Archive for October, 2009

This is a much belated post of day three of the 2009 Southwest Road Trip (parts one and two). I’m not even half way finished yet, so I’m going to try to get off my ass and finish it out. Yeah. We all know how that goes. 😆

Anyways, I can’t remember where we stayed the evening of day two, but I’m confident we got up at the butt crack of dawn on day three. We got up early every morning on that trip. The old people I was with didn’t like to sleep in, they are terrified of missing something the last days of their lives. When my ass gets old, I’m just going to sleep. That’s why I’m working now, so I can sleep late when I retire. Damn old people.

We probably didn’t have a plan on where we were going that day, as long as we were heading further west. As I said before, we had general places of interest we wanted to see, but everything in between was bonus. So we packed up the rental and got the hell out of Dodge (or where ever the hell we were that morning).

Stupid cow.One of the first things we saw on the road that morning was a damn cow right up on the edge of the road. I can’t remember what road it was, but it was a two laner. I also think think this was one of the times I was texting and driving and freaking the folks I was with out. I remember telling them something along the lines of “THERE’S NOT EVEN ANYONE DRIVING ON THIS ROAD!”

Then, of course, we come over a rise and that stupid cow was damn near in the street. I hate when that shit happens.

As you can see, the cow — like the one we saw the day before — had an attitude. Those cows in the Southwest don’t take kindly to strangers.

At one point that morning, we took one of the numerous side stops we had been making on the trip to stop at one of the KNOWLEDGE!souvenir stores that are littered throughout the Southwest. As we were coming out, I noticed a Continental Divide sign. I had flown over the Continental Divide numerous times in my life, but I never knew exactly what it was. Unless the sign is lying to me, it’s the point where the rain fall divides, and flows to the west to the Pacific and to the east to the Atlantic. THIS WAS A LEARNING TRIP, TOO, PEOPLE!

I think it was at this stop I bought one of the two Indian blankets I ended up with. (If you’ve ever gone to a boardwalk, you know exactly the blanket I’m talking about. They are like horse blankets, but not that itchy.) I thought I was getting a good deal at $7, because I had seen them going for about $12 at most other places we had stopped. At the time, I figured they weren’t going to get cheaper. I should have thought twice, since we were hitting about every shop on the road, after all.

About an hour after we passed the Continental Divide, we stopped in Gallup, New Mexico, for lunch at one of the destinations my uncle wanted to see. We weren’t quite hungry yet, so we dropped Big Les (my uncle) off at the casino, and me, Fame (my aunt) and my pops headed up to the Red Rock State Park to catch some of the sites.

I can't remember what this is called.

Red Rock Park was okay, but not awe inspiring. In its defense, we only tooled around for an hour or so, and it was certainly pretty, but nothing really jumped out at me. Well, a prairie dog jumped out of his hole and eyeballed me when I stopped at the post office on the park’s site. These Southwest animals had attitude.

Stupid prairie dog.

On the way out, I pulled the rental over the side and snagged a picture of something you just don’t see every day (at least on the East Coast).

I wonder how much those cost to paint.

Hell, I guess since grass is so sparse out there, you added some color wherever you could. I imagine it also makes it easier when giving someone directions to your house. “It’s the third blue roof on your left (just past the green one).”

After we left the park, we picked up Big Les and made our way to where he wanted to stop for lunch: The El Rancho Hotel. Apparently the hotel is famous mostly for the sheer amount of movie stars that stayed in it back in the day. It had a pretty impressive interior, and the food was decent (I had burritos with green chili, but their green chili could not touch the bowl I had in Old Town Albuquerque), but it really did nothing for me. Maybe if it was The Stanley in Colorado it would have. But no way I minded. I saw a piece of history I otherwise wouldn’t have.

I ate where Ronald Reagan slept.

Our stomachs full, we jumped into the car, headed west on Route 40. Within the hour, we crossed into Arizona, where we stopped at the Tomahawk Indian Store. Its claim to fame was it was the biggest teepee in Arizona. I don’t know if that’s true, but if it is, I was there. I know it may come as a shock, but I have a picture to prove it.

