toe into Arizona.

There was a picnic area here. 
A super nice Native American family helpfully pointed out that I was at least four hours away from 4-Corners
and couldn’t make it to the monument before it closed for the day.

This is in the Lukachukai Mountains somewhere in Northeast Arizona.

Farmington has a quaint little downtown. 
Had dinner that night at the “3 Rivers Eatery and Brew House”.  Probably one of the best meals of my whole "Kirk" trip.
Manila Clams steamed with white wine with house green chili sausage, garlic and green onions. 
I don't normally post pics of food, but this was a meal to die for.
And I have become a BIG FAN of NM green chilies.

Heading south out of Farmington, I stopped to eat at this Mexican restaurant in Cuba. Friends of mine in Olón had told me about this place, and had another great meal here.
I also bought a bottle of “Hatch Chili” wine to enjoy in my room later that night to celebrate the 5 year anniversary of my sojourn in Ecuador. 
While in New Mexico.

Not sure if I mentioned it yet, but I was also on a mission to eat as many patty-melts, chicken-fried steaks, at good, greasy “diner” food places along the way, as well as much Mexican food I could shovel into my mouth.

Wee bit of a hangover
Glad a Sonic next door to my
Socorro room
the following morning.

Crossing the Continental Divide

I had planned on spending a day or so in Albuquerque, but as luck would have it, one of my good friends who has lived in Olón for several years (Elizabeth Lafortune) just happened to be visiting her family who live in the Alamogordo/Tularosa area, in southern New Mexico, so I bypassed Albuquerque to push down to explore Las Cruces (that was just a quick pop in and out because of a lot of road construction in town).
I spent a night in Socorro (home of New Mexico Tech) on my way south.
I really liked the desert around this part of the state… I am, and always will be a desert rat at heart.

And now to meet the culprits
 who grow these wicked good 

Between Las Cruces and Alamogordo/Tularosa, I had the chance to tour the White Sands National Park late one afternoon for a couple of hours. 
An awe-inspiring place with gypsum sand dunes for miles.
Back-pack camping is allowed on a limited basis here.
Putting on my bucket list -- spend a night in this desert once.

Had a really fun and special time during my visit with Elizabeth and her family.  Her dad owns a large horse ranch in Tularosa (an interesting town – the original 1862 town site has been designated a State and National Historical District).
I really enjoyed meeting her dad, Mickey – what a great guy with an interesting past and lots of fun stories to tell. And her Dad gave me great map/highway advice to get to Santa Fe without backtracking on the I-25.

What are the chances that Elizabeth and I would bump into each other in far southern New Mexico, since we both have lived here in Olón for this many years??
We spent a lovely evening sitting by a pond on her Dad’s property while enjoying a stunning desert sunset. 

After a couple of lovely days here, I followed Micky’s instructions,  and took hwy 54 to Duran, then  hwy 3/285 to Santa Fe, so I got to go through some desolate “Billy the Kid” territory on my way back up north.
A good route, and the quickest way to Santa Fe (just don't miss the turn-off in Duran).
There are not many rest spots along these roads.
Eat in Carrizozo along the way; there is a great diner there.

I have to admit that one thing that made me realize I've been in the “boonies” for a long time was the prevalence of smart phones in the States now, and the reliance on those these days.   I mean, they’re common in Ecuador too – but I don’t have one.  I think they may be smarter than me.
That is until one day while having lunch, I overheard three old ladies in an intense debate about which “twelve-o’clock” was “AM” and which was “PM”...Seriously?  That’s pretty dumb.
And then one of the gals whipped out her smart phone to get the answer, and I thought: “geez, if those dummies can figure out smart phones, I ought to be able to learn how to use one.”

Can I just say, I loved, loved, loved Santa Fe?  It was my first time there, and I anticipated I would fall under its spell, which is why I saved it for my last New Mexico stop.  I believe I could easily live there.
I genuinely miss living in the desert.
I lived in Northeast Nevada for 10 years (Elko/Wendover to be specific, during my twenties and resided for seven of my twenty-five years in California in Palm Springs) before coming to Ecuador.

I suppose some local
Santa Fe town character.
Check out the hat.

