My Bucket List Retirement Trip

Jun 30th, 2015, 12:25 PM
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My Bucket List Retirement Trip

This forum helped me so much. I hope maybe this report will help someone else with their trip planning. If it doesn't at least it will be a good journal for me of my fantastic trip.

And fantastic it was!! I retired May 28. June 2 my friend and I took off for Santa Fe, NM and then headed through Colorado to reach my grandkids in the northern part of Colorado in Fort Collins. I am still in Colorado (until the end of September) but my friend flew home to Illinois after 10 days of road tripping. Here are some of the best parts of the trip (there really weren't a lot of worst parts) and recommendations I would make.

The trip to Santa Fe:

Lots of monotonous driving. It's a 17 hour driving trip from my house to the Plaza. We started at 5:30 AM and reached our overnight stop of Dodge City, Kansas at 7:00 PM. We enjoyed many aspects of the drive (could not believe the wind farms in Kansas-very alien looking) but Garmin took us some back roads and we saw an awful lot of cows and wheat fields and not a lot of people. I'm sure that's the way the good folk in Nebraska and Kansas want it. My dad was a farmer so this country was interesting to me. We ate breakfast at I-80 Truck Stop outside Iowa City, Iowa which is billed as the world's largest truck stop. Good food, but we did not linger as we had driving to do. The La Quinta Inn in Dodge City was clean and comfy-all we needed.

Day 2: We took the morning to sightsee and Dodge City was an excellent choice. We loved the museum on Front Street and Boot Hill Cemetery. Lots of history happened there, and it again made me think of my dad watching Gunsmoke on a Saturday night. We had a sarsaparilla at the saloon and headed out on the road for more long driving. It was hilarious how excited we got seeing the first mountain. After a while it was all mountains. The drive into Santa Fe is gorgeous. Our hotel in Santa Fe was Inn Of The Governors. We loved everything about this place-a 5 star rating in our books. We had dinner at the Del Charro Saloon which is attached to our hotel. They advertise they have the best burgers in town. They were pretty good as was the guacamole and the margaritas. It became our routine to finish every day with a margarita at the Del Charro.

My friend (believe it or not) had never had a plain margarita or guacamole before for that matter. I had mentioned in my posting before the trip that she was not an adventurous eater. Not that margaritas or guacamole constitute adventure but she was addicted at that end of the trip to both of these. I like to think I broadened her world!! We strolled in the plaza after dinner, getting our bearings. So much to see, so beautiful.

Day 3: This could be my favorite day of the trip (although other days are good contenders). We started every day with the excellent breakfast buffet provided by our hotel. I cannot say enough about this-it is a good reason to come back and stay there!! That morning we had cooking class at Santa Fe School of Cooking. Our class was Traditional Foods of New Mexico and it was a demonstration class. They have hands on classes and restaurant tours also but this is what fit our schedule. It was a 3 hour class, ending with lunch. My favorites were the beef carnitas served on homemade gorditos and the biscochitos. It was all good though, such a great place. The gift shop was nice too. If I get back to Santa Fe (and I plan to) I would want to take another cooking class.

We could barely roll out of there but we managed to go to the Georgia O'Keefe Museum (half a block from the cooking school) which was very well done, and then headed down to the plaza. We took a trolley ride for a quick overview of Santa Fe. That was well worth our time and it was also nice because it was really hot. They were installing a new Archbishop of Santa Fe that day, so it was really busy by the Basilica. It was interesting watching the processional. Dinner that night was at The Shed, which was recommended here. Great cuisine (guacamole starter of course) and we remembered to ask for our chiles on the side. We ended the evening with our Margaritas at the Del Churro.

Day 4: I call this Georgia O'Keefe Immersion Day. We went to Georgia O'Keefe's Home and Studio in Abiquiu. Very interesting. Fantastic views. Then we drove to Ghost Ranch and hiked around a bit. That took us most of the day, but it was a glorious day. I understand why she felt at home in this country. We got back to Santa Fe in time for Free Museum Friday-after 5:00 PM the admission fees are waived in the summer. We went to the Palace of the Governors and the New Mexico History Museum and enjoyed them both. After a while, our brains needed nourishment so we crossed the street to The Patio at the Inn of the Anasazi. This is where you should not let your stomach rule what you order. This is a small plate menu, meant to be shared, and we definitely ordered too much food. It was wonderful even if my friend would not try the fish tacos. After dinner we hiked down to Canyon Road to look around. Nothing was open, but we liked looking at the art in the yards. We got caught in a downpour on our way back to the hotel. It came on suddenly and was finished just as suddenly but man did the heavens sure open. Even a little wet, we still managed to finish the night with a margarita at where else?? The Del Churro.

