Houston to Santa Fe 2014
Sunday, June 22, 2014
We’re all packed and ready to roll! Last time we headed to the west, we were in a black Terrain named, “Black Beauty.” Now we have a white Equinox named, “Snow White.” Snow White has less than 3,000 miles on her. We’ve driven her to San Antonio, Dallas and Dripping Springs. This will be her first trip outside of Texas. Notice in the picture this is the same scene as the Colorado trip. On the road again!!!
At home with bikes on Equinox
So off we went, heading northwest via 290. We were lucky, it was slightly overcast. We had some drizzle and no bright glare so the driving wasn’t bad. We passed through Brenham. Outside Brenham, turning to Rte. 36, we passed through Somerville, home of Lake Somerville. The town is basically nonexistent, which surprised us. Continuing onward, we went through Milano and then Cameron where we saw the following house for sale.
House for sale in Cameron, TX
Another view of the house for sale
Here is the real estate sign if anyone is interested.
We looped the loop.
As we approached Killeen, we had our first little driving direction mishap. We were toddling along, skirting around Ft. Hood, when we realized we had passed the Scott & White Hospital once and were approaching it again. Turns out, we missed the sign to continue on 36 because of road construction and we had looped completely around the town!
Once we found the turn-off, we headed on to Gatesville, county seat of Coryell County. Here’s the county courthouse. We are deep in the Edwards Plateau region of Texas.
The Coryell County Courthouse is in Gatesville.
Courthouse through the trees.
Statue on Courthouse
Bell dedicated to firemen on courthouse grounds.
The Architecture is Second Empire Victorian
Weather report and directions
Weather report: we still have drizzle with an occasional heavy down-pour that lasts 10 – 15 minutes.
The most important fact is, here is where we turn to Rte. 84 which we take all the way to Santa Fe!
A map of Texas would be helpful here to see where were are.
Just south of Coleman, TX, there is a tiny spot in the road called Santa Anna, TX. As all good old-fashioned small towns do, they had a Dairy Queen so we stopped.
Santa Anna wasn't named after General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. The town was named after the mountain and the mountain was named after a Comanche Chief.
Comanche Indians lived in this area, and one of their chiefs, Santana, camped with his band at the springs near the foot of the mountains and used the elevated peaks as lookout and signal points. The peaks were named for the chief, using the Spanish spelling. Santana became Santa Anna.
The Chief died about 1849 of cholera, which had been contracted from the whites. The Santa Anna Mountains, or Peaks as they are sometimes called, served as a sort of "switchboard" for the signal-fire network that the Comanche used. They also were the point of impact for a meteorite that the Comanche recovered and held sacred. Santana (the Chief) actually traveled to Washington-on-the-Potomac and met with then-president Polk.
The little sign behind the DQ in Santa Anna
After World War I, Dr. T.R. Sealy established a hospital that soon became widely known. A nursing school was founded in the 1920s to provide trained nurses, continuing until the death of Dr. Sealy in the mid- 1930s. Dr. Sealy was part of the Coleman family who are still living in the area. The county is named Coleman County.
Here is what is left of that hospital:
Entrance to the ruins of the Sealy Hospital
Ruins of the hospital building
Cheryl found this old photo of the hospital
On to Snyder, TX
Pressing onward, we began to think of stopping for the night. Cheryl thought it would be neat to say we stayed in Sweetwater. Rte. 84 had converged with I-20 so we exited the freeway and, interesting fact, we saw only 1 hotel in that town and it looked like a dump. We drove through most of the town and couldn’t figure out why there were no other options. NOTE: On the way home, we realized that if we had stayed on the interstate, we’d have seen at least 5 hotels!
We ended up at a Best Western in Snyder, TX. We were tired and they had the pool we were looking for. We settled in and headed to the pool. We started our aqua-aerobic workout with our water dumb-bells. Cheryl purchased 2 sets on sale at Academy before our vacation and it is nice to have them with us! The hotel manager and his family were there also and we had a nice visit with them. They manage this hotel as well as the Holiday Inn Express just down the street. They live at the Best Western. The manager was interested in the dumb-bells so Jay demonstrated the movements and let him use the dumb-bells.
The room was clean and comfortable and had a refrigerator. We placed our picnic food in the refrigerator and ordered Pizza Hut for dinner. Cheryl noticed that one wall had a blotchy paint job and the bathtub caulking needed refreshing. The beds were very comfortable. During the night, it rained cats and dogs!
