Our second day in Alamogordo, New Mexico, consisted of plenty of wind. Wind around here is normal and expected. After all, it is the wind that helps form the sand dunes at White Sands National Monument. That’s why I scheduled a minimum of a three-day stay in the area. Weather is not always accommodating.
So just for fun, we headed off to the small mountain town of Cloudcroft. Not only did we want to explore this little mountain town, Al and I wanted to check out the road to see if we would be comfortable pulling the RV via this route. Several folks highly recommended against taking this road with the RV but we’re from Colorado and seem to be a little more comfortable with elevation changes and mountain passes so we wanted to lay our own eyes on the route.
Our starting point was Alamogordo, New Mexico, at an elevation of 4,335 feet and our destination was 19 miles to the east. Cloudcroft sits at 8,650 feet in elevation. Thus there’s a 4,315 foot elevation increase in less than 20 miles. Yep, that’s quite the pull and although there was nothing scary or intense about the road, we would probably avoid driving it with the RV just to refrain from straining the truck.
Once in Cloudcroft, we stopped in at the Lincoln National Forest Ranger headquarters (on Halloween I might add) to pick up maps and info on the area. The campgrounds were already closed for the season and it was definitely colder than we anticipated. As a matter of fact, colder than our hoodies would accommodate. A quick drive around town and we were on our way back to warmer temps LOL.On our return trip, we stopped at the Old Apple Barn. It’s fall and anything ‘apple’ gets my attention.
Back in Alamogordo our next stop was a pistachio farm. McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch was recommended to us by friends and this too turned out to be a fun stop. There was plenty of sampling to hold our attention.
First we started with the sampling of pistachios followed by wine tasting. And of course, there were a few purchases made.
Our friends particularly enjoy the Chocolate infused Cabernet by Arena Blanca Winery and although good, we opted for a bottle of their red wine called “Outlaw Red”. It’s a fruity red that is actually served chilled.
Back at camp, we made short order of the bottle of wine and bag of nuts. The pistachios turned out to be some of the best we’ve ever eaten and we regret not having bought a larger bag……. yet another reason we’ll be returning to Alamogordo, New Mexico.
Whew, it’s been a very busy week. First, I helped my daughter move from the northwest end of the Denver area to the southern end which is much closer to her work. This will make her life so much easier especially once winter arrives and the snow starts to fall.
Second, hubby and I moved from the Westminster Elks Lodge, which was home base for us for the better part of the summer to the Chatfield State Park. Ah, camping near water once again….. we love it.
As I sit in my comfy chair admiring the view, Al and I discuss our stay in the area.
Although we initially planned to be moving around the state of Colorado all summer, we realized sitting in one location for awhile gave us plenty of opportunity to explore the Denver area leisurely.
One of the things I’ve loved discovering this summer in Denver, Colorado, are the unique businesses located in repurposed structures. The first of such places we visited was the Recreational Equipment Inc. Store.The REI Store is housed in a building built in the early 1900’s and was used for electric streetcar lines. Since I already did a post about this building, you can click here to read more about it.With each subsequent visit to this REI Store, I noticed more and more of the little details like the old rail tracks being repurposed. If you look closely in the photo below, the rails are used for the track lighting.Much of the building and its history has been beautifully preserved.Another unique find was a former 1880’s brick structure that was formerly a foundry and has been turned into a home for a couple of restaurants and an unusual collection of shops. ‘The Source’ is located in Denver’s River North District.The Source is considered an artisan food market with such specialty shops as; Artisan Bread Bakery, a Butcher Shop, Floral Shop, Liquor Shop, Coffee Roaster, Cheese & Spice Shop and the Crooked Stave Brewery to round out the selection of businesses.
The Source Denver
The Source Denver
the liquor shop located inside ‘The Source’
Turning a garage into a wine tasting room – That’s exactly what the Spero Family did. Spero Winery is a family owned and operated winery.
We found ourselves visiting this establishment a few times during our stay at the Westminster Elks Lodge. The fact that there is FREE wine tasting every Saturday and is located less than 5 miles away from home sure made it irresistible.And yes, it is totally free and the pours are generous. They even offer a cheese, salami, and cracker platter free. During our visits, we noticed a vast array of clientele from young to old and everything in between and the wine was good.
