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So far so good: GA, AL, MS, TN, AR, TX, NM, Road Trip!

So far so good: GA, AL, MS, TN, AR, TX, NM, Road Trip!

Old May 21st, 2008, 07:45 PM
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Loving this report. Hope to duplicate your road trip one day.
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Old May 22nd, 2008, 09:24 AM
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Forgot to mention. When we replicate your trip, we probably won't visit your friends in Plano. LOL
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Old May 26th, 2008, 08:59 AM
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emd, I'm so pleased you are still reading. I hope this report is useful.

Hershey, are you from PA? Or simply a chocolate lover? I hope you get some tips from this report. We really had a great time.

Here's some more...

SOME NOTES ABOUT SANTA FE’S MUSEUM HILL

While researching this trip I read a lot about the Plaza and about Canyon Road, of course, but fewer mentions of Museum Hill in Santa Fe. I found Museum Hill jaw-droppingly impressive.

It’s about three miles from the center of town: if you don’t have a car with you I believe there is convenient bus service from the plaza. You do not want to miss this.

Museum Hill consists of four outstanding museums, arranged around a central plaza area. The plaza itself is lovely, landscaped with indigenous-looking species, and with plenty of space to allow admiration of several monumental sculptures.

The Museum Hill Café, also on the plaza, offers indoor and outdoor seating, much with spectacular views. They serve nice lunches and offer beer and wine.

We visited the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, then fortified ourselves with a frittata and a glass of wine at the Café, then visited the Museum of International Folk Art.

I’m not sure how long it is running but we enjoyed the current exhibition at Indian Arts and Culture: Comic Art Indigene. Here’s the blurb from the catalog: “Join us on May 11 for the opening of Comic Art Indigène, an examination of how American Indian artists articulate identity, reclaim stereotypes, worldview, politics, and culture through the kinetic expression of sequential art.” I thought this was an outstanding show: provocative, fun and often funny. My favorite piece was a small clay human figure resembling spider-man but executed in a traditional style with traditional materials. Here’s a link to the image: http://www.indianartsandculture.org/ComicArt/?p=events

It looked to me as if the museum has a permanent collection from which it presents changing shows. So the experience will be different depending on when you visit.

After our lunch, we visited the Museum of International Folk Art. (I think folk art works better for me after a glass of wine.) This was another eye-opener to me.

I’m familiar with folk art from the southeastern United States; Atlanta’s High Museum has an outstanding collection. The two exhibits we toured in Santa Fe were quite different. One was on textiles and displayed gorgeous stuff from all over the world, from lace-making to weaving to knitting, along with the looms, spinning wheels and other tools from the artisans. I knit a little so I had a particular interest. I think Bill was less fascinated but he was a good sport.

The second exhibit was the block-buster: the Girard Foundation Collection. This collection was a gift to the museum and includes more than 100,000 objects from six continents, representing a lifetime of collecting.

The donor also designed the exhibition, mostly toys and dolls, into elaborate village scenes. Bring your children or, at least, your inner child.

For us, The Lazy Tourists, this was a very busy day. We did not make it to the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian or to the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art. If you visit Museum Hill, I’d suggest two days. I don’t think you’d regret it.

One more thought: Museum Hill in Santa Fe represented (to me) what a city can do when it makes a commitment to its history and its culture. I’ll stay off the soap box, but let’s just say I was very impressed. And we had a blast.



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Old May 26th, 2008, 09:32 AM
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To add to O's comments on the Girard Foundation Collection, the exhibit space housing the 100,000+ "toys" is enormous - probably the size of a couple of football fields. There are intentionally no explanations given of the various scenes - it's all about letting your imagination go. Not to be missed!
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Old May 26th, 2008, 09:41 AM
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After 7 wonderful nights, we reluctantly say adios to Santa Fe and pull out around 8:15 AM to turn south – destination is Carlsbad Caverns. Before heading out of town, we fill up the Igloo with ice and get some sandwiches to go from the Sage Bakehouse which is down the street from our casita. It’s a real bakery and has tasty treats.