Next morning we arose and ate their free breakfast. Their waffle maker made waffles in the shape of the state of Texas. It was a very good breakfast buffet. We can recommend the Best Western in Snyder, TX. We left around 8 a.m. under cloudy skies. This was good as it kept the temperature down.
We can recommend the Best Western, Snyder Inn
Monday, June 23, 2014
The next city on the route is Lubbock, about 85 miles away. What can we say about the drive? A picture sums it up nicely.
En route to Lubbock
To Texico, New Mexico
We passed through Lubbock, which is a good sized town. We pressed onward and around noon, we crossed the Texas/New Mexico border. The first town in NM is Texico, NM, an outpost of Clovis, NM.
Texico has a state tourist office. We enjoy stopping at state visitor centers; they generally have lots of information, friendly folk working there, clean bathrooms, nice picnic areas and decent coffee. So we pulled in.
Map of New Mexico.
Clovis is near Texico
Tourist Information Office in Texico
To Santa Rosa
We had a nice picnic lunch and were going to leave. Jay got a cup of coffee for Cheryl and mentioned they were almost out of coffee. One on the ladies said, “We only make one pot of coffee a day.” The ladies who work this center make only one pot of coffee a day and we got the last of it! How weird is that? Isn’t part of the concept to keep drivers alert? Further, they did not have a full highway map in the tourism booklet. We usually get complete highway map at state’s tourist outlet on the highways.
Back in the car, we continue to drive, heading northwest on 84. This has to be one of the most boring areas to drive through in America; sage and dry brown land EVERYWHERE! Luckily we have Sirrius XM radio which we tuned to some really great songs from the 60’s that we sang along to as we drove.
After what seemed to be many, many hours but was in reality only about 3 hours, we arrived at Santa Rosa, NM. In need of a bathroom, we pulled into the local McDonald’s. What a mistake! The floor was super sticky and it was packed. We were afraid that the bathrooms would be equally as bad so we turned around and walked out.
Heading back to the highway, we saw the Route 66 Restaurant! The original Route 66 runs parallel to Route 84 at this point. So in the spirit of road trips and Americana nostalgia, we stopped to grab a bite to eat at the Route 66 Restaurant and use the restrooms. In the parking lot was a classic 1950’s yellow Ford Thunderbird!
We found the Route 66 Restaurant!
Jay and his T-bird
Classic diner interior
Cheryl had New Mexico Red Chili.
Another reason for stopping in Santa Rosa was the Blue Hole, a natural spring.
Jay started in, but it was Cold!
Some people snorkel or even scuba here.
Good view of the size of the Blue Hole
Kids tubing on its' outflow
Santa Rosa lake is only 1/2 mile from the Blue Hole.
Santa Rosa lake has water slides.
On to Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino
Time to get on the road again. We left the old Route 66 and re-entered Route 84 and drove until we arrived at Buffalo Thunder Resort approximately 3 hours later.
The Buffalo Thunder Resort is impressive. It is a large Hilton resort. It is in the pueblo style. We checked in and found our room to be spacious with find carved wooden headboards.
Here is one of the two headboards.
There is a snake carved into the bureau. Note the Jack Daniels.
There was a comfortable lounge chair.
A roadrunner was carved into the vanity.
Very nice tile entryway
View from balcony
There is an outdoor pool and hot tub as well as an indoor pool and hot tub. We hit the indoor pool to do our aqua-aerobics. The outdoor pool has a gazebo in the inside area that has torches on the roof. Dinner was a club sandwich and a burger from the grille, eaten on the balcony as the sun went down. Here are some views from our balcony that first evening.
View of courtyard from balcony
Clubhouse for golf course
Dusk in the desert
Pool view, one of four torches
Grille, restaurant by pool
ceramic vase in lobby
Blue tile work on floor of lobby
Art glass in lobby
6.5% Credit Card Fee!
After resting in the room for a few hours, Jay went to the casino to check it out. Jay discovered the casino charges a 6.5% fee for credit card transactions! How are you supposed to gamble without carrying large sums of cash? Jay did not gamble due to the fee charged. More on this later.
Toward Taos, Tuesday June 24, 2014
We headed up to Taos. Jay’s cousins, Stephen and Betsy, retired from Westchester County, NY to El Prado, just north of Taos in 2000. They have often said we should come see them so we did!
Update: Betsy died of a heart attack touring her favorite city, Paris. It was quick. This is a good way to go.
The plan was to meet them around 5:30 and spend the night. They love to travel and just arrived home from celebrating Betsy’s 75th birthday at a chateau in southern France. They had some errands to run during the day. They were leaving Wednesday to go camping with friends in Creed, CO so our timing was perfect!
