28 September 2008

Roadtrip! Part 2 - the way home - wow!

So on Tuesday morning we headed back towards home, but decided to take a more northern and, according to the map, more scenic route, following Hwy 160 West towards Durango. Now the scenery changed from interesting to gorgeous! The first part from Fort Garland to about Monte Vista was still flat country (don't know why this is marked as a scenic route on the map), but the part from Monte Vista to Pagosa Springs is beautiful! That’s the Colorado I remembered from long ago when I lived there! The view from Wolf Creek Pass is fantastic!

View from Wolf Creek Pass

From Cortez we took Hwy 491, because we figured Blanding would be our overnight stop. It was only about 3:30 when we arrived there, so we decided to squeeze in a visit to the Bridges National Monument nearby. This alone would have made the trip worthwhile! Seeing those natural bridges, carved out of the rock by the water is awe-inspiring.

Sipapu Bridge in Bridges National Park

We walked a little bit on the trail to the Kachina bridge and found a quiet spot to just sit and listen to the silence. You could hear nothing except the buzzing of an occasional fly and the swish of some swallows’ wings as they sliced through the air. I could have stayed there for a very long time, just enjoying nature. There was no sound to be heard!

We also happened upon these mysterious rock carvings ...

... actually these are shoeprints in the sand on one of the steps of the Kachina Bridge trail – rotate the image 90 degrees counter-clockwise to see how it actually looks.

Then we drove back to Blanding to find a room for the night. We stayed at a new Super 8 motel, which was very nice, room-wise, but there were dogs barking almost all night (one was in a yard next to the motel). So far we hadn't had much luck with hotels!
The next day (Wednesday) we drove towards Kayenta, which of course passes through Monument Valley.

First view of Monument Valley as you approach it

Ever since I saw these rock formations in old Westerns as a kid, I wanted to see them. They are far more impressive in natura! Absolutely fantastic! We drove the 17-mile loop inside Monument Valley, which gets you close to these formations – the best view being Artists’ Point:

Monument Valley - "The Mittens"

Monument Valley

Monument Valley - Artist's View

The "Artist's View" absolutely deserves its name. You will also see a lot of these:

“Open” ... but what are they selling?

We continued on our northern route towards Page (we deliberately avoided the Grand Canyon, because we want to cover it on a separate trip), passing Lake Powel – a beautiful contrast of the deep blue lake vs. the pale red and whitish cliffs), the Grand Staircase and the Vermilion Cliffs, heading for St. George. In order to get to St. George, however, and staying on Hwy 89 (and then Hwy 9) you have to pass through Zion National Park. We did not even want to go there, but since it would have meant backtracking for quite a bit, we grudgingly paid the hefty $25 entrance fee. It turned out to be the best $25 we spent! Zion National Park is gorgeous. Not only are there fantastic rock/mountain formations, but also lots of trees, so you have wonderful red-green contrasts. This park is absolutely worth a trip for its own sake! I had never heard of Zion National Park before – it is a gem! No pictures, because we were too busy being awed by the beauty of it!

It’s too bad we only had a week for our whole trip. So many areas would have justified staying longer and really exploring them further
Since it was still daylight when we arrived at St. George, we decided to push on to Las Vegas, where we arrived at about 8:00 pm. We originally wanted to stay at the Luxor, but unbelievably, it was booked solid. So we went next door to the Excalibur, where we got a nice room with a view of the Strip. Here we had the best sleep of the entire trip! The room was quiet, and the constant hum of the traffic on the strip lulls you to sleep easily (we were on the 24th floor). We're not gamblers, but like everybody else, we love the buffets – so after sleeping in a bit, we had a hearty breakfast, and then drove the rest of the way home, via Hwy 15 to Barstow, then changing to Hwy 58. After passing Tehachapi and Bakersfield again, we continued on Hwy 58 west to Hwy 101, because we wanted to try a different route.

There is a stretch of about 40 miles on Hwy 58 after McKittrick that is the most desolate country I’ve ever seen. You see occasional pumps, but the whole area looks almost sinister. It changes again for the better the closer you get to Hwy 101. We even saw a Golden Eagle sitting on a tree right next to the road! Once we reached Hwy 101 it was just a matter of rolling off the miles back to the Bay Area.

