Kentucky and the Bourbon Trail

Days 45 & 46: Thursday, June 13 & Friday, June 14, 2013
Start: Burlington, KY
End: Sevierville, TN
Miles Driven Today: 331
Total Miles: 8,078

We were all set to leave on Thursday. We had a great time with the old “gang” from Kentucky. Tom and I were ready to hit the Bourbon Trail. And then a text from Heather came in late on Wednesday night. “Want to meet us for lunch at Skyline tomorrow?”

Hell yes!!!

So, we decided to do lunch with Heather and her daughter. And if we did that, we wouldn’t get to our destination until pretty late. SO that meant staying another night at Minda’s. Minda, being the gracious hostess that she is, let us camp out for another night. We made the best of it with a great lunch and visit with Heather and a nice pot of Coq au Vin and more Graeter’s ice cream for dinner. We know how to live!

Skyline Chili

Chowing at Skyline Chili

The dogs were really comfy and happy at the Michels’ house. They made themselves very comfortable and were peacefully co-existing with the resident dog, Sparky.

Jasmine and Juliet made themselves comfortable

Jasmine and Juliet made themselves comfortable

Alas, all good things do come to an end. And given that Minda’s daughter is having a horde of teen-age girls over for a sleep-over tonight…hm…just in time! (Just kidding, Grace!!!) So, off we went in search of the Bourbon Trail.

Instead of taking the highway all the way to Frankfort, we decided to get off the Interstate and take some back roads. We went through small towns like Owenton, KY and were able to finally take some snapshots of a few of the barns on the Kentucky Quilt Trail.

Barn quilt on the Kentucky Quilt Trail

Barn quilt on the Kentucky Quilt Trail

Barn quilt on the Kentucky Quilt Trail

Barn quilt on the Kentucky Quilt Trail

We made it to Frankfort in less than two hours and hit our ‘priority’ stop–Buffalo Trace Distillery. Tom had been sipping on Buffalo Trace each time we visited the Michels family…so we had to stop there! We picked up a few choice items…given our wild Bison encounters, we are loving the furry beasts (and Tom is loving the bourbon!). I tasted a bit of the Bourbon Cream and had to have some to take home. YUM!

Tom's new favorite bourbon--Buffalo Trace!

Tom’s new favorite bourbon–Buffalo Trace!

Pre- or post-tasting? You decide.

Pre- or post-tasting? You decide.

MMMM...bourbon! The Bourbon Cream is the BEST!

MMMM…bourbon! The Bourbon Cream is the BEST!

Our next and final stop was Wild Turkey. We picked up a turkey call and a great bourbon barrel coat rack. Alas, at both Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey, we couldn’t take the distillery tours even though our timing was good. The day was way too hot to leave the pups in the car for any length of time. We knew that this could be a problem…but we still enjoyed both distilleries!

Wild Turkey Distillery

Wild Turkey Distillery

Tom riding the Wild Turkey!

Tom riding the Wild Turkey! Pre- or post-tasting? You decide!

Back on the back roads. One of the reasons we stopped at Wild Turkey was to see the S-shaped bridge near the distillery. We couldn’t get a good shot of the bridge, but it was pretty darn cool!

S bridge right past the WIld Turkey Distillery

S bridge right past the WIld Turkey Distillery

We also opted to go through Daniel Boone National Forest instead (again) of the Interstate to really enjoy the scenic byways and hills of Kentucky.

Beautiful road past Daniel Boone National Forest

Beautiful road past Daniel Boone National Forest

That route put us through Cumberland Gap on our way to Tennessee. We picked up salads from Cracker Barrel (yes, SALADS…healthy food!) and had a picnic in the park.

Picnic at Cumberland Gap National Historic Park

Picnic at Cumberland Gap National Historic Park. Who says Cracker Barrel can’t do ‘healthy’ food? 🙂

Tunnel through Cumberland Gap

Tunnel through Cumberland Gap

Hello Tennessee! Thanks for the Welcome!

Hello Tennessee! Thanks for the Welcome!

One of today's open roads. Beautiful Tennesse hills.

One of today’s open roads. Beautiful Tennesse hills.