Bunny Tobias
"Disney Jar"

I spent a day walking around the downtown plaza, ate a yummy green chili meatloaf meal – I don’t remember the name of the restaurant – and visited the New Mexico Museum of Art.
Then I decided that I could probably see more if I got on one of the tour buses, so I did that for the rest of the afternoon.

A brief moment of panic.
Parked Iowa-plated rental car, "Kirk" here during my Santa Fe town expedition.
The lot closed and locked up at 5:30 PM.

The sign not noticed until 6:30 PM when I went to retrieve it.
Bit of a sticky situation for a few minutes, till someone with monthly pass key showed up to let me in and out of the gate.

And then, alas…it was time to turn back and make the long haul back to Kansas City.  
I dropped south to Albuquerque (via hwy 14 “The Turquoise Trail”).
That was probably one of my most favorite drives of “The Kirk” road trip adventure.

My goal that day was to meet my cousin Kathy and husband Mike for lunch (on the outskirts of Albuquerque) and then get as far as possible on interstate 40 – at least through the Texas panhandle and into Oklahoma.

Lunch with Mike & Kathy.
They live along the Sandia Crest Highway 

This bizarre and colorful roadside attraction was near a gas stop as I was going through the Texas Panhandle.
A quite unexpected and fun find.
I also noticed that county lines change about every quarter of a mile along the Panhandle.

Crossing into Oklahoma after dark, the speed limit dropped dramatically, and if there was a “reduce speed” sign, I didn’t see it.  Got photo flashed as I passed the weigh station, so I was a little concerned that I may have gotten a ticket. 

I ended up that night in Clinton, Oklahoma, hungry, tired and cranky.
I can tell you, there is not much open in Clinton on a Saturday night except an Indian casino, so I made a speedy bee-line to a shabby motel that was closest to it, and made it just in time for last call on drinks and food.
There is a "Route 66" museum in Clinton, but it was closed on Sunday morning as I was leaving town.

A weird thing happened to me along last day of trip (from Oklahoma onto Kansas City).
I was listening to the radio when a FREAKY message interrupted the station I was groovin' to – at first I thought it was an advertisement, but then realized it really was some type of message meant for me.
A female RADIO VOICE suddenly came on and asked:
“We are trying to reach you by phone”.
Followed by:
“Please say yes/no/ call back later”
It startled me so much, I said - out loud - “WTF?” and the lady said “we’ll call you back”…and the station returned to music.

It occurred to me that perhaps the rental car company was trying to reach me (I didn’t have a USA cell phone when I initially rented the car, it makes sense that the cars are equipped with GPS, and there was that slight possibility that I got ticketed the night before).  I also checked my cheap phone a few minutes later and saw that – indeed – there was a missed call from the phone company.
Still, it creeped me out.
I’m driving an Iowa-plated rental car, (with a valid California driver's licensein Oklahoma, using a Kansas purchased Walmart phone with an Illinois area code.
How did they find me?
Everyone I talked to in Kansas City afterwards seemed puzzled when I asked:
“Do RADIO VOICE people now and then,
come out of your car radio to talk to you?”

I have learned since then (from friends here) that is a “Bluetooth” function.
Call me old-fashioned, but the fact that cheap $10 Walmart phones come equipped with this sophisticated technology  -- I find a bit disconcerting.

I noticed that one can learn a lot about an area by just listening to the local radio stations.
I caught up on a bunch USA music that I’ve missed out on through the years – and discovered that no matter which genre station I was tuned to – Taylor Swift is ubiquitous. She’s everywhere; you can’t escape her.  Respect her talent, liked her songs the first 50 times or so, but then….arggg.

"Watering Can"
July 2015

Somewhere in Texas

What a great road trip!
I never felt alone on this journey.
Always, I sensed the presence of the Divine riding shotgun.
What a gift to have two weeks on the open road without an agenda, with God as the insightful and delightful navigator and companion.
We had lots of laughs, saw breath-taking vistas, and shared a profound time of communion. 
Once again, I was reminded and reinforced that God is in control, to trust my gut, be thankful through ALL circumstances, and take it day by day – go WITH the flow.