To be continued. Next up Day 5: Tent Rocks rock!!
barbrn is offline  
Jun 30th, 2015, 12:31 PM
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DebitNM is offline  
Jun 30th, 2015, 01:48 PM
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Sorry, I keep typing Del Churro, It is Del Charro (with an a). There will be other typos believe me.

I also meant to say why I named this my Retirement Bucket List. There are loads of places on this list of mine, but Santa Fe pretty much was at the top. And now that I've been there, I was pretty smart to place it there. You people who live in New Mexico sure live in a pretty state!!

Now, Day 5 or Tent Rocks rock: We should have started earlier. I was warned to get an early start but gosh those beds were comfy. The sun was pretty hot, so the hike was a bit brutal at 11:00. We knew enough not to take the advanced hike. But worth it, it was!! Such a spectacular sight. The full name is Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. It has only been a national monument since 2001 which surprised us. We at least followed the advice to wear lots of sunscreen and bring loads of water. Highly recommend going here, and thanks for recommending it to us.

We tried to do lots of things in Santa Fe when we got back. The Basilica was now open to us (hadn't been during the Archbishop event), and we saw the Loretto Chapel. We got in right before a wedding, so we stayed to see the Mariachi band wedding processional. We went to Kakawa Chocolate House on the recommendation here. (it was so hot, we bought some chocolate and then had sea salt caramel ice cream-no hot chocolate for us!!). We got a little lost with our walking and ended up at Old Fort Marcy Park. We climbed every last one of those stairs!! What a view of Santa Fe from the top. Highly recommend this sight, the Cross of the Martyrs is at the top of it.

We had guacamole and margaritas on the rooftop of La Fonda Hotel. We ate dinner at the San Francisco Street Bar and Grill as we only wanted lighter fare. (more burgers). There was another wedding reception happening there. Afterwards we shopped and did some more walking around. Of course we ended with our last margarita at the Del Charro.

Impressions of New Mexico: I love the architecture, adobe houses are so beautiful. I love the bridges over the freeway, painted so gorgeous. And the mountains!! wow!! The Santa Fe river shocked us, as it seemed so small. The current was amazingly swift though. We bought turquoise and black onyx jewelry from the indian woman who was at our hotel. We couldn't help it, she was in her 90's and so sweet. And the food, I will forever be dreaming of the southwestern style scrambled eggs at the Inn of the Governors. I know we saw the touristy side of Santa Fe, but I loved all the history I absorbed. I tasted sherry for the first time at the cocktail hour at the hotel too, did not like it. I will be trying to make bisconchitos. And I will be back!! We never did get a massage and that was on the list. I wish we could have tried more restaurant recommendations from here too, not enough time, not big enough appetites!!

Day 6: Bye to New Mexico and Hello to Colorado: My friend had never seen either of these states and felt Colorado could not possibly live up to the beauty of New Mexico. Now she knows they are pretty equal. We had to leave early in the morning because we had tickets to the Pikes Peak Cog Railroad in the afternoon. It was a cooler day, sweatshirt weather. The railroad was perfect, so fun. Our seat mates were from Australia and a few seats down was the men's Olympic Soccer team from Brazil (I'm not kidding!!-wowza). We had fun talking to them. I need not have worried, no altitude problems at all for either of us. Still plenty of snow, we saw a bighorn sheep and oh my the views!! Worth it. I had been up Pikes Peak before-both times with my husband driving. This was so much less stress and tension!! Our hotel was The Academy in Colorado Springs that night. It was good, but after Santa Fe it had a lot to live up to. Dinner was unspectacular too, but the scenery!! Oh my. We missed our margaritas (sob).

