Monthly Archive for September, 2004

New Mexico : Day 7

Thursday, Sept 9th. We woke up in the Guadalupe Mountains, again. An awesome sight, everytime. We had decided the previous night that we would hike one of the crazy trails around the montains and surrounding area.

Naturally, we picked El Capitan trail. 11 miles of hiking goodness. We had read that the total time was anywhere from 6 to 8 hours for the whole hike. We left around 8:30, and had a fantastic time.

This is where thing went a little awry. We had been in the bush for a few days now, unshowered. We were tired, cramped, sore and hungry. Ok, we weren’t hungry in the traditional sense, like “starving” We were just used to a little more food than we had been consuming over the past few days. Also, a steady daily diet of PBJ or tuna sandwiches is enough to make anyone grumpy.

Up until this point, meg had made plans for everything. She was the perfect vacation planner. She made whatever necessary plans far in advance, and the flow of the trip thusfar had been very fluid, and even.

During the planning stages of this trip, she often solicited feedback from me. More often than not, my answer was anvariably something like this: Meg, i love you. You’re doing a gret job of planning this trip, and i know you like to have a script for everything, but why don’t we wing it a little? why not leave the last 2 days just totally unplanned, and we’ll have an adventure of figuring out what we can do or where we can sleep.”

Reluctantly, she agreed.

Hindsight, as they say, is always 20/20. If i had the opportunity to go back and do it again, I wouldn’t change anything. BUT, in the future, I will not make the mistake of “leaving things unplaned” on any vacation from now until the day I die. Given our states of mind, it was easy for us to get a little crabby with one another. And we did.

After our walk, we drove to Roswell, to take in some alien related sights. We hit town around 4:45, and everything closes at 5. We did the speed tour of the UFO museum, and ate at a tex-mex chain called Pepper’s. The food was welcome relief from our PBJ overdose.

From Roswell, we continued north, only to find that the Smokey Bear National Park (or whatever the hell it was called) WAS NOT A CAMPGROUND. This kinda sucked, as it was getting dark fast, and we had no concept of where we could sleep.

We drove for a long time. We finally ended up in Oliver Lee Camground. It was 9 something at night, getting colder by the minute, and darker. We quickly set up our tent, played cards by flashlight until the self-inflating mats were full, and got some much needed sleep.

New Mexico : Day 6

Wednesday, September 8th. We woke up at our campsite, and marveled yet again at the breathtaking beauty of the Gaudalupe Mountains.

This is the day we went to Carlsbad Caverns. It was a relatively short drive away from teh campsite, and we arrived around 10. We walked through the natural entrance to the cave, and followed a long, winding paved footpath into the depths of the earth. All told, we were about 750 feet below the surface of New Mexico desert.

Meg had the foresight to book a special guided tour through the lower cave. We were required to bring batteries, and cotton gloves. We had to sign waivers to get in, and on them we had to write whom our Emergency Contact would be… in case of an emergency.

The batteries were for our hard-hats, which were equipped with LED/Halogen headlamps. To get into the cave, we had to use a knotted rope to shimmy down a very steep and slippery incline, to a small ledge. From there, we had to climb down three slippery metal ladders, of increasing length, until we reached the floor of the lower cave.

Unlike the self-guided tour (wheelchair-accessible paved walkway.. puh-lease.), this section of the cave required a little more dexterity and balance, and featured many cool things that regular visitors did not have access to. Examples: A bat that had landed at the base of a stalamite, died, and has since been encased in calcite as the stalagmite continued to form. Other highlights include a small bat skull, and myriad other crazy speleothems.

New Mexico : Day 5

Tuesday the 7th: this now brings us officially to a working stiff weekday. The trip thus far has been amazing, over the top awesome. We woke up at the B&B, had an amazing breakfast courtesy of Marlene and Abi. It was the first time I had ever had parfait, and it was delightful. Who knew that yogurt mixed with granola and fuit could be so tasty?

We chilled for a while, trying to soak up the amazing atmosphere and amenities (like: a bed, a shower, chairs, walls, doors, etc.) We packed our junk and hit the road, yet again.

