Monday, June 30, 2008

Wearing flip-flops in the snow

What an odd little town Nedertown is. We tried really hard to have a nice time and like it a lot but it just wouldn’t play. The bars wouldn’t let us in with the dog (a first for this trip), nobody would tell us about the dead guy, and the only decent conversation I had was with a drunk whose mother has a pit bull terrier called China that could take Josie in a fight.
So let me tell you the dead guy story. This Norwegian guy died in the 80’s. His grandson, who was the local weirdo, froze him using dry ice and a wooden box. One of the issues is that he’d been dead several weeks before all this so, yukkyness. The local Tuff company donated a shed and now once a month the grand kids refresh the ice (cost $700). The town was furious about the dead guy and passed a local law banning the keeping of dead things. Sadly you can’t retro fit laws so the dead guy stayed. After a few years of grumbling about it, they (hypocritically in my opinion) changed their mind and introduced the Dead Guy Festival: four days of partying where the town cashes in big time on the cold chap.
Sadly you can’t visit him and everyone you ask (we asked a lot) looks at you like you’ve got leprosy.

So we moved on to Estes Park, home of the Rocky Mountain National Park.
Estes Park sucks too!
Actually it doesn’t. Its really nice and the people are lovely but the local County has passed a law banning dogs from anywhere that claims to serve food. So no eating on patios or in beer gardens. It’s really cramping our style.
We’ve had a great day just pottering about and spent the sun-down chasing Elks across the hills. The dog wasn’t impressed but we were stunned at their majesty. The hills happen to be highest point in the USA at 12,020 feet. It was damned cold and beautiful in equal measure.

Tomorrow is another 5am start to capture the sun up.

Oh and we’re spending these 2 nights in a shed! Deanna has rented what claimed to be a log cabin in the hills but is really just a shed at the back of town. No wifi, no cooker, no locking doors, and I suspect no running water.

[update: no usable power outlets either, the ones provided are circa 1950 and don’t accommodate modern plugs]

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Nice stiff

Change of plan. I know you’re sick of hearing how often we say that but what can I tell ya, we’ve havin fun.
We were high-tailin it up to the top of Colorado to see the Rockies when we kinda fell in to a hippy place called Nederland. We would of course just have passed through except Deanna read the highlights in the travel book. Apparently this town is the home to the world’s only DIY cryogenic chamber. Some Dutch guy a few years back froze his granddaddy, and now the town holds a Frozen Dead Guy Festival every year. How could we not spend the night?
Details to follow.

2nd day canceled

Deanna made us drink the whole keg and then got the campsite all a-whoopin’, an a hollerin’, an a dancin’, an a singin’, so today is going to be a little slow.
In deference to the pain, we’ve decided that today will be spent in miserable silence as we drive north. I’m 104 years old and I’ve never seen the Rockies, so we’re heading up there. Might take a couple of days to get to, but by then the hangovers should be gone.

Stupid beer.

Never doin' that again.

(oh and Deanna can't dance)

(or sing)

(oh and for those from the skool-of-da-gifted, that dog picture is a fake so stop emailing me about being an abuser of animals!)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Doin' nuthin...

The best morning yet. We did nothing. We arose with the sun (but only when the temperature in the tent had reached fusion). We had camp-fire-made breakfast and coffee and read the days news –on the internet! I’m telling ya –the only place you have to pay for internet is 5 star hotels – we’re 10 miles from the nearest house and we’ve got fast, free, wireless internet (I think we’re stealing some RV’s satellite connection). Then we finished off checking out Ridgeway and Ouray. Apparently you cannot buy alcohol on Sunday in Colorado so I sent Andy off to but a six pack. He was grinning like an idiot when he walked back with a whole keg; gotta love my husband, he knows what I like.

Friday, June 27, 2008

It could be leathal, bring her in...