The biggest surprise to me was the abundance of beautiful buildings in Denver. It was a joy just walking around the city of Denver taking in the unique structures.
I was so enamored with the Cathedral Basilica that I even attended mass one Sunday morning.
The stained glass, Italian marble, and overall structure is simply stunning.
I had heard from locals that I needed to see the Holy Ghost Catholic Church. At first, I wasn’t sure why until Al had me walk across the street from the church.
It looks as though the architects of this modern skyscraper designed that structure to appear as a large protector of sorts.
The combination of new and old buildings seemed to work in harmony throughout the entire city of Denver.
How about repurposing old pianos? That’s exactly what you’ll see walking the outdoor Sixteenth Street Mall. These pianos are available for anyone to enjoy.
A city, is a city, is a city and as thus Denver is like any other city and has it’s fair share of homeless people living on the streets. That said, it’s not uncommon to see a homeless person (or at least one that appears homeless) playing one of these pianos.
Sometimes the tune is basic and other times the raw talent stops you in your tracks.
One time, my daughter and I just stood there, mouths opened, listening as a guy was banging out Beethoven’s fifth.
Needless to say, an appreciative crowd gathered. It almost brought my daughter to tears as she asked, “Mom, how can someone with so much talent end up living on the streets?” I’m sure we weren’t the only on lookers asking this question.
Probably the most impressive repurposing I discovered is located 30 minutes north of Denver. What was once an ugly gravel pit is now a beautiful state park complete with ponds that are perfect for bird and fish habitat.
We found the St. Vrain State Park to be a lovely facility which we thoroughly enjoyed calling home for 5 days.
I was also impressed with Denver’s artistic sculptures displayed throughout the city. I’ll save that for another post as this one is getting a little winded.
In closing, I’ll share one final photo ….. a photo of MY favorite kind of ‘church’FYI…. we’re hitting the road Sunday. Lake Mead here we come!
And remember…. if the text is in blue it’s linked to a website. If it’s in red, that’s just me playing around and letting you know I’m changing subjects 🙂
It was time to head back to camp. The drive from Palisade, Colorado, to our camp at the James Robb State Park in Fruita took less than thirty minutes. Both towns are conveniently located just off Interstate 70 making the drive quick and easy.
The four of us ladies sit in the vehicle in near silence with smiles plastered to our faces. A visit to Suncrest Orchard Alpacas, the day filled with wine tasting, laughter, treats, and the perfect Colorado weather was enough to send us into a perpetual state of euphoria overdose, if there is such a thing.
But our fun didn’t end there. We arrived back at camp about fifteen minutes after Al and my brother returned. While the ladies were out doing ‘girl’ stuff, the guys were out doing manly things with manly men and now they were doing manly things around camp…. chopping wood and preparing a campfire.
As we approached the picnic table, the sweet smell of deliciousness wafted the air. That morning before leaving for the wine festival, I baked brownies and started a pork shoulder in the slow cooker. The slow cooker was outside on the picnic table and the pork was slowly doing it’s thing while we were out having fun.
It wasn’t long before we were all sitting around the table indulging in pulled pork sandwiches with plenty of side dishes. If I recall correctly, a bottle or two of wine may have also been included with our meal 😉
After dinner, it was time for desert around the campfire. As we indulged in brownies and more wine, we discussed the events of the day. It was obvious why the ladies were smiling….the last two posts detailed our adventures, but what about the guys? Why were they smiling? Hum, we wondered……
They weren’t quick to share, but one look at my brother’s dusty, dirt covered vehicle told a tale; boys and their toys in the Colorado back country!
The rest of the night was spent around a roaring campfire, devouring homemade brownies, and sharing events of the day all beneath a star filled Colorado sky.
The girls were up early the next morning. They were greeted with freshly brewed coffee and warm cinnamon rolls. I know, I’m a great hostess!
Ashton’s car was still sitting at my brother and sister-in-law’s house. I’ll need to drive Ashton and Tasha over there so they can head home to Denver. Since this was Tasha’s first visit to Grand Junction, I opt to take a detour through The Monument on the way to my brother’s home.
