Our Good Fortune Continued

It was mid August when Al and I were in dire need of a little down time.  With obligations behind us, we were able to meander as our hearts desired.  Just the way we like to roll.

Elks LodgeAfter a four hour drive, we pulled into the Elks Lodge parking lot in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  We found a nice grassy spot to set up camp for three nights.  It’s easy to fall in love with Santa Fe, New Mexico.

It is such an eclectic mix of new and old offering a little something for everyone, not to mention a great farmer’s market.  Ah, yes… worthy of its own post!

And although we loved our boondocking spot at the Elk’s Lodge, the real camping gem we discovered was forty miles down the road.  At Cochiti Lake Campground we snagged a lovely pull-thru site with electric and water.

Loved the Cochiti Lake Campground

Loved the Cochiti Lake Campground – photo taken just before sites filled up and rain started

Each afternoon, a summer storm would roll through gracing me with an artistic show that only mother nature could create.  During these storms, I would try to leave the RV door open or at least a window. Cochit Lake Campground

The smell of fresh rain in this arid high desert landscape was intoxicating and the vegetation and bunnies seemed to relish in the moisture.  And once the storms passed, a rainbow would remind me to smile.  Each afternoon as I sat in the comfort of the RV watching the show unfold, I was flooded with a mix of emotions; comfort, relaxed, awed, alive, lucky, life is good …..  and this is why we RV.

Cochiti Lake Campground

Cochiti Lake Campground

The ten days we spent here were just what we needed to relax and rejuvenate.  Although the majority of the time was spent around camp, I did manage to venture into Santa Fe  a few times and hiked at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument at every opportunity.

Hiking at Kasha-Katuwe NM had me feeling relaxed and renewed

Hiking at Kasha-Katuwe NM left me feeling relaxed and renewed …. aaahhh!  There’s something very special and spiritual about this place or maybe it was my timing.

We also managed to take in a quick visit to Bandelier National Monument. We must return - fascinating!

We also managed to take in a quick visit to Bandelier National Monument.  Fascinating place that we must return to! Unfortunately, weather forced us off the trail.

This area in New Mexico is definitely a place I look forward to returning to and as much as I was reluctant to leave, hitch itch set in and it was time to put the RV wheels in motion.

Our next stop was in Arizona at the Petrified Forest National Park.  On the far south side of the National Park, just outside the park entrance, are a couple of gift shops.  They allow free overnight camping.  We stayed here last year for a quick overnight when we helped our daughter move from Denver to Phoenix.

Our free campsite near the Petrified Forest National Park

Our free campsite near the Petrified Forest National Park – Crystal Forest Gift Shop

During this visit, I was able to linger and explore the park …. well kind of.

Retracing the historic route 66 - those are the original telephone poles. A quick photo before the bad storm rolls in.

Retracing historic Route 66 – original telephone poles still stand. Quick photo before the bad storm hits.

The weather wasn’t necessarily all that agreeable and after I took a fair share of commemorative photos, the lightening and down pouring rain had me hightailing it back to the RV.

In between weather fronts, Al and I decided to hit the road bound for Williams, Arizona.  Fortunately, the winds were short lived and the three hour drive was pretty uneventful.

While we were trying to back in to a site at Lake Kaibab National Forest, the camp host rolled up in his golf cart letting us know he just received a cancellation for a nice pull-thru site ….. sweet!  My how those travel Gods continued to smile upon us.

Our peaceful campsite at Lake Kaibab National Forest Campground

Our peaceful campsite at Lake Kaibab National Forest Campground

my front yard - aaahhh, relaxing!

my front yard – aaahhh, relaxing!

Williams, Arizona, is known as the gateway to the Grand Canyon, but the town has also done an amazing job of rebranding itself and playing up its Route 66 history.  This is a fun little town worth spending an afternoon exploring.  It’s also a great place to grab a bite to eat or a hotel room for a visit to the Grand Canyon since the national park is only an hour drive up the road.

Williams, Arizona - historic Route 66 is the theme around here - fun!