Today started out as a touristy day but ended in the vet clinic.
We went around Silverton, which really is a great little town and then drove through the Molas Pass which is full of beautiful photo ops. Then we set up camp between Ouray and Ridgeway. Ridgeway is apparently the backdrop for the movie True Grit and Ouray is the reason we decided to stay two nights. It’s a cute mountain town with lots of mountains and waterfalls and rivers.
After setting up camp we started to have a look around Ouray when we noticed the dog had a rash. Some friendly local gave us the business card for her vet so we called them. We described the rash to the vet and she said, ‘well that sounds like she could have gotten into rat poison.’. Ends up, it was something both vets in the office decided was ‘very weird, but not rat poisoning’. That wasted the rest of our day.

This picture was requested by Tim. Sorry

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Driving in circles

More wildlife noises at the tent this morning serve as my wake up call. Josie and Andy are oblivious to the sound this time around. The morning is beautiful again and the tripometer reads 3143 miles as we set off on the road.
We stupidly ignore the park ranger’s recommended route and our destination for the next few days was Telluride. After all, it’s recommended by Life Magazine as one of the 100 places you have to go before you die and of course Tom Cruise and Oprah Winfrey have homes there. If we weren’t starving we would have stayed less time than we did. Andy describes it as a town where the people are trying really hard to make it something it’s not, which is really just a rich man’s playground. The scenery is breath taking and the town is really well kept and beautiful, but it’s not our thing, so we make a big u-turn and take the path the ranger recommended (backwards first and then forwards).
We circle back towards Mesa Verde through an awesome little town called Ouray (which is appropriately nicknamed the American Switzerland). There seems to be too much to do here in the time we have left today so we choose to push on to the next town and decide to circle back to Ouray tomorrow. We wind up to the top of the mountain and at 11,075 ft (3220 meters according to Andy’s watch – yes he’s a geek) it begins to hail!
We push on to another cool little town called Silverton. Ouray and Silverton both have the same great scenery as Telluride but are a lot more laid back. Now that we’ve made our enormous u-turn we’re planning to do the Molas pass, Silverton and Ouray tomorrow (as recommended by our friendly park ranger). Lesson for the day… trust the park ranger, not Life Magazine and Tom Cruise ☺
We found out that they haven’t started work on our house yet – they’re two weeks behind schedule and ground hasn’t even been broken. So, our trip may be longer than planned because we may not be able to get into our house as soon as expected.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A growling alarm clock

Our alarm clock today was a bear or a wild boar or coyote, but probably something more gentle, like a deer or something [Andy – its was a freakin huge roaring bear!]. Anyway, there was some sort of wild animal outside the tent this morning that woke us. The dog was as scared as us and only showed her courage after the thing had clearly disappeared to look for food at the neighbor’s campsite.
Now that we’re all awake it’s time to check the domesticated animal into kennels so we can see the Cliff Dwellings at Mesa Verde. While we’re in town dropping off Josie, we carb-load at a lovely, local coffee shop and borrow their wifi.
Mesa Verde is beautiful and the park staff are really friendly. We check out a couple of the grand daddy sites with a tour guide first. The fun parts are climbing the ladders up to the sites in the cliffs and scrambling through tunnels to get out. The interesting part is not learning anything. No one knows much about the people that lived here or how they used the dwellings –or at least no one can agree on any theories. But, the sites are really impressive. We check out as many of the self guided sites as we can.
Tonight we discovered how spoiled we are. We arrive at the highest point in Mesa Verde just in time for a beautiful sunset and we don’t bother to turn our on our cameras or even stick around to enjoy the whole thing. We’re hot, tired and ready to turn in.
We’re not sure what the next few days will look like. We had a pleasant conversation with a park ranger last night who positively beamed when she talked about her home town in the Rocky Mountain National Park area. She may have helped us with our plans.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Later that day, snow!