Day 7: Colorado Springs sights and then Rocky Mountain High (or Breckenridge)

to be continued.
barbrn is offline  
Jun 30th, 2015, 02:13 PM
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I've stayed at the Inn of the Governors four or five times and always enjoy ending the day with a margarita at Del Charro.
wtm003 is offline  
Jun 30th, 2015, 03:15 PM
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I have a great recipe for biscochittos.
DebitNM is offline  
Jun 30th, 2015, 07:30 PM
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Debit,, I would like your recipe. Those cookies were so delicious. I have all the recipes from the Santa Fe cooking school, I would like to see if your recipe is different.

Wtm, When I go back to Santa Fe, I would want to stay at Inn of the Governors again too. I liked how close it was to the plaza and I also liked the free parking.

Day 7: Colorado Springs: We went to the Air Force Academy first thing in the morning. They show a great film about the first year of a student's life there. The chapel is amazing. I want to bring my 14 year old grandson back. Our next stop was the the US Olympic Training Center. Again very amazing. Our tour guide was Stephanie who will know in March if she makes the Olympic Shooting Team. She was a petite little thing, but she knew her stuff. I have never watched Olympic shooting before but now I will. She took us through her training facility, along with the pool and the men's gymnastic training center. Very worthwhile, the tour takes about an hour. Again I want to bring my grandson back. We went to Garden of The Gods next, ate lunch in the cafe there and took a jeep tour around the area. We hiked a bit too and climbed a little, but our time was limited there. That's another place I will gladly go back to.

We wanted to get to Breckenridge for dinner. However the Colorado highway system did not want to cooperate. Many closed roads due to flooding (I guess you all had lots of rain) and a detour through Buena Vista meant we got there about 8 PM. The views however were amazing, I was a bit freaked out with the driving however. Not what I am used to in the least. But we made it safe and sound. We were staying at The Lodge at Breckenridge, high up in the mountains on a steep incline. We ate at the restaurant (Traverse) at the lodge quickly before it closed. I would have liked to have been there at a decent hour, many of the selections on the menu were no longer available. The food we had was excellent, as was everything about this place. Beautiful lodge, stunning views. I can only imagine this in the winter. It was a great value in the summer.

Day 8: Downtown Breck, and then Fort Collins

Again, to be continued
barbrn is offline  
Jul 1st, 2015, 08:11 AM
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Great report. looking forward to the rest. Glad you had a good trip. I remember when you were planning this. Sounds like it lived up to billing, no altitude issues, and the soccer team as a bonus!
Nelson is offline  
Jul 1st, 2015, 09:15 AM
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Wow - keep up the good reporting! Enjoying how much fun you are having in these early days of retirement. I'm inspired!!!
spcfa is offline  
Jul 1st, 2015, 10:58 AM
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3 dozen cookies
350 degrees; 10 -12 minutes
6 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 cups shortening [lard is best]
1-1/2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons anise seed, crushed
2 eggs
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Sift flour with baking powder and salt. Cream shortening with sugar and anise seeds until fluffy. Beat in eggs
one at a time. Mix in flour [1 cup at a time] and brandy until well blended. {This is a bit labor intensive as the dough is heavy.}
2. Turn dough out on a floured board and pat or roll to 1/4 or 1/2 inch thickness. Cut into shapes. {I use a round shot glass and a square - perfect size}
3. Combine 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon and sprinkle on cookies.
4. Bake at 350 degrees F 10 - 12 minutes or until golden brown.

I bake them on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and they come out perfect.

Truly, using lard is the best...makes them really tasty and the right consistency. I guess you can use Crisco, but I never have. I knew I had become an New Mexican when I first bought lard to make these for my first holiday season in NM!

Hope you like them...
DebitNM is offline  
Jul 1st, 2015, 11:57 AM
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Love reading your trip report. We stayed at the Inn of the Governors several years ago and I also still think about their Southwestern eggs(delicious). Enjoy your retirement.
nlg is offline  
Jul 1st, 2015, 10:04 PM
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Hi everyone, thanks for the positive replies.

