A Travellerspoint blog

El Tour de Tuscon

21-23 November 2014

sunny 73 °F

The main purpose for my long awaited trip to Tucson was to ride in the Special Olympics tour de Tucson. I had heard about this through my friend Christina who was also doing the ride. They have multiple events to include 104, 75, 55, and 40 mile rides. Thanks to my work and studying I was able to train for about 2.5 hours on the bike so I went with the 40 mile ride.

Friday we drove down to Tucson and picked up our packets at the Expo. Overall I think runners do it better ;) A serendipitous moment led up to a Mexican restaurant for a late lunch and then back to the room for some rest before eating again at BJ's.
40 miler start

40 miler start


Another bonus to the 40 mile ride is that it didn't start until 1200 so we had time to get up late and eat at Village Inn before making our way to the start. Just over 1,000 people finished the 40 miler and it did seem like the crowds never let up the entire time. The ride was actually pretty easy without many hills and we only had to stop at traffic lights once or twice. About two miles from the end I hit a bump funny and went down hard. I got to get my moneys worth out of my helmet but was able to finish the ride and pick up my medal! We finally met Christina and Chris with another biking couple at the end of the ride. We had a beer then took off for warm showers.
The Mexican restaurant we could all walk to won out as the dinner choice and was a bit better than our last visit.

In the morning we enjoyed another breakfast at Village Inn before driving to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. It was really neat and more like a zoo with desert animals. Our arrival coincided with the start of the Raptor free flight. These birds were literally flying right over our heads and were gorgeous. The rest of the morning we spent walking around the hummingbirds, big horn sheep, prairie dogs, javelinas, mountain lions, coyotes and bobcats. Feeding time was in progress when we got the bobcat area and it was hilarious watching the cats do their tricks to get fed. They didn't get anything unless they were sitting on a round little plastic platform.
bobcat feeding time

bobcat feeding time


welcome party

welcome party


spreading their wings

spreading their wings


bird show

bird show


a cactus can hurt

a cactus can hurt


cactus garden

cactus garden


coyote

coyote


Curt as a turtle

Curt as a turtle


desert landscape

desert landscape


hummingbird nest

hummingbird nest


hummingbird

hummingbird


hummingbird having a snack

hummingbird having a snack


prairie dog

prairie dog


saguaro cactus

saguaro cactus


Sadly by the time we were finished it was time to start driving back to reality.

Posted by ErinDriver 18:37 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Carlsbad and Guadalupe Mountains National Park

18-19 October 2014

semi-overcast 75 °F

Ah, finally a chance for another getaway. I'm excited even if its only for one night. So here was the idea.....we drive to Carlsbad, New Mexico and stay the night in the Trinity Hotel in town. On day two, wake up and be close enough to Guadalupe Mountains National Park to start the eight hour hike to the peak early in the morning. It worked out almost like that!

We did drive to Carlsbad and stay in the delightful Trinity Hotel. It is a bit pricey but as soon as we arrived we were offered a wine tasting which we quickly accepted. They have their own vineyard and also sell others that is made in Deming, New Mexico. With the free wine tasting we also got crackers with goat cheese and besito caliente (a blackberry and jabanero sauce).
the bat cave

the bat cave


Carlsbad Caverns, about 30 minutes away has a bat flight program that we hurried back to the caverns to check out. Its a free program that allows people in to an amphitheater at the mouth of a cavern that houses thousands of bats. A ranger gives an informational talk while you are waiting for the bats to start swirling out of the caves. No one knows why they swirl but their end destination is likely a water source about thirty miles from the cave. We were informed that each bat eats half its body weight in insects each night.

