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Expat wanderer

Three Trips Out

I must be feeling better. This morning I got an important quilt sandwiched – yes, even in these humid 90°F + temperatures, I was down on my hands and knees, pinning the three layers together. The colors are so beautiful it was truly a labor of love.

And – AdventureMan has been asking me about our next road trip. Oh, he is so subtle! He talks longingly of road trips we’ve taken, places we’ve stayed and loved, and how much he loves to be on the road. I understand; I get restless, too! So last night I began sketching out a two week road trip through the “four-corner” states.

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I have a sister who loves this part of the United States, and I have heard from her for years about some wonderful places I have never seen. Bryce Canyon. Zion National Park. Arches National Park. There is some Native American territory I want to cross and a couple places we’ve stayed before, and loved. Best of all, there are two adorable little toddlers I haven’t seen for over a year, and my arms hunger to hug them – Little Diamond’s children, no longer babies, growing growing so fast.


I just did a first draft – haven’t made any reservations yet. I’ve been getting advisories from Trip Advisor about flight prices from here to Denver; it’s one of the changes we are going to make, not making ourselves drive hell-bent-for-leather for three days just to get to where our vacation will start. We are also driving fewer miles and staying more nights at each stop. We discovered on our Vancouver Island trip how much we enjoy that style.

We’ve been thinking about this trip for quite a while. We are eager to visit Montana, and we are eager to do more exploring in Alberta and British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies, and we are also realizing, after all these years, that it is more rewarding for us to focus on a smaller area and explore it at greater leisure. We’ll spend three nights in Santa Fe – a place we fell in love with last time we visited.

We already have two other trips planned and finalized, but we really needed a good road trip together 🙂


August 29, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Environment, Geography / Maps, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Santa Fe Hotel and Hacienda, Santa Fe

Twice in one trip I was able to totally WOW AdventureMan with a hotel. Seeing his face as we drove into the Santa Fe Hotel and Hacienda made my heart dance. Seeing his face as we checked in, surrounded by the smells of a wood-burning fireplace and the sounds of a solitary Indian flute playing and works of art everywhere put me over the top.

There are a lot of nice hotels in the arts-friendly city of Santa Fe. It was hard narrowing it down, but this hotel is majority owned and operated by Native Americans, and filled with Native American art, and I liked the looks of the rooms I could see online.

Just driving in to Santa Fe is a thrill. We love the desert-friendly adobe, we love walking friendly towns. We take one look at Santa Fe and we know this will be number one in the places to which we want to return, maybe with family and grandkids. This place is purely awesome.

Of course, it is Spring, and still chilly in Santa Fe. The big heat is coming 🙂

This is the exterior of the Santa Fe/Hacienda Hotel:


Sculpture at entry:



This is one of the landings where they serve coffee in the morning:


Another landing, each different, each beautifully done:




We spent the afternoon at the pool; we had it all to ourselves. It was pristinely clean. We also soaked in the hot tub in the glorious sun, but the breeze was cool so we were thankful for the nice bathrobes:


Sculpture by the pool:


The dining room at the Hotel Santa Fe’s Amayo restaurant. This was one of the best meals of our trip:



You can reserve the outdoor teepee for an evening of dining out Native American style:


AdventureMan loved his dinner, duck breast:

And anytime they serve grilled salmon on garlic spinach, I am delighted:


In the breakfast room the next morning, they had impressive buttery croissants as well as the normal choices:


Lots of seating areas; the lounge is also used for presentations on local history and culture for guests:








You get to Santa Fe, you park. You leave your car in the hotel and the Purple Bus takes you on a loop where you can get off anywhere you want, and it will come back and pick you up when you call:


We can’t wait to get back to Santa Fe.

May 5, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | 4 Comments

A New Day, New Mexico, Tombstone and Tucson, AZ

The sky is blue and the air is sparkling clean as day dawns in El Paso, TX, which we made a stop on our journey in honor of a series we are totally addicted to called The Bridge. I understand it has been cancelled, but it’s premise was that there was a lot of horrible crime in Juarez because law enforcement authorities on both sides had given incentives to keep the ugliest crimes on the Mexican side of The Bridge, and US drug enforcement personnel at the highest levels protected drug flow into our country through tunnels and trucking. Fascinating, although in truth, sometimes AdventureMan and I looked at each other and asked “What just happened?”

We have a short driving day today, but a stop at Tombstone, the site of the shoot-out at the OK Corral. Well, not really the OK Corral but the alley next to it. We read Mary Doria Russel’s book Doc, about Doc Holliday, and then Epitaph, her book about Wyatt Earp, and they made it so real, we wanted to visit just to pay tribute to Mary Doria Russel’s research and wonderfully readable books, which take legendary characters and makes them fully human.