Aztec has nothing to do with the Aztecs apparently, just some dumb guy a while back confused the two peoples and the name stuck. Anyway, they do have a reconstructed kiva in the pueblo there, so that was cool.
Then shock of shocks we pushed on to Colorado. Within a mile of crossing the border the brown desert fell away and was replaced by luscious green mountains topped by snow. Wow. These State borders really are in the right places.
We called in briefly to Durango to ride the steam rail but it only chugs 3 times a day and all of those are before 10am. So it’s off to the highlight: 2 nights camping at Mesa Verde, the US version of Petra. We won’t get to see it till tomorrow, so tonight is just that campfire drinking thing again. ☺

Pueblo Bonito

Its 5am and we’re up to see the sunrise. To my horror Deanna declares the day not yet ready to start and returns to bed, so I walk the 1.5 miles round trip to the ruins, capture spectacular pictures and return to a hearty cooked breakfast made by the fair hands of my loving wife.

Actually things didn’t quite happen that way.

Firstly, I sat and watched the sun come up at the park gates because the bloody Ranger had slept in and didn’t manage to open the road until 50 mins past the due time. I drive at full speed to the hike base camp, nearly killing at least 2 rabbits and a squirrel in the process. Josie and I then set off at full yomp to climb the cliff overlooking Pueblo Bonito. Only I forgot my map and we got a bit lost. Returning to the car an hour later, we get our bearings and try one more time.
What you can’t see from the picture is that the pueblo backs on to a 600 foot high cliff face of shear un-climb-able rock. Using the skills of a fat man carrying a large rucksack and dog that seems to be part mountain goat, we somehow mange to climb the un-climb-able by leaping between boulders up a recent rock fall. The dog only got scared and tried to turn back once or twice. My count was higher.
At the top of the cliff we stumble upon a Whip Snake. Apparently these aren’t dangerous but I didn’t know that at the time and whilst Josie and the snake locked in to an ancient dance, I screamed like a baby.

Finally, we get to the overlook, take the pictures and head home. I won’t bore you with the return details but if you thought I made getting up the cliff with a dog sound hard, imagine getting down.

Oh and that breakfast? Bran flakes and warm milk. Total journey just over 5 miles and all completed before breakfast. I should have stayed in bed with Deanna.
(Actually that’s a lie too, it was a stunning morning of unsurpassed beauty and exhilaration and Deanna’s a poo-head for missing it.)

We break camp in no time (no showers, running water or anything remotely convenient in the desert) and head north to Aztec.

Monday, June 23, 2008

How much weather can one day have?

We start early and drive to the Chaco Canyon national park to see the ruins I mentioned yesterday. The place is 30 miles off the road in the middle of stunning country. They euphemistically refer to the trail there as unpaved. ‘Freakin bumpy dirt mess’ would be a better description. Still the view is worth it. The sky is huge and blue. The clouds are fluffy and white. The temperate is creaking in to the high 90s. Why are we camping again?
We pitch amongst the ruins, with a backdrop of ancient petroglyphs to complete the view but its way too hot to enjoy so we hide in a cave and make hot dogs until the sun looses its anger.
The thunder and lightening rolls in just in time to spoil sunset, but it doesn’t stop Deanna running around with a shower cap on the camera trying to capture the moment. Finally as we settle in for some nice wine and roaring campfire entertainment, the stars come out. And boy are there lot of them.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Day officially canceled

WOW this hurts. Drinking at altitude sucks. We’re not doing Sunday. We’re getting the dog back and then returning to bed.
Tomorrow we’ll start early on a very very long drive. One of the paintings I saw in Madrid was of this stunning ruins in the middle of the New Mexico dessert. We intend to find it. I can’t tell you how much we’re looking forward to getting out of cities again. We’re done with hotels. We need to camp.

Oh and just for a bit of light relief - Deanna has cruelly FORCED me to grow a goatie. It looks stupid. Here it is on the last day of its life. I’m shaving it off tomorrow. It itches.
The Love Bus is standing at 2585.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

How much???????

We’ve decided to extend our stay in Santa Fe to 3 nights, our longest stay in one place since we left home. Not because it’s great, but because we arrived late, we want a fun night out, and then we want to leave early. So 3 nights it is. The bad part is that because as I said, we arrived late on a Friday, the only hotel we could find is a rubbish, dirty, concrete hole of a place called DeathLodge (that bits a lie).

