We had some strange weather at Sea World today. It was 81 degrees, thunder, lightening and off/on raining, so this is the reason for shorts and rain slickers 🌂. Despite a bit of a soaking, we had a fun day. The shows were really good, especially the diving/water acrobatics. We went on some rides and enjoyed the Halloween decorations along with kids dressed up for trick or treating. It’s hard to believe October 🎃 is here, but with Hurricane Matthew bearing down on the Florida coast and heading straight for one of our upcoming destinations – Charleston, SC – we might have to do some re-routing. I sure hope not because I was really looking forward to seeing Charleston for the first time and hope everyone is able to stay safe.
As promised, we had some authentic Texas BBQ. We found a well reviewed hole in the wall near our KOA campground and when we fist pulled up, Joel was ready to keep going. He kept asking me “are you sure you want to eat here?” It truly was a dive joint, but the food was good and neither of us got sick, so I consider that a success!
We love San Antonio, Texas!!! San Antonio is the 7th largest U.S. city and one of the biggest we have been to in the last month. It’s also home of the Alamo, the historic 18th century Catholic mission and site of the famous battle between the Mexican and Texian Army. Now it’s a gorgeous old building surrounding lush gardens and knarled old trees. The historic old church (no interior pics allowed) is so beautiful with soaring ceilings and wrought iron chandeliers. It’s strange that this landmark is located in the middle of downtown near the Riverwalk that fronts the San Antonio River.
After so many small towns, it’s wonderful for this city girl to be near a mall again 😊. Not just any mall either, but the Riverwalk fronts the beautiful winding San Antonio River that loops under bridges as two parallel stone sidewalks lined with restaurants and shops front either side. The toughest part of the day was deciding where to eat. The Riverwalk is lined with everything from authentic Mexican restaurants with serenading mariachi bands to high class hotel bars with yummy appetizers. We decided on Asian food because I was craving sushi. Tomorrow, for sure, we are going for authentic Texas bbq!
We are so excited that my Mom and her husband Bob decided to drive out from San Diego to meet us in Carlsbad Caverns, NM. There are two entrances to the caverns, the “natural” entrance is a huge hole in the ground that has a 1.25 mile 800 foot descent underground. The second entrance is an elevator that takes you straight down to the bottom of the Caverns where you can explore a huge variety of formations along a one mile (or so) loop. Bob is 83 and so we took the elevator the day we first visited and Joel and I did the natural entrance hike (down and back up again) the following day after Mom and Bob left to go back home.
The Caverns are stunning and a must see if you are ever in New Mexico. The sheer vastness is truly amazing, the size and scope of which cannot be captured in photographs which is why they must be experienced in person. My Mom and Bob were both blown away and said it was their best vacation together. We really enjoyed having them join us at the local KOA campground where they rented a cute little cabin right next to our RV space. We loved the gorgeous New Mexico sunsets and also got to experience the New Mexico wind. One minute the air is completely still, the next you think Dorothy and her house will come flying in – it’s crazy!!
In addition to the Caverns, we had a great time playing some pretty competitive games of Yahtzee, enjoyed lots of food and catching up, but the time together was too short — just a day and a half 😐. I was very sad when they had to head back home to San Diego. San Antonio, Texas is our next stop and Joel and I are excited to try some authentic Texas bbq.
We beamed ourselves into Roswell, NM (actually, it was a long, mostly boring drive from Colorado). New Mexico is an agricultural and farming state, so lots of fields and pasture land that goes on for mile, after mile, after mile – you get the picture! We are staying at the Red Barm RV Park which is next to a huge agricultural field, feels like a farm, but without the animals. The lady that runs the place, Lee, is so friendly and has really created a homey, welcoming place to stay. Joel had voted the restroom facilities to be the nicest on the trip and she gives a senior discount at age 50! This is the first time I have qualified for a senior discount and I think I am feeling a bit conflicted. I love saving money, but don’t want to be old!
Anyway, as you can see, one of the first things we did was visit the International UFO museum. Joel loved it and we bought an alien to bring home 👽 with us. We found so many fun alien-themed shops, we now have a new window sticker on the back of the truck (we aren’t really vehicle sticker type people, but this one was too funny to miss).
