Bandelier and the Lost Turquoise Trail

Bandelier and The Lost Turquoise Trail

We love New Mexico! So much to see and do, so much history, so much natural beauty, and such great food! We particularly love the Santa Fe/Taos area, but we always have to pass through Albuquerque first. Now, it is fabulous for a largish city, but that’s a story for another time. There are two ways to get to Santa Fe from Albuquerque; I-25, a great, fast four-lane all the way. Or, for those who like the road less traveled, there’s Highway 14 (aka the Turquoise Trail), a nice, slower, twisty and scenic road with two near ghost towns, and one “living” ghost town.

Turquoise car on the Turquoise Trail

So, we were staying in Santa Fe with friends Don and Trish, and decided to take a quick day trip to Madrid, N.M. to revisit this fun stop. Don was my co-pilot, and plugged “Turquoise Trail” into Maps on his iPhone. We headed out, the car filled with laughter and fun conversation. Before too long, though, I said to Don. “Hmm, we seem to be heading a lot farther north than I kind of remember. Seems like we should be going south?” “Nope, it shows it right here!” “Okay”. I was still pretty doubtful, but he had the guidance, and I didn’t. After close to a half hour of travel, it had us take a right turn off the freeway, and announced we were at our destination. Huh? We were at an Indian Casino in the middle of the desert. Then someone spotted the sign for the Turquoise Room at the casino. Hahahaha, we about laughed ourselves silly! So my wife plugged it into her phone, and we were off again, headed in the right direction. This time, it took us to downtown Santa Fe … I scratched my head, and said I didn’t remember coming through downtown to catch Highway 14, but then the phone announced we were at our destination … at a Turquoise Jewelry store in Santa Fe. This time we laughed until we cried. I fired up my phone, and found our true destination, which was Madrid, on the Turquoise Trail. We finally made it, and had a great time, but more on that in another post.

Kiva at Bandelier

On our first attempt to find Highway 14 as we were headed north on I-25, I had noticed a sign for Bandelier National Monument, so when we got back to our condo, I looked it up – turns out it is an Ancestral Pueblo people site that dates back to 1150 CE. The people who lived here carved rooms deep in the volcanic tuff, and then built rooms in front of them from mortared stacked stones  and wooden beams. They stood as high as three stories. They also built kivas, which were circular semi-underground covered structures used for religious purposes. There were several kivas – each one was for a separate clan that had specific duties relating to ceremonies that would be performed at distinct times of the year for various reasons. As I noted in a previous blog, the best resource I found for information here was The Book of the Hopi by Frank Waters.

Don found a perfectly good cave to call home!

We spent several hours here along a trail that took us right up to the dwelling remains, and even being able to crawl into a couple of them. This is reasonably accessible for most people, but there are some steep narrow stairs that must be negotiated here and there. One of the most interesting things was to see the petroglyphs etched in the rock above the dwellings, which appeared to be our equivalent of addresses. Some are very plain to see, others require either just the right light or angle. Shards of pottery are laid out here and there to get an idea of the great artistry in their everyday utensils.

We made a loop trip out of the trail, following a year-around spring that supplied the water for their irrigated gardens where they grew corn, beans and squash. It appears that this water source dried up about 1550 C, so they moved along the Rio Grande river in Frijoles Canyon. As we hiked back along the trail, always right ahead of us by maybe 100 yards was a fox! Always a special treat to see wildlife when we are out hiking.

Trail with cliff dwellings

So, we finally found the Lost Turquoise Trail, and in our wanderings, also found this unique and amazing National Monument. We will be headed back this way again in 2020; wonder where we will get lost this time, and what we will find because of it!

Historic Home Obsession, Take Two

Welcome back! Here is Part Two of my Historic Homes Obsession blog. To quickly recap:

Almost every place we have traveled it seems we managed to locate a historic home, and toured it. We are always fascinated by these snapshots in time, trying to figure out how people lived their everyday lives there. Makes no difference to us if its a one-room log cabin, or a huge mansion, these historic homes call to us, and we must tour them. I tried to think back and remember as many as possible, and came up with eight (not counting the mind-boggling home somewhere in Tuscany).

This is Part Two of Two parts. In no particular order, here is a snapshot of the homes, a wee smidgen of history, and my takeaway.

