Santa Fe

05/07 We wake up to a gorgeous day! H hopes that it’s not as nice at Monument Valley–he still laments that he could not get good photos because of the haze. We are off to Santa Fe. We have rented a nice house for 4 nights with a fenced yard. I’ve even booked a grooming appointment for the doggies that includes doggie day care for the whole day. It’s a long drive–about 5.5 hours. We stopped for lunch at a little place and got “chile cheese burger tacos.” They were crushed up cheese burgers in a fried taco shell and they were good! It’s nice to get take out on the road because we can eat with the dogs and the non driver can have a beer. We arrive at our lovely home–wow, the size of it is incredible after 14 days in Diana. And 2 BIG bathrooms are a luxury. We were lucky to find a nice big space in front of the house to park Diana. (I tell you: our luck is the result of clean liven’! NOT!) The dogs are loving the garden–sniffing (and peeing on) every tree, bush, and weed. I start the huge task of laundry. I am happy to see that the house has a huge container of laundry detergent. We enjoy leftovers for dinner. Oh, and we take nice long showers and look (and smell) a lot cleaner.

05/08 It’s bath day for the doggies. I do not want to drive Diana any more than I have to because the roads are very narrow in our neighborhood. We are in the Guadalupe District–a barrio in redevelopment. Our house is made of adobe and has beautiful wood floors–they are aged with many decades of feet and are more lovely than any new ones. The kitchen has perforated tin cabinets. There is a traditional “kiva” fireplace in the living room. There are 3 bedrooms so hurry and get here! We booked on short notice and this house was the only one available with a fully fenced garden. The usual price is $315/night but the rental manager is charging us $140/night. I told you: it’s clean liven’.

Anyway, I don’t want to drive Diana if I don’t have to so we walk 1 mile to the groomers. I forgot that a” Lucky mile” takes much longer than a “Lucien and Toby mile.” Since the neighborhood is in the beginnings of the redevelopment stage there are less desirable houses and areas. H is not happy to walk by graffiti with messages like: “F*****g bitches–no money.” Nice, huh? But there were really nice refurbished places along the way.

The ladies at the groomers are really nice. About 15 small dogs are running free in a very large room. I think there is also an outdoor area. There are ramps to climb and places to rest. It really looks like an inviting place for the dogs. Now we are free!

We walk to the Downtown area which also encompasses the historic Plaza area. It’s about a 1 mile walk, I think. We wander around. H wants to take some photos and is fiddling around with his equipment so I say I’m going into a nearby shop. And the “damages” are serious by the time we walk out! We have a nice collection of hand-made Mata-Ortiz pots from Mexico. I really wanted a hand-made pot from this region–and we found one! It’s called a “seed pot.” The only opening is the size of a seed on the top of the pot; seeds were put in one by one. The Pueblo people stored seeds long-term in these kinds of pots. When they were ready to use the seeds, they broke the pot.

The pot was made by Melissa Antonio. It was hand-coiled and only vegetable dyes were used. It looks perfect but if you look closely as you turn it you see that it is a hand-made pot because it’s not perfectly round. It’s gorgeous! The shop also had Mata-Ortiz pots and the nice young man that helped us understood that we needed to find a local-made pot that was very different than the ones we already have. He did well in steering us to Melissa’s work.

He then said: It’s Mother’s Day! Maybe you deserve a Mother’s Day gift! I said: I am the mother to 3 dogs. He said: That counts for Mother’s Day! And I could not have agreed with him more. He found me a beautiful silver cuff bracelet that was unique and beautiful. So put that in the shopping basket! And I happened to notice some neat charms for my Pandora bracelet–the lapis and opal charm completed our purchase. And we had not yet had a cocktail! Usually it’s alcohol and brings on such purchases. (The day is not over yet.)

We are hungry for lunch and had already decided on the “Coyote Cafe.” Good friends gave us the cookbook from this restaurant decades ago. We love the dishes and could not pass up a chance to savor the dishes first hand. The restaurant is only open for dinner but there is a roof terrace grill that serves lunch.

We start with drinks!! I have a Mojito and H had the “El Patron” margarita. We ordered BBQ Duck Quesadillas and Shrimp Seviche Tostados along with 3 of their salsas and chips. Of course we had already ordered our main courses when the appetizers arrived. We realized that we were in for an afternoon of full stomachs and massive heartburn. H’s main course was a nice innovative preparation of chicken enchiladas with green sauce. I had a luscious Cubaña (it’s a Cuban sandwich): Smoked ham and cheese with black bean sauce and chipotle mayo served with chile fries. Wow!