Overall, this was a very nice trip. We didn’t plan much ahead - our objective was to look at the property. Bridges National Park, Monument Valley, and Zion National Park are each worth a lot more time than we had. There were countless roads leading to other parks, national monuments, Indian ruins, and other sites, which we simply had to pass by.

Till next time!

Roadtrip! Part 1 - the road to Colorado

My husband’s parents have a piece of land in Colorado, and asked us to check it out. So we decided to drive there during the break between my husband’s Animation Mentor semesters. It’s a two-day drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, and we left (very) early on Saturday, Sep 20. The drive south on I5 was rather boring (desert). In the Bakersfield area we switched over to Hwy 58, which became even more boring (either farmland “desert" or real desert) – just flatland driving. The only interesting sight were the windmills around Tehachapi (it is very windy there!). We continued on Hwy 58 to Barstow, where we switched to Hwy 40. We wanted to have a late lunch in Needles, but when we got there (around 1:00 pm), we were wondering whether this was a ghost town – not a soul on the streets, no cars, almost all shops/restaurants closed, and the whole town looked rather delapidated. I think we saw one person outside. It was downright eerie, as if you are in the Twilight Zone. With some difficulty we located an open restaurant and had a rather mediocre lunch.

Onwards on Hwy 40 and into Arizona to Kingman. Almost as soon as we crossed into AZ, the scenery changed for the better - some nice mountain ranges to look at. We arrived in Flagstaff at around 5:30 pm and thought that this would make a good overnight stopping point. Big mistake! Flagstaff is a railroad town. There are trains going through every few minutes, blowing their horns. And all the hotels (at least the ones with a room available, and we did not want to stray too far from Hwy 40) are on Route 66 which is right next to the train tracks! According to the clerk at the reception desk, there is really no point in Flagstaff where you would not hear the trains. We were tired, but this was the worst night of the entire trip (and the most expensive, roomrate-wise!). Every time I dozed off another train would rattle by, blowing its horn. Whatever you do, DO NOT STAY IN FLAGSTAFF, EVER!!!

The next morning we were rather groggy from basically not sleeping, and – blowing a big fat raspberry to Flagstaff – we were off, continuing on Hwy 40 towards New Mexico. Again the drive became very boring, flat desert, brush desert, a few rock formations, and lots of Indian trading posts, selling rugs, jewelry, Kachina dolls, and other assorted trinkets. We passed on the Petrified Forest National Park, planning to visit it on our way back. As soon as we entered NM the scenery changed dramatically for the better. Suddenly there were mesas to look at again. We stopped at the first rest stop in NM, and I have to say that was a superb rest area – they had music playing, the restrooms were modern and clean, they had free brochures – very nice. We immediately liked NM. Curiously, though, we had not seen any accidents so far, but in NM we saw three! What’s up with that? Also, the road sign language is interesting: In NM you have the polite, delicately put “Gusty Winds May Exist”, whereas in CO you see the more gruff “Gusty Winds Likely”.

On to Albuquerque, where we had lunch at a Taco Cabana (very good), and then north to Espanola. On seeing a Yogi Bhajan Memorial road, I remembered that the 3HO – Kundalini Yoga people have a center here. I did Kundalini Yoga for a while, before I realized that it is a little too cult-like for me ... too much Yogi Bhajan adoration. Anyway, Espanola is a nice little town, with a few new-agey touches. We bought a braid of red chilies here (my husband likes them) and hung them from a coat hook in the car. So from now on every time we got into the car, we had a red chili smell greeting us. The scenery also became more and more mountainous as we were driving north towards Colorado on Hwy 68, then 522, through Taos (very new-agey – that’s where they had a Wool and Fiber Festival a few weeks ago), then continuing on Hwy 159 in CO, to Fort Garland, where my parents-in-law’s property is located.

By then it was getting dark, meaning it was too late to locate the land, so we decided to look for a place to stay, by driving towards Walsenburg on Hwy 160, and ended up at the Rio Cucharas Inn. It was cheap, not too bad, but I’ve been in better places. The rooms had an odd smell to them (as if they had recently been disinfected), and had no windows, just a shuttered glass door. It was rather stuffy inside, but at least it was very quiet there. We had to eat dinner at the only place that seemed open in Walsenburg – a Subway sandwich place. We stayed two nights, because we also wanted to check out a restaurant recommended by a colleague of my husband in Pueblo.

