Friday, June 29, 2012

Chaco Culture National Park- Day 2

Friday & Saturday

We had a great day checking out the ruins at Chaco again today.  We got to see the main ruins that have been partially excavated.  It is sad that there isn't enough funding to excavate and restore more of this ancient culture.  So much is still not known about them.  Rachael and I started a hike up the canyon at about 3:30.  It was a steep hike.  We got to see some beautiful sites as well as some fossils.  It's so hard to believe that when we were on the top of the canyon wall, we were standing on the bottom of an ancient ocean.  Rachael and I were having a great time talking and joking together.  We lost sight of the carins that mark the trail.  We lost track of time and before we knew it the sun was going down and we were hurrying to get to the bottom before it got dark.  We just made it by the skin of our teeth!  When we went to the car there was a police officer there.  We thought he was there because the park service knew we were running late.  That wasn't the case.  I got a ticket for being on the trails after hours !  $125 !  I explained how we got lost but the officer thought we were stealing or defacing the ruins / artifacts !  It was 9:30 before we made our way towards the visitors center where there was an astronomy presentation going on that I wanted to see.  We stayed for about 30 minutes and then left because we were so tired.  We still had about an hour drive back to the hotel and 1/2 of that was on a dirt road.  We finally got to the hotel at around midnight and we were exhausted.  We ate some leftovers that were in our cooler and went to bed.  A few hours later I woke up to nausea and vomiting... I guess the food had gone bad.  I was sick all night.  Rachael was fine, I don't know why.  Before I knew it we had to get up and check out.  We stayed as late as we could.  We found a tire store to check the air in our tires and then made our way to the next town, Cortez, Colorado.  This is the nearest town to the Mesa Verde National park.  We ate lunch at a little diner called Budy's Diner.  The food was great and the people there were so nice.  They appeared to be Native American.  After we ate we checked into the hotel and I slept... I was still weak and tired from the night before.  Later on in the evening we went swimming in the hotel pool.  Even though it had been over 100 degrees in the day, it was nice and cool in the evening.  So much so that I was freezing getting out of the pool which was miraculously cool.  Heading to bed now... full day tomorrow !

Pictures can be found at :

Chaco Culture National Park

We had an amazing day today and hiked over 7 miles through ruins.  It's so mindblowing to think that we touched stone walls that were created over 1000 years ago. Who built the wall? Man, woman ?  What was his/her name and what was their story ?   Looking at the pictographs I wonder who made them and what the artists were trying to tell us.  Some of the pictographs were up so high we wondered how the artists got up that high on the rock face.  It was so hot but we didn't sweat, or if we did it evaporated immediately.  We talked as we hiked but at times we just were silent, lost in our own thoughts about the past.  The pictures really document our hike.  We started at about 11am and got back to the car at 6pm.  It was only 7 miles but we kept stopping to take pictures and take in the scenery.  After the hike we headed out for dinner.  We are really able to conserve money by eating the breakfast included with our hotel, snacking on nuts, fruit, and cliff bars for lunch, and only having to buy one meal per day.  We ate at a little cafe in Bloomfield called Triange Cafe.  The interior seemed to be from sometime in the 50's !  The food was ok, but filling.  I had told Rachael that there were lots of people in the midwest that probably had never seen the ocean.  She didn't believe me so she asked our waitress and the clerk.  The waitress who was in her 60's had been to the beach in California once when she was a child, and the clerk, probably in her early 20's had never seen the ocean.  Rachael was shocked.  I remined her that it was only a few years ago that she had seen snow for the first time.  The world is so big, yet so small.  As I have never been out this way before I am surprised at how much there is to see out here.  I don't think I realized how large the United States is nor how diverse it's landscape and people.  We see a lot of Native Americans here but few, if any, black people.  There are also very few Asians here.  At the Information Center of the park, we met a couple who were from, of all places, Jacksonville, FL.  The man is an English Teacher at Englewood-- Which was the high school just 2 blocks away from where I lived in Florida !   Looking at the calendar, we have been gone less than 2 weeks yet we feel as if we have been gone a long, long, time.   Well, that's all for tonight... very tired, and the adventure continues tomorrow !