We’re opting for route 285S which takes us through many small towns and to Roswell, where we stop for a picnic lunch outside the visitors center. We didn’t explore Roswell at all but continued on. The terrain changed from high plains to farming country and as we approach Carlsbad, it’s becomes desert. We actually see tumbleweeds rolling across the highway. And we’ve gone from 70 degree weather in Santa Fe to near 100 degrees.

If the caverns are your destination, you have 2 choices for hotel accommodations. Either the town of Carlsbad, which is 20 miles north of the entrance to the park or White’s City which is right outside the park. We opt for the latter since we wanted to see the bat flight in the evening and didn’t want a long drive back in the dark. We are looking for a Best Western Caverns Inn based on a brochure we picked up in the Roswell visitors center. Upon arrival we find that Best Western is no longer associated with this motel but our choices are non-existent at this point, so we do an early check in at around 2:00 PM and find no other guests at this motel, which is at little unsettling. Hey, it’s only one night so we drop off our bags and take about a 5 or 6 mile drive into the park at 30 – 40 MPH which is very scenic and twisty. The landscape has changed from desert at White’s City to mountainous and wild. At the visitors center we get there in time for the last tour of the day – a self guided one called the Big Room. You take an elevator down 750 feet which deposits you right into the cavern floor. We go from 95 degrees to 56 – heavenly.

The caverns are simply too amazing to describe. There are paved trails with railings the whole way through. The Big Room (aptly named) trail is fairly flat with some modest climbs scattered throughout – most of this trail is wheelchair friendly. It took 20 minutes before our eyes became accustomed to the darkness – they have lights throughout that provide dramatic lighting but it’s still pretty dark until your eyes adjust. We took our time on the trail, soaking up the beauty and peaceful setting and after a couple of hours, a ranger came up behind us and had to move us along as they were closing up. They call them “sweepers” LOL! Anyway, it was getting onto dinner time and we wanted to come back in the evening for the bat flight.

White’s City is named after a cowboy called Jim White. The story goes that he followed a trail of bats to this monster cave opening and discovered Carlsbad Caverns. In town our only dining choice was something called the Velvet Garter Saloon. There were signs on the menu warning us that if we left early to see the bat flight, we’d still be on the hook for our meal. Something tells us the service may be slooooow. Having been prepped by TripAdvisor, we both ordered the most harmless thing on the menu – hamburgers. It’s a long wait until our meals arrive, but we make it out of there in time.

We drove back into the park and arrived at the bat amphitheatre (which is a large stone seating area right in front of the enormous cave opening) at the recommended time – around 7 PM for this time of the year. The bats don’t come out until it starts to get dark, which was estimated at 7:45 PM, but there was a park ranger who started her presentation at 7 PM and then opened it up for questions. Tip – get there closer to darkness unless you like hearing the same questions asked over and over – the ranger had the patience of Job. Now it’s approaching 8:00 and no bats. A second ranger joins us and we are reminded of the “sweeper” and are advised there’s no guarantee of a bat sighting and they may have to close for the night in 5 minutes. Then on cue, out they come!

They exit the enormous cave entrance in a spiral and we watch the next half hour as they continue to pour out and fly right over our heads. The ranger estimated 5 to 10 thousand tonight and advised this is not the resident colony - when they arrive in the summer, their numbers range from 1 to 3 million! Still it was an amazing sight and as darkness fell, they were still flying out of the cave at the same rate. Finally it got too dark and we packed it in, feeling very lucky for the experience, as we were told this group only arrived in any quantity a few days ago.

There is absolutely nothing to do in White’s City after sundown, so we turned in early and arose at sunrise to be greeted by a western bluebird right outside our door. We saw cliff swifts had made a number of mud nests in the eaves of the motel and were busy catching breakfast for their young. Speaking of breakfast, it was included in our room rate and we were off again to the Velvet Garter Saloon. Breakfast was better than dinner – they had the usual assortment of egg dishes but we opted for the oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar which was probably the best thing on the menu. Fortified, we headed back to the park for the Natural Entrance trail.

