On the Road to Flagstaff

Day 28: Monday, May 27, 2013
Start: Albuquerque, NM
End: Flagstaff, AZ
Miles Driven Today: 333
Total Miles: 4,131

Today we motored from Albuquerque to Flagstaff in preparation for our visit to the Grand Canyon tomorrow. We looked into staying at one of the lodges at the Canyon, but they aren’t dog-friendly; that would mean having to kennel the dogs during our visit. Not acceptable! The Grand Canyon does allow pets on the trails above the rim, so we won’t have issues with bringing them with us. So Flagstaff won the hospitality battle.

The drive from Albuquerque to Flagstaff was a straight shot on I-40. Not much to see for long distances, but we did still enjoy the ride.

Overpass in Albuquerque

Overpass in Albuquerque

Tom loves this town

Tom loves this town…or, at least, the name. How do you pronounce this?

Fort Courage of F-Troop Fame

Fort Courage of F-Troop Fame

We crossed the Continental Divide while still in New Mexico and then decided to stop at the ‘historic’ Richardson’s Trading Post in Gallup. This ‘historic’ post turned out to be closed, but even if it hadn’t been, we wouldn’t have stopped. It was a large pawn shop with heavy grates across the windows. Thanks, but no thanks.

We did, however, stop at the historic El Rancho hotel on Route 66. This hotel has seen a host of stars over the years, and their upper lobby has signed photos from most of those who have stayed at this legendary lodge. We stopped in to check it out. It was pretty cool!

El Rancho Gallup Lobby

El Rancho Gallup Lobby

It was also cool to be back on Route 66. In New Mexico and Arizona, a lot of Historic Route 66 is now I-40…not too quaint. At 75 mph, the landscape just whips by…I miss our meandering.

Welcome to Arizona

Welcome to Arizona

As we were driving along, I saw that Winslow, Arizona was on our way. I couldn’t remember why the town was familiar. I Googled it, and nothing came up. But as we were driving along, we saw billboards advertising the Meteor Crater. Tom mentioned that the crater was in a movie…Starman! And then it hit me. I knew Winslow because that’s where Jeff Bridges was trying to reach in the movie! Of course, we had to visit the crater.

The Meteor Crater now has a visitor center, walking paths and lookouts on the rim, and guided tours. Of course, all this comes with a cost–$15 per person. Eeek. But we went anyway. The dogs stayed in the car (it was a cool day today) as we visited the crater. It was ENORMOUS. The visitor center, especially the ‘movie’…AKA an informercial for B612, an organization striving to protect humanity through a meteor early detection and defense system, was cheesy, but the crater…spectacular. You can see my panoramic photo, below. It was well worth the stop. We thought about stopping at Bearizona, a drive-through animal park, but the bad reviews made us motor on by.

Incredible, Enormous Meteor Crater near Winslow, AZ

Incredible, Enormous Meteor Crater near Winslow, AZ (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Great sign near the Meteor Crater

Great sign near the Meteor Crater

As we approached Flagstaff, we decided to get off the increasingly busy highway and to (once again) drive Historic Route 66. It was the right choice. Empty roadway, a spectacular open road, and passing a vintage Howard Johnson’s Inn and Restaurant along the way…special! We reached our hotel after passing a bit of the downtown area and are now comfortably settled for the evening.

Today's Open Road - Route 66 outside of Flagstaff

Today’s Open Road – Route 66 outside of Flagstaff

Back on Route 66

Back on Route 66

Tomorrow, we get up early (Tom says, “Um, HOW early??”) and go to the South Rim of Grand Canyon. But for tonight, we’re relaxing after a long and happy driving day.

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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!

Bandelier National Monument and the Road to Albuquerque

Day 24: Thursday, May 23, 2013
Start: Taos, NM
End: Albuquerque, NM
Miles Driven Today: 183
Total Miles: 3,539

We left Taos today after a great few days. Taos itself has a bit of small town charm, but we really loved its proximity to some beautiful country.

Today's open road

Today’s open road on the way to Bandelier National Monument. Stunning vistas and sky!

ET Phone Home!

ET Phone Home! Dishes at Los Alamos.

We had originally planned to visit Bandelier National Monument yesterday, but since it was about half-way to Albuquerque, we decided instead to visit on our way. It was a smart choice! Luckily, the weather (and a shady parking lot) allowed us to keep the pups in the car while we were hiking the main trail at Bandelier; otherwise, we would have had to take turns walking the trail and, as Tom put it, they would have had to send a search party for me after I froze in terror on the way down. Hey, I can’t even climb a ladder without getting dizzy.

We snaked through some pretty country before arriving at Bandelier. We were also fortunate to get here before Memorial Day Weekend. Tomorrow, they stop allowing people to park on the property; instead, visitors must park at the closest town (White Rock) and shuttle into the park. Of course, dogs aren’t allowed on the shuttle. Our timing couldn’t be better!

Arriving at Bandelier National Monument

Arriving at Bandelier National Monument

Before we arrived at the Visitor’s Center, we stopped at a scenic overlook. It was deserted. But in mere minutes, there was a sudden horde of people at the edge of the bluff! We’re such leaders!

Scenic overlook at Bandelier

Scenic overlook at Bandelier. (CLICK FOR LARGER PIC) When we pulled up, this vista was deserted. In less than five minutes, about 15 people followed us in. Lemmings!

The trail started with a Kiva and the ruins of the Tyuonyi pueblo. The canyon itself is Frijoles Canyon, and were populated with Ancestral Pueblo people (once identified as Anasazi, which is now an outdated term).

Frijoles Canyon

Frijoles Canyon

View of the pueblo ruins

View of the pueblo ruins

The trail then wound up to the cave dwellings. The Ancient Pueblo people were on average 5′ to 5’6″…still large for the size of these caves. The people also built dwellings on the outside of the caves…often several stories tall. This was a fascinating place and well worth the visit! On the way up, the rock formations were fascinating and really beautiful.

Beauty in the rocks

Beauty in the rocks

Oooh! Scary caves!

Oooh! Scary caves!

We also loved the view from the caves down on the valley. However, I was getting a bit dizzy. I have no idea how these people scaled these walls, dug these caves and made a home in the side of a canyon!

View from Frijoles Canyon

Panoramic view from Frijoles Canyon cliffs. (CLICK FOR LARGER PIC)

Tom climbed up a wooden ladder to look into the cavate (official for cave room). He wanted to take a picture inside. This is the result.

Technical difficulties

Tom had, um, ‘technical difficulties’ when taking a picture of the cave rooms. Hahahahaha!

After we left Bandelier, we drove back through Santa Fe and onto the Turquoise Trail. Going through Santa Fe’s business district was a reminder of how lucky we’ve been with our open roads and lack of traffic. It was a bit of a rude awakening, and we were glad to hit the Turquoise Trail. We stopped briefly in Madrid, but we found parking to be sparse, and it was then too hot to leave the pups in the car.

We motored on to Albuquerque and arrived at our hotel. We’re now chillaxin’ in the room. The pups are totally exhausted from their hard day of riding in the car. Strangely enough, the wind started whipping us around when we got here, including pelting us with sand and rock. Welcome to Albuquerque!

Jasmine and Juliet

Jasmine and Juliet love the Drury. The paparazzi…not so much.

Jasmine and Juliet

Oh, riding in the car is SO exhausting!

Tomorrow, we’re going to explore Albuquerque and then have dinner at the High Finance restaurant at the top of Sandia Peak. We’re going to dine and then watch the sunset. Even in all the beautiful country that we’ve toured, we haven’t spent a lot of time out at night. This should be a lovely view. Saturday, we plan on going to Acoma, and Sunday we plan on visiting a few more sights as well as checking out the Art & Wine festival in town. It should be a nice weekend!

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.

Santa Fe to Taos, New Mexico

Day 21: Monday, May 20, 2013
Start: Santa Fe, NM
End: Taos, NM
Miles Driven Today: 91
Total Miles: 3,144

Today we said goodbye to Santa Fe and hello to Taos. After re-jiggering our travel schedule, we’re staying three nights in Taos. This way, we can go see the Rio Grande Gorge, the Taos Pueblo, the Earthships, local museums, Bandelier National Monument, Ojo Caliente and Abiquiu and not have to rush.

We decided to take the High Road to Taos on our way up (thanks for the tip, John and Barb!). This was a spectacular drive through both scenic desert and mesas and through the Carson National Forest. People think of New Mexico as dry brush, but it’s spectacularly beautiful.

New Mexico open road

New Mexico open road

More open road

More open road

For the last few days, we’ve seen the same couple at breakfast. We’ve exchanged a few pleasantries. This morning, they stopped by to say goodbye and told us about their trip up to El Santuario de Chimayo. As we were driving up the High Road, we saw the sign for El Santuario. We stopped at this lovely (and still active) mission. There were as many people worshiping as there were tourists viewing the lovely main church (the artwork inside was so wonderful) and the grounds.

Door at El Santuario de Chimayo

Door at El Santuario de Chimayo

El Santuario de Chimayo garden

El Santuario de Chimayo garden

At the edge of the parking lot, a couple (Arthur “Lowlow” and Joan Medina) was selling chile powders, lavender and sage. We bought some chile powders and started chatting with the sellers. They grew their own chiles and made the powder and were in the process of joining a co-op of certified growers of both Chimayo and Hatch chile peppers. It seems like genetically modified seed has been infiltrating the Chimayo and Hatch growing fields, and these small growers are trying to keep their plants pure. Arthur is also an artist, and their Lowrider cars are famous! I wish we could see his art! There will be a website soon (LowLow’s Lowrider Art Place).

Joan Medina

Joan Medina and her homegrown goods

Before we left Chimayo, we stopped at a Chimayo woven good store. Traditional native designs are created using giant looms. The pieces, from rugs to sport coats, are quite striking in their intricate designs and quality. We loved the work and the loom room!

Loom rooms

Loom rooms

After we left Chimayo, we started to climb higher into the mountains. We then hit an art district with a number of small galleries. We stopped at a co-op gallery in Truchas where I got some brilliant glass art jewelry by Barrie Brown.

We snaked our way through Carson National Forest. The vistas were fabulous…and definitely not what I expected in New Mexico!

Through Carson National Forest

Through Carson National Forest

Vista in Carson National Forest

Vista in Carson National Forest

What a view

What a view!

When we finally reached Taos, we were a bit disappointed by the end of the ride. We tried to check in to the hotel, but our room wasn’t ready. We headed to the “Old Town” area of Taos (nothing like Santa Fe, I’m sorry to say) and walked around for a bit.

We checked into our hotel, the Sagebrush Inn. Walking into the room was…alarming. It had this odd, “you don’t want to know” smell to it. Whomever wrote glowing reviews of this place on Yelp and TripAdvisor must have been employees or paid reviewers. I was afraid to sleep on the bed.

We were hungry, so we decided to get out of the room and get some dinner. More Yelp-ing yielded the Downtown Bistro. We were looking for some salads, and this was one of the only restaurants that seemed to have some fresh green salad alternatives. We headed down to the restaurant and were greeted warmly by the chef/owner. When he opened the door (we got there at opening), I was on the phone with the hotel in Albuquerque that mucked up our reservations. He politely waited for me to finish, and welcomed us in.

We chatted about our travels and hotel woes, traveling with dogs, etc. He was very friendly and nice. We were seated, and we ordered our salads and a bowl of Red Chile soup. The soup was, in one word, exquisite. A superbly flavorful and spicy broth was peppered with little morsels of meat. We told the chef how much we were enjoying it, and he came out with MORE for us. Really! The salads were fresh and crisp and the balsamic dressing was perfect. It’s hard to do simple. A salad may just be a salad, but perfect greens, a balance of flavors and a really beautiful dressing…hard. We’re definitely going back before we leave. Sorry, but I was so into the soup that I forgot to take a picture of it!

We were chatting with the waitress (who was giving us tips on where to go and what to see) and we told her that we had to find a doggie daycare place for the pups when we were visiting Bandelier. She told us that her sister was a dog sitter and promised to give us her number. A couple of minutes later, she was back with a cell phone with her sister on the line! We chatted for a few minutes, and soon we were talking about our hotel. She gave us a recommendation on another place to stay (Hotel Don Fernando), and we stopped by on the way back to the smarmy Sagebrush Inn.

The front desk guy was great. He let us see a room (roomy, not fancy, but CLEAN), and then gave us a rate that we couldn’t turn down. We went back to the Sagebrush, packed up and moved. To the Sagebrush’s credit, they didn’t charge us for the room and apologized for the issues we had with the room.

So, here we are in our nice room. We’re looking forward to a couple of days of sightseeing. We’ll then head to Albuquerque, where we’ll stay through Memorial Day weekend. We’re planning a day trip to Acoma, seeing Old Town and Sandia peak, visiting the Petroglyph park, and just chilling. I’m sure there’s a shop or two that might interest me.

Once again, the people we have met have made the trip special. Okay, the spectacular scenery has been great as well!