Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Story I Promised to Post

This was a story I wrote over the summer, and intended to post eventually, but had trouble with the pictures, and eventually just shelved it for future use. Today is the day! It fits in with the first story of my blog because it was an adventure that happened because I was bored and wanted to have some fun, only this time we didn't end up stuck in the mud on some crazy man's ranch.

It was the first Saturday in July, and I was in a real funk. I had been for a few days, and just couldn't shake the blues. The kids were nutso, the house was a mess and the funk had kept me from doing anything about it but the bare minimum, so I was determined that I would stay home and punish myself for my lassitude and slog through the mess and shape things up. I worked dilligently all morning getting laundry folded, put away, dusting and polishing.

Lunchtime came and the little darlings (read snarly anklebiters) were getting a bit peckish, and the kitchen was not yet done, dishes dirty, and would take another hour of work so I told my husband, "Lets' run down to Dairy Queen and throw some burgers or something at the kids, I don't feel like doing THIS." He, being a big fan of burgers, was so kind to oblige.

We sat in that Dairy Queen featsing on burgers and fries, and even a nice soft served dipped cone. As I enjoyed that frosty, creamy treat I knew I couldn't face the rest of that housework, and I said, "Hey, this road goes north, lets' see where it takes us!" The rest of the family, who are even less enthusiastic domestics, got very excited. We checked our tires, bought a map and headed north on 344.

The road wound around a beautiful mountain and landed us on Highway 14 at Madrid, NM. This is an old mining town turned artist haven, streets lined with sleeping dogs and great artisan shops.The town is currently the production site of a new film, "Wild Hogs" with John Travolta. I looked all over for him, because I planned to jump from the moving van and run away with him. He was nowhere to be found.

We then drove north through the neighboring town of Cerillos, which is alot more traditional New Mexico rural splendor.

From there we headed up to Santa Fe, the City Different.
Santa Fe is a great city, where hunched and wrinkled old Native American ladies sell fine turquoise jewelry on blankets on the sidewalk to heavily botoxed Californians. Where Starbucks occupies a 200 year old adobe, where the most delicious pizza can be found in one of the oldest structures in the US. It is the seat of our state government, home of the most incredible capitol building, replete with native marble and turquoise floors and walls, and boasting the best art galleries in the state. Santa Fe is probably my favorite city in the world. I wanted to take the kids to the Plaza to walk around, but couldn't find anywhere in the city to park, so when Charles suggested we show them "Camel Rock" I was really excited.

We started up north again, and suddenly I realized that we were on the road to the National Veteran's Cemetary and I told Charles we had to stop. My father's ashes are interred there, and we hadn't been up to visit his site in 11 years, the kids had never been. So we pulled in and wound around looking for the little sapling next to his headstone. It took a little longer to find this time because the sapling was no longer a sapling, aren't we clever? Well we found it and all of the kids left him a rock or a pine cone...Maddie tried to shove a stick with a dead leaf into the ground for him but the ground was so hard. It was a sweet gesture, though, for a kid who never got to meet her grandpa.

From there we wound our way up to the Tesuque Pueblo, home of Camel Rock.

(yeah it is an awesome rock)

The kids loved it, though you can't go all the way up to it, I am sure because it has been defaced, and perhaps the publo also view it is a safety risk...how does that top rock stay up there??? We were really enjoying the day though and didn't want to just turn around and head home yet, so Charles said he had been really wanting to see Los Alamos, and away we went.

For those of you who don't know Los Alamos, it is the home of the national laboratories, and "THE BOMB." It is also a city built on three separate bluffs divided by deep canyons. When you are up there you get the sensation that you could just fall off the edge of the earth, a pretty unsettling feeling. We arrived at the Fuller Lodge Museum just as the old man was going to shut the door for the day, but he saw us and said we could peek in the gift shop, which was smart because we love gift shops and spending money. The kids scoured the little shop, Maddie finding a book for herself and one for her best friend in St. Louis, Gracie. Amanda found a cool WW2 replica poster image on a magnet, and I bought another magnet, because my new refridgerator needs cool magnets. Sarah didn't find just the right thing there, so we told her there would be other chances to shop.

After leaving the gift shop we sat in the parking lot contemplating our next move. It was late on a Saturday afternoon and Los Alamos rolls up its sidewalks very early, so more museum hopping was out of the question. Charles decided to just drive the city and check out the views. Now I don't like heights, at all. I found some of the views really unsettling, but just gulped and kept my mouth shut, occasionally issuing a shudder. But it is spectacular, really, looking at the vast open spaces between the tall ponderosas. We covered all three bluffs, and then decided we would try to get a room for the night so that we could do more sight seeing in the morning. This did, however raise the issue of clothing. We had packed nothing, not a thing, not even a fresh pull up for William who was getting a bit squirmy in the old one. The only room we could find was in a bit of a dive, but they offered free breakfast, which is very appealing to Compton Men. We then went in search of clothing, diapers, toiletries and dinner.

We started off at Beall's which was fine for the kids clothes, but Charles and I didn't find anything reasonable that wasn't heinous, and there was nothing else open, so we headed over to Espanola, down in the valley, to find a Walmart (shame of all shames) and a place to eat. I wanted to go to Restaurante Rancho de Chimayo, my favorite place in all of New Mexico, but the kids were going all crazy from hunger, and Walmart had a Chili's next to it, so we just stopped there.