That's me. I'm here.

There were a couple things I had on my list to do when I got out to New Mexico and Arizona. That cowboy hat was one of them. I got a lot of shit for it from my uncle, including this conversation directly after I bought it from a Love’s Truck Stop (yeah, that hat is authentic redneck, bitches!).

“So what are you going to do when you get home?” He asked.

“What do you mean?”

“The hat, what are you going to do when you get home?”

“I don’t know what you mean?” I said, repeating myself.

“Are you going to wear it?”

“Why wouldn’t I?”

He laughed. I laughed. My friend Zig said, “You just replaced one hat your friends don’t like with another.” Zig is no doubt referring to my awesome blue bucket hat. My male friends make fun of my cowboy hat, my pretty lady friends compliment my cowboy hat. My male friends can go to hell. Pretty ladies overrule my stupid friends.

My dad liked my cowboy hat so much, he bought one, too. More on that later.

Moving along with the trip, after some dicking around (and buying another blanket, this time for five dollars  (:mad:) , we headed onward.

After just over an hour on the road, we hit our final destination for the evening: The Petrified Forest. Part of the painted desert, this park was absolutely breathtaking. We didn’t have much time to go through it, but the time we spent was memorable. If I ever get back out there, that is one place I plan on returning to.

Painted Desert.

We spent about an hour in the park, driving through and pulling off at various scenic locations, each one seemingly better than the next.

More Painted Desert. Pops watching Big Les to make sure he doesn't steal anything.

Still more Painted Desert. The sky was amazing just before the sunset.

A spectacular sunset ended the day, as we drove to the nearest town to find a place to crash for the evening. So far, this vacation was turning out pretty damn amazing.

This pic doesn't do it justice.

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If you are just joining us, Day One of the Southwest vacation is right here.

Day two of the Southwest vacation started a lot earlier than I would have wanted. The old folks I was with wanted to be on the road by 7, by I managed to talked them up to 8ish. My ideal time would have been closer to noon, but my father explained that old people know that they they don’t have much time left, so they appreciate the time they do. Whatever. When I’m old I’m going to sleep longer because I can.

We decided on Wednesday (day one) that on Thursday we would hit a place I always wanted to go to — Roswell (cue X-Files opening). It was the furthest east of any place we were going, so my Aunt Fame made the plan to do that first, then loop back around to our next destination (which was still up in the air) stopping whenever we felt like it. Sounded like a plan to me.

One place I love stopping at on road trips is truck stops. I don’t know why, but there’s something about a place where you can get fudge, coffee, t-shirts, jerky and other assorted tchotchke’s just appeals to me. Maybe it’s the whole Americana thing, maybe it’s just a place to get cool shirts. Either way, I stop when I see them, and I liked the look of this particular truck stop’s sign. Very ’50sish.

Not a Love's, but it will do.

We were on interstate 285, which is just one long stretch of road between Albuquerque and Roswell. There aren’t many towns along this highway, nor there were many rest stops. We did see one, though, and while it was very clean, I suddenly didn’t need to go as bad as I thought I did. Rattlesnakes? WTF!

After about four hours, we finally reached our my destination. Roswell, New Mexico. The Motherland of Geeks everywhere.

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As you can see, the above sign is in divider of a relatively busy highway. That did not stop me from pulling over to the side of the road and getting pictures. I suspect the locals are use to jackasses like me, but I still got a few stares regardless. Not that I cared.

NMd2p5A lot of people have asked me if I enjoyed Roswell, because they all, well, know me. And I really did enjoy finally going there, but I also mentally prepared myself for what I was going to see, so I wasn’t at all disappointed, even though I could have very easily have been.

Here’s the thing about Roswell: It’s exactly what you expect it to be. The best way I can describe it (at least for some of you Marylanders) is imagine you’ve always wanted to go to the beach, and you finally got your chance in your mid-to-late 30s…when you went to Ocean City, Maryland.