The day started by us going back to Madrid to buy more arty stuff and also dumping the dog in an overnight pet hotel so that we can have that afore mentioned fun. The rest of our time is spent being underwhelmed by Santa Fe. It’s very nice but its all just a bit homogenized. Albuquerque feels more natural and less forced. I doubt we’ll be back.

Desperate for a beer, we follow our ears and end up in a New Orleans style jazz bar. Superb fun with 5 of the ugliest men you could dream up blasting some superb foot tappers. Now take a look at the photo. You’ve seen the framed picture before. That’s Angelo Klonis on the cover of Life magazine in 1944. That picture became the face of WWII in the US. Anyway, it turns out that his son now owns the bar and he’s dedicated it to his dad’s memory. He was nice enough to pose for this photo for me.

We move on. And the real fun begins.
Hi, table for 2 please.
Do you have a reservation?
Do I need one?
Sir, we’re the 10th best restaurant in America! We’re also a fragrance free business.
What does that mean?
It means we encourage our patrons to wear fragrance free lotions, deodorants etc. Skip cologne, perfume, scented soap. It helps promote the natural aromas of our culinary creations.
Well, I guess we could seat you outside on the patio...
Actually at that point, whilst the pretentiousness didn’t go away it turned out to be a great restaurant and the staff were superb at their job. The food was stunning but there was just one small issue. We had assumed that our biggest expense on this trip would be fuel for the car. Staggeringly, 2 bottles of wine here costs more than all the gas we’ve purchased so far. Way, way, way more. And we were drinking the cheep stuff. Ouch.

As the dollars racked up, the waiter decided to be our best friend. He told us all about his time in LA, his time out of his head on LSD, his time in a nudist hot spring, his time, well, lets end the list here by just saying, he’s lived a little.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The path less traveled

Instead of darting up the boring interstate to Santa Fe, we opted for the Turquoise Trail. Along the trail are lots of little villages. The best one is Madrid, which is full of art and craft shops and cafes. We paused for lunch and some shopping and made it to Santa Fe in time for a huge dust storm.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Quirky Burque

We decided to give the dog a break from tourism and we checked her into Petsmart for the day so she could play with other dogs. Dog-free for the first time in weeks, we visited Fatman and Littleboy at the Atomic Bomb Museum. Then, we spent a few hours playing around in the Old Town where we bought a bunch of souvenirs/art all from one cool gallery.
Then we walked around the shops in Nob Hill (the University area) where we also paused for some drinks and laundry and some more drinks.
Then we walked around downtown having a few beers.
Albuquerque is a really nice, eclectic, fun place.

The Dream Machine tachometer currently stands at 2385

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sunset in Sandia Mountains

We’d love to have stayed another night in the cabin, but we pushed on to Albuquerque. You've seen the roads on TV. They're straight. They're start a billion miles behind you. And they run for a billion miles in front of you. There's nothing to see. Oh and they are reeeeaaaaallllllyyyy booooorrrrrring.
A long drive, but we broke it up by stopping in a small town and finding a nice local coffee shop. We grabbed our coffee and sandwiches to go and have a picnic in the park. It seems parks are for the homeless and/or unemployed (both of which I suppose we qualify for ;-) during the day. Andy and Josie made friends with Raul (the toothless drug seller [we’re not making this up]) and then we carried on down the road. Once in Albuquerque we checked into another hotel because it’s still over 100 degrees.
We spend the evening enjoying a sunset photo op at the peak of the Sandia Mountains at a whopping 11,000 feet above our house in San Jose. We opted to drive to the top because the tram, which is the longest aerial tram in the world didn’t allow dogs and we knew Josie would love the sunset. As it was, all we saw was dust, a couple, err, ‘celebrating’ their closeness, and an annoying man that knew everything about capturing the sun on film.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sleeping with Deer

An hour later we’re in another cozy mountain town called Ruidoso. We drove through the quaint downtown and checked out the local casino (which looks better on paper).
Our cabin for the night is just outside of town in the Lincoln National Forrest. The residents of the town can thank us for saving their town from burning to the ground, because once we arrived in our cabin, we discovered the gas stove top was on and had been for days. The entire cabin was scorching hot to touch and the owners weren’t expecting another visitor for 2 more days. Anyway, once the place cooled and the smell of gas subsided we had a very relaxing evening in the forest. We were surrounded by deer and had our first home cooked meal in probably a week. And, get this, even out here in the remote wilderness, in a log cabin, in the middle of a forest, on top of a mountain, 100 miles from the nearest decent sized town, we get free wifi!