Debit, I was looking over the recipe I got from the Santa Fe School of Cooking for Biscochitos. Their recipe also calls for lard with an emphasis on no substitutions. I remember my mom using lard when I was a kid, I don't think I've ever bought it. I guess if I want to make these cookies I will. Trust me everyone, these are melt in your mouth good. The other question for you is about the anise seeds. Their recipe calls for 2 tsp toasted anise seeds, yours says crushed. What does it come like when you buy it?? I've never bought anise seed before, in fact I was pretty sure I would not like anise flavor. Good thing I was willing to try it-I now know I like it.

OK, wrapping things up, warning--going to be long.

Day 8: We hated to leave The Lodge at Breckenridge as it was so peacefully gorgeous. We drove into Breck with no specific plans. We didn't need plans. We walked up and down, went in and out of shops, and talked to some very friendly people. We loved the ambience of this town. We looked at the real estate offices with the postings for homes for sale and picked out the million dollar vacation homes we were going to buy (yeah right). We had intended to go up in the ski gondolas to the amusement park but the gondolas were closed that day for repair. That was a disappointment. I was going to look up the restaurant recommendations from my previous post, but as we walked past The Warming Hut the menu seemed to call my name. Fish Tacos!! Oh man, were they good. We ate out on the patio with a view of the mountain. And no my friend would not eat the fish tacos (her loss) and went with meatloaf instead. In my view, no comparison. This restaurant gets my recommendation hands down.

So with full stomachs we set off for Fort Collins. I-70 turned into somewhat of a nightmare (and I'm not just talking the steep ups and down and curves). There was road construction which meant we crawled along for an awful long time. Outside of Denver on I-25 we hit a major rainstorm and then 2 accidents. By the time we made it to Ft Collins I was ready to surrender my driver's license and never drive again!! Awful.

But seeing my grandkids faces and getting those hugs were so worth it. That was the first thing we did, then we went to our VRBO in Old Town Fort Collins. It was a 2 bedroom, so clean and wonderful with everything we needed. We had wonderful lodging on this trip.

I got lots of travel tips on what to do in Denver and Rocky Mountain National Park. Well, hum, we did not go to either of these places. The rest of the trip (days 9,10,11- I lied, my friend actually stayed 11 days) was spent seeing my little darlings, long walks, lots of hanging around Old Town and eating some really good Fort Collins food. I can recommend Coopersmith's Pub and Brewery (yum, fish tacos--you may see a theme here) and Austins in Old Town. We also had my DIL's home cooking and Pudge Brothers Pizza one night (I had a Groupon for this, it was really good). We also managed to have a Pimm's Cup at the Crown Pub in Old Town. Those of you who remember my first thread knew I couldn't wait to do that. Just as good as I remembered them-and again I broadened my friends life. While we were there, my 10 yr old grandson got his driver's license and that was fun to see. By that I mean he completed a safety course and can now drive go carts by himself at Fort Fun. (had you going for a minute).

We did manage to go to Boulder one day. Honestly the drive from Breckenridge did me in, and this was the best I wanted to do. In Boulder we went to the Celestial Seasonings Tea Tour which I highly recommend. I guess I almost got a boyfriend there, I didn't realize it until the end but this guy kept wanting to walk with me. My friend glared him down and kept placing herself between us. It is so funny now the way she describes it. I was really clueless this all was happening-I was just interested in the tea!! After the tea tour we went to Pearl Street and looked around. It was really nice, but we were pretty shopped out by that time. We ate at the Pearl Street Pub, great pulled pork sandwiches.

My friend flew home and I moved in with my kids until next week when I will begin renting an apartment. I have a few friends flying out to visit. I have enticed them with free lodging-being able to stay in my apartment.

Last week my kids and I took 3 days and went to Glenwood Springs, Aspen and Vail. In Vail I finally got to the top of a mountain in a ski gondola--yeah!! We ate lunch up there and no altitude problems in the least. It was pretty awesome. Vail is-well awesome barely covers. it. It's a perfect ski town.

Glenwood Springs is a must see in my opinion. Such a pretty town and the drive through the canyon is such a wow. We stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott, appeared to be very new. The Colorado River is a sight to behold, the mountains-well I am running out of adjectives to describe them. We did not have a good meal in Glenwood Springs-our fault. There appear to be really good restaurants there. We had 3 (out of 4) kids with, ages 2, 10, and 16. With those age ranges we had to be careful with activities. We did the ultimate off road mountain experience. It was at the Bair Family Ranch and we went to the mountain top in a huge jeep or a unimog through a company called High Canyon Adventures. It was an adventure all right, even the 2 year old (he's pretty rambunctious) loved it, although at times you felt like you were being whipped about in a washing machine agitator. (and hit with branches-but still fun!).