Kit Carson House, Taos, New Mexico

Built in 1825, purchased by Kit Carson in 1843

Siting by the outdoor oven

There is SO much history in the desert southwest, from prehistoric occupancy by Native Americans to a continuously occupied pueblo since circa 1000, then founded as a trading outpost by the Spanish in 1795! Kit Cason came to the area on the Santa Fe Trail in 1826, and worked multiple jobs for years. He bought this home as a wedding gift for his third wife, and they raised seven kids here. The structure is original, and the interior is basically identical to when they occupied it; the back bedroom was used as his office when he was a Federal Agent for the Ute and Taos Pueblo tribes. He also helped raise several native children who were rescued from slavery.

Bills Takeaway: I love how this home shows traditional territorial style adobe living, with a courtyard ramada and horno (outdoor oven). You can almost see the family sitting in the shade of the ramada while his wife bakes in the oven, and the hordes of kids kicking up dust playing in the courtyard.

Taos Pueblo, Taos, New Mexico

Built circa 1000 – 1400 AD

Such an interesting place! Built up to 1,000 years ago, and continuously inhabited since then. These days very few native people live here daily, but the pueblo population swells during their tribal ceremonies. The homes are passed down from generation to generation; some are very well maintained, others need some work. Several of the homes have been re-purposed into native businesses, selling art, jewelry, and foods like fry bread, so you can go inside get a sense of what it’s like to live there. This is in a beautiful setting, with mountains in the background and a stream running through the village. If you visit, remember that this is akin to a sacred place to the inhabitants, so treat it and everyone you meet with great respect. There are specific guidelines to be aware of as you visit. Enter with a sense of awe and curiosity about how much and how little has changed here over the centuries.

Horno oven at Taos Pueblo

Bills takeaway: I became fascinated by Native American culture and history years ago, and especially with the pueblo people. For an amazing sense of who they are, read The Book of the Hopi by Frank Waters, and House of Rain by Craig Childs for an interesting thesis on why so many pueblo cities were abandoned for no apparent reason 700 years ago.

Flavel House, Astoria

Flavel house
photo by Holly Whiting

Built in 1885 by Captain George Flavel

Crossing the bar at the Columbia River with old sailing ships resulted in dozens of shipwrecks and loss of life. Even today it commands respect – and maybe a bit of fear – for those who enter. So Captain George Flavel became an expert at guiding ships through these treacherous waters, and was very successful. He became a bit of a real estate mogul, and was able to retire at age 62, and built this 11,600 square foot mansion as his retirement home. It has been meticulously restored to its former glory. One cool feature is the tower; the Captain would often go up to the top, where he had a 360 degree view of Astoria and the Columbia River so he could keep an eye on all the ship traffic.

Bills takeaway: Somehow I lost all my photos of this amazing structure, so we are going to have to go back! The website talks about the ornate fireplaces built with exotic woods; this might be the place where one fireplace was built with over 100 types of rare woods from around the world. The grounds take up an entire city block, and are beautiful in their own right. While in Astoria, don’t miss the Astor Column, (now called the Astoria Column); you too can climb all 164 steps to the top of this 125 foot tall column for your own 360 degree view of Astoria and surrounds. 

Lynden Johnson Ranch, Johnson City, Texas

The Western White House for LBJ

Original Structure Built in 1894 by William Meier, emigrated from Germany

I have to admit the prospect of going to the “Western White House,” as LBJ’s Texas ranch was known, did not thrill me. I have vivid memories of the national turmoil caused by his support for the VietNam war, and it had left a bitter taste in my mouth. But this visit was actually one of the most rewarding trips to a historic home I’ve done. Note no photos – they aren’t allowed! And the home is closed to tours right now due to structural issues. One area was closed when we were there, looks like very poor engineering was done to ensure the house wouldn’t collapse! Anyhow, one of the best parts was the history. Yes the VietNam war was horrific and pointless, but it really overshadowed the great things he did accomplish in his life, both in the Senate and as President. The grounds are a National Historic Park; they also include his birthplace and the first school he went to.

Old Homestead on LBJ Ranch
with great travel friends

Bills takeaway: “Mid-Century” home design seems to be all the rage right now. The inside of this home embodies it all! I especially enjoyed seeing his office, and the jets parked in his hanger near the house.

I hope maybe this inspires a few of you to take a look at a bit of American history that is preserved in old homes across this great land. If you have some favorites, please let me know in the comments section of this blog! And look for Part Three later this summer…

Historic Home Obsession

“I can’t wait to read your next blog post about this,” said a reader when I posted some photos of the historic Pittock Mansion in Portland. While I admit I was flattered, I wondered “What can I possibly write about this that hasn’t been written, or that could be found on the internet?” I let that thought simmer for a few days, then AHA! 