After the show we headed back to the hotel for an excellent dinner with some more great wine for me and pecan beer for Curt.
view from the trail

view from the trail


The next day we woke up early in the attempt to hike to the highest point in Texas, Guadalupe Peak. The hike is estimated to take 6-8 hours so we wanted an early start. Unfortunately it was pouring down rain when we left the hotel, while we ate breakfast and IHOP and most of the drive back to the park. The visitors center said the rain chances were only 20% but we opted for a shorter and less strenuous hike in case the weather got bad.
We should have gone to the peak

We should have gone to the peak


trail of rocks

trail of rocks


pausing on the trail

pausing on the trail


another beautiful day

another beautiful day

We met our friends, Rhiannon and Chelsea and set out for Devil's Hall which ends in a staircase of natural rock in Pine Springs Canyon. The trail is 4.2 miles round trip and the weather turned out to be gorgeous. I was really surprised by all the fall colors that Texas had to offer!
color in the desert

color in the desert


Curt at Devils Hall

Curt at Devils Hall


fall colors

fall colors


fall in texas

fall in texas


on the steps of Devils Hall

on the steps of Devils Hall

Posted by ErinDriver 18:13 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Franklin Mountains hiking and apple barn

13 October 2014

sunny

Today I decided no studying was authorized and we started the day with a hike in the Franklin Mountains right down the road from our house. It turned out to be quite a difficult trek up the Ron Coleman trail. There were a couple of small caves on the way and at the top you could see over the mountain to both sides of El Paso. The day was beautiful the trek was short but challenging.
the view in to the canyon

the view in to the canyon


taking a break

taking a break


at the cave

at the cave


Franklin Mountain State Park

Franklin Mountain State Park


Curt on top of El Paso

Curt on top of El Paso


Ron Coleman Trail

Ron Coleman Trail


We couldn't settle for just a hike so after lunch we went for a motorcycle ride. Our goal was to hit the pistachio ranch in Alamagordo but it turned out to be a bit further than I bargained for so we hit the Apple Barn instead. The apple barn had lots of little crafty things for sale as well as some pretty amazing apple pie. We took on a bit more than I was ready for with the ride so not long after getting there we had to start riding back. Some other day we will have to go back for the pistachios!
the apple farm

the apple farm

Posted by ErinDriver 18:43 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Washington work trip

22 September to 6 October 2014

sunny 60 °F

I had to go to Joint Base Lewis McChord for an ultrasound rotation and sadly I was on my own for most things but I still took the opportunity to see a little of the area.
lobster dinner

lobster dinner


First thing after a week of training was a good lobster dinner in Old Tacoma right along the water called the Lobster Shop. The food and view were both fabulous. This area has a collection of nice looking restaurants with excellent views. I later went to RAM which is a brewery type restaurant.
view from tram ride

view from tram ride


One morning I headed to Northwest Trek which is a a wildlife park. There are animals you can walk around and visit and they also have an hour long trolley ride around the park to see more free range animals.
my wolf moment

my wolf moment


I managed to get there before many of the kids and had a few moments along with three wolves and a brown bear.
brown bear

brown bear


These are some of the other animals on display:
cool catepillar

cool catepillar


snowy owl

snowy owl


bald eagles

bald eagles


bison naps

bison naps


I was lucky to meet up with Andrea Jacobson who took me on a trip up Mt Ranier on one of the Sundays I was there. The day was absolutely beautiful and we started at Paradise and walked to Pebble Creek.
first glimpse of Mt Ranier

first glimpse of Mt Ranier


more views of Mt Ranier

more views of Mt Ranier


marmot resting

marmot resting


marmot on high alert

marmot on high alert


the trail to

the trail to


Pebble Creek

Pebble Creek


on the snow

on the snow


selfie

selfie


I was introduced to marmots on the way which were all over the place and didn't seem to bothered by humans.
glacier slide

glacier slide


We decided to be silly and slide down the glacier which was the second best moment of the day. The first was the dessert and beer we had in the lodge at the bottom of the path :)
boats in Anacortes

boats in Anacortes


therapy dogs on whale watch

therapy dogs on whale watch


whale watching

whale watching


Grannie

Grannie


And lastly I couldn't leave Washington without a whale watch. Unfortunately the drive to Anacortes where the trips departed from at this time of year was 2 hours away but it went by quickly. I booked a 5-6 hour whale watch with Island Adventures which turned out to be worth the money. Because I went on the trip for work I was not thinking about photography and hadn't brought my good camera. That means most of the whales we saw look like tiny black specs in the pictures. The rule is that the boats can't get within a certain distance of the whales. If the whales then move closer they are okay but this only happened once. A whale named Grannie which they estimate to be about 103 years old swam right by our boat.