Since I’ve already done so many posts in the past on The Colorado National Monument, I’ll jump right to the gals; they had a fabulous time taking in the sights and playing around during our 2 hour detour via Rim Rock Drive.
girls playing around
Playing around at The Monument
playing around at the Monument
Ashton takes photos with her I-phone
Rim Rock Drive, Colorado National Monument
By noon on Sunday, September 22, we were saying farewell to Ashton and Tasha. Al and I would leave Colorado the next day meaning I probably won’t see my daughter until next spring. That’s where the whining began. Yesterday wine, today whine……
After the four of us enjoyed a day filled with fun, treats, and wine tasting, we headed off into Palisades’ countryside for a self-guided tour of the orchard’s and vineyards before the sun goes down.
The previous month, Al and I drove this ‘Fruit & Wine Byway” in western Colorado and therefore I knew exactly where to go. The area is small and there’s only one main road, thus it’s not difficult to get around. However, I do have a good old-fashioned map along, just in case.
This map also highlights the ‘scenic byway’ and makes notes of interests along the way. I believe I found this particular Palisade, Colorado map at the visitor center in Fruita just off Interstate 70.
We do a quick drive through downtown Palisade and then proceed in the direction of the East Orchard Mesa Loop. This scenic loop takes us past orchards, vineyards, and quaint produce stands. It’s September 21st and the trees no longer bear the sweet, delicious peaches that were abundant in August, instead we find apples not quite ripe for the picking.
We drive past produce stands, orchards growing apples, and then vineyards. I knew just the spot to pull over so Ashton and Tasha could see grapes still growing on the vine. Their interest and knowledge in wine still amazes me. Tasha even plans to get married in a vineyard someday…..once she finds the right man, that is. I’m not sure how or when Tasha developed her interest in wine, but I do know how daughter, Ashton developed hers……Sydney, Australia.
When Ashton studied abroad, she engaged in several wine tours in Australia and developed a taste and curiosity. I’m sure it started out as an excuse to drink alcohol before turning into a genuine interest in wine. Since she wasn’t 21 years old yet, the U.S. drinking age, she found herself in a country where she was of age….well, need I say more? We won’t even mention the term “pub crawling”. Thus, the story of how my little girl turned into a wine connoisseur.
Ah, back to the vineyards and orchards……. I stop for the gals to walk among the rows of grapevines. They are giddy with delight and snapping away with their iPhones. There’s still plenty of grapes on the vines for the gals to observe and gently touch.
We hop back in the car and continue our journey. I turn down a side road then into what appears is someone’s driveway / home. The girls are perplexed. Now I am giddy with delight; I have an impending surprise for the ladies.
Just as we were exiting our parked car, the owner of Suncrest Orchard Alpacas steps out of the barn to greet us. He’s carrying something?
Suncrest Orchard Alpacas provides informative tours year ’round on Tuesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays from 9-5 or by appointment. Whew…..it’s Saturday. This time, my spontaneity worked well. The guy is obviously carrying a bundle of joy as evidenced by his huge smile.
The four of us approach the fence and in unison respond, “Aaawwww….hoowww….. cuutte”! Ashton, Tasha, sister-in-law, and myself are enamored with this one week old baby Alpaca. It’s obvious the owner is passionate about is brood of Alpacas. He graciously spent an hour sharing his vast knowledge of these interesting animals.
We were enthralled. We all asked lots of questions. As long as we asked questions, the owner eagerly and passionately shared.
The month prior when Al and I visited, the owners mother was on site to give us the tour including a tour of the building where they spin the Alpaca yarn. This was probably the first time I had wished I was into knitting. I so would buy some of this Alpaca yarn. Soft is an understatement.
With the setting of the sun, we reluctantly tore ourselves away thanking the owner profusely for his time. We were all truly fascinated and entertained by this impromptu stop. Another huge thank you to Suncrest Orchard Alpaca Farm for an irresistibly good time.
Time to return to camp. We have dinner waiting for us on the picnic table …….
When the phone call came in requesting our presence at a Wine Festival, I assure you the response was a rather quick “Sure”. This was back in August and the call was from our daughter. She knew her dad and I were running around Colorado’s western slope and would be in the general vicinity for the festival. She does follow my blog after all…. she’s such a good daughter!