Needless to say our doggie bag was huge. So it was with 2 cocktails each and a shared beer under our belts that we visited the leather shop. I wanted H to get a nice casual leather belt. Maybe with a Southwestern flare. I thought maybe a beaded belt but the beading turned out to be too much (they were hand beaded but a little too colorful). Then I found an “appliqué” belt–a hand-made leather belt that had very handsome embellishments that were stitched over the leather belt base. The lady who was helping us said we were going about this the wrong way. (She said this in a very nice way.) We needed to pick out the belt buckle and that would determine which belts we should be looking at. OK…let’s see the belt buckles. I immediately focused on a buckle that had lovely hand work but was not too garish. There are buckles that you would not believe: HUGE silver buckles; inlaid opal and turquoise buckles; etc. But this buckle was a bit understated but obviously tenderly hand-created. It was all silver…including 2 belt loops…and a tip for the end of the buckle.

So before H knew what we were in for I had signed the credit card receipt and the belt would be shipped to us in 3 to 4 weeks. That’s the power of Margaritas.

We visited the St. Francis Cathedral. It was interesting but not particularly unique. The grounds and sculptures were much more interesting. We took a taxi home and arranged for a rental car so we could more easily get around. The dogs were beautiful–how do we keep them that way for the next 10 days?! Apparently Lucky was the only problem in doggie day care. He lately has more frequently been snapping at the other dogs if he does not like what they are doing. It started with him guarding food. Lately he has exhibited this behavior occasionally over me (no other dog can come near me if I’m petting him). It’s not extreme behavior by any means but the ladies said he had snapped at some of the dogs. That’s interesting and a little worrying…

We needed a trip to Whole Foods Market (for wine primarily) so off I went to fortify our provisions. No dinner tonight–we should be stuffed from our wonderful lunch.

Tomorrow our afternoon is taken up with the repair to our cracked windshield. The crack is growing fast so we need to take care of it right away.

I continue to put in loads of laundry. I’m in the bedroom when I hear a crash. The HUGE container of liquid laundry detergent has fallen off the dryer and is pouring all over the floor! OMG–what a mess. I pretty much get it cleaned up but the whole house smells like a laundry.

05/09 The windshield repair guy came early! That was good. H and I walked about 2 blocks to a restaurant that received good reviews, Ristras. It is a white tablecloth place in what we see as a very “non-white tablecloth” area. It was GREAT! The restaurant is located in an old house. Since we walked we entered the restaurant through the front door–which actually was their “back door.” HA! (The parking lot is in the back of the house so their front door is in the back.) We started with aperitifs. H had a Kir Royal and I had a “Can Can Martini.” Two parts vodka + 1.5 parts St Germaine liqueur + .25 parts dry vermouth/white wine/Lillet + a twist of lemon. Delicious! When I asked the server about the cocktail I thought he said “a little egg” instead of “Lillet.” It was a funny exchange.

We both started with gazpacho. It was good that we started with a cold soup because we asked the server to delay our food until we had finished our cocktails…but he didn’t. So we left the soup and sipped our aperitifs. Once we got around to our soup we were happy to discover that it was delicious. H’s main course was duck confit with lentils (with bacon) and salad with a nice vinaigrette.  I had wonderful mussels with an incredible chipotle cream sauce. The sauce was wonderful with the great chewy bread they served. H had a glass of Vovray and I had a nice French rose. Our server treated us to our after-meal espresso since we were new to the neighborhood. He thought we had rented the nearby house for long-term; I was reluctant to tell him we were leaving in 2 days. But he didn’t care.

We could hear the 3 dogs howling as we approached the house. Sometimes they are quiet and good but sometimes something sets them off.

Later that day I made a grocery run so I drove further up the road past Ristras. I was amazed to find many restaurants, wine bars and retail stores within a quick walk from our place. Our first impression was far from complete. I would lament that the dogs are keeping us from all the fun and night life but, truth be told, a lunch out is the most exciting daily  event for us.

05/10 Today we make a scenic drive to Taos. We debated about putting the dogs in day care but decided to take them with us. Maybe not such a good idea… Toby gets scared when we drive on windy roads. He whines and yips at each turn. Rain is threatening and we hope that will provide a nice photography backdrop. We take the “high road” scenic loop but frankly we do not get any exciting photography opportunities. In fact the trip is not exciting at all and there is lots of traffic. The historic Taos pueblo was closed. But I guess we needed to see Taos. Maybe without the dogs we would have had a nice lunch in historic Taos and then spent more money on New Mexico goods but maybe it’s best the way we did it. We had a tamale lunch at a food truck thinking it would be great but in fact it was less than good. We kept hoping on our way back, as we drove tiny backcountry roads, that we’d find neat things to photograph but, alas, it was not to be.