Today's pictures can be found at:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Astec Ruins-- or NOT !

This morning we headed out to the Aztec Ruins National Monument near Bloomfield, NM.  It was a short but AMAZING ride from Grants.  We got to the information center and found out that these are not ruins from the Aztec people at all !  They are the ruins from the "Anasazi” people who later branched out to become the Hopi, the Zuni, and other tribes.  The ruins were originally named this because Aztec means 'Ancient Ones'.  Later, people mistakenly associated the name with the Aztec tribe.  The surrounding town was named Aztec, and it stuck even after excavation showed that these were not the Aztec people's homes at all.  We were surprised that this area was not larger as many of the other monuments/Parks have been.  There were no hiking trails and the whole area only took about 2 hours to see.  We DID ask the National Park rangers a million questions, including where to go next and where to have dinner !  I even ran into a college employee who is the point person for Service Learning at her school.  We had a great conversation about what types of service learning are available around so many national monuments and parks.  We took a lot of pictures and if you want the details, please go to:  We are told that this is a minor sight and that the place we are going tomorrow,  Chaco Culture National Park,  is the more interesting sight to see and hike.  I'm glad we have 2 days alloted there !

While we were on our way to Bloomfield, we saw little creatures on the roadway.  -- Prarie Dogs !  They were cute but unfortunately I was not able to avoid them all and ran over one !  I felt so sad ! 

After the park we went to dinner at a Chinese restaurant that the park ranger recommended.  The food was great!  Speaking with the waiter, we found out that there are very few Asian people here in New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah.  He was from California and so we asked what had brought him to NM.  He said he came here for a job.  We wanted to know how he found out about a job here in Bloomfield, and apparently there is a network of Asian people who own businesses and they post on a website and offer jobs to others.  Who knew?  After a wonderful dinner we headed to  Auto Zone.  I needed a windshield wiper.  I couldn't help but chuckle because I was buying something that is rarely needed in this part of the country... They only get about 6 inches of rain per YEAR !  While we were at the monument, dark clouds and strong, gusty winds came up-- there were a few drops of rain but then nothing... This we were told is the typical situation when it comes to rain.  It's so dry here that the rain falls from the clouds but little if any makes it to the land.  It evaporates before it gets to the ground.  I got a beautiful picture of a rainbow.  The rain was falling in the sky, but never made it to the ground.  We then made our way to our hotel and relaxed.  Right now we are watching Animal Planet.... off to bed early as we have a big adventure tomorrow !

Today's pictures can be found at :

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hiking and Sight-Seeing at El Maripais National Monument

Rachael and I had a GREAT day !  We started out with breakfast at the hotel.  Note to travelers: pick up extra fruit for backpack at breakfast !  We then drove about 20 minutes to the EL Malipais National Monument.  Rachael thought it was going to be boring, but she soon changed her mind !  Just the drive there was a feast for the eyes !  Rock cliffs, mountains, clear blue skies, it reminded me of the song by America -- Horse with no name.  The site has so much to see, we didn't get to see it all.  First we went to the Sandstone Bluffs which are made of sedimentary rock and then weathered away over the centuries.  This part of the site was the bed of an ocean approximately 150 thousand years ago.  We enjoyed climbing the rocks and saw the natural cisterns that hold water when it rains.  It was also possible to see the alge that grew on the rocks and some of it was still alive.  You could also see where alge had lived and died over the years.

When we were through climbing these rocks we headed to the Natrual Arch that had formed in the rock face.  It was pretty cool, but I would have liked to see it up closer.  I jumped the fence and tried to hike up, but the rocks were loose so I came down.

