Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving weekend in Tucson with Miss Lauren

 The water in Tucson is awful. But the company is terrific! We stopped in Tucson, Arizona to visit with Josh's sister, Lauren, who is attending University of Arizona. She had the weekend off from school so we all could spend Thanksgiving together.

The Saguaro National Forest surrounds Tucson so we had several chances to go out in the rugged desert to take in all the beautiful scenery and check out the wide variety of cactus.
 Our first day out we drove up to Tanque Verde Waterfalls, which is actually just a stream most of the year until the floods. We drove all around up in the hills and finally stopped to hike a bit. It was beautiful! The Saguaro cactus were huge!! They are called the desert monarch because of their regal appearance. They don't start growing arms until they have been growing for at least 75 years. Some of the ones we saw were so large and had so many arms they had to have been hundreds of years old.

Josh and Lauren as a cactus.
After we hiked down to the stream, we lounged around for a while. Here is Josh and Lauren to left in this picture enjoying the beautiful weather.

Lauren being super bad ass!!!!! You're so rugged.
 We spent a while down by the water playing on the rocks and soaking up the sun. This area actually gets flooded in the spring, to the point where you cant even drive on the nearby roads. It was cold to Lauren but it was beautiful and warm to Josh and I. 70 degrees at 2pm is perfect weather in my eyes. However most of Tucson was bundled up in scarves and jackets.

Enjoying the sun!
  The first place Lauren took us to eat was a street cart that made amazing Sonoran Hot dogs. I had no idea what I was in for. They take hots dogs, wrap them in bacon, grill them, then top them with beans, onions, tomato, salsa, jalapenos, mustard, sour cream, and avocado. Yum! Pleasantly surprised. We went back again a few days later.

 Thanksgiving was just what I thought it would be like with someone in college. She had a turkey and potatoes. No pans or any sides but at least she had the turkey :)

We ended up going to the store and stocking her up on pans and seasonings. She'll be ready next time we come.

 Here is our beautiful hostess in front of the table. The turkey and the rest of dinner turned out great.

 Not only did she not have pans, but she also didn't have chairs. I thought it was a perfect thanksgiving though. Normally you would make your way to the couch after dinner to lay around. We got to eat on the couch with the table in front so we could lounge in between servings.
 We spent Black Friday laying around, watching movies, and eating lots of turkey sandwiches.
Then went out for Small Business Saturday. It was so much fun! We ran into these Aztec dancers and were able to sit around having a beer while they danced.
 We spent a lot of nights down on 4th street at the bars. Some how I forgot to take pictures. With the beer flowing and meeting all of Lauren's friends I guess I forgot, but I did make it home with the camera.

Here is a picture of Lauren pointing at her picture on a wall under a bridge. They took pictures of people in the street and made them into tiles. Her tile is at the top of the picture in the middle. She has her sunglasses on her head if you can see that close.
 One night, after it was dark, she took us to the only Catholic site in the America that is dedicated to an unconsecrated burial ground. According to legends a man was having an affair with a married woman and the husband killed the man. His body is buried here at the El Tiradito Shrine. There are a lot of different stories but they all sound about the same. Candles are always lit and you can come put your wishes in the wall and say your prayers. We all wrote a wish and stuck it in the wall.
 On Sunday we drove to Tombstone. Hello Wild West! We watched a shoot out in the street and saw covered wagons pulled by horses. It was definitely a tourist trap. Every store was filled with souvenirs. You can rent any number of movies to tell you the stories about Tombstone. Wyatt Earp was shot here.
 Here is Tombstone's old newspaper. It is now a museum. They say they called it the Epitaph because every tombstone needs an epitaph.
 Lauren sleeping on the way back. We all caught a cold on this trip. Stuffy noses and awful coughs didn't hold us back from being tourists though. We slept when we could and drank a lot of Theraflu.
 We went for a drive through the east side of the Saguaro National park. It was crazy!

 We took a ton of photo's! Once again though, the pictures don't do it justice. They were beautiful! All sorts of different cactus! There was more than 50 different species at the park.

 We were able to watch the sunset in the park. So many colors. Now I see why artists love it here.

I didn't see a lot of wildlife though. I guess you have to go out at night to see most of them.
We spent so much time running around to see all the great sites, eat all the traditional food, and drink as much as we could. Finally being sick caught up with us and we spent most of the last day napping.
Thank you Lauren for the great time! We love you!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Carlsbad Caverns

Sunset in Texas.
  Our first experience in New Mexico was the battery dying in our car. I had the headlights on to set up the tent in the dark at Brantley State park and Ivy had plugged in to blow up the air mattress. A short meteor shower later we were in the dark with a half inflated air mattress and no dinner. Que sara sara I suppose. We cracked a couple brewskies, sat on the trunk and watched the stars for a while before retiring around seven. The next morning three passerbyers told us "no" when we asked for a jump before we finally woke up the camp host to help us out. I think that confirmed my suspicion that people here suck, except for Tom. Thanks Tom and I'm sorry we woke you up :)

NM has been having the same drought as Texas so there were piles of dead prickly pear cactus which was saddening. There had recently been a fire also, so a lot of the "trees" had black trunks. Can you find Ivy in this picture?

Ranger Ivers

The Carlsbad Caverns were absolutely mammoth. The best way I can describe them for you is, if the ceilings were 200 feet high at O'Hare airport in Chicago and they melted. Truly a sight to behold. 

 The rocks are actually formed by water dripping from the ceilings. The calcium forms the white rock. It looks like icing on a cake.