There are a number of guided trails you can do and a few seem quite scary to a claustrophobic. No way am I going to don a helmet and squeeze through tight crevices under the earth – that’s the Spider Cave. If you have limited time, the one trail you must take is the Natural Entrance. Instead of taking the elevator down, you begin at the cave opening where the bats came out the night before and walk down into the caverns. You get more of an appreciation of this wonder by a slow decent rather than being dropped to the bottom in an elevator. We were fortunate to get a very early start and had almost the whole place to ourselves. After you enter the caverns, the early section of the trail takes you past the cave swift area and you see nest after nest of mud on the walls and ceiling and swifts flying everywhere. Farther down you wander past the bat caves and encounter a whiff of bat guano, which the rangers told us was 40 feet deep in sections. It used to be harvested for fertilizer (talk about a dirty job) but not anymore. Continue down and it becomes eerily quite inside and the only sounds you hear are the occasional dripping of water. The size of the caverns and formations must be seen to be believed. Once at the bottom, you eventually meet the Big Room trail and we replayed that experience without benefit of the “sweeper”. The elevators take you back to the surface. There are facilities, food and a gift shop at the bottom. Warning – if you have knee or hip problems, the Natural Entrance trail may not be a good choice – it’s the equivalent of walking down 75 stories – there are no steps but the incline is fairly steep and a long ways down.

Next stop . . . the mysterious town of Marfa, Texas.
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Old May 26th, 2008, 11:25 AM
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Marfa? I have to go to Marfa? I hope it's good! BTW, I am a chocoholic living near Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
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Old May 27th, 2008, 05:15 AM
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hershey, trust us, you'll love it...lol...more soon
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Old May 28th, 2008, 03:10 PM
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Olive & Bill, your trip report is wonderful. Its bringing back so many fabulous memories of our many trips west - including NM's finest

Yes, white's city was fairly desolate when we stayed there in the middle of july - tourist season - a few years ago. It was still a BW then with a Comfort Inn i think, right next store. "Slim-pickins" lol as they say, but location location location!

Did you get into Guadalupe Nat'l Park, or drive through on your way to carlsbad caverns? We were surprised by its beauty and wished we had more time to explore.

Looking forward to your next chapter!
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Old Jun 9th, 2008, 02:14 PM
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Olive,

I hope I'm not left on the road to Marfa for too long. It's getting dusty here! Not trying to rush ya or anything
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Old Jul 10th, 2008, 06:34 PM
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Olive and Balsamic have left us in the middle of Texas way too long! Come back!
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Old Jul 11th, 2008, 07:46 AM
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This is great. I stumbled across this post and now I'm going to have to plan another trip and follow your footsteps.
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Old Jul 15th, 2008, 06:28 PM
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I am so sorry. We are such losers. Ya get home, ya get busy, and then it's "adios, amigos!"

I had to pull up my pix to refresh my memory.

En route to Marfa, you may decide to stop in Pecos, Texas. You'll think I'm crazy but we had lunch at a place called Alfredo's; it may have been the best food I had on this entire trip. Everything really fresh and home-made tasting. I had the green chicken enchiladas and Bill had something called the Alfredo Special--I think it was a sampler plate with lots of different things. I can tell you this: he didn't share.
It's easy to blow through Pecos. I am glad we didn't. I enjoyed talking to the woman at the visitor center. She was the one who recommended Alfredo's and she gave us a bag of "trash and trinkets" which included a tin star. Fun. There's a great mural on the side of the building where the visitor's center resides. It's like an old timey postcard saying "Welcome to Pecos" and it surely merits a quick stop for a photo. There is a local history museum in Pecos. We did not check it out and I'm darned if I can remember why. We must have been road-hypnotized by then. I wish I had gone in. It's not like I'll get another chance anytime soon.
Marfa, texas, is coming soon. I just gotta gather my thoughts.
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Old Jul 15th, 2008, 07:33 PM
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O.K., I’ll take a stab at Marfa. I can’t say I’ve ever been to a stranger place. That may be why I’m delinquent on getting my report posted. I hope Bill posts some comments of his own cause we were both impressed by Marfa.

