It all began with Hurricane Florence. Jim and I had planned to take a road trip out west for my timeshare week in Laguna Beach, California at the end of September. Then Florence hit town. Jim had to evacuate from SC, so he came to NC to my house. After moving all my furniture off my deck and anything that could become a flying object, we awaited Florence’s wrath. There were a few other evacuees from the coast of NC staying with friends in the neighborhood, so we all had an impromptu party. And we placed our trip on hold or cancel, depending on how things turned out.
After several days of rain, it began to settle down with no problems in my ‘hood. Jim had no problems in his ‘hood either. But roads between here and there were flooded or washed out. He couldn’t get back home. While worrying about how his house survived, his neighbor called to assure him that his home was fine.
Ultimately, to get south and east, he would need to go west … way west. Like Tennessee west. North Carolina was closed. So we did what any self-respecting retired couple would do, we figured if we had to go west, we’d go way west. But first, clothes. Jim needed clothes. Off to the store we went. Once back home, we threw things in the suitcases and off we went.
Now, I had been planning and mapping the route for a few weeks, but Jim doesn’t like planning, so we loosely followed a route. Sort of. Well … not at all. This was a definite fly by the seat of our pants. Our first stop was south of Atlanta. We had encountered heavy traffic in Atlanta at rush hour, so we lost a bit of time. I won’t mention the Arnold’s bread truck that ran us of the road. After that and a wreck we saw the next day whereby one car was in pieces, really, we decided interstates weren’t any fun. We took secondary roads as much as we could. Which was most of our trip, actually. Surprisingly, you could drive just as fast on most of those roads, as they had little traffic. Many times we had the roads to ourselves.
Our first deviation from our loosely held plan was to head to Biloxi, MS. This because Jim likes the Beau Rivage and he got comped a room. This might have ended up being a long trip if I hadn’t been able to get him away from the tables and machines. But, he was a good boy. Alleluia! From there we made our way to New Orleans, through many of the places devastated from Katrina. They had been rebuilt and looked to have rebounded.
I know I’m going against the grain here, but I did not like New Orleans. I never felt inclined to go there and wish we hadn’t this time either. It was dirty, crowded and too touristy. We left town after lunch, but not before Jim got a parking ticket. Double hate. Not much else to say.
We progressed on to Austin, TX. I love Austin and I was not going to miss this city, no matter what. Silently, I was hoping it wasn’t going to disappoint and would be pretty much as I remembered it. After getting lost (even with the GPS), we found the hotel and got checked in. Anxious to get in the action, we made our way to 6th Street or Avenue, whatever it is. It was football Saturday and Texas Christian University fans were everywhere. The street was closed off with vendor tents down the middle for several blocks. It had a real carnival atmosphere! We had a beer here and a beer there and then wandered past a club with good sounds emanating from it. We were sure glad we squeezed in because we had so much fun at that club called “Friends”. We were the chaperones of the place, I believe. No one else had white hair. We tried to blend in but I don’t think we fooled anyone. The band was really good and I gave the beat a 9. The house was packed, but eventually we seniors had to squeeze our way back out and head back to our room. Seniors can only handle so much fun in one night with people less than half their ages.
On our way the next day through Hill Country, we happened upon the neatest town … Llano, Texas. It’s about 65 miles NW of Austin. We just had to stop and wander around a bit. We drove across the river and found a great park … a really great park … where we stopped for our lunch. Two women were there with their children and we got to talking. Turned out one was from Rock Hill, SC., originally. What a wonderful little town! As a side note, it was recently reported on the news that the Llano River flooded. I sure hope that town made it through okay. I would go back there again.
After leaving Texas, we passed through Roswell, NM. We stopped to see if we could find any UFOs, but we only found aliens.
We continued on our journey and stopped at Big Springs, NM for the night. It was a bigger town than we thought, but not big enough for a good restaurant; at least not at the exit we chose. I think if we had gotten off the previous one , it would have been a different story. Our hotel room had some issues and the next day the manager called to say she comped the room. I don’t think I’ll keep that town on my map, regardless.
On to Santa Fe, NM. One of my favorite cities. Oh no! It was taken over by the major chains. Malls. And interstates. It was so changed. I was disappointed to see that civilization had encroached upon such a great place. I know the people who live there have to shop, but … I wasn’t sorry to leave. And I did so with a head cold. It didn’t have that ethereal feeling it used to have. The historic plaza area didn’t even feel the same. But, then again, I was comparing it to a 30 year old memory. Now I know how my friend, Paul, always felt when he went to the beach in SC and it wasn’t the same. He would always comment, “They ruined it.” Yep, now I know the feeling. On a positive note, we had a great dinner at a place called “The Shed”.
On to Taos, N.M. — my other favorite town. After checking into our hotel, we headed to the drugstore for some cough drops and Sudafed. As we drove into town, it was another, No! Not this place too? Tuesday Morning? Now that’s going too far. Okay … so far we liked Austin and Llano. This trip better stop surprising me.
On our way out of town, we stopped at the Taos Pueblo. We had a good time talking to some of the residents who turned out to be Carolina Panthers and Pittsburgh Steelers fans. Well, more North Carolina University at Chapel Hill, than Carolina Panthers. Who would have guessed? I bought this pine cone thing from them but I forget what it’s purpose was. The car smelled like pine for most of the trip. It doesn’t any longer.
While we were wandering around the Pueblo, there was a group of men repairing the adobe. So I walked over and asked how they did it and got a very nice demo.
We passed over the Rio Grande Gorge on our way out of town. I hope the Rio Grande is larger in Texas.
With me sneezing, coughing and blowing my nose, we proceeded on towards Mesa Verde National Park, with an overnight stop in Durango, Colorado. I’m not sure about the whole city, but the part we were in was as I remembered it. It was most enjoyable. As we were walking from our hotel, we passed a “smokehouse”. Jim was convinced that since we were in Colorado and pot was legal, we should go in and buy some. I had the hardest time convincing him that it was just a BBQ place. All through dinner, he wasn’t accepting my take on it. As we were walking back, the smoker was going behind the place and he was finally convinced. But, he never got the legal pot out of his mind. If I went into a store to buy water or something he’d always tell me to ask where we could buy marijuana. Are you serious? I’m not asking anybody where we can buy pot. You ask. Bear in mind, he’s 77 and I’m 75 and we had never tried it. He guess he realized there was something he missed out on in life!
On to Mesa Verde! This park was established in 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt and is the largest archaeological preserve in North America. The Ancient Puebloans called it home for more than 700 years from 500 A.D. to 1300 A.D. During that time, they built over 4,400 sites including 600 cliff dwellings before suddenly leaving the land. In looking at these dwellings, it was hard to imagine how they were able to climb into them. Even with the ladders. Very impressive and worth stopping to see.
We stayed in Flagstaff, Arizona that night. Lest anyone think that Sudafed and cough drops rid one of a cold … nope. I was miserable and my eyes were killing me. There was a Sizzler across the parking lot where we had dinner. I had soup in the hope that chicken soup did have magical properties. When we got back to our room, I sent Jim down to the lobby for some tea bags. I had heard tea bags made irritated eyes feel better. Well, they did for a little while. While they were on my eyes.
We realized that night that if we hoped to make it to Laguna Beach, CA before my timeshare week was up, we needed to get a move on. The next day, we made the decision to interstate it again, which can be no small feat in CA. We made it to Laguna that evening and felt staying in one place for the better part of a week was going to be heaven.
To be continued………