We made our way to La Viña Winery, for a tour and tasting. At 11 o’clock in the morning. We arrived *just* as the doors were opening, and were greeted by on of the owners. No one else was around for a tour, so we kinda got our own little private tour. We saw all kinds of gear, grapes, must, fruit flies, juice, and wine. God, was there ever wine. A whole room full to the ceiling with casks of French Oak casks, aging their way to perfection.

After the tour, we enjoyed our tasting, and abscoded with 2 wine glasses, a bottle of Cote De Bravo, and a bottle of
Chardonnay.

Next stop: Camping. On the way, we stopped at WalMart and restocked our cooler with food, ice and beverages. And cheese. I love cheese. We also stopped in the parking lot of a laundromat and ate our lunch in the truck. Very classy.

Our campsite rested at the foot of the Guadalupe Mountains in northern Texas. There were several trails snaking their way around the surrounding countryside, but one interested me in particular: the El Capitan Trail. Of course, in my haste and boyish fascination, I mistakenly assumed that this was the El Capitan. You know, the one Ansel Adams photographed? Apparently, there’s one in Yosemite, too. Damnit. Thankfully, I didn’t learn the truth until I had been *back* from NM for a few days.

After we got everything set up, we settled into a fierce competition of Rummy 500, and sleeping under the stars.

New Mexico : Day 4

Monday September 6th. Today we tackle a wine festival. The venue was simply stated as the Southwest New Mexico Fairgrounds.

We drove 2 hours south on I-25, to the middle of nowhere. Actually, it was the large patch of nothingness right next to the middle of nowhere. And sure enough, there, in the vast expanse of nothingness lay a large patch of grass. An oasis in the desolation of the new mexico desert! And on that patch of grass were tents. And a band playing music. And Wine! Boy was there wine.

For the $10 admission fee, you got a wine glass. With the glass, you could go to the myriad tents and sample your choice of wines. There was also a ton of food, and funnel cake for Meg.

One thing that was kind of striking about this whole situation, was that there were few (if any) really white trashy people. While at the Chile Festival on saturday, they dominated the crowd. Here, however, everyone was normal. I guess it comes with the subject matter. Something else that struck me, was the amount of publicity: the Chile Festival was all over the radio, in brochures, etc. We saw like, one tiny mention of this wine festival on some internet site somewhere. It turned out so much better, though! Go figure.

After the tasting, we decided to pack up and move along to the bed and breakfast in Santa Theresa. Casa De Sueños provided a lot of space, private entrance, our own patio with a phenominal view, and all of the usual comforts associated with a B&B. After camping for two nights, showering was very, very, very welcome.

After relaxing and getting cleaned up a bit, we talked with our host regarding suitable places to eat dinner. Her suggestion was The Great American Land & Cattle Co. Despite getting a little lost on the way there, we had very huge steaks, beer, potatoes, mushrooms, beans and bread. It was awesome. We even saw a roadrunner in the landscaping outside the window, while we were eating. They also had a full cow hide on the wall. It was weird, but somehow appropriate.

After glutting ourselves, we made our way back to the B&B to slip into deep food comas.

New Mexico : Day 3

Sunday morning! We woke up and started driving. again. This time, destination: Gila National Forest Scorpion Camground.

A short drive from scorpion, there’s a trail-head leading to publicly available hot springs. We walked about a half mile through pretty much invisible trail to the hot springs. We had to cross a river, twice. The directions were seriously as ghetto as: “walk 1000 feet down the trail, turn left at the stump, make the gradual climb until you see the large oak…”, etc. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a very gay guy, wearing a very tight speedo.

The water coming out of the ground was too hot to even touch. The park service had set up a small channel that routed some cold-ish water from the river to a circle of rocks that retained some of the boiling hot water coming out of the ground. All in all, it was very cool. The ring of rocks made a nice little sitting area, allowing those reclining to dip their tootsies in very comfortable warm water.

After the hot springs, we drove a short distance to some apache cliff dwellings. The setup was really nice, but not as awesome as the Anasazi cliff dwellings we saw at Mesa Verde in Colorado two years ago.