Then it was off to our stop for the night, Sevierville, Tennessee. Sevierville is outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We’re going to visit Gatlinburg, the Smokies and hit the Blue Ridge Parkway tomorrow, so this just sets us up for our next adventure. We’re settled in for the night and are looking forward to tomorrow’s sightseeing. We’ll end up in Asheville, North Carolina tomorrow night. From there, we’ll head up the Blue Ridge Parkway to its Northern End. I’m really looking forward to the Smokies and the Appalachian Mountains!

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Kickin’ Around in Jackson, Wyoming

Day 38: Thursday, June 6, 2013

Today, we took a ‘down’ day in Jackson. Yes, Jackson is a touristy town. And yes, we’re tourists. 🙂 Hanging around the Cowboy Village Resort has been a great, relaxing haven from long days of driving (and fun!).

Office at the Cowboy Village Resort

Office at the Cowboy Village Resort

Cowboy Village Office - Carved pillar

Cowboy Village Office – Carved pillar

Back side of the pillar

Back side of the pillar

Back side of the pillar

Back side of the pillar

We slept in and then went over to Bubba’s BBQ for breakfast. Now, you wouldn’t think that a BBQ joint would be your first choice for breakfast. However, the front desk clerk at our resort highly recommended Bubba’s. She was spot-on.

I had the Chicken Fried Steak breakfast. I had been mulling over biscuits and gravy or the chicken fried steak…the waitress said that I could have both if I had a biscuit with my steak. BINGO! Tom ordered the Mexican Breakfast Burrito, and we split some blueberry pancakes. Yes, it was a heavy meal. And yes, we just about finished it all. It was SO good!

Breakfast at Bubba's

Breakfast at Bubba’s – Chicken fried steak, gravy, two eggs, hash browns and a biscuit.

After rolling back to the resort, we decided to take a stroll downtown. We put the girls in the doggie stroller and did some sightseeing and shopping. The galleries here have some interesting stuff, from a $450,000 Triceratops head fossil to your normal t-shirts and souvenir shot glasses. I ended up with a Bison purse and Huckleberry taffy. 🙂

Elk Antler Arch - Jackson Town Square

Elk Antler Arch – Jackson Town Square

Bear? Where?

Bear? Where?

Tom REALLY likes Bison

Tom REALLY likes Bison

We also took the opportunity to get the oil changed on the car and to do laundry. Do we know how to party, or what? In fact, we had so much fun that the dogs were just…dog tired! They are definitely bonding more and more every day.

Tired puppies

Tired puppies

Tomorrow, we head to Fort Collins, CO in preparation to see the Rocky Mountain National Park. Then, we’re going to motor through the Midwest before exploring Kentucky, Tennessee, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Appalachians until heading home.

Home. Yes, we’re moving in that direction. Part of me really misses home. The other part kind of wishes that the adventure could continue on indefinitely. But hey, we still have a few more weeks of rolling.

Touring Zion National Park

Day 31: Thursday, May 30, 2013
Visited: Zion National Park

We spent the day exploring Zion National Park.

Unfortunately, the park doesn’t allow pets on its shuttle system and only one of the trails is pet-friendly. So, we decided to board the girls at Doggy Dude Ranch just a few miles out of town. We’re glad we did. The three-page questionnaire and the detailed questions the owner at the Ranch asked us spoke volumes. Had our two girls been more socialized, they would have had a grand time chasing other small dogs around the outdoor play area, complete with doggy pool. However, we explained the issues with Jasmine and Juliet (especially the sensitive tummies), and they were more than happy to keep the dogs in the house. This is not your ordinary boarding kennel.

With the dogs safely and (somewhat) happily housed at the Ranch, we parked back at our hotel and hopped on to the Zion shuttle. The shuttle system for the park is fabulous. One shuttle goes back and forth through the town of Springdale, enabling park visitors to leave their cars at their hotels or in open parking lots outside the park. The park itself has very little available parking, so this makes great sense. Inside the park, the most picturesque road in the park is ONLY accessible by park shuttle during the busy summer season. Given the lack of parking and the impact of cars, this makes great sense. So, we got to the park and then hopped on the park’s scenic shuttle. All of this is provided at no cost (aside from park admission).