The next thing we did was go hike on a trail which covered the ancient lava flows.  This was really cool, you could see where the lava had cooled in the midst of moving across the land.  This trail was marked by 'carins', a pile of rocks placed in such a way as they could not have naturally occured.  We had to find the carin ahead before we left the one we were standing near.  It was like a puzzle.  This terrain was very rocky but fun to hike because there really wasn't a trail, just a general direction to follow.  We had to walk over all types of rocks and cracks in the earth.  One interesting thing was the smell.  The area is full of wild sage plants and each time the wind blew we had a great scent of sage.  This particular trail was 8 miles.  We didn't have time to do the whole thing so we just did about 1 mile in and one mile back.  Still, we had a great time.  We saw so many cacti and wildflowers too.  It amazed me how these things can grow in the desert.  Another thing we noticed was the many, many, cow patties we say lying around.  In the past the Indians probably used these for fuel.  One aspect that was really cool was the way the air can be still and then all of a sudden, a burst of wind would whip up.  It was so loud that we could hear it coming.

After this we went to another trail called the Narrows Trail.  This trail took us up the rock face.  We have awesome pictures.  Our only regret is that we started down this trail too late in the afternoon to hike the whole thing.  We wanted to continue but it was already 5:30pm and we were only 1/3 of the way through.  SO, we hiked back and headed for a restaurant for dinner as we had had nothing but trail mix and fruit, and water since breakfast.   We went to a Mexican Steakhouse and had Fajhitas.  The food was very spicey and I needed to have a beer to stop my mouth from burning... Good thing they had Blue Moon on tap !  The waiter told us that most food in NM is spicey.  I guess I learned that lesson !  I started singing "horse with no name" in the car on the way back to the hotel, and Rachael thought that I was joking about it... she is too young to remember that song.  Well, that's all for now... hope you enjoy the pictures !  ....
Today's pics can be found at:

Monday, June 25, 2012

On the Road Again...

June 25-26: Sunday morning we hugged Cherie goodbye and headed out.  We were so surprised at the different landscapes of Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma.  We especially decided that we would go back through Oklahoma as there was lots to see.  We saw windmills that gave clean energy to Oklahoma and wondered why more wasn't being done with that.  We ate dinner in a pizza place in OK that had the WORST pizza I ever tasted!  The crust was like cardboard.  We were also given ranch dressing to go on the pizza which I thought was odd.  The waitress told us that they put ranch dressing on everything !  We also learned that OK was famous for their wheat production and for steak.  While passing through Texas, we actually got to see some cowboys wearing 10 gallon hats !  We are in Grants, NM tonight and are looking forward to hiking tomorrow !
Today's pictures :

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Hiking and Bathing in Hot Springs !

Rachael and I got up early, but didn’t get out till about 10am. We are still getting a system down as to how to best get our packs ready quickly. We went to the park, but there is a city within Hot Springs National Park. We hiked some trails, but they were very “touristy” and not real hiking. We hiked/walked up to the observation tower but we didn’t go up, there was a fee for the view ! we hiked up a bit more and had our own view without the tower, for free ! There are a few Bath houses on the street they call “ Bath house Row”. We got to see the oldest /original bath house and the museum. It was called Fordyce Bath House, and it is now a museum and National Monument. After the hike, we went to Buckstaff Bath house. This is the oldest continually running bath house and they do the same type of procedures they did over 100 years ago. We didn’t really know what to expect, but the people coming out said it was incredible, so we booked our “bath”. It started out by disrobing and donning a toga type sheet. Then we each entered our own little room with a huge bath tub in it that had a whirlpool and the water from the hot springs. A bath attendant actually scrubbed me down! It felt great but I felt so spoiled ! The water was very hot, and I was left to soak for about 15 minutes. I didn’t know if I would be able to stand the heat that long, but after a while I relaxed. After that, I was toweled off and taken to the another room where I was given ice water and had hot packs placed on my shoulders and belly while an ice cold cloth was placed on my head and face. I relaxed there for about another 30 minutes. Following this, I sat in a sitz bath for my back and hips. I could only handle about 10 min of that and then it was time for the steam box. This is exactly what it sounds like, a box filled with steam with only one’s head sticking out ! I was too heated, I knew I couldn’t handle that so I opted for the next step, the needle shower. This is a shower with cool water which comes out of hundreds of little shower heads. It felt great. After the shower I dried off and lounged in my toga-sheet till it was time for my massage…. Oh, it felt heavenly! When we were done, (whole thing lasted about 2 hours) Rachael and I got dressed and headed to dinner. We were famished, which I’m told is a result of the hot water increasing our metabolism. After dinner we headed back to Cherie’s house and the three of us watched movies and ate popcorn… and laughed and laughed ! It was a great day !