So on Monday morning, we used our plat map, and found the property – all the markers had rotted away, but since it was at the end of a road, it was fairly easy to locate. It's a sagebrush-covered piece of land, with lots of anthills (with rather big (1/2 inch long) ants).

The Property

The Neighbors

It also was on a bluff, overlooking railroad tracks (which would not be a problem, since they were far enough downhill). There was a fairly small flat area on which one could build a log cabin to use as quarters when going hunting. The area is apparently favored by hunters (you see “Welcome Hunters” signs everywhere). And it was very windy! So it is not a very suitable area to stay in, as far as we are concerned. A few hardy people live there on scattered ranches, with their propane gas tanks and generators, and what seems the required junk cars in their yards. It’s all rather rustic, let’s say.

Monday afternoon we drove to Pueblo to check out the recommended restaurant there, which of course, was closed on Mondays! Oh well. Back to our inn in Walsenburg. By the way, it’s a myth that Starbucks has penetrated every last corner of America! There are not enough Starbucks! Out in the country you still get the coffeecup-rinsewater coffee, with packets of creamer, and the only choice of cheese you have is American or Swiss. I'm not complaining, really, a "town" of maybe 500 people couldn’t possibly support a Starbucks. It’s just funny that out in the country, where you could reasonably expect fresh milk for example, not to mention organic, all you get is artificial creamer. It truly is a different world from a metropolitan area. But at least I’ve seen several pro-Obama signs in front yards, especially in NM (“ObamaNos!” = Obama Us).

Things improved on the way home! The next post will have more (and nicer) pictures and less talk.

03 September 2008


03 September 2008: Wow! Somebody actually reads my blog!!! And gave me this award:

Thank you, Halfmaennchen!  Since the *rules* state that you have to ...

1. post this award on your blog;
2. add a link to the person who sent you the award;
3. nominate at least 4 other bloggers, and add their links as well;
4. leave a comment at the new recipients' blogs, so they know they got an award ...

My number 1 nominee is Fleegle, one of my knitting heroes. Shortly after joining Ravelry, I stumbled upon some of her project pictures, and they are jaw-dropping! Her blog is very educational ... anything a knitter might want to know is here: from her no-hassle sock pattern, to a one-piece sideways cardigan to tiger-washing instructions. Oh, and what to do if lost aliens land in your backyard.

Taking Fleegle's blog as a starting point I began to explore lace-knitting websites, so far via pictures only, and soon came across BadCatDesigns. At that time her Summer Sampler Stole study was just starting, and on a whim I decided to participate. This KAL has taught me that lifelines are my friend! I'm a control freak and hate having to do something over, so after every pattern repeat in goes a lifeline. BadCat just finished her stole - it will take me a few more weeks to finish the edging (only 143 10-row repeats to go!). Current status of my stole:

For a while before that I was drooling over
Galina Khmeleva's book Gossamer Webs - Orenburg Lace Shawls, so the Summer Sampler Stole KAL was a good test of whether I could actually DO something similar. Once it is finished I plan to knit several small samples according to Galina's instructions in her book, then take her classes at the Lacis Museum Urban Retreat next February, and then to design my own. I already have a few patterns in mind, but still need to figure out the border/edging.

Nominees #3 and 4 are: KnitYoga and Melusine (check out her adorable cat in her post from Sep 2!).

There are many other blogs I like ... sigh. If it weren't for the fact that I need to earn some money for cat food, I would be on the computer, or knitting, or gardening (that's actually a euphemism - it's more a matter of trying to keep down the weeds) and obliging my cats ("Open the door! ... No, wait. ... OK, open the door now ... ummm, I forgot something ... now, open the door! ... Eh, no, I changed my mind ... wait! what is he doing out there? ... LET ME OUT! I MUST KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON OUT THERE!!")

Thank you again, Halfmaennchen, for the award. You've given me quite a few ideas. You are very talented!

Till next time.