Homeward Bound and a Trip Recap

Well, the day had finally come after nearly 6 months on the road. It was time to head home to my old dog, Zoey and my family.  I checked the weather across the United States. There were no big storms brewing.  Once I made the decision to leave, I put the “pedal to the metal” and made the nearly 2000 mile trip from Albuquerque to Upstate New York in 4 days!  The weather was OK. I drove through some nasty rainstorms, but fortunately no snow…. until I hit New York.

The first day I headed East on Interstate 40, crossed the northern section of Texas and made it to just outside Oklahoma City. I spent the night in a Walmart parking lot.

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Day two I headed northwest on Interstate 44 towards Missouri. I made it to Rolla just west of St. Louis, where I parked with some other campers at another Walmart.  It was a noisy spot and I didn’t get much sleep.

This was an interesting art installation at the Missouri Welcome Center.

 

 

I picked up Interstate 70 and blew through Indiana on my way to Dayton, Ohio. I was exhausted after having little sleep the previous night. I decided to get a hotel room. I needed a good nights sleep and a shower before my last big push towards home.  I slept well and got a little later start than I had planned, but I was excited to be getting closer to my final destination. In Columbus, OH I picked up Interstate 71 northeast through Cleveland to Erie, PA.

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Once I hit Pennsylvania I knew I could make it home, until I got on Interstate 86 (which crosses the southern tier of New York State). It started snowing, a wet heavy snow and it was coming down hard. I white knuckled my way slowly from Jamestown to Elmira. It was by far the scariest 150 miles of my entire trip. Sylvie is not cut out for driving in those conditions, but once again she pulled through for me! We got off the interstate onto Route 14 North.  I was almost home!

 

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I made it to Watkins Glen and the snow stopped. I fueled up and headed up over the hills, 20 miles to Trumansburg.  I pulled into town and burst into tears, a huge mix of emotions flooded over me.  I had done it! I had completed a trip that I had planned for 2 years and now it was over….it was bittersweet, but more sweet than bitter!

 

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THE RECAP:

I left on June 1, 2018 and returned home on November 19, 2018.

I put 17,981 miles on Sylvie

I traveled through 22 states and parts of Ontario and British Columbia, Canada

I went to 10 National Parks & 6 National Monuments,

I visited 3 aquariums, a buttetrfly garden, a couple of botanical gardens, a castle, 3 hotsprings and many museums and historical sights.

I saw many animals including: whales, bears, bison, elk, seals, sea lions, otters, eagles, and a roadrunner

Sylvie averaged about 24 miles per gallon

The most expensive gas was $5.99 a gal. in Big Sur, CA

The cheapest gas was in Joplin, MO @ $2.18 per gal.

I bought 4 new tires in Oregon, got 4 oil changes and replaced one complete headlamp assembly that shorted out.

One call to AAA to jump Sylvie’s battery after she sat parked for a week in Sedona.

The solar panels provided enough energy to run my refrigerator, CPAP & charge all my electronics for the entire trip

I reconnected with old friends from elementary school, high school & college days

I spent time with Costa Rica friends at their homes in Atlanta, ID, Bend, OR and Monterey, CA

I visited with several friends from my time in Denver in the early 1970s, and an extended visit near Seattle with my friend John from my early work years at Regional Access.

My daughter and other friends flew out to meet up and travel with me along the way.

I climbed mountains and swam in the Pacific Ocean, sailed on a half dozen ferries, went on a boatride across Jenny Lake in the Tetons, saw Orcas on a whale watch excursion in the San Juan Islands, took a gondola to the top of Crystal Mountain for lunch, stood in the headwaters of the Mississippi River and watched many beautiful sunsets all across the country.

I laughed and I cried. I was lonely at times, but I also met many wonderful people.  I got frustrated and I got lost more than once.  I yelled at the GPS!   I often had no access to the internet for days (until I found out you can park outside most libraries and use their internet even when they are closed).  Sometimes I worried about finding my next campsite, but mostly I was very happy in my nomadic life!

I loved living outside for much of the trip; in the Yellowstone campground with Jenna, on the beach or near a lake, next to a cornfield, camped in a meadow in the middle of Vancouver Island with Linda, in the Redwoods with Evelyn, or a campsite in  Alamogordo, New Mexico with Beth.

I ate amazing foods- Indian curry in Niagara Falls, smoked fish in the Northwest, homemade ice cream in Idaho, my first huckleberry pancakes in Glacier National Park, oysters from the Puget Sound, fantastic sushi in San Francisco, seafood tacos on the San Clemente pier, authentic Mexican food from El Pinto in Albuquerque, or my favorite hash browns, sausage and eggs, which I often made for dinner when I was camping.