There were tons of other whales in the distance that seemed to just be hanging out together. For a short while the company put a microphone under the water and we could hear the whales communicating. During the trip we also saw porpoises and seals. Before heading back and concluding my short break from studying I had dinner at the pizza factory in the adorable town of Anacortes.

Posted by ErinDriver 18:53 Archived in USA Comments (0)

A different pool

sunny 102 °F

hotel pool

hotel pool


Any travel is better than no travel! Curt found a groupon for Hotel Encanto in Las Cruces so Saturday afternoon I got to study by a different pool. Dinner was made of humongous seafood enchiladas and a strawberry margarita! We came back to reality today but not until we had huevos rancheros at Gardunos restaurant.
outside lounge area at hotel

outside lounge area at hotel


Emmy comfortable in the hotel

Emmy comfortable in the hotel


Strawberry margarita

Strawberry margarita


lobby of Hotel Encanto

lobby of Hotel Encanto

Posted by ErinDriver 16:28 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

5 July 2014

sunny 100 °F

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Caverns National Park


Normally I would have wanted to be out of town for the holiday weekend but now that I am back in school I have to settle for day trips. Luckily there are plenty around and today the goal was about two hours away at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. It is listed in 1,000 Places to See Before You Die as the underground wonder in the Chihuahuan Desert. It was clear to us as soon as we drove up that plenty of other people were trying to tick this off their bucket list today. We barely made it to our tour on time.
the papoose room

the papoose room


The caverns contain more than 100 caves but today we had signed up to do the Kings Palace Tour. It includes a visit to the papoose room that has only one way in and one way out. Because people were causing destruction a tour is now the only way to get there. The park also contains the Big Room, one of the largest underground chambers in the world. It is said to be large enough to hold six football fields.
stalagmites and stalagtites

stalagmites and stalagtites


A walk in to the caverns is possible but we took the one minute elevator ride down 750 feet. Our guide provided narration on subjects to include the only living creatures in the caves besides bats are crickets and worms the size of a horse hair. These worms get inside the cricket when it takes a drink of water and lives there until the cricket goes back to get more water. It then destroys the cricket and gets back in the water. Curt and I wonder who watched the cricket long enough to find that out.
Guide giving a talk

Guide giving a talk


We of course get the moment of complete darkness and quiet, or mostly quiet outside of the little boy in our group. The caves were chilly at a constant 54 degrees.
Curt in the caves

Curt in the caves


drapes

drapes

looks like icicles

looks like icicles

taking a tour

taking a tour

the green pool

the green pool


Blood sugar was low after the tour so we had dinner at the only restaurant in the immediate area. It is probably not known for its speed of service. Before leaving town I had to stop at the gift shop and snap a photo of this guy!
Gift shop alien

Gift shop alien

Posted by ErinDriver 19:29 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Two weeks in San Antonio, Texas

15-27 June 2014

overcast

For those of you who have been asking, I am in fact, still in the Army and we were in San Antonio, TX for these two weeks due to work. But that doesn't mean I won't try to get all I can out of the trip :)
Riverwalk cruise

Riverwalk cruise


our restaurant

our restaurant


San Antonio has some special meaning to Curt and I since we got married there so it wouldn't be a right to come and not hit the Riverwalk and the Casa Rio. We ate there after we got married and this time we got to take Emma with us. She wasn't even bothered by the little baby ducks that walked all around our table.
The Alamo

