Friday, January 1, 2010
We have gone home. A home where our family is. A home where the children have old friends. A home where we have a house with a mortgage. We have gone to what we call home but we already miss the road life. Traci and I miss the road life, the kids have expressed their wishes to never, ever leave our home again. We'll see what happens next.
Our trip east from Phoenix was quite eventful, we passed through New Mexico, went to Colorado through Kansas into Missouri and finally across the Mississippi home. We enjoyed the drive until we ran into snow. We had lived in the valley of the sun long enough to forget how to drive in wet weather.
Our plan for driving home was to drive to Santa Fe then turn north and go through Colorado. Our friends in New Mexico were now married and we were fortunate to be able to stay with them for one night.
We packed up our belongings and shipped them off, said goodbyes to many friends and set out for the great midwest, corn and soybean fields, family and a strong lacking in dramatic changes in scenery or elevation, the plains. The first night we went north through Flagstaff and stopped in Holbrook. The next morning we stopped again at the Wigwam motel. The old motel was a remainder of a chain of motels built to look like teepees and we had seen them on our way out to Phoenix at the beginning of our trip. We stopped and took some photos on the way over to the petrified forest and painted desert. As we drove the kids watched movies or played video games as desert sand shaped the landscape to either side of the road.
We stopped at the visitor center for the petrified forest and painted desert. The grumbling and complaining started when the car stopped, all the children asked why we had to stop, why we couldn't just keep going, Savannah complained the loudest as she was in a hurry to get back to home and her preteen friends. We pulled them all from the car and examined the exhibits in the visitor center. We drove into the park and took a few pictures, we managed to leave the petrified forest without incident, the kids actually enjoyed the views of the park. We strapped ourselves back into the car and pointing eastward, drove on to Santa Fe.
We met the newlyweds at a restaurant in Santa Fe where margaritas are a main feature of the menu. We ate a meal featuring green chilis and drank some tasty margaritas with Kip and Jill. We were eating early in the evening and the dining room filled quickly. Chili rellenos. Good chili rellenos. I can't remember the name of the place either Maria's, or Mother's or Margaret's. I'm leaning more to Maria's. The company we kept was the only bit of the evening better than the drink and food.
We left the food to our accomadations for the night, the invitinging estate de Kip and Jill in Los Alamos. Their home was a sprawling adobe style ranch with ceiling beams of exposed rough hewn logs. The living room kitchen and dining area were all one expansive space under the honey colered roof, with stone tiles for the flooring. The kitchen was amazing with a six burner stove in an island central to the room with a retractable grease hood that sank into the counter top with the push of a button. Shane pushed the button several times to watch the grease hood disappear and reappear, he said it worked like the steering console of a Star Wars spaceship. We sprawled out into our different rooms and bedded down.
We were limited one day in the Los Alamos area and we had to choose an area to visit. Traci had been to the Bandelier National Monument near Los Alamos before and was so impressed she said we had to go visit it while we were there. The National Monument was an area of cliff dwellings where visitors could climb up into the ruins. Traci's idea was the kids could climb all over the ruins and get some energy out before we headed out for Colorado. We were all looking forward to the mountains in Colorado.
We left Kip and Jill's and went to Bandelier. It was a nice hike through some wooded areas to the cliff dwellings. The area was set up with several interpretive signs and descriptions of how the different areas were used by the people who built the dwellings, including a circular stone area thought to have been used for storing food and supplies. We climbed the long ladders to the cliff dwellings. It was a great day for going into the stone homes and the kids enjoyed all the climbing and exploring. The highest dwelling required us to climb 160 feet up the side of the cliffs on the old style wooden ladders. Climbing to the top was somewhat of an acclompishment and the kids jumped right to the task. It was a great place to visit.
We reviewed a few routes for going north to Colorado. We had decided to shoot for Colorado Springs and spend the night and next few days exploring there. We had three routes to choose from one being the fast route up the interstate, the second route would take us through a little more scenic route and the third was way out of the way but promised many views of mountains. We had one more visit to finish our New Mexico experience properly, without regret. A trip to Blake's Lotaburger for a green chili smothered hamburger. The lotaburger was an exceptional experience and a must for any visit to the Santa Fe area.
We headed up the moderate route with some nice views butwould help us keep a timeline putting us in Colorado Springs before the next day. As we left New Mexico and entered the mountainous areas the sun set. We had no light left for the day to truly appreciate the drive so we shot up the interstate to Colorado Springs.
We woke the next morning to snow, heavy snow had just started to blanket the ground. We had planned to visit all sorts of touristy sites, most of them out doors. We ate our continental breakfast at the hotel while we pondered what to do for the day. Savannah was voting for just driving home directly ahead of the snow, getting us home almost two days early. We started packing, ready for a long day of driving to get through most of Kansas. As we loaded the car the heavy grey clouds broke letting the sun through and putting the brakes on the snow fall. Our plans to see things were back on and Savannah expressed a mild disappointment. We later found out the snow behaved in this manner frequently in Colorado Springs, snowing hard early in the day only to clear off by the afternoon. It reminded me of the marine layer in the Puget Sound area, a thick layer of fog and light rain blowing in from the ocean in the morning only to clear off by noon.
We drove to the Garden of the Gods park, secured a map from the visitor's center and drove to the closest crop of red rocks. In the park the red rock formations are sitting in front of a backdrop of snow capped peaks. It was a beautiful place. We were stopping at several of the parking areas and taking pictures and climbing on the rocks. It was a cold day. After living in the Phoenix area the 30 degree temperatures in Colorado Springs felt really cold.
We jumped out of the car at parking spot #8, situating the kids on an orange rock to take a picture. Shane forgot his coat and ran back to the car.
He shouted out "Hey I need the car unlocked so I can get my coat."
Traci said, "I don't have the keys."
I checked my pockets, no keys. As realization crept in we all wandered back to the car to notice the keys hanging handily from the ignition. We fussed a little and tried to get a window cracked or open. With no luck we started planning a long walk to the closest visitor center. Another car was parked at stop #8 and a woman stepped out. She offered to drive us to the closest visitor center. We took her up on it and learned her husband had lived in the same town Traci had grown up in. We went to the visitors center, called the locksmith and ordered some chili. Thirty five minutes later we had our car open and running again. We had inadvertantly spent our entire day at Garden of the Gods.
We decided to go ahead and drive home from the park. We gassed up and hit the road. We had been on the road for three hours and decided to change drivers. Traci left the driver's seat and jumped into the passenger's seat while I took the wheel and prepared to continue the journey home. I looked over at Traci and her expression had turned strange, almost guilty like she was hiding something. She looked down at her left hand and I followed her gaze. A set of keys were laid out on the seat next to her. We broke out laughing. Traci had had the keys in her pocket all day.
I drove the rest of the day catching the snow we had seen in Colorado earlier that morning. The roads were slick and we were slowed to driving 30 MPH at times. We drove through most of Kansas and stopped near the Missouri border for the night.
We finished the drive through rain the entire next day. We hydroplaned a few times in heavy traffic in St. Louis. We finally crossed the Martin Luther King bridge into Illinois and 30 minutes later we arrived at Traci's parents' home.
We have spent the days since enjoying the company of our family and friends. We have had a tremendous amount of help from everyone. We have nearly tracked down all of the things we had farmed out to other peoples homes. The holidays were great in the company of our family. We have missed planning the next move, looking at maps and destinations, new places and experiences. We have a comfort in knowing our family and friends are close by.
Also, Shane has lost one of his top teeth. He finally had a reason to agree to have his picture taken.