Sunday, September 18, 2011

Taos, Santa Fe, Sedona, Scottsdale

Nice pose, Chief!

The last few days in New Mexico and Arizona have not involved the camera-snapping, tourist-driving stuff we did earlier in the road trip. I think it is safe to describe Taos as an artist-centric spot, with a quaint plaza in the center of town catering to two groups: people who like native (and other local) arts and crafts and the others who like t-shirts and inexpensive jewelry.

In either case, we spent a couple of hours wandering around their picturesque plaza and only Shirley took out her camera. So the pictures from New Mexico at our travel site are courtesy of guest artist, Shirl. They're here.

LK continued her "I'm-in-retirement-but-I'm-not-giving-in-completely" adjustment to hew new life, buying some stuff but not as much as in her glory days. She picked up some quilt patches (and no, she has never made one for those wondering) and a little later she bought a small painting. But she is developing some important retired folk skills, and she actually haggled with the artist and got him to knock about 20% off the price.

It was a pretty uninteresting drive from Taos to Santa Fe. The landscape was pretty ordinary, even though for quite a while we drove alongside the Rio Grande. Which, at this point, quite frankly looked like the Rio Not So Grande.  Perhaps the most noteworthy thing about the trip was the astounding number of casinos popping up in the middle of absolutely nothing. There must have been six or seven, and none of us could figure how they made any money. At least after our Vegas days, we weren't tempted to stop.

Santa Fe was a pleasant city. The state capital has a population of about 75,000 and a very attractive plaza. At least it looked that way as I drove through when we arrived in late afternoon. The next day I was just a little under the weather and skipped what was always going to be a shopping expedition for LK and Shirl. Their report was thumbs up, but that's about all I can tell you from personal experience. And the only pictures that we took in Santa Fe were some Shirl took of the casita we rented.

The next day was a long drive to Sedona. About 6 1/2 hours on interstate highways - not very interesting. But once we got to Sedona that changed. LK and I have been here before, but it didn't take away from the beautiful drive in as you come down the mountain from Flagstaff.

But the highlight had to be sitting on our deck at the Sky Ranch Lodge facing west and overlooking some of the most gorgeous scenery America has to offer. LK took lots of pictures and captured some lovely shots as the sun set, painting the red rocks and hills in all sorts of shades. Those pictures are at the same spot.

A quick drive yesterday to Scottsdale outside of Phoenix, where we are declaring it Pool Day in the 98 degree heat. Bound to be more great Mexican food for dinner tonight. Tomorrow we have another long drive to San Diego, where the road trip ends. On Monday we board the ship to head south, eventually going through the Panama Canal.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rocky Mountain, Hi!

That's my boy!

What a great weekend we had in the Denver area.

First, getting there was spectacular as we drove over the Rockies from Grand Junction. After days spent on desert floors, we were suddenly surrounded by lush, towering evergreen forests. And as we climbed (and climbed) it felt as if we would be able to reach out and touch the clouds.

We stopped in Vail for lunch. I got lucky. Very lucky.

LK discovering Vail has about the same emotional impact as Indiana Jones discovering the Temple of Doom. In this case, the sidewalks virtually squeaked "Twee! Twee!" as we walked, and I nervously watched LK eying the shops.

When I say I got very lucky, I can only add that the credit card sustained only very minimal damage. I think part of it is because we are already so close to the luggage limits that our options are pretty much reduced to offering to pay total strangers to take extra bags with them.

So, I suspect it was more that practical fact than shopping restraint that spared the budget. Nonetheless, it was mildly disconcerting (not to mention not very PC) when LK said, "You know, now that we live in Hobart I can justify having a mink coat."

Once in Denver, we had a great time catching up with Tom. He's living in Centennial on the southern edge, and we stayed in a motel in the Denver Tech Center, which is jut a few miles from his house. Dinner the first night turned out to be a typical (for us) first-night-in-a-new-place dinner. Which is to say, after a few drinks we decided to stay in the room and order in. In this case, it was a pizza. Not haute cuisine, but it went with a fun night.

The next day, Shirl and LK went to the pool in perfect weather while Tom and I drove to a microbrewery/sports bar so we could watch the Tampa Bay Bucs in their season opener. It was not meant to be, but the beer at the place heled ease the pain. (Actually, it was Tom's pain. My team is the Patriots, who creamed Miami the next night.)

That night Tom had us over for a barbecue. He's staying with his friends Cliff and Shanna until he starts his winter job working at a hotel in Vail (Brrrrr!). They were a great, fun and gracious couple. And somehow I discovered my old skill at getting virtual strangers to open up their wine cellar and pour some good stuff.

We were joined at the barbecue by three rottweilers and a toy terrier. Shanna is a professional dog show handler, and her babies were astonishingly well behaved and gentle. Not once did I get the sense that the big dogs might be studying me as a potential meal.

Monday was heading-out day as we drove to Taos. Tom drove as far as Colorado Springs - about an hour south - to take us to Garden of the Gods Park. It was yet one more incredibly beautiful place that we have seen in our wanderings. Interesting rock formations, beautiful evergreens, Pike's Peak in the distance. I couldn't help but wonder how rocks could be shaped in so many ways and still end up beautiful.

A great side light of the park - it is open for certified rock climbers, and we saw a pair of them atop a scarily steep rock. Pix of them and the Garden of the Gods at our site,

Taos that night and we're in Santa Fe now. New Mexico reports in the next post.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Week in Review

LK has booked this trip and her research has yielded fantastic results, as the sites we've seen are fascinating, beautiful and at times jaw-dropping.