I can’t forget all the great beers I had along the way including: Black Bear Stout in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Jenny Lake Lager and Snake River Zonker Stout in Grand Teton National Park, and Kelp Stout from Tofino Brewing Company in British Columbia. Seattle friend John’s “stock beer”, Bottom Cutter IPA by Bale Breaker became a favorite while I was there!  Then there was Ginger Beer! Linda and I starting trying out different ginger beers when we were in Canada. Have you tried Fever Tree? It’s very good!

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THE TAKEAWAY:

The three questions I get asked most often now that I am back is: What was your favorite place? Were you ever afraid? and What is next?

I have tried to pick a favorite place, but it is way too hard. I loved everywhere I went. Every day brought new sights and experiences.  I loved getting to the crest of a hill or the summit of a mountain pass or the far side of a huge switchback and seeing what lay beyond. Sometimes it was the most amazing view of the valley below, or something completely unexpected, like the seals at Shelter Cove on California’s Lost Coast, the rugged beauty of the Sawtooth Mountains, acres and acres of bright yellow Canola flowers in eastern Idaho or the huge rock haystacks along the Oregon Coast.

I loved the fertile fruit tree farms of the Columbia River Valley, the panoramic views of the Grand Tetons, the sacred Pipestone National Monument, the lighthouse on a cliff overlooking Lake Superior, the sunsets on Whidbey Island, the spectacular red rocks of Sedona or the serenity of Lake Kabetogama in Voyageurs National Park! They are all beautiful and special in their own way. There was no one “best” place.

Glacier National Park
Sunset at Beverly State Park, CA
Split Rock Lighthouse on Lake Superior
Seals at Shelter Cove

What I realized is how extremely lucky I am to live in this beautiful diverse country, where a retired single woman can get in her van and drive across country and back by herself. Was I ever afraid? In the beginning I felt a little afraid or unsure about camping in different places, but it soon became routine. I always tried to get to my campsite long before dark, cook and eat dinner, take a drive or hike to see the sunset whenever possible and get into bed early with doors locked. I am a strong believer in trusting one’s gut. If a place or person I encountered didn’t feel right, I just moved on.  I really didn’t have any serious issues. I stressed about Sylvie breaking down or not getting over the mountain pass, but my fears were unfounded and there again I became more relaxed the longer I traveled.

What is next? I have been home for a couple of months now, visiting friends and family over the holidays, working on the blog, and healing a broken bone in my foot! (the result of a tumble out of my van in Santa Fe.  I did not know it was broken until I got home and had it x-rayed)  It has been wonderful coming home, reconnecting with everyone, and especially seeing my grandchildren!

It is cold and snowy here in Upstate New York and as many of you know, I am no longer  a big fan of winter.  I am packing my bags and heading back to Costa Rica for a couple of months. I will come home when the crocus start to bloom and Spring is in the air. In the meantime, Sylvie will get a nice well deserved rest so she will be ready for whatever adventures lie ahead.

Thank you to all of my faithful “Travels with Sylvie” readers for following along on this grand adventure! Many of you I know, but some of you I have never met.  I loved reading all your comments and knowing you all were out there cheering me on!

Follow your dreams!

Adrienne & Sylvie

 

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Grand Teton National Park, July 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to Taos and a Day & Night at Ojo Caliente Spa

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My daughter had given me a gift certificate to Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Spa for Mother’s Day because she knew I would be near Taos and the spa on my travels. I, in turn, gave my friend Beth a day at the spa so we could go together.

We left Albuquerque heading north and hit some blinding snow near Santa Fe. Fortunately, it cleared up when we turned to head towards Taos. We stopped at the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument visitors center and got some information about Taos and some maps.

 

 

 

 

We arrived in Taos, checked into our motel and went to the Taos Plaza in the Downtown Historic District. We walked around but it was pretty cold. I decided to take Beth outside of Taos to the place where the Women On The Road event (See my Jan. 1st blog post) had taken place and to the Taos Mesa Brewery. On the way back to Taos we saw another amazing New Mexico sunset!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning we intended on going to visit the Taos Pueblo where they give walking tours, but with freezing temperatures, we stopped only briefly and decided instead to go straight to Ojo Caliente for our spa day! Here are a couple of shots of the Taos Pueblo that I did not take. They don’t allow photography unless you pay for a tour. Maybe next time!