As for the dogs, they got an out-of-this-world bath and haircut at a local groomers. They were less than thrilled about it, but like any Mom, I made them pose for “after” pictures…..awwww aren’t they cute? 🐩
We drove up to Cripple Creek today which is tucked away in the Colorado Rockies. The fall colors were in full bloom and we could not have picked a better time to go. The drive was so beautiful and took about 60 minutes from Colorado Springs. We visited the Mollie Kathleen Mine which is a gold mining operation founded by Mollie Kathleen in September 1891. She was the first woman in this area to find “surface gold” which was in a piece of ore she picked up while out on a walk. Because miners were very superstitious and believed a woman inside a mine was bad luck, Mollie turned the operation over to her son. The mine continued to produce gold up until 1961.
The mine was originally built to harvest gold out of ore, but later found other precious minerals, some of which are now in the Smithsonian. The white stuff covering the walls in the upper corner picture is epsom salt, a naturally occurring formation as a result of water runoff over the minerals. In order to access the mine we tightly squeezed into the original mine shaft elevators where we descended 1,000 feet. Once we were in the mining shafts, we had an opportunity to view original mining equipment from the early days to the present. I can tell you, mining was a tough business and they had kids as young as 10 years old working, no such thing as OSHA back in the early days!
We also had a chance to ride in an air powered train which was originally pulled by donkeys (1,000 feet under ground, so they left them down there) until President Roosevelt visited the mine and deemed this treatment to be cruel (hello?!?!) and demanded they stop. The mining company set the donkeys free in the town and descendants of the original mine donkeys still roam the streets today.
We topped the day off with a prime rib dinner at one of the many casinos in town. At $5.99, we were not expecting much, but it was an excellent meal and you could add a lobster tail for an additional $10 – yes please!
We were really looking forward to riding the Royal Gorge Railroad and it did not disappoint! A 2 hour train ride along the Arkansas River (as it flows through Colorado), the train winds its way along sheer granite walls towering hundreds of feet straight up. It also travels over a “floating bridge” on tracks suspended by cables over the river. While traversing the floating bridge, the whole train sways from side to side.
There are three ticket levels, Coach, Club or Vista Dome, the latter is the only way to go, as the views are way better and more comfortable seating. They also have open air cars that you can go out on to really get a full view of the gorge. There is a full bar and food service, Joel really liked the chocolate fudge tort which was like eating a piece of fudge more than cake. On our way back to the campground we couldn’t resist climbing on the roadside “wildlife.”
We got lucky on our trip to Pueblo, CO and happened to be here the weekend of the Chile and Frijoles Festival, which happens to be a big deal around here. The Chile and Frijoles Festival is a giant street fair with huge metal bins of roasting chile peppers along with every other possible use of chiles. We bought jalapeño pepper jelly (great with cream cheese and crackers), chile pepper goat cheese, a giant sausage dog with roasted chile peppers and a big bag of chile peppers to bring home. I think we are pretty set in the chile pepper department around here!
Yesterday we visited the Ghost Town Wild West Museum in Colorado Springs, which is an 1800’s style old west ghost town. The museum itself is located in an old train station and train car round-about (an old brick building with large arched openings that once housed train engines) which now houses a microbrewery. The museum had a lot to see and we enjoyed a movie about how Colorado was populated in the 1850’s during the Pike’s Peak gold rush.
One thing I will say about our travels so far is that people are so nice!!! Seriously, so many total strangers have struck up friendly conversations with us or gone out of their way to provide directions, suggestions for places to eat, things to do, etc. It has totally renewed my faith in humanity. However, even with all the niceness, cheap gas, less traffic, and excellent weather that we have enjoyed so far, I can’t imagine living anywhere other than Southern California, it has my heart as home.
When I was a little girl I saw a Wyoming postcard of two men carrying a giant 5 foot long grasshopper. This was before photoshop days, so I thought it was real! Ever since then, I have wanted to travel to Wyoming to see the amazing sights and now I have finally had my chance. No giant grasshoppers, but the buffalo, wild gazelle, and cowboy country atmosphere did not disappoint. It is hard to put into words how majestic the buffalo are and when you get up close and personal, even more so.
We stayed at the Terry Bison Ranch and they have the second largest herd of buffalo (Ted Turner has the first) with over 2,000 head. You can book a train ride out into the expansive prairie where they range, and for some reason we waffled on whether or not we wanted to go. Luckily, we decided to do it because we had the most amazing experience hand feeding these otherwise wild buffalo. It is definitely bucket list worthy!