Palisade, Colorado is located on Colorado’s western slope and is known for its vineyards and orchards. This small Colorado town with a population of less than 3,000 sits at an elevation of 4,700 feet. Colorado’s abundant sunshine, warm days, cool nights, and low humidity provide the perfect environment for growing a variety of wine grapes, as well as peaches, cherries, apricots, and apples. A recent addition to the area are Lavender fields.
The town of Palisade attracts visitors from around the state to attend their numerous festivals. The two most popular festivals are the Peach Festival in August and the Colorado Mountain Winefest in September. Our daughter had attended the Winefest the year before and was rather eager for another visit. Since Al and I would be leaving Colorado for the winter, daughter wanted one more visit with her mom and dad before our departure. And the Colorado Mountain Winefest was the perfect venue for a send off.
We once again stayed at the James Robb State Park in Fruita and set up ‘the guest room’ for our daughter and her girlfriend.
Saturday, September 21st, daughter and friend left Denver a little after 5 in the morning and arrived at my brother’s home in Grand Junction around 9:30 a.m. just in time for sister-in-law to make a huge breakfast for everyone before us gals headed over to the festival.
By 11:00 a.m. sister-in-law, Tasha, Ashton, and myself are busy sampling some fine Colorado wines…….well not all of us. It just so happens, I am the designated driver and as such, purchased a ‘non-drinking’ ticket 😦 That said, I couldn’t say no to my daughter the occasional time or two when she exuberantly commented, “Here mom, you just have to try this one”. “Ok, if you insist”.
The Colorado Mountain Winefest is a four-day event with Saturday being the big day of wine tasting. Thursday kicks off the event with various restaurants offering ‘Food & Wine Pairings’. Visitors can sign up for activities like Float Trips, Paddle Boarding, or Bike Tours. Friday evening consists of different events held at various Palisade locations that include; Winefest Demo & Dinner, Chocolate & Wine Tasting, and a Wine & Glass Experience. Sunday wraps up the event with a Tour of the Wineries.
Since Ashton and Tasha weren’t able to take time off work, we only attended Saturday’s event; the major wine tasting venue. Our tickets were purchased in advance on-line. Upon check-in, each guest is given a tote with a commemorative glass to be used for the tasting. Those of us non-drinkers were given the same tote but with a commemorative water bottle ….. “Oh, joy….aren’t I special?”
The tote is really cute and is sectioned off to easily carry six bottles of wine, which the three winos drinkers took full advantage of.
In addition to the almost fifty different wineries offering samples were; various seminars, live music, crafters, chef demos, grape stomp, and ice carving. There was plenty to keep four gals entertained for better part of the day.
The festival is held in a beautiful park setting with mature trees, offering shade beneath a gorgeous Colorado blue sky. Guests are encouraged to bring chairs, blankets, small coolers, and a corkscrew for some mid-day picnic relaxation. There are numerous food vendors which we counted on for sustenance. Big mistake, as lines were extremely long. In retrospect, I wish we had packed a picnic lunch. Note for next year!
However, we didn’t go wrong in our orange sherbet purchase….. as noted by the above three ladies devouring. As our afternoon was winding down, this cool little treat was the perfect way to end our already perfect day.
I’ll admit, the one thing that stood out the most to me, actually impressed me, was the genuine interest Ashton and Tasha took in the wine. Here I thought it was all about the drinking and getting a buzz. Boy, was I wrong and I was duly chastised for thinking that, “Really mother, I am no longer in college”….as if that makes a difference.
At each vendor the gals asked questions, viewed color, swirled glass, took sips, swirled in mouth, then slowly swallowed. Notice I did not say they spit. They weren’t about to spit out perfectly good wine, whether they liked it or not. After all, it has only been a year and a half since graduation.
After tasting, it was either a thumbs up or thumbs down. They knew exactly what they liked and what they didn’t. Their purchases were well analyzed and thought out. Wow….when did my little girl turn into such a wine connoisseur?
Wine tasting and venue are over, but the day is not…..let’s go visit an Alpaca farm…..