Yesterday’s views were just a precursor to the natural beauty we saw today. From the Virgin River to the Court of the Patriarchs, from Weeping Rock to the Temple of Sinawava…we drank in the beauty of this geological wonder. Here are just a fraction of the photos we took.

Tom and Mahgrit - Court of the Patriarchs

Tom and Mahgrit – Court of the Patriarchs

Zion National Park

Zion National Park – It’s all sandstone

Majestic canyon at Zion

Majestic canyon at Zion

Zion National Park - Carved by water and wind

Carved by water and wind

Virgin River - Zion National Park

Virgin River – Zion National Park

This canyon was carved by Virgin River

This canyon was carved by Virgin River and continues to evolve over time

Love the colors, unusual formations

Love the colors, unusual formations

Mahgrit at Zion National Park

Mahgrit at Zion National Park

Butterfly at the Virgin River

Butterfly at the Virgin River

Mahgrit tires of the paparazzi

Mahgrit tires of the paparazzi

Zion Panorama

Zion Panorama (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

We left the park around 1:30 or 2:00 and headed for lunch. We tried MeMe”s Cafe…recommended by the Doggy Dude Ranch people. This little cafe is known for their crepes. We tried the triple berry crepe with vanilla yogurt and Nutella. WHOOP! Tom had never tried Nutella before. What kind of deprived life has this man led? We also had steamed rice, veggie and chicken teriyaki bowls; we balanced healthy with…um…well, everything was yummy!

Triple berry and Nutella Crepe at Meme's

Triple berry and Nutella Crepe at MeMe’s Cafe

After lunch, we picked up the dogs. They were happy to see us, but it was clear that they weren’t negatively impacted by the Dude Ranch. Everyone was happy, including the persistent Jasmine (pet me…Pet Me…aren’t you going to PET ME?).

Many moods of Jasmine

The many moods of Jasmine. Okay, the ONE mood. PET ME!

It was a fabulous day, and we are kind of sorry that we didn’t book more time here. But we’re off to Bryce Canyon tomorrow…perhaps we’ll be equally enthralled with Bryce as we have been with the Grand Canyon and Zion. After Bryce, we believe we are going to go through the forests and green spaces of Utah, up into Wyoming to the Tetons and Yellowstone. After that, we’re contemplating going back down through Colorado and sprinting across the plains to Tennessee. We have up to three weeks more to meander across the country. We’re really not sure how we’re going to spend the time. But we do know that whatever we decide to do…it’s going to be yet another great adventure…

A Little Down Time

Day 27: Sunday, May 26, 2013

Today was a day for some down time. We decided to go to Petroglyph National Monument this morning. We knew that only one of the trails is dog friendly, but at least dogs are not banned. However, when we got to the trail, we found it sandy. The doggie stroller would not work on the trail. It was also pretty darn hot by the time we got there–high 80’s. We met a guy with a pit-mix and chatted with him. He told us that his dog was having a hard time on the trail due to the heat, and our black dogs probably wouldn’t do well. So, we decided to leave.

We have been on the go for about a month now, so we just decided to go back to the hotel and chill. Tom read a book while I took the goodies that I bought at Hip Stitch yesterday and made a jewelry roll and holder for the awesome pieces I’ve bought on the road!

Hand-stitched Jewelry Roll

Hand-stitched jewelry roll. Craft day!

Jewelry Roll

Velcro secures the pockets, and the holder folds and snaps together. Snaps to the gals at Hip Stitch for giving me the snaps!

We weren’t real hungry after yesterday’s mondo dinner, so we skipped lunch and had a light dinner at Jinja, an Asian fusion restaurant a few miles from the hotel. We had lettuce wraps and Chinese chicken salads, and I had a tremendous Peartini made with a lemongrass simple syrup, pear vodka and fresh lemon and lime juice. We topped it off with some fro-yo from a local store and decided to call it a night.

Peartini at Jinja

Peartini at Jinja. They have quite a drink menu. This photo was blurry from low light…not from inebriation!

The pups were happy to have some down time too. As you can see, they’re getting closer every day!

Juliet and Jasmine

Juliet and Jasmine. Prior to this photo, they were both angling for this spot. This is the compromise!

Tomorrow, we’re off to Flagstaff and then to the Grand Canyon the day after! So begins the next part of our adventure!