Williams, Arizona – historic Route 66 is the theme around here – fun!

I had every intention of driving up to the Grand Canyon for a day of photography, but I managed to come down with a head cold and with the cool temps that are common in this part of Arizona at the end of August, I longed for some heat.

So down in elevation we went …. to the town of Cottonwood.  Just east of town is a popular boondocking spot (free camping, no services).  It’s amazing how drastic the change in weather can be a mere hour apart.  In Flagstaff the weather temps barely hit 70 degrees Fahrenheit while in Cottonwood temperatures were well into the 90’s.  The heat felt wonderful, although when it reached 104 inside the RV, even sick lil’ol me thought it was a tad too hot.  However, between the RV sauna, chicken noodle soup, and a spicy Mexican meal at Javalina’s in Sedona, I started feeling better in short order.

Boondocking near Cottonwood, AZ. Sedona off in the distance.

Boondocking near Cottonwood, AZ. Sedona off in the distance.

Three days of boondocking in the desert heat had us moving on down to Prescott Valley in search of electric and air conditioning.  We booked a month long stay at the Fairgrounds RV Park.

Fairgrounds RV Park, Prescott Valley, AZ. It was an ok place to park for the month of September.

Fairgrounds RV Park, Prescott Valley, AZ. It was an ok place to park for the month of September.

On October 1st we returned to Phoenix, Arizona, our starting point back in April. We’ve been comfortably parked on the north side of the valley and visiting  with friends and family regularly.

So now you’re all caught up on our summer journey.  I’ll eventually write some posts and share a bunch more photos on the highlights of our summer stops.  We truly had a fantastic six month adventure filled with lots of firsts and a few repeats

Al and me with our daughter and son. We're able to spend the holidays together this year - happy dance!

Al, our daughter, our son and me. We’re able to spend the holidays together this year – happy dance!

For now, I’m off to finish up my Christmas shopping…..

Should I get this pressure cooker or would this  drone be more fun? I like the idea of both, don’t you 😉 I ordered this T-shirt for my daughter!and several gift cards as stocking stuffers.  Yep, I’m getting close to the end of my shopping and starting to wrap’m up.  I’m a shopper and love this time of year 🙂  This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure can be found here.

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Art and Soul of Santa Fe

Canyon Road…. the “art and soul of Santa Fe“.   This iconic road was a dirt trail for almost 250 years.  Today it is home to more than 100 of the world’s finest art galleries.  As Al and I stroll this mile-long road, we take in the historic architecture.

Santa Fe

A Gallery on Canyon Road

Canyon Road is narrow and quickly turns into a “one way only”.  Each building is different and home to a unique artist.  Some galleries display art in the front yards.  It’s a cold, February day and there’s almost no traffic.  Al and I feel as if we’re walking in a residential neighborhood, but the “open” signs and business names displayed say otherwise.

Santa Fe

A Gallery on Canyon Road, Santa Fe

Santa Fe

A Gallery and art studio on Canyon Road

The narrow road, the old buildings, the history, and a strong Spanish influence conjures up memories of New Orleans; so alike, yet so different.  However, Santa Fe also has the artistic, metaphysical aspects of Sedona.  Yes, Santa Fe is a little New Orleans and a little Sedona with a flair all its own.

Santa Fe

‘Art’ displayed – Canyon Road, Santa Fe

Santa Fe

Canyon Road – Gallery

Santa Fe, New Mexico, is well-known for delicious restaurants with world-renowned chefs.  Al read an article about the Compound Restaurant and wants to give it a try.  I have a taste for some spicy  “New Mexican” food, but there’s always tomorrow.  The Compound Restaurant is located in what once was a “house” as are the majority of businesses on Canyon Road.  The southwest interior is cozy and warm….very welcome on this cold winter day.  The menu is definitely gourmet.  Al orders a chicken snitzel topped with a light lemon sauce and capers.  Me?  Well, remember when I said I had a taste for some traditional Santa Fe cuisine?  I just couldn’t find anything on the menu that piqued my appetite and therefore I order a burger with some yummy guacamole on the side.  Delicious it was.

