headed north to CO and the view from Summit Cove
(Dillon lower; Keystone lower right)
We again were best served to Travel I-10 for our 167 mile pull to Las Cruces. Las Cruces? It would put us in a good position for a trip north on I-25 through Albuquerque and Santa Fe to Dillon, CO to visit the Colorado Luetkens clan.
Being the off season for RV'ers wintering in southern states like NM it was relatively easy to find a location that would allow us to park our trailer with a connection for electricity to keep the fridge cold at a reasonable cost. Sunny Acres RV Park near downtown Las Cruces fit the bill perfectly. For the evenings we would be in the RV it was $20/night. For the days the RV was unoccupied it was $5/day. The site was close to the park office where very friendly and accommodating staff kept an eye on our RV.
We arrived in Las Cruces with plenty of time to setup and spend the afternoon packing for our 600 mile drive north. Well stocked with snacks and a new audible book we were off by 8:00 a.m. the next morning. Nice for a change to drive at interstate speeds without a trailer and be able to look out the truck's rear window at something other than a wall of white. Even so, we still wanted to break the trip up into two days with an overnight in Sante Fe coming and going. Besides, Mark, a fellow RVer we had met in Oregon was parked in Santa Fe and we had made arrangements to meet him for dinner.
location of the Native America market place
Santa Fe is steeped in Hispanic and Native American culture. Preserved by the nation's second oldest historic district preservation ordinances, Santa Fe adhered to standards that included preservation of historic materials, harmonious designs, and maximum allowable height restrictions for buildings and signage. That's why gas stations were cleverly hidden and disguised to look more like adobe homes.
We could have spent weeks exploring museums, historical sites and outlaying parks and trails. The Georgia O'Keefe Musuem, New Mexico Museum of Art, the Wheelwright Museum of American Indian, etc., etc. But we only had one afternoon and evening so we limited ourselves to the east side historic district which included the old plaza brimming with high end shops, restaurants and a Native American market place.
Parking was difficult in the narrow streets and, expensive ($1/hour) but once parked, walking was the easiest way around the roughly ten block square area. We had agreed to meet Mark on the northeast corner of the plaza. Once we figured out which way northeast was, there was Mark. From there we strolled through a number of shops which reinforced our impression that Santa Fe was not an inexpensive place to live or shop. Lots of eye candy though! Fortunately as full-time RVers, none of us had room for any of the large sculptures or handmade glass light fixtures.
Little surprise to our faithful readers: by late afternoon food was uppermost on our minds. We had heard that the Coyote Grill served excellent margaritas but we were sorely disappointed. Maybe for the uninitiated but the drinks turned out to be some of the worst we've experienced. We also had heard that The Shed served some of the best local Mexican cuisine. Within ten minutes we found ourselves seated near the bar waiting for margaritas and a table. A vast improvement in the drinks and while our wait for food took a while (it's avery popular place) it was well worth the wait. Besides, we were there for the conversation. Well after dark we bid Mark farewell and returned to our motel.
peppers in Hatch and the Pepper Pot
A must stop the following day was Hatch, NM, which holds the title of Chili Capitol of the World. We had stopped in Hatch in 1999 and recalled peppers hanging from every nook and cranny. Nothing had changed although finding a vendor so early int he morning proved challenging. We also wanted breakfast. Restaurant pickings were slim but we stumbled upon the Pepper Pot. Suffice to say if we find ourselves in Hatch again, we'll make this restaurant a must do.
Gamma and Carter and Cali looking at photo album
Carter's soccer match
hiking with Cali and Carter
North of Santa Fe we swapped I-25 for Highway 285 which coursed through Carson National Forest in New Mexico and later in Colorado the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Onto Highway 24 through Leadville. By mif-afternoon we arrived at Chris's to find Carter peering out the front door. Later in the afternoon we walked to the kid's school to fetch Cali.
Over the course of the next four days we hung out with Chris, Robyn, Cali and Carter. Hikes in the hills around the neighborhood, drives to nearby mountains, a soccer match, shopping, and walks to and from school. Cali had been completing reading comprehension quizzes on books she had checked out of the school library. Very high tech. And, of course breakfasts at the Mountain Lyon Restaurant. Although Colorado had enjoyed a longer than usual mild Fall, hard frosts on the truck's windshield reminded us why we were spending our winters in southern states.
Chris, Cali, Carter and Pa on a 'woodsy'
Cali, Chris and Carter
Cali and Carter visited by Pa
Our time with the kids went all too quickly and we were once more on the road headed back to Las Cruces. After another overnight in Santa Fe, we found ourselves back on I-25. As we grew close to Albuquerque we realized we were driving through the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. An event we've often heard about and seen on TV. Until you've witnessed first hand skies filled with colorful hot air balloons of every shape and size, well, you need to put this on your bucket list. Reminded us a lot of the annual E.A.A. gathering in Oshkosh, WI only these airborne craft moved at a much slower pace.
After an extra night at the RV back in Las Cruces we headed east for Texas. We had toyed with the idea of stopping in Big Bend but at this time of year we had already missed any chance of seeing a Colima Warbler. By now our annual ABA count had grown to be in the 480's. If we ever had a shot at 500, we needed to try for places where our chances for adding to the count were greater. The Guadalupe Mountains, a place we had not visited before, held out hope for one last chance for a Montezuma Quail. A very outside chance.
rear view Cali
Chris and Robyn headed out for some quiet time
reason for a huge hours-long delay on Vail Pass;
burned out motor coach