Crashing to Earth…

In 1947 the US Military issued a statement saying they had recovered a crashed UFO and four Aliens from just outside Roswell New Mexico. Ever since that date they’ve been apologizing and saying they misspoke and what they meant to say was that they’d recovered one of their own missing weather balloons.
As we roll in to one of the highlights of this trip, we’re full of excitement at what we’re about to find.

If anything crashed in Roswell it was our expectations.
This is corporate-town-nowhere. There’s nowhere to eat that isn’t a chain. There’s nowhere to stay that isn’t a global brand. The downtown area is shuttered and closed (We were very disappointed not to be having breakfast in the now closed, Cover-Up Cafe). In fact the only place that is even trying to look UFO-ish is the funky off-brand McDonald’s housed in a big silver Saucer.

We start the day in the rundown looking UFO Museum, with our expectations now set gutter low. And we’re surprised. There’s nothing new on offer, after all it’s a whole museum dedicated to a single day in history that happened over 60 years ago, but what is here is amassed with a love and dedication that’s hard to find fault with. We loved it's basic, no frills, passion.

Over the road, I met a nice chap by the name of Thomas Armstrong. Tom’s dream is to build the Roswell we were praying for. Visit Earth Station Roswell for details. He and the team break ground this year and have a 20 month build plan. This plus Virgin’s SpaceStationOne plans will certainly put New Mexico on the tourist map. I’m sad to say I don’t believe Earth Station will happen they way Tom dreams it. The plans are impressive. The detail in them is incredible but it all just seems too big of a project for three guys to pull off without corporate backing. Still, as Tom says, there’s 50,000 people living in Roswell and 25% are retired and investing in the shared dream. If they pull this off we’ll be back: I’ve already promised him. Set your calendars, Roswell II, the return trip, 2011.
We can’t wait.

Monday, June 16, 2008

High and low…

We stumbled upon the perfect place. Deanna is going to retire to a mountain town called Cloudcroft. It hasn’t been updated in the last 200 years; people are sweet; and life is simple; and it stands at 7000 feet above the sea. We loved it. We were only there an hour and we met maybe 20 people, including the guy that painted all the funky signs and the lady that imports all her tea from Harrigate England.

One outrageous drive later (4 hours, 110 degrees F) we arrived at the largest cavern in the world: the Carlsbad Caves. It’s simply the largest room either of us have ever stood in and its 750 feet below the ground. If you ever get the chance….
And then it was on to Roswell. Yes that’s right. Roswell. The place that the, well you know. We’ll tell you about that tomorrow after we’ve met the alien leader.
Miles to date: 1967 (a fine year to be born)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Blasting in to space…

Finally we get to sleep in! A lazy start to a scorching hot day. Alamogordo is a rubbish town housing two stunningly good venues. The first is the National Space Flight Museum, which can only be described as WOW, and the second is the White Sands Desert (Missile Testing Range).

The museum holds a genuine moon rock. Luna sample 70215,93 (008) collected by Apollo 17 Astronaut Harrison Schmitt in 1972 and weighing in at 114 grams. And it’s a gem: a real beauty. There’s other stuff here too like Little Joe II (pictured) that was used to test the Apollo engines in White Sands. Sputnik; yes the Sputnik. And the StarChaser, the only rocket Britain has ever launched. They also had a life-size model of SpaceShipOne, the Virgin winner of the X-Prize but we couldn’t see that.

And then it was on to White Sands. The most remarkable beach not near a sea we’ve ever seen. So white you get blinded and so big people get lost every year. We spent a very romantic evening watching the sun go down whilst the dog dug for bones only she could smell.