Today’s pictures are at :

Friday, June 22, 2012


We started on the road and drove, and drove…. We got several “thumbs up” gestures and honks about our slogan on the car.    We stopped in Memphis at a Chic-fil-a where we were shocked to see a person dressed as a CHICKEN rather than a cow !  Rachael and I laughed about it and Rachael even had to ask the manager about it.  Turns out that the chicken was the original Chic-fil-a mascot ! Go figure !  We headed towards the home of our Couch Surfing hosts, Michael and Caroline who live in Memphis with their two small children.  As always, we are always a little nervous when we first get to a CS host, but we immediately became comfortable as there was also another couple staying at the house as well.  We hit it off immediately and talked about our travels, politics, parenting and fine wine.  Rachael and I even had our own bedroom in their “mini-mansion” as they call it.  In the morning we played with the kids and chatted some more.  The baby is only 2 months old and holding him made me think back to when Joel was little.  Their other son is 2 and into everything.  They were delightful. We left Memphis about noon and headed towards Hot Springs.  We arrived around 4pm and met with our new host, Chere’.  She is also a teacher and shares my love of books and travel.  Well, off to bed, tomorrow—Hiking at Hot Springs National Park !

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Biltmore Estate !

Today’s pictures can be found at:

What can you say about the Biltmore but “Wow”. It was, and is, a beautiful house and it has some historical significance yet I will say that I found myself surprised with ‘Biltmore Land’. Tickets are $59 per person UNLESS you buy them online and 7 days in advance…. Then they are only $40 per adult… Children 16 and under are FREE, so we both got in for $40 ! That’s to see the main tour of the rooms that have been renovated. There are many areas that are on separate “special tours” and they are an extra fee. They have made this into an amusement park complete with Segway rentals, bike rentals, Kayaking, theme books, and even a place where they auto-take your picture for later purchase. Rachael loved the Estate because it brings to mind the type of places and lifestyle in Jane Austen novels, but I personally felt the opulence to be extravagant. Why have a library with hundreds of books that no one is allowed to read, or even touch?! I guess that’s the pragmatist in me. I enjoyed the gardens and property but I can’t say I’d pay to see it again. Much of the house is still unrestored and in my opinion, one can only look at so many fancy bedrooms before becoming board. I vote for a restored mansion like the Biltmore where people can visit say for a week and re-enact the time period. – Now THAT would be fun! We continued our visit with the Biltmore Village where we saw a working farm and blacksmith shop. The man who ran the Blacksmith shop, “Doc” is one of only a few hundred Master Blacksmiths in the world. Apparently there is still a huge market for artistic iron work and not enough artisans to go around! Rachael talked with Doc for quite a while and found out that a Master Blacksmith can make as much as $190,000 a year ! Doc took a liking to Rachael and gave her the iron leaf he made in the demonstration. After the village, we went to the Winery, which was not part of the original estate but was established in the 1970’s as an investment and income source. We saw a tour of the winery and it explained about the wine making process. Of course I couldn’t go home without a few bottles of the wine. I did a wine tasting and they even had grape juice for the kids so they could participate as well. So, no, Rachael is NOT drinking real wine in the pictures ! Well time for bed… on the road for many hours tomorrow !