But…….the best was the butter.  Nope, I’m not usually a fan of butter.  No Paula Deen here.  Al on the other hand…..he likes a little bread with his butter.  He and Paula would get along great.  I would normally pass on the bread and butter before a meal, but I’m hungry.  After all, we’ve walked around Santa Fe for the past three hours in temps barely reaching 40 degrees.

Santa Fe

The most wonderful butter in the world, Compound Restaurant, Santa Fe

I go in for a small sample of bread with whipped butter……OMG……I have to contain myself from acting like Meg Ryan during her cafe moment in the movie When Harry met Sally.  Al dives in……again, OMG….  “No hon, please don’t moan”.  Al and I devour the bread and butter in a rather pornographic way, refraining from making sounds of ecstasy and licking our fingers in public.  The waiter asks if we would like more.  In unison and rather abruptly we respond, “NO, but thank you”.  We agree, we could’ve made a meal on the bread and butter alone.

Feeling rather satisfied :-), Al and I are ready to explore more sites.  When we step outside, we are greeted by a nasty cold wind.  That iffy weather, is no longer iffy.  The weather has arrived in a full frontal assault.  Its time for Plan B; we stay in the truck and drive around making notes for another day.Santa Fe

We return to the RV around three in the afternoon and discuss activities for the next day.  Mother Nature has not been very amenable these past few weeks in regards to our excursions.  We come up with a Plan A and a Plan B and decide to make a final decision in the morning.

Morning arrives and Plan B it is.  With trepidation, we pack up and roll out-of-town about 9:30 in the morning.  No Santa Fe vittles for me today.  Those blustery winds that blew through Santa Fe, brought snow and ice further to the north and over Raton Pass.  The weather forecast for the next five days shows a series of storms with high winds passing through.  We have a small window of opportunity to embark on the four-hour drive home.

By the time we hit Raton Pass, the sun has melted any remnants of snow and ice on the road.  We’ve learned from experience to drive passes during the middle of the day, when the sun has had a chance to warm the road.  We picked a great day to head home.  Perfect weather and little traffic.  BUT, sure wish we were still out there gallivanting around the country…..in time my dear, in time!

A Melding of Cultures

Santa FeAl and I manage to tear ourselves away from the Loretto Chapel to explore more of this historic town known as Santa Fe.  Santa Fe, New Mexico, is known as the highest and oldest capital city in the United States.  It offers 360-degree mountain views, over 300 days of sunshine a year, and some of the cleanest air in the country.

This 400 year old city is full of history and culture and offers something for just about everyone…. from a history buff, to an art lover, cultural explorer, outdoor adventurer, and even shopper.Santa Fe

The city’s architecture was of particular interest to me.   You won’t find any modern high rises in this town.  The Paleo-Indians were the original settlers of the area and the architects of adobe structures and the pueblo style that defines Santa Fe’s distinctive look.  Santa Fe continues to build homes that blend with the lay of the land in both color and style.

Santa Fe

The homes built in this subdivision blend in with the landscape – unobtrusive

San Miguel Mission

San Miguel Mission

Spanish explorers in search of gold made their way to the area in the early 1600’s.  A strong presence of Catholicism can be felt throughout the city.  Old San Miguel Mission is regarded as the oldest church in the United States, built between 1610 and 1626.  Al and I walk up to the altar.  The altar has a wooden floor and wooden steps leading up to it.  On the floor of the altar is a series of “windows”.  As we glance down, we view the original stone steps from the 1600’s.  Wow….if walls floors could talk!

Right next door to the San Miguel Mission is “The Oldest House in the USA” dating back to 1200 AD.  It is said to be built on part of a foundation of an ancient Indian Pueblo.  In the 1500’s the Spanish moved in and added rooms.  When the Anglos arrived, more changes were made.  Up until the 1920’s the Oldest House was continually occupied by people representing all the cultures of Santa Fe.  Local folklore abounds with stories of murderous witches and ghosts….I personally, felt no presence of these shadowy inhabitants.