The car trip computer now stands at 1689.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Speeding into New Mexico…

We spent the morning bumming around on 4th avenue, which everyone recommended for it’s eclectic shops, cafes and bars. and then headed back on the road again. We paid a visit to Wyatt Earp in Tombstone where the temperature hit a whopping 106 degrees -so we didn’t spend a lot of time there. However it was worth the detour. Heading further east we ‘sped’ into New Mexico and made a $65 donation to the city police department. (They should post bigger signs if they’re going to take a whole 10 miles an hour off the speed limit!) We stopped at a few ‘ghost towns’ that were advertised from the highway and marked in our atlas. They were really ghost towns as even the owners abandoned them. We called it a bust and moved on to Alamogordo, White Sands Desert, home of the missile test stuff.

Friday, June 13, 2008

An oasis…

We left the space hotel and headed for the Painted Rock Petroglyph site. For two bucks we were able to walk around a mass of rocks with ancient carvings. A couple of pictures and we’re back in the van heading to Tucson, Arizona. We arrive just before happy hour on a Friday, so we find a hotel in which to settle down -it’s way too hot to camp. Then, of course we go in search of a happy hour special. The town was pretty dead. We think it’s because it’s a college town in the middle of summer break or most people are not crazy enough to go out in the heat. In any case, this doesn’t stop us. We find a very nice watering hole which has both inside and outside areas that are dog friendly. Josie had the time of her life as everyone there is a dog lover and she’s the only dog around. If you ever get to Tucson you have to stay at the Hotel Congress. They make the best nachos in the world and even the dogs get drunk.

1176 miles under our heels.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A rubbish day

Southern California is rubbish, there’s nothing here, just concrete and people. However, we started the day in a pleasant little hippy village called Topanga in the Santa Monica Mountains. Then, we sped past LA, pausing imperceptibly to acknowledge Allen, Charlie and Jake in Malibu, and pushed on the San Diego. There wasn’t enough to hold us here either. The zoo is a big deal but not if you’re traveling with a mutt. Instead we hopped over to Coronado Island to take a peak at the hotel where they filmed Some Like It Hot. It was hot.

From here on its just tarmac as we push through the rest of California and start to ignore Arizona. Now don’t get me wrong, AZ is a stunning state but we did it last year so right now it’s simply in the way. For a couple of hundred miles we danced on the Mexican border and marveled and the super safe fence that Bush has built. It seems that no human could possibly beat such an impenetrable wall motivated simply by a burning desire for a better life.

The highlight of the entire day was the Space Hotel. With the temperature pushing 104 we couldn’t camp so we checked in to a UFO that crashed in to dirt-bowl-nowhere. How cool is that!

991 miles traveled. 150 miles of nothing to go before life starts again.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bubble bubble toil and trouble…

We left our beachy life today to continue our journey down Highway 1. We stopped along the way at a natural hot spring outside of Santa Barbara for a little relaxation. A great hike and beautiful scenery but I didn’t know hot springs smelled so bad. Carrying on, we rested for the night in the Santa Monica Mountains.
512 miles racked up so far.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Everything’s beachy…

Well we’re on the road. We made it one block away from home before we remembered we forgot something and turned around. Then, we made it 3 hours down Highway 1 to our first destination –Pismo Beach. We have a great campsite about 200 yards from the beach. A quick walk over some dunes and we’re there. The dog is excited about everything but is having a great time. We’ve decided to stay two nights to really let the vacation sink in.
The Famous Hurst Castle is just up the road. We'd show you some pics but everyone does this, so here's a shot of a nice church with the castle in the background.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

What are we doing tomorrow?...

Not working ☺ After exiting the rat race, we've decided to tour the American Southwest -a new frontier for both of us (and Josie). It took us all day to pack the rented minivan, but we’ve got a set up we like and plenty of room for Josie. Check out the geek tech! Mains power in the van for the laptop, external harddisk, camera feeds and oh so much else. Pink Floyd wish this had this much gear.