The Pittock Mansion, I realized, was just the tip of the iceberg. Almost every place we have traveled it seems we managed to locate a historic home, and toured it. We are always fascinated by these snapshots in time, trying to figure out how people lived their everyday lives there. Makes no difference to us if its a one-room log cabin, or a huge mansion, these historic homes call to us, and we must tour them. I tried to think back and remember as many as possible, and came up with eight (not counting the mind-boggling home somewhere in Tuscany).

This is Part One of Two parts. In no particular order, here is a snapshot of the homes, a wee smidgen of history, and my takeaway.

The Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon

Built in 1914 By Henry Pittock (emigrated from England)

Pittock Mansion on a foggy day

Henry Pittock came across on the Oregon Trail in 1872 when he was 19 years old. He became a typesetter for the Oregonian newspaper, which was given to him for back wages in November of 1860. Against all odds, he made it the most successful newspaper in Oregon, and made a fortune from it. He started building the Pittock Mansion in 1912, and he and his wife moved in in 1914. They were both deceased just four years later. It has 46 rooms, and the grounds command a sweeping view all the way from Portland to Mount Hood.

Bill’s takeaway: The shower in Henry’s bathroom is amazing. In addition to a shampoo shower (we call them rain showerheads now), it also has a bidet fountain, two showers at waist height to massage the kidneys, and multiple horizontal tubes with dozens of perforations to create needle spray from all sides.

Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria, B.C., Canada

entrance to the castle

Built by Robert Dunsmuir (emigrated from Scotland)

Robert Dunsmuir set sail for Fort Vancouver on December 19, 1850, in the employ of the Hudson Bay Company to develop coal mining on Vancouver Island. He worked for them until October 1869, when he discovered a huge coal seam while fishing, and literally made millions of dollars from that before starting a railroad in which the railroad company got a land grant of 20% of the entire island! He started building Craigdarroch Castle about 1887; he died in April, 1899, 17 months before it was completed. His wife lived there until she passed in 1908. Lots of stories about the family abound. It has 39 rooms, and a very storied history after the Dunsmuirs lived there. A remarkable job of restoration was done, along with before and after photos at the home.

The Cigar Room – the original man cave.

Bill’s takeaway: Ostentatious is a somewhat weak description of this house. The biggest wow-factor was that one of the top floors was set-aside as a ballroom. Imagine a space large enough to allow an orchestra and dozens of guests to dance and mingle! I’d go back again in a heartbeat.

Rosson House, Heritage Square, Phoenix, AZ

Not a castle, but still impressive!

Built by Dr. Roland Rosson

Dr. Rosson came to Phoenix in 1879, and set up his practice there. He started this house in 1894, and it was completed in 1895. He had an office built into the home, where he conducted his medical practice. It was noted to be one of the best homes in Phoenix after it was built. It is filled with period furnishings that really bring it to life. The hapless doctor loved politics, but did not excel there. He and his family moved to L.A. in 1897; he passed in 1898 after purchasing several life insurance policies; his wife died of tuberculosis in 1911.

I’m always fascinated by the Butlers Pantry

Bill’s takeaway: This house and the surrounding Heritage Square is an amazing look back in time in the middle of this huge, modern metropolis. The juxtaposition can be a bit jarring as you leave the late 1800’s and emerge into the 21st century.

Rothschild House, Port Townsend, WA

Just a portion of the amazing view from this great home

Built by David Charles Henry Rothschild (emigrated from Bavaria)

At one time, Port Townsend, on the northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, was destined to become the terminus of the transcontinental railroad. Speculators arrived by the droves, wonderful buildings emerged on the waterfront, and the area boomed. Then San Francisco took the prize, and the area went into decline. In the meantime, D.C.H. Rothschild ( a distant, poor cousin to THE Rothschilds of banking fame) opened a general store, and built the Rothschild House for his family. Built on a hill overlooking the town, it commands an amazing 180 degree view from Mt Baker to Mt Rainier, and a huge slice of Puget Sound (aka the Salish Sea). The majority of the house is pretty much as it was when he built it in 1884, or has been refurbished with nearly identical period wallpaper and paint.

Bills takeaway: This house was only occupied by the Rothschilds. His daughter lived there for 78 years; about the only change was to add indoor plumbing. This is as true a picture of how life was really lived at the turn of the century. One of my favorites!

Note that I have links to each of these homes so you can get a lot more info if desired. Coming up next: Kit Carson Home, Taos, New Mexico; the Taos Pueblo, Taos, New Mexico; Flavel House, Astoria, Oregon; the Lyndon Johnson Ranch, Stonewall, Texas

Our Palm Springs Travel Hacks

Well, it finally happened – we are now both on Social Security, and trying to have as much fun as possible as inexpensively as we can. We spent a bit of time honing some of these travel hacks – if you are in a similar situation, you might find them helpful as well! And if YOU have any $$ saving hacks, please let us know in the comments section.