Up early, to catch the sunrise reflecting off the windows of El Paso:


We feel so safe, the parking lot is full of Homeland Security personnel vehicles. Although it is a Sunday morning, many are eating breakfast and heading out to guard the border:

It is a totally different day from the rainy mess we drove through all day from San Antonio to El Paso. The sky is so blue and the air is so clear and we are thoroughly enjoying this day:


As we leave Texas, AdventureMan points out that the underside of the overpasses are painted in Southwestern colors, and there are graphic designs on the pillars. The Highways are beautiful! Someone put a little extra thought into making them memorable.



There is a cross gleaming high on a bare mountain, and I am trying to imagine how they got it up there, and how they engineered it so it would be stable and stay there:


Welcome to New Mexico!


As we are paralleling the border, there is another security stop:


We really wanted to buy something at this shop, but the baskets were all made in Pakistan! We have Pakistani baskets! I finally left with just a CD of new-age sort of Indian mystical music, soulful flutes, shaking bones, you know the kind, to put us in the Southwest frame of mind. It’s one of the few things we bought for ourselves on the trip.


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April 17, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Bureaucracy, Cultural, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Road Trips, Spiritual, Travel | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Absolute Favorite, in Mancos, Colorado

Every now and then pure unexpected magic happens, a blessing, pure grace. Every now and then you make a stop and all the right things happen.

We had not enjoyed our breakfast the previous morning at the Far View Lodge, so we decided to get on the road early, and find a place to eat on the road. We were up and out by seven, and it took about half an hour just to get off the mesa and down to the main road. Once we hit the main road, we start looking for a good place to stop.

We see a sign: The Absolute Bakery in Mancos, Colorado, just turn right at the next stop light.

We turn right. We find the bakery, which looks cute from the outside:

And then we found a place to park, in front of a Hat-Maker’s Shop guarded by a beautiful long-haired cat. For me, the magic has already started. Did you even know of a hat maker anymore? I thought they had all disappeared:

As we walked into the Absolute Bakery, we were enticed with smells, the odor of break baking with cinnamon, the fragrance of freshly brewed coffee, bacon frying . . . and inside, it is homey, and welcoming, and you are warmly welcomed, and we just feel so glad to be there on this sunny morning when we have so far to drive . . .

The breakfast menu has so many good things, you don’t know what to order.

AdventureMan chose the VegHead Stack, which was totally wonderful:

And I chose the Absolute Breakfast special with Chorizo – total YUMMMMM:

The breakfasts are delicious, and as we eat, the bakery fills up, travelers, locals, families . . . it has the feel of a place we would like to live, a community, people who know each other.

You know how it is sometimes when you have so much to do, and you really need to get started? As we paid for our breakfast, instead of getting on the road, we dawdled. We picked out cookies for the road – I had the most huge delicious macaroon I have ever had, just a bite now and then, and it lasted all the way to Amarillo. We got to talking with travelers headed the direction we had come from, just strangers crossing paths, but it was a great conversation, and we hated to pull ourselves away, to get back to the serious business of driving.

Lunch was OK. It was BBQ, but someone forgot our order, so we lost some time:

To add insult to injury, not only is it a long day on the road, but we also loose an hour, so we get in even an hour later than we would have. As we near the border, I am watching my phone to see if I can see the change, but it happened about six miles before the border and I missed it. AdventureMan’s on the same system, but his phone changed a little later.

The morning drive was mostly through the Navajo nation and backroads, full of ranches and horses and some drama. The afternoon, on Interstate 40, was just boring, with an occasional moment of hilarity:

What can you imagine would use a tire that big?

We have reservations in Amarillo, and by the grace of God, our hotel is just off the highway, and my little iPhone tells us exactly how to get there. We hit the pool, and get some exercise. We split the last apple and some trail mix for dinner – we are still full from breakfast at the Absolute Bakery!

May 9, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Geography / Maps, iPhone, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Petroglyphs in the Petrified Forest

So here we segue back to the Petrified Forest, and it may not seem logical in a linear, chronological sense, like time-as-pearls-strung-together-on-a-string sort of thing, but in terms of like things, the next chronological entry is going to be on 700 years of culture, the Ancestral Puebloans who used to be called the Anasazi, but before I go there, I want to show you some petroglyphs.

(I’m putting in a lot of links in case you are as big a petroglyph nerd as I am, and want to read more)

I always imagine the problems with being early man. Imagine they are smart, and spend a lot of their days figuring things out, most important being 1. What are we going to eat? 2. How are we going to keep dry/warm? 3. How do we protect ourselves from our enemies? They have the same problems we have, only on a much more basic level, and with fewer resources.