We drove north on Rte. 84 (we’re in a pattern with that road!). Our plan was to see Echo Amphitheatre. However, on the way, we noticed a shrine on the side of the road so we stopped to investigate.
On the way to Taos we saw a shrine.
Cross in front of shrine
The shrine is an old adobe structure.
Interior of church
The walls were about two feet thick.
Rocks were laid here in remembrance of the departed.
Continuing our northern trek, heading upward in elevation, we passed the Georgia O’Keefe house and museum. We made a note to stop there later. We eventually made it to Echo Amphitheater.
Cliffs leading to Echo Amphitheater
Walkway to Echo Amphitheater
The bikes really were not needed.
The amphitheater was very pretty and we were glad we made the trek there. When we left, we headed to a sign for a monastery we saw close to the amphitheater. A woman at the amphitheater told us it was a real working monastery and that the monks welcomed visitors. They make Monk’s Ale there but cannot sell it directly to the consumer. We went up to the “road” which was all gravel and very narrow. The woman had said it would take about 45 minutes to drive the 13 miles! We decided to pass on that drive. Check it out; do you agree with our decision?
Monastery Road, 13 miles of gravel
Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
We headed back south to the Georgia O’Keeffe museum. You have to make reservations in advancefor the tour. There was a group of older women who offered to let us join them but we didn’t. We did however, visit the gift shop and bought some lunch for a picnic on their grounds. We had a cold cucumber, mint, yougurt and avocado soup, gucalmole and chips that we added to the club sandwich (turkey, ham, bacon and cheese) we had left over from dinner the night before. Quite a tasty picnic! We can recommnd the restaurant at the Geogia O’Keeffe museum.
We picnicked at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
Walkway to Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
The Abiquiu Inn is the name of the restaurant.
On to Taos
Now it was time to get serious about getting to the Taos area. Following the very undetailed map from the state tourist office, we entered the Carson National Forest headed east. Calling this a “forest” is misleading. Most of the so-called forest here is sagebrush. As you climb, you do get some trees but this forest is nothing like the national forest in Colorado and certainly not like East Texas!
We toodled along but were getting concerned about where exactly we were since none of the road numbers were on our map. Luckily we found a forest ranger station. The ranger was super nice and she gave us a wonderful highway map of New Mexico. Finally we had a great map! She said we were on the correct route and were very close to the turn we needed. “Close” to these folks in the area means 25-30 minutes of driving with no clue as to what road you are on and when you reach an intersection, there is no indication as to what town is in what direction and the roads don’t always have a number!
Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
We reached the intersection where the ranger said we needed to take a right. The 2 cars ahead of us went left; we went right. WRONG! We ended up at a warning sign that the road pavement ended, it became a one lane gravel path and we needed to exercise extreme caution as it had a steep grade. OOPS. We could see a huge gorge in front of us. We knew that was the Rio Grande Gorge and we needed to be on the other side of it. But how do we get there???
So we turned around. Now remember, we have bikes on the back of the car and we are now on a gravel, narrow and steep “road”. That was an adventure in and of itself!
But we made it and got back to that intersection and went the way the other cars went. About 10 miles down, we had another intersection and one of those vehicles was at the side, unloading bikes. We stopped and they said they were a little worried when we didn’t follow them right away but they saw that we had turned around. This intersection was right before the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge which we had planned on seeing.
All sorts of vendors are lined up at the bridge and the state rest stop there. The funniest was the bus stop!
Now that we had explored the Rio Grande, we had several hours before we were due to arrive so we headed across the bridge and into Taos. Cheryl was a bit anxious to find a gas station as we had driven 500 miles since our last fill-up! Luckily there was a station shortly after we crossed the bridge.
Touchstone gallery 110 South Plaza, Taos
We went to the Taos Plaza and Cheryl did some shopping. Jay found "touchstone gallery," a store with some really beautiful stones and gems from around the world. They were definitely beautiful. If money were no object, you can get some wonderful pieces of art, jewelry and even furniture with embedded gems here! Cheryl bought several items of Nambe, on sale.
Deciding that we really needed to clean-up before meeting the relatives, we asked a sales lady if there was a pool or something. She directed us to the Rio Grande River Visitors’ Center, about a 20 minute drive down the mountain. So off we went! Sure enough, we found the visitors’ center but even more importantly, they had changing rooms. So we got into our swim suits and headed to an area to take a dip in the Rio Grande to cool off.