Albuquerque Day Into Night

Day 25: Friday, May 24, 2013
Visited: Albuquerque

Today was a sight-seeing day as well as a night out for us. We have been spending so many days out sightseeing and driving that we haven’t done much in the evenings. In fact, we haven’t watched a single sunset since we started this journey. Tonight, we decided to remedy that situation!

We started the day (late) in Old Town. Peppered with galleries, boutiques and souvenir shops, Old Town is a quaint historical district with a huge plaza, church and stores galore. It was a hot and dry day, and we spent much of it in the sun. The pups were in their stroller, once again eliciting interest and chuckles as we walked along the busy streets.

We had lunch at the Back Street Grill, a tiny little restaurant (a little more than a stand) in one of the back alleys around Old Town. The food was fabulous–Mexican Pizza, Pork Tacos with mango puree and Mole sauce and fresh and zesty salsa and guacamole. Fabulous! Unfortunately, all I remembered to take pictures of this morning was a tub of turtles next to the Rattlesnake museum, the dogs and our lunch. 🙂

Mexican Pizza at Back Street Grill

Mexican Pizza at the Back Street Grill. Delicious!

Tortoises

Tortoises. Nuff said.

Flirty dogs

Jasmine and Juliet were especially flirty today. Even Jasmine, who is usually shy, came out of her shell to look around!

We spent a good part of the day in Old Town and then went back to the hotel to take care of the dogs and get ready for dinner. (I did find time to shoot down to the local scrapbook store and take a look! :-))

I made reservations at the High Finance restaurant at the top of Sandia Peak. We drove over to the base of the mountain, passing the Sandia Casino on the way. We first had a quick drink at the Mexican restaurant at the base (yummy Coconut Margarita) and then took the tram up to the top. Even though the day was hazy, it was a dramatic and breathtaking view. I didn’t feel nervous…being enclosed in the gondola was fine. But it was a 2.7 mile trek up to the summit–a whopping10,387 feet! We got to the top and took in the view. It was about 60 degrees up top, while at the base it was still in the high 80’s!

Sandia Peak Tram

Sandia Peak Tram

Going up!

Going up!

Happy couple!

Happy couple!

Sandia Peak Panoramic View

Sandia Peak Panoramic View (CLICK TO VIEW LARGE VERSION)

We got to the restaurant, and after a hassle about our reservation (GRRR), we were seated a few minutes later. The food was okay, but the view was fabulous. Let’s face it…people don’t come to the restaurant for the cuisine. The Green Chile Beef Stew (soup) was pretty good.

High Finance Green Chile Beef Stew

High Finance Restaurant Green Chile Beef Stew

We watched a spectacular sunset and then headed down the tram to the base. It was getting dark, and we once again had a breathtaking view–this time of the twinkling lights of Albuquerque below.

Glorious Sunset at Sandia Peak

Glorious Sunset at Sandia Peak

Albuquerque at night

Albuquerque at night

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at the Sandia Casino. One foot into the front door and we were hit with the heavy smoke. Ick. The casino was bustling with people and was mostly comprised of penny slots. But given that a max bet is generally a dollar or more…it’s not really ‘penny’ slots! We stayed a few minutes (aka $40) and went back to the hotel.

Tomorrow, we’re kenneling the dogs and heading to Acoma Pueblo. They have a craft fair and native dancing for the Memorial Day weekend; we’re really looking forward to experiencing this pueblo!

Exploring Taos’ Finest

Day 23: May 22, 2013
Visited: Taos Ski Valley, Arroyo Seco, Taos
Miles Driven Today: 53
Total Miles: 3,356

Today was a day of easy exploration and some great discoveries.

The first was breakfast. The waitress at the Downtown Bistro recommended Michael’s Kitchen for breakfast and lunch, so we headed over to the downtown Taos restaurant. Walking in, I knew that the food would be good. It was bustling with locals and the food smelled and looked great. We were immediately seated, and I looked over to the table next to us. I asked the man what he was eating, and he said, “Breakfast Enchilada.” SOLD!

So Tom and I both ordered the Breakfast Enchilada. It came with some yummy Sopapillas (fried dough). We also split an order of Atole-Piñon Pancakes–blue corn pancakes with pine nuts. Everything was exceptionally delicious!

