Heading further north the snows are back, as is the high altitude dryness and piercing sunshine of the high desert. The jutting prows of mountains sail by in all directions in blood red, sandy gold, and watermelon pink. We're heading north now, through Albuquerque to Taos, after being so close to the Mexican border we could see another country over the next hill rise.
And ended up where hundreds of luminaria still light the snows, corrals hold tiny burros watching creches, old half fallen-down churches are named after all the saints, and a wood fire is at home in a hotel room.
The next morning we went to Sagauro National Park, and on the way in, we saw more cactus than I've ever seen in my life. Even the mansions on acres of land were "landscaped" with cactus, everything from prickly pear to saguaro, barrel cactus to agave, and boojum trees to Mormon tea trees. And thousands I couldn't identify.
We walked down the soft sand of Javalina Arroyo, knowing it was a wash, but there was no rain in any direction. It reminded me of an underpass in Tucson proper that read, "Do not enter when flooded." Not "if" flooded, "when" flooded. I loved that.
I ended up with a severe headache after the walk, that even water and a rest in the shade of the A/C'ed car didn't help.
The food was excellent, too. Jet really loved his BBQ sandwich and my cheesesteak sandwich was juicy, well peppered and the onions were good and brown.
John's brother Walt had recommended a by-pass from I-8 to I-25 that was more scenic than just the straight highways, and it went along 152 (you can follow along on Google maps if you wish... I'll wait here until you're back), but John took a wrong turn where four highways came out of a town, the GPS didn't want him to take the scenic route. I was kind of passed out in the passenger seat due to the headache, but when I woke up we talked it over, saw a bypass back to the way Walt recommended and took that.
It was just gorgeous. It went up into the mountains between the two freeways, and twisted and wound its way around. If we'd hit it the first time, it would have been perfect timing, too, as the sunset happened while we were on the bypass back, even as it was, we got to snowy peaks we wouldn't have otherwise seen, and at night, when it was full dark, it was impressive to see the absolute blackness of stone and around its edge the silver glitter of stars and the half moon in the night sky. Snow lined the road at some of its toughest curves, and the roadway in the headlights was blood red from the redstone sand they'd put for traction.
It was a little hair-raising, though, to be on the edge of a cliff at night, with nothing but blackness below. *laughs* John did good about not hanging me too far out over the abyssal depths, and we made the whole drive in half an hour better time than the GPS predicted. Still, it was nearly 3 hours of winding curves, and by the time we got back to I-25 we were happy for the long straightaways.
Ended up at the Hot Springs Inn, not because they had a hot spring there, but because they were named after the town. Inexpensive, quiet, and clean, we just ate at the little steakhouse on the premises (adorable waitress who was obviously NOT the 'regular', who really wanted to please everyone with everything she did) and went to sleep.
Breakfast was good, as they had The Waffle Machine that the good places have, and real honey to put on them. My headache disappeared with my morning coffee, and Jet was happy as a bird in a bush about everything, which helped a great deal to make the morning brighter.
A wonderful way to start the day. *laughs*
I tried to get stamps in town, so I could send my postcards from Truth or Consequences, but everything was closed yesterday and today for the holiday, and the post office didn't have a vending machine out in the lobby. So no luck. I guess Truth can't be just mailed that way.
From there, we headed north again, and stopped in Albuquerque to visit with John's brother, Walt and his wife Cathie. Jet got a full out bench for his band saw, with adjustable heights so that when he gets taller the bench will grow with him. We gave them lemons, they gave us pears, and we ate tamales at their table, both festive red and green. Jet and LBC (the big black cat who was once the Little Black Cat) played with each other and I'm not sure if even they knew which had more fun. It was good catching up with them, and all their work and travels and plans for the coming year.
We ended up at El Pueblo Lodge, on Paseo Del Norte, right above the Plaza. We'd stayed here before with John's parents, when they went skiing with Jet. The room rates are reasonable, especially since the snow here in Taos isn't so good, yet, this year. Given that and that it is a holiday, we tried our luck at Orlando's. It's a local restaurant that serves Northern New Mexican cuisine, and is very popular about these parts. So popular that we had to wait nearly an hour, the last time we were here around New Years. This time it was colder yet, I think, but there was no line. We were seated as soon as we got in and served nearly as quickly.
We also really loved the brownie sundae we all shared after, as much for its cooling effects on the tongue as for the creamy delight of the ice cream and the nutty moistness of the hot brownie underneath. So well-filled we headed to our room, lit the fire in the fireplace, and played Zombie Fluxx for three hands. We have the other version of Fluxx, and Jet bought John the Zombie version for Christmas. Jet was especially intrigued by this version because the Monty Python version specifically said that it shouldn't be mixed with the Zombie version as it's just too insane. Now he wants, of course, to mix the two.
We're now within striking distance of home, and will likely make it there tomorrow. H-Mart, however, lies between here and there, and we may not make it past there without a visit. *laughs* It's been good to be on the road again, in a lot of ways, but it'll be good to be home again soon.