Have you ever thought about how easy it is to get information now? (The hard part being sifting through so you get the most reliable, most relevant information). Imagine a world where you have to figure it out for yourself, every day.

Early civilizations fascinate me. I am always interested in little tiny things that can be very important, like how did they fasten skins together to keep themselves warm? How do you poke a hole in a sharp bone so you can use it as a needle? How do you make a button, or make strips that can be used to tie clothing together?

How do you fasten a spear head onto a spear, or an arrowhead onto an arrow?

Early man was a problem solver, and I am fascinated by petroglyphs, which are either early attempts at documentation, or early attempts at communication, or maybe both? The first petroglyphs and cave paintings I ever visited were the Font de Gaume Caves near Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil, and they took my breath away. I didn’t even hesitate because it was a cave, I wanted to see them so badly.

I want you to look at this photo of a fairly early dwelling in Les Eyzies de Tayac-Sireuil and hold it in your mind before we move on:

Later, living in Saudi Arabia, one of the most fun day trips ever was to a rock formation called Graffiti Rock, which had no protection, so very old petroglyphs mingled with modern carvings, but some of the older carvings were so interesting, so intriguing.

Coming across petroglyphs in the Petrified Forest was a delight.

Here is part of what the national parks website has to say about petroglyphs found in the Petrified Forest:

In 1977 a spiral petroglyph at Chaco Canyon National Monument was discovered which displayed a precise interaction with sunlight at the time of summer solstice by means of a narrow shaft of sunlight that moved down a shadowed rock face to bisect the center of a large spiral petroglyph. Subsequent observations found that on winter solstice and equinoxes there were intriguing interactions of sunlit shafts with the large spiral and a smaller spiral nearby. No other example of a sunlight interaction with prehistoric or historic petroglyphs was known at this time. However, there was a tradition of Pueblo sun watching in historic times, particularly of the varying sunrise and sunset positions throughout the year, to set the dates for ceremonies.

As a result of the Chaco Canyon find, Bob Preston initiated a research project to determine whether other petroglyph sites in the Southwest functioned as solar “observatories.” Over the last 16 years he has identified about 120 examples of similar solstice events at more than 50 petroglyph sites in Arizona, New Mexico and southern Utah. Evidence indicates that the phenomenon may have been spread over as much as a 1000-km region. These findings show clearly that certain petroglyphs were used by early pueblo cultures to function as calendrical markers for the winter and summer solstices. Petrified Forest National Park contains the greatest known concentration of solar calendars, with 16 of the sites being in or immediately adjacent to the park, and has been key to understanding their nature.

Shadows and sunlit images are found to move across petroglyphs due to other rocks being in the path of the sun’s rays. As the sun’s path across the sky changes throughout the year, the positions of the shadows and sunlit images change on the petroglyph panels. In many cases the petroglyphs have been placed on the rock faces in just the right position so that specific interactions occur on the solstices. The most common types of petroglyphs on which solsitial interactions have been identified are spirals and circles. The key to determining that these were intended and not by chance is that interactions are seen from site to site, and occur on the solstices more frequently than on other days of the year. These consistent interactions may involve a point of sunlight or shadow piercing the center or tracing the edge of a spiral or circular petroglyph; or shadow lines may suddenly appear or disappear at the center or edges of the petroglyph; or they may move up to the center or edge and then retreat. It is not uncommon for a single petroglyph to display multiple interactions of this type, either on the same solstice or on each of the solstices. In fact, at one site, there are five circular and spiral petroglyphs that show 15 interactions on the both solstices.

An intriguing question is whether types of petroglyph images were involved with specific dates. In several cases similar sunlight and shadow interactions occur on spiral and circular petroglyphs on the equinox, and distinctive interactions occur with other petroglyphs on the solstices and other dates. Clearly much of the puzzle remains to be unraveled.

There was a WEALTH of petroglyphs. I’m just going to show you a few of those we found:

This one makes me laugh; it looks so much like our modern day stork-who-brings-babies (LOL, where did that legend/story start anyway??)

LOL, these feet are larger than life, or else they were made by giants!

Early people in widely separated parts of the world carved and painted on rock, probably for a number of reasons, maybe keeping track of solar activity and seasons, maybe magical/religious thinking for a good hunt or nostalgia for a good hunt, maybe just someone who, like today’s blogger, just has to document in some way . . . 😉

May 8, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Blogging, Communication, Cross Cultural, Education, Entertainment, ExPat Life, France, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Saudi Arabia, Technical Issue | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Magic of Back Roads – En Route to Albuquerque

I love interstate driving, it gets the job done. We love having all that room and zooming down a highway, especially if the highway is empty. We were born to drive.

I also love the backroads, and the USA has some great backroads. Today is almost all backroad, and oh, what a fun driving day it is.

