Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day 19 - July 3, 2010
Odometer reads: 4803 miles

Got up lateish, left Denver, and arrived in Rocky Mountain National Park early this afternoon. Got Kat some pants on the way there, since it is freezing in the West and she didn't pack anything except shorts. The drive was amazing, the mountains were hidden by the leaning cliffsides, the space on the roads was minimal, we were so close to the edge of the cliffs and the walls. The park was packed because for 4th of July weekend and it seemed everyone in Colorado and Utah had arrived to play. At 2 miles above sea level we arrived at our campsite #100, the only one unoccupied, and set up our tent quickly so we could get moving and see the rest of the park. Only having a day and night to spend in the park we decided to do the infamous 50 mile drive along Trail Ridge Road that cuts right through the middle of the park and has pulloffs for picture taking and elk gazing. By the way it was freezing up there. Notice there is ice all over the mountain tops.

The meandering river in the valley was pretty cool. Anyways there were elk everywhere, Kat loves them and couldn't stop taking pictures - some of them had antlers that were 3 and 4 feet long!

After sightseeing for a couple of hours we got back to our campsite to fire up the grill, or fire pit and successfully made corn, grilled zucchini, and Rice-A-Roni in our little pot.

Obviously Kat is more attentive than Smalls.

After enjoying the view and a lovely sunset from our site we headed into town to grab some home made ice cream. We returned and just before going to bed we heard a woman in the next site scream quite hysterically, as we looked on we noticed a fair sized brown animal make its way by our neighbors tent and slink towards the cars. At that moment, Kat made us both get inside the tent and go to bed.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Day 18 - July 2, 2010
Odometer reads: 4612 miles

To Denver we ride this fine morning, Pueblo Park was beautiful but we must move forward. Before we got on the road we figured it would be nice to stop in Starbucks to grab some food, map our destination, and to use the internet to catch up on the blog a bit. We ended up staying for a couple of hours actually; Kat did the blog while Smalls took the car down the street to a carwash for a much needed debugging. The poor car has been getting pretty gross and the ride through Colorado painted the bumper in gnats, lets just say it was getting difficult to read the license plate. After doing our homework for the day, we set out for the city. It took us a couple of hours to get there but when we arrived in Denver we noticed how small it was and how young the visible population seemed. Everyone there either drives a moped or a 4-wheel drive vehicle with roof racks and there are coffee shops everywhere. It was cute and we felt as though it was time for a mellow night so we found a place to stay just outside of town, a Motel 6 where we freshened up with showers to head out for dinner and one of our favorite past times, a movie! yay! We headed into town past Coors Field, the Colorado Rockies stadium which was packed for the nights game, leaving more room in downtown for the two of us. We found another restaurant featured on Man vs. Food called The Cherry Crickett where we ate amazing oversized burgers with delectible fries and a few drinks. The place was small and dark with pictures covering the walls, they had a friendly staff of people our age or near who seemed to live life to its fullest, near tattoo parlors and cannabis gardens.

After our dinner we traveled 5 minutes to the theater where we saw Avatar: The Last Airbender. All about element benders mixed with karate and a little boy monk with super cool tattoos, it was an entertaining movie, and it was able to fill our desires of air conditioning and a giant screen. The movie brought us to a late night and tired eyes so we went back to the motel to get ready for our trip to the Rockies and got to bed. Goodnight.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 17 - July 1, 2010
Odometer reads: 4468 miles
After a rough day, we allowed ourselves to sleep in until 10:30. Checked out and got some sandwiches to stuff in the cooler, then headed to the sand dunes! As we approached the dunes, they looked small compared to the looming mountain range behind them; but as soon as we got within a mile or two, their size was apparent. The tallest dune stands about 800 feet high, and as we looked at them from the visitor center we could see tiny, needle-point sized people climbing them (click the picture and you may be able to see them). We stocked up on water and batteries for the camera and took off for the top. Smalls led the way, and Kat did her best to keep up... walking in sand never seemed so hard at the beach. After a strenuous hour and a half, we sat on top of the tallest dune looking out over an ocean of sand and the hike was plainly worth it. Stayed up there for awhile and rested, dumping sand out of our shoes and talking with a nice Colorado Springs family.