Rio Bravo clean up
We walked down to the river and it was a muddy bank and not really conducive to getting cleaned up. But there were showers! For $1.00 in quarters, you got 4 minutes of water. Cheryl joined Jay in the men’s shower (no one else was there) and we were able to get all cleaned up and even take a siesta before we headed back up into El Prado. We were now presentable to our relatives.
We arrive at the family compound
Our timing was perfect; we arrived just at 5:30 in time for cocktail hour. The O’Brien family has always had cocktail hour before dinner. Whenever we have had dinner with any of this group, it always starts with cocktail hour! After drinks, Betsy served a wonderful oven fried chicken and a corn casserole with cheese and peppers that was superb. It was great visiting with Stephen and Betsy.
Their house is adobe on the outside and has some neat wood ceiling with logs. It looks like a log cabin inside. It was built in 1980 by 2 women who they bought it from in 2000. There are 2 separate casitas for guests. They have no A/C and don’t really need it. They do have gas heat but they primarily use fireplaces for heat. There are lots of south facing windows that bring in sunshine and provide warmth in the winter. The front porch is deep and covered and they have a back balcony that is also very large and is covered. There is a hot tub out back. They are now on the city sewer line but they have their own water well. There is no TV and they have an antennae to get internet reception. They are into native plants and love gardening. The yard is beautiful! Their house backs up to the Indian reservation.
New Mexico has open range. There is no requirement for a rancher to fence in their livestock. If you do not want animals roaming onto your property, you have to build a fence. The Indians have horses on the reservation so they have a wire fence to keep the horses out but still maintain a view. They have a solid wood fence on the east side because their former neighbors had 5 dogs that used to come in and soak in the pond in the back yard!
Looking East from porch
The inside resembles a log cabin. That is one of the styles of homes in the area. That was a surprise; we expected it to be adobe looking inside also!
The front garden is lush and it is all native plants.
The back yard is also gorgeous.
Back to Buffalo Thunder
Wednesday June 25, 2014
We drove on back to the Buffalo Thunder Resort, going through Taos. We wanted to visit Taos Pueblo, the tribal village that has original structures. However, the village was closed to outsiders due to a funeral of a tribal leader that was being held that day. So off we went, following the Rio Grande River.
The Rio Grande River
More Rio Grande
Back at Buffalo Thunder
Arriving back at the hotel, we shared a club sandwich from the grill in the casino. One club sandwich can feed two people. The grille did a good job of the club sandwich and it was massive. We can recommend the grill.
Do you recall the monastery we mentioned and the fact that they make beer there? Guess what? The casino sells it! We shared a bottle with our sandwich.
A bottle of the Monks' Ale
Jay made 50% profit
We rested up and then made an appointment for Jay to get a massage at the spa on Thursday. Jay went to the casino to try again. While standing in line at the cashier Jay noticed a woman present a blank check to the teller to receive cash. When it was his turn, Jay asked about the blank check. The teller told Jay that you can receive cash without a fee if you present a blank check. Unfortunately Jay had not brought a blank check so that was not an option.
Jay decided just to bet the amount subscribed by his backers. Jay went to the roulette table and placed his bet. The other player was betting $2 spread all over the table over and over. Jay placed all of his money on two thirds of the table. The other player was surprised someone would bet all his money at one time. Jay did not explain the Law or Large Numbers (central limit theory). Jay won and made 50% profit for his backers.
There is really no way to win at gambling unless you become the dealer and get paid hourly or gamble with someone else’s money.
We went to the pool again with our aqua dumb-bells and did a work-out. Retiring to the room, we finished our sandwich from lunch and retired early.
Thursday June 26, 2014, Santa Fe Opera
We got up and after grabbing some oatmeal at the Starbuck’s, we headed out to the Santa Fe Opera. Their season starts this weekend with Carmen on Friday night and Don Pasquale on Saturday night. We looked into getting Jay a ticket for Friday’s opening but all they had were 6 seats at $295/each and standing room for $100. They basically sell out months in advance. But they offer tours of the building once a day so we took the tour.
Santa Fe Opera House
This is a picture of 2 postcards of the opera house
On to Santa Fe
Leaving the opera, onward to Santa Fe! We found a place to park near The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. We unloaded the bikes and looked at this first.
Front view of Basilica
View along the side.
View of columns
Elaborate exterior doors.
We hopped on our bikes and went to the Santa Fe Art Museum
Exterior of museum, pueblo style
Beamed ceilings and iron chandelier
More beamed ceilings
We recommend lunch at, "The Shed."