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hiking In Asheville

Today Rachael and I set out to do a hike so we went to the Bent Creek Experimental Forest.  We chose a trail to hike but it seemed difficult to get to.  The scenery was beautiful, but the trails were not marked well and we got lost.  We started hiking at 11am and finally made it back to our car at about 5:30pm !  All told we hiked about 14.5 miles.  We felt pretty good about the fact that the trail that was marked as the most difficult was pretty easy for us compared with other trails we have hiked.  While we were hiking we met a young man who was working on his doctoral thesis. He was doing a study on a certain fungus that attacks trees in NC.  We also had 3 people ask to take their picture in front of our car !  And, when asked why we wrote what we did on the back, we told them we were going on a 6 week jaunt across the country and a few even asked for my blog address… Needless to say, we got a great workout but the worst part of the whole thing was the gnats !  Several flew right into Rachael’s eyes and I had to help her get them out !  We were exhausted and still about 2 miles from our car when a couple in a large SUV asked if we needed a ride to our car.  We were never so happy to see a car as we were then !   We went back to the hotel, showered, went to a Greek restaurant and now, it’s off to bed…. Pictures can be found at:

Monday, June 18, 2012

Rader Road Trip-Day 1

We got a late start this morning because we had to run a few errands.  We arrived at the NC Arboretum at about 3pm ( we had a 3 hour drive).  The Arboretum is a beautiful place, and it is FREE and open to the public.  The only cost is $8 for parking.  Who knew this awesome place is only a few hours from Greensboro?  The first thing we did was go to the “Wicked Plants” exhibit where we learned more than a few things about our botanical friends.  We even got to see a Venus Fly trap plant open and close.
Some of the more interesting tidbits were:
·         Eating too much corn can lead to kidney and liver failure because it leads to a Vitamin B3 deficiency.
·         Enjoy your Rhubarb pie, but don’t eat the leaves, they are TOXIC !
·         Be sure to thoroughly cook that Chili !  raw or not fully cooked kidney beans will cause nausea and vomiting !
·         The color of Philodendrons is determined by the Ph of the soil.  If the flower is white, the Ph is balanced, purple? Highly acidic soil…
·         Yellow Jasmine is toxic, don’t even touch the flower.

After that exhibit we made our way to the Bonsai Garden where we saw such beautiful, artful creations.  One part of the exhibit told how to create our own Bonsai plants and Rachael and I decided that we would create our own Bonsai plant to be passed down in our family… We learned that the word Bonsai is not a certain type of plant, but an art form that can be practiced on almost any type of tree or plant.  I always thought Bonsai was a type of plant, I couldn’t have been more wrong !

Once the Bonsai Garden closed at 5, we wandered through the many other themed gardens till our tummies rumbled and we headed out and went to a small restaurant called the Moose CafĂ©.  The country cooking was good, fairly priced, but a bit salty.  I was very thirsty after dinner.

Following dinner we went to explore downtown Asheville, it is AWESOME !  Historic shops, street performers, Art Museum, parks, etc.  And we found a perfect place to park, right on the street between the fire and police stations !  How’s that for safety ?  We were walking around at around 8pm and there were literally hundreds of people walking the streets.  There were police on bicycles and in cars, but nothing seemed dangerous or sketchy.  We met some 20-somthings in the center park carrying backpacks who were part of the occupy Wall Street movement and had a nice chat with them. Time for bed now, hiking tomorrow !

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Preparing for the journey...

Woke up this morning ready to "get ready" for the trip.  Took our Brave little Toaster to the Scion dealer for an oil change and tune up.  They even washed it for me !  Rachael and I went through our clothes trying to not pack too many items, but it was hard as we don't really know what awaits us !  We are down to 2 suitcases, one box with hiking gear, one tote full of toiletries, a box with audio books and a cooler for water bottles.  We have some last minute errands to run tomorrow, but plan to relax a bit Friday, Clean the apartment on Saturday, and hang with friends after church on Sunday.   I must admit I am getting a bit nervous.  The thought of being away from home for 6 weeks is a little scary.  I wonder how Midas (our dog) will do.  I worried a little about safety issues or car issues.  Overall, I think it will all work out... After all, we aren't even leaving the country !