We made our way down the sandy slopes and back to the car to down a few Gatorades and get on the road towards Denver. Made the joyous discovery that Colorado has 7-11's! So naturally we had to get slurpees. We both decided that the drive was a bit far for the day, so we found another desert oasis, Pueblo Lake State Park. This place was obviously the place to be for July 4th weekend - hundreds of people had reservations, but we squeezed into a site for the night. We played with the tarp for awhile, worrying that it might rain and puddle up in our tent, but eventually gave up, had a beer and got ready for bed. Watched Will & Grace for a couple hours and fell asleep.
Day 16 - June 30, 2010
Odometer reads: 3922 miles

This day started a bit earlier than normal, when we both woke up around 3:30 a.m. for a usual restroom/flip-over-so-my-back-doesn't break moment and heard drumming in the distance. We laid there and listened for awhile, trying to figure out where it was coming from. We saw what looked like a huge bonfire about 15 miles off in the distance (about the same amount of land between us and the Apache Reservation). Both of us tried to go back to sleep, but it seemed to be getting louder, so like the suburban girls we are, we started making up horror stories in our minds as we ran to the car clutching our pillows. We stayed there for awhile, googling Apache violence and other bedtime stories. After an hour or so we decided we were being silly and headed back to the tent to sleep, like our peacefully-slumbering neighbors.
A few hours later, we got up and hung out for a bit while laughing about our midnight scare, then it started raining yet again and we packed up our wet gear as quick as possible. After stuffing our dripping tent and tarp into the car, we took off for a full day of driving. Got to Albuquerque - which is surprisingly adorable - and found a "Road Food" location called Modal's Pharmacy - a small place that is a combination diner-drug store. We got there a bit too late for lunch, but Kat had an awesome milkshake and Smalls had homemade blackberry cobbler (jealous, Mo?). Left Modal's and snooped around town for a bit, eventually finding a Boston Market and eating our weights in comfort food.

Drove some more... drove... drove. Finally, around 10 p.m. we arrived at Great Sand Dune National Park and found a depressingly full campground. Turned around and trudged 30 miles back to the nearest town only to find every motel and hotel we called, FULL. Back-tracked another 18 miles to Monte Vista, Colorado to a tiny motel owned by a friendly hunting enthusiast from Alabama. Brushed our teeth and slept wonderfully.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

not really much of an update...

...and I don't have our notebook to make a "Day" post, but I feel like writing. It's 11:01 p.m., and I'm currently sitting in a parking lot in Bryce, Utah, mooching off of an RV park's WiFi while waiting for Smalls - who is mooching a shower off of the same RV park. We don't usually do this, it's a unique evening because our campsite hosts are stingy and charge a quarter a minute for a shower. Hope everyone is enjoying reading this blog as much as we enjoy writing it (when time and location permit); miss you all, see you soon :)

...I'm a child.

p.s. Smalls is making fun of me for the URL of this blog... so just so everyone knows, that one was my idea. Meant to be a joke.

Friday, July 9, 2010

**Pictures are not cooperating at the moment... I'll add them another day.

Day 15 - June 29, 2010
Odometer reads: same

Smalls was up early due to our tent placement, just outside the shade of our overhang, and sat writing postcards for awhile. Steve came over just a minute before he left and gave Smalls a thank-you note for dinner with his name/number, and a bottle of pepper spray just in case us girls weren't "packing heat". Not a bad trade; Steve was nice, hope his trip is going well. Kat slept for another couple of hours, oblivious to the temperature or commotion.