Leaving Roswell, New Mexico, we take a route to Albuquerque through cattle country, and through Billy-the-Kid country, and Smokey-the-Bear country. We come across a giant lava flow, it goes on for miles, with vegetation finding a way to survive – even thrive – in the formerly molten rock:

We find a restaurant with old Homer Simpson in front:

When we were kids, everyone knew the song about Smokey the Bear:

And along this road, we went through Smokey the Bear’s home town!

We merge onto the interstate into Albuquerque, and this time, I successfully call a real Fairfield Inn and find a room for the night.

Now I rarely do this. If there is a place we eat and don’t like it, I just won’t say anything. This time I will say something, because this place, The Quarters, is listed in the Marriott recommended list of nearby restaurants. Hey, and it’s barbecue.

We found it, there aren’t a lot of restaurants around, and this sign was about 2 feet by 3 feet:

Less than a BBQ restaurant, it is very much a lounge, and as soon as you walk in you see men sitting alone at the bar, looking like they’ve been planted there for a century. There isn’t a lot of jolly conversation, just men silently drinking.

There is a separate area for dining, and I will say this, the servers are doing their best to make the best of a bad situation. The dining area has a mixture of bar mirrors and old quilts hanging. We ordered from the menu, and when my BBQ Turkey came, it was like Publix sliced turkey, the kind you buy in a package, on a normal hamburger bun. Their BBQ sauce was good, but this sandwich – it was like you would throw together with scraps you had left over in your own kitchen.

The Quarters has seen better days. It is dingy. The furniture is in bad repair. The carpets are in bad need of cleaning. And it’s Albuquerque – I am sure there are better places to eat. Don’t go there.

April 29, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Cultural, Geography / Maps, Road Trips, Travel | , , | 4 Comments

Check it off the Bucket List: Roswell, New Mexico

Years ago there was a wonderful TV series called Roswell, with a young Kathern Heigl and others. Why did I like it so much? It was about teenagers living in Roswell, NM, and one of them was really an alien. That delighted me, because what I remember best about being a teenager was how alien we all felt, how uncomfortable, and how we wondered how we would survive in the real world. Roswell was all about surviving, and the problems an alien has trying to live among Earthlings. Like, what if you are in an accident and taken to a hospital in an ambulance, but you don’t want them to take your blood because it is green? and Alien?

Plus, Roswell is the center of all kinds of alien conspiracy theories, and an Air Force district (49) where people think UFO’s really landed. So – I wanted to see Roswell, even just to drive through. I know there aren’t really any aliens, but something in me wanted to go through Roswell, New Mexico.

There is an alien museum, and aliens outside of local businesses. AdventureMan found a wonderful restaurant, where we had a truly delicious meal:

There was a good crowd in the restaurant, and an interesting menu. I ordered the small fish soup and a fajita salad. The soup was large for a small soup, and delicious. I know fish soup – I even make fish soup. This was complex, and fresh and very hot. I loved this fish soup:

My fajita salad (delicious):

AdventureMan had a Tostado Platter, and said it was yummy:

If Roswell is on your list of places to visit, and if you like Mexican food, real Mexican food, good Mexican food, than Amigos is a great stop. Right on the main route through Roswell.

April 28, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, ExPat Life, Food, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | 1 Comment

The Carlsbad Cavern Desert Trail

Here’s the thing . . . I’ve kind of lived a life a little on the edge. We’ve taken chances. We were young, we took risks we didn’t even know we were taking.

The result is that while I am still determined to live my life to the fullest, there are things I won’t do. Jump out of a perfectly good airplane, even with a parachute. Walk out on clear platforms over the Grand Canyon. Go in bat caves. Go into just about any confined space – I just don’t do it. There are things I don’t like doing but I do them, but there are things I just won’t do, and I’ve stopped doing caverns and walking close to the edge in very high places.

So we went to Carlsbad Caverns, visited the visitor center, then took the Desert Drive.

We are here at an awesome time of the year. Things are blooming, and we are awed at the persistence of life. The temperature has hit ninety something (fahrenheit) by 10 in the morning, but these plants are thriving. So thriving that one plant burrowed through two layers of cloth and into AdventureMan’s flesh!

These are old familiar plants, the Prickly Pear. I first saw them when we lived in Tunisia, and they were used as boundary borders, and a formidable boundary marker they are – tall and tough and very prickly. The Tunisians used the prickly pear to make jelly, but they also used the leaves, trimming off all the prickles, peeling off the tough outer skin, pounding the fibrous center into submission and then, I think, breading them and frying them. I love it that something so tough and which grows so persistently can also provide nutrition to hungry people.

I’m just throwing this one in because it cracked me up; the stick looking a little like a snake by the sign:

April 28, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Beauty, ExPat Life, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment