Sunday, October 16, 2016

Cookeville TN to HOME !!!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Today was the final leg of our journey home…it was fairly uneventful but did have a couple delays. First a wreck that held us up for about 30 minutes and then the “gameday” traffic in Knoxville as today was the Tennessee vs Alabama game. Surprisingly cars were not as decorated as we saw one other time we were driving through Knoxville on a "gameday". 
UT Car

UT Limo

Lone AL car we saw - note the dirt on window!

We did have nice sunshine for the trip today as opposed to the rain of yesterday.  We were expecting nice color in the trees but there was surprisingly only a smattering of red and yellow on the hillsides. There were a few nice hillsides of color when we crossed the Cumberland Plateau near Crossville and that was it. 
A bit of color on Cumberland Plateau

The only stop we made was in Knoxville at one of Ben’s spots to get the Sprinter a bath – we had a lot of red and brown dirt from our past month of driving around the southwest.  As I sat inside the van during the washing, I watched lots of red water running across the windows.  We rolled into Colonial Heights about 2 PM to see our maple trees just beginning to turn.  The color in these trees - pink and yellow – are one of my favorite times in our yard!  So glad we did not miss it! 

We unloaded part of our gear but left most for tomorrow.  Nice to relax at home.  Hope to post the end of the blog tomorrow and then will face correcting the issues with Windows 10 in my computer.  Ever since Moab I have been typing the blog and processing photos on my computer, transferring to a jump drive and posting from Ben’s computer.  Evidently there is some kind of glitch in Windows 10 that locked my computer in airplane mode so I was unable to access wireless internet at all.  Got to do some sort of fix and if it does not work then do a back-up and reinstall something.  I was able to get on line with ethernet and we hope the Dell folks can fix it remotely…what a pain!  

Wonderful trip – perhaps more on that later – if you remember our goals were Aspens, Red Rocks, and Indian Pueblos.  We certainly succeeded in seeing those three things!  And got home with no major issues other than the short delay for Jane’s hospital visit early in the trip. Not ready to go anywhere else for a week or so…  

Little Rock AR to Cookeville TN

Friday, October 14, 2016

What a day!  Woke up to rain.  Ben had heard the thunder in the night – me nothing.  So the day progressed.  Rain as we left North Little Rock.  Rain as we passed by what we think were fields of rice.  Arkansas grows 49% of the rice grown in the US.  Rain as we crossed the Mississippi into Tennessee.

Rain as we drove past cotton fields in west Tennessee.  Rain as we stopped in Jackson at Isabella’s Louisiana Bistro for what Jane wanted for lunch a po’boy sandwich.  We both had a bowl of gumbo and half a catfish po’boy.  Very tasty.  The place was a bit hard to find and maybe not been open too long.  Found it on Trip Advisor as closest and best seafood place in Jackson that was near 140. 


Catfish Po'boy

Rain as we continued on towards Nashville. We were 55 minutes from the beginning of Metro Nashville (20 miles west) to the end of Metro Nashville (20 miles east).  Bumper to bumper traffic but mostly it kept moving.  About 10 miles after the traffic returned to normal we ran into a parking lot between Mt. Juliet and Lebanon.  Seems 2 tractor trailers had some sort of altercation as we saw them both hooked up to wreckers when we finally passed the site.  Complicating the mess was the narrowing of I 40 from 4 lanes east to 2 lanes east.  Another hour at least moving very slowly.

Finally at 5:45 we pulled into our motel in Cookeville and ordered a pizza.  Don’t think we have ever done that before but with two bottles of beer from the refrigerator in the Sprinter it tasted pretty good!  Since Jane chose lunch spot it was Ben’s turn for supper and after his day driving in rain and horrible traffic he deserved to have his food delivered to him! 

At least 400 of 430 miles of today’s driving was in rain. The only thing that made the wreck traffic somewhat tolerable was it had quit the hard rain.  The rain is now catching up to us – here is hoping it gets blown somewhere so we do not have it again all day tomorrow!

Looking forward to getting home tomorrow!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Elk City OK to North Little Rock AR

Thursday, October 13, 2016

We left the Clarion Inn in Elk City at 8:30 – somehow we woke up still on Mountain Time! Maybe by tomorrow we will have adjusted.  Not much in the way of breakfast here – we are using Choice Hotel Points for these nights coming home…so it is hard to complain when you pay nothing.  There was a McDonalds at the next exit so Ben could get his normal biscuit with strawberry jam.

I 40 East was still our road for the day – our goal North Little Rock OK.  Oklahoma seemed to have a different “Indian Nation” sign every few miles.  A little research showed that prior to statehood, Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory almost the entire state was one reservation or another.  Now they are known as statistical areas.  If I counted right there are 25 different tribes with a statistical area.  Not sure what that means exactly but one thing is for sure most of them have a casino located along I 40. 

We have also been following the historical Route 66 – the route from Chicago to Los Angeles for much of yesterday and today. Much of the road in Oklahoma has been preserved – often the old road runs near I 40. There are museums and restored buildings in nearly every small town.  The other interesting thing is the Chislom Trail crosses I 40 a bit west of Oklahoma City – they designated one “original watering hole” nearby but we did not leave the Interstate to see it!

Passing through Oklahoma City was a breeze.  11 AM may not be a normally busy time; but the traffic was light and moved along smoothly.  It is a huge city that has grown to cover at least 20 miles of I 40. Tinker Air Force Base was right to the south of I 40 on the western side of OKC and we caught a plane taking off as we passed by.
Oklahoma City Skyline

Very unusual bridge across I 40

Tinker Air Force Base


Most of the day we followed the Arkansas River. It is a long river and appeared to be navigable for most of the way today – there are many lakes and locks here and there.
One of many Arkansas River Crossings

As we neared the Oklahoma-Arkansas border we passed through Sallisaw.  This was the end of the “Trail of Tears” where the Cherokees from near our home were moved to Oklahoma or Indian Territory.  The home of Sequoyah was about 10 miles north and if it were not a long driving day we might have visited it. We did stop for lunch and to buy gas at a Love’s near Sallisaw.
Cherokee Casino

We kept seeing Braum's Ice Cream stores – they are headquartered in OK and have stores in TX, OK, AR and perhaps another state.  Having seen so many of them we stopped in Van Buren AR for a treat middle of the afternoon.  Jane thought the Peanut Butter Cup was very good.  Ben thought his Rocky Road needed to be a little sweeter.  They seem to have a big following in this part of the country.

Peanut Butter Cup

Rocky Road

Continuing on to North Little Rock we found our Quality Inn and Suites about 4:45 after a 450 mile day on I 40.  Another overcast day with light rain off and on made for easy driving without the bright sun. I sure was hard pressed to find suitable things to photograph today.

The leftover Chinese food from Tuesday night tasted equally good tonight….having the refrigerator in the Sprinter is excellent when motel/hotel traveling as well as when camping!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Santa Fe NM to Elk City OK

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

We were up early and left The Sage Inn by 8:00, plugging “Home” into the GPS to see how it would get us to I 40.  We headed south on I 25 and then a New Mexico highway about 70 miles to Clines Corner where we turned east on I 40.  The mileage was 1,430 on I 40.   Early on the sun was bright and a bit of a pain and then suddenly we ran into clouds and the sun was gone for most of the day.

There were a couple things of interest on I 40 but mostly this was a day of covering miles.  The landscape gradually changed from mesas to rolling hills with scrub bushes to farmland.  The miles clipped by as we passed numerous very small towns in New Mexico – Tucumcari is one of the last before we entered Texas.  
The first 50 + miles into TX was a continual view of numerous wind turbines to the north of I 40.  They stopped as we went through Amarillo and started up again and continued off and on almost to the Oklahoma border. Quite a concentration of them for sure – as with most things Texas does it BIG!  I was not expecting the cotton – it along with corn and wheat seemed to be a major agricultural crop here in the north TX panhandle.

When we stopped at the Visitor Center in Amarillo for a map and to eat lunch it was 48 – brrr needed to break out the fleece jacket – it had been nearly 70 when we left Santa Fe.  Lunch was not at a picnic table that’s for sure.  The bread from the farmer’s market, cheese, ham, and some butter made a great quick lunch.

At TX Visitor Center

We continued on across TX – again many small towns – and crossed into Oklahoma.  We lost an hour and pulled into our planned hotel in Elk City OK about 4:30 central time.  We had gotten out and walked a few times but the 437 mile day was tiring. We had come down in elevation 7,000 feet at Santa Fe to 1,900 here in Elk City. 

We read about the #1 Restaurant in Elk City – Prairie Fire and decided our Chinese in the refrigerator could wait one more night to be leftovers.  Prairie Fire was in the old train depot in Elk City.  We split a chicken fried steak with baked potato and fried green tomatoes with raspberry sauce.  The fried green tomatoes hooked me from reading the menu and to get them as a side instead of ordering as an appetizer was great.  Also got a salad.  Why have we never done this sharing of meals before – gives us just what we want and need instead of wasting so much food.  Ben was thrilled that they had pecan cobbler with ice cream for desert so he got it “to go”. 
Prairie Fire

A bit of TV and seeing if the blog will post will fill the evening.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Santa Fe and Los Alamos

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Started the day off with breakfast again at the Sage Inn – they have all the usual hotel breakfast fare including waffles.  If you want to pay $5 there is a nice guy there who will make an omelet to your liking – with all kinds of ingredients. 

Today we had 3 goals – Farmer’s Market, Los Alamos Manhattan Project Museum and Bandelier National Monument.  Writing this at 7 PM I can say we accomplished all 3!

The Farmer’s Market is very close to our hotel – the Rail Road area has undergone lots of upgrades in recent years.  The light rail from Alburque comes in and there have been lots of galleries and shops opened.  The Farmer’s Market is open on Saturdays and Tuesdays.  It was very nice with loads of veggies and food and crafts.  We bought some green chilies, some fingerling potatoes, and a loaf of whole grain bread that looked awesome.  Also an apple tart. Some of the veggies were quite unusual and some were just normal veggies but very nice looking. Jane was disappointed the few people who were selling chili pepper ristas were making them too fancy – so passed them by.

We headed north towards Los Alamos – 4 lane road all the way.  It is only about 20 miles north of Santa Fe. Crossed the Rio Grande River again and began seeing lovely yellow on the mountains again.  We found the Bradbury Science Museum which has become a part of the National Park Service recently.  They also have a driving tour with a few of the original 1939-45 era buildings. We opted to tour the museum and it was very interesting.  They had two films one on the history of the Manhattan Project and a second one telling about the role of the Los Alamos Facility today. Well worth the time but not much in the way of photos.  Los Alamos was as remote and secret an operation as Oak Ridge was. The people who lived and worked there used a Box # in Santa Fe for their address and it even appeared on birth certificates for infants born there!
Rio Grande

The Mountains around Los Alamos

Bradbury Science Museum

We then headed towards Bandelier National Monument – The GPS took us up a road and we came to a number of guard stations – we were going to drive through the Los Alamos National Laboratories.  One of the main roads in the area passes right beside the huge buildings and to drive down the road you had to show ID and promise to take no photos for 5 miles.  Interesting!
We finally arrived at Bandelier to discover you had to take a shuttle into the park.  We came in the park and were directed to the Camp Ground Parking area nearby to wait for the shuttle.  The main shuttle parking is in White Top a town about 8 miles away and the shuttle runs every 30 milutes….so we ate a great lunch of delicious bread, butter, cheese, some fruit and the apple tart.  We were just finishing when the shuttle bus came by.

When we arrived at the Visitor Center area we understood why they needed the shuttle.  There were probably 20 parking places.  We watched the movie, took about a ½ mile walk down the canyon to see the ruins.  This Puebloan settlement was about 2,000 years later than Aztec and Chaco.  Some of the ruins and kiva were on the canyon floor but the majority of the living dwellings were high on a south facing wall.  We went as far as the kiva and ground structures but did not climb up to the wall dwellings.  Many children and others were having a great time climbing the ladders into the various cliff dwellings. 
Bandelier National Monument

Frioles Canyon

Ben talks with Ranger

Homes in the Cliffs

We waited about 5 minutes after our walk for a shuttle bus that whisked us back to our van – good system because we did not ever wait more than a few minutes for a bus. 

Ben pulled off the road on the way back to Santa Fe on an Indian Reservation and bought gas for 10 cents less per gallon than in Santa Fe.  Taxes maybe different?

We stopped at one of the shops along the street selling the chili pepper ristas and Jane bought what she had been wanting. We headed back to the Sage Inn to do some research on where to eat dinner! 

Trip Advisor really recommended a winner tonight!  We were again not wanting more Mexican/Southwest food – sure hate not to take advantage of Santa Fe but we just wanted something else.  We headed to the best Chinese in town – LuLu’s.  Wow was the food great and to make it even better we have enough for dinner tomorrow night too.  We had Hot and Sour Soup; Beef Chow Fun which is beef with wide rice noodles, onions, bok choy, and bean sprouts; and Orange Beef.  The Orange Beef was the best we have ever had – real orange taste not little pieces of orange rind as is often the case.
Orange Beef

Beef Chow Fun

Back to the Sage Inn and do a little packing so we can leave early tomorrow a

Monday, October 10, 2016

Santa Fe - mostly all about food

Monday, October 10, 2016

Had to be sure to wake up on time this morning!  Jane is going to school!  Taking a class at the Santa Fe School of Cooking!  About 10 years ago I took a class here during a trip out the Santa Fe Trail when Ben was taking a week long class at Philmont – the national Boy Scout camp about 100 miles north of Santa Fe.  So when it was clear we would be in Santa Fe I checked to see what classes might be available.  Going to learn all about Rellenos.  So breakfast and Ben delivered me to the new location on Guadalupe Street.  It was really only about a mile from our hotel.

Rellenos are chili peppers of any variety stuffed with anything and cooked anyway – most people think only of the cheese stuffed Anaheim peppers that are deep fried – oh they are so much more!  Our class was a participatory one with 16 people from all over the country and one guy from Australia.  Only 2 of the participants were from the Santa Fe area.  My partner for the day was a gal from Wyoming that was here in Santa Fe visiting her sister.  Another small world experience – the hostess for the class was originally from Roan Mountain!

Our teacher was a world traveler chef – having been on staff here before, chef at a local restaurant, chef at a restaurant in New York City, and spent several years in Dubai organizing a Southwestern Cooking School there.  Interesting guy – our assignment for the morning was to prepare 4 different types of Rellenos.  Chilies Rellenos, Ancho Chilies Rellenos with Chipotle Tomato Sauce, Cream Cheese stuffed Jalapeno and Chilies en Nogada.  We were divided into groups to work on each and all helped where needed.  I primarily worked on the Chilies en Nogada which were Poblano chilies with a beef filling and a walnut cream sauce. 

My partner from Wyoming and Chef

Class hard at work

Our two leaders - Chef and sou chef
Chef's plate our creations

Cream Cheese stuffed Jalapenos

top - Chilies Rellenos  lower left -Chilies en Nogada and lower right - Ancho Chilies Rellenos with Chipotle Tomato Sauce 

It was great fun, I learned a lot, and then we got to eat one of each type – wow it was all great and I left stuffed.  They also have a nice retail shop and of course I did not get out without buying a few things!
Ben had spent the morning on the computer I think, seeing what all his Free Republic associates thought about the Presidential Debate and making plans and reservations for our 4 day return to TN on 1-40. Our camping nights are over and we will plan to drive about 400 miles per day to get home….so motels at stated spots makes us meet our objective!

Jane wanted to make a stop at a local grocery to buy some ingredients that just are not as available in TN.  Found a nice Albertson’s not too far away.  Then we drove up towards Taos for the views and to charge up the battery – we still use the refrigerator in the Sprinter and it runs from the extra battery we have installed.  It keeps the refrigerator and lights in the camper portion running even if we do not have “shore” power but you have to drive some to keep the second battery charged. 
One of numerous decorated overpasses on highway

We then did some research on a restaurant for dinner.  There are so many choices 400+ in Santa Fe!   We really wanted something besides Southwestern and Mexican cooking for a change – we settled on The Ranch House which it turns out is #2 in Santa Fe.
Jane's Cobb Salad

Ben's steak

Jane posted the blog for the past 2 days and then we headed out to The Ranch House.  It was about 5 miles out of city center south.  They had perfect selections for us – Ben wanted a small steak and Jane wanted a good salad.  Ben had a sirloin, Jane had a Cobb Salad, and we shared some spinach and artichoke dip with really great chips. 

Cuba NM to Santa Fe NM

Sunday October 9, 2016

One thing the Frontier Motel did not have was breakfast – however there was a McDonalds connected to the gas station where we bought gas - so a McMuffin it was.  Then we headed on south. The weather was not great as it had rained in the night.  Clouds hung heave as we drove the 72 miles to I 25 where we would headed north to Santa Fe.  
Clouds hanging low
 When we arrived in Santa Fe we searched for the visitor center hoping to get a map as New Mexico was the only state we had requested information from pre-trip that did not send a map…well finally we gave up and headed to our Hotel hoping to get some information to begin our explorations.

The Sage Inn of Santa Fe turned out to be near downtown but not on the Plaza – which was what we had planned.  It was of course too early to check in but – they have an hourly “shuttle” to the Plaza so we parked the Sprinter and hopped on the shuttle.  We were on the Plaza in time to eat lunch at the CafĂ© on the Plaza.  Had a great bowl of soup to fortify us for our next few hours! 

We took a once around the square approach and looked at lots of beautiful jewelry, rugs, western wear, Indian crafts, and more.  One shop had some very interesting old pawn Navajo jewelry and Ben began talking to the store owner.  It appears he had lived most of his life in Knoxville and Nashville. They both knew some of the same people in the construction business in Kingsport – small world.  We could each have easily spent $10,000 and I imagine much more with little trouble.   Then we enjoyed browsing and talking to the Indian craftsmen and women who were displaying their wares under the Palace of the Governors.  This is always fun and Ben loves to talk technique with them and get ideas for things he can craft for sale at the Holston Mountain Artisans in Abingdon.
La Fonda - one of the original hotels in Santa Fe - we stayed there on our first trip to Santa Fe

Throngs of people on the square

Ben shopping and learning
One of musicians that entertained the crowd

We then enjoyed about a hour in the New Mexico Museum.  Their exhibits cover the history of the state from early Spanish explorers, through the western expansion of the US, the history of the Harvey Restaurants along with the railroads, the events of WW2 and the role of New Mexico , Route 66 and the hippie culture that evidently played a role in New Mexico as well.  
This one surprised me - the silver used at one of the Harvey House hotels in Southwest

There was one huge exhibit tracking the history of the Catholic and Jewish religions in Mexico and New Mexico and their struggles. It was way too deep for me and will require a bit of study on return home. 
We returned to the “pick-up”   site and soon the shuttle picked us up for a quick return to the Sage Inn.  This is going to prove a great benefit. 

We got checked in and found our room to be quite nice – I trust Trip Advisor but one never knows – one night is one thing but we plan to be here 3 nights.  Tired and needing to be finished with dinner to watch the Presidential Debate tonight we ate close to home.  In the De Rail Yard at the Hotel – really a sort of pub but the food was good.  A special treat was a beautiful rainbow right outside the window as we ate dinner. 
Our home at Sage Inn 

One end of rainbow we saw during dinner

Watched the debate – since we have been fairly uninvolved with TV news the past while it was interesting.  I wish they would stick to the important issues instead of cutting each other down…of course there is so much fuel I guess they just can’t stick to the issues.
Caught up on writing the blog but will need to work on posting tomorrow.  Afraid my photo taking has not been too good the last couple days!