We got moving a bit later and took the car to downtown Roswell for an oil change and a rinse: brand new! Next we headed to a nearby laundromat with bars on the windows to clean 14 days of dirt off of our wardrobes. While we waited for the laundry, Smalls found a videogame in the corner with a spinning ball as the control unit; it didn't spin because it was so dirty and covered with scum. Naturally, she wrote our names in the scum and then ran to the car to return with wet wipes to clean it off... Tidy Smalls :)

We headed back to the campsite to try to have another successful cooking experience, but it was incredibly windy and took us an hour to light the coals. Finally, after heating the grill up we made an attempt at Ramen noodles... which failed. PB&J's are both the foundation and fall-through food of the trip; always have PB&J makings. It started raining around 3 o'clock and didn't stop until 6 p.m., so 3 hours was spent in the car, watching Will & Grace on Kat's computer. When the rain finally started to die down we quickly rearranged the tent next to the shelter, and fastened the tarp over it just in case it rained again. It was a good thing... as soon as we finished building our little home, it started pouring again. The best things about the rainstorm were the awesome sunset and the biggest, brightest rainbow we've ever seen. We watched the sunset from our shelter and headed to bed.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Day 14 - June 28, 2010
Odometer reads: 3697.5
Got up and packed quickly, and spoke to our neighbors - Mark and Cindy - about where we were headed next. Turns out they were headed to Roswell too, and advised us to stay at Bottomless Lakes State Park a few miles outside of Roswell. We got on the road and realized we'd hit our 2 week mark! Kat's car needs an oil change soon...

Not too long of a drive, but the entire drive was desert between Roswell and the campground, so we weren't sure of the place we'd be staying in. We drove over one last hill and saw our little oasis of a campground, a small beautiful, clear blue lake at the base of red cliffs. We set up camp and headed straight into town for food and the International UFO Museum and Research Center! The museum was interesting to say the least, even if it was a bit hokey. The biographies and the Roswell incident were very well researched, but we couldn't figure out what was true or not - but I suppose that's sort of the point. It's unbelieveable how much of Roswell's marketing plays off of the UFO legend.

After the museum, we headed to Albertson's for some dinner groceries, and a couple of fireworks from a tent in the parking lot. Headed back to our campground to swim in the lake, the sun hitting the lake and cliffs. The lake was so nice; the water was perfectly clear and warm. We also met our neighbors - Mark and Cindy from Guadalupe! And Steve from New Jersey, who was driving his Harley across the country. He offered us a few dollars for some dinner, and since it was our first successful cooking-dinner-on-the-grill experience, we were eager to give him a plate of food. We all talked and ate for a couple of hours, all the while being attacked by moths. Big ones. We said goodnight early and headed to bed.
Day 13 - June 27, 2010
Odometer reads: 3132.4

Left New Braunfels, TX - mass campsite was actually pretty cool; everyone was either out at bars or passed out by around 10 p.m., so we slept fairly well. Actually got going by 9 a.m. (YAY) but stopped at Sweetie's Donuts for an old-fashioned donut for Kat and a smoothie for Smalls. Saw a few hungover teenagers from our campsite in the parking lot, and we'd never been happier that we act like we're 70. Texas was gorgeous and it smelled nice, seems fresh and there's alot of open land - they discourage littering big time and they keep it super clean. Headed northwest a bit to Bandera, TX, the tiny home of the state's best country fried steak, which Kat had for breakfast.

Hundreds of miles of nothing IS west Texas. We had planned to head straight to Roswell, NM, but after 8 hours of driving through hot nothing, we decided to spend the night in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. This place was literally in the middle of nowhere at the foot of a mountain, and the stars were the best we've ever seen. Kat couldn't believe that they actually twinkled! We were up on a small hill, and had a perfect, unobstructed view of the sky and the horizon, where a beautiful lightning storm went on for hours. It was super windy, but Kat got the best night of sleep there for some reason. We drove 565 miles today, into another time zone.

Quote of the day: "This was totally worth the dirty."

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Day 12 - June 26, 2010
Odometer reads: 2957.2 miles

