Tuesday, April 5, 2011

New Mexico

I vaguely remember reading that the two oldest cities in the United States are Santa Fe, New Mexico and St. Augustine, Florida. How weird that I just happened to visit both of them in the same few weeks' time! We arrived in Santa Fe late Monday afternoon. It was just late enough we couldn't do any of the museums or attractions, so we found a squarish fake adobe Comfort Suites (with an indoor pool!), shopped at a squarish fake adobe Wal-Mart and ate at a squarish fake adobe Olive Garden. We're staying on a main drag with dozens of hotels and chain restaurants and stores. All are squarish and fake adobe. It's unsettling and somewhat annoying. I guess I vote "dislike" for forced identical architecture. Lame. Also lame are Gene and me who never take our kids anywhere nice to eat. The kids loudly and exuberantly agreed that Olive Garden was the fanciest, nicest restaurant they've ever been to and then loudly questioned how expensive it it? At least all of the staff and other customers we passed on our way out got a good laugh at our expense. Laughter is good for the soul. I'll backtrack and start at the beginning of our vacation. We left Peoria at 11:30 Saturday morning following Logan's flag football game and Kaylin's ceramics class. Logan ran the ball in for his team's only touchdown, so despite the fact the Ravens lost, he was very excited and happy. Before ceramics, Kaylin helped me take Tiger and Duncan to the vet to be boarded and she was very excited that Fatty McFatcat Tiger weighed more than Duncan. I'm hoping Tiger will lose some weight while being boarded this week, but he probably won't be at all stressed and will love getting attention from complete strangers and will sucker the staff into giving him treats until he's so fat and huge they have to put him in a dog kennel because he won't fit in the cat area. We drove about 4 hours to Meramec Caverns. Gene apparently is fascinated by caves- but only by tourist trap caves with comfortable walking areas and a tour guide. He doesn't want to spelunk (can I use that as a verb?) unknown caves in which he might have to squeeze through an opening or get wet. Anyway, I thought Ruby Falls was a cheesy tour, but it has nothing on Meramec! The grand finale where you sit on bleacher benches and watch a light show set to old crackly recordings of the Missouri Waltz and Kate Smith singing God Bless America, all the while listening to the click, click, click of the tour guide turning off and on the lights to the music and then the super grand finale of the American flag on the wall? I couldn't stop giggling. Gene was annoyed because "For less than 100 bucks they could get something that would automatically synchonize the lights to the music. It would be simple to install. I could build it!" We drove on to Springfield where we stopped to eat and decided to stop for the night because the kids REALLY wanted to swim. I wasn't sure if hotels in Texas and New Mexico would have indoor pools, so I figured this may be their only chance to swim and if we drove on it would be too late. It turns out ALL the hotels down here have indoor pools, but they were very happy. We spent most of Sunday driving through Oklahoma. I was expecting the flat nothingness of Kansas and Nebraska, but was pleasantly surprised. We stopped at Red Rock Canyon State Park and the kids climbed the canyon walls and looked at cacti while I searched for birds and lizards. I saw a summer tanager and a few warblers as well as a couple of good-sized lizards. It was a fun stop. We then drove on to Canyon, Texas and spent the night. The plan was to go to Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge and then to Palo Duro Canyon. Well, the temperature on Sunday was in the upper 80s. Monday morning was 25F, SNOWING and extremely windy. We went to the wildlife refuge, but it was so windy we only saw a few hawks and vultures. We hiked up to the prairie dog town where I saw two flashes of prairie dog and no burrowing owls. It was so windy it was just miserable. We figured if we drove to the canyon it would only be to look at it and leave. There was no way we were getting out of our car! We decided to skip it and drive on to Santa Fe. We all loved the mesas and buttes coming into New Mexico. The scenery was wonderful, but driving is getting old! I wish we could stay for a week because I'm NOT looking forward to the drive home. This is a great driving trip, we just need more time to break up the driving time. Oh well.

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