Back “home” we start to gather up for our departure tomorrow. I make a final run to Whole Foods and I do as I was afraid I would do: I miss the step at our gate and fall into the street landing on my right arm and hip. It makes me think of H’s poor dad falling and breaking his hip–his death sentence. Fortunately I do not seriously injure myself or my new bracelet on my left wrist.

Roasted rack of lamb tonight plus roasted asparagus and a quinoa salad from Whole Foods.  The smoke alarm goes off several times as we roast the lamb. That throws Toby into a trembling fit each time.  I try to use treats to distract him. (“You want a cookie???”) It actually works.

We surprise ourselves when we say that we are ready to get back on the road. H confesses that he is bored and ready to see more new things. We are even ready to trade a 1,000 square foot house with 2 nice bathrooms to be with our good friend, Diana. Although I think the dogs have really enjoyed the large garden and playing frisbee and ball.

We make plans for our next 4 nights. Some are primitive and some are full hookups.


Mesa Verde N. P.

05/06 We are up at 6:30. Rain threatens as we get packed up. We have a 2.5 hr drive to Mesa Verde National Park in CO. This park features cliff houses built by the Pueblo people from 550 AD to 1300.

It rains the entire way but not enough to be scary. We stop at the visitor center. They say the inclement weather is expected to continue tomorrow. There are 2 guided tours that we must book and pay for in advance. Since we have the dogs we are debating what to do. We decide to just do a self-tour that includes a driving tour and an self-guided tour of one of the cliff dwellings.

On our way up the mountain we stop at the lodge’s grill and have Navajo Tacos for lunch–fry bread with beef chili and the usual taco toppings. We order “to go” and eat with the doggies. During lunch in Diana the rain turns slushy–is it going to snow?? I put on long underwear and find wool hats and gloves.

The driving tour includes scenic views of the cliff dwellings as well as communities of pit houses (housing that was partially underground). Spruce house, a cliff dwelling, was really interesting. We were able to really see how the people lived.

We camp in the park campground and go to sleep serenaded by thunder and an incredible light show.

Monument Valley N. P.

05/04 Our next stop is Monument Valley. Just one more unique area of the southwest. The incredible sandstone formations in this valley stand isolated; in other SW sites the rock formations are relatively continuous. You are not easily able to see these sights on your own because they are on the Navaho reservation. We book a private tour for tomorrow and request that we include the dogs. They agree!

We reserve a RV space at a place just outside the Navaho reservation where the Monument Valley site is located. On our drive in to the general area we see an incredible rock formation that was born out of volcanic action (it is not sandstone like all the other rock formations). It is huge and very different from the rock formations around it. What a unique sight!

In the campground there are LOTS of foreign visitors. I talk to a Canadian man who was speaking French to a couple of other French speaking people. But it was difficult for me to understand him. He is from French speaking Canada–that’s why! He said that the French Canadians broke away from France 200 years ago and the language has diverged a lot since then. We exchanged travel experiences and had a great time doing so.

I thankfully was able to do some laundry. Boy, the 5 of us create a big mess. I have booked 4 nights at what looks like a great adobe house in Santa Fe. We all need a few days of down time in a bigger space. I find a groomer that not only will make the dogs beautiful again but will also provide doggie day care. We are all set!! Can’t wait to get to Santa Fe!

05/05 It’s our second day at Monument Valley and we are off on our 3.5 hour monument tour with the dogs. Bobby is our guide and I’m a little surprised that we have an open air vehicle. That means the dogs are perched on a bench seat with day-light between the seat and the back and no refuge from the wind.  We normally are super safety conscience with the dogs, seat-belts and all. But there is no hope for safety here. Poor Lucky has such a difficult time with the sun and the wind normally and now it is gail force.

Bobby is a great guide. We enjoy a view of all the monuments of the region, petroglyphs, and rock arches. We see rocks that have been named and clearly warrant their names: thunderbird, piggy bank, nuns praying, mittens, and many more. Bobby just prods us a little on the name and we quickly can see the form and name it.

We zoom along the unpaved (and sometimes scary) routes between key stops. Toby gets to bark at horses. And then we “run into” sheep dogs! Of course Toby is out of his mind about those dogs and the sheep dogs run like nuts following along side us for miles. Fortunately they become interested in another vehicle and eventually take off in a direction away from us. I want to know who is minding the sheep while that are off harassing the visitor’s dogs!!??

At one of our stops at a beautiful natural arch, Bobby shows us the beauty of the area and the natural acoustics by playing his flute. It was a lovely touch to our tour.

The winds are terrible (that’s nothing new to our trip). But unfortunately the air is so hazy that it’s not a good day for photographs. Of course, H is disappointed. We end the trip wind-blown, dirty but happy that we had a chance to see this incredible landscape.

H grills a luscious steak and I pan-fry potatoes (with lots of butter). A salad rounds out the meal at Chez Diana tonight.