T'was the day to leave San Antonio! So we did, and headed northeast towards Austin, but stopped when we hit New Braunfels for some tubing down the Guadalupe River. Was that a hoot. Lots of characters, drunk and high, short and tall, some seemingly unintelligent. It was hilarious and tons of fun, especially watching Kat's reaction to our surroundings. We were planted in the middle of a field called "overflow camping" with about 200 other people and their F-150s. We were admittedly worried at first but soon realized that floating down the river at a snail's pace was normal for many of the people that were there. People make a weekend out of getting drunk and tying 20 tubes together, and we soon found out that everyone was just there to have fun with friends. We floated down the Guadalupe for about 3 hours; the first hour was rather slow but we turned a corner and drifted into some rapids... Lift the REAR! It was quite exciting going down with our extra tube, holding our shoes, cooler, and camera. We attached it to our tubes with some twine and Kat named it Fat... it makes sense, a fairly useless and heavy material that slowed us down. Anyways, we hit a few more rapids and headed for the shuttle bus to take us back after floating by a guy who slurred a "Hello" and waved with a beer. Two more hours next to him and we might have watched him drown so we got out. The shuttle was fun too: a ride in a crammed white van with about 17 people hollering at the driver and laughing hysterically. It was genuinely funny and Smalls certainly felt like she was in the south again.

After putting some clothes on, we were definitely due for some food. We drove about an hour to Austin to test out another "Road Food" restaurant, Hoover's Cooking. The place seemed small from the outside, but when we entered it was loud and bustling with people. Our waiter, Stacey, arrived immediately with Hoover's fresh-squeezed lemonade in huge glasses (that were actually pitchers), and we ordered. Smalls got what she claims to be the best burger she's ever had, smoked and grilled and complete with green chile and jalapeno on top. We finished with a few award-winning mango margaritas and headed back to our camp-field for the night.

Day 11 - June 25, 2010
Odometer reads: same

Slept in and got up slowly - nice. Packed some things up and headed north a few miles to the San Antonio Natural Bridge Caverns for a tour of the caves. We were led by our fearless leader and recent high school graduate, Cheyenne, 180 feet down into the Earth for an hour and a half. The caverns were discovered by 4 college students from St. Mary's and have some structures that are over 40 feet high and 8 inches thick (pictured is one of the largest, The King's Throne), and they only grow 1 cubic inch every 100 years! We hiked through the wet caverns for about an hour and then visited the gift shop before heading out.

Left the caverns and went to Lulu's Bakery and Cafe for lunch. The place was packed, and the waitresses all could easily have been related to one another - loud, sassy, and busy. Smalls finally got her country fried steak, and loved it, and Kat had the best burger ever. We also found out at some point that we needed to be on a wait list for an infamous 3 pound cinnamon bun - needless to say we got on it pretty quickly. 45 minutes later, an enormous, warm cinnamon bun was presented to us on a too-small plate wrapped in plastic wrap. The picture explains it all.

We again rolled ourselves out of the restaurant, bun in hand, and down the road to the Alamo to actually see it during operating hours. Explored the Alamo for awhile, especially the courtyard behind the building - gorgeous gardens and trees. We read spots of the posted history and listened in on a couple of tour guides' speeches and looked around inside a bit; the building apparently had quite an influence on the surrounding architecture of downtown San Antonio and the Riverwalk.
Left the Alamo and grabbed a few groceries on our way home to the motel for our first real night in of the trip. Lazed around in the room and watched Cesar Milan and a History Channel special on the USS Reagan for several hours and devoured the rest of our guacamole before dozing off.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Day 10 - June 24, 2010
Odometer reads: 2752 miles

Up early, refreshed from our 500 mile drive the previous day, we checked out of our Flatonia motel and made our way down the road a bit to Shiner, Texas! Or as they claim, "The Cleanest Little City in Texas"; it was an adorable, small town with a population of about 2070 people. It had obvious German influence, including the city park named Welhausen Park and the Spoetzl Brewery that churns out millions of Shiner Bock 6-packs every year. Natually, Smalls bought a specialty brew to store in the cooler.

