Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Road Trip, Days 19 and 20 - Grand Canyon

The last two days of our road trip began early in Taos, New Mexico.  We were up and on the road before sunrise.  We stopped in Santa Fe, New Mexico for some coffee and hot water to mix up our instant oatmeal and we were back on the road.  It was one of the longest driving days of our trip but we enjoyed seeing the desert landscape.  The drive got exciting when, in the distance, we spotted the mountains by Flagstaff, Arizona.  That meant we were getting close to our final stop, Grand Canyon!

We arrived in the town of Tusayan, just outside of the main entrance to Grand Canyon National Park, in the early afternoon.  We checked into our hotel, the Red Feather Lodge, dropped our stuff off and headed into the National Park.  This was my third visit to the Grand Canyon but my daughter's first.  I was excited to take her for her first visit and to see her reaction to how big and grand it is.

It turned out to be even more grand than I remembered!  Wow!
And, of course, it's MUCH more amazing in person than in pictures!

Click any of the photos to see them larger...especially this panoramic photo...

There are shuttle buses that run from town into the park and to various lookouts and places within the park.  There are paved hiking trails along the rim for easy access to the view.  And, you can even bring or rent a bike to ride to the various stops.  I like the idea of having a bike there.  No waiting for crowded buses, freedom to come and go to various lookouts, and fun!  They rent everything from mountain bikes to adult three wheelers and even baby trailers.

We made sure to stop in the visitor center.  It's small and doesn't have much but look at this map!
Notice the yellow words that say, "you are here".  It gives an idea of the enormity of the canyon!

This was in the visitor center too....  Such a beautiful Mountain Lion!

The "Hopi House" is a gift shop in the park, located near the famous El Tovar Lodge.  It turns out that it never was a Native American home.  It was built for the park to resemble a home the Hopi would have lived in.  They sell Native American jewelry, rugs, baskets, and other items inside.

I love the painted rug on the wood floor inside.

The wood beams were exposed on the ceiling inside with branches running crosswise.

I'd heard about the train in the nearby town of Williams and how it goes to the Grand Canyon.  However, I didn't realize it actually went into the National Park.  There's a train station in the park that's right next to the El Tovar Lodge.  I didn't get any good pictures of the lodge as there were always shuttle vans in front of it.  But, here's the train station...

I'm not sure if this is one of the working trains or if it's just for display.
It was next to the train station.

After seeing a few sights in the park, we went into a park cafe to get a bite to eat.  We'd expected it to have a limited selection of sandwiches, salad and snacks.  Boy, were we surprised!  They had a lot of different things to choose from...grilled fish, roasted chicken, soup, BBQ, sandwiches, salads, and so much more!  We chose the roasted chicken dinners with veggies and rice or mashed potatoes.  It really hit the spot!  We were tired of restaurants and missing home cooked food.  This was much more like homemade than a restaurant.  We really enjoyed it!  And, look at the view we had while we ate.  So nice!  Our tummies were happy and so were we!

Afterwards, we went into the gift shop in the same building.  My daughter picked up a long sleeved t-shirt for a souvenir and to be warm on that cool evening.  They had all kinds of fun stuff.  I snapped a picture of this adorable toddler sized ranger outfit.  So cute!

Our afternoon went by quickly and sunset was quickly approaching.  We didn't want to miss it!  We quickly hit the paved trail that leads from the village we ate at to the rim to find a good spot to watch.

Gorgeous scenery all around!!!

Magic was happening!  Rain was falling over the canyon
and the setting sun was turning the raindrops into curtains of gold!  Wow!

We found a great spot to sit where there was only one other person.  The rain fell over us for a while...great big wonderful drops that were pushed into our backs by the wind.  The backs of our shirts were almost soaked but dried quickly from the wind.  We leaned over our cameras to keep them dry, snapping photos when we could.  When the rain stopped, it was hard to stop taking photos!  The scenery was changing by the minute and so incredible that we wanted to capture every bit of it that we could!  Pure, amazing, incredible, magic!

What an amazing place!  I think I could sit out and watch the sunset every night there and it would never get old or boring!  Wow!  Wow!  Wow!  And, what a spectacular end to our amazing road trip!

We headed back to our hotel with the windows down and the sunroof open, enjoying the incredibly perfect weather.  After a good night of sleep, we were up early to hit the road for home.  We rolled our luggage out the door and were greeted with the most amazing smell ever!  We were both breathing in big, slow breaths over and over and savoring that magical smell!  We quickly had to start breathing normal again as we were getting a bit light headed.  If only we could capture some of that smell in a jar to keep forever!  I think it had rained overnight.  So, the smell of fresh rain mixed with pine, sage, and whatever else was beyond words...amazing!

We went to eat breakfast at the neighboring restaurant but they weren't all the way open yet and it didn't smell good.  So, we decided to go across the road to McDonalds.  We normally don't eat at McDonalds but there weren't a lot of choices that early.  That happened on another day of the trip and it worked out ok.  My daughter was able to get an Egg McMuffin meal, minus the muffin and hash brown to eat gluten free.  Our two meals with large OJ's instead of coffee came to about $11 at the previous stop.  This McDonalds is known for being expensive.  We paid almost $20 for the same food but with smaller OJ's!  That seems wrong to me to take advantage of people like that.  I bet the supplies/ingredients don't cost any more for that McDonalds to get than the one an hour down the road.  We stopped at that one later to use the restroom and the same meals were a lot cheaper.