 

 

 

 

10 miles Northwest of Taos we came across the spectacular steel arch Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. We pulled over in the rest area to get a better look. It was so beautiful gleaming in the sunlight with the snow all around and the mountains in the distance. The bridge was built in 1965, is 600 feet above the Rio Grande and is the 10th highest bridge in the United States.

 

 

 

While we were there we met a lovely Native American woman who was selling her jewelry. She told us she is there at that same spot 365 days of the year, no matter what the weather and it was cold and blustery that day! My dear friend Beth bought me a lovely pendant as a gift and a wonderful memory of our time together!

 

 

 

 

We arrived at Ojo Caliente around lunchtime and after getting checked in we decided to sit out in the sunny courtyard and admire the view and eat our picnic lunch.  We then went and changed into our bathing suits and took the plunge into the first mineral spring tub. It was heavenly!

 

 

 

Ojo Caliente is one of the oldest natural health resorts in the country.  The geothermal, sulfur-free mineral waters have flowed from a subterranean volcanic aquifer for thousands of years. There were several different pools included in our pass; the lithia springs, the iron springs, the soda springs, the arsenic springs (yes, really! it is supposed to be good for relieving digestive problems and arthritis symptoms), and the Kiva pool.

 

 

There are also private pools, a mud pool, steam room, sauna, and massages.  We spent the afternoon going from pool to pool and then we each got one hour massages-the best one I have ever had. In between times, we sat next to the outside fireplace to keep warm.

When we were done for the day, we went to our room in the Old Hotel to chill out before dinner.  We sat by the fireplace in the bar area while we waited to be seated at our table in the dining room. The food was authentic, spicey and delicious!

 

 

The next morning we had a delicious breakfast and since we didn’t have to check out until 11AM, we took advantage of the extra time to soak in the pools again before getting on the road. It was sunny and beautiful, but we had to be careful of the thin little layer of unmelted ice left overnight on the walkways between pools. It was an absolutely lovely way to start the day!

 

 

 

We were sad to leave and vowed that we would be back!  We decided to make a brief stop in Santa Fe on the way home to visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. It is not a large museum but honors her many achievements. It had a good selection of her paintings, photographs, and photos taken of her by friend Ansel Adams.  I learned a lot about her background and her interesting life in New Mexico.

 

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I quite enjoyed it and hope to go see her homestead and studio called Abiquiu, the next time I am in New Mexico. It was a good break between the dreamy world of Ojo Caliente and the city life we were returning to in Albuquerque.

 

A Post Script:

This blog post is being published on January 11th. This would have been Doug’s 69th Birthday. As I write about my trip, there is always this thought in the back of my mind as to what this trip would have been like had Doug been along with me, as we originally planned. I missed him an awful lot, but I believe he was there with me in spirit and I know how proud he would be that I did this trip on my own. Soooo…

Happy Birthday, Doug!

Next Time:  Homeward Bound!

White Sands National Monument and Silver City, NM

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The only thing I knew about White Sands before I went there with my photographer friend Beth, was that it is a military base where they test missiles. When I looked it up online they warned that there are times that the road to the park is closed, when they are conducting tests. Fortunately, this was not happening while we were there.

 

 

White Sands National Monument is 275 square miles of giant dunes of white gypsum sand. The contrast of the sand, the distant mountains, and the blue sky is stunning. The sand looks like snow, but it is lovely and warm. There are hiking trails in every direction. Some families bring plastic snow saucers so kids can slide down the dunes.

 

 

We hiked up the dunes to look around and met one couple who travels with a toy dinosaur.  They shoot pictures of the dinosaur in parks and places they go. We got in on the fun and took our own pictures!

 

We explored a desert oasis lake and then decided to take a break from the heat and go have a picnic lunch back at the Visitors Center. We were reminded again to beware of rattlesnakes but did not run into any!

 

 

After lunch, we took a little trip to McGinn’s Pistachio farm store. Beth has been a pistachio lover her whole life so we had to go. She decided she wanted to get a job there as a tour guide and tested out the tour cart for size!

 

 

 

Our plan was to return to White Sands National Monument to see the sunset. We were not disappointed!

 

We went back to our campsite in Alamogordo and the next day we headed west through the mountains towards Silver City. We stayed in a little KOA cabin just outside of town. They had a sweet little pond with geese, ducks, and swans. I watched the owner feed them as the sun went down. It was lovely and peaceful.