Breakfast Enchiladas - Michael's Kitchen

Breakfast Enchiladas – Michael’s Kitchen

Atole-Piñon Pancakes Michael's Kitchen Taos

Atole-Piñon Pancakes at Michael’s Kitchen

Funny, but another couple was seated next to us, and it just happened to be a couple we saw on the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge the day before! We chatted with them and shared notes. They are from Dallas and are headed down to Santa Fe tomorrow. We told them to go to Tia Sophia’s for breakfast! It’s funny how people keep intersecting with us on the trip. It’s really great to meet and chat with people on the road!

After breakfast, we headed up to the Taos Ski Valley. Just under 20 miles from downtown Taos, the Ski Valley is in the Carson National Forest. While it was off season, the drive itself was the draw; the open road views today were beautiful.

Today's Open Road Part I Taos Ski Valley

Today’s open road (Part I) on the road to Taos Ski Valley

Today's open road Part II

Today’s open road Part II – To Taos Ski Valley

Back to Carson National Forest

Back to Carson National Forest

Guest house

Guest house at a cabin on the way to the Taos Ski Valley. I’d love to stay here!

On our way up to the Ski Valley, we drove through Arroyo Seco. On our way down, we stopped to explore the many small shops and galleries in this very small town. One mercantile had everything from local art to Japanese Obi (which I bought…who would’ve thought I would find a vintage Obi in New Mexico?). Another gallery had wonderful sterling silver charms. It was a hot day, so Tom and I had an ice cream at Taos Cow. Caramel Pinon (pine nut) was the flavor of the day. We were beginning to see a trend here…

We drove into the Old Town area of Taos and did some gallery hopping and shopping. We took the girls around in the doggie stroller, once again attracting tons of attention. Of course, with faces like these…who wouldn’t love these cherubs? Juliet again asserted herself with the dogs who dared to venture close–except for one cute little Chihuahua at a leather goods store. “Lucky” the dog was cute and friendly, and Juliet didn’t seem to mind him one bit! We also encountered another Dachshund at one of the stores…Juliet wasn’t impressed!

Stroller Pals

Stroller pals. Squirrel???!!

Jasmine enjoying the day

Jasmine enjoying the day

We went back to the hotel, rested a bit and then headed out to dinner at Ranchos Plaza Grill. Lots of great Yelp reviews convinced us to try it…and we weren’t sorry we did. Tom had a Pork Adovado burrito and I had a tamale plate; we both tried both red and green chile sauces. The sauces were spicy, but SO flavorful; even the pinto beans were bursting with rich flavor. The dinners were served with Sopapillas…the best we’ve had thus far! And, of course, I had to try the Flan. It was tremendously silky and perfect.

Ranchos Plaza Grill Tamale Plate

Ranchos Plaza Grill Tamale Plate

Ranchos Plaza Grill - Pork Adovado Burrito

Ranchos Plaza Grill – Pork Adovado Burrito

We waddled out to the car and back to the hotel. I broke out the paints and canvases I bought today at Taos Art Supply and played a bit with a Wiener Dog version of a Mola. There needs to be more Wiener Dog Art in the world!

Tomorrow, we’re off to Albuquerque and the surrounding sights! I’m ready for our next adventure!

Day Trip from Taos

Day 22: Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Areas Visited: Taos, Rio Grande Gorge, Earthships, Ojo Caliente, Abiquiu, Red Rocks, Abiquiu Lake
Miles Driven Today: 159
Total Miles: 3,303

As Tom expressed in his blog post yesterday, we weren’t terribly impressed with the town of Taos. But we’re certainly enjoying the area around Taos, and the discovery of this beautiful landscape.

Today’s adventure was a testament to the phrase, “It’s not the destination, but the journey that matters.” Taos wasn’t our primary destination, but the home base we decided to use to explore the area. We definitely made a great choice.

We started the day at the Taos Pueblo. Incredible, but according to one of the inhabitants, the lands were only returned to the Native Americans that have been inhabiting the Pueblo for the last 1000 years in 1970. The lands were taken from the inhabitants in 1906. While the Pueblo is a tourist destination, it IS the primary residence for many of the tribal members. We loved the tribal members we met and the beautiful handcrafted items we saw.