Let’s start with the ride. There’s mile after mile of rolling road, arid, desolate, winding. The only human outposts are tiny, and Marfa is tiny, too. I think the population is about 2500.

So, when we got there, and found the Hotel Paisano, we were surprised. If you like an old hotel, this place is for you. We step out of our car, having traversed the arid countryside, and enter the Paisano through a courtyard that suggests nothing more than it suggests Tuscany. (Well, my imagination of Tuscany—I’ve never been there.) A tiled fountain surrounded by discreet tables and chairs, further surrounded by potted palms and flowering plants.

Rooms are not big—this is not a modernized place. It is old but in good repair. We were happy there and quickly made the decision we needed two nights, not one. But, I would not say it is for everyone. On the other hand, once you get to Marfa, you don’t have too many choices.
One great feature of the Paisano: Its restaurant, open every night, with a nice bar, if that sort of thing interests you. There’s a variety of dining options in Marfa, but many of them are focused on the weekend. Do your research if your itinerary takes you to Marfa on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.

The Paisano played host to the cast of the iconic movie Giant—James Dean, Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, screenplay based on the novel by Edna Ferber. A Huge movie that lives up to its name. There’s a nice collection of movie memorabilia housed in a room off the lobby. Also, a lovely shop with work by local artists plus some imported stuff—but nice; you won’t feel like you wasted your time.

Do not miss the hotel pool. Even if you don’t swim, check it out. It is one of these over the top elaborate indoor pools, set up like Shangri-La, with grottos and potted plants.

By now, the question should be rising, “How does a town of 2500 support such an elaborate hotel?”
Part of the answer: the Chinati Foundation. The Chinati Foundation is a contemporary art museum in Marfa, Texas, based upon the ideas of its founder, Donald Judd. And when it says “contemporary,” believe it.

Rooms that used to house military aircraft, now housing rows of aluminum cubes. Stark white rooms with colored fluorescent tubes. Crushed automobiles displayed like enormous precious gems. And docents who give the guided tours who are proscribed from helping you to understand the art.

It was hilarious (to me) to see these young college interns, ultra hip, out in the middle of nowhere. I had fun trying to get them to tell me something, anything, about what I was looking at.

Here’s what really struck me about Chinati. Think about this. Marfa’s population is about 2500. Our tour group was limited to 20. The foundation runs tours twice a day, five days a week, and always sells out. None of these visitors are here on day trips—Marfa is too remote. So most of them are booking a hotel room and eating at a restaurant and wandering through town.
To put things into another perspective, when I went to the local Laundromat there were antelopes wandering the street. Also, the Laundromat had the best wi-fi I found in the area.

OK, it’s getting late.
I have more to say about Marfa but I wanted to get something posted. More to come. Hint: the Marfa lights!
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Old Jul 16th, 2008, 04:13 PM
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Thank you for coming back, Olive. I am hanging on your every word.
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Old Jul 20th, 2008, 07:22 AM
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Photos from the trip. I am not the world's greatest photographer so I edited out the worst ones.

http://tinyurl.com/5hnjll
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Old Jul 20th, 2008, 07:35 AM
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The Marfa Lights. A mysterious and unexplained phenomenon and just another great thing about Marfa.

Drive about nine miles out route 90 East to an attractive viewing area. The night we went there were about a dozen people there, I got the feeling it was sort of a happening.

Mostly folks were just hanging out but a couple of guys had high powered telescopes hooked up to their computers and were radioing back and forth to another party.

Did I see the lights? Well, we all saw some lights. Were they distant fires as was reported in earlier canturies? Were they ghost fires? Were they automobile headlights from distant Rote 67? I have no idea. For certain, one of them, the red one winking on and off at regular intervals, was a cell tower.

But it was a beautiful night and it was a fun excursion.
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Old Jul 20th, 2008, 07:41 AM
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Great pictures! I am SO doing this trip some day!
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Old Jul 21st, 2008, 12:39 PM
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Thank you, Hershey, for being such a loyal reader!
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