 

Silver City is the home of Western New Mexico University in the foothills of the Pinos Altos Mountains. It is the gateway to the over three million (yes million!)  acre Gila National Forest. It was originally home to the Mimbres Indians (A.D. 200-A.D. 1150) who are known for their unusual “black on white pottery”.   Silver City was just a tent town in 1870 when silver was discovered. In less than a year over 80 buildings were built.

 

Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch frequented the saloons of Silver City in the late 1800s. Billy the Kid spent his early years in Silver City and his childhood home is on display at the Murray Ryan Visitor Center.

 

We spent the morning wandering up and down the colorful main street, checking out the shops and galleries along the way.

 

We left Silver City and wound our way through the Gila Wilderness area, stopping to take pictures along the way. We made it back to Albuquerque in time for dinner and an early bedtime!

 

Next Blog: I return to Taos and a spend a day at Ojo Caliente Spa.

BioPark Botanical Gardens & Aquarium and a Day Trip Through the Jemez Mtns.

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We spent one whole day at the Albuquerque BioPark Botanical Gardens, with over a mile and a half of winding paths and the adjoining Aquarium.

It was November so the flowers were limited but it was a beautiful sunny day so it was lovely to stroll around the grounds. They were preparing the gardens for the holidays and had big lighted animals and other ornamental displays waiting for someone to flick the switch on Thanksgiving!

 

 

They have a wonderful Japanese garden with a lake and waterfalls.

 

There is also an old farm homestead complete with an alien spaceship!

 

As we were leaving I had my first roadrunner sighting…Beep, Beep!

 

We went to lunch at the Sharf Reef Cafe with one whole wall of glass that looks into the shark tank. As it happened, a diver was in the tank feeding the sharks when we sat down to eat!

 

 

I loved the Sting Ray tank and the sweet otters sleeping against the windows. I had hoped they would dive in their pool, but they were obviously recovering from a late night of partying!

 

 

The next day we were off to the Jemez Mountains northwest of Santa Fe. These mountains form the southernmost tip of the Rocky Mountains and are comprised of a large area of forests, hot springs, volcanic peaks and historic sites. The road passes through the small Jemez Indian Reservation to the Jemez Historic Site, a 17th century Spanish Mission which unfortunately was closed for Election Day!

 

We stopped at one of the little local “Bath House” hot springs with big deep cement tubs. A soak was very tempting but we decided to keep moving.

 

We drove along the Jemez River, past the 15 foot Soda Falls made of deposits of travertine and stopped for a picnic lunch on the river in the shadows of red rock cliffs.

 

 

 

We continued on to Battleship Rock on very windy roads through the woods and past volcanic peaks, which eventually opened up into a huge flat grassy expanse called the Valles Caldera National Preserve.  This wide-open valley is centered on the collapsed interior of an ancient volcano. We stopped in at the visitor center and picked up the picture postcard of the herd of elk. Unfortunately, we did not actually see them ourselves!

 

 

It was very cold and there was a little snow in the mountains as we climbed over 9,000 feet through the upper edge of Bandelier National Monument. We then descended rapidly through many switchbacks, past white limestone cliffs to the eastern foothills. We continued on to Santa Fe and south to Albuquerque, quite exhausted but very happy with our successful trip.

 

 

Next Time: White Sands National Monument and Silver City

 

New Mexico ~ Women on the Road

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Sadly, my time in Sedona came to an end but there were more adventures ahead. My next destination was Taos, NM for a “Women On the Road” weekend gathering.

 

There were women from all over the US; Oregon, California, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Michigan, and Florida! Over 100 women arrived in assorted vehicles from vans and teardrop trailers to Class C campers. Most of the woman were in their 20’s and 30’s, but there was a handful of older woman as well. I didn’t know what to expect but it was fun and really inspiring to hang out with all these strong independent women!

We were camped at a place just outside of Taos called the Hotel Luna Mystica, Vintage Trailer Hotel and Campground. They had beautiful old Airstreams and other old repurposed campers available to rent.  Camping in the campground was just $10 per night. It was ideally situated with great views of the mountains and the Taos Mesa Brewery & Restaurant next door! I ate several meals there and sampled some good beers!

The first night we had a concert in the big tent by a van dweller and singer-songwriter named Ira Wolf. She is very talented and played songs about her life on the road. I loved her music. You can check her out on Spotify! The next day there were workshops about living on the road; from safety to finding a campsite to making a living and the evening capped off with more music at the Brewery!

 

I stayed one extra day after the weekend ended and went into Taos to explore. It has that adobe architecture I am so fond of and many great shops with beautiful native American jewelry and artwork. I loved exploring and bought a few gifts for my family.

