28 September 2008

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.

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