After our adventures, we returned to our camp site (it’s dry! yay!) and had a delightful dinner of turkey sandwiches and wine.

New Mexico : Day 2

we woke up Saturday the 4th kinda early-ish, and started the crazy chain of events leading up to the top of a mountain in Gila National Forest for camping that evening. We sped over to the local Smith’s grocery store, and bought $99 worth of groceries. Included in that price were two bottles of $5.99 yellow tail wine; an awesome find considering the PA price of $9.99.

we bought plastic bags, trash bags, fruit roll-ups, pop-tarts, 2 kinds of granola bars, 6 apples, 6 oranges, 6 small pop-top cans of tuna, a loaf of bread, a bag of ice, a squeeze bottle of mayo, a box of assorted plastic utensils, a big bar of Hershey’s chocolate, 1/4 lb. of turkey, 1/4 lb. of white american cheese, a jar of peanut butter, a jar of jelly, a box of 10 capri (pronounced “cap-rie“) sun pouches, a box of wheat-thins, and uhm… well, we got a lot of stuff.

we stuffed our cooler with ice and things that needed to be cold, and meg started driving. down, down, down we drove to Hatch, NM, “Chile Capital of the World.” We had heard great things about the annual Chile Festival while planning the trip, and there were even great radio commercials while we drove.

I’m sure it was the rain, or the dust blowing into our faces and mouths, or the screaming kids, or the white trashy people… but we weren’t feeling it. so we stayed and had some Chiles Rellenos, and drank a beer, then set off for the camp site in Gila National Forest: The Land of Many Uses.

In a nutshell, we drove straight up a mountian. No, scrath that; we drove winding roads up a mountain. And boy did they wind. back and forth, back and forth, left, right, left, right. for like, 10 miles. We got so high, we even drove through a cloud. Seriously. We set up our tent in the rain (thanks, meg, for bringing rain gear… love you!) and slept.

New Mexico : Day 1

So we flew into Albuquerque the evening of friday the 3rd. the flights were uneventful. we were tired from travelling for the past 7 hours or so, and just wanted to get our rental and get to the hotel. enterprise informed us that they hadn’t received their shipment yet, and they had to give us something other than the economy sedan we had reserved.

i was a little skepitcal, since we had ass-loads of bags with us (containing camping gear, clothes, electronics and photo equipment, etc.) and figured there just wouldn’t be enough space. turns out, we got a brand new four-door 2005 chevy silverado, with four doors. did i mention it had four doors? it pretty much ruled. needless to say, my fears dissolved into elation: we could DRIVE OVER SHIT! and for the same price!

so we got our rig and went to the hotel. we did our best to enjoy the sleeping in a bed, since we’d be camping for the next two nights.

it’s all so pricey

so, as you can see from my to-do list below, i\’m looking for some parts for my laptop, affectionately named crichton.

he needs a battery or two, a new harddrive, a wireless G card so i can walk around the apartment with him, and he optionally needs a replacement CPU.

i think an upgrade from 500 MHz G3 to a 900MHz G3 would be a handsome step up; sadly the price is a tad prohibitive. i don\’t really need it. and considering crichton was originally a 400 MHz G3, the extra 100 has served well. so basically, i\’m looking at a total of 300 bucks for the G card, 2 batteries and a 40GB hard drive. i\’m so poor.

dinner of champions

tonight for dinner:  2 peanut butter sandwiches, a peanut butter granola bar, and 3 glasses of yellow tail cabernet sauvingon. am i classy or what?

to-do list, 9/2/2004

this is stuff i should probably get done before i go to new mexico tomorrow. 9 days away from home! just me and meg! ok go:

* finish the dishes
* ask lauren to water my plants
* get rechargeable AA batteries ($45 for charger and 8 AA\’s)
* call poppop c.
* pack clothes
* find old nasty gym bag for sleping bag
* price out 802.11g PC card for crichton ($55)
* price two batteries for crichton (about $120 for 2)
* price new hard drive for crichton (40GB? 60GB?)