Today we drove from Monument Valley to Grand Junction Colorado, with a side trip to tour The Arches National Park in Utah, not far from the Colorado border. Oh, maybe it was just more rocks to look at - but oh what rocks. Some of the formations in this park make you wonder if the laws of gravity have been suspended, while others are fascinating arches or openings in very dense rock. Check out the pix at the travel site:

We've been driving a lot and doing the touristy thing so the posts are running way behind. So let me suggest that the best way to get a handle on the various things in the pictures is to check out the various park sites at Wikipedia.

And since I know I am unlikely to ever do a catch-up post and go into detail about our journey, here is the quickie recap of the past week:

Saturday - Monday. Las Vegas. We went to see Rod Stewart's show, and all three of us loved it. Surprised me, since I've never been a big fan of his. LK and I discussed a blog in which we list all the big rock stars who we didn't see until they were way past their peak (a lot) and those we saw before they became a big deal (only a few for me, a few more for LK).

Other than that, I can't write much more since it is apparently a strictly enforced law that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Tuesday. Zion National Park. Lovely big sandstone mountains inspired us --- to take a drink out to the hotel's hot tub and sit and look at them. As for the outdoors experience the next day, the choice was to either take the park shuttle around the canyon or hike in the 90+ degree heat. The shuttle was very comfy. Off that afternoon to Monument Valley.

Wednesday - Thursday.  The awesome beauty of Monument Valley experienced up close by staying at The View Hotel on the Navajo nation land. Compare the beauty of the structures in the valley with the terrifying fact that the entire area is an alcohol-free zone. First night was OK. We brought our booze into the room in our luggage and had such a good time sneaking a drink or two that we never quite got around to going to dinner. The next night was a different story. Shirley was reduced to drinking minibar-sized bottles of some blue fruit juice and vodka concoction. I had to fight LK over her scotch, which was still in ample supply. It's a good thing I won, because it would not have been pleasant to see monkeys hanging from the overhead lights.

Friday. A visit to The Arches National Park on the way to Grand Junction. The park was stunning and beautiful. So, too, was my favorite site in Colorado - a building with a big sign reading "Liquor Store".

Today we are taking what Tom has promised is one of the most beautiful drives we will ever take as we go over the mountains to get to Denver. Catching up with Tom tonight. Should be a good day.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Quick Catchup

A very busy holiday so far - a couple of days in Vegas, then Zion National Park, and now we are in the Navajo Tribal Park in Monument Valley, Utah.

Tomorrow we visit The Arches on our way to Grand Junction Colorado, then onto the Denver area to catch up with Tom for a couple of days.

Getting pictures up onto Shutterfly took hours more than it should have, but you can take a squizz at our travel page,   In a day or two I will have time to write about the trip in more detail, but did want to share this much.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Family Names

They call me NotBob.

"They" - LK's family - welcomed me as most families do when I replaced husband #1 more than a quarter of a century ago. However, over those many years they have learned to ignore most of those things they didn't care for about me initially.

They have even given me a new nickname within the family.  Whenever I do or say something stupid or offensive (as I seem to do quite often), they just raise their eyebrows a bit and shrug their shoulders, dredge up old memories of LK's first spouse, Bob, and call me by my new name: "At least he's NotBob."

I came to understand this when we were talking about other members of the family this week (as you do when you get together). One member of the clan had been married to a guy I will call Harry. It was a general consensus within the family that Harry was a complete idiot, incredibly annoying and extremely vain with no earthly reason to feel that way about himself.

Although this view that he was a super-jerk was widely held, little was said to Harry or Mrs Harry until the marriage came crashing down. Now whenever Harry is discussed, it is with a roll of the eyes, a snigger and a favorite story proving what a twit he was.
Harrry was eventually replaced by a guy we'll call Jim.  He was such an improvement over Harry that a few in the family started googling "canonization" to see how long before he could become Saint Jim. Unfortunately, familiarity bred not contempt,  but certainly a lowering of enthusiasm.
A few weeks ago Jim did something that really, really annoyed the brother of Mrs Jim (formerly Mrs Harry).  Uh-oh, one of us said as we were talking about this, and most of us began to wonder if she had helped another super-jerk cross the clan's moat.

Having spent more than 25 years in the family, I was able to join in the discussion. "Nope," I said, "Jim has a long way to go and a lot more mistakes he can make before he's in trouble. Remember, he's NotHarry. And anyone who is NotHarry starts with at least 100 points worth of mistakes they can make before they have their license revoked."

Strangely enough, everyone understood what I meant and nodded in agreement. "Not a bad way of looking at it," said LK. "You're absolutely right. Now that you've mentioned it, I can't count the number of times I have said to myself, 'Remember, he's Notbob.'"

We changed subjects soon after that so I didn't have to go into more detail about this NotWhoever business. For I am well aware that my first two wives each divorced their next husbands, meaning that being NotDon apparently came with a Use-by date. So I've been extra nice to LK lately, not knowing how much longer being NotBob will work but figuring after this long it can't have much credit left in the account.

And just a piece of advice to Jim. If I were in his spot I'd certainly stop annoying members of the family. NotHarry won't last forever, either. And replacing Harry at the top of the super-jerk mountain is not a result anyone should want.