While visiting the Ranch, I fell in love with this 4-month old horse, his name is S’more and his mom is Marshmallow – he was so sweet!
The weather was unseasonably hot, so we found ourselves lazing about until mid-day, when we were finally motivated to get moving. Of the restaurants we visited, Sanford’s was the most memorable. The whole place is covered, every square inch, in vintage memorabilia modeled to look like a junk yard after the Sanford and Son tv show. The place was started by a couple of guys after they graduated high school, and it’s a pretty big place with a large food and drink menu. Joel and I both opted for burgers, which were huge and delicious!
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Belle managed to dig a half empty bag of marshmallows out of the trash and ate the whole thing. We never would have known except after we returned from dinner, we snuggled into bed to watch a movie when barf-o-rama-2016 started! Of course first up was all over our comforter, then as the night progressed, she managed to hit just about every blanket we own…. uggghhhh! I froze for the rest of the night and spent the better part of the next day at the laundrymat. Oh the glamour of travel!!
Hello again, we have spent the last week in Salt Lake City and the surrounding areas (Perry and Honeyville). The area is very beautiful, with gorgeous mountains surrounding downtown Salt Lake City which is nice and flat; excellent for bike riding. As we were driving in from Reno, the flat barren desert landscape turned into expansive salt fields. I really wanted to pull over and try licking the ground – it was so strange!
While visiting downtown, we went to the Hogle Zoo and the Natural History Museum. Coming from San Diego, I am a bit of a zoo snob, however, this zoo was a pleasant surprise and we really enjoyed our day. We especially liked the bats and porcupines which seemed very sociable as long as you don’t get on the wrong end of those quills. Joel wanted me to get the porcupine quill earrings at the gift shop…ummm, I didn’t like them that much (yes, they were as tacky as you are imagining right now). Seriously, he really thought I would wear porcupine quills?? Needless to say, I’m getting a little nervous about what Santa Joel might have for me under the tree this year – yikes!!
Moving on, after a week in SLC, we met up with a vintage trailer group called Tin Can Tourists in Honeyville, UT. The campground was beautiful and the group was a lot of fun. One of the things we enjoyed most was Crystal Hot Springs, a natural hot spring with the highest mineral content in the world (their claim). We floated around for an afternoon and I left feeling so relaxed, it was wonderful!
We did have a rough night the last night of our stay. Lulu woke us up at 3 am with the thunder down under (no polite way to say this), and being in a small trailer this news, or rather smell, travels fast! Joel was first up swearing a blue streak and waking up the entire campground as we evacuated ship for a clean up. Luckily, the nightly freight train came thundering through laying on its horn at the same time to help drown him out. Belle used the diversion to take off and search the campground for goodies left on the ground. This is how I found myself running around at 4 am in my undies and tennis shoes with a flashlight whisper yelling Belle’s name and wondering why the heck do I have dogs?!?!?
We initially decided to go to Reno because Salt Lake City was too far from Yosemite to drive in one shot. Towing the trailer we top out around 65 mph, plus the pups need a stop every 3 or 4 hours. Reno isn’t much to see in the daylight, much like Vegas, the nightime lights make it look a lot nicer.
Reno hotels are cheap, so we ended up booking a room at Harrahs (dog friendly) and putting the truck and trailer in their overflow lot 4 blocks away, which turned out to be a blighted area filled with boarded up hotels and vacant lots. The latter made it hard to sleep and we were constantly making the trek to check on our stuff. Thinking it would be a nice change, I booked 3 nights, making the reservation before we actually got there. Had I waited, I would have discovered that one night was more than enough!
After being in Yosemite for a week, it was a huge treat to have reliable cell service, wifi and even cable tv (a first since the trip started). However, I have been trying to shake a chest cold and the heavy smoke in all the indoor areas was not helpful 😕. It did pay off to play at the casinos, Joel had his best ever winnings at the blackjack tables and I didn’t put too much into the slot machines.
We spent our days bike riding and had a scary encounter while riding along a quiet residential street. As usual, Belle and Lulu were in their doggie trailer behind Joel’s bike when a pit bull appeared out of nowhere growling and running straight for the dogs. Luckily, we had a slight downhill advantage, I was yelling “peddle faster” as Joel and I were both racing as fast as we could go. The pit bull couldn’t keep up and gave up after a few minutes, but it sure got our hearts racing! We were pretty happy when it was time to head out for Salt Lake City, bye Reno!