Now Chili's markets this new beverage to kids called "Chillin' Fruit Freezers Made with a blast of real fruit juice and loaded with Vitamin C!Rockin' Tropical Punch, Electric Blue Blast." It was a very hot evening and we were all so thirsty, and the kids really wanted to try them, so we ordered one for each girl, and the boy had milk. Well let me tell you these neon creations arrived at our table and Charles and I were pretty alarmed by the colors, so we tried a sip. Wow...loaded with a hell of a lot more than Vitamin C! Sweeter than anything I have ever tried before, and we knew we were doomed. I was pretty sure that they wouldn't sleep until midnight without benadryl. We headed the wild bunch over to Walmart, which is a nightmare with calm kids, this was pretty awful. We got what we needed and headed back up to Los Alamos.

Now in a city that shuts down at 8 on Saturdays with no trace of night life, it is also the home of a remarkable number of Yuppies. Many 30-something science types with lots of disposable income. What does a young scientist do on a Saturday night in Los Alamos? Well Smith's Grocery store in Los Alamos, part of the Kroger Chain, boasts a PRIMO liquor section. Charles parked the van and said "count how many people come out with booze" and went in search of local wine. I counted two, in the fifteen minutes he was in the store, that came out WITHOUT booze, one clearly a teenager.

Yep, its The BOMB!

We got back to our room to discover the air conditioning didn't work, and there were no screens on the windows to take advantage of that wonderful cool Los Alamos night air, so we called management and got a fan. We uncorked the wine and begged the kids to keep it down to a dull roar. I had one glass of the local white, don't have a clue anymore what that was, and it was great. It was so hot I just laid down in front of the fan and fell right asleep, and I am pretty sure the kids eventually did too. I woke up and the kids were in one bed, Charles and I in another, and we were all excited about the day.

We hit the "breakfast" a little late, it was still open but well picked over. We scarfed down mini muffins and coffee and juice for the kids, then threw our walmart bags into the van and went in search of fun. The museum at Fuller wasn't opening until noon, so we decided that we would just go hit Bandelier.

Bandelier is a National Monument and home of ancient Native American cliff dwellings. You can walk the trails in the valley and see the old kiva ruins and what remains of some homes, but you can also climb the upper trails into the cave dwellings that riddle the side of the bluff. As I said before I dislike heights immensely, and I had the baby in a stroller, and my four year old didn't want to take the high road either, so Charles took Amanda and Sarah up into the caves, and Maddie and Will and I found a path that lead to shady benches and we parked and watched. Sarah was clearly thrilled with the whole hike, she ran up ahead of Charles and Amanda and I was getting a little worried about her safety because she was so far ahead of her dad, but she climbed with skill. Charles was behind because Amanda discovered well into the adventure that she was terrified, but she still wanted to do it.

Meanwhile Maddie and Will and I found a nice shady log bench to sit on and await the return of our family, and Maddie announced she had to go potty. "I gotta peeeeeeee Mommy, really BAD!" Well there was no one around and the shade tree offered nice cover, so I picked her up and moved her behind the bench and she dropped trou and let it go. Little kids are hilarious when they really have to go. She managed to not pee all over her shoes and shorts either, I was impressed. After about 20 minutes I could see Charles and the girls working their way back down, and I was relieved to have my babies back on the ground.

We found another gift shop at the bottom, of course, and bought Willie some socks because his sandals had rubbed a blister on his foot, and Sarah finally found something she liked. It was lunch time, the kids were starved, and so were Charles and I . I suggested we head down to Jemez Springs for lunch.

As you enter the Jemez National Forest you note that the mountains are just staggeringly beautiful, covered in ponderosa pines, sadly much of it is burned from the 2000 fire that threatened Los Alamos. It is still stunning and you can see the underbrush has recovered, so the forest is coming back in a big way. You wind around the mountain roads, which can be pretty scary at points. We were headed up a hill, and at the top was a hair pin turn that was blind in both directions and as we neared the top a group of bikers came tearing around the bend and one lost control and swerved right in front of us, and nearly spilled. I was amazed we didn't hit him. But the most breathtaking part hits you on the right side of the vehicle as you wind south through the mountains, you come across Valle Grande or Valles Calderas

It was so insanely beautiful, Amanda kept asking me, "Mommy, is it real? Is that really really there? Is it really real?" I have to admit the valley is so strikingly pretty I wasn't sure I was seeing what I thought I was either.

We found Jemez Falls, where Charles and I were married almost 10 years ago. That area burned pretty badly but the picnic shelter was still there or had been rebuilt. Then we headed down to Jemez Springs, and it was pretty late for lunch by then but we were starved, so we found a cool place, The Laughing Lizard. We all loved our lunch in this cute little bistro, and admired the art, then jumped back in the van and kept on truckin'. We drove past Battleship Rock, like Camel Rock it is pretty aptly named.

We arrived in the Jemez Pueblo, and admired the stunning red rock mesas.

When in the Jemez Pueblo you have to stop at one of the little road side stands that sell Indian Fry Bread. We bought two fry breads, one for the girls to share, and one that Charles and I shared with William. The kids enjoyed watching the little old native lady make the bread, and we devoured it in the van. It was time to make our way back home, sadly, but our spontaneous vacation, which could have been a lot less costly had we actually planned it, was worth every penny. I came home recharged, and completely sans funk.


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