Days Fifteen and Sixteen: San Antonio

Before heading to San Antonio, we needed to finish Carlsbad Caverns. We arrived bright and early to head into the darkness seven stories below ground.

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We explored one mile of the cave, called The Big Room.

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That left 30 miles of cave we didn’t explore.

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It was a cool and moist 56 degrees below ground, something we would remember fondly as we headed into the heart of Texas hill country, San Antonio. As we made our way southeast, we spent a long time on a highway in the heart of oil-boom country. All we saw were oil trucks, pipelines, and crews and crews of men, trucks, and equipment working on them. It was oddly fascinating. Then we hopped on I-10 and the fascination came to a halt. Let me just say that there is very little for a very long way and then all of a sudden you’re in San Antonio, which is huge.

Last night, exhausted from our long day, we grabbed a bite at The Big Bib, a BBQ joint. (If you don’t eat BBQ while you’re in Texas, they don’t let you leave, I think.) The Big Bib is one of those Mom and Pop-type places that makes you smile when you walk in, probably because it smells so good and you know you’re going to get good food, which we did. In fact, the food was pretty spectacular.

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See that sweet potato casserole? Nom, nom, nom. Delicious! PS. All this food isn’t for me. I shared it with both my kids. Just felt I needed to put that out there before people start mailing me anonymous memberships to Overeaters Anonymous.

The next morning we went to the Riverwalk. We parked at the far end of the walk. (At The Pearl, an outdoor marketplace. It was also free to park.) We then hailed a river taxi, the best way to see everything. (You pay $15 and can hop on or off anywhere all day.)

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And my husband got to add some new birds (a yellow crowned night heron) to his bird list.

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(We also saw some neo-tropic cormorants and black bellied whistling ducks.)

If you’ve never been to San Antonio, let me explain that the Riverwalk is fifteen miles of scenic downtown, comprised of shops, restaurants, and this place.

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Despite the fact that the Alamo battle took place in 1836, you still get a sort of sad, reverential feeling when you step inside. Or maybe it’s because you’re waiting in nearly hundred degree weather in a line that looks like this.

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It’s worth the trip, if only to see this flag which riled my fighting spirit.

Come and Take it

You want this cookie?? You’d better come and try to take it!! But I digress…

The river walk is beautiful, even if you never leave the boat. (Considering the high temperatures and crowds of people, you might be better off never leaving the boat. Bring water. And don’t go on the weekend that 85,000 Seventh Day Adventists are there for their annual conference like we did. Oops. At least we had the pork products all to ourselves.)

We left the river walk and headed back toward our hotel for supper. We stopped off at a ginormous shopping mall called La Cantera and ate at a place called Whiskey Cake.

Normally I don’t condone eating at chain restaurants on vacation, preferring instead to eat locally. But this is a regional chain that cooks from scratch using locally sourced ingredients. I would give it a mixed review.

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My BBQ pork Bahn Mi was meh. But their eponymous whisky cake was fabulous.

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After such a long, hot day, nothing sounded better than a dip in the pool. Nothing except fresh, warm cookies hand delivered to my door, that is. Thankfully Tiff’s Treats offers such a service.

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They come packaged like an engagement ring. Coincidence? I think not.

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Our biggest surprise about San Antonio was the size. It’s huge, and tonight we learned that Houston–tomorrow’s destination–is four times bigger. Fingers crossed that means four times the cookie bakeries.

Days Eleven and Twelve: Grand Canyon to Holbrook

We had reached our farthest point west. It was time to head back east. Reluctantly, we left the luxury of our hotel in Vegas and headed toward the wilderness of the Grand Canyon. But first we passed the Hoover Dam. IMG_1164

(My dam picture didn’t turn out. Did I mention I’m horrible at photography? Sorry.) IMG_1167

And we couldn’t go back east without eating at In-N-Out.

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A few hours later, we arrived.

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This is the view from our cabin.

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(That’s an elk, in case you’re wondering. We saw several, all females and babies.)

It was raining and stormy, preventing us from hiking. (Apparently it’s monsoon season. Also apparently there is a monsoon season in the US.) But there was this.

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We stayed at Maswick Lodge, the Grand Canyon’s affordable alternative for families. There was no air conditioning, but miraculously when we arrived it was a cool 78 degrees. The temperature dropped until we began to feel chilly. (Until we went into our room where cool air wouldn’t reach. It was like sleeping in an oven. Thank you, person who invented air conditioning. I love you.)