We decided to go back into the park to see the canyon one more time before heading home.  As we pulled out of the parking lot, we noticed elk in a neighboring lot and pulled in for some pictures...

A few other people had spotted them and were getting photos too.  I wouldn't have been so brave/crazy to get that close!  We stayed in our car as my daughter stood up through the sunroof for some pictures.  Wow!  The antlers were amazing!

We enjoyed seeing some other animals too.
A deer munching at the side of the road...

An adorable baby squirrel running on the rocks at the edge of the canyon...

Even some Blue Jays...

This big bush was buzzing with bees.  The flowers are so pretty.

It was fun to walk around by the visitor center and rim paths with hardly anyone there.
It was so peaceful and beautiful along with that magical feeling of early morning.

I like the signs in the parking lot to help remember where you park.
Each area had a number and an animal.

There was a bit of rain as we headed home.
We hoped it would follow us all the way to bring much needed rain to California.

However, as we neared the border, there was a line in the sky where the clouds ended.
We joked that it was right over the border.  Luckily, the clouds and rain did follow us.  Flash flooding just started as we left our lunch stop in Barstow, California.  We had to use the windshield wipers for just a few minutes before we were out of it.  But, we later heard on the news that there was some flooding out there in the desert.  The deserts and mountains got a bit of rain here and there for a few more days.  We'll take whatever we can get here!

We got home late in the afternoon.  My dear hubby was so happy to see us!  He had food prepared and ready to cook for a welcome home dinner.  He even made us some delicious margaritas to celebrate.  I think he missed us!  We missed him too!  It was weird to travel without him but he just couldn't get that much time off right now.

My daughter and I had an incredible trip!  A trip of a lifetime that we'll never forget.  I cherish all the time I had with her, all the memories we made, and all the amazing things we saw.  I feel so lucky and blessed that we got to do this!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Road Trip, Day 18 - Taos, New Mexico

The eighteenth day of our road trip started very early as we "got the heck outta Dodge"...Dodge City, Kansas that is.  You can go HERE to read about that.  It was a long drive that day through miles and miles of prairies and grassland and then miles and miles of desert.  Heading farther and farther west was looking more and more familiar, beautiful and just plain good!  It's hard to explain but it felt great to see rocks and dirt again!  We're just not used to so much green and water and although it's beautiful  in the South and Midwest, it's all so much the same color and and plants.  I guess it just comes down to what you're used to and what you love.  For us, the west is the best!

It was exciting to see mountains again too!  The mountains of northern New Mexico are beautiful!  This is some of the scenery we enjoyed as we got closer to Taos...

We had to stop to take it all in and breathe the fresh, cool, air.  Ahhhh!

We'd left Dodge City so early that we pulled into Taos by around noon.  We hadn't eaten much that morning and we were very hungry.  So, the first order of business was to find a place to eat!  We thought Huevos Rancheros sounded awesome.  So, we started asking around and ended up at a little hole in the wall restaurant called, "La Cueva".  The food was awesome!  There's nothing like New Mexico chilies and sauces!  Yummmmmm!  It was so good that we ended up back there for dinner.  It was at least as good the second time.  I had chicken with mole sauce (just in case you've never heard of's a chili sauce with Mexican chocolate in it) and my daughter had seafood enchiladas.  The food was amazing, the people were very nice, the service was great, and the prices were great!

I'm surprised I actually took the time to take a picture
because I was so hungry but here's my breakfast/lunch...

Afterwards, we popped into "Gearing Up" bike shop a few doors down.  I wanted to see if they had anything for my dear hubby.  I bought him a few great things.  What a bike shop!  They had so many fun things and they were super nice too!  It turns out there are a lot of trails in the area.  I think we'll be heading back to check some of them out one of these days!

Next, we got back into the car to visit one of the main things we'd come to see, Taos Pueblo.  My daughter had seen it in a book and it was one of the places she'd hoped to see one day.  This was the day!  It was just minutes from the restaurant and easy to find.

As we drove up and parked, we saw the cemetery and what was left of the original church.
And, just look at that gorgeous sky!  What a beautiful area!!!

Before entering, we needed to go up to a more modern/newer building to purchase our tickets.
I love the posts on that building...

This is a World Heritage Site and a National Landmark.  The Pueblo has been inhabited by
Native Americans for over 1,000 years.  They still live there today.

There were several larger complexes like this...

And, a bunch of smaller ones like this...

They're made with mud and straw with wood beams for the roof.
The wood is visible on the ceilings inside.  

There is a small church.  The design is simple on the outside and it's more ornately decorated on the inside.  It's dark, quiet, and very peaceful inside but they don't allow photographs.

I love the blue glass windows along the sides of the church.
And, the smooth, curved, mud walls are so pretty.