The Alamo


outside the alamo

outside the alamo


And of course you can't go downtown without snapping a shot of the Alamo.
nice day for tubing in Gruene

nice day for tubing in Gruene

pretty nice little saturday

pretty nice little saturday


Another favorite of ours is tubing down the Guadalupe. I had a groupon to do it for next to nothing and we had a pretty nice little Saturday floating down the river for three hours. At first the weather didn't look promising but it cleared up enough for the turtles to come and tarzan too!
river turtle

river turtle

Turtle on the lookout

Turtle on the lookout

playing tarzan

playing tarzan

perfect finish

perfect finish


We had a great time catching up with some folks from various stages in our lives. We hit Aldaco's restaurant with Missy and Roland and met Diana Loffgren and her son, Ryan at the Magnolia House. I would have gone back again if they made dinner but instead I had to be satisfied with my red velvet waffle.
red velvet waffle

red velvet waffle

with Diana and Ryan

with Diana and Ryan


Curt and I also had Paesano's Italian restaurant and dinner at the Alamo Draft House theater while watching 22 Jump Street.

I even got another trip to the Majestic Theater to see the Broadway Across America show, Sister Act. To warm up for the show we had some San Antonio staples of chips and salsa with a mango margarita.
San Antonio staples

San Antonio staples


Our last night we had some wine, beer and cheese and the Boiler House after wandering around the Pearl Brewery area and then had dinner at Demo's Greek restaurant.

We are now 10 pounds heavier and ready to head home to El Paso.

Posted by ErinDriver 17:34 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Fort Stockton, Texas

14 June 2014

sunny

The Army said I needed to be at a course on research in San Antonio for two weeks. So what I hear out of that statement is that I have the perfect opportunity to drive and sneak out an extra overnight trip. As it turns out there really isn't much between El Paso and San Antonio except Fort Stockton. So here goes the photo tour:
Fort Stockton marker

Fort Stockton marker


This stone reads that Fort Stockton was established on the Comanche trail in March 1859 as a protection of the San Antonio to San Diego mail route. Our guidebook states it was first named Camp Stockton but the army withdrew from Texas during the Civil War and abandoned the fort in 1861. Confederate troops briefly occupied the site until they withdrew in 1862. In July 1867, Fort Stockton was re-established by four companies of the 9th U.S. Cavalry Regiment. The 9th was one of the new regiments organized after the Civil War staffed with African-American enlisted men known as Buffalo Soldiers.
Pepitos Cafe

Pepitos Cafe


Fort Stockton has a driving tour composed of 17 well marked historic sites. Before tackling that though we had to build up our strength with some chow at Pepito's Café.
Paisano Pete

Paisano Pete

Curt offering Emma to Pete

Curt offering Emma to Pete


Paisano Pete is one of the first exhibits at the start of historic Fort Stockton. He is the unofficial mascot erected in 1980 and declared the largest roadrunner in the world at 11 feet tall and 22 feet long. He is said to be one of the most photographed "birds" in the world.
donkey pot

donkey pot


The main street is pretty abandoned for a Saturday night but atleast it made it easy to pull over to read all the signs. One store was closed but still had a bunch of merchandise lining the street to include this donkey pot.
Annie Riggs Memorial Museum

Annie Riggs Memorial Museum


We pass the First National bank that now houses the police, The Grey Mule Saloon that does wine tastings and the Annie Riggs Museum. The museum was built in 1899 and is an example of Territorial architecture.
old jail

old jail


Next we pass the courthouse, St. Joseph Catholic Church and Zero Store Park. There is a rock that marks the point which all directions were measured from in the days of the Fort. The historic old jail is on the corner and now also a museum.
St Stephens Episcopal Church

St Stephens Episcopal Church

St Stephens Episcopal Church entrance

St Stephens Episcopal Church entrance


There are some remains of the oldest house, an old school and Army telegraph building, a few stores and Comanche springs. The springs used to be a stop for weary travelers but looks almost dried up today. Next is I think the most picturesque part of the tour in the St. Stephens Episcopal Church.
The Old Fort

The Old Fort


Historic Fort Stockton still has buildings that were for guards, enlisted soldiers, officers and stables. Finally you pass the cemetery that was in use from 1859 to 1912. Grave markers were testament to the hard and often violent life on the early frontier with people not often living past forty.

