Four states (if you count Texas)...19 days...4,558 miles...more than 900 photos...these are some of the numbers that sum up how my husband, David, and I spent most of July 2021. The trip was partly business, gathering reference material and inspiration for future paintings as well as visiting galleries; partly a postponed celebration from this past spring of 25+ years since saying our "we dos"; partly a gathering of David's family for a pandemic-interrupted memorial to honor their dad who passes away in early 2020; and finally some R&R for both of us.
If you've followed my blogs over the years, you know that I try to follow up trips with a "reflections" post of thoughts, memories and a few photos. If you haven't seen any previous posts and want to, just scroll down or go into the "Recent Posts" sidebar. Much of this trip was revisiting areas we've been before but we were also able to work in some new drives along the way.
This summer's trip began the day after Independence Day. Anyone who lives in or has visited Central Texas or the Texas Hill Country knows that any out-of-state road trip involves spending almost a day just getting out of Texas. We dropped the fur-babies at the kennel the day before and got an early start Monday morning so we were in Ruidoso, well before night fall. We spent two days in the area, enjoying drives around nearby Cloudcroft and our first visit to Sunspot Observatory, as well as a trip to Alamogordo, home to "the world's largest pistachio," which we've seen before but's always worth a stop when in the area.
Wednesday morning we packed up and started making our way northward with the next stop being Albuquerque for one night and then Ohkay Owengeh, about half way between Santa Fe and Taos. The location gave us an excuse to drive the Turquoise Trail with a couple of side trips that included visiting with a colorful character who runs his own equally colorful roadside attraction, and a drive up switchbacks of Sandia Crest Road to the top of the mountain.
One of the best known towns along Turquoise Trail is Madrid, made famous by the movie "Wild Hogs." As expected, it was packed with tourists so we passed through to the next town, Los Cerrillos. Located north of Madrid and off the main road, it was much quieter and more "authentic". We enjoyed exploring the beautiful 100-year-old St. Joseph's Catholic Church there.
After our stop over in Ohkay, we head west and northwest through the Santa Fe National Forest with Durango, Colo as our next layover. The drive from Española to and through Los Alamos was really special on several levels including the thrill of being stopped by armed security in order to pass through the Los Alamos National Lab. Yes, that's where they built the atomic bomb.
After passing through the forest, finding a cute pottery shop along the way in Jemez Springs, and then heading northward we made it across the border to Pagosa Springs and then to our stop for the night in Durango. The next morning we hit the Million Dollar Highway to make our way to Ouray.
I have to say it again: The Million Dollar Highway. What a drive! Heart-stopping in some areas (with no guardrails) oh but what spectacular views. After checking in at our hotel in Ouray, we still had time to explore the area both south, retracting some of the drive up, and north, with a visit to Ridgway where, we learned, the original True Grit was filmed.
From Ouray we drove north and then east and then north and, well you get the idea, with the goal of eventually getting to Glenwood Springs, our next stop for the night. A highlight and new experience was driving through the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park only to be outdone by our first time on Kebler Pass, a 31-mile high-mountain pass that we picked up outside of Crested Butte.
Winding roads. Mountains. Aspens. Wildflowers. Oh. My. Goodness.
Back to the story. Spent one night in Glenwood Springs then we continued zig-zagging across and up, with a drive to Estes and then eastward following the Big Thompson River, which, by the way, is another awesome drive and one of our favorites. One more stop in Fort Collins for the next night 's stay before crossing the boarder into Wyoming.
Once we arrived in Casper, the next week would be spent there. David met up with his siblings (total of 7) for family time and to gather for their father's memorial. The Jacobsons lived in Casper for many years and still have extended family there. It was a time of solemn remembrance for both his mom and dad, and a time of celebration spent with his brothers, sisters and their families.
While I bowed out of many of the gatherings to give David time with his family, I did find something creative to keep myself busy. I found a coffee shop/art supply store in downtown Casper where I picked up some watercolor supplies and spent a few days painting from photos taken on the first part of the trip.
Since this was only our second time as a couple to be in the area (the first was 24 years ago), David shared with me many of his favorite parts of Casper including the nearby Casper Mountain and Garden Creek Falls, as well as Alcova Lake where his family spent many summer days. We also took a drive to Thermopolis, which is known for it's hot springs. We didn't do the springs this time but did get to see the herd of buffalo that live in the area.
At the end of nearly a week together, everyone said their goodbyes and we all began to make our way back home.
David and I headed southward having set aside 4 days to make the trip back to Texas. It would be a bit quicker and more focused than our trip up so most of the sightseeing was limited to the drives to get from point A to point B. After 2 more nights in Colorado (the second one being in Creede, one of favorite areas), one night in northern New Mexico and at last, a stop over in Lubbock to get us that much closer to home for the final drive, we were back in the Texas Hill Country by the end of the week. Here are a few random pic from the trip...