Yes it’s cool and all and yes you will have a fantastic time, but if you had gone 10 to 15 years earlier, you would have had the time of your life.

That sounds bitter, but it’s not intended to be. I am incredibly happy that I finally got to see the town where the infamous ‘weather balloon’ fell, and after my father and I went through the town museum, I spent a lot of time poking around in the souvenir stores while my family waited patiently in the car (God bless them).

Roswell is a very cool small town, and if you are in the area I suggest you swing by it, if only just to say, “Yeah, I’ve been there.” The town completely embraces the mythology (no doubt to keep tourism business), the museum is pretty cool with a lot of newspaper articles and pictures and the lady that runs the welcoming center is top notch. Once she found out it was my first time to Roswell, she gave me pens and buttons and a goodie bag with all sorts of dorky things.

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Even Walmart and McDonalds got into the game.

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The aforementioned museum was (as said) pretty damn cool, but one of the best exhibits had to be the setup they had at the end. It was basically a big diorama of a doctor operating on an alien while a man-in-black stood watch.

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Okay, so I’m painfully aware of the dork level this blog is at right now (CODE RED, BITCHES!), so we’ll move on.

Eventually, I saw everything I was going to see and bought everything I was going to buy, so it was time to hit the road. And with destinations unknown, we got in the car with a halfass plan.  For me, this is always the best kind of plan to have when you are on vacation. Without a firm plan, you are open to see more than you may have originally had in mind. To be honest, I can’t even remember exactly where we were headed. We just jumped on 70 west, in the general direction of Arizona.

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There are two things I loved about driving this trip. The first is the scenery. While there is a lot of brown (as far as the land) in both New Mexico and Arizona, I noticed that just as I was getting board with the view, something would slightly change (a mountain or hills would bust out, for example) to keep things from other getting boring.

The other thing I loved were the drivers. Hands down, no contest, New Mexico and Arizona drivers are the best I’ve ever seen. Period. For one simple reason: The know how to properly use the left lane. Not once in my week trip did I have a problem with some dumbass in the left lane pacing the car on its right. Not once. And I drove a LOT that week.

NMd2p14Somewhere along the line, we got off 70W and onto 380W to head through Capitan and Lincoln.

Capitan is where Smokey the Bear was born (and now rests) and Lincoln was the last jail that held Billy the Kid.

Most of the joints were closed by the time we arrived in town, but we did creep through at a slow pace and I did see the Lincoln Count Courthouse. We didn’t stop, though. If they were open, they probably would have. I plan on watching Young Guns again here pretty soon to make up for not stopping.

We did, however, stop at the Smokey The Bear Memorial. It was a shockingly small little thing just off 380, but it was a picture opportunity.

It had a plaque with a bunch of words on it, but I didn’t take a long time studying that. That’s school stuff, and I wasn’t really interested. So I got my picture and I left. We had places to go and things to see.

I can’t remember where we ended up staying the night on day two. I think it was another small town, but I don’t remember for sure. I’m pretty certain that was the rest of  the cool stuff for that day, because there aren’t any more pictures.

Oh yeah, there are two more. Some cow gave us the stink eye.

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Oddly, while this was the first time a cow gave us a dirty look, it wasn’t the last.

Day three will come eventually.

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“You want to go to New Mexico?” That was what my dad started the conversation with when he called me a couple months ago.

“When? With who?”

“I don’t know when. We’ll work that out. It would be Me, you, your aunt and uncle.”

“Okay.” It’s not like I have tons of shit going on.

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With that we made plans to go to New Mexico, and by “plans” I mean we got out plane tickets for in and out of Albuquerque (fuck that’s hard to spell) New Mexico, made a rental car arrangement and made exactly one hotel reservation for the first night in Albuquerque. The rest of the time we were just going to wing it. We all had an idea of at least one thing we wanted to see (I had two things very high on the list, but we’ll get to those in the next few days), so we weren’t going to lock in on anything.