Posted by ErinDriver 19:09 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Dinner and a show

30 May 2014

sunny

I am so glad to be back in a city where they have Bsome version of Broadway. Broadway across America brought Jersey Boys to El Paso and the show was sold out in the Plaza theater. It was one of my favorite shows, just very well done.
Jersey Boys

Jersey Boys


We hit up Sparrows restaurant a few blocks from the theater for some Chicago style pizza before the show. Needless to say we each took home a few pieces. I remain partial to thin crust types!
chicago style pizza

chicago style pizza

Posted by ErinDriver 13:56 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Santa Fe, New Mexico

19-21 May 2014

sunny

To finish off my leave prior to starting the Emergency Medicine course Curt and I spent a few days in Santa Fe. Eating seemed to be one of the only things on the agenda but we did it well. The drive was about 5 hours and we were still suffering some jet lag from just returning yesterday so by the time we got there we were ready to rest in the room at the Villas that Curt found on groupon.
We ventured out for dinner at Café Chimaya for some blue corn enchiladas. They are delicious and the menu mentions they have been featured on the show Drive-Ins, Diners and Dives.
Casa Chimayo

Casa Chimayo

Blue corn enchiladas

Blue corn enchiladas


Early on Tuesday we take Emma and hit the Burro Alley Café for breakfast of French toast and breakfast burrito. We had scheduled a Food tour at 1100 and we got the VIP service as we were the only people signed up. Our guide started by taking us to the center of the plaza and pointing out that the memorial used to say Savage Indians but it was found offensive and someone eventually hoped the fence and scratched out the world savage. It was never repaired.
Savage Indians

Savage Indians


The first restaurant was the Santa Fe Bar and Grill where we had chicken enchiladas with red and green chilis (Christmas style). This restaurant also has some cool wine bottles that portray and a wedding if you get all seven bottles. We later go back to try and buy one but we weren't allowed to buy an unopened bottle.
Christmas Enchiladas

Christmas Enchiladas

Wine bottles

Wine bottles


Next up was tasting flavored oils but it is similar to what we did in Albuquerque so we don't stay there long. After that is the Thunderbird Café where they have a balcony that looks over the plaza. On the menu here is a pork stew.
view from Thunderbird cafe

view from Thunderbird cafe

Stew at Thunderbird cafe

Stew at Thunderbird cafe


Our walk about the town also takes us past the oldest church and house in the US.
San Miguel church

San Miguel church

outside church

outside church

oldest house in the USA

oldest house in the USA

inside San Miguel

inside San Miguel

worthy of preservation

worthy of preservation

Lorertto Chapel

Lorertto Chapel


Another church has a miraculous staircase. The story goes some nuns did not have the money to build a staircase but they prayed about it and a carpenter showed up one day. He said he would build it and they could pay him when he was finished if they liked it. If not he would take it down and leave. So he build a beautiful staircase with three twists but when the nuns went to pay him he was gone. Architects today still cannot figure out how it was created because there is no nails, cement or glue.

So back to the food. Next up was the Upper Crust Pizza Shop where we had a chicken pizza.
upper crust pizza restaurant

upper crust pizza restaurant

upper crust pizza

upper crust pizza


Lastly was Senor Murphy for a dessert of several types of candy, one of course has chilis!
Senor Murphy

Senor Murphy


After our tour we spend some time with Emma and the pool and the hotel before heading to dinner to eat again! We got the hotel shuttle to take us to Second Street Brewery and Curt indulged in the beer sampler on the back porch.
Second Street Brewery

Second Street Brewery


Our last day on Wednesday we start with eating once again but this time it is with Curt's sister, Erica and her husband Justin. Curt picks the Palace Café and we sit outside for breakfast while catching up.
Breakfast with Justin and Erica

Breakfast with Justin and Erica


I couldn't leave Santa Fe without hitting Canyon Road for the artsy shops. Needless to say Curt and Emma weren't that interested so I just snapped a few photos and we were on our way.
Canyon road

Canyon road

Curt and Emmy

Curt and Emmy

feeling the artsy vibe

feeling the artsy vibe

Emmy not feeling artsy

Emmy not feeling artsy

my favorist art

my favorist art

animal art

animal art

Posted by ErinDriver 16:15 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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