 This picture to the left is one of the last pictures of my sunglasses. I leaned my head back to take a picture and they fell down into the caverns... Sorry I lost the sunglasses you gave me Gabe.

They actually brought in a guy who does lighting for Broadway to light the caverns. So unlike the lava beds we went to earlier in the trip, we didn't need head lamps. The light bulbs were all white but the bacteria in the caverns shown through in beautiful colors.

There are actually hundreds of miles of other caverns in the area but the National Parks have chosen to not make them accessible to the public to preserve them for studies. They believe that they can learn about life on other planets by studying these cavers. In this one they have park rangers go through regularly with tweezers and remove lint off the rocks that is left by people walking through the caverns to try to maintain the beauty of the rocks. The caverns have a bizarre serenity about them. They aren't beautiful in the traditional sense like the leaves changing or flowers blooming but they are beautiful all the same.

Speaking of which check out how pretty that stalactite is!

We did the self-guided audio tour which was really informative plus we could go at our own pace. For those of you who don't know us personally our pace is something of a rushed linger so it's better for us not to be committed to a guide. If you do want the guided tour calling ahead is advised. They were sold out at 930 am and there really were not many people there. You've been warned.

I guess we were right to skip Roswell. There were aliens right outside of the caverns!

Not the first time we've been that close to a bear on this trip. This one is slightly less terrifying though. Ivy was a little shook up still so it was time to get rollin'.

After the Rockies and the Cascades, the Guadeloupe mountain range wasn't so impressive. After Carlsbad we headed to Tucson for Thanksgiving with my sister.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Little Rock for Lunch and Dallas Texas to see Vicki and Steve!

 Josh and I stopped in Little Rock to have lunch with my cousin Derek, his wife Susan, their daughter Christy, and my Aunt Lynn (who was the one asked out by Elvis). We went to a great Thai place and chatted for a while. I forgot my camera so I didn't get a picture, sorry Derek. But thank you for lunch, we had such a good time. Josh ordered some "slap yo' mama" red curry. He was crying and coughing. But the most important part about seeing them was that they were the first of my family we have visited on the trip! Yeah Derek you were the first!!

This first picture was two of the happy faces we saw when we got to my aunt Vicki's in Dallas, Texas. Gaea is the shorter clown faced cutie and the huge puppy in the background is Jamison. He's an Irish Wolf Hound and he's still a puppy. I tried to hug Vicki and he about shoved me back out the door.
 Their dogs are so adorable and loving. We had so much fun visiting. We could only stay for a day but it was a well packed Texas themed day.
 Josh spent a good part of the morning playing with the dogs and then we headed down to the Fort Worth Stock Yards.
 First stop, the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. Here is Josh and I doing our very best long horn impersonation.

This place had so much cowboy memorabilia! The entire center of the room was filled with all the different buggies from back in the day.
 All of the lights in the buildings and around looked just like this. Cowboys on horses rode up and down the cobblestone streets.
 Josh, Vicki, and I walked around the stockyard. It was very rustic. A lot of the people wore cowboy hats and boots. We were definitely out of place.
 This was one of the walkways that you would look down on the cattle and farm animals from. They not only had long horns but also goats and donkeys and horses.
 They had all the long horns in a big pen and a sign with their pictures and names next to it so you could see who was who. This one was Duramax.
 Here is mine and Vicki's favorite, Beavo. Isn't he cute? Each of the long horns had different shaped horns, this was because they are all descendants of Spanish herds, but there are seven different blood lines. So depending on the horns is what line they are from.
 Here is Josh giving the long horn sign.
 We went to find a place to get some lunch and a beer and this cute old man told us to head to the H3 restaurant because they had saddles for bar stools. He had never been there but said it was a great photo opt. He was right!
 Here is Josh and Vicki with out big beers. It a warm and cowboyish feel.
 If you'll direct your attention to the background of this photo you will notice the big buffalo butt and the sign that says Buffalo Butt Beer.
 We went to go find Josh a new belt buckle and ended trying on hats. Doesn't he look so tough in his carhart jacket and cowboy hat. We also got Fort Worth pins, that's what he's pointing at.
 In the afternoon they run the long horns down the street. The every time you run cattle you will almost always have a lead. It will be the most dominant of all the long horns or whatever other kind of cattle your running. Sancho was the lead here, Which was Josh's favorite. Beavo was all the way in the back. I guess pretty coats don't equate dominance.
 Here is Wild Bill himself! Available for photos for a small donation. We thought he died in Deadwood but he's alive and well in Fort Worth, Texas folks!
 After the stock yards Vicki and Steve took us out for a real Texas treat, a pit house! Here is the smoke house part where they smoke all the meats. They had tons of smokers and it smelled delicious.
 Here is the smoker we ordered from. you walk up and pick what you want off the smoker, they put it on butcher paper and you pay by the weight.
 Steve ordered for us and we had a pile of meat!! A little bit of everything, ribs, brisket, sausage, poppers, oh my!!

Then you walk inside and pick out your sides. We had creamed corn, baked beans, and potato salad.

So much food!
 We put a pretty good dent in all the food. It was some good Texas BBQ!! All we could do afterwards was lay on the couch.
Jamison is the size of a small horse and he loved Josh! I woke up the next morning and Jamison went to our bedroom door and whined until Josh woke up to play with him. Then when we left, Vicki sent a photo and said he just stood by the door and whined waiting for Josh to come back. We wished we could but we still have a lot of the country to get to before we want to be back at Christmas. Thank you Vicki and Steve for showing a good time and letting us help you drink your Texas beer and vodka. We had a blast and will be back to visit more.