For supper we ate at Maswick, a cafeteria-style place known for convenience and low prices (relatively speaking. Nothing in the park is ever cheap.)

The next morning we took the red line shuttle west to Hermit’s Rest. (They had me at hermit.)

The highlight of this trip was this guy.

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A California Condor!! It flew about ten feet directly above our heads, but no one was camera ready at that point. After the shuttle tour, we loaded up the car and headed east toward the Watchtower. (Don’t be scared, this is not going to be an attempt to recruit you into the Jehovah’s Witness protection program.) This watchtower was built by the Santa Fe railroad and had awesome views of the canyon.

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We left the park and headed east toward Flagstaff where we stalled until it was time to go to our restaurant.

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Black Bart’s is a steakhouse musical review that hires local college kids to sing between waiting tables. Not only was the food delicious, but it was so much fun.

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I could have stayed much longer, but alas we continued east to here.

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If you recognize the Wigwam Motel, you might be a fan of Disney’s Cars. It was the inspiration for some of their scenery and has been an iconic part of Route 66 for a long time. The rooms are exactly what you’d imagine, but they’re cheap with cable and internet. Tomorrow we continue east for a bit before heading south and we lose our first hour. We have loved gaining three hours on this trip. Tomorrow we begin to pay the piper for our greedy time hoarding.

Day Six: Rocky Mountain National Park to Glenwood Springs

We reluctantly left the Stanley Hotel. But first, breakfast.

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We chose The Egg and I partially because it was nearby and partially because it’s the title of one of our favorite movies. Our waitress was from Macedonia and a sweetheart, but the experience was dampened somewhat when the cashier commented to another customer (not knowing that my husband was standing right there) that our baby’s screeching was due to bad parenting and lack of spanking. (Apparently our seven year old sitting quietly and politely did nothing to endorse our parenting skills.) My husband spoke up and pointed out that thirteen months is a bit young for the beatings to start. But I digress…

It occurred to me that there are a few things I haven’t touched on, so I’ll catch up on some details of the trip:

  1. The Stanley Hotel. It’s on the register of historic hotels. It was built by F. O. Stanley, the Steamer car inventor. It has been visited by Bob Dylan and the emperor of Japan (not necessarily together.) It’s supposedly haunted, including our room. But the only haunting sound we heard was the echo of the baby’s cries as he struggled to fall asleep.
  1. Here’s a picture of what my baby looks like all stuffed in the car with our luggage.

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  1. Altitude sickness. The struggle is real, people. Not for me, but my husband and daughter are suffering from headaches, earaches, and stomachaches. (And all of us are finding it a little hard to breathe after exercise.) A guy at the hotel recommended altitude pills, some all-natural concoction. So far so good.
  2. The wildlife. (The following pictures were contributed by my husband. I’m an abysmal photographer.)

Magpies:

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Peregrine Falcons: (or maybe a prairie falcon. The husband’s not sure.)

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Elk:

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Marmots:

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And this guy:

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Oh, and the moon.

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We finished the park and headed west again, this time on Rt. 70. We drove through Vail, the famous ski town. Sometimes you see places and think, “Oh, that’s why it’s so famous.” Vail was one of those places. Every scene looked like a picture on a postcard. I bet there were some good bakeries there, but we had no time to stop. We next drove through Glenwood Canyon, another amazingly beautiful, breathtaking sight along Route 70, because we were trying to get here:

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Glenwood Springs boasts the world’s largest hot springs pool. There is a 104 degree healing pool and a 93 degree swimming pool. Combined, they are over six hundred feet long by one hundred feet wide. Formally established in 1888, the pools were used for centuries by Native Americans. After WWII, they were used therapeutically for injured soldiers. They are loaded with magnesium, manganese, sodium and several other minerals, including lithium. We were all feeling pretty good after that.

After supper we had Polish food at Polanka.

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Oh, my lands. The pieroghi alone were worth the six day drive. We watched them make our food from scratch and it was so, so delicious.

After supper the group surprised me with a Dairy Queen cake because it’s my birthday. (Also because they know me and cake is always a worthwhile way to win my affection.)

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Apparently this cake was made and frozen in Siberia because we were helpless to cut it, especially with the little plastic knife they gave us.

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My loving family chipped and chiseled to give me a piece. I ate it guiltlessly while they waited for theirs to thaw.

Tomorrow we head west toward the desert. Something tells me I’m going to wish I had that cake again.