NMd1p3After months of anticipation, the day (last Wednesday) finally arrived, and our vacation started. We flew on Southwest, an airline I absolutely love because they are cheap and so completely laid back. Example:

We had boarded the plane and settled in. The pilot gets on, takes the mic and says:

“Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Today’s flight time to Albuquerque will be around three and a half hours. Maybe four. I really don’t know. If we good tailwind we’ll get their quick, if not, maybe it will take five hours. Who knows for sure.”

The passengers groaned at the five hour remark.

The pilot continued, “Oh, you have a problem with that? You know, if this was 100 years ago, it would take you a year to get from Maryland to New Mexico. And there will be people trying to kill you on the way. How’s that five hours sounding now?”

It sounded good.

“That’s what I thought,” the pilot finished, smiling.

That’s what makes Southwest so awesome. That lackadaisical attitude. Of course it bothers some people — like those two ignorant douches that sued Southwest a couple years ago claiming a flight attendant was racist when she said, “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, grab a seat we got to go!” Fortunately for Southwest, common sense won, the two race-baiting cunts lost and that was that. And, really, if you don’t have any sense of humor, please don’t fly Southwest. You ruin it for the rest of us.

Anywho, after a pretty uneventful flight (on the aisle seat, yay for me!), we landed in Albuquerque, picked up the rental and headed down to Old Town, where we were staying our first night.

NMd1p1We checked into the Best Western without problems. If I didn’t know what kind of trip this was going to be from the Southwest pilot, I knew from how my father and uncle acted in the hotel (as demonstrated on the left).

Yeah, this was most definitely going to be a good vacation.

We threw our bags in the respective rooms and freshened up for a walk down historic Old Town Albuquerque. Fortunately, it was only a couple block walk, so we could get out and stretch our legs.

The town is pretty nice, I suppose, with a ton of “AUTHENTIC INDIAN POTTERY AND JEWELRY” shops. I think every single store in New Mexico and Arizona has “AUTHENTIC INDIAN POTTERY” and I’m pretty damn sure it’s all 50% off all the time. I’m going to check and see if that is the state laws, it very well might be.

We spent a couple hours walking around from store to store, pretty much seeing the same thing in every shop, with just enough of differences to make things interesting, and decided to grab a bit to eat. A lady in one of the shops recommended the Church Street Cafe, and it was amazing. Hands down the best restaurant we ate at while we were out there (so good, in fact, it’s the only one we ate at twice), mostly because of their green chili, which was pretty spectacular. I cannot recommend this joint’s green chili enough.

The best store in Old Town (for me, of course) was this little store that sold goofball items like the things found on Stupid.com. I could have easily spent a ton of money in the joint, but everything was pretty much MSRP, and I wasn’t about to buy something at MSRP when I can get it online for less. I did, however, pick up a Holy Toast Maker for $3. I’m going to do up some Virgin Mary slices and sell them on Ebay. I stand to make millions, people. MILLIONS.

One thing I’m quite glad I’m not into is Indian and Southwestern art. Holy shit, if I was into that, I’d a been broke by day one or two. There are so many stores and towns and highway pulloffs offering the best in Southwest art and jewelry and pottery and blankets and whatever your heart desires that I could see someone really into it spending tons of money. I myself like more of the tchotchke items (although there was plenty of that, too, let me tell you).

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After spending a couple hours in Old Town, we headed backed to the hotel, freshened up (again) and proceeded to the car for our next destination…Sandia Peak Tramway. This was something everyone who went wanted to see, and while it was getting late, we were told it was best at sunset, anyway.

The Sandia Peak Tramway is the worlds longest tram (according to their site), running about 3 miles. It takes about 15 minutes to get up the peak from the base, and on the website pictures it looks fun. In real life, it’s downright frightening, and I’m not even really afraid of heights.

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The pictures I took really don’t do the sunset justice, but it was well worth the $15 to ride to the top of the Peak.

After leaving Sandia Peak, we briefly stopped at a casino on the way back to the hotel (where I broke even). We made it short because we knew there were casinos all over the place, and we were pretty beat from all the running around that day.

Plus we had a big day the next day. At least I did.

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