This was my favorite little house.  It looks so cute and cozy.

Residents/Native Americans were selling food, handmade jewelry and other items in some of the pueblo rooms/homes and outside.  This dog was peacefully napping in the shade next to a mud oven.

We had hoped for a tour but the guide never showed up.  We walked around a bit and took some photos but didn't stay long as it was quite hot in the full sun.

Since we arrived in Taos so early in the day, we had plenty of time to visit a place I really wanted to see, "Weaving Southwest".  It was just a ten minute drive from town to the small community of Arroyo Seco.  This seemed to be the main street....

Here it is...a simple building with a lovely, Southwest facade...

I gasped when I walked in.  The colors, the rugs, the yarn....gorgeous!

I would have loved to have taken some of the beautiful rugs home with me.
Unfortunately, they're a bit out of my price range.  The colors, design and workmanship are top notch!  They do, however, offer classes and workshops.  Hmmmm?  Maybe on a future trip!

The lady working there that day was really nice and it turned out that her son lives close to where I live in Southern California.  She'd just come back from visiting.  It's such a small world!

I bought a couple of things before I left.  I bought a wood batten that I should be able to use with my inkle loom.  I have a feeling it will be much more comfortable on my hands than a credit card!  That's the stick on the left.  On the right is a tapestry beater.  It's small but I love the wood grain on it and it's very comfortable in my hand.  I'm hoping to try out tapestry weaving someday.  And, it's not everyday I'm in a shop that sells things like this.  So, I HAD to get it!  ;-)

Before leaving Arroyo Seco, we walked through a couple of fun little shops.
There were Hollyhocks growing in flowerbeds all around.  I couldn't resist taking some pictures.
Aren't they pretty?!  They must love the climate there.

Next, we headed back to Taos and checked into our hotel for the night, "Hotel La Fonda De Taos".  I'd found it on Trip Advisor and it had great reviews.  It sounded like an interesting and nice place to stay.  It's right on the Taos Plaza (an old shopping area in the center of town that's recently been fixed up and has become a great shopping and dining destination).  We checked in and took our stuff to our room.  We had a great view of the plaza and it was so nice to have a window that opens.  Our room was where the window is, just below the "N" on the Hotel La Fonda sign.  

The people that work there are all very nice and the hotel is colorful, clean and pretty.
Here's a view of the lobby from the mezzanine.  There's a restaurant through the door on the left.

The mezzanine had a cozy seating area and it was close to our room.  The fireplace turns on with a switch/dial.  There are books, games, tables and chairs and comfy sofas to relax.

There are little doors like this along the hallways to the rooms.  They're probably about a foot and a half to two feet wide and maybe three feet tall.  I meant to ask what they're for but forgot to whenever I was passing by the front desk.  So, my story is that they're for the ghosts.  Yup...this place is supposedly haunted too.  They even told me that the rooms had earplugs because of the moans and creaking sounds.  I left the bathroom light on just in case and tried not to open my eyes during the night!  But, I found out in the middle of the night that the earplugs are probably because it can get rather loud on the plaza and the sound is amplified as it bounces between the buildings.

Here's our window from the inside looking out onto the plaza after a late afternoon rainstorm.

The hotel was clean and nice.  I think the only thing we didn't like was the smell of the room.  But, my daughter quickly spotted the source of the smell and took care of it.  It was a glass vase-like thing, filled with potpourri, hanging on the wall.  She quickly slipped it out of it's holder, stored it in the armoire, and voila...the smell went away!  Yay!  We were sure to put it back before we left.

After checking in and taking our stuff to the room, we headed out for some shopping...another thing we were hoping to have time for and did!  Yippee!  And...the shopping there is awesome!  I could have spent SO much money...if I had SO much money to spend!  There were lots of great little shops and things in them that I loved!  And, there were so many more we could have seen!

The Taos Plaza is lined with little shops.  More shops are just outside of the Plaza.  And, there are so many more beyond that!  Wow!  And, even though there are art galleries and very nice shops and things being sold, it's down to earth and comfortable like I'd hoped.  We love Taos!

It turned out that there are a few yarn shops in town.  We went into one of them but they hardly had any yarn...or anything at all for that matter.  Then, I made sure to stop in at Mooncat Fiber because they sell yarn that's dyed by someone who used to live in California and go to our stitch nights.  She now lives in New Mexico.  The store owner raved about her yarn and how much they love her.  There was a gorgeous blue skein that I had to buy!  You can find Berry Colorful Yarnings HERE and HERE.  This is the photo I posted on Instagram that day...

Just across the sidewalk was a wonderful little fabric shop.  It's called, "Common Thread".  It was filled with some of the most beautiful and unique fabrics I've ever seen!  My daughter loved it too!  I like the tree standing in the middle of the store.  It was a cute and fun place to visit!

After shopping and another great meal at La Cueva, we headed back to our room for some much needed rest.  How great it was that we were able to get to town so early and fit so much into one afternoon!  Sleep was needed though as we were planning to head out very early the next day for an even longer drive to Grand Canyon and the final stop of our amazing, three week road trip!