Asking a man crossing the street where locals go to eat traditional New Mexican cuisine, he recommended The Shed so we ate lunch there. It was a short bike ride over on the other side of the plaza.
Jay had chicken enchiladas with green chili sauce in blue corn tortillas with pinto beans and posole’. That is corn and what looks like hominy. Cheryl had huevos rancheros sunny side up with Christmas sauce (green on one egg, red on the other) with pinto beans and lettuce. The meals came with French garlic bread which the waiter said to dip in the sauce. We did and it was quite tasty! We highly recommend this restaurant.
We recommend, The Shed
After lunch, we walked over to the plaza. Cheryl rested and listened to a local musician playing traditional Mexican waltzes on the harp while Jay window-shopped. He found a jewelry store with some gorgeous items. The rubies and emeralds were especially beautiful and Cheryl found a fabulous green turquois ring that fit her finger. But it wasn’t pretty enough to warrant the cost of just shy of $3,000! There was also a leather shop nice coats, boots, purses, also expensive. There were lots of shops in the plaza area but we decided we didn’t need to do any more shopping.
Harleys and CPAs
The Harley Davidson Sturgis rally was last week and there were a lot of Harley bikers in the area as they headed home. It was fun watching them both here and up in Taos. Cheryl learned Friday evening that one of her fellow board members and his wife had been at the rally and ridden their bikes down from Sturgis to the conference. Ah, the hidden life of CPAs! Check out the cool looking bike we saw at the Plaza:
A short bike tour of Santa Fe
We got back on the bikes and just started riding around the city. Santa Fe is very bike-friendly. The cars were very considerate and folks were nice. We found the river that flows through the city and several nice green spaces. In fact, we found a nice fig tree near the little river and a nice grassy area that we laid down to take a bit of a siesta! Here are some scenes of the city.
Beginning of bike tour of Santa Fe
Here is a fig tree underneath which we took a siesta.
The fig stood along a stream which we followed
A flowing stream in the town of Santa Fe
This is the sundeck of a large restaurant
We shared some Gelato
Jay got chocolate and nuts.
We came upon a convent
Exterior of convent
Sign along the stream
On the way out we found the Masonic Lodge for sale.
Between Santa Fe and Buffalo Thunder stands Camel Rock
At Camel Rock were two signs.
Pueblo of Tesuque used to be here.
Back to Buffalo Thunder and a Massage
Being tired by now, we went back to the hotel to collapse. Jay had a massage scheduled for 4:30 (an 80 minute one!) and Cheryl was going to hit the pool. Jay went ahead to get ready for the massage while Cheryl checked the bikes on the car.
The massage was done by a man named Gregg. Jay started face down, but Gregg did not do the neck. Gregg did the neck after Jay flipped to his back. Greggs’ technique was superb. He worked the muscles up to a point of almost pain and then backed off and repeated the stroke. The technique was both relaxing and effective. Good job Gregg!
On the way up to the room, Cheryl ran into Kathy, who was headed to the pool also. Cheryl got changed and met up with Kathy and several others at the pool and spent the next hour visiting as they sat in the cool indoor pool and hot-tub.
Friday June 27, 2014
Cheryl spent all day involved with her conference, the annual meeting of the board of directors of the Texas Society of CPAs. She attended the dinner and dance that evening. The DJ was really good; lots of danceable music from the 40’s thru the 60’s was played. Cheryl convinced Kathy, Gail and Gayla to dance with her; lots of folks did group dancing. Cheryl had a blast! She arrived at the hotel room around 10:30pm, tired.
Saturday June 28, 2014
Spouses joined the board members for breakfast Saturday morning. The board met until noon. During the meeting Jay toured the casino. He discovered a quiet little alcove in the High Limits section where you can sit, watch TV and eat a Chex Mix. Jay also discovered the poker room. One of the dealers was kind enough to explain the rules of the various poker games. Jay asked how much the dealer took. The man said the rake was 10%. Ten percent? Those are the worst odds I have heard of!
Jay left the casino to go to the lobby bar and watch a game of soccer. A lady at the table next door was from Costa Rica and explained the game and how countries progress through the tournament. Cheryl got out of her meeting and joined us.
We then headed home. To be different, we took Rte. 36 out of Santa Fe instead of 84. We drove straight through to Abilene where we spent the night at the Best Western Abilene Inn and Suites.
Sunday June 29, 2014
Continuing on 36, we made it all the way to Brenham where we picked up 290. We made it home by 4:30.
Do not gamble with your own money. Either become a dealer or get backers.