Lake Powell

There’s not a lot to be said about Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Recreational Park. If you’re a boater, this is your place. This area was flooded by Hoover Dam several decades ago. The controversy over the destruction of incredibly beautiful canyons is still alive. The lake is beautiful: blue water against the red rocks. And I suppose an argument could be made that more people enjoy this area now that it is a lake. But I believe that too much was lost in order for drunk boaters to zoom around a lake that is surrounded by beauty that doesn’t interest the boaters at all. If you want verification of my belief consider this: you can only buy 24 packs of the worst tasting domestic beer at the campsite store.

Controversy #2: The coal-powered power plant on Indian property adjacent to Hoover Dam. This power plant has polluted an incredibly huge area of the southwest. For example, the last time we were at the Grand Canyon there were pictures of the area before and after the power plant that needed no narrative. It is incredible that this plant has continued to operate.


Kodachrome State Park

05/01 Our next stop is just a 30 minute drive to Kodachrome State Park. After our full day yesterday we just set up camp and relaxed. It was cold and very windy so we stayed in cozy Diana. The sitting area is very comfortable and has enough room for the 5 of us. We read and I caught up a little on my travelogue. We had leftovers from prior dinners for both lunch and dinner so it was easy. Lucien almost snatches a big piece of leftover steak that we have left on the cocktail table! But we catch the thief in time.

Kodachrome has unique stone spires. I know I keep using the adjective “unique” but it’s true of every place we’ve been!!

On our walk at dusk with the dogs we met a really nice man. He and his group were from Minnesota. He was probably in his 50s, had a huge beard and the most lovely, open face. It’s hard to explain but he exuded peacefulness. Toby’s reaction to him reinforced our feelings about him–Toby did not bark once! We were sorry to hear that he and his family would be leaving early the next day. It would have been nice to get to know him better.

05/02 Last night was incredibly cold–well below freezing. We turned the heater on and it cycled on and off all night. It’s really loud but we needed heat so we left it on. We have a propane furnace but our carbon monoxide monitor is past its replacement date and H doesn’t want to chance it–we don’t want to die so soon after retirement day! Later today we’ll go the the hardware store down the highway in the little town of Tropic. It is supposed to be as cold or colder tonight than last night.

We are concerned about finding a campsite at our next stop at Lake Powell. There is no cellphone coverage here so we are not able to call ahead. H suggests we stop at the ranger station and see if they can help–and the ranger is incredibly helpful! He gives me access to the computer and then lets me call the campground. We are all set for tomorrow in Glenn Canyon National Recreation Park at Lake Powell!

About 10 miles from here on a dirt road is a natural rock arch. We’d love to see it; it would be a good photography subject. We were a little concerned about taking Diana over 20 miles of washboard but she did well. (At least as far as we can tell; maybe later we’ll discover a few missing bolts.) The 10 mile one-way trip took a little over 45 minutes because in some places we had to go 5mph and never higher than 20mph. But it was worth it! It was a beautiful arch and the drive favored us with incredible panoramic views. I am vigilant about looking for snakes as the dogs and I walk through the sand to the arch. H and I  have gone back and forth about giving the dogs the rattlesnake venom vaccine. I want to; he is concerned about reactions to the vaccine. The vaccine gives you more time to get to a Vet; it does not prevent a reaction to the venom.

Diana is covered in red dust. All the outside storage drawers are filled with the stuff. Three dogs and 2 humans are also covered in red dust. I guess that’s the price of experiencing Mother Nature’s beauty.

We drive to Tropic and buy a CO detector for $50; that’s the price of living. While we have internet and cell phone access, we book 2 nights in Monument Valley (after Glenn Canyon).

Back at the campground the sun is out and there is little wind! Hurray! We sit outside and enjoy the beautiful weather.

When we take the dogs on a walk, we come upon a lady taking a picture of one of the stone spires in the park. It must be that someone carved this rock–it is the most graphic and real-life stone phallus that you will ever see! We joke with the couple that it would make a great Xmas photo and offer to take their picture in front of it. They decline.

The couple ask about our tripods and a nearby man comes over to hear the story and meet the puppies. But Toby is still a pill with his barking and we begin to put him in Diana in his crate for barking. Some people and dogs are OK but others are not. What do those dogs say to him to make him so mad?!

05/03 We wake up alive! The furnace keeps us  wonderfully warm during the  night and it is much more quiet than the heater! This morning it is about 25 degrees but it feels like below zero. We are happy to be warm and cozy in Diana.

H keeps hitting his head in Diana; there are lots of low points in the ceiling. He has quite a gash on his scalp. This morning as he stood up from the “breakfast table” and I saw him look up at the overhead cabinet before he stood up. I said “You’re getting smarter.” He said “I’m tired of beating my brains out!”