Throughout the Pueblo, “Pueblo dogs” were running around everywhere. We had the foresight to put Jasmine and Juliet in the doggie stroller. While the Pueblo dogs were calm and friendly, our “non-barking” dog Juliet decided that she wasn’t too keen on some of the dogs; she barked at them. Juliet has become more bold and headstrong since we started this trip, and this assertiveness is another change in her. It’s fun watching her come to life.

Taos Pueblo

Taos Pueblo. Breathtaking views, incredible adobes, friendly people.

Taos Pueblo Chapel

Taos Pueblo Chapel

Creek running through Taos Pueblo

Creek running through Taos Pueblo

After we left the Taos Pueblo, we headed for the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. We had heard about the beauty of the Gorge and the heady views from the bridge, and we weren’t disappointed! As I’m afraid of heights, I had a bit of a hard time walking across the bridge and taking these pictures. It’s disconcerting to be that high and that close to ‘falling over.’ I don’t get the people who bungee jump here; um….NO. But the view was spectacular.

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. SCARY to walk across!

Rio Grande Gorge

Rio Grande Gorge

Just a small drop to the bottom

Rio Grande Gorge–just a small drop to the bottom!

After I stopped hyperventilating…er…admiring the view, we headed on to the Earthship community. Earthships are energy efficient dwellings that are self-sustaining and made with green materials. Their foundations and walls are built of tires and concrete. They are extremely energy efficient and built to naturally sustain a normal temperature of around 70 degrees without the need for additional heating or cooling. They have solar for electricity. They collect rain water and snow as water sources, and have a system to use grey and black water. There are three Earthship communities near Taos, but people all over the world have been building them. Very cool! You can rent one for a vacation stay; we thought about doing it, but the pet fees were too steep. It was fun learning about these unique homes and seeing one in person!

Earthship

Earthship Visitor Center

Earthship Front Door

Earthship Front Door – Fun, Functional, Funky

Earthship

Earthship – Beam me up, Scotty!

After we left the Earthships, we headed towards Ojo Caliente and Abiquiu. Ojo Caliente is known for its mineral springs and resorts. We stopped in to see the Inn and Spa, and then moved on to Abiquiu. While there wasn’t much to see at Ojo Caliente, we really enjoyed the drive and the open road.

Today's Open Road

Today’s open road

Abiquiu was the home of Georgia O’Keeffe. We stopped at the tour office of her home and studio at the Abiquiu Inn, but there were no tours open until the end of May! We tried to find Ghost Ranch, the place O’Keeffe loved to go to gain inspiration for her paintings, but…well…we couldn’t find it! It wasn’t where the GPS said it was supposed to be (from the address on their website). Oh well…again, it was about the journey, right? 🙂

However, in our search for Ghost Ranch, we came upon Lake Abiquiu and the Abiquiu Dam. All was not lost; in fact, I think the beauty of this place was yet another great discovery for the day.

Lake Abiquiu

Lake Abiquiu

On the way to/from Abiquiu, we passed through the Red Rocks area. On our way back, we stopped at a little turnout and saw this lovely view. We watched (what we thought was) a bald eagle soaring over this river, flapping vigorously to stay in place. It was a magnificent sight.

Red Rocks area

Red Rocks area

Red Rocks

Red Rocks

We took Route 68 back to Taos. We had gone up the High Road to Taos on the way up from Santa Fe. We were so lucky to not have missed the breathtaking vista of the Rio Grande Gorge going North on 68. Had we not gone to Abiquiu, we would have missed it altogether. My photo doesn’t do the view justice. When we came up over a ridge and saw this…Tom and I were both in awe and so happy to have seen this vista.

Rio Grande Gorge from Route 68

Rio Grande Gorge from Route 68

After a hard day of running around, we decided to go back to the Downtown Bistro for dinner. Once again, we had the Red Chile Soup…yum! This time, I remembered to photograph it before it was gone! I also had a couple of glasses of Stark Raving Red wine…yummy!

Red Chile Soup from Downtown Bistro

Red Chile Soup from Downtown Bistro

Tomorrow, we plan on checking out the Taos Mountain Ski area and sightseeing around town. We were going to go to Bandelier National Monument, but since it’s on our way to Albuquerque, we’ll visit when we’re on the road.