Driving out of Oklahoma on a Sunday…there is not much on the radio but religious stuff.
(With the exception of bizarre 
RADIO VOICE incident).
However, one sermon did catch my interest.
The preacher was expounding on the fact that God says “I am the God of I AM”.
Not the lord of yesterday or tomorrow...The God of Now.

Amen to that.

Kirk and me,
Bugs and all.
7 States, 3000 miles.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Me and Kirk

July 31, 2015

I took a two-week road trip through Colorado and New Mexico in June, after the wedding in Kansas City.
Kinda my own personal “Thelma & Louise” trip…except it was just “Kirk” and me (my Iowa-plated rental car with “CRK” as the first letters on the license plate, before the numbers).
I've always wanted to explore those two states more – especially New Mexico. The plan was to take my time, leisurely stop at scenic turn-outs and roadside attractions along the way, and end up wherever I ended at the end of each day.

I had no “set” agenda (other than a loose route planned – west across Colorado to at least Grand Junction, turn south there towards New Mexico, and make a loop through that state).  The only “rigid” rule I set for myself was not to back-track on roads already explored, and take a new path each day.
I think more than anything, I just wanted to get in a car and DRIVE.  It’s been years since I've done that, and I still have a valid California driver’s license.
I left Kansas City on a Monday morning, after dropping my brother off at the KC airport for his flight back to California.
I stopped in Manhattan, Kansas, hoping to rendezvous with my uncle (who has lived there since I can remember).  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to connect with him (love you, John!).  But while there, I did buy a cheap USA $10 Walmart “throw-away” phone, for the trip. I don’t have a “smart phone”…more on this later.
From there, I took I-70 west to Denver for a couple of nights.

Denver dinner with longtime
friends & family -- Dave and Don

Then onto the Grand Junction area, (stopped and explored Frisco and Glenwood Springs on the way)
I had a late lunch in Glenwood Springs at Doc Holliday’s Saloon.  He is buried nearby, and I went to see his “grave” afterwards.
Doc Holliday lived there the last year of his life and died at the Glenwood Hotel in November 1887.

This is just a memorial.
No one knows exactly where Doc H
 was buried here in this cemetery.

I ended up staying in the funky little town of Fruita,
 just few miles west of Grand Junction.

 A quirky junk yard in Fruita

One confession:
It’s been so long since I filled up a car with gas, that the first few times I did it, I was so busy answering the automated questions at the pump:
Name of first born child?
…..that I forgot to screw the gas cap back on, after filling up, until hearing it bang around on the rear of my car after getting back on the interstate.

A spliff for the road, anyone?
Shortly after Denver – stopped and took picture of a roadside weed store…Right off the highway…strikes me as a bit ironic, but then again, I’ll bet there’s not much problem with pedal-to-the-metal speeders along that stretch.
Shot in the dark - my guess is anyone who stops there for anything more than gasoline and snacks, creeps back on the freeway at a roaring 50 miles-per-hour speed.

It’s probably more like “let’s mooove it along here, folks”…

A cop pulled up behind me on shoulder when for the third – and last – time I got out to screw back on the forgotten gas cap, shortly after I took these photos.
”You alright here, ma’am?”
“Seriously, officer – all I did was take pictures from outside, and walk around inside for a minute”

I was driving a rental car, and doing my best not to smoke cigarettes inside Kirk.
At each gas up stop, I would pick up a few scratch-off lottery tickets, have a cig, a coffee, a scratch, and buy a few more cards to relax at the end of each day playing them in my hotel room(s).
I actually hit a few $20 jackpots with these during my trip.

Colorado National Monument
From Fruita, I turned south towards Durango (Hwy 50).  I spent a about an hour exploring the Colorado National Monument first, then headed to Ouray.  My cousin and his family have lived there for 20+ years, (he owns the Ouray Mountain Sports store). We’ve had a couple of cousins’ reunions in Ouray over the years; it’s a beautiful and quaint town, though a drizzly day when I stopped that afternoon to see Bill and his family.

Cousin Bill and family

My plan was to spend the night in Durango (never have explored that town), but no rooms were available, so I pushed on down to Farmington, New Mexico.

To be continued...