 

My next stop was Albuquerque to visit my dear friend Beth. We have been friends since we were 10, so we have a long history and definitely feel more like sisters than friends! She lives with her brother, Denis in a great location with spectacular sunsets! One of the first nights there we went to the renowned El Pinto Restaurant, located on a 12-acre property in Albuquerque’s north valley. We had a wonderful meal with a handsome young server who charmed us and gave us a free container of their famous hot salsa to take home!

 

Beth took me to the Sandia Mountains just east of the city. There is a tram from Albuquerque that carries people on a 15-minute ride to the Sandia Crest at 10,378 feet with an 11,000 square mile view from the top! We chose to take Sylvie and drive an hour up the mountain. She was a champ despite the steep elevation. She only has 4 cylinders but she is like the Little Engine that Could! The views at the top were amazing although it was quite chilly.

We left the crest and met some of the local deer on our way down the mountain! We headed north to the little colorful artist community of Madrid. We had had lunch and walked around before going back to Albuquerque and witnessing another lovely New Mexico sunset!

 

 

 

More NM adventures to come…..

Sedona, Arizona

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I have to admit that I am totally enamored with the contrast of the deep red rocks, bright blue skies and puffy white clouds of Arizona.  I also am in love with the adobe architecture of many of the homes and buildings in the southwest. I find them much softer and more pleasing to the eye than the sharp angles of houses and buildings where I come from. It goes without saying then that I totally fell in love with Sedona. There are beautiful red rocks hills in every direction and their appearance changes as the sun moves throughout the day! Adobe structures dot the surrounding landscape.

 

My friend Bob has lived in Sedona for many years and has been urging me to come out to visit. I finally got my chance to make that happen on this trip! My first day there we headed up to a place called Jerome, built way up on the side of a hill, between Sedona and Prescott.  It was a drizzly day but that didn’t diminish the trip.

 

 

Jerome was once a booming copper mining town. The first copper mine claim was filed in 1876 and the town was incorporated in 1899. In its heyday, it was home to more than 10,000 people. The population as of the 2010 census was 444. As the ore ran out and the mines closed, Jerome turned to tourism. The town is now home to restaurants, art galleries, coffee houses and a museum devoted to mining history.

 

The town was decorated for Halloween and ironically we had lunch at one of Bob’s favorite cafes called the Haunted Hamburger which among other things, had a bookcase embedded into the ceiling and great views of the town below.

 

 

The next day we drove to Boynton Canyon which is purported to be the site of the balanced energy vortex. This is one of four energy vortexes located in Sedona. I never felt the energy that some experience but the place was beautiful!

 

 

Bob then took me to another place called Crescent Moon Ranch in the Coconino Forest where we hiked in along the river with more beautiful red rocks towering over us. Loved the big old trees and the roots!

 

 

Late one afternoon we signed up for a canyon Pink Jeep Tour. If you have never gone on one of these tours, it is quite an experience. I thought I was going to toss my cookies at first or need a serious chiropractic adjustment.  The roads are full of huge boulders and giant gullies and our driver seemed to take pleasure in going over the bumps at a high speed!

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Once I got more comfortable with the bumpy trail I was able to enjoy the spectacular views!

One day Bob took me to the Arts & Craft Village called Tlaquepaque (meaning the “best of everything”) It is located on the Oak Creek in Sedona and was fashioned after a traditional Mexican village.  Vine covered stucco buildings, cobblestone walkways, fountains and arched entryways make it feel like it has been there for centuries. It was actually constructed in the 1970s. Unique shops and galleries are fun to poke around in. We also took a stroll along the creek.

Some parting shots including Bob’s house covered in vines and flowers, a beautiful sunset taken at the Sedona Airport and the J Wine Bistro where we went for dinner and listened to Bob’s friends play and sing in a band one night.

Next: Bob and I go to the Grand Canyon!

Lake Powell and Antelope Canyon, AZ

I found my way to the town of Page, AZ and the south end of Lake Powell, where I had to cross the Colorado River at Glen Canyon Dam to get to my campground.  This 710-foot dam is quite impressive. I stopped in the Carl Hayden Visitors Center to look around and learn more.  It took 7 years to build and was completed in 1963. The adjoining powerplant was completed in 1966.  The dam is part of the 1.25 million acre Glen Canyon Recreation Area which spans across part of Arizona and Utah.

Equally as impressive, is the steel arch Glen Canyon Bridge which was completed in 1959. It is two-lane, 1,271 feet long, and 700 feet above the river; making it one of the highest bridges in the United States.