Left Shiner and headed about 50 miles west, finally completing our long journey to San Antonio. Decided to look for a Waffle House for brunch, since Kat has never eaten there and it's apparently a pretty important Southern experience. Once again, Kat's GPS "Tonya" led us to a non-existant destination, so we grabbed a few burgers for lunch instead. We explored a little bit and found a motel about 15 minutes away from downtown San Antonio and the Riverwalk. Found a Sports Authority and finally got a pair of hiking shoes for Smalls, got some ice for the cooler and headed downtown to see the Alamo and Riverwalk. Of course, we arrived 30 minutes after the Alamo closed, but we got a few good pictures nonetheless. Walked a few blocks to the Riverwalk and strolled down the river under huge, charmingly out-of-place trees and past dozens of adorable shops, nice restaurants, and gorgeous hotels. Every 5 minutes or so, one of several riverboats would buzz by with about 20 passengers and an enthusiastic guide/captain rattling off facts about the Walk.
We looked around for Lulu's Bakery and Cafe for a bit, only to be told by a nice family that it was a little out of walking distance and probably closed, so we decided to save it for the next day. Lulu's - the famous and popular home of San Antonio's best country fried steak and a notorious 3 pound Cinnamon Bun - was on the list of must-do's while in San Antonio. We made our way back to the car and took a short trip down the street to Rosario's (also recommended by the nice family), a Mexican restaurant in a seemingly-deserted part of town. Long story short, we ate way too much, but it was too good to leave on the plate; hands down the best Mexican food either of us have ever had. Note: if you make your own guacamole, try putting feta cheese in it. We rolled ourselves out of the restaurant and into the car, got to the motel and crashed immediately.
Day 9 - June 23, 2010
Odometer reads: 2255 miles

On to Texas! Woke up early, turned in our sheets and parted ways with the India House and all of it's lovely personalities. Lots of friendly people in New Orleans, even the tourists from all over - I think the city's laidback attitude rubs off on visitors. Enjoyed New Orleans and had a great time, but we've got to get back to camping... plenty of money was spent on souvenirs, food, bed, and drinks.

Got in the car and started driving. Drove... drove some more. We crossed Louisiana and made a large dent in the mileage we needed to cover for the day but Texas is BIG, and we still needed to go halfway through it to get to San Antonio. We decided to pull "Road Food" out and find a place to go in Houston for lunch and settled on a little place called William's BBQ. Finally got to the exit and made the 15 mile trek off the highway to get there, only to find a lonely slab of concrete and the restaurant's old cooker. Somewhere along the line, Outback's unlimited pumpernickel bread came up in conversation, so that became our new destination. The next hour was frustrating, full of packed highways like this one, and to sum it up in one perfectly appropriate quote, Houston was "like driving through hell" - Momma Shiner. We finally got there and ate like it was going out of style - probably scared the waitress a bit...

Drove for a few more hours through a great sunset and countless miles of grasslands, finally stopping at a motel in Flatonia for the night. The place was a little downtrodden, but after ten hours on the road, any bed was great.

it's been awhile...

So we finally found some internet! Apologies for asking you guys to follow us and then not updating... we're going to try not to get ten days behind again :)

Day 8 - June 22, 2010
Odometer reads: same

Woke up late in the morning to rain showers and overcast skies and ventured out to find the New Orleans city park and botanical gardens, which both had unexpected price tags. Luckily we found a beautiful tree park one or two blocks over with huge, 200 year-old trees, including our favorite tree, pictured here (Smalls is extra tiny, on the lower right). After climbing the trees and exploring the playground, we headed downtown to Decatur Street for a little last-minute shopping. Included in the trip: another stop at the Kupcake Factory and two more amazing philly cheesesteaks from Mr. J's. With full stomachs, we drove through the rest of the French Quarter and explored some of the streets we hadn't yet seen - Royal, Decatur, Dauphine and Dumaine Street were all gorgeous, definitely the jewels of the city. Antique shops and cafes everywhere, not to mention all of the beautiful big houses with wrought iron gates and balconys. We had to drag ourselves past the building pictured below, with apartments for sale for much less than they're worth (as apparently all of the properties are since the floods).

Headed back to the India House to watch TV for a little while and make dinner, and be lightly harrassed by the staff to attend their Jungle Juice Party on the back porch at 8 p.m. The had live music, a guitarist and singer from Columbia named Carlos, who was touring America for a month. We swam in the pool, split a bottle of wine and made a few friends, particularly with the owner of the hostel, Paddy - a British beach bum who moved to New Orleans 18 years ago and took over the India House from the previous owners. You can tell he's always the life of the party; loved to tell stories about his dog and where he was when Katrina hit: drunk in a bar buying the rest of the crowd drinks.

It was a great night and an awesome place to stay, highly recommended to everyone and anyone who travels to New Orleans.