I have to write a paragraph about Aspen. It has to be one of the prettiest places I've seen. I understand why the rich and famous flock here. We spent some time at the John Denver Sanctuary. I think my kids wanted to go there to humor me, once they saw this place they were in awe. It is so peaceful, beautiful, serene. John's songs are engraved on huge boulders. The flowers, the waterfall, the stream-so much beauty. Highly recommend. Highly. We had pizza at the place directly across from John's Sanctuary, I cannot remember the name of the place but it was some pretty good pizza. The 2 year old adores pizza, so this is a recurring food theme this summer. I want to go back to Aspen, it is on top of my list.

Thanks to everyone on Fodors for making this such a great trip. As you can see we used a lot of suggestions from here. The same friend and another friend are flying here the end of September to drive home with me. Again free lodging and a Colorado vacation is the allure-I doubt it's me. We will be doing some girls outings in Denver at that time. I have a trip planned to Estes Park and RMNP. I will be looking at all the suggestions carefully.

One final recommendation. Retirement. It's been great so far. I do miss my career, I loved it. I miss my friends and family back home and I miss my home. I miss my cat (I don't think he misses me, my son is taking good care of him). But I love Colorado too. Beautiful state, friendly people, and those adorable grandkids. What's not to love?? I am fortunate indeed.
barbrn is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2015, 04:58 AM
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Wonderful !
The anise seeds are pretty small but are crushed to release their full aroma and taste. I think that toasting would be for the same effect. You'd have to be really careful, those will burn in a second. I may try that to see the difference, but I don't bake them till winter.
DebitNM is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2015, 05:48 AM
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My paternal grandmother made the best Biscochitos. Her recipe is close to Debit's and calls for shortening but I think my grandmother used lard. It also lists anise extract which I have never used but might try sometime as I can't quite get the flavor I remember. My mom will not use lard. I'm going to see my parents in a few weeks so I think I'll make a batch with lard and the extract and see what my dad thinks.

I bought anise seed from Penzey's and it has a nice aroma, but you should be able to find it at one the spice shops in Fort Collins.

I've really enjoyed your trip report. I've also stayed at the Courtyard in Glenwood several times. It is in great condition for being a few years old. I love the turkey sandwich at Austin's and the Black and Bleu burger at Coopersmith's. I hope you tried their handcrafted cream soda. So good! If you want a good sandwich while in Fort Collins and can get past the marijuana theme, Cheba Hut is very good.

I'm glad summer finally seems to be here and hope you enjoy the rest of your time in Colorado.
wtm003 is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2015, 06:12 AM
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Of course, I have the distinct advantage of living in the state where Bizcochitos are the official state cookie, but I can buy the seeds in any supermarket here, right in the spice aisle.
DebitNM is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2015, 06:18 AM
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Anise seed is available at the grocery stores here & probably most places too, but I noticed a difference in the Penzey's product versus what I bought at the supermarket.
wtm003 is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2015, 06:39 AM
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I think some spices that aren't as popluar, sit on grocery store shelves for a long time. Penzey's probably move much faster, hence fresher.
DebitNM is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2015, 06:48 AM
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Great finish to your report! Once again really glad you had a wonderful trip. Colorado in the summer is pretty hard to beat, as is hanging out in Fort Collins. RMNP will be there when you are ready.

I hear you on the I-70 nightmare. We try to avoid that except at very specific times. Now that we are in retirement we have that option.

Go to Savory Spice in Fort Collins for your anise. It's on College a block north from Crown Pub on the other side of the street in Opera galleria. Also a spice shop next to Crown Pub but we have preferred Savory. Either one should have it though, and you can smell and taste before purchasing.

I'll try a Pimm's Cup at Crown Pub someday, but tonight we are meeting friends at Elliots for something tasty there. They probably have a Pimms...

Anyway, enjoy! Thanks for the report.
Nelson is offline  
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