As Al and I continue our stroll around Santa Fe, we come upon the Capitol Building.  No gold domed building here.  In keeping with the Pueblo / Santa Fe style, there is a sleek contemporary yet earthy feel to this building.  We explore the interior and watch a live session of the New Mexico State Senate in action.

That made us hungry……Santa Fe is well-known for its cuisine; a unique blend of three cultures – Native American, Spanish, and Anglo.  Al read about a restaurant located on Canyon Road and since I wanted to walk the “art and soul of Santa Fe“….we’re off in search of some fine cuisine.  Canyon Road is home to more than 100 of the world’s finest art galleries housed in buildings well over a century old.  Once again, I find myself intrigued with the architecture.

I’ll share more of Canyon Road and our lunch in my next post.  Just thinking about it has made me hungry!

FYI….in any of the photo galleries, if you click on a photo, it’ll pop up in larger format!

Historic Santa Fe

As we leave Elephant Butte Lake State Park, there is little evidence of the driving wind and snow from the day before.  We wait until 9:30 a.m. before hitting the road.  We want to make sure any snow and ice further to the north has had an opportunity to melt.  Near as we can tell, Elephant Butte received a fraction of snow fall in comparison to Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Seems like we were at the southern end of this massive storm reaching north into Colorado and Wyoming.

Elephant Butte

A last farewell on our drive out of Elephant Butte State Park

After two hours of travel, we pass through Albuquerque, New Mexico, and past the Sandia Casino.  With as many times as we travel between our home in Colorado and our son’s home in Arizona, the Sandia Casino is usually a favorite overnight boondock spot for us.  During this trip, we’ll just wave as we pass.  The Sandia Casino has a huge parking lot dedicated for RV’s….no trucks.  The casino offers a couple of good restaurants, nice bar, RV parking next to the golf course, and a beautiful view of Sandia Peak.  Feeling lazy?  There’s even a shuttle bus roaming the parking lot.

Sandia Casino

Sandia Casino, Albuquerque, New Mexico – great for an overnight

Santa Fe

On Interstate 25 approaching Santa Fe

We continue our drive north of Albuquerque.  After an hour, we arrive in Santa Fe.  We pull into the Santa Fe Skies RV Park and are assigned a nice pull-thru site.  There’s barely a hand full of us camped here, and I appreciate management spreading us out so none of us are in the same row – no neighbors.  The park is very conveniently located; just one mile off Interstate 25 and close to just about everything.  Even though they offer FULL hook-ups year round, we just hook up to electric.  We have plenty of water in our holding tank that we’ll use.  I’ll have to do another post on our winter camping routine.

Santa Fe

Santa Fe Skies RV Park

After a quick-lunch, Al and I head back over to the office to scour the racks of literature and brochures on the Santa Fe area.  With an arm full of propaganda we return to the rig and make a plan for the following day.  The weather forecast is iffy….oh, joy!  So I want to make sure we prioritize.Loretto Chapel

If there is only one thing I am able to see during this stay in Santa Fe, it is the Loretto Chapel.  I’ve seen this Chapel featured on numerous TV shows over the years.  I believe it’s the former “homebuilder” in me that puts this particular Chapel at the top of my list.

Loretto Chapel

Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe, New Mexico

The Loretto Chapel is formerly a Roman Catholic church, but today functions as a museum and wedding chapel.  The chapel’s “miraculous” spiral staircase is an architectural wonder; its construction is the subject of a lot of speculation.  Two mysteries surround the spiral staircase in the Loretto Chapel; the identity of its builder and the physics of its construction.

Al and I were both moved by this visit.  The craftsmanship and spirit are beyond words.  We were fortunate to have visited this amazing structure with very few other visitors.  We found it simply breathtaking; the marble altar, the stained glass, the statues, the overall structure, and then of course the staircase…..stunning!

If we weren’t able to see anything else that day, Al and I would have been just fine.  But alas, the weather held out just long enough for us to see a few more sites…..

For now I’ll leave you with more images of the Loretto Chapel.  Click on any photo to view a slide show in a larger format.