So nice to see the sun from our condo!

First of all, of course, is plan, plan, plan. It is 1,334 miles from our home to our time-share condo in Indio, California. Fly or drive? Each one has benefits and drawbacks. Oddly enough (or maybe not), flying into palm Springs and renting a car for the nine days we were there was the same price as driving three days each way, with lodging and meals and gas. Complicating factors: Terri HATES to fly. It is actually pretty traumatic for her. I really dislike the airline that flies from very close to our home direct to Palm Springs, and the whole rental car scheme. On the other hand, there are a couple of high passes on the way down that can get pretty hairy – and closed recently due to white-out conditions, and three days of driving eight hours a day or so end up taking their toll on me. BUT we can pack so much more in the car than we can take on a plane. 

So we waited until the last minute to decide, watching the weather, then decided to drive! Hack #1 – build a spreadsheet to plan and budget for trip expenses, then work your plan accordingly. Hack #2 – save on meals while traveling! When we drive, we take a cooler with us, plus a small lunch-size cooler. We make up wraps with tortillas and peanut butter (plus honey on mine), and cut-up apples for lunch. This time we also packed some of our frozen “planned-over” dinners in individual containers to reheat and eat in our motel lodgings. Savings? I’m guessing at least $250 for the two full days of travel (full disclosure, we never eat at fast food restaurants for health reasons). Our other food travel hack that works for us is instead of lunch, snacking on healthy granolas and/or trail mix. An additional benefit is that reducing our caloric intake this way helps keep our vacation weight gain down!

On the beach by Hotel Del Coronado. Instead of overpriced wine with no view, we got gelato!

One cool thing about our time-share is that we can grab opportunities quickly when they come up, so we changed our plans a bit, and took a ‘long-cut” to spend a couple of nights in San Diego; our lodging costs for two nights doing this cost us less than $50. Travel Hack #3 We attended an “owners seminar” (i.e. a high-pressure sales meeting to buy more time at the time-share) that netted us a whole bunch of Wyndham reward points that we used to get two free nights lodging on our trip home, saving an additional $250!!  We had an awesome time in San Diego, seeing a ton of iconic sights in only one day.

So we made it to Palm Springs, and now its Travel Hack #4 – we head to the grocery store to stock up on groceries. We stock up on a variety of groceries, which end up making several meals for us while we are there, and even dinners on our way home, saving over $400 on meals! Plus we brought Terri’s Famous Granola (highlighted in a previous post) we use for most of our breakfasts, saving even more money.

What looks good on the appetizer menu? Fresh, homemade chips AND Quesadilla? Yes. please.

Travel Hack #5 Sure, we eat out a bunch, but  we try to hit the Happy Hours – we find that getting a couple of appetizers fills us up pretty nicely, and lets us eat well at great restaurants for much less than dinner, or even lunch prices! That saved us enough $$ to allow us a fabulous meal to celebrate our anniversary with multiple appetizers, glasses of wine, and tempting entrees. We never feel like we are depriving ourselves of a great time when we travel.

Hiking away from the established trail in Joshua Tree

On this trip (and one coming up late spring), we are making great use of Travel Hack #6 – the Golden Age Passport for our National Parks. We were able to buy it when it was only $10, but even now, it is a good deal for seniors who like to travel and explore the amazing beauty of our National Parks. It gives you – and everyone in your car – free admittance to any National Park! Saved us $30 right there. Joshua Tree National Park is pretty close to the Palm Springs/Indio area, and we spent an amazing day there, hiking designated trails, as well as venturing off the beaten path to check out ways less traveled. 

Hiking in Indian Canyon, the home of the natural Palm Springs

We did splurge a bit when we went to Indian Springs (of course, we got the Senior Discount), but it was well worth the investment … we got to see the spring that flows in a palm tree oasis – hence, Palm Springs! And that whetted a taste of that area we can’t wait to go back and explore even more. 

Finally, we put everything on our credit card that allows us to us maximize our points when redeemed for travel expenses, which has saved us several hundred dollars over the past few years. It’s important to note that we budgeted this entire trip, and the credit card is paid off every month, otherwise the interest would far surpass the benefits of the points.

Adding it all up, we saved nearly $1,000 using our time-tested hacks that have worked very well for us. We hope that some of them will work for you, allowing you to take – and truly enjoy – trips to places you’d love to visit. Having said that, we know lots of you travel as well, and probably have time-tested hacks you use to save money. Care to share them with us?