Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Our Road Trip Out West: Day One and Two: Getting There

Hello!  Today begins the very first weekly post of our fall vacation out west.  But before I start, let me just say that I know that I have a variety of readers that follow my blog.  Some readers are only interested in my paper crafting or other creative arts, and some are only interested in reading my fashion posts, and that's fine.  I realize that everyone has different interests, so I understand if not everyone cares to hear about my vacations.  I do travel posts for several reasons:  Number One, it is an on-line personal diary for me and my nuclear family to keep pictures and stories of our adventures, and also so my extended family and friends can see what we've been up to.  And secondly, I subscribe to several travel blogs myself, and I love to read and see where other people travel and what they do on their travels, so I hope that by sharing my experiences, I'll only encourage others to go out and explore this big, beautiful world too!  So I promise I will keep my blog focused on creative arts and fashion, but once a week I will do a travel post, and if your not interested, just scroll on down and read something else that may appeal to you.  I completely understand.

Now onto Day One and Two of our Fall Vacation 2014.  It all started about a year ago when I received a phone call from my very excited, happy daughter that started with "So, do you want to go to New Mexico?" I replied "Sure!" without even asking why because I'm always interested in visiting a new place….  who needs a reason?  Ashley then proceeded to tell me that she landed an understudy role for an opera in Albuquerque and that she would need to be in the city for over a month.  At first I planned to jump on a plane and visit her myself.  But my loving, protective husband wasn't happy about me flying across the country by myself (even though his daughter does it all the time) and said,  "You know, New Mexico is actually about 100 miles closer than New Hampshire (where we drove to two years earlier)  would you want me to go with you and we'll drive there?"  and from there we started planning our trip.

With the help of Map Quest we discovered that our drive would take about 19 hours and 25 minutes and even though we've driven non-stop to Florida before, we decided to take it easy and enjoy the ride and break the trip up into two days.  We would drive through five states to get there:  Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma.  We got up before dawn and left at 5:30 a.m.  The worst part of our drive was in our own backyard, for it was very dark and foggy until the sun came up and we couldn't see a thing.  If we weren't very familiar with the roads in our area already, I don't think we would have made it out of Minnesota.  We witnessed one accident already because of the fog, and I was beginning to think, maybe this road trip wasn't such a great idea.  But eventually the sun came up and the fog cleared, and the rest of our travels were uneventful.

Until we got to Missouri.  Missouri is such an interesting state.  There are aspects about it that I like:  such as the beautiful city of St. Louis, but then, there are other things, like, weird people that talk funny.  We stopped in Cameron, Missouri to have lunch at a diner called Nelles.  Now the outside of this diner looked horrendous, it looked like the place was falling apart and about to fall in on itself:  but having an adventurous spirit, I decided to step inside and check it out.  I was very pleasantly surprised when I walked in.  It was actually a cute little diner filled with people (that's always a sign that a restaurant is good when it's filled with customers) and it was decorated in a cute vintage style with a black and white checkerboard floor and red Coke a Cola accents.  I then proceeded to check out the salad bar, but had to walk past a room filled with locals who stared at me as if I was an alien from outer space.  I could almost hear their thoughts as I walked past them "She's a Northerner!  She ain't from around here.".  Although the salad bar did not look appealing for it did not have much to offer, I decided to stay and order from the menu for I felt my culinary hero Anthony Bourdain would find this a worthy establishment to eat at for he always avoids snooty restaurants and looks for the tucked away diners that all the locals visit.

My husband, who was filling the car with gas while I was checking the place out, came in by now and said 'Heh!  This place isn't that bad!',  so we found a booth and sat down.  Nelles has a very traditional southern, home-cooking menu so we decided to both order the roast beef platter (my father's favorite meal).  My husband loved it and said it was absolutely perfect and was just what would be expected for this meal.  I ate it, THE WHOLE THING, but I must admit I wasn't as crazy about it as my husband.  I don't eat foods like this on a normal basis, so I don't know if I wasn't use to it, or what.  It seemed to lack some seasoning, and I wasn't sure about all the thick, brown gravy.  I would have preferred more of an au jus beef broth, and more flavor.  The potatoes were delicious however, and the meat was very tender.  We did have a few chuckles over the other diners in the cafe:  we heard a man loudly belch not once, but twice, and we burst out laughing and said 'yep, were in Missouri now!'.  And then we had the displeasure of listening to a man talk too loud and rudely to someone in his  out-dated flip cell phone (but heh, at least they still had cell phone service here!).  But our waitress (who looked like the character 'Flo' from the old 'Alice' television show) and hostess were very friendly so they compensated for the strange diners in our company.
 After lunch we got back in our car for the second half of our journey.  Every time we left one state and entered another, we got out and took pictures by the state sign.  It was our first time ever in five different states.  Now if your wondering what I wear when traveling, I always dress in layers and comfortable clothes.  On my first day I wore printed silk drawstring pants that I previously showed you in THIS POST, with four layers on my top:  a tank, a white sweater, a black puffer vest, and a scarf.  By the time this picture was taken, it was warm enough already so that I only had two layers on:  the tank and sweater.  My white sweater was part of my latest Stitch Fix which I haven't posted on yet, but it's coming soon!
 We spent our first night in Salina, Kansas arriving there around 4:30 p.m. which gave us plenty of time to rest up after a long drive.  Because we were both still full from our lunch, we decided to split a dinner at a burger chain called 'Freddys'.    I had never heard of this chain before.  They specialize in steak burgers and they cut their fries very thin.  It was quite delicious actually, and I hope to go be able to eat at another one someday.
 Like Nelles, Freddy's is decorated in a very vintage style with the same black and white check board floor, and old fashioned red dining tables and chairs.
 My husband and I had not seen each other for five full days before our vacation because I was working a lot of night shifts.  So we really enjoyed just spending time together alone in the car just talking.  We never turned the radio on once during our entire road trip there and back, and we seemed to get to Salina in no time.

The next morning, we didn't get up quite so early for we didn't want to drive in the dark in an area we were unfamiliar with.  But we still got to our first stop so early that the attractions weren't even open yet, so we just walked around and stretched our legs and took pictures of the historic buildings and statues of Dodge City.  Dodge City is named after nearby Fort Dodge and is famous for it's history of a wild frontier town of the Old West.
 There were lots of gift shops in older brick buildings with rustic wooden poles and overhangs that resembled what one might have found in an old frontier town years ago.
 The town is famous for it's heroic sheriff Wyatt Earp.  Here I am standing in one of the statues dedicated to his memory.  And what I chose to wear on day two of our travels was another pair of silk drawstring pants (this time in a solid black), a snakeskin tank top from Express, a white cardigan, a solid black scarf and black flats.
 Throughout the town are various statues and plaques where you can read more about the history of the  area.  This statue of a long horn steer told a story about how this animal was driven from Texas into Kansas by various cattle trails.
 Across from Boot Hill and the Visitor Center is an old steam engine that you can actually walk into.
 There is an museum right across the street from the train and visitor center that tells you all the history of this interesting little town.
 Next to the museum is a courtyard of various buildings, a stage coach, and a church which represent what the old town looked like back in the days of the Old West.

 After we finished stretching our legs by walking around Dodge City we got back into the car and drove through the rest of the state of Kansas.  It was quite the interesting state.  I have never, ever seen such absolute barrenness, and isolation before.  There is nothing but acres, and acres, and acres, of flat empty land as far as the eye could see.  I'm from Northern Wisconsin which is filled with hills and trees, so this was quite different for me.  We would drive for hours before we would even see another car, or any sign of life such as a cattle rancher.  We saw a few oil wells, which surprised us.  We didn't know they drilled for oil in Kansas.  And every now and then we passed a cattle ranch which was filled with more  cows in one place than I have seen before, and they stunk to high heaven too!

Even though a lot of people might have found this part of our journey boring, I found it strangely beautiful.  Because there is nothing to block your view, the sky was so beautiful.  And the color of the grass, or whatever it was, was so different than anything I've ever seen before.  I really enjoyed the serenity and mystery of this foreign land.  The only regret I have is that we did not realize that there would not be any place to stop and eat before we hit New Mexico and I thought I would go crazy if we didn't find any food soon.  We kept seeing these signs that said 'Table, One Mile Ahead', and then shortly thereafter would be a table, sitting on the side of the road, with a little overhang and a garbage can.  We couldn't figure out for the life of us why they had all these tables alongside the road.  But eventually we put two and two together and realized that this was the Kansas version of a Rest Stop.  No bathroom, no vending machines, just a table.  In other words, bring your own lunch if you drive this highway!

We eventually made it out of Kansas and squealed with delight when we saw our first 'Welcome to Oklahoma' sign.  Of course we stopped and took a picture.  We drove through the pan handle of this state, and it was not pretty.  The roads were not as nice as the Kansas roads were, and there seemed to be a lot of poverty.  Another thing I'm not use to coming from a wealthier northern state.  It was quite eye-opening for us to see how a lot of other Americans live.
 Thank goodness our drive through the pan handle was short and we were soon in the state of our ultimate destination:  NEW MEXICO!  Now we knew we were close, and we had made it.  By now, it was quite warm and I stripped off all my layers from the chilly morning and was down to my tank top and pants.  We wondered also, why were there bullet holes in this welcome sign?  Not good for a welcome sign.
 The closer we got to Santa Fe the more beautiful the landscape became.  When we saw the fields change from a golden brown to a lush green and our first mountain in the distance, we were so excited. Do you see it?  It's in the far distance, center left.
 The sky really began to darken and we began to grow a little nervous for the sky just seemed so close to the earth than what were use to.  We even saw some scary lightning in the distance and were worried we'd be driving right into it with no where to take shelter.  But God seemed to calm our fears and sent us this beautiful view as if to say 'Continue my children, you will be safe'.
 Our single mountain which was such a welcoming site after hours and hours of barrenness eventually turned into this beautiful mountain horizon.
 The closer and closer we got to Santa Fe, the more beautiful it became.  I've seen mountains before on the east coast, but I had never seen western mountains before.  They look so completely different and their beauty is unparalleled to any other.
 After hours and hours of not seeing life, we eventually reached civilization:  the town of Santa Fe.  I booked a hotel right in historic downtown Santa Fe and was completely awestruck when I saw our room.  It was so warm and inviting and ever so romantic.  We had this beautiful fireplace called a Kiva right next to our bed.

 I loved the warm colors in the room, the romantic lighting, and how the bathing area was separated from the sleeping area with the wall, a curtain that could be pulled close, and an interesting cornice.
 Although we always stay in nice hotels, they are usually economy hotels like Holiday Inn Express or the Hyatt.  This was the first hotel I ever stayed in where I was provided a white robe!
 The inn keepers left us a nice welcoming note personally addressed to us and a small box of chocolates made from a local candy maker.
 This is the view of the room if you were standing in the bathroom doorway.  It was quite a small room, but who needs a lot of space when your there for a romantic getaway?
Well, obviously the rest of my story is too private to share, but I will continue on with our day in Santa Fe, New Mexico next week!

Have a great day!  Amy

1 comment:

  1. I always enjoy reading your vacation posts, as it's always nice to read about places I haven't been to. The stormy sky does look very scary, glad you arrived safely. I wonder if I will